When WWII was over (after all the rationing of food, clothing, and household goods) there were more jobs, and society as a whole could buy almost anything. Houses were cheaper, cars, electrical appliances, etc. Everyone basically went on a binge of buying. The 1950s was the last age of innocence. Families sat together to eat dinner, and there was peace and harmony for most families. Kids went to church and said prayers and the National Anthem in school. Moms stayed home to look after the kids, and dads went to work. You had homework and chores to do, and if you disrespected a teacher or an adult neighbor (always called them Mr. or Mrs.), you were grounded or severely punished. Spankings were dealt out, and it never hurt one of us kids. There was zero tolerance for misbehaving. Girls didn't live with boyfriends and stayed home until they got married. Although curious about sex, the boys would keep trying and most of the girls were too terrified they would get pregnant (those were the years where birth control wasn't even thought of). There was petting and necking and the odd girl that got pregnant. These girls who slept with boys or got pregnant were ostracized from society (I knew it was unfair back then). They were simply "bad girls." Sundays were special. Some people went to church. Sundays were for mowing the lawn and talking to your neighbors (everyone knew everyone else back then). Kids were safe and could walk the streets in the evening without fear of being accosted or abducted. Parents didn't have to worry about their children's safety as much as they do today. When teens needed money, the girls would volunteer as Candy Stripers and were paid a small wage, or they babysat. Boys worked in burger joints or gas stations. Parents didn't give their kids everything they wanted, and the teens had to work for extra money they wanted. More boys went to college whereas most girls weren't considered college material and would only get married and have children. They had few choices with the exception of being a teacher, nurse, stenographer, or a stewardess.
Kids didn't sit in front of the TV (you got 1 to 2 hours of TV if lucky) and there were no computers back then. Kids were either outside playing (using their imagination) or were out with their groups of friends hanging out at their favorite cafe. There were "hot rods" and "jalopies," and the kids met at the drive-in restaurants where guys would scream around and around showing off their new re-built cars. They popped clutches and did "wheelies" or "donuts" or picked out some other guy with a hot car to drag race to gain attention. There was cruising strips to see if they could pick up girls, and four guys to a car, and you could bet there was a case of beer! Few wanted new cars, and most young guys loved to "cut and chop" old cars and would paint them cool colors (metallic) usually with lightning bolts or other designs on the side of their car. Cars that were in this condition were called simply, "cherry"! Kids did get into a bit of trouble drag-racing the streets so they would build drag strips outside of the city limits, and the races began. Kids also got into drinking beer (making complete fools of themselves) but not as often as the kids do today. They were few drugs around during this time, and it was either cigarettes or alcohol. Kids back then were lucky to get away on a camping trip, and it never entered their minds to go on trips to other countries (only a few did). Teens couldn't afford a trip and parents sure couldn't. Kids got along well in groups, and the peer pressure wasn't so great as today. The right-labeled clothes weren't even thought about. There was fashion, of course. Guys wore their jeans with cuffs rolled up (often used as ashtrays) and T-shirts with one short-sleeve rolled up for their cigarettes, and some of the "greasers" (guys with greasy hair and duck tails) would have a cigarette folded inside the tip of their ear. Girls wore sweaters with scarves around their necks, long pencil-lined skirts with a slit up the side (poodle skirts as well), and usually ponytails or beehive hair-dos. They wore bobby socks with saddle shoes or "white bucks." You were either "cool" or "square."
Our music was better than today (there are some great songs out there today, but many of the groups sing some pretty crappy stuff and it's enough to depress anyone). In the 1950s it was rock & roll, with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis (to name a few). Black groups introduced "doo wop" songs, and they were popular as well. Dances were "jive" or the "stroll." Boys actually danced with girls! There were dance contests and just plain fun. The songs were either love songs or happy songs. It wasn't depressing. You could relate to the music and actually understand it, and if you had a boyfriend or girlfriend you always picked that special song for each other. Usually, just like teen youth today, kids broke off with their boyfriends and often girls would lay around listening to "their song" and crying their eyes out, but it didn't last long; soon they were off and running until they met their next boyfriend. In the early 60s came Diana Ross and the The Supremes, Johnny Rivers, The Beach Boys. By the late 60s there was Jimi Hendrix (one of my favorites), Bob Dylan, etc., and all had a message to say. I loved that music as well.
Were teenagers happy? For the most part they were, but all teenagers have a wild side to become more independent and start to become restless. Teens during this time didn't really realize what they wanted and only knew that their families weren't as perfect as "Leave It To Beaver" and as the TV and magazines would have one believe and the teens weren't accepting the fact that families were that perfect. The first movie that came out to change that was "Rebel Without A Cause" with James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. For the first time teenagers could relate and figure out what they had been longing for. They wanted their parents to realize they were going through many emotional times in their lives and wanted their parents to ease up and take notice and listen to them. Even today "Rebel Without A Cause" is a cult movie, and even today's teenagers could relate to that movie.
Elvis Presley first appears on black/white TV on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and I can remember the up-roar of society saying that he was the devil himself. There was Elvis swiveling those hips, and parents were in shock. I begged my parents to watch it and they refused but suddenly agreed. The sneaks had found out that the camera would only pan in on the upper part of Elvis. So, my family sat down with me and watched it. We listened to "You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog" to "Blue Suede Shoes." My father was strict and still didn't like it, but lucky for me, Elvis sang "Old Shep" and my father really began to like him and thought he had a good voice. Then Elvis came for a concert in Vancouver, B.C., and I begged and pleaded with my parents to go, but they refused to allow it. I was crushed! It's a good thing I didn't go as the teens went wild and there were girls fainting, people falling over each other, legs and arms broken. Still, I had been willing to risk all that just to go to that concert. When your parents said "NO" it meant just that! They knew that if they loved you, protected you, put a roof over your head, food in your stomach, gave you an education, and quality time, then you had nothing to complain about.
The economy was rich; it was an employees market, and I took advantage of it. If I worked at a job and didn't like it, I would go out on my lunch break and have another job before I had to go back to my old job. Wages weren't bad back then when working, but it comparison to today, it was a not a lot. Still, it paid the bills. When working and living at home, you weren't asked to pay rent--YOU PAID RENT! Not only that, but you had to keep your own room clean, wash/dry and iron your own clothes, help cook meals, mow lawns, or shovel snow. Today if you asked a teen to mow your lawn or shovel snow, they'd look at you like you were crazy! Girls babysat from the age of 12 on to help pay for their school clothes.
Just as 1960 rolled around that's when the innocence of the 50's ended and nothing has been the same since. Teens went wild, ran away from home, joined groups or cults, and hit acid or other drugs. It was still an exciting time and still had a ring of the 50's, but once the 60s were over, everything seemed to go downhill. The old saying goes, "too much of anything is good for nothing." I'll take the 50s and 60s any day!
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