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Growing Up in Detroit in the 50s and 60s

Updated on November 8, 2015

Motown Memories

I grew up in Southwest Detroit during the 50's and 60's. It was a time that was much simpler, just before the craziness of the Vietnam era.

It was a time in Detroit when the city was still the center of the auto industry and the Motown sound had exploded onto the music scene.

It was a time when the long period of decay and "white flight" was just beginning. My neighborhood was a mixed one and all the kids played together. We climbed trees, jumped rope, played baseball in the alley and stayed out late playing hide and seek and kick the can.

These are some of the memories I have of those mostly "happy days."

VIDEO- Growing Up in Detroit in the 50's and 60's - My Childhood Memories of Motown

Detroit is and was a remarkable place to grow up in. These are just some of the memories I have of that place and time. I based my video on an email I had received several years ago called "You are an Old Detroiter if..." I added specific things I remembered from my childhood and from growing up in my particular neighborhood. Hope it brings back some of your old memories.

The historical photos of Old Detroit were used with permission from the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University and the Music is "Motown Medley" by Shalamar- 1977 Unidisc Music Inc. Enjoy!

Growing Up in Detroit in the 50's and 60's VIDEO


Games We Played and Things We Did

A couple of months ago, I celebrated my birthday (or should I say, "a PERSONAL HOLIDAY"). My daughters and their families all came over. At one point I noticed it was TOO QUIET in the living room where all of the grandkids had gathered. I am now the proud grandparent of six grandchildren ranging in age from 8 to 20! My eldest grandchild just married this summer so now I also have a wonderful 'grandson-in-law'!

I peeped into the living room and just had to take a picture! Each one of them was on some kind of device- smart phones, ipads, laptops, kindles... I thought to myself, "How times have changed!" I remembered when I was a child oh so many years ago. Whenever all the cousins got together, we were outside playing.

However, on their behalf I do have to speak up and say that they are all really very active- soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball. Unlike my childhood where we just played baseball in the alley with whoever was around, many kids these days are involved in organized sports and school activities and don't have a lot of other children around to play with as I did.

And one of the positive things about the technology that is available to them today is that they are able to keep in touch with each other. I lived down the street and a couple of blocks away from my many cousins, so we were very close by. My grandchildren are living far away from each other. So they enjoy sending each other instagrams, texting and skyping!

I wonder if they can relate to what life was like growing up in the 50's and 60's? Let's see!

Some of my Cousins and I
Some of my Cousins and I

How DID we spend our time?

I have a lot of memories of the games we played and the ways in which we kept ourselves busy in those long ago 50's and 60's. I lived in a tiny frame house and shared a bedroom with my sisters. My favorite day was Saturday because we didn't have to go to school and we could sleep in! Then, of course there were Saturday morning cartoons! We'd get up, get dressed, have some cereal and gather around the little TV to watch cartoons. After a morning of watching cartoons we'd go outside.

Our home, even though it was tiny (although it seemed bigger while I was growing up!) had several fruit trees in the backyard. We had one pear tree, two plum trees, one peach tree, and a cherry tree. The best tree for climbing was the cherry tree. Even though I was a girl, I was a bit of a tomboy and loved to climb trees, climb to the roof of our garage and jump from one house to another- we had several vacant homes across the alley.

My father had put a rope swing on the branches of the cherry tree and we spent a lot of time swinging and pushing each other on the swing. My father also made us some wooden stilts that we had fun trying to walk on and a string toy that you would twirl around.

We played games with bouncing balls like bouncing the ball on the garage wall. You would throw the ball and have to do all types of things before catching the ball- like spinning around and then catching it. We also played a lot of clapping games and jacks.

Out front on the sidewalk we played hopscotch, jumprope and chinese jumprope. We also had roller skates- the kind that had the little metal key that was used to adjust the size. It was always a challenge to get your shoes to stay in the skates and then not to fall since the sidewalks were so crooked! The best place to rollerskate was the alley or the parking lot of the Western market.

The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone

TV Shows We Loved to Watch

Friday Nights! That's what I looked forward to after a week of walking to school each day and doing homework on the dining room table each evening. Why were Fridays so special? Because that was the day that we walked with my Mom to our local grocery store, Wrigley's. Friday was "grocery day" and that was the day that we could enjoy the special treats that my Mother would bring home (and which usually didn't last much past Friday!) Friday nights, I would curl up on the couch with my little box of animal crackers (remember those little boxes that looked like animal circus cars?) and a bottle of coke and wait with much anticipation for that unmistakable music that signaled us that "Twilight Zone" was about to begin.

Other shows that we loved to watch were "Lassie," "Rin-Tin-Tin," and "Sky King".

We watched how other families lived on "Leave it to Beaver," "Ozzie and Harriet," and "Father Knows Best." We laughed at the antics on "I Love Lucy," "The Beverly Hillbillies", "The Munsters," and the Addams Family."

There was a plethora of western shows while I was growing up. "The Lone Ranger," "Bat Masterson," "Wyatt Earp," "Gunsmoke" and "Rawhide" were but a few of the shows that I remember, not to mention "Bonanza" which my parents would never miss on Sunday nights.

And speaking of Sunday nights, it was a family ritual just like in millions of other households to put on the "Ed Sullivan" show- THAT was a variety show! Singers, acrobats, magicians, dancers, comedians- you name it, he had them on his show. Of course, I will never forget my favorite little mouse- puppet Topo Gigio and the night that the Beatles performed. My sisters and I sat enthralled while my parents stated, "I don't know what you see in them- and that long hair!"


Here are some great links that will definitely bring back memories. Refresh your memory of the old TV shows that were popular in the 50's and 60's. Listen to the music that was popular during those years.


Motown : The Golden Years: The Stars and Music That Shaped a Generation
Motown : The Golden Years: The Stars and Music That Shaped a Generation

Fun and interesting 384 page book features a great 32 page full color section with 50 photos. More than 100 rare photos are included and an A-Z listing of Motown musicians and singers


Detroit Memorabilia

Detroit Remember When
Detroit Remember When

DVD's explore Detroit sites and traditions as well as its musical legacy and examines its architecture, politics, sport legends and landmarks


What is a special thing you remember about where you grew up?

Childhood Memories

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      Codey 2 years ago

      How do u make this video work ?

      Growing Up in Detroit in the 50's and 60's VIDEO