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What It Was Like Growing Up In The Fifties

Updated on August 30, 2017

Life in the Fifties

I have fond memories of my childhood and teenage years. Families were close and they spent lots of time together. Looking back I can see that it was a time of struggle, when men had just returned from war and women were working in factories and keeping the "home fires" lit. There was little money but so much hope for the future. It was a time of starting anew.

Of course, growing up I never saw that my mother was a great steward of the money my father made. Or, that my father worked long and hard to earn his paycheck. What I did see was that they worked hard for what they had and they were always eager to share whatever they had.

My parents were not exceptional. They were the norm. You worked to earn, you worked to provide for your family and most importantly,you worked because it gave you pride in yourself.

These were the days when you didn't lock your doors. The days when my parents didn't worry about me when I was gone all day long. We didn't have cell phones to call them and let them know where we were, but we didn't have to. I was able to get on the city bus and go downtown with my girlfriends without my parents worrying, or walking into our little town all alone or playing outside in the dark. The times have certainly changed.

These are the memories of my childhood in the 1950s. What I did for fun, what I wore and the music I listened to. We, the children growing up in the 50's, were living the good life. I'm hoping this will bring back fond memories for you.

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We knew God and went to church

Faith

God and our church were a very big part of growing up. Everyone I knew went to church EVERY Sunday morning, not just at Easter or Christmas. It was a part of our life.

In my little village there were several churches. One for each denomination. I attended a Congregational Church and learning about Jesus meant more than just going to church on Sunday. It meant singing in the children's choir, Sunday school and Vacation Bible School, it meant giving thanks for each meal and prayers before bed. It was not an option in my house. Unless I had a fever, I was going to church!

After church, each and every Sunday, we had dinner with my aunts, uncles and cousins. My mother and her sisters would take turns on who's house would host the dinner. The meat was always provided by the person whose house we were at and then the rest of the family brought food to compliment the meal.

My grandmother lived with us so grandma was with us all the time and could she bake. I'll never forget the taste of those home made biscuits warm from the oven. And gravy, no one could touch her gravy. I think I learned my love for baking from Grandma Rollins. She was a gem.

Every Teen Should have a Bible

The Good Book with valuable life lessons. The answers to every single question a teenager could possibly have is in this book. Raise a child up in the ways of the Lord and he will not stray far from it.... Keeping kids grounded and making good choices is imperative in today's world.

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Rock n' Roll

Elvis Presley

I drove my parents crazy with Rock n' Roll. I had one of those record players that only played one record at a time and the records were called 45's.

Of course my favorite was Elvis. There was no other. I would play Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes and Love Me Tender over and over again. I knew all the words. If I didn't something would have been wrong with me. Honestly, I played them over and over again. I don't know why those records didn't wear out.

I can remember when Elvis made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. I couldn't get close enough to the TV set. My dad thought I was crazy and was laughing so hard, at me, that I could barely hear Elvis sing to me. Of course I thought he was singing to me and to me only. I had Elvis posters all over my walls until you couldn't tell what color my room was. As a side note I can tell you my room was painted a lovely shade of lavender and my furniture (hand me downs from all the family) was painted a light green. Quite the color combination back then.

There were other rock n' roll stars like Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Tommy Sands and another favorite, Buddy Holly. Dick Clark had put together a rock n' roll show that toured the United States and I was fortunate that it came to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids was not too far from my little village and I was allowed to attend with several of my girlfriends. A very special night.

King of Rock & Roll - Elvis

I would close the door to my bedroom and listen to Elvis for hours. My parents were ready to have me examined by a doctor because they thought I was crazy. I never saw him in person and have always regretted that. He must have been awesome to see live and in person but who knew he would die so young??

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Poodle Skirts

The fuller the better

Poodle Skirts. All the rage in the Fifties. Mine was pink with a black poodle and a little bling on the poodle's collar. To complete the esemble you wore a short sleeved sweater with a matching long sleeved cardigan sweater. Pearls, if you had them or a pin on your sweater. You wore about a hundred stiff, itchy petticoats under the skirt so it almost stood out straight. The petticoats were so stiff they could stand on their own. To complete the outfit you wore saddle shoes or a tennis shoe with white socks rolled down to form a huge roll at your ankle. Sweet huh?

Jewelry wasn't very popular back then and no one, and I mean no one had pierced ears. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was married and had children of my own. It took me two years before I would wear a pierced earring around my father. Times have certainly changed.

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Ice Skating & Roller Skating

Fun leisure time

Back in the Fifties leisure time meant getting outside and doing something. We were never in the house unless it was raining. Part of my life was spent on ice skates or roller skates.

I lived near a fish hatchery (where they raised minnows) so in the winter these ponds froze over and we were allowed to ice skate. I was fortunate because I could put my skates on in a nice warm house, put on some blade guards and walk to the ponds. You didn't have to worry about being alone because there was always someone ice skating. There were 8 ponds all together and the fish hatchery owners would keep several of the ponds cleared of snow so the ice skating was excellent. Great exercise too. The best part after skating was walking home to a hot chocolate and some chocolate chip cookies.

In the Spring, Summer and Fall it was roller skating. I lived across the street from a working dairy and the dairy farm. One of the buildings that housed the delivery trucks had the perfect cement floor. The owners would allow us to skate in that building as long as the trucks were not there. What a blast!

Ice Skating - Still lots of fun

Ice Skates are so much better now. It is still a great activity. Bring your children or grandchildren and don't forget the hot chocolate. I lived about a block from a fish hatchery with lots of ponds. In the winter those ponds froze over and we were allowed to ice skate on all the ponds. It was the gathering place every Saturday during the Winter. Such fond memories.

Roller Skates - Great Exercise

There are lots of different styles. The younger you are the more you will like the in-line skates but for us older folks I would suggest having 4 wheels under you at all times. Roller Skating parties are something we use to do thru the school. I can remember doing circles around that rink skating to the popular songs of the day. What fun. These days you can hardly find a skating rink.

Did you have a big family? What was your favorite activity? Tell me something you remember about growing up. Or just say hi!

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What People Said in the Fifties

You won't hear this anymore!

Go to any PTA meeting or church supper and these are some of the conversations people had:

1. I think the Postal Service is thinking about raising the price of postage to 7 cents a stamp.

2. If the minimum wage increase to $1.00 nobody will be able to hire outside help.

3. I'm afraid to let my kids go to the movies since they let Clark Gable get away with saying "damn".

4. Did you see where some baseball players just signed a contract worth $50,000?

5. If things keep going the way they are it will be impossible to buy a weeks worth of groceries for $10.00.

6. If cigarettes keep going up, I'll have to quit. 20 cents a pack is ridiculous.

7. Never thought I would see the day when my kitchen appliances would be electric. They even make an electric typewriter.

8. Things are so tough a few married women have to work to make ends meet.

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Fifties Memories of Mine

Too many to write about

I guess I thought growing up in the fifties was the best but I suppose each generation would think that. So much of the past is lost but at least we have our memories. Here are a few that I remember:

The soda fountain. All drug stores had one. A place to order a black cow or cherry coke. Where they made real malted milks and sodas and the best hot fudge sundaes. The counter had stationary bar stools and you had your own little juke box with all the latest hits, Elvis Presley was played a lot.

The Five and Dime. A store to find anything you needed, from a needle and thread to bubbles to little green army men. It was where I always bought my mom's birthday and Christmas gifts. They had a whole section of glass figurines. Mom always seemed happy with what I gave her, now I wonder how much of an act that was. It was also the store you bought your material from or your yarn. Believe me, they had everything. If you couldn't find it at the Five and Dime, they didn't make it.

Milk Delivery. Yes, they delivered your milk right to the door. Most homes had a little insulated box next to their back door and the milkman would deliver exactly how many quarts of milk or cream that you wanted. The milkman's days started very early in the morning while most of us were sleeping.

The Local Movie House. The little village next to ours had their own movie theatre. Saturday afternoons were always for the children and the evenings for the teens. The show would consist of 2 feature movies with a cartoon in between the features and there was always a serial movie. One that you had to come see every week to find out how it ended. My folks could give us 50 cents a piece which would get us into the show and buy us all the candy or popcorn we needed. Can you even imagine that?

Television. I was 10 before we got our first television set. Black and white, of course. No color back then and you were really fortunate if you had a television. I can remember rushing home to watch the Mickey Mouse Club. That was really a big deal. All of the television shows were family oriented with lots of variety shows. Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton and Dinah Shore. There was Perry Como and Mr. Television, Milton Berle (Uncle Miltie). But, for comedy my very favorite was the I Love Lucy Show.And, on Sunday afternoons you could see Big Time Wrestling.

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Do You Remember the Old Time Gas Station

You might not remember these things for yourself but maybe your parents or grandparents or an Aunt and Uncle told you stories about when they were growing up and raising their families. Here are some more memories:

Gas Stations that served you. If you needed gas you pulled into the gas station and an attendant came out and pumped your gas, checked the air in your tires, checked the water in your radiator and then washed your windshield. The only food that was in the gas station was a pop machine (maybe) but you'd hardly know that because you never left your car. And by the way, the cost per gallon of gas was around 17 cents.

Dairies, yes real working dairies. They usually delivered milk, cream and butter but if you ran out you could stop in at the dairy and get what you needed. No need to go to the grocery store. Some even had ice cream where you could get a gallon or even an ice cream cone.

Drive-In Movies. What a blast. I guess there are still some around but not many. However, back in the day this was a very special treat. Mom would make a big batch of popcorn and dad would load the cooler with pop or lemonade. We would be fresh out of the bathtub with pajama's on and into the car and off to the movies we went. The movies couldn't start until it got dark so it was always a late night. I guess they figured we would fall asleep during the 2nd feature but I don't think we ever did. Dad would pull up to the speakers, roll the window down just a little and hang that speaker on the window and we would get comfy in the back seat with our popcorn and the movie playing loudly. During intermission the movie screen would advertise for the concession stand and we would always make dad get out of the car and go get hot dogs or candy bars. He'd put up a fuss but we always won out in the end.

Sock Hops, dances in the school gym. Since it was the gym you couldn't wear shoes so we danced in our socks. Always with a dj spinning the latest top 40 hits. Dancing the Stroll, the jitterbug, the twist and of course a few slow songs.

These are just a few of my favorite memories. I hope you have some too.

Older Than Dirt Quiz

The "Older Than Dirt Quiz" done by Michael R. Leming, Ph.D. This brought back a lot of memories for me but I won't tell you what my score was. Do the test and see where you stand on the "Older Than Dirt Quiz".

How many of these do you remember?

1. Blackjack chewing gum

2. Wax coke shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside

3. Candy cigarettes

4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles

5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes

6. Home milk deliver

7. Party lines on the telephone

8. Newsreels before the movies

9. P.F. Flyers

10. Butch wax

11. TV test pattern that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning

12. Pea shooters

13. Howdy Doody

14. 45 RPM records

15. S&H Green stamps

16. Hi-fi's

17. Metal ice cube tray with lever

18. Mimeograph paper

19. Blue flashbulb

20. Packards

21. Roller Skate keys

22. Cork popguns

23. Drive-ins

24. Studebakers

25. Washtub wringer

If you remembered 0 - 5 You're still young

If you remembered 6 - 10 You're getting older

If you remembered 11 - 15 Don't tell your age

If you remembered 1 6 - 25 You're Older Than Dirt!

Just a side note to television back in the day. First of all, you were lucky if you got 3 channels (at my house we only got 2). And, the TV station went off air at midnight after playing the National Anthem and reciting a short prayer about God. Ahh, the good ole' days.

I'd love some feedback on how you did on the Older Than Dirt Quiz. Did you ace it?

What is Your Favorite Childhood Memory

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    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 4 years ago from Michigan

      @KateHonebrink: Ahhh, the good old days! We certainly were blessed to have lived during those times.

    • KateHonebrink profile image

      KateHonebrink 4 years ago

      What a great article! It brought back memories of growing up on our rural Minnesota farm in the 60's. From reading your lens, it's obvious we shared a very similar childhood, filled with church, family, and the simple pleasures of life in a less complicated society. Very well done! Kudos!!

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 4 years ago from Michigan

      @anonymous: Your mom was an angel. You certainly were blessed to have her while you were growing up.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I grew up in the 90's but my mom was brill, she made me play out doors and I didn't see my first game console until she traded her music player for a Comador 64 and boy that was oldish then but I loved it. Mom always made me play with my friends and we played mommies and daddies, barbies, made go carts from platic milk creates, mud pies and so on. When I was very little mom always put a small paddling pool of water and loads of things for me to play with when the weather was nice. She also bought me an easle to pain on and she'd put it out front with me and I'd paint for hours. :)

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      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      Playing outdoors - going places with friends at a young age - no helicopter parenting!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Thanks for sharing your memories of the 50s. I was a little baby in the late 50s and was a kid in the 60s. I remember the penny candies...5 for 1 cent and the licorice pipes! Blessed!

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      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      One of my fond memories growing up was watching the northern lights on cold winter nights. Can't see them now where I live.

    • ViJuvenate profile image

      ViJuvenate 5 years ago

      The 1950s, has to the be the most iconic era of the USA. A fabulous time that I missed by 3 years, being born in 1963. But if I could time travel, that decade would be one of the first ones I'd hit. What fun. What a great set of circumstances to grow up in.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for introducing 'you'! I grew up in the seventies and have to admit that I am still trying to grow up! :)

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      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Mine weren't the fifties, but I can agree with some of the things that touched your heart. One memory was going on a milk run with my Dad. He would let us choose something as a snack from the truck. The chocolate milk was so cold and delicious. It's still a good memory.

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 5 years ago from Michigan

      @donnetted: Your welcome...I can remember when Elvis was just starting out and he was going to be on the Ed Sullivan show and they would only put the camera on him from the waist up,..I couldn't get close enough to the tv and it was black and white!

    • LeopoldBlatt profile image

      LeopoldBlatt 5 years ago

      Great memories, well presented but you make us feel old........maybe we are.

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      Donnette Davis 5 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you for sharing your memories.. i never grew up in the 50's but still hold Elvis at #1 in my passion for music

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 5 years ago from Michigan

      @LeopoldBlatt: I don't feel old until I look in the mirrow or see my birth certificate. :) Time has a way of flying by!

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      Sharon Berry 5 years ago from Michigan

      @TheBaseballCoach: Back then most households only had one car and once I got my license my dad would wake me up at 5 a.m. to take him to work so my mom could use the car...of course, I then had to pick him up at 5:30 p.m. too. Your dad sounds like a very special guy!

    • TheBaseballCoach profile image

      TheBaseballCoach 5 years ago

      Hiding in the back of my Dad's car to go to work with him...I think he lnew I was there but never said anything.

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 6 years ago from Michigan

      @straw-hut: Thanks for the comments and bringing back all those memories. Life has certainly changed some for the good and some not so good. I'll keep looking forward but love bringing back those old time memories.

    • straw-hut profile image

      straw-hut 6 years ago

      I also remember chipping in any change we had to put gas in the car when it was 75 cents a gallon. Remember when no one sat in the backseat alone....there would always be 3 in the front. We didn't get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. I remember looking for a phone booth to call home and let my mom know I'd be out late. Life seems so sterilized now. I enjoy your lenses.

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      JoshK47 6 years ago

      What a fun lens. Always interesting to hear actual stories from people who were there, not just pop culture and TV about the time. Great work. :)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Just playing outside without a care in the world. It was a a much simpler time.

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      I still have stacks of 45's, I remember shows like the Honeymooners and riding in huge gas guzzling pieces of Detroit Iron. A favorite memory is driving on a narrow two-lane road with no shoulders in a car with no seatbelts and apparently no speed limit, to hear my dad point to overpasses for the interstate system under constrtuction and announce what a huge government boondoggle that system would be. Ahh, the fifties.

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 6 years ago from Michigan

      @TonyPayne: I agree the 50's were a very different time. It was when no one locked their doors and a handshake sealed the deal. Before we got our first television, jigsaw puzzles were all the rage. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Great memories. It was a lot different for a boy growing up in the 50's in England, but still very different from life today. We could ride our bikes all over town, nobody knew where we were, we had no money on us, but nobody worried in case we were kidnapped or molested, or run over by a car. We spent hours playing board games, there was little on tv for children, and in England we only had 2 channels, and shows were on lunchtime and in the evening. The rest of the time is was the test card.

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 6 years ago from Michigan

      @indigoj: Thanks for the kind words.

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      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      I wasn't around in the 50s but it was wonderful taking this trip down memory lane with you and hearing how it was from someone who lived through that decade! The poodle skirts sound so cute. A very interesting read.

    • ShariBerry profile image
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      Sharon Berry 6 years ago from Michigan

      @Mickie Gee: I can remember my first pair of jeans. I bought them at the "Dry Goods" store. I had to pay for them myself because mom and dad didn't think I needed them. I threw them in the dirt and in the ponds and trampled on them all the way home so they would look broke in. What was I thinking? Thanks for the comments.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 6 years ago

      I miss roller skating! I used to roller skate on the sidewalks and tore up many tights! Girls wore mostly skirts back then. In fact, I did not have a pair of jeans until I went to college. Lensrolled you to my 1950s: What was NOT to Like!