North Dakota and American Society, 1945-1972: An Overview
In most ways life for North Dakotans was like that of other Americans in those decades after World War II. They spent much more leisure time watching television. They continued to support libraries, perhaps checking out Elwyn Robinson’s new History of North Dakota. They no longer feared outbreaks of polio. They built new buildings in modern forms. They traveled more and took longer vacation trips by car. They enjoyed more organized sport activities and kept their eyes on local boys who made it to the “big show.”
Yet, in two ways life for North Dakotans was not quite like life for other Americans. First, general prosperity characterized all corners of the nation, but in North Dakota the return of good times was especially appreciated. After twenty years of economically depressed conditions, North Dakota needed that prosperity to catch up: public schools, colleges, universities, libraries, roads, churches, and other public and private facilities.
Second, all Americans endured the fear that the Cold War created. In North Dakota that fear ran deeper than most places, for the people found themselves “in the line of fire.” The planes from two United States airbases filled the sky at times. Three hundred nuclear missile silos filled the earth. An anti-missile missile system stretched across the state and a huge antiballistic missile site was located at Nekoma. An ABC news reporter called North Dakota “the world’s third nuclear power.”
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.