Remembering the Fifties

Everyone was drinking Coke
Everyone was drinking Coke | Source
1957 Chevy
1957 Chevy | Source
1958 Chevy Impala - photo taken in 1963 but the 58 Chevy is still a classic!
1958 Chevy Impala - photo taken in 1963 but the 58 Chevy is still a classic! | Source

You really have to be over fifty to remember life in the fifties. There's a lot more to it than the birth of Rock 'n Roll. Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show even though the camera cut him off at the waist -- too much hip movement. So it really started for him in 1956 when he sold over $120 million dollars worth of albums and memorabilia. He wasn't the only one to gain fame in the fifties. There was Little Richard and Buddy Holly to name only two of the many. This isn't about Rock 'n Roll or music in the fifties but the fifties itself.

Some say the fifties was boring. Not much going on but that's not true a lot went on during the fifties. Television came into its own in the fifties. Game shows appeared on the scene and America loved them. The 64 Thousand Dollar Question, I've Got a Secret, The Price is Right, even What's My Line. Unfortunately by the late fifties people were learning some of the games shows were rigged. It was so bad Congress investigated. Of course there were no government laws about game shows but the studios realized this did not bode well for them and pulled game shows off the air for a while.

Cars in the fifties became classics and are still classics today. Who can forget the 1951 Cadillac or 1957 or 58 Chevy Impala? Each year car buffs would anxiously await the release of the new cars comparing them to last year's and to each other. It was a true car culture. Though there were resemblances among different makers (GM, Ford, Pontiac, etc.) it was the differences that made them special. When you saw a 58 Chevy riding down the road you knew it was a 58 Chevy, no guessing. "Tail fins" and lots of chrome were the marks of a great car. Roadsters and drag racing were a sign of the times and teenagers looked for long, straight stretches of road to hold their informal drag races.

Showing off Oswald the Rabbit (on the right in the photo)
Showing off Oswald the Rabbit (on the right in the photo) | Source

I'm getting off track and spending too much time on the entertainment industry. What about the country? What was going on in America in the 1950s? Communism reared its ugly head high in the fifties. The Cold War was at its peak. Joseph McCarthy and his House Un-American Committee ran rampant looking for communists. For five years McCarthy threatened many, some on blacklists and others by guilt through association. A lot of people lost their jobs as a result of McCarthyism.

North Korea fought against South Korea. Unfortunately the Soviet Union and United States were as much at war as North and South Korea. On June 30, 1950 President Truman ordered American troops into South Korea. It was a hard war and not popular at the time. However, the US was not looked down on, by the rest of the world, for their participation. The war lasted three years and was finally ended when an armistice was signed setting up a Demilitarized Zone in Korea.

Hoola Hoops and coonskin caps were in. Davey Crockett made those coonskin caps the thing for all kids to wear. You watched Davey on Disney then had to have a coonskin cap! Poodles were also in vogue. Not just the dogs but anything with a poodle on it, remember the fifties skirt, the poodle skirt? Everyone had one and sometimes more. There was even a poodle haircut as sported by Lucille Ball! To this day, everyone owns a Frisbee. The fifties brought it about although its popularity really soared in the 60s. It is said the Frisbee name came from Yale University where students used pie tins to play catch. The pie tins were made by, you got it, The Frisbee Baking Company.

Remember Kookie? He started on 77 Sunset Strip, a TV show, his real name Edward Byrns. He was good looking and always combing his hair. Then he made a record, "Kookie Lend Me Your Comb." He was quite a fad and heartthrob through the fifties.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower Official Presidential Portrait
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Official Presidential Portrait | Source
Eisenhower meets Nixon's daughters
Eisenhower meets Nixon's daughters | Source

President Dwight D. Eisenhower...I like Ike, that's what his campaign buttons read. Even his opponent Adlai Stevenson said, "I like Ike." Thirty fourth President of the United States and a former Five Star General. During World War II he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.

He won the election for President by a landslide. Seems everyone 'liked Ike." He helped removed Joseph McCarthy and stopped his witch hunt. He sent troops to Little Rock to end segregation. He authorized the Interstate Highway System looking at it as a building block for American growth. I believe he is in the top ten of most liked Presidents.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. ..Dwight D. Eisenhower

What about Tricky Dicky a/k/a Richard Nixon? We remember him from Watergate but he was Vice President under Eisenhower. Richard M. Nixon. He served as Vice President for eight years. He was 39 when Eisenhower was elected and was chosen because of his stance against Communism and his strong following in California. Before the election he was accused of having a special 'fund'. He went on TV to defend himself and it worked. As Vice President he attended Cabinet and National Security Council meetings. He visited Hanoi, Saigon and Indonesia and after that spent a lot of time on foreign affairs. In 1958 he and his wife went on a goodwill tour of Africa, and in 1959 he went to Moscow. Certainly not his first job in politics but the one that would lead him to the Presidency.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 1 of 1953. Though basically a religious ceremony (coronation) it dates back to the consecration of an Anglo-Saxon monarch in 785. It was like a fairy tale, especially to Americans who have no experience with monarchy and were able to watch the ceremony on TV. She is the second longest reigning monarch in history. During her reign she has performed all the normal functions but has instituted a few of her own including her royal walk about.

Dr. Jonas E. Salk developed the polio vaccination in 1954. What a tremendous breakthrough in science. He announced, on radio, the success he had had with a small group of children and adults before the vaccine was available. His vaccine was licensed in 1955 and children were encouraged to get the vaccine through all kinds of campaigns. Today the vaccine is given routinely to infants along with their "baby shots".

Red lipstick and dark eyeliner
Red lipstick and dark eyeliner | Source

What about 1950s makeup? Surely you remember the matte finish on all the female faces together with winged eyeliner, black mascara and bright red lips! Hair was curled and always looked flawless - well at least in Hollywood. It wouldn't be strange to see a teenager walking around with a kerchief tied around her head to hide the pin curls.

So much happened in the fifties that I can't even begin to scratch the surface here. I can only give you a tease so you can go forward and learn more. Perhaps you remember George Jorgensen who became Christine Jorgensen? A twenty six year old Bronx boy who had a sex-change operation in Denmark. Sex change operations were illegal in most places and certainly not available in America. With all the publicity Christine garnered, she began to enjoy it and often sought out the limelight. Her pioneering actually opened the door for others like her and helped them with their own conflicts.

In 1954 Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. It was the second marriage for both but one that was highly publicized due their independent celebrity. Having them marry made America happy. It wasn't to last though. Joe didn't like the idea of Marilyn being in movies and wanted her to quit to raise a family. As things got worse it is reported he started smacking her around and their marriage was quickly in jeopardy. Nine months after the wedding Marilyn filed for divorce, Joe didn't even bother to show up. He admitted she made him mad and everyone knew he was hitting her. She made up her mind to go through with the divorce after a particularly bad incident after Joe saw the Seven Year Itch scene with Marilyn's skirt up in the air.

Fifties hair and makeup
Fifties hair and makeup | Source

I probably should have called this "A Taste of the Fifties". There's no way to cover such a decade in only 1500 words or even 3,000 for that matter. The suburbs were born in the fifties, and backyard barbecues, wall-to-wall carpeting, outboard motors, swimming pools, things were booming and the family was the center of it all!

Martin Luther King, Nakita Kruschev, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Edward R. Murrow, Bishop Fulton J Sheen, The Martian Chronicles, I Robot, Grace Kelly married her Prince, grey flannel suits, Givenchy, Roy Rogers, drive-in movies, transcontinental television, Levittiown, ranch houses, and the list goes on. There's more about the fifties all over the Internet but those of us who lived it remember it with fondness and some sadness for its innocence lost.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

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Comments 25 comments

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Wow! What a galloping survey of that decade you did. You covered it about as well as anyone could. It was like one of those fast movies that whiz by describing things you recall and things you'd like to forget. I was around then and you did a great job of recreating a time in the life of this country.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks xstatic...I did have to reign myself in as I wanted to go in all directions! Glad you enjoyed it.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

A+++. I was born in 1958, and I missed being a hippie by a few years. Thanks for the entertaining Hub and the facts to go with it. I've watched all the television programs, and I love the hairstyles and clothes. Am I in denial, or was it much more simpler back then? Voted up and everything else from the bottom of my hippie wannabe heart.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Comprehensive article on its mad whirl through my formative years (actually, you have to be over 60!).

You forgot Bill Hayley and the Comets, unless I missed it, i scanned through fast and will return and read later. Our great rocking days really began in the 60's in the UK as the American stuff plus our own rockers caught on. Good times and much simpler times.

Bob


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Arlene I think it was a simpler time without cell phones and Internet...you had to live then to understand though...thanks for the vote.

Bob, I didn't actually 'forget' I just didn't have room for everything and everybody. It was simpler as I said to Arlene. We were probably better off being in the dark sometimes.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I really enjoyed reliving the 50's with you on this Hub. I remember it well. You did a great job with this one! I voted it UP, etc.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

I was born in 1964, so I remember most of the 70's. Vietnam becoming one country instead of 2. I remember Elvis, but not from the waist up. How about Walter cronkite and real news. Not news like they have now. And television that went off the air after the news. We had Mom and Pop store where you could buy one piece of candy for a penny. It was a small town. I remember hippies, but did not understand them. I remember Kent State. Things like that. Great hub.


Sky9106 profile image

Sky9106 4 years ago from A beautiful place on earth.

Great for reruns and replays , making it able for me to see, quite a few of those great things that the fifties produced and my favorite was Myself and years later all the shows and the Chevy Impala what a car, and I had a blast.

That's why I am who I am. , a great piece "tillsontitan" from now on am coming to you with my fifties questions. lol.

Keep up the great work.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Mary it's always fun to remember. Glad you enjoyed.

Michele there wasn't that much difference in some of the things you wrote and the fifties.

Sky, I guess I am a 50's connoisseur of the fifties. Welcome aboard.


Specialist5 profile image

Specialist5 4 years ago from Norwich, CT USA

What a great trip thru an unforgettable era. You sure dredged up bunces of memories for me. Loved Kookie and the team. My first sock hop and first kiss. Wow! Weekends at the beach with all the kids; cutting the last day of school, which was expected. The fashions, gotta love 'em. I even had one of those skirts with the poodle on it and wore "big" slips to push the skirt out. The hair all teased up and big. The late 50's and early 60's were some of the best times of my life. What a great trip thru nostalgia (sp) land. Thanks, thumbs up.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

A wonderful trip into the 1950s where white gloves and patent leather reigned. Oh, I remember so much of this it is incredible. Thanks for all the reminders of that era. We wore the remnants of that time even into the sixties - bobbie socks and saddle oxfords, Pat Boone and TV Dinners. Ah, the fifties.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas

A fantastic hub! Such an interesting time and so much happened back then that still affects us today, but people just don't realize it.

Voting you UP and interesting.

Thanks for SHARING!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Specialist, as they say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Glad I could bring back some good memories.

Peg, yes, ah the fifties! Thanks for the thumbs up.

Au fait, I agreed, I think the only ones who realize the influence are those of us who lived through it.


Dr.Ope profile image

Dr.Ope 4 years ago

I was born in the early 60s, but my sister and Mom have told me so much that I feel as I am from that era. Very interesting hub. Voted right across the board!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Dr. Ope. My kids were born in the 60s and 70s and feel the same way you do.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Wow! Your description of the 1950s is very comprehensive and I remember almost every event that you haave listed. How can I ever forget the "I Love Lucy" show. Voted up as interesting and sharing.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Paul. I guess it's comprehensive because it's so much a part of my memory. Glad you enjoyed.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

A great trip back in time. Voted up and enjoyed reading.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Glad you enjoyed. The fifties are a fond time for me.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

How did I miss this one? Great look at the 50's...right up my alley! Sharing of course!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Bill...the 50's were great...at least for us!


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I often heard about he fifties but never took much heed about such conversations interesting and wort reading.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Glad I could give you a little information about the fabulous fifties DDE!


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 3 years ago from Alberta Canada

Hi Mary.... voted all the way across the board o this one. Well done, certainly stirred some memories... I was still young and Dad had a Pool Hall and Barbershop. Only men were allowed a few years later they allowed women in as long as the had a male escort.

Hugs and All


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Oh dear, the "men only" ... how funny to remember those days. Lots of things to remember in the fifties for sure. Glad you enjoyed Rolly. Hugs to you in Canada!

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