1955 was the year America hit its zenith. It manufactured half of all the goods made in the world. More people went to church in 1955 than ever before or since in the United States. More churches were built in 1955 than in any other year of American history.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the United States in 1955. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe were the hot new film stars. McDonalds had just been started. The first department stores were built, and the very first hotel chain: Holiday Inn. Soon to come was the Interstate Highway System that would transform America forever.
But the big event of the 1950s was the coming of television. Milton Berle became the first bonafide TV star. Television would shape presidential elections enormously in the decades to come. And TV advertising would acquire tremendous power over the purchasing decisions of the average citizen.
In the Fifties a big move to the suburbs began in the United States. After World War Two, there was a serious housing shortage. Entrepreneurs like the Levitt Brothers, who built Levittown on Long Island, created huge new communities outside the major cities and thus a whole new lifestyle was born.
In the Fifties Elvis Presley became the most famous man in the world. Hugh Hefner launched his magazine in the Fifties. Both men would profoundly change American culture.
I Love Lucy and Ozzie and Harriet were the big television programs of the Fifties. Both were unusual mixes of reality and fiction. Television would confuse the two in the minds of viewers ever since.
In 1955 people in advanced societies lived in fear of an attack by the Soviet Union with nuclear bombs. Bomb shelters were built by the millions and school drills were common.
In 1955 the Civil Rights Movement was just getting started, uplifted by the Brown v. Board of Education ruling the year before that made segregated public schools illegal in the United States. American sports teams were integrated in the 1950s and many Americans of African descent emerged as huge stars, idolized by people of all ethnicities.
J. Edgar Hoover ruled the FBI with an iron hand. The CIA was very active with secret agents around the world involved in clandestine operations.
In the 1950s the Great Migration—the movement of millions of black Americans from the rural south of cotton fields to the big industrial cities of the northern United States—accelerated. Martin Luther King Jr. was just getting started as a Civil Rights leader.
General Motors was by far the largest corporation in the world and sold half of all automobiles in the United States in the 1950s.
Toward the end of the 1950s the Beats or Beatniks became cultural icons. They rejected society and conformity in favor of "doing your own thing." They were heavily into drugs and homosexual behaviors.
The Kinsey Reports on sexuality were amazingly influential in the 1950s and since, though it turns out the author was a sado-masochist child molester who falsified all of the data.
The Fifties are criticized by some as a time of stifling conformity. The decade was also a time of unprecedented prosperity in America—prosperity enjoyed by a larger percentage of the people than ever before in human history.
The Fifties was a time without pornography, without vulgar language spoken in public. It was a time of little government interference in the liberty of individuals. Lawsuits were unusual rather than ubiquitous as they are today. Crime was so low that most people never bothered to lock their doors, and many left the keys in their cars overnight.
In the Fifties the sounds outside were full of the laughter of children. Everybody on every block knew everybody else. Children were taught in school about how fortunate they were to be born in America. The Bible was read in public schools and children prayed in class. America was a thankful nation. Little did the people know all hell was about to break loose in the 1960s.
The top ten movies of the 1950s were: Singin' in the Rain; 12 Angry Men; Rear Window; Sweet Smell of Success; Bridge on the River Kwai; All About Eve; Ben-Hur; Vertigo; Some Like it Hot; and The Searchers.
The most famous novelists of the 1950s included Ernest Hemingway, James Michener, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and Ayn Rand. Norman Vincent Peale was the best-selling non-fiction author.
Television made it possible to become famous overnight. Quiz shows were immensely popular on television in the 1950s. It ended up that quite a few were rigged so that contestants who were most popular with the audience kept on winning.
Once upon a time, there was a fifteen year boy who ran away from home. He took off hitchhiking southbound from Michigan, with no destination in mind. He decided to go wherever a ride might take him.
A gorgeous gal in a Corvette wearing a short skirt picked the boy up. She was headed to Nashville, and he rode along. The second person who gave the lad a lift was on his way to Atlanta, which sounded fine to the young man. The third ride was going to Sarasota, Florida—so there he went.
It so happened the young man knew two girls from his hometown that had moved to Sarasota. They introduced him to some hippies who invited him to live in their commune, which he did for a couple months. It was far out, man—but that is a story for another day.
The lad was broke and got homesick. So, he called his father, who had no idea where he was. When his father asked and was told he started laughing. He said "A salmon always goes home to spawn." The young fella didn't get it until his father told him that he was most certainly conceived in Sarasota during his parents' honeymoon—in 1954.
The Work That People Do
Americans that were born in the 1950s and later are engaged in diverse occupations to make a living these days. Among these activities are installing telecommunications systems, working as an aircraft technician, working for corporations in administration.
Other people fly charter jets for the rich and famous, sell used aircraft, play pool for a living, or own small construction companies.
Some Americans own a little business that supplies ice, some renovate old houses, some work as bartenders. There are people who own small town hardware stores, and people who have a heating, air-conditioning, and plumbing business. Some people are actors off-Broadway, some tutor the children of wealthy Manhattanites.
And there are those who refuse to work because they "can't stand to be around people." They live off of taxpayers, and constantly work on angles by which they might increase those government checks and services. In that subculture there are many tricks of the trade.
James A Watkins has members of his immediate family engaged in all of the activities above.
Obscure World Record Set in 1959
In 1959, two little boys recorded a new world record, as yet not broken. These lads, from Benton Harbor, Michigan, had an uncle with an unusual talent—he farted in his sleep.
This uncle would come home tired from working all day and take a nap on the couch. The boys would be watching television in the same room, probably "Danger is my Business" or some such.
The thing is, he not only farted in his sleep but the farts themselves were exceptionally long. Boys will be boys, so they concocted the idea of timing them. Anyway, I am here to report that the longest fart they were able to record was a full thirty seconds, and consisted of one solid note. It did not waver in pitch whatsoever. All the more remarkable.
Your author was born in 1955. His birthday was just a few days ago. Now that the speeches, parades, and fireworks have passed, he decided to write a little Hub in celebration of another year passed. The world is a different place than it was in 1955.
Last year your author had received many requests from his regular readers to write more about himself for a change. Your author writes articles on HubPages about history, religion, politics, art, music, baseball, books, economics, science, travel, and other topics.
Your author, never wanting to disappoint his regular readers, obliged and decided that perhaps once a year he would write from a more personal perspective.
Last year's piece included short sections about your author's childhood and parents; how he developed a lifelong love for reading books and for playing music. It also featured some of your author's favorite song lyrics and the words to one of his original compositions.
James A Watkins received hundreds of wonderful notes in response to It is my Birthday. He also had a few cranks chime in with criticism.
One person wrote "Everybody has a birthday, but only James is pompous and arrogant enough to make a big deal out of his." Of course, this same person, a fellow writer on HubPages, received political asylum in the United States and has returned this favor by spewing steaming piles of venom about how she hates America because it is not any different than the old USSR.
Another HubPages writer wrote a whole Hub lambasting the Hub because it expressed gratefulness for many undeserved past blessings, which she called "bragging."
Yet another wrote a Hub that was a broadside of vigorous vitriol. It claimed that the fall from grace to poverty was a calculated plot to illicit sympathy from ignorant rubes so they might be swindled out their hard-earned life savings.
James a Watkins
James A Watkins has but two sentences to describe himself on his HubPages Profile Page. Many of his readers have written to him to request more information about this utterly fascinating writer.
James A Watkins made a meager living as a rock and roll singer and drummer for a couple decades. He also worked for a number of years in the family auto parts business—founded by his grandfather in 1945. He sold a ton of automobiles in his day for various car dealerships. He sold computer hardware in bulk over the phone for a year. And he managed parts departments, service departments, and sales departments for auto dealerships.
Finally, James A Watkins got into the aviation business—twice. The first company went under after the Payne Stewart Plane Crash. The second company went bankrupt and after fourteen years in aviation your author decided to reinvent himself as a writer. For several years, he kept his head down, laid low, and wrote internet magazine articles for HubPages. Eventually he published his first book; then his second. James A Watkins is currently working on his third book.