Recently, I celebrated my … mmm … birthday. Oh, well, I’ll tell you my age. Planet earth has been my home for three-quarters of a century. Wow! I never thought I’d say that. Anyhow, I was a teen in the swinging 50s. The word teenager was coined in the 1950s. The 50s were a time of change. As with any period, good things happened and also bad.
Music: We had Elvis and rock and roll, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Buddy Holly, Fabian, The Platters, and Brenda Lee.
On TV, when we finally got one, we watched Dick Clark and American Bandstand, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, and The Mickey Mouse Club for younger kids.
Movies: (before we had DVDs we went to the “picture show.”) My favorite movie was Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean and Natalie Woods. I also loved Doris Day and her musicals.
We walked to school or rode our bicycles, (without helmets) until I had a boyfriend with his own car, which was fantastic. We went to Sock Hops in the gym after football games and met kids from the other schools.
How we dressed: Girls wore poodle skirts, as well as other skirts and also scarves and pedal pushers (similar to the Capris or whatever they’re called today). I remember going to the lumber yard and buying screen wire for my mom to make a petticoat for a dance I was attending. I didn’t sit down a lot there. This reminds me of the crinolines and hoop skirts women wore in the 1800s like in my novel Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines. Bobby socks and saddle shoes and ballet shoes, I think they were called adorned our feet.
Some boys wore jeans and leather jackets. (Like the Fonz). Others wore slacks with their shirts tucked in. School rules were strict. Boys either wore their hair in a crew cut, flattop, or ducktail. If a boy’s hair touched his ears he was sent home, or if his jeans fell too low on his hips or his shirttail hung out he was dismissed until the unacceptable behavior was corrected. Girls were not allowed to wear pants to school, and I thought it was great when we girls started wearing boy’s Levis at home. (No one made jeans for girls.) Girls wore their hair short and curled or pulled back in pony tails, French braids and also a style called the poodle cut, like Lucille Ball wore.
Good things in the 50s: Jonas Salk invented a polio vaccine. Paper Mate made its first leak free ball point pen. (Yeah, no more messy ink.) The Russians launched Sputnik I. Burma Shave signs kept you occupied on the way to visit Grandma and Grandpa. One I especially remember is “A man who passes on hills and curves is not a man of iron nerves. He’s crazy.” A gallon of gasoline cost .25 cents. A stamp was .03 cents.
Bad things in the 50s: James Dean was killed in his new sports car. We feared war with Russia and there was the Cuban Missile Crisis. People built bomb shelters to prepare for a nuclear war. We didn’t know about cholesterol and that the fatty foods we ate clogged our arteries. No one told us the sun caused skin cancer so we took “sunbaths” to look healthy.
Yes, times have changed. Sure gasoline was cheap in the 50s. You could buy three pounds of hamburger meat for $1.00. At my job I also earned $42.50 a week.
Now, instead of washing dishes at the sink, drying them, and putting them away, I stick them in the dishwasher, turn it on, and go read a good book. Instead of hanging the clothes on the line to dry, I stuff them in the dryer.
Instead of typing my stories on a manual typewriter, using carbon paper to make copies and White Out to correct spelling and punctuation errors, my computer does most everything for me. Even books are changing. Now, they can be read on eReaders where you can change the print size and even listen to the story if you want to. I really like this, because they help relieve the strain on my tired eyes from all the books I read. Hearing the story read also reminds me of the radio I once listened to every Saturday morning. I still like to hold a paper copy in my hands though. Guess some things never change.
Clothing, transportation, hairstyles, and school has changed. Good things still happen. Bad things still happen.
I wonder what our world will be like in the next seventy-five years.
Thanks for allowing me this nostalgic post. See what happens when you get older: you think about the past. Remember the saying, young folks live in the future, middle age folks live in the present, old folks live in the past. Well, that's partly true, but I also live in the present and the future, waiting for my books to be published. Okay. I did recently buy a baton. I wanted to see if I could still twirl it like I did as a majorette in high school.