The Fifties - When I Grew Up
A Real Childhood
You've heard all the cliches starting with "when I was a kid..."
- we had no tv
- we had one phone on a party line
- we played outside
- we talked to our friends face to face
- we played records on a phonograph/record player
And the list goes on. Scary thing is, most of these are true.
I was born in 1947. My only memory of the forties was my wooden ride on horse we named "Tom Keen". Tom Keen was a cowboy from my father's day and when my Dad built my ride on horse he suggested that name. My next toy memory was my older brother's stuffed rabbit, Oswald. Oswald was a Walt Disney cartoon from the 1920s. Oswald was taken over by Universal studios for a time and Disney created Mickey Mouse to replace him but back in the day Oswald was the best! My favorite childhood toy was Zippy the stuffed monkey. Zippy was on the Howdy Doody Show and became a great marketing success for the show.
TV wasn't very big back then but we did listen to radio. I can still hear "Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg." My Mom listened to soap operas on the radio including Search for Tomorrow, The Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. Oh, and I remember listening to "The Teddy Bear's Picnic"..I was fascinated at the thought of all those teddy bears having a picnic in the woods.
The Winky Dink Show
TV was starting to worm its way into our hearts. We began watching "The Goldbergs" and "I Remember Mama" on our little, 10" black and white TV. We had seven channels to choose from; 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13. Everyone watched "The Jack Benny Show" and Arthur Godfrey.
Children's TV shows developed in the fifties and some we watched:
- Farmer Gray - a poorly done cartoon
- Andy's Gang - with Andy Devine with Froggie and his magic twanger
- The Buster Brown Show - Buster Brown and his dog Tige
- Ding Dong School - with Miss Frances
- Winky Dink - I even got the green plastic screen that attached to the TV so I could draw when Winky Dink drew
- Howdy Doody - with Buffalo Bob and Clarabell
Our parents watched:
- You Bet Your Life - with Groucho Marx and the magic word
- The Lone Ranger
- Hopalong Cassidy
- I Love Lucy
- The $64,000 Question
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents
You Bet Your Life
Nighttime shows were mostly for adults but we were allowed to watch too. There was no worry back then about 'adult' content on the TV. Everybody watched Jack Benny and there were no phone calls or visitors when "I Remember Momma" was on. Saturday night was wrestling night in our house. After "Gunsmoke" of course...James Arness was like a member of the family! My mother's aunt and my grandparents would come to our house and we all watched wrestling. My father would even drink a beer! We watched the antics of Ricky Starr, Haystacks Calhoun, Gorgeous George and Andre the Giant. The bad guys were the ones you loved to hate, the Graham Brothers, Hans Schmidt, and Killer Kowalski. There were lady wrestlers and midget wrestling but the regular wrestlers were the best.
We watched Perry Como with his "Dear Perry" portion of his show and enjoyed the singing of the McGuire Sisters and Arthur Godfrey's ukulele. Ed Sullivan brought all the latest acts into your living room and delighted children with Top Gigio. Speedy Alka Seltzer told us how to cure an upset stomach and men could style their hair with just a little dab of Brylcreem.
Ricki Star - 1950s Wrestler
The movies that I watched are not necessarily the classics you hear about today:
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
- It Came from Outer Space
- Creature from the Black Lagoon
- Mole People
- The Cyclops
- The Incredible Shrinking Man
(As you can see from my choice of movies, my favorite TV show was "Chiller Theater" on Saturday night hosted by Zacherley.
Other people were watching:
- Cheaper by the Dozen
- Father of the Bride
- Auntie Mame
- Ma & Pa Kettle at Home
- My Sister Eileen
- The Shaggy Dog
Saturday matinees were 25 cents. We learned if you hid in the bathroom when the movie was over you could stay and watch it again for free. I saw "Love Me Tender" three times in one day.
Creature From the Black Lagoon
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes
Rock 'n Roll started in the fifties, but while kids were listening to Rock 'n Roll their parents were listening to music that was a carryover from the Big Band Era and contained singers they knew with newer and younger singers.
Some of the Rock 'n Roll songs of the time:
- Rock Around the Clock
- All Shook Up
- The Stroll
- Wake Up Little Suzie
- La Bomba
- Hound Dog
- Sea of Love
- April Love
- Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On
Our Parents were listening to casual music:
- Perry Como and Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes
- Frank Sinatra and Young at Heart
- Patti Page and The Tennessee Waltz
- The Chordettes and Mr. Sandman
- Eddie Fisher and Oh My Papa
- Doris Day and Que Sera Sera
- Debbie Reynolds and Tammi
- Tennessee Ernie Ford and Sixteen Tons
- Dean Martin and Memories Are Made of This
It wasn't all about tv and movies. We played outside! From morning till night if you let us. After school when homework was done, outside you went. Saturdays the minute you got up you got ready to go out and play. Sunday, it was after Church. Of course you had to be home for Sunday dinner. Everyone ate Sunday dinner together with their family, usually a nice big chicken dinner.
There were so many things to do outdoors. We played stoop ball, stick ball, and handball. Our favorite sports equipment was a Spaulding rubber ball. We rode our bikes, we roller skated in the streets. We played hide and seek, ring-a-levio, I declare war.
We were lucky to have a park on our corner. We could go up to the park and play handball. If the courts were all taken we'd ask the park keep for the knock hockey board and play that while we waited. The boys played basketball and we all played softball together.
The most important thing you owned was your bicycle. Everyone rode their bicycle everywhere. The boys put playing cards in their spokes to make their bikes sound cool. When you were old enough you asked your parents to buy you a three speed English racer!
No one owned an air conditioner, you had fans in your house and you survived.
We never went out to eat, unless Daddy was giving us a special treat and took us out for ice cream or a milk shake on a Sunday afternoon, or we were going on vacation and stopped at a diner on the way. I remember one time we were eating at a diner and when we finished our meal my mother started cleaning off the table! Talk about habit.
Little girls played with dolls and paper dolls, boys played with cowboy hats and cowboy guns. Bigger girls and boys started playing together, but they were just playing together. Eventually we noticed the difference and started flirting with each other and then the things of childhood started to be put aside.
It was a simpler, less fearful time. Our parents were in complete control and respect for anyone older than you was a given. We had lots of fun and still obeyed the rules. When we got to be teenagers we'd bend the rules a bit but not too far for fear of getting in trouble, with our parents. Their love and respect was very important to us back then.
The fifties led to the sixties and that, my friend is a whole different era.
Please add your comments about life in the fifties, what do you remember?
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