For your family, what best characterized the 1980s -- political conservatism?
religious conservatism? a fascination with the "lifestyles of the rich
and famous"? purely personal events?
To support your argument, get some family stories about this era. The following
questions should elicit family stories that will be useful to you. Composing
your own questions might be even more successful, especially if you base those
questions on your knowledge of your family chronology and history.
- What did your family think about Ronald Reagan and the "Reagan Revolution"?
- Some people see the 1980s as a time when religious fundamentalists were
politicized, when leaders like Jerry Falwell (of the Moral Majority) convinced
their followers to vote for conservative candidates and become politically
active. Was there any change in the way your family practiced religion or
politics in the 1980s?
- What does your informant remember about the Soviet Union? Was he or she
surprised to see the fall of the Berlin Wall?
- Did your family watch The Day After about a nuclear holocaust?
- When did your informant first learn about AIDS? Has his or her attitude
about it changed since then?
- Did anyone in your family own stock in the 1980s (directly or through a IRA or pension
plan)? Does your informant follow the stock market? Which times in the past
several decades has he or she been especially optimistic or pessimistic about
his or her investments?
- Were there any "yuppies" or "preppies" in your family?
- Did your family enjoy the television shows Lifestyles of the Rich and
Famous or Dynasty? news stories about Donald and Ivana Trump? or
other popular celebrations of material excess?
- Did your family watch Family Ties or the Cosby Show?
- Was your family like the Huxtables in the Cosby Show?
- What important personal events took place in your family in the 1980s?
Marriages? Divorces? Births? Deaths? Graduations? Household moves?
More general questions for further conversation:
- What was the best party you ever threw?
- If you had the time and money for it, would you want to entertain like
Martha Stewart does?
- If you could have a party or a dinner conversation with anyone you like,
living or dead, who would be on your guest list? Why those people or that
- Whose was the most lavish home you can remember visiting or hearing about?
Would you like to live there?
- In all the years you have been buying clothes, what fashion era is your
- When you look at old pictures of yourself, what fashion era was most embarrassing?
- When you were a kid, who were the most elegant or fashionable people you
knew? (Were they people you knew personally, or celebrities you saw in movies
or on tv?) Did you hope you would be like them when you grew up? Are you like