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Those Fabulous 50's
Some say the 1950s was the best decade in American History, at least for the white population. Many segments of black and other minority communities were still undergoing prejudice, racism and segregation. That being said, wars and the depression were becoming distant memories and most Americans trusted government and politicians. Most of today’s younger generation probably couldn’t fathom the latter.
Society was experiencing economic and social growth, although most jobs were still blue collar in the industrial and agricultural fields. More women crept into the job market filling a need for more secretaries and administrative workers. It was a time when locking up the house was considered really not necessary.
The “evils” of Rock and Roll music blared from radios and televisions into society’s mainstream, corrupting American youth. They demanded more independence, freedom and individuality. Guys started wearing sideburns and longer hair plastered down with grease. They wore jeans, cut-off shirts and leather jackets with turned up collars, trying their best to look cool like James Dean. Girls wore ponytails, poodle skirts, pedal pushers and scarves…all in the name of individuality. Kids used words like square, (not cool) chicks, threads, (clothes) back seat bingo (kissing) and cat (opposite of square).
However, life was still strict. Men for the most part, were still breadwinners in the family. Youngsters were still being told “Children should be seen and not heard.” Obvious the number of kids who believed that was steadily dwindling, but they still had respect for authority. Most generations say that about the one they grew up in.
AM radio was actually popular, along with 45 records, albums and jukeboxes. More families were acquiring television sets in the very early 50s, but many were still without one.
And if they were fortunate enough to own one, it was black and white with a small screen. There were only three channels, ABC, NBC and CBS. Color was still mostly in the experimental stages. Many of the shows produced in that era such as I Love Lucy, the Twilight Zone and Dragnet are still being watched in reruns today.
Children obeyed parents, girls acted “ladylike” and boys were expected to be gentlemen. Premarital sex was taboo and not mentioned in polite society. If a young girl found herself “expecting,” she was usually packed off to live with distant relatives or sent to a special girl’s school. Kids played with Hoola Hoops, Slinkys and rode Bicycles with colorful handlebar streamers.
According to a recent survey of people over 50, things were much better in the 1950s. Findings indicated seniors saw modern society fearful to live in with crime ridden streets. They also found society greedy, selfish, foul mouthed and unfriendly.
The economy was booming and families were closer knit. Parents could let children play outside without worrying about their safety. Children walked to bus stops and school by themselves and prayer was still considered proper and expected because most people believed in God and respected religion.
Teachers were strict and the school was always right. There were no computers or calculators, just blackboards, chalk, pencils, pens and paper. Parents and older family members constantly reminded kids about the one room school house they had to walk six miles to get to and how much better off they were. Students who failed were not automatically passed on to the next grade level. High school graduates actually left with an education because it was believed to be the key to keeping America strong.
But despite the importance of schools as an institution, according to statistics of the USDA Economic Research Service, about half of all students never finished high school. The stereotype of a farmer's son or daughter dropping outl after 8th grade was all too common.
Those born in the early 50s are now around 60, but not considered really old. As far as technological advances, the majority said mobile phones, computers and the internet had made things worse. Most agreed they had grown up being happy without any of those things and folks were more affable, honest and direct. People were more important than possessions and had time for each other.
But not everything was better. People tend to remember good things and forget the bad. The cold war prompted "Duck and Cover Drills" for school children; Air Raid Sirens were installed on street corners and Anti-Aircraft Missiles were being built underground around numerous communities.
Medical science was still behind the times. Doctors believed tonsils were not really necessary and would yank them out at the drop of a hat. Despite these drawbacks, those who grew up in that decade still say it was a better time and place.