Portrait of a Generation: Up Close - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music News

Portrait of a Generation: Up Close

Four survey respondents talk about their lives and values

Survey, InterviewSurvey, Interview

Partially packed suitcase on bed

Aaron MCcoy

Mona Guinn-Huff
MONA GUINN-HUFF’S FATHER was an air-force officer who’d been stationed with his wife and kids on bases from Tucson, Arizona, to Bitburg, West Germany. When Mona was ten, her father was sent to Vietnam, where his family could not follow. Mona’s mother became an alcoholic, and fighting alcoholism has become Mona’s mission. Not her only mission, however. Though she devotes twelve hours a week to doing volunteer work for the organization that helped her mom stop drinking, she spends most of her time at home, in West Palm Beach, Florida, raising her two girls, ages two and five, and a boy, age nine.

She and her husband (now the manager of a car-radiator manufacturing plant) got married when they were eighteen. They knew the prognosis for teen marriages is generally grim, but the couple’s attitude was mature from the start. “We sat down and said, ‘What do you want out of marriage?'” says Guinn-Huff, now thirty. “It was like ‘It’s very important that we be partners in this.’ In our roles, there’s very much an equal sharing. And of all our friends, I think we’re the only ones still married.”

Guinn-Huff’s memories of the Sixties are bittersweet. She approved of the hippie aesthetic — except for drugs, which she’s always shunned. But the war soured everything.

‘The first time we were taken off the air-force base and lived with civilians was when my father was in Vietnam. I was in fifth grade, and when people found out he was in the military, I caught a lot of flak. I remember coming home crying the first time I ever heard my father called a murderer. Inside, I knew he wasn’t. The military didn’t choose to go to Vietnam, they were told to. And I knew he didn’t want to be there; he was a very loving man.

Having a son, the idea of another Vietnam is real scary. I wish no one ever had to go through that. The people who had to go and fight, they’ve been touched by horrors for the rest of their lives — and being on the other end of that has affected me.’

Robert Slocum
WHEN JIMI HENDRIX SANG, “Are you experienced?” Robert Slocum could answer, “Absolutely.” “I experienced everything but shooting up,” he says, laughing. “I was a strong advocate of Jimi Hendrix.” But while Slocum, now forty-five, tuned in and turned on twenty years ago, he did not drop out. He couldn’t — he was in the air force. He never went to Vietnam, but wherever he was stationed, he kept up with the era’s rebellions. When Slocum returned to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1970, he could still see the imprint of signs that read, WHITES ONLY, at the bank where he now works as a computer operator. He and his wife, who owns a beauty salon, are teaching their teenage son and daughter to disregard all barriers of race and gender. Slocum belongs to the Church of Christ but says, “It doesn’t dictate to me.”

“In this house, we have the freedom to express ourselves. We don’t want to keep things in us to cause further pain. My kids can tell me what they dislike about me. … I may not take heed, but they can get it off their chests. We have sessions where we just talk about the world. We talk about everything — sex, drugs. When they leave this house every day, they ready for the world. Can’t no one come up on ’em and tell ’em anything. They’re not easily persuaded.

When I was a kid, I had plenty of sex but no shackin’ — no playing house. That’s falsifying a relationship, and in my church it’s a sin. But I used condoms even then. I tell my son, in having sex, try to be with someone who, if you make a mistake, you can be with. He wouldn’t have to get married but be man enough to take care of it. We don’t believe in abortion here.

My mom didn’t have strength to talk to me about drugs. Sayin’, “Don’t,” is not really talkin’ about it. I don’t want them into it, but kids have a mind of their own. They don’t even like me smoking cigarettes. Both of them have jobs, they’re in school…. My boy works and plays football and has good grades. There are more black role models now who kids want to be like. “Strive to beat me.” That’s how I talk. “Do better than I did.'”

Kathy Dorman
THOUGH SHE’S ONLY TWENTY-NINE, Kathy Dorman spent a fair amount of time at demonstrations during the Vietnam War — escorted by her brother, who is seven years her elder. “I really wish I’d been a little older then,” she says. “I probably would have gotten in more trouble.”

Today Dorman looks like anything but a troublemaker. A practicing Catholic and the mother of two young boys, she lives with her husband, a marketing manager, in Silverton, New Jersey. The social concerns of her youth led her into the field of mental-health administration, and she works as the part-time director of a local agency. Much of Dor-man’s efforts center on keeping her clients from becoming homeless. This strikes her as a natural concern for a woman like herself who grew up in a large Italian household. But her idea of family is patently a product of her tradition-bending generation.

“My husband and I lived together for two years before we got married. It gave us a better understanding of who we were and made it a little easier when we had children to still have our own lives as well as one together. I had a chance to be on my own a little bit first, to grow up. My mother went straight from her father’s house to my father’s house. She never got a chance to make sure she knew what she wanted.

I have one close friend who’s gone through a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage. She’s devastated. She came from a generation in which wives were only homemakers, and she had no career goals. Her experience taught me that while I like staying home, I want my job for myself. God forbid I need to fall back on something. I don’t want to be stuck with nothing there.

The women’s movement has confused me. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t stay home and be a mother, that that’s not enough of a role. When I say I only work part time, people my own age look at me like “God, you’re crazy! That’s not a life.” The movement has taken us so far and then stopped. I hope someday it can make women comfortable being whatever they are, instead of feeling they have to have that nine-to-five job to be somebody.”

Richard Pushaw
IF YOU WERE DRIVING DOWN SOME lonely highway in the months following the Woodstock Festival and came upon a hitchhiker, he might well have been Richard Pushaw. He was the archetypal wandering hippie.

Today he lives in Coconut Grove, Florida, and is majoring in business data processing at Miami-Dade Community College. “You get tired,” Pushaw says. “You’re in the middle of Iowa, on the interstate, freezing your butt off, and nobody picks you up. There’s no money, but your friends have money, and you know you’re smart enough to make some. After years of saying you should be a rolling stone, you see your friends are happy settled down.”

Pushaw, 37, was born in Weehawken, New Jersey, and came of age at the height of the Vietnam War. Hoping to avoid the draft, he attended a small college run by the pacifist Mennonite sect. “I never did receive conscientious-objector status,” he says, “but I had a habit of flunking physicals.” Pushaw would gorge his body with drugs and starve it of sleep; the draft board wanted no part of the result. In 1970 he dropped out and hit the road. He did construction jobs to get by, and by the late Seventies he knew enough to be a supervisor. His sister in Florida invited him down; before long he’d started his own contracting business. After a work-related accident, he decided to go back to school. And last year he decided to try marriage again — his first attempt had failed in 1970.

“I’ve learned that certain people should take responsibility, and I’m one of them. Traveling on the road, you learned to take care of yourself without relying on anyone else. Once you could do that, it was easy to take responsibility for other people.

The initial reason I stopped doing acid was that the quality wasn’t what it had been. It got out of the hands of the creative people, and they started putting additives in. But I also recognized the fact that all those drugs I did burned out a few brain ceils. If you’re digging a ditch, it doesn’t matter — you can get wrecked all the time. Today it’s just a doobie here and there, and that’s about it.”

In This Article: 1960s, Coverwall, Woodstock


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.