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Growing Up In The Fifties & Sixties
A Time of Innocence - The Fifties
I was sitting here tonight reminiscing about growing up in the 50's and 60's, and I realized just how lucky I was to be a part of that era. In my opinion it was one of the best times to be a young adolescent on the cusp of the teenage years, and on through.
The thing I remember about the 50's in particular is how easily we were entertained as kids. A good day was when you got on your bike with a friend and pedaled down to a local park to swing on the swings or just hang out with a special gal pal. And a special day was when your mom piled you in the car on a winter's day to take you down to Jerome's pond to ice skate. And there's another thing - Jerome's pond - a local potato farmer who lived in a nice stone house with a pond that froze over every winter, and who welcomed all the kids to hang out and skate to their hearts content. Would that happen today in a time when everyone is afraid of law suits and personal liability. Probably not! And on the days when mom could not drive us around, we would grab our toboggans and head over to the local Golf & Country Club to fly down the hills - the 18th hole being a favourite. Today it is off bounds.
In the summer months it was always fun to camp out with a friend in the family tent - just in the backyard but still it was neat. After all we could talk to our hearts content into the wee hours of the night without anyone yelling at us to be quiet and go to sleep. And when it was my turn to host the camping, not having a tent, dad would put some poles in the ground in the backyard and drape a couple of blankets over them. Voila! - a tent. And amazingly enough we would camp out all night long - no fear of someone coming into our backyard to harm us. And in the hot muggy evenings of summer, it was not unusual for the whole family to go to bed at night leaving the front door open with just the screen door locked for air movement. Who had air conditioners back then? And how in the world would a screen door stop an intruder from coming in. It didn't seem to be a concern "in those days".
In the city it was time to come in when the street lights came on. In the country where there were no street lights - you just knew to come in - or else! And on Halloween we tromped all over the place, blocks away from our own homes - never afraid of any one or anything. It was a day of fresh popped popcorn in bags, and home made candy apples. No worry for us in those days that someone would, of all things, try to sabotage the candy to hurt a child.
And if you got in trouble at school, you got in more trouble when you got home. It was always a very big incentive to behave yourself; to listen to and respect the teachers.
Technology & Entertainment
Saturday and Sunday nights were spent with the family gathering around the TV to watch your favourite show. And oh boy were we easily entertained in those days. Some of my favourites when I was very young were Lassie, and the Mickey Mouse Club. Then on I went to Leave to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Donna Reid Show; I could go on and on. Of course I Love Lucy was a favourite of everyone. And who didn't watch the Ed Sullivan Show. He gave us our first glympse of Elvis and then later The Beatles. Those were the days.
With no video games or game boys, we entertained ourselves playing Snakes & Ladders in our younger years; Monopoly and various card games as we got older. Building something with Minibrix was always fun.
And of course by the time I was in grade 7 and 8 I couldn't wait for the school day to be over so I could rush home and watch American Bandstand. I lived for this and it was always a race to get home before my younger sister who wanted nothing more than to watch "Bullwinkle J. Moose arriving on the Campus of Whatsamatter U". Regrettably, because I was faster, she always ended up dancing with me to the latest tunes.
And then talk about the TV itself. Great big square awkward looking box, first of all black and white and then when colour came out - well suffice it to say you could adjust all you wanted, but it was very very hard to get the colour "just right". And in the country when the phone rang, oftentimes you had to listen to 2 rings or 2 short and 1 long to see if it was for you or someone else on your partyline.
Forget Cell Phones - could anyone have imagined a cell phone in those days. And I wonder how in the heck did we get along without them? I only say that because it seems that most folks today have decided they cannot. No matter where you go, cell phones are glued to most people's ears. And not only that, every person in the family has a cell phone because "you just never know when they might need you"!!! How did we ever get along without them!!!
And of course I am already way out of date here - because I haven't even touched on computers or texting, Ipads, Ipods and every other damn pod you can think of. How did we manage without all of this stuff. It is still a mystery to me.
Fashion & Beauty
By the time I was going into Highschool I had already had a stint with the nuns in grade school so I was prepared, or at least I thought so. Uniforms were the order of the day, just as in grade school. Only now there were much stricter rules I guess because we did not want to try to turn the boys on in any way at all, even though this was an all girls school, with no boys in sight.
The first day of wearing your new uniform to school, one had to kneel on the floor in front of the teacher to show that "yes indeed, your skirt does sit exactly right on the floor" Phew, we got the length right. Then an inspection was made on your white blouse and your blazer. White bobby socks had to be rolled down neatly - not just once, but twice. And then there were the saddle shoes. I loved saddle shoes, except that we could not have the dainty streamlined ones; no we had to have the clunky ones. Does anyone but me remember this silly detail? But we survived, and in so many ways we were better off for having had rules and guidelines to adhere to.
Two years of this and I changed to a Public Highschool. But I have to say that proper dress was still the order of the day there too. There were no blue jeans, no way - and who could imagine blue jeans with the knees torn out of them? Uh uh! It was understood that the girls wore skirts and blouses and nice shoes. The boys were shirts and suitable pants.
And the worst thing you could do in Highschool was sneak a cigarette out the back. I never heard a thing about drugs and I just can't imagine what it must be like these days for kids to have to worry about this kind of stuff.
And back home my mom had put up a beautiful wallpaper for me behind my bed. This had teenaged girls all over it in various poses, talking on the phone or playing their records. I have never forgotten this paper.
In my first highschool days at the Convent, no makeup was allowed - no, not even lipstick. And this was strictly adhered to. In fact one day one of the nuns insisted I had eyebrow pencil on until one of my classmates said "no sister - see, if you run your fingers along her eyebrows you can just see that they are dark and thick". I still can't believe that episode - but today it makes me laugh. And once I hit public school - I wore lipstick, but really that was about all. Everything was about the hair in those days. And boy did I have hair - all teased and puffed up, much to my mom's chagrine who opined that because of my very thinness I ended up looking like a lollpop!!
After school and on the way home a drop in to a local diner to have french fries and a cherry coke was always a treat. And in the summer months, days spent on the beach at Lake Erie were a blast and a bus ride downtown to take in a movie with a friend was an exciting adventure.
Being a Teenager In The Sixties
Friday nights were spent at teen dances, one week was Teen Town at a local community hall and the next week would be Club 60 at a church hall. Oftentimes mom would drive me there and then pick me up. The girls would sit on one side of the hall and the boys on the other side, with the exception of the odd couple who were boyfriend and girlfriend. And you just hoped that someone would come and ask you to dance. You sure didn't want to be a wallflower.
There was no alcohol at these dances, but I have to admit that you would often see the boys sneaking out to their cars to have a quick drink from a mickey hidden there. I don't ever recall there being a problem, or a fight, or police being called for anything. We just had fun.
Sometimes a Saturday night would be spent at the local drive-in movie, and on the way home a stop at The Millionaire Drive In restaurant was a must to grab a hamburger and a coke, a perfect end to a fun evening. My boyfriend had a 57 Chevy and to this day I still think that was a neat car. There were no seatbelts in those days and so one could snuggle right up against your fella while out on a drive or a date. Admittedly, this is probaby one of the things that was not very safe. Somehow we managed to get through those years with no major difficulties. With no signal lights, turns were indicated by sticking your left arm out of the window - straight out for left and elbow crooked with arm stright up for right. And with no air conditioning, driving along with the windows open was a must in the hot summer days. I still think it is one of the nicest things to take a drive in the evening, windows down and lovely soft breezes coming in through the windows.
There was a rule in my house and that was when returning from a date there was to be no sitting in the car outside the house. This was always because the neighbours might be watching. Of course we always tested this rule and invariably the outside lights of the house would blink on and off a couple of times to warn you to "come in". I recall one night the side door opening and my mom walking down the driveway and I thought "oh oh I'm going to get it now". When she arrived at my boyfriend's side of the car she said "how would you kids like to go for a bite of Chinese food". And off we went to a special little place that sat right on the edge of the Hamilton mountain brow - looking out over all of the city lights.
Yes, I think growing up in the fifties and sixties was a special time and I am glad that I was a part of it.