A very funny guy named Jon, who may actually be older than I am, has a blog called Life Philosophy 101 for the Squirrelly Senior Citizens, which I've started following recently. His latest entry is "Growing up in the 50s (part 2)" (though I could not find part 1!) I thought it would be interesting to write my own, based on the format that he set out, only relating it to my own experience of the 50s. Here goes:
CARS: I remember that we waited anxiously each season for the new car models to be revealed. They would taunt us with TV commercials that showed cars draped under cloth and announce the date on which they would show us what the cars looked like.
I remember the fins on the cars getting bigger and bigger. We could easily identify brands of cars, unlike now when so many look alike.
I remember calling Studebakers "coming or going cars" because they looked the same from the back as they did from the front....and every other car wasn't the "champagne" color that our car is today!
Our own car in the 50s was a yellow chevrolet, which replaced the blue Plymouth my parents had been driving when I was born. I remember Peach and her family had a big Chevrolet station wagon with wood grain strips on the outside of it
FASHION: This is a sample of the "good" clothes I wore in the 50s
My grammar school graduation in 1956
I wore "sweet" dresses like this, usually with some sort of crinoline under skirt to make it stand out. I frequently wore a scarf at my neck because I'd seen some actress wear one and thought I'd emulate her. I always wore flats. I don't remember a poodle skirt, but I remember a black quilted skirt with a gold thread running through it.
For more casual attire, it was usually pedal pushers and flats.
Peach and I at her house in Citrus Heights
I don't really remember wearing jeans much, if at all.
Women my mother's age always seemed to be beautifully tailored, always went out with a hat and gloves, and always high heels. But they were generally home bodies, the center of whose life was taking care of the house and cooking meals.
MUSIC: My father collected records of music of the 30s and 40s and also played them on the piano a lot. I came to love music in the years before Elvis and my father thought rock and roll was the worst music ever written (just barely behind Gilbert & Sullivan), so my 50s were filled with music by crooners (Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Vic Damon, Johnny Mathis, etc.) or quartets or doo-wop music, or novelty songs like "Purple People Eater" and "Little Blue Man." The gap between me and popular music only grew wider as Elvis took a foot (and pelvic!) hold and my friends started to play rock. Of course, after 1954, my favorite artist for the next umpty-ump years was Judy Garland. That really separated me from my friends!
ENTERTAINMENT: Saturday were double features at the local movie house. Twenty-five cents admission and we got two features, a cartoon and a newsreel--and sometimes a cliff-hanging serial that kept us coming back the following week to find out the fate of the hero. Popcorn was twenty-five cents and if I was really feeling rich, I would splurge on a 10-cent candy bar, but usually I had to stick to the 5-cent ones. Sometimes our family went to the drive in, Karen and I dressed in our pajamas.
POLITICS: My father's temper being what it was, we didn't have much political discussion in the house. My sister eventually started standing up to him on various topics, but I always left the dinner table when they argued, so don't remember what they argued about. But I remember being in grammar schools during the Eisenhower / Stevenson campaign. Near as I could tell, I was the only kid in my Catholic school who did NOT wear an "I Like Ike" button. I wished I could 'like Ike' so I could be like everyone else, but my family was voting for Stephenson, so I didn't. I also remember babysitting the night the Democratic convention was choosing its vice presidential candidate (there used to be real nomination fights about VP candidates in those days). I really wanted the cute senator from Massachusetts to get the nod, but Estes Kefauver beat Kennedy out for the spot on the ticket.
I was a white girl living in an intact family in California and for so many years I looked longingly back on the 50s as being an idyllic time. It was a time when I went off in the morning to school and came home to the wonderful treat my mother had baked for us during the day. We weren't rich, but my wants were not large and we had more than enough for a happy life.
But I would later have friends whose childhood was less than idyllic because their parents were targeted by Senator McCarthy's communist witch hunts. I would have a friend who was born in a Japanese internment camp and friends whose families had suffered under the Jim Crow laws in the South and friends who went through hell dealing, in secret, with their homosexual feelings. For those friends, the 50s were not the idyllic time that I remember.
I wonder which era my own children, when they get to be my age, will remember as the one they consider "idyllic."