The sounds of teenagers playing guitars and singing "The House of the Rising Sun," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Blowin' in the Wind" filled the air Monday when Bozeman High School students transformed their American studies classroom into a ‘60s museum.
The student-built time machine offered visitors two doors - The War at Home and The War Abroad. Students, teachers and parents who entered got to travel back 50 years and visit exhibits recreating the turbulent decade, from its wild fashions to its divisive war.
Students had set up TV screens showing Martin Luther King's "Dream" speech and posted newspaper headlines on President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Signs on the walls said "Make Love Not War" and "I Am A Man."
They had collected Barbie dolls, green plastic Army guys, Etch-A-Sketches and troll dolls, manual typewriters and slide rules, and a version of Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup can. Posters depicted non-violent civil rights protesters integrating a Woolworth's food counter, the hippy musical "Hair" and the first men landing on the moon.
A mattress on the floor, covered with an Indian print bedspread, recreated a counter-culture student dorm room. Everywhere there were pictures of cultural heroes, from Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and the Beatles.
Dressing for the decade, girls wore miniskirts, mod dresses, go-go boots and fringed leather vests. Some guys wore long striped pants, and nearly everyone seemed to wear peace symbols.
Not Frank Sinatra, of course. Christopher Ross, who wore a tux to represent the crooner, pointed out that there were a lot of conservative folks around in the ‘60s, too.
Students started with the stereotype that in the ‘60s, "everybody did drugs," said Shannon Slevin, 16. But they learned in class that the decade had a more conservative start, and the psychedelic era at decade's end wasn't universally embraced.
"There's two really different sides to the ‘60s - it's not all hippies," said Kelsey Larson.
In a room dedicated to music, Matthew Evans, Sam Buenrostro and Ethan Higgins played guitars, conjuring up tunes like the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil."
"It's great music. ... There's some real passion," said Evans, 17, especially at the end of the ‘60s, the era when Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar on stage, he added. "I'm just a hippy on the inside."
"I thought it was all rockin' out of control ... all fun and good times," Higgins said. But from class he learned about the serious side. "There were a lot of protests."
In a room dedicated to the Vietnam War, uniforms of a U.S. Army soldier and Vietcong soldier were displayed. Kyle Steele, 16, said Vietnam shattered Americans' notion that "we're unstoppable."
Galen King and Allison Rognlie displayed literature of the ‘60s - from Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," Betty Friedan's "Feminine Mystique" and Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham."
Creating a museum is a great way for students to learn, King said.
"It's awesome," she said. "There's so much visual for kids to remember."
Wearing tie-dye shirts were the two teachers who team-teach the college-level Advanced Placement American studies classes. English teacher Jim L. Thompson said this is the 10th year his classes have created the ‘60s museum. It teaches them how to work collaboratively and overcome obstacles, as well as about the subject, he said.
"For the kids in there, it's pure history. For these people walking in," Thompson said, indicating some parents and teachers, "it's yesterday."
Strahn, a history teacher, said he reminds students that while the ‘60s had an "incredible spirit and feeling of liberation," it was also a tough time when best friends went off to war, many came home in flag-draped coffins, and the nation's heroes were gunned down.
"I think they did a good job capturing that complexity," Strahn said. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Gail Schontzler can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2633.