It's interesting the way that this exercise has ended up illuminating a demographic reality that isn't apparent day-to-day on Twitter. If you and I are five or even 10 or 20 years apart in age it makes very little difference to our online conversation. But when our earliest years of awareness of the world are is about what we've lived through.
The responses also show quite a degree of commonality. Memories cluster around a relatively small number of signal events, which crop up repeatedly. Sometimes the events are so significant that they countervail against age.
"One of the most robust findings in memory research is that people recall more memories from young adulthood compared to other periods of their life. For example, if you ask a group of people to list important events from their lives, you see a bump corresponding to a greater number of memories for events that occurred between the ages of 10 and 30."
The responses also show quite a degree of commonality. Memories cluster around a relatively small number of signal events, which crop up repeatedly.
Yes - they're usually disasters. or some atrocity.
I was pondering why nothing from the early 80's had stuck with me - as opposed to the Rainbow Warrior in 85 - and it basically came down to a few quiet years disaster wise, which sounds a tad morbid but one hypothesis nonetheless.
My initial thought when I tried to wrack my brain was TV footage of the Vietnam war, principally the shots of people falling from aeroplanes as they took off, or commentary on them being found dead in the wheel bays upon landing in the US. Little me just could not comprehend how this was allowed to happen. I assume that this was associated with the fall of Saigon, which was in 1975, so I would have seen news before this, (eg 1972 Olympics and 1974 Commonwealth games), so I do think that horror is one way that early memories get cemented.
Another weird thing is how quickly times change generally. I remember when my son was about 9, and had figured out the importance of The Beatles, he said to me "Wow - I bet it went viral on Twitter when John Lennon died"
There was the Springbok tour of course .. although it wasn't a single event, more of a rolling CF. You're right about the disasters though. Not much at all in the 1980s. More broadly NZ had a charmed run with few large earthquake hits on urban areas all the way from 1931 Napier EQ to 22 Feb 2011. There was the Inangahua quake in 1968 when three people died - I remember it, I was a small child in Motueka and our chimney fell down.
There was the Springbok tour of course .. although it wasn’t a single event, more of a rolling CF.
Yes absolutely. Maybe it was my age at the time, but I feel like the monumentality of the protests really crystallised in the years following and certainly by the time Nelson Mandela spoke at the Auckland Domain in 1995 there seemed little doubt about who was on the right side of history so to say. Sidenote; for a school project I interviewed CK Stead about the protests (he lived down the street), which I have always thought was pretty good of him given his somewhat curmudgeon reputation. My mum also took photos of the Eden Park protests.
Either the hole in the ozone layer or the Rainbow Warrior. I can't remember which came first but I remember as a child the ozone layer hole seemed terrifying whereas I didn't quite understand the importance of the Rainbow Warrior bombing at the time.
Being a beardless grey beard, mine are the Cuban missile crisis and the very real fear that we were all going to die in a flash. I would have been 8. We lived near a rocket testing range, so this didn't seem unlikely. I asked my dad about nuclear bombs and politics, and he said that the Tories wanted more bombs, while Labour wanted to ban them. Sage advice that proved formative in terms of my political views...
I also dimly remember something about satellites, and standing with mum and dad in a Hebridean back garden looking up at the stars expecting to be able to see them whizz above us. I thought this might be Sputnik 1, but I would have been far too young at the time, so it was probably...
Bucolic in the backblocks… •
Since Jan 2008 •
I am with you, Gareth. The Cuban Missile Crisis, though I was 13 at the time and living in Manchester with my aunt and her family. We were truly worried by the events. The first `News' memories should be Suez when I was 7 and I was on board an Italian ship, sailing from Port Said to Naples and we saw planes flying from Malta or Cyprus to the canal (ours being one of the last ships to make it through the canal) but it simply didn't register as `News' to my mind at that time, just something fascinating to see. We had to return to India via South Africa the following February.
Palmerston North •
Since Aug 2013 •
If there's one song that perfectly captures the Space Race optimism of the early 1960s, "Telstar" would have to be it. Even though it's way before my time, it sounds remarkably like the foundations for the synthpop scene that emerged a bit under 20 years later.
The southernmost capital … •
Since Nov 2006 •
Memories cluster around a relatively small number of signal events
Ok so more nerdy stuff. While memory research is still ongoing, and it's not my field so this is my lay reading of the research - my understanding of the latest hypotheses is that memories do fade, probably never lost but definitely they fade.
Any time you access a memory it is "strengthened" but probably also "rewritten".
So when someone mentions an event, your memory of that event is accessed, strengthened and rewritten.
That has two effects: first, events that get talked about a lot become stronger memories. Lot's of folks talk about the moon landing, so if you watched it then your memory of it becomes stronger. Which is kind of cool.
But there is a second effect that is more sinister, because the memory gets rewritten it can change. They've done studies where they deliberately alter a person's memory of a trivial event by having people feed false elements into the recollection.
The result is that if you've shared a memory with others it will be stronger - but might also have elements that never happened to you but were part of the other person's experience/memory.
So yeah lots of us remember watching the moon landing because lots of us remember watching the moon landing, but is that memory really all yours?
The Sputnik front page story in the Press was my earliest.
Memory is a strange thing though. My wife and I have recently had some long talks about our early years together, priming ourselves for some recorded conversations of family history for our sons.
We had a fairly freewheeling lifestyle then with many changes of address and work and all. It was startling how many things one of us could remember and the other not. A few mysteries too which will stimulate contact with old friends of the time to see if useful light can be shed.
Further protests in Christchurch and Wellington seemed to have been effective, as the supposedly ideal site, which happened to be on land owned by the University of Canterbury, was dropped in favour of a location across the Tasman in Victoria. While the Omega navigation system is ancient history now there seems to be no doubt that siting it here would have significantly raised the risk of NZ becoming a target for nuclear weapons.