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Growing Up In The Fifties & Sixties

Updated on September 30, 2012

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.


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for the article. A nice look back. I wonder if anyone ever tried to map the social "progress". In New York the drug problem seemed to appear before most other places. It was bad in some areas in the 50s and by the late 60s it was pretty much everywhere in the city. Crime was always a problem in New York. In my Catholic grammer school some of the girls would try to get away with shortening their dresses an inch or two, it was the time of the miniskirt.

    • craiglyn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Randy for dropping by and reading. Seems there are many of us from that era, so it is great to share memories. Lynda

    • craiglyn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you MizB. And yes of course I can relate to the other realities you mentioned too. It was a time of innocence but also trials and tribulations. My folks ended up separating when I was 16 and because of the RC background, my mom got a lot of flack - just to mention one point. There was fun and there was difficulties; for this hub I chose to talk about the fun. :) Thanks for dropping by and reading. Lynda

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 

      5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I can relate to everything in this hub as I grew up in a similar environment during the 50's and 60's. We didn't have locks on our doors and would be gone for a week or more and never worry about our home being burglarized..

      My dad bought the first TV around and we could only pick up one channel in Tallahassee, Florida. And the picture was still snowy at times. I agree, it was an idyllic time to be young. Sigh!

      Enjoyed your memories and voted up.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 years ago from Beautiful South

      I grew up in the 50s and 60s in the USA, the South, to be exact, so some of our customs were a little different because of the weather. I remember the hooked screen doors at night and running the attic fan to try to stir up a breeze. Some nights it was so hot that daddy hooked up the garden hose for us to take a cold shower outside before we went to bed. Before anyone could drive, we kids walked two or three miles to the Friday night movie and back if we couldn’t get our parents to drive us.

      It really was a time of innocence, but it was also a time of hypocrisy, or “do as I say, don’t do as I do.” We were so naïve we couldn’t imagine our parents having sex, much less having an affair. Divorce was a shame, and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy was even worse. Girls who got pregnant either were forced to marry the father or they were sent away to quietly have the baby, who was then put up for adoption. The only abortions were back-alley, and the casualty rate was too high. Some girls managed to get the boy of their dreams by getting pregnant. If a girl was suspected of “trapping” a boy into marriage, it was “shame on her,” never mind that it takes two to tango. Anyway, you gave a good perspective on growing up during this era. Voted up++

    • craiglyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for visiting Hendrika. Isn't it neat to know that no matter what part of the world we were in, we all experienced the same thing. Those were fun times.

    • Hendrika profile image


      6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I also grew up in the 50's and 60's and it was so much fun. In South Africa we did not have TV, how did we ever survive. Of course that gave as lots of time to go to the movies and drive-ins and all the parties!

      We could walk in the streets at night without any fear and it was not unusual for us to go to a dance, what would be called a "club" and return home by bus afterwards. You have to remember that in South Africa you can only get a drivers license when you are 18, so bus it was.

      So good to think about it again.

    • craiglyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks again Paula for your vote of confidence. Neat to know we are from the same generation - I agree it was the best.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You certainly have my attention and lots of interest.... I am a Boomer, through and through. I will always feel our era, our generation was/is the BEST every respect. I have such wonderful and fond memories of growing up then......and I treasure them all. Thank you for this awesome journey back!.........UP+++

    • craiglyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you whonu once again for your kind comments and encouragement. I am still learning so I very much appreciate hearing from you. I just today went and changed the categories for some of my stories - as I think I had them in the wrong areas. There is still much to learn, but I am having fun. : )

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      These were the days that our hearts hold most dearly and will always be locked away in our most fond memories. As a child of this era, I can well appreciate this article and I too, feel it was one of the grandest of times to be raised. It was a family affair and one that seemed to have the most meaning. Thanks for the wonderful memories,craiglyn, and keep writing.


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