Growing Up in the '50's

Been There

New Member
I often think about the best times of this country's life for the average kid must have been the '50's. I have heard so many stories from people maybe 12-15 or so years older than me and they have told me so many great stories about their life growing up in the '50's. I have heard about the drive-in movies, which I did get to go to a few and the sock hops, which sounded like everyone had so much fun dancing to the new rock and roll songs coming alive. The malt shops and the new types of clothes and the girls wearing tight sweaters and the guys with their DA's. Cokes were a nickel and candy bars were only a nickel also. The cool cars and the the submarine races. It must have been a really great time growing up in the '50's.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention that it may have not have been the greatest of times for those kids of color. I know, or at least have read about how bad racism was back then. I remember not too long ago watching the movie, "Driving Miss Daisy" and I had to think how terrible it was for some of the kids of color that didn't have the money to have some of the same things that the white kids had at that time to enjoy. But, I still loved that movie. I read a book about Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. Two Hall of Famers that were really darn good baseball players. Jackie opened the door to pro baseball in the big leagues for the black man. I saw an old video of him on YouTube stealing home. I think Yogi Berra was the catcher for the Yankees and Jackie played for Brooklyn. Two cross town rivals at the time.

I wouldn't mind reading some of your stories from back in the 50's. Did you have a job or did you have a car? What were your weekends like? There must be some great stories out there.
 

gennie

Senior Member
Location
USA
I often think about the best times of this country's life for the average kid must have been the '50's. I have heard so many stories from people maybe 12-15 or so years older than me and they have told me so many great stories about their life growing up in the '50's. I have heard about the drive-in movies, which I did get to go to a few and the sock hops, which sounded like everyone had so much fun dancing to the new rock and roll songs coming alive. The malt shops and the new types of clothes and the girls wearing tight sweaters and the guys with their DA's. Cokes were a nickel and candy bars were only a nickel also. The cool cars and the the submarine races. It must have been a really great time growing up in the '50's.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention that it may have not have been the greatest of times for those kids of color. I know, or at least have read about how bad racism was back then. I remember not too long ago watching the movie, "Driving Miss Daisy" and I had to think how terrible it was for some of the kids of color that didn't have the money to have some of the same things that the white kids had at that time to enjoy. But, I still loved that movie. I read a book about Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. Two Hall of Famers that were really darn good baseball players. Jackie opened the door to pro baseball in the big leagues for the black man. I saw an old video of him on YouTube stealing home. I think Yogi Berra was the catcher for the Yankees and Jackie played for Brooklyn. Two cross town rivals at the time.

I wouldn't mind reading some of your stories from back in the 50's. Did you have a job or did you have a car? What were your weekends like? There must be some great stories out there.
Get a different picture of the 50s and watch the movie, "The Help"
 

Things I remember from growing up in the 50's in Adelaide South Australia
Impeccable manners and a strong ethic of careful economy, reusing and recycling everything where possible
Although there was a darker side I was unaware of till much later
We had enforced institutionalisation of people with disabilities, wives and mothers often stuck at home for years and isolated Homosexuality was both criminalised and a mental illness, there was virtually no contraception and condoms were hard to get and single women had their babies routinely removed and adopted out, fewer women were in academia and racism was rampant
 
Last edited:

applecruncher

SF VIP
Location
Ohio USA
and I had to think how terrible it was for some of the kids of color that didn't have the money to have some of the same things that the white kids had at that time
Wasn't just a matter of money. @Been There if you truly think lack of money was/is the reason for exclusion you are way, way off the mark.
I know of some financially well-off blacks who were excluded from things such as dancing schools and public swimming pools - and not just in the South.

Classified ads for jobs and housing often said No Colored. Some said No Jews. This was in the 50s, 60s, and.even 70s.

Watch the movie Far from Heaven...set in 1957 Connecticut.
 
Last edited:

Capt Lightning

Senior Member
Although there was a darker side I was unaware of till much later
We had enforced institutionalisation of people with disabilities, wives and mothers often stuck at home for years and isolated Homosexuality was both criminalised and a mental illness, there was virtually no contraception and condoms were hard to get and single women had their babies routinely removed and adopted out, fewer women were in academia and racism was rampant

Not to mention the joys of post war rationing, bomb sites, polio, beating children, fearsome dentists etc.. We didn't even have the convenience of a phone stuck to our ear 24/7 - we actually had to meet friends and talk to them. The 50's - you can keep them.
 

Tommy

Member
Location
New Hampshire
Born in 1948, I was too young to drive in the '50s and my only job was a newspaper route.

Social history is defined by those who write it and is, therefore, always biased. The only thing we can describe with any certainty is our personal impression of our own experiences for a given time and place.
 

treeguy64

Hari Om, y'all!
Location
Austin, TX.
OK, I'm not getting "global" in my recall of the 50's. As Tommy wrote, we can only give our own impressions of our own experiences when recalling the same.

If you can't narrow down your impressions to your own experiential realm, then ALL times we live in are truly terrible for our species because, in many places in this world, at any given time, our fellow species mates are living in despair and deplorable conditions.

For me, the 50's were great! I lived in a comfortable apartment building that my granddad owned, I had a full family life with fun activities, lots of friends, good teachers, mostly, great shopping areas within a few blocks, a beautiful beach a mile away, a great downtown area, clean air and water, ok traffic. I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could retain my present knowledge base, and yet be young, again. In a heartbeat........
 

Been There

New Member
Original Poster
You can just tell me your favorite story of growing up in the ‘50’s. An officer friend of mine told me that he remembered each summer having a family reunion. He never knew that he had so many cousins. He said they would play all day until it was time to leave. Everyone would bring food and they would play all kinds of games. Then one of the boys would get the hose out and chase everyone with it while spraying them. That would turn into a water balloon fight. There was this one uncle that played a guitar, so as evening would come, they would build a fire and sit around it singing songs of that time. They would also toast marshmallows and hot dogs.
 
I grew up in the 50s. While I have fond memories of that time, I'm not sure it was an idealic time. You tend not to remember the strikes, riots, and the day to day strife we all had to live through. As kids, I do think we were a lot freer than today's kids. The best way I can say it is that we were free range kids. As long as we showed up for meals, and bed time, we were on our own. I really had to walk 1 mile to school. And nobody thought anything about it.
 

Been There

New Member
Original Poster
I watch the TV show "Leave It To Beaver" in the mornings. I think back about those times and I kind of wish that I could have had a life like Beaver and Wally. I can't imagine such a simpler time to live in.
 

Em in Ohio

Senior Member
Location
OH HI OH
Things I remember from growing up in the 50's in Adelaide South Australia
Impeccable manners and a strong ethic of careful economy, reusing and recycling everything where possible
Although there was a darker side I was unaware of till much later
We had enforced institutionalisation of people with disabilities, wives and mothers often stuck at home for years and isolated Homosexuality was both criminalised and a mental illness, there was virtually no contraception and condoms were hard to get and single women had their babies routinely removed and adopted out, fewer women were in academia and racism was rampant
I'm not convinced that you were not in America. We should all try to retain or recover the good of that era, but have often failed to do so here. Your mention of enforced institutionalization of people with disabilities struck home. While not enforced, it was strongly advised and the socially appropriate thing to do. I spent a lot of time visiting my brother in a state institution (he had Down's Syndrome). Many of the other patients had only deafness or wine-stain birthmarks on their faces or, I now believe, were just academically challenged. Even as a child, I was appalled. Racism - yes, it was still obvious at drinking fountains and restrooms. There were printed signs, "whites only" still posted at least until 1958. On my way to school in a public bus, I walked all the way to the back because it had one huge bench seat and lots of room. The bus driver called me back up to the front of this bus, asking what I was doing - something akin to "you are white, you can sit up front."
 
Speaking of segregated buses.....I was maybe six or so, visiting my grandmother in Virginia. We were at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to go downtown when I saw one coming.

"The bus is coming, Grandma! The bus is coming!"

"No, Honey, that's the ***** bus (except she didn't say "*****" if you get my drift....); we're waiting for the White bus," she said.

My large midwestern city didn't have segregated buses, so this was a new concept for me. Also......that word. That word was never used by my parents and I had been raised to never say that word.

So I said, "You're not supposed to say that word!"

"What word, honey?"

Oh, the dilemma. Tell her the forbidden word and thus break the "rule" not to say it? Or play "20 Questions" until she figured out the offending word. Remember, I was only six.

I gave up and reported the incident to my mother that evening, who had a talk with Grandma.

I learned that the only way a Black could ride a White bus back then was to be accompanying a White child or White elderly person who needed help.

Anyway, that's my story about discrimination in the 1950's.
 

Fyrefox

Token fox furry
I was a young child in the New Jersey suburbs of NYC in the 1950's, which were the best of times, and the worst of times. In general, you felt safe to the extent that concerns about your safety at least in your Caucasian neighborhood never entered your mind; you walked or biked everywhere usually alone, including to school. Anyone could walk into a school at any time for any reason whatsoever; it was a school, and who would want to hurt children?! At school, however, air raid or nuclear drills were held where we were taught to cower against interior walls or under our desks for protection against distant and mysterious enemies, the Soviets, who might someday come to bomb us.

Families had one vehicle, rather than a car for every person of driving age. There was likewise one phone per household, a heavy rotary-dialed model permanently tethered to a fixed location where calls were anything but private. There was also one black-and-white television set per household that might receive several channels, perhaps three of them clearly. Be ready to get up to adjust the "rabbit ear" antennas, or change the channel or volume on the set. Turn on the TV before your show started, because vacuum tube sets were the norm and required several minutes to "warm up." The TV repairman was a frequent visitor as tubes would often need replacement.

Air conditioning was mostly in movie theaters and expensive stores, not in homes and vehicles. It was supposed to be hot in the summer, and everyone was miserable! Be glad you at least had an electric fan, and hope that Mom and Dad would get the car running fast so you could roll the windows down and not fry yourself on the vinyl car upholstery.

Professional men wore hats when going out, and read newspapers to pass time on their commutes via train or bus to work. Many people smoked virtually everywhere, and ashtrays were in homes, on desks, and in cars; you definitely would get your share of second-hand smoke. People tended to die younger from an unwise diet, smoking, or undiagnosed and untreated high blood pressure/high cholesterol. Many men didn't live to see retirement. And of course, racism, sexism, and homophobia were powerful undercurrents that were operational and institutionalized. "Ike" was president, and Elvis was introducing people to a radical new form of music my father considered "noise..."
 

Capt Lightning

Senior Member
While I am grateful for all the help and sacrifices that our allies made during WW2 , I think the war had a different effect and influence on Britain. Many areas were were flattened, there was rationing well into the 50's and the whole social order was changing. Goods were exported to help pay Britain's debts, so many things were not available in the UK. There was a slogan "Britain can make it", to which someone added, "But you can't have it".

Yes, you could run around and play, have freedom that you don't have today, but it took a long time for Britain to emerge from the shadow of WW2. No, you can keep the 50's.
 
While I am grateful for all the help and sacrifices that our allies made during WW2 , I think the war had a different effect and influence on Britain. Many areas were were flattened, there was rationing well into the 50's and the whole social order was changing. Goods were exported to help pay Britain's debts, so many things were not available in the UK. There was a slogan "Britain can make it", to which someone added, "But you can't have it".

Yes, you could run around and play, have freedom that you don't have today, but it took a long time for Britain to emerge from the shadow of WW2. No, you can keep the 50's.
@Capt Lightning my husband would agree with you because his family paternal grandparents included came out to Australia
in 1960 as what was affectionately known as '10 pound POMS' because his whole family wanted a better life and worked for it
In Australia and POMS was what the original settlers called Prisoners Of Mother England
 
Last edited:

Ellen Marie

New Member
I was born in the 50's on a small, 40-acre farm where the land was depleted. Southern Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio were the result of glaciers pushing the dirt south to create the small, hilly mounds so different from the flat northern parts of the states. Those hilly areas were thin-soiled and depleted during WWII when the world asked the USA farmers to produce enough to support Europe.

Anyway, the days were hard on small farms. There were no faucets in the house. The kitchen had a pump, set for left handed, which is probably why I was ambidextrous when playing sports. My left arm was stronger than my right. The well to the kitchen pump was run off from the old metal roof of the house. You had to let it rain a few minutes, then switch the water over into the well. That was necessary to wash the dirt and possible bird droppings off the roof before saving the "clean" water for the well. That was what we drank. Of course, it was kept sanitized by the two bottles of iodine which were continually hanging in the well on a long, heavy string tied around the bottle before being dropped into the well.

Unfortunately, during the hot, dry summer months, the kitchen well would go dry. Then, we had to pull buckets of water from the second well and carry the buckets into the house. It all sounds like hard work, and it was. But, when the kitchen well went dry, and we were using the second well, there was an advantage--because the well was opened, we could draw all the water we wanted to. We would drag the old horse trough near to the well and fill it up with cold water from the well. That was our swimming pool in the hottest days of summer.

Yeah, there were some good things about growing up in the 50's. Life was certainly simple.

I hated washing dishes. You had to pump the water or draw it from the well, and heat it on the stove before doing dishes. When it was MY turn to do dishes, my parents simply had to make me wash dishes. I hated it so. When I was grown and had children of my own, my brother told my children how I hated to wash dishes. My children said, "But, Mom washes all the dishes, and she never complains." My children looked at me.

I got up from the table and walked to the sink. I turned on the hot water, then I turned it off. I turned it on a second time, and then I turned it off. My brother was laughing, and he had to explain to my children how appreciative I was to have hot, running water.
 


Top