View Full Version : Did you grow up in the 1950s?

12-29-2005, 05:55 AM
Since I’ve been out of school for a month, I have too much time on my hands.

I started a novel today, based on a fictional short story I wrote a few months ago, but my freelance editor thought that I should have extended it into a full fledge novel (even though I think she’s getting ahead of herself).

Anyway, the story starts in 1953 (between May and June). Dwight D. Eisenhower is in office, The Jack Benny Show is picking up speed, color T.V. is transmitted, and I Love Lucy is coming into living rooms.

I just took a U.S. History class, so I’m pretty familiar with the politics of the time: red scare, communism, the Rosenberg trial and execution for selling secrets to the Soviets, etc.. But I’m more interested in the common, everyday life.

I’m a product of the 70s, so you can see the kind of bind that I’m in. My main character is a 46-year-old woman who has been married for 24 years. She’s a homemaker, but doesn’t have any children (because she never did want to raise children in the city), she obsesses over the wrinkles on her face, nags her husband, but has a good relationship nonetheless. She wants to keep up with the Jones’s and get all the modern conveniences and luxuries. But one day, on a routine trip to the grocery store, her life is changed forever.

What do you remember about the 1950s?

12-29-2005, 06:28 AM
Did you see, or can you get, the movie Pleasantville?

In the U.S. of the 1950s, just to rattle off a few things, women doctors were unusual. Racism and sexism were accepted in wider circles than they are now. The civil rights movement hadn't started. Girls took compulsory home economics in school; boys took wood or metal shop. People married young; having three children was popular among the middle class. Your character would have drawn disapproval from relatives and neighbors for choosing not to have children. Virginity at marriage was important, at least for women. Advertising reflected a preoccupation with constant forward motion, literally and figuratively. Cars were always faster and more powerful than last year's, and society was going to advance to unbelievable heights because scientists were figuring everything out.

Got to go. My husband says dinner's ready.

12-29-2005, 07:13 AM
I haven't had the chance to see the movie Pleasantville. I know what it is, and I have Netflix (DVD rentals sent to my home for a monthly fee), so I'll get right on it.

You have been a big help. I was pretty sure women got married young, and did a smidgen of research to get my story going, but I hadn't factored in the pressure from family. :) Her husband (who's loosely based on my husband) did remind her of why she didn't want to have children.

She's (I haven't named her yet, I guess I better get on the naming game) preoccupied with the daily newspaper because she really doesn't have a life, which later on will provide a premise of why she finds herself in the situation she'll be in.

Her husband's name is Thomas. Is this a good name for the 50s?

Editted to add: just checked, Thomas was a popular name in the 50s.

And also, were coffee makers [machines] available?

(I'm on page two of my story so far)


The short version of my story quickly jumped into things, so I didn't have to worry about lifestyle too much.

September skies
12-29-2005, 07:24 AM
Got to go. My husband says dinner's ready.

LOL - Ok, that's not 5os at all.

I wasn't born until 1958 but I remember getting color television for the first time - I didn't realize it had come out in the 50s. (I guess only the very elite had the color televisions) I remember where I was when JFK was shot and watching the funeral on television in black and white. (I was 5 years old)

12-29-2005, 07:26 AM
Yeh, my mom was born around 1956, otherwise, I'd ask her. :idea:

12-29-2005, 07:30 AM
I just missed the 50's, because I was born in 1960 ....

I wonder whether it would help you if you watched some 50's TV shows, or looked through some magazines or newspapers from that era.

This may help you get some ideas for things from that era that are more subtle than political issues or gender roles that could help make your book more realistic.

For example, I'm thinking about simple things like cooking dinner; no microwaves - I think TV dinners might have just come out in the 50's. I don't think pantyhose had been invented yet; at least I don't think it was a common item. No blow dryers. It was unusual for women to wear pants. The Birth Control Pill wasn't around. In general, no one would think of going to a movie or grocery store wearing sweatpants. People could smoke in public.

If your protagonist is 46, she would have lived through the Depression. Maybe this could be used as background info to describe her personality.

Your premise has really got me thinking, to the point where I wish I was writing something like this! Then again, I thought, nahhhh ... I'll just wait until you write it, then I'll buy a copy and read it!

Good luck!

12-29-2005, 07:44 AM
Thanks for the help.

I'm just going through my history class notes; the class ended about three weeks ago (thank you! wheww), and we did go over a few social issues (I remember covering the T.V. dinners).

I just thought, if my character was 46 yrs old in 1953, that means she was born in 1904, and her husband is around the same age, so I have to change his name (I've got a few picked out).

My characters live in New York City, and next week, which is when school starts back up, I will be taking a "History of New York" class. I take all these offbeat classes to have something to write about, even though my major is journalism.

I live in New York City, but I'm a transplant (been here for three years).

12-29-2005, 07:52 AM
Plenty of men were named Thomas at that time.

To continue: Phones were black and were attached to the wall. The phone company owned them. Depending on where you lived, your number might have three or four digits. If it had seven characters, the first two were letters, which were the first two letters of the name of your exchange. Party lines, cheaper than private lines, were common in the countryside. Long-distance calls were expensive. People kept in touch with distant friends and relatives by writing letters. First-class postage was three cents. There were no ZIP codes. Large cities had postal zones, like "New York 2, New York." The two-letter state abbreviations used with ZIP codes didn't exist.

Cities had more newspapers than now. Very few people ran for exercise or went to gyms. Most women wore house dresses at home. In some places, at least, they wore hats when they went out. You ate meat three times a day if you could afford it; nobody worried about cholesterol (a correlation between heart disease and consumption of animal fat was just being discovered). Sunlight was good for you. People smoked everywhere. Gays were closeted. There weren't so many ethnic restaurants. The beatniks were just getting started. An all-electric kitchen was the height of modernity. Beer and soft drinks came in bottles.

The People's Chronology, by James Trager, is a good source for answers to "When did _____ start?" I didn't find anything about the coffee maker. I think percolators were common at that time. I did learn that sliced bread appeared in 1930; instant coffee entered civilian life after World War II, having begun in K rations; and Swanson introduced TV dinners in 1954.

12-29-2005, 08:04 AM
She might have gotten her first TV in 1955. There would have been only one channel. It would have started at noon. Before that, there would have been only a test pattern. Before the end of the decade, there might have been three channels--four, if you count PBS. That required a converter. Most folks didn't have one. Friday night fights were big. So was Milton Berle.

A 40ish woman in the early 50s would have been a child, or a young adult of the depression. That would have had a great impact on her life. She would have saved everything. She would cut her hamburgers with bread crumbs to "stretch the meat." She would do her own canning. She would make many of her own clothes, and some of her husband's. There would be no butter. Oleo-margarine was the norm. More than likely, her parents were farmers.

Her husband would make all the decisions. They would live where he wanted to live. They would buy the car he wanted to buy (only one--and she wouldn't drive it) and she would vote the way he voted. They would go for Sunday drives.

She would have lived through three wars--I, II and Korea. She would believe war was normal. She would hate communists. She would prod her husband to build that fallout shelter in the back yard.

She would still be in control because, after all, women always are.

12-29-2005, 08:05 AM
I just thought, if my character was 46 yrs old in 1953, that means she was born in 1904....

Some books on names have charts showing the most popular boys' and girls' names by birth year, but the one I looked at gave names in England and Wales, not the U.S.

American women of the generation you're looking at might have had names that have since gone out of style – Maud, Lucille, Blanche, Ethel, Mildred, Gertrude. But many had perennial favorites like Mary and Elizabeth. A surprising number of women in any generation also had unusual names.

You can get a lot of old popular culture from Google, too.

12-29-2005, 08:33 AM
She might have gotten her first TV in 1955. There would have been only one channel. It would have started at noon....

She would have saved everything. She would cut her hamburgers with bread crumbs to "stretch the meat." She would do her own canning. She would make many of her own clothes, and some of her husband's. There would be no butter. Oleo-margarine was the norm.Her husband would make all the decisions. They would live where he wanted to live. They would buy the car he wanted to buy (only one--and she wouldn't drive it) and she would vote the way he voted....
Wait a minute, now. Many households had TVs before 1955, even ones that were far from rich. (Extra fact: some people believed you had to darken the room while watching TV, or you'd hurt your eyes.) There were three networks and three corresponding channels in the early '50s. (Extra fact: much daytime programming was local.) Not everyone who lived through the Depression came out frugal. Many women did not can or sew. There was butter. My mother drove. (This wasn't unusual.) She voted the way she wanted to. (I know nothing about other women's voting habits.)

Another thing. There were national magazines with huge circulations: Life, Look, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post. People read the same magazines and saw the same TV shows. You could count on being able to talk about last night's programs with neighbors or workmates. These days, media offerings are so numerous you don't know what anyone else watched.

And if your character turns on the TV, don't have her pick up the remote. There wasn't one. She had to walk up to the set and turn a knob clockwise until it clicked "on" and keep turning until the sound reached the desired volume. In a few seconds, the TV would warm up enough to come on.

In fact, pushbuttons have replaced rotary controls on a lot of things.

12-29-2005, 09:29 AM
I wanted to call her "Helen", but my husband likes "Rose". Her husband's name is "Thomas".

What'cha think? :flag:

Boy, I'm going to have to put all of these facts into some notes. :)


12-29-2005, 09:38 AM
If she is in her forties she wont be into trends. My first novel-which I am still working on is set in 1959 and in my hometown. I had to research the fifties, hot rods, moonshine, ridgerunners(i live in the south), and trends since most of my characters are teens. I also had to research my town and what the hang outs were. The cars were the worst...I don't understand old hot rods and how to supe them up...more or less how to supe them up before 1959! That took alot of yahoo chat rooms and car sites!

12-29-2005, 09:39 AM
Also the channels turned off at around 11 pm with a mozart symphony or star spangled banner.

12-29-2005, 09:41 AM
Drive ins were a big deal...and tv dinners

12-29-2005, 05:06 PM
A note about color television -

it would not have been around as early as '53. In fact, in 1953, many Americans were just starting to get television in their homes for the first time.

In 1959, one of the networks launched the first all color line-up of shows in the Fall. I can't remember which one but one of the shows was "Bonanza".

I'm one of the tail end baby boomers and we did not get color television until about 1967. My grandparents had it a few years before that but not more than one or two.

Until about 1970, TV Guide did not desiginate shows as BW for black and white but C for Color.

12-29-2005, 05:17 PM
Boy, what a thread to out us guys. I remember hoola hoops, yo-yos, slip and slides, and the girls were going nuts over Wink Martindale. I also remember Sting Ray bicycles were a hot ticket. And drive-in theaters where Rodan, Godzilla, and the Blob ruled the day. The biggest thing to hit was Disneyland in 1955, and I went on the second grand day opening ceremony as a tiny tot, and don't even remember it. Boy Scouts was a very big thing back then, and not as shunned as it is today.

P.S. Either you were a surfer or a hodad or grimmie. Percell and Convers tennis shoes were hot. Barbie too, eh?


12-29-2005, 07:33 PM
Most families had rotary phones provided by the phone company. It wasn't until the late fifties that Ma Bell began offering the wall phones that businesses already had available to them. The phones had to be wired into the outlet on the wall. They didn't have modular plugs then.

Microwaves were in use, but only in very affluent homes. For the most part, microwaves were used by businesses and clubs which could afford the high price. The first one I saw was in the YMCA.

In some YMCAs around the country, there were specific hours that guests, particularly females, could use the facility. During the other hours, if men wanted to swim naked, they could and did.

A number of men's magazines were sold under the counter at the register. Those weren't on display in the racks.

State abbreviations varied. There were some two-character abbreviations in use for some states, such as NC, SC, ND, SD, WV, RI, NY, NJ, and NH.

Tobacco and alcoholic products were openly advertised and vending machines dispensed tobacco products which made it easy for minors to take up smoking if they had as little as a quarter. Cartons of cigarettes could be purchased for $1.40 in some locations. Visitors to NY were frequently shocked that cigarettes there cost as much as fifty cents.

Many localities closed all their stores as early as 6:00 PM and almost as many prohibited Sunday hours completely. Only a few businesses were exempted, such as movie theaters which would be allowed to function until 9 or 10 PM. A lot of areas had Blue Laws, based on a hodgepodge of religious rules, prohibiting the sale of certain products on a Sunday. If you wanted to buy a pound of hamburger, you couldn't because it had to be cooked. If you wanted to buy a loaf of bread, you could because it was already baked. In very small communities, there was no theater. Instead, they set up a projector in a vacant lot near an outlet, used logs as seats, and a large sheet for the screen.

Bulbs for Christmas lights for trees tended to be the size of night light bulbs still in use today. Most were painted, so the lights had to eventually be replaced even if they still worked within a couple of years since the paint would get scratched and scraped off as well as flake off from the repeated exposure to heat and cold.

You could purchase fireworks in many places. Of course, some were considered illegal already based on how much powder they contained and whether those were meant to just rocket or explode. Regardless, many illegal types were sold anyway.

In a lot of cities, the bars and assorted illicit businesses that would make up a red light district tended to be in the same neighborhood. That actually made it easier for the cops to regulate, but city planners in a lot of places saw those congregations of bars as eyesores, so they broke up those areas using planning codes believing that most of the bars and attendant activity would then die and anything left would be easier to regulate. Instead, they made the existence of those more acceptable in other neighborhoods but they didn't know that until about the seventies.

Just before Barbie, Chatty Cathy and Easy Bake Ovens were the rage among girls. Boys tended to like the Mattel guns which could shoot plastic bullets which came in cartridges like real bullets, but were spring-propelled. Each cartridge had its own individual spring, so you put together your bullets, loaded the Mattel revolver or derringer (there might have been a rifle version, too) and then chased each other around. Red Ryder BB guns were popular, but considerably more dangerous. Other popular boys' toys included model kits.

About nine-tenths of all the stores you might see along major roads in many cities and localities were not in existence then. Instead, think farms, forests, lakes, and swamps. The Back To The Future movie shows a good scene of how a subdivision replaced what was a field years earlier. You can gain a good perspective on that by thinking back just a decade or two in your own life to a road in your locality that you remember used to be only farms, woods, and fields and now is a seemingly endless line of small businesses. Multiply that by ten. That's how much it's changed because of the proliferation of cars.

In the fifties, many people car-pooled because they couldn't afford a car and they needed to get somewhere that the buses might not have serviced or at a time that the buses didn't service that route. New cars could still be purchased for less than a thousand.

Getting a raise of ten-cents an hour was impressive, particularly if you were making $1.25 an hour.

If you want to gain a good perspective on the fifties, watch Cold Case for when they feature a really old case. Their attention to detail is fairly accurate.

If you have specific questions, email me.

12-29-2005, 07:44 PM
I hate to say it but I was a youngster in the late fifties. I don't remember too much except for these things:

My dad took a lot of pictures and they were all black and white. No color.
We had a rotary phone and only one!
We had a black and white TV set and only one!
We had a milkman who delivered our milk in glass bottles right to our door.
People had big families--lots of kids.

12-29-2005, 09:10 PM
Although I enjoyed Pleasantville, I'm not sure it's going to help your novel, since it filters the 50s through a modern lens. You might do better to put movies and TV from the 50s in your Netflix queue. (I recommend I Love Lucy for starters--it's set in New York, too, and until well into the series the couple is childless.)

Several years ago there was a schmaltzy "Remember the Good Old Days" email making the rounds. I wrote this reply and sent it to those who'd shared their unoriginal warm fuzzies and longed for those days to return.

Maybe you’re among the thousands of Boomers who’s received the nostalgic remember-when e-mail glorifying a simpler time. While we all appreciate the warm fuzzies of childhood memories, let us also remember when...

...the word “cancer” was a death sentence;
...the Catholic church held services in a language almost none of the believers could understand;
...you heard the words n*gger, sp*c, gr*aser, sp**k, and k*ke every day, in conversation and in racial jokes and epithets, and thought nothing of it;
...birth control was entirely the man’s responsibility—and he often had to ask the pharmacist to purchase condoms;
...women in abusive home situations were counseled to return after the police gave him a good talking-to (since hardly any shelters existed for battered women and their children);
...there were no television programs that originated anywhere but New York City, and therefore no shows which resembled the lives of most Americans;
...game shows asked questions that required knowledge (and some of the shows were rigged);
...girls who were interested in medicine could only be nurses;
...the closest thing to “fast food” was reheated left-overs;
...hardly anyplace sold “pizza pie” and of the few, none delivered;
...black citizens were kept from registering and voting;
...most families owned a single car—and the husband took it to work daily, and drove wife and family where they needed to go evenings and weekends;
...TV was black and white and the ‘remote control’ was the nearest child available for channel changing;
...no specialty television stations aimed at a particular audience (Spanish-speaking, sports lovers, children) existed;
...a raped 15-year-old who found herself pregnant had two options: having a rapist’s baby, or having an illegal (and therefore unsafe) operation;
...virtually all clothing required ironing;
...the wearing of practical and durable blue jeans meant you were a farmer;
...bras pressed the breasts into cones;
...cars didn’t have seat belts and relatively minor accidents launched people through windshields face-first, assuming they weren’t impaled on the steering column;
...homosexuality was not only illegal but was unacceptable everywhere, and gay men and women sometimes killed themselves when their secret lives came to light;
...public schools included Christian religious instruction routinely, from Bible reading to prayer, and children of other beliefs were not excused nor their beliefs acknowledged;
...criminal suspects had no idea they were entitled to an attorney—for free;
...a promising Hispanic or Negro had almost no chance for financial aid in college, dooming him or her to jobs rather than a rewarding career;
...women wore girdles just about every day;
...everybody smoked, and very few public places didn’t permit smoking—smokers lit up in movie theaters, elevators, grocery stores, college classrooms, even church;
...people followed only four sports (football, hockey, basketball, baseball);
...men called their wives “the little woman” with straight faces;
...good Catholics didn’t even consider birth control and accepted more children than they could afford as God’s will;
...we knew very few sordid aspects about celebrities’ lives and thought their seeming glamour made them worthy objects of worship;
...with only a single income, taking the family to a mid-price restaurant was a special event;
...when a kid who couldn’t read was kept back a grade, sometimes repeatedly, despite the shame and his or her best efforts, because there was one way to teach, and if the child didn’t learn, he or she was at fault;
...women in Westerns were wasp-waisted, either whores or widowed ranch owners, both needing a man’s protection;
...kids and teenagers routinely made untraceable prank phone calls;
...styling your own hair involved sleeping on curlers;
...many of our favorite sexual practices were something decent people never, ever did;
...we kept our razors and changed the blades—and cut ourselves deeper and more often;
...you didn’t know anybody who looked Chinese or Mexican or Indian but talked and thought pretty much like anybody else;
...the best black music didn’t become a hit until a white artist recorded it;
...only Hispanics listened or danced to a Latin beat;
...the concept of judging someone by character while ignoring color was so revolutionary it frightened many people;
...somebody, usually the woman, had to wash dishes as many a three times each day;
...drying clothes meant lugging heavy baskets outdoors, stooping and stretching to hang each item on a clothesline, then hoping it didn’t rain—and made little allowance for mud underfoot, pregnancy or advanced years, kids and pets knocking down or dirtying the clean clothes hanging, winter, etc.
...the Mom who served hearty portions of red meat, potatoes mashed or scalloped with whole milk, butter, and plenty of salt, buttered vegetables, white-bread rolls with butter, and ice cream was largely responsible for Dad’s heart disease;
...the finest fighting forces in the free world relegated women who wanted to serve to hospitals and offices, and segregated soldiers of color;
...a significant portion of the people over 50 had full dentures which didn’t fit well;
...regardless of the day’s anticipated activites, from gardening to housework to nursing to supervising a playground, grown women rarely wore pants;
...Mexican, Italian, and Chinese food were unknown to most Americans;
...correspondence and major school papers were typed on a machine which did not permit invisible correction of errors;
...unless you had a ditto machine or mimeograph, carbon paper allowed you to make only four increasingly poor copies of any document;
...banks were open only from ten to three—good luck if your lunch hour at work was too short to let you get there during business hours;
...aging relatives unable to care for themselves lived with family, regardless of dementia, incontinence, or the need for round-the-clock care and supervision;
...the family car got only a dozen miles to the gallon, at best;
...you had to go out to enjoy high-quality ice cream;
...nobody you knew ate yogurt—and it was spelled ‘yoghurt’;
...there was no way to get cash in the middle of the night for an emergency;
...city gangs did not have handguns but made ‘zip guns’;
...you could not contact someone who was away from the telephone at home or work, or who was traveling;
...airmail cost extra;
...patients had little access to medical information about their own illnesses beyond what their doctors told them;
...a kid in your neighborhood had polio;
...nobody you knew would admit to having had, or even considering, an abortion--a dangerous procedure, since it might be performed by someone with only minimal qualifications under conditions far from sterile;
...you knew a kid whose dad beat him with a belt—all the time;
...unless you were rich, you shared a phone line with neighbors, and if they eavesdropped there wasn’t much you could do about it;
...cellophane “Scotch” tape was so shiny it always showed, and it yellowed after a few years;
...your mom, your aunts, your sister, even your grandma, might be the victim of an obscene phone call;
...men felt free to tell their wives how to dress and what to think, and most wives complied;
...bars and restaurants only had a few beers on tap;
...families whose dad (or mom) drank the welfare money went hungry, since food stamps didn’t exist;
...only jazz musicians and a few movie stars did drugs, not anybody you knew, even slightly;
...if your family included anyone who was mentally ill or disabled, they ‘went away’ to an institution and were not discussed outside the family;
...everyone assumed that all girls would grow up to be wives and mothers—and nothing else;
...black people sat in the back of the bus, drank from the filthy water fountain, and so on;
...couples remained in loveless or abusive relationships rather than divorce;
...few moms worked, unless they were widows. Single women were sometimes required to leave teaching jobs when they married, or once married, when they became pregnant;
...few kids were involved in any activity which was interracial or intercultural, from school or sports to scouting to worship--same as their parents.

Maryn, glad to live now, thank you

12-29-2005, 10:07 PM
You needed a can opener in order to open any cans. You needed a cork screw for all wine bottles. You needed a bottle opener for all other bottles.

Air conditioning in homes was rare. Businesses advertised having air conditioning because it was considered a true luxury in the summertime. My high school was among the first to have air conditioning installed. It was for the band room to protect the instruments. Of course, when the air conditioning went bad, it filled the storage and practice area with noxious fumes.

Central heat was also rare in most existing homes. It was coming more into fashion with new homes in subdivisions. Before that, most people relied upon fireplaces, wood or coal stoves. Until the late sixties, you could still find a number of businesses that sold wood and coal in quantity as well as specializing in ash removal which could be sold for use on snow to give traction.

Telephone booths existed all across the country. If you waited for a ride, you often picked a place with a phone booth. If it rained, you could wait inside the booth and stay dry. Just about every isolated business in the country had one nearby and there were generally several in shopping centers. The open booths without any protection from the elements became popular in the seventies(?) when it became cheaper to just replace the phone and to make it easier for people in cars to drive up next to the phone and use it from inside the car.

Malls were almost unheard of. The closest thing to those was either a Sears or Penneys store because those were huge compared to everything else and had multiple departments within so that you could practically find anything you needed. Other stores became similar in nature within certain regions.

Sawdust was frequently used as padding for many goods and even as a buffer for landings by pole vaulters and such. It was also to mark paths in gardens as well as serve as a poor fertilizer. It wasn't processed then into new sheets of wood.

People were more judgmental in what they purchased. They didn't want to buy junk. Products were expected to last or be repairable at a reasonable cost. A brand name then actually stood for a lot more than it does today.

Doctors in large urban areas began phasing out house calls because many realized they could care for more patients and do more good if the patients came to them where they'd have more tools at their disposal. They also began to congregate in different outlying shopping areas so that they were convenient to bus service and had access to different specialties if a patient had that kind of need. By the end of the sixties, that was done more to make profit than to benefit more people.

Many neighborhoods routinely saw traveling salesmen on a daily basis. This included photographers and sellers of produce, ice cream, vacuum cleaners, and so forth. In some neighborhoods, it was the only time a black person might be seen unless the family was well off enough to afford a visit by a maid.

If a person walked down the street with a rifle or shotgun, little attention was paid because there were areas close enough that the person might very well be on his way to hunt.

Parents did not expose their children needlessly to anyone who was sick. You either did not visit or you cancelled any events that you were giving if someone in your family was sick because many childhood diseases then were more dangerous.

12-29-2005, 10:36 PM
Did you know Lucy was pregnant in the the very first episode of I Love Lucy?
http://www.tv.com/episode/48087/summary.html at the bottom it describes which child she carried.

12-29-2005, 10:46 PM
You could smoke pretty much anywhere you went--restaurants, hospitals, grocery stores, the movies. There were always ash trays or some sort of containers set out for cigarette butts everywhere.

My dad always wore a suit and tie when we went somewhere nice.

My mom always had her own car, but she never worked because my dad didn't want her to.

Cars didn't have power steering and you indicated turns by using hand signals (that was how it was with our cars back then, anyway; I'm sure there were cars equipped with turn signals and power steering if you could afford them).

Chet Huntley and David Brinkley did the evening news. Sign off was: "Good night, Chet." "Good night, David."

Beatniks were cool cats, and my older brother was a hood because he had hair almost down to his collar.

If you wanted popcorn, you popped it on top of the stove in a pot with a lid. Then something called JiffyPop came along--it was in an aluminum pan with foil covering the popcorn. The foil expanded as the corn popped. (Or did that come out in the 60s?)

Help! I'm remembering stuff and I can't stop! :D

12-30-2005, 12:03 AM
Wow! I feel like I'm going back in time :)

Just a few quick questions;
How often did the milkman come? Once a week? Twice? How many bottles did he deliver, on average?

What brand of cigarettes was more popular for a woman? a man? (maybe I should give her a habit) :hat:

I did watch Cold Case the other night (by accident because I usally watch Law & Order all day), and I really enjoyed it.

You guy/gals have been a great help.

12-30-2005, 12:13 AM
Or you watched Walter Cronkite give the news.

Yes, Jiffy Pop came out in the fifties.

All radio stations carried the news and weather which they gave on the hour. Records by Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, and the like didn't get played on air. Those were for adults to share at parties.

There weren't any stores featuring sexual devices and risque clothing. Those were only by order from the ads in the backs of magazines sold from under the counter.

The only recordings you could buy were LPs, 45s, 78s, and reels. For video, you could buy 8mm or Super 8s of short features and cartoons or slides if you had an appropriate projector.

Televisions could generally receive up to thirteen channels, but most areas had access to one or two. Sometimes three.

Radios were generally quality devices with very wide bands of channels so that it was possible with some to actually pick up foreign stations with the right atmospheric conditions. It wasn't until the transistor in the late fifties that portable radios became affordable and bandwidth was decreased in what radios generally offered.

There weren't as many preservatives in groceries so you packed all the cold items into the same bags. When you got home, those were the first items you took from the bags to put away. You didn't keep the refrigerator door open any longer than necessary and you didn't buy more than you could reasonably fit in because refrigerators and freezers were smaller. The bags were made of paper and you reused those in many ways. Trash, gift wrapping, you name it. You weren't asked paper or plastic, either. Plastic bags at the time were too flimsy and weak to hold groceries.

12-30-2005, 12:23 AM
Milk deliveries in many areas were daily, but you could arrange for your service to be staggered depending upon your own needs. If you had several young children, you'd obviously have fresh milk delivered every day. The amount of milk would depend upon your order. Many milk delivery companies routinely provided a change of order form that was always kept in the delivery box on your front porch so that you could change your order and get the new order immediately if there was still enough on hand that day to fit your change in. Otherwise, it would take effect the next day.

Your best bet for cigarettes would be to check into a statistics site to see what brands sold the most in a given year. However, I recall noticing that many women who smoked used filtered brands. I believe that was to prevent tobacco from sticking to their lipstick more than for health reasons at first. While women may have smoked methol cigarettes more than men, I don't think you can posit them as the main kind smoked by them. I also noticed many blacks favored menthol cigarettes, too, so most conclusions would be difficult to prove. Your best bet would be to pick a brand that sold well in the appropriate area. However, most women then did not smoke so your choice of making her a smoker could play heavily in her personality.

12-30-2005, 01:07 AM
On cigarettes....my parents both smoked unfiltered Camels, then switched to Winston....

Marlboro was considered a woman's cigarette (the tough guy cowboy image didn't come until later in the 1960's)

We didn't have a milkman even though one of my uncles worked for a local dairy. There weren't really any supermarkets, not like you find today but smaller grocery stores. Some were chain stores like A & P or Safeway others were locally owned. There were at least four grocery stores within three blocks of our home.

Little girls wore dresses and skirts only with rare exceptions. Lord, I could go on and on meandering down memory lane. :)

12-30-2005, 04:20 AM
Barbie dolls came along a little later.

In academic writing, such as sociology books, "Negro" was the standard word for black Americans. The other respectable word was "colored," which nonracists used in conversation. "Black," I think, was a bit of a putdown until the Black Pride movement, much later.

People might refer to their male neighbors by country of origin: "The Greek had visitors today," "The Italian across the street is mowing his lawn," "I'm going up to the Chinaman's [i.e., a neighborhood store] for cigarettes." I don't think they used that convention for immigrant women.

In small towns, at least, local, independently owned businesses were more numerous than chain stores. This was true even of hamburger stands.

People listened to radio comedies and dramas.

From Trager's book, for 1954:

"Sales of Viceroy cigarettes take a sensational leap as U.S. smokers demand filter-tipped cigarettes....The Viceroy filter is changed from cotton to cellulose acetate which will quickly become the standard filter material."

"RCA introduces the first U.S. color television sets but color reception is unreliable at best. No other company will enter the color TV market on a sustained basis until 1959, when the courts will settle patent suits brought against RCA by Zenith Corporation and others....A black and white TV set with a 19-inch screen retails at $187 in the United States."
Early TVs were cabinet models. I don't know when portables came in.

Lipstick was red, no pastels. Women used eyelash curlers.

Children didn't go to preschools. Most started first grade at age six or kindergarten at five. Kindergarten was optional. School authorities frowned on teaching children to read before they entered school (naturally, I have a special reason for remembering this).

Except possibly for kindergarten, school desks were arranged in straight, parallel rows, perhaps bolted to the floor.

Only backpackers used backpacks. Boys in school carried their books and notebooks next to one hip; girls carried theirs in front of their stomachs.

Public schools in California didn't have prayer sessions.

Condoms were not advertised.

Puberty was later than it is now.

Not all parents raised girls to be wives and mothers.

Not all locales had home milk delivery.

Either Helen or Rose is a plausible name for a woman at that time.

State abbreviations varied. There were some two-character abbreviations in use for some states, such as NC, SC, ND, SD, WV, RI, NY, NJ, and NH.
But they had periods. R.I., not RI

You can gain a good perspective on that by thinking back just a decade or two in your own life to a road in your locality that you remember used to be only farms, woods, and fields and now is a seemingly endless line of small businesses. Multiply that by ten. That's how much it's changed because of the proliferation of cars.
Population growth has much to do with it. Housing has replaced agricultural land.

12-30-2005, 04:25 AM
I made my characters smoke Marlboro - even the men. My dad liked them. The words back then were:

Actor Show-off
Agitate the Gravel To leave (hot-rodders)
Ankle-biter A child
Ape Used with go - to explode or be really mad
Are you writing a book? You're asking too many questions
Baby Cute girl, term of address for either sex
Back seat bingo Necking in a car
Bad news Depressing person
Bash Great party
Bent eight a V-8 engine (hot-rodders)
Big Daddy An older person
Big tickle Really funny
Bit An act
Blast A good time
Blow off To defeat in a race (hot-rodders)
Bobbed Shortened Boss Great
Bread Money
Bug "You bug me" - to bother
Burn rubber To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders)
Cast an eyeball To look
clutched to get rejected or stood up
Get with it Understand
Gig Work, job (Beats)
Go ape Get very excited
Go for pinks A drag race where the stakes are the car's pink slip (hot-rodders)
Goof Someone who makes mistakes
Goopy Messy
Goose it Accelerate the car fully (hot-rodders)
Greaser A guy with tons of grease in his hair, which later came to describe an entire group of people. Yes, John Travolta in Grease.
Grody Sloppy, messy or dirty

Hang As in "hang out" which means to do very little
Haul *** Drive very fast (hot-rodders)
Heat Police (Beats)
Hep With it, cool. Someone who knows the situation.
Hip Someone who is cool, in the know. Very good.
Hipster Same as above
Hopped up A car modified for speed (hot-rodders)
Horn Telephone
Hottie A very fast car (hot-rodders)

Illuminations Good ideas, thoughts
In orbit In the know
Ivy Leaguer Pants style. Also any person who attended an Ivy League college

Jacked Up Car with raised rear end. (hot-rodders)
Jacketed Going steady
Jelly Roll Men's hair combed up and forward on both sides, brought together in the middle of the forehead.
Jets Smarts, brains

Kick A fun or good thing; Also, a fad
Kill To really impress
Knuckle sandwich A fist in the face
Kookie Nuts, in the nicest possible way

Later, also later, gator Goodbye. See ya later, alligator. Response: after while crocodile.
Lay a patch To accelerate so rapidly that you leave a patch of rubber on the road.
Lay on To give (Beats)
Lighter A crew cut
Like crazy; like wow Really good, better than cool

Machine A car (hot-rodders)
Made in the shade Success guaranteed
Make out A kissing session
Make the scene To attend an event or activity
Meanwhile, back at the ranch From TV Westerns. Usually used to get a storyteller back on track.
Mirror warmer A piece of pastel fabric (often cashmere) tied around the rear view mirror. A 50s version of the Medieval wearing your lady's colors.
Most A in "the most" - high praise usually of the opposite sex
Nerd Same as now. Bill Gates without the money.
Nest A hair-do
Nod Drift off to sleep
Nosebleed As in hey, nosebleed - hey, stupid. Not a compliment!
No sweat No problem
Nowhere Opposite of cool.
Nowheresville was a boring, bad place to be. (Beats)
Nuggets Loose change
Odd ball Someone a bit off the norm
Off the line Start of a drag race (hot-rodders)
On the stick Pulled together. Bright, prepared...

Pad Home
Paper shaker Cheerleader or Pom Pom girl
Party pooper No fun at all
Passion Pit Drive-in movie theatre
Peepers Glasses
Pile up Z's Get some sleep
Pooper No fun at all
Pop the Clutch Release the clutch pedal quickly so as to get a fast start
Pound Beat up
Punch it Step on the gas (hot-rodders)
Put down To say bad things about someone

Radioactive Very popular
Rag Top A convertible car
Rap To tattle on someone (Beats)
Rattle your cage Get upset
Raunchy Messy or gross in some other way
Razz my berries Excite or impress me
Real gone Very much in love. Also unstable. Hmm, there's a difference?
Reds The Communists
Righto Okay
Rock A diamond
Rocket A car (hot-rodders)
Rod A car (hot-rodders)
Royal shaft Badly or unfairly treated

Scream Go fast
Screamer A hot rod
Shoot low,they're riding
Shetlands Be careful
Shot down Failed
Shuck, shuckster A deceiver, liar or cheat
Sides Vinyl records
Sing To tattle or inform on someone (Beats)
Sounds Music
Souped up A car modified to go fast
Spaz Someone who is uncoordinated. A clutz.
Split Leave
Square A regular, normal person. A conformist.
Stacked A woman with large er, ah...you know, well endowed.
Stack up To wreck a car (hotrodder)
Submarine races While waiting for the submarines to race, which might take quite awhile :>) couples found creative ways of killing the time.
Subterranean A hipster. Used by both Ginsberg and Kerouac. (Beats)

Tank A large sedan (usually driven by parents)
Tear *** Drive (or go) very fast
That's close Something wrong or not true
Think Fast Usually said right before someone threw something at you
Threads Clothes
Tight Good friends
Total To completely destroy, most often in reference to a car

Unreal Exceptional

Wail Go fast
Wazoo Your rear end
Weed A cigarette
Wet rag Someone who's just no fun
Word from the bird The truth (Beats)
What's buzzin, cuzzin What's new?
What's you tale, nightingale What's the story?
Wheelie Lift the car's front wheels off the ground by rapid acceleration

A dress common for the time was a pencil dress or suit dress-much like Lucy wore.

Women dressed "smartly' in the Fifties. Good grooming and a tailored look were prized. Acting and looking "every inch the lady" was taught virtually from the cradle.

Notice our first ladies have heels and gloves. This was required to complete the look.

The dress at left, a summery afternoon floral, has what was called a swing skirt. This very popular style had many forms, including the poodle skirt.

At right, the skirt part of the dress is in the pencil style. The object here is to attain an hourglass, or figure eight, body shape. This type of dress or skirt was not worn by young girls or teens. Too provacative. In this illustration, the dress also boasts bolero sleeves, which were popular.

Although not seen, a girdle was a necessary part of all ensembles.
At left, two ladies perhaps off to shop or to lunch. One wears the pencil style and the other a swing.

The blue suit dress on the right features a short cropped jacket, accentuating the hourglass shape.

Again, on the left a luncheon dress in the pencil style and an everyday dress with the swing skirt.

At right, an afternoon tea dress with characteristically FIfties soft feminine touches.

Again, dresses very typical of the day.

At left, with or without a short jacket, a breezy look.

Note the wide collars at right which soften the neckline. "Peter Pan" or broad collars were a fixture of the 50s.

Contrary to whatever impression you may have gathered from watching Donna Reed or Harriett Nelson, real wives and mothers did not go around doing housework in dresses accessorized by pearls and heels.

Mother might, however, wear a wrap dress as pictured at left. Or the simple everyday dress at right.
Tapered Pants
with shoestring ties at knee ($4) and a cotton shirt knotted at the waist ($4, both Derby) make a good outfit for telephoning

Jeans were not called jeans, but Dungarees!

Burma Shave was really popular and there were signs along the road with slogans:
His cheek
Was rough
His chick vamoosed
And now she won't
Come home to roost
The place to pass
On curves
You know
Is only at
A beauty show
On curves ahead
Remember, sonny
That rabbit's foot
Didn't save
The bunny
Twinkle, twinkle
One-eyed car
We all wonder
WHERE you are
These signs
We gladly
To men who've had
No date of late
A guy
Who drives
A car wide open
Is not thinkin'
He's just hopin'
A whiskery kiss
For the one
You adore
May not make her mad
But her face will be sore
His brush is gone
So what'll we do
Said Mike Robe I
To Mike Robe II
If your peach
Keeps out
Of reach
Better practice
What we preach
When Super-shaved
Remember, pard
You'll still get slapped
But not so hard
Was such a boom
They passed
The bride
And kissed the groom To kiss
A mug
That's like a cactus
Takes more nerve
Than it does practice
The whale
Put Jonah
Down the hatch
But coughed him up
Because he scratched
Violets are blue
Roses are pink
On graves
Of those
Who drive and drink
Candidate says
Babies kiss me
Since I've been using
My job is
Keeping faces clean
And nobody knows
De stubble
I've seen
Kiss you
Like she useter?
Perhaps she's seen
A smoother rooster!!
No use
How to pick 'em
If your half-shaved Whiskers stick 'em
He tried
To cross
As fast train neared
Death didn't draft him
He volunteered
Her chariot
Raced 80 per
They hauled away
What had
Ben Her
She will
Flood your face
With kisses 'Cause you smell
So darn delicious
Lotion Use Burma-Shave
In tube
Or jar
Then follow up
With our new star
Lotion It has a tingle
And a tang
That starts
The day off
With a bang Burma-Shave Lotion
Bracing as
An ocean breeze
For after shaving
It's sure
To please
Burma-Shave Lotion
For early
Pep and bounce
A brand new product
We announce
Burma-Shave Lotion
The ladies
Take one whiff
And purr--
It's no wonder
Men prefer
Burma-Shave Lotion
His face
Was smooth
And cool as ice
And oh! Louise!
He smelled so nice
Burma-Shave Lotion
I'd heard it praised
By drug store clerks
I tried the stuff
Hot dog!
It works
Train wrecks few
Reason clear
Never hugs
Altho insured
Remember, kiddo
They don't pay you
They pay
Your widow

You Belong to Me-- Jo Stafford
Wheel of Fortune-- Kay Starr
I Went to Your Wedding-- Patti Page
Auf Wiederseh?n Sweetheart-- Vera Lynn
Kiss of Fire-- Georgia Gibbs
Why Don?t You Believe Me-- Joni James
Blue Tango-- Leroy Anderson
Half As Much-- Rosemary Clooney
Glow-Worm-- Mills Brothers
Slow Poke-- Pee Wee King

Vaya Con Dios-- Les Paul & Mary Ford
Song from "Moulin Rouge"-- Percy Faith
Rags to Riches-- Tony Bennett
The Doggie In the Window-- Patti Page
You You You-- Ames Brothers
I?m Walking Behind You-- Eddie Fisher
Till I Waltz Again with You-- Teresa Brewer
Don?t Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes-- Perry Como
No Other Love-- Perry Como
St. George and the Dragonet-- Stan Freberg

Sh-Boom-- Crew-Cuts
Little Things Mean a Lot-- Kitty Kallen
Oh! My Papa-- Eddie Fisher
Wanted-- Perry Como
Mr. Sandman-- Chordettes
Make Love to Me-- Jo Stafford
Hey There-- Rosemary Clooney
Secret Love-- Doris Day
This Ole House-- Rosemary Clooney
I Need You Now-- Eddie Fisher
Rock Around the Clock-- Bill Haley & His Comets
Sixteen Tons-- Tennessee Ernie Ford
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing-- Four Aces
The Yellow Rose of Texas-- Mitch Miller
Autumn Leaves-- Roger Williams
Learnin? the Blues-- Frank Sinatra
Ain?t That a Shame-- Fats Domino
Moments to Remember-- Four Lads
I Hear You Knocking-- Gale Storm
A Blossom Fell-- Nat King Cole

12-30-2005, 04:34 AM
Oh, yes, Burma Shave.

Free, free
A trip to Mars
For just one million
Empty jars
Burma Shave

12-30-2005, 04:37 AM
I couldnt post the photos of the dresses I listed...sorry but the description can be typed into yahoo and a photo of them will pop up.

12-30-2005, 05:37 AM
Not many people really used the lingo listed above. At most, a couple of the terms entered general usage, but there weren't many occasions outside of small cliques or clubs to use those.

12-30-2005, 06:23 AM
Where I come from most was used, I come from the south so we had plenty of drag racing (still do) and drive in's. It depends on the area. We didn't have the "Hep" group around here.

12-30-2005, 06:31 AM
Weren't the words and phrases on that list teenage slang, though, not the speech of 46-year-olds like Hannah's character?

12-30-2005, 06:35 AM
Precisely the point I was making. Teen cliques and some motor clubs would have used those terms. Adults would have accepted only a few of those, some of which are still in use now because they were eloquent in their own manner.

12-30-2005, 07:31 AM
Didn't anyone read what my novels main characters are in the 50's? Its teenagers who drag race and run moonshine...hehe...I was just sharing my resources for any teens in the novel..or young people she might write in.

12-30-2005, 08:07 AM
More details of daily life: If a grocery order wasn't packed in a paper bag, it was packed in a cardboard box. Grocery stores had only the big rolling shopping carts, not the hand-carried baskets. There were no express lines. At some stores, you told the clerk behind the counter what you wanted and he or she got it off a shelf for you.

Watches didn't run on batteries. You had to wind your watch every day unless you had a self-winding watch, which kept going because it was turned in normal use. Jewelers cleaned the insides of watches.

Speaking of cleaning, it wasn't common to have one's teeth professionally cleaned or to use floss.

Dimes and quarters were solid silver. So were 50-cent pieces, which were common. Once in a while you'd get a buffalo nickel in change, or a Liberty quarter from the 1920s, worn smooth. Some steel pennies from WW II still circulated.

In shoe stores, children underwent fluoroscopy of the feet, supposedly to help in fitting shoes but actually, I think, to impress parents.

Stomach ulcers were treated with a diet of milk and cream.

12-30-2005, 08:20 AM
My research is for late fifties but here goes

House: $30,000
Average income: $5,016
Ford car: $2,132-$3,979
Milk: $1.01
Gas: $.25
Bread $.20
Postage stamp: $.04
Brook Trout: $ .59
T-Bone steak: $1.09 lb.

Sirloin Tip Steaks: $.89 lb.
Nestles Quick 1 lb can: $.39
Tiny Tears doll: $9.88
Steve Canyon Jet Helmet: $2.88

1958-House: $30,000
Average income: $4,650
Ford car: $1967-$3929
Milk: $1.01
Gas: $.24
Bread $.19
Postage stamp: $.04
Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti, 15 1/2 .oz can.: $ .19
Corned Beef: $.59 lb.

Swiss Steak: $.75 lb.
Libby Tomato Juice, 5 (46 .oz) cans: $1.00
Kraft Carmels, 1 lb pkg: $.37
Milk: $.42 half gal.
Uncle Ben’s Rice, 14 oz box - $.19
Sunkist Oranges, 5 lbs.: $.49
Cantaloupe: $.05 lb.
Celery: $.04 lb.
Tuition at Harvard: $1,250 yr.
Nathan's Hot Dog: $.25
Roundtrip airfare London to New York: $453

12-30-2005, 08:28 AM
http://www.antiqnet.com/scripts/search_results,page,4,category,Advertising,keyword s,1959.html This site will help also..if you need a certain year type it in the search box and all the ads to the year and a description of what they were will be there. It has certain brands not available today and some that are.

12-30-2005, 05:29 PM
Didn't anyone read what my novels main characters are in the 50's? Its teenagers who drag race and run moonshine...hehe...I was just sharing my resources for any teens in the novel..or young people she might write in.

But it depends upon where your teens are located. Keep in mind that those terms were gathered from all over the country. Most teens couldn't communicate easily with teens in other cities or states because it was expensive to use long distance. Many teens didn't write letters, at least not to other teens to pass on slang terms that would then have to be explained in order for your friend to understand.

The fact that a movie or TV program might have a small group using many of those terms ignores the fact that the usage is exaggerated for dramatic effect. Also, it was mostly the early twenty-somethings who were more into those things because they generally had an actual income in order to have a car or run moonshine. In fact, it was easier to buy off an officer than to outrace him. The roads then were brutal and would have killed many a driver who pictured himself as either Robert Mitchum or Mario Andretti. Most teens didn't have a car. Even my high school didn't need more than about 30 spaces for teens with a car and the school had about 3,000 students. In the country, economics would have restricted that number even more.

12-30-2005, 05:45 PM
Yes, I grew up in the 50s. When I do booksignings I'm sometimes asked to read a few lines. Rather than read from my books I read small works like the one below. It typifies a part of my world growing up in the 50s.


Michael Halfhill

All Rights Reserved © by Michael Halfhill

I don’t like fences. When I was a boy fences didn’t exist in my world. Birds, squirrels, bunnies, cats and especially dogs went where they pleased. Sometimes my cat liked to be petted and held—mostly not. My dog’s name was Poochie. When school began each year I’d leave Poochie outside not thinking he might go away. Of course he always did. Looking back I seemed to have had a different dog every spring and each was of the free spirit variety and I tagged them all with the same name—Poochie. When he or she wasn’t wading in the treacherous Kanawha River Poochie was to be found close by me seeking nothing more than a pat on the head or an ear scratched. Like all the dogs in that town Poochie was the offspring of some itinerant curbstone Casanova—no fancy bloodlines for me! From morning to dusk my Poochie and I would explore the narrow band of valley floor that separated the muddy Kanawha River from the green forested mountains that towered over me and the little town I grew up in.

Every Sunday Poochie would sit outside the church door yelping and winning his belief in the absurdity of religion. An hour lost in prayer was a terrible waste when compared to frolicking in a place that had no fences. For a boy it was a broad world; a place where there were no fences or cages.

I’m all grown up now. I live far away from the muddy Kanawha River and those green mountains in a place that was once full of meadows and woods sliced open with thin lanes of shinny macadam. When a deer died it was because it was hunting season.

Now the meadows are filled with big, new houses few can afford to furnish. Roads are crowded with telephone toting drivers and the deer find their natural death beneath the wheels of a car. Fences divide the ground with a surveyor’s precision and the world is hemmed in and narrow.

These days my dogs are elegant, pure bred canines with quirky names that make people smile. I have a fence to keep them penned up so they don’t run away when the weather gets cold and school children huddle in the morning mists.

I miss Poochie. I miss the time where there were no fences and the world was broad.

Michael Halfhill author of Bought and Paid for & Scimitar
www.michaelhalfhill.com (http://www.michaelhalfhill.com)

12-30-2005, 08:53 PM
Yes I know what you are saying Dave, this is a list I got from a website about the fifties and kept back for reference. The teens in the novel have use of cars from the parents...the boys in their twenties own their own and have jobs. I grew up here in the south and most of the language here is far from that and only a few of the kids in my novel have a word or two from there...but most actually have just good ole country talk coming from them. I have read several novels from the south and know where I come from was too far from the city to use those terms unless they wanted to be cool and caught it out of a magazine or a movie. It seems my side of the country didnt change as much as other sides did. Thanks for your input, lets me know I was right on track with my characters.

12-30-2005, 09:32 PM
Thank you all for the effort you put into this. :)

Just so you don't think I was lazy, I've done some research myself and even ordered one of the books that was mentioned.

I do have a 15-year-old character name "Jimmy" who might play a minor role, but I'm still fleshing all of my characters out. He's a hard-nosed, street kid who’s been to the school of hard knocks.

I just finished naming them all, and gave them profiles (age, ethnicity,profession, etc.). They're an eclectic bunch. :popcorn:

Now I'm working on a subplot, might have to consult with the hubby on this one.

12-31-2005, 04:45 AM
I'm not sure if it was the same in the USA but growing up in the fifties meant being ruled by the one rule:

Don't be different.

And its minor partner: What will the neighbours say?

It was a very restrictive, smothering time to be a child if you were a girl and full of questions and liked scientific things!

12-31-2005, 05:46 AM
Women's cycles were treated differently.

Lysol was marketed for personal cleanliness: http://www.strangecosmos.com/content/item/2801.html

Belts and safety pins would have secured sanitary products: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/rags/manufactured_pads.asp

IIRC, the self-adhesive products we all know weren't available until the 70's.

She would have grown up in a world where a disposable sanitary product went from virtually unheard of to a novelty to something more widely available.

12-31-2005, 08:24 AM
Where I grew up it was big to be with the derbies and drags. We have drag strips here that even my dad drove on. I was also told girls got dragged from the drive ins from the backseat of many a cars-guess teenagers rarely change!

01-05-2006, 11:25 PM
There's a wealth of knowledge in all these facts, but in writing a novel, for example, you are dealing--or hope you are dealing--with real people, regardless of the age they lived in. All these "facts" are fascinating, but they should be used only to add color and a sense of place and time. These are very important, but family life is family life. Sure, you have to know the different roles of men and women, what people had to eat, what they did for entertainment, what kind of groceries they bought, or shows they watched on TV, etc. But these take up only a fraction of what's in your book. I would think that the people and their interactions and the consequences of their interactions would be far more important. For example, they might have been watching "I Love Lucy" while having a bad quarrel. That quarrel is where the meat of the story lies. "I Love Lucy" is a footnote.
I spent over a year researching an historial period and ended up using only a fraction of all my notes. I greatly admire those writers who can take me back to a time and place that existed long before my time. But interesting as that may be, if learning that stuff was my main goal, I'd go to the history books.
I lived through the 1950's and, believe me, life, that is, what has happened and is happening in my relationships, experiences, etc. is not really all that different. You can go back just 10 or 15 years and find a huge difference in appliances, places of entertainment, and stuff like that, but you won't find any differences in loving, hating, dying, and so forth.
Life is really seamless. We may think about all the things we can do today that we didn't do only a few years ago. We still get up in the morning, have breakfast whether prepared by Mom or by the microwave, go to school, job, whatever. We may travel in an SUV or a dinky little car, which is the best we can afford. Those are the differences that matter.

Julie Worth
01-05-2006, 11:53 PM
Everyone smoked, and there were ashtrays everywhere.

Cars were enormous blister like things without seatbelts. It was common to prevent children from becoming missiles during quick stops by sticking your hand out. It was believed that if you were drunk, you could survive any crash, and to be thrown from the car during a crash was a good thing.

78s were still around but not much used. They were made out of shellac or something, and would break and crumble easily. Needles on phonographs were huge, as were the tubes in TV sets. These tubes would burn out from time to time, and you could take them out and test them yourself at the local quick shop. If you could afford it, you’d hire a TV repairman, who would adjust the set while using a mirror to observe the screen. Rolling and the horizontal hold were big problems. In rural areas, many had antennas mounted on huge towers. Still, one channel, or at most three were all that were available. Children would stare at the test pattern, hoping that some change would indicate the start of programming. At school, you could talk about what you watched, because everyone watched the same thing.

Cancer was a word that was whispered, and people had mental breakdowns. Even so, mental illness was widely ignored, and many were functioning lunatics. Maybe 50%. (As a child then, I was perhaps biased.)

Nylon suits were new, and were very shiny things. I had a teacher tell me that his suit was made of oil, and I believed it, it glistened so.

Home movie cameras existed, but for inside use, many hot lights were needed. These were mounted on a rack, and the cameraman—an uncle, and one of the functioning lunatics—would wander around, frying and scaring the children.

People were outside a lot. Children ran through backyards, often through laundry on the line. They rode bikes with impunity across busy highways. Safety was not an issue, and some fatalities were to be expected.

Kathie Freeman
01-06-2006, 09:43 AM
You mentioned coffeemakers. Percolators were popular, but drip coffeemakers were not generally available.Regarding microwave ovens, I never even heard of one until the late 60"s.

My mom made our bread,and we kids washed dishes (by hand) and set the table. Most clothes were handed down from child to child, and some even from family to family. Two pairs of shoes, one for school, one for church.


01-09-2006, 02:40 AM
Interesting thread.

Birth control wasn't something easy to manage back then. Most people had lots of kids or if they had none it was usually because they couldn't have them.

TV reception was beyond bad. . .at least in rural areas. . .lots of fuzz and static.

Seems like later 50's dresses were often shirt waisted, belted and full skirted. Women always wore aprons when cooking.

01-10-2006, 11:24 PM
I was born in 1951; but I grew up in Guyana so I don't know if I can help in any way!

nobody worried about cholesterol (a correlation between heart disease and consumption of animal fat was just being discovered). .

...and is now being refuted again big time!!!! (see http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/index.html)

01-12-2006, 02:27 AM
Hi, Hannah

I was born in 1950, so I have some conscious memories from that time. If you ever want to ask for specific things, just PM me.

Some memories:

Milkman (like others have noted) delivered to the door. Our neighbor was one, and I got to ride along sometimes (standing up--he drove standing as well.).

No seatbelts in cars

Torpedo bras for women (stick straight out and come to a point) Yeah. I really remember that one.

TV was black-and-white, and having more than one set in a household was unheard of (at least in my middle class neighborhood)

TV shows included; Dobie Gillis (with Maynard G. Krebs [Bob Denver as a beatnik]), Andy Divine Show, Howdie Doodie and Mister Bluster

One of my warmest memories about TV - the whole family would sit down (I'd lay on the floor) on Saturday nights and watch the Wonderful World of Disney (although I don't think it was called that until later) with cartoons, Spin & Marty, and lots of other stories.

Movies - Old Yeller, lots of horror films like The Blob (some mentioned it). I had months of nightmares from a movie that featured the Mole Men (can't remember the title).

Gotta go for now.

01-27-2006, 04:26 AM
I really hate to be a bother, but I'm stuck in a bar scene where a patron is getting a beer, and I'd like to call it by name. :)

I've done a little research online, but can't find the most popular brand of [U.S.] beer in the early 1950s (1953 to be exact). Also, did bars have draft beers from the machine back then?

Feel free to throw in a few brands of scotches, or bourbons.

Oh, and another character put money into the jukebox machine; how much was a song on a jukebox then?

(note to self: stick with the 21st Century next time.) :e2smack:

01-27-2006, 04:36 AM
I tend to think that many brands of beer were more regional in the 50's than today. I grew up a few blocks away from the Goetz beer brewery so I know that the Goetz brand was available then. So was Schlitz. Stag and Hamm are two other older brands (both no longer being made) but I don't have a definite time to date them. Also, the Annheuser-Busch brewery has been in St. Louis for a century so I'm sure some brands of beer produced there were on the market.

Old Yellowstone and Old Grandad were whiskey brands. I think Four Roses was around too but I'm not totally sure.

01-27-2006, 04:46 AM
There are old photos in our basement, labeled from the 1950's, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (a NJ thing maybe?) and Schlitz beer are pictured in the photos.

01-27-2006, 05:59 AM
I think it was a nickel (for the jukebox). I think it was probably late 50's & early 60's that I remember some cafes having having individual selectors at each booth. You would select your songs by flipping through the lists at your booth, put your money in the box thing and the jukebox would play. I don't know exactly how early those came out, but some others on the forum may remember.

01-27-2006, 11:54 AM
Movies - Old Yeller, lots of horror films like The Blob (some mentioned it). I had months of nightmares from a movie that featured the Mole Men (can't remember the title).

Gotta go for now.

Jerry Lewis, Abbott and Costello.
Music: Pat Boone is the first who springs to mind.
Boks: kids read Enid Blyton, the Bobbsey Twins, William, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew.
Comics: Superman etc, but also Archie, Little Lulu, Dennis the Menace, Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

01-27-2006, 10:28 PM
Speaking of beer - here's something I don't know if you are aware of or not: most beer then would have been sold in bottles (dark brown glass) and the cans were not the lighter aluminum but were much heavier. There were also no pop tops or pull tabs yet - you opened a can of beer with a small opener called a "church key" - the kind that is pointed on one end and rounded on the other (with which end you could open soda pop which had to be opened with an opener).

Just a couple details I didn't include the first time that might help!!

01-27-2006, 11:38 PM
Brands of beer - one of the brands that advertised extensively was Lucky Lager. Unfortunately, not all beer brands were national. Some were regional. Other brands I remember were Schlitz, although I think it was big later in my area, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I think Carling Black Label was big in some parts of the country. My very first buzz was as a young teen, during a Minnesota vacation. The beer was Grain Belt.

01-28-2006, 12:05 AM
You might find this site useful: Writer's Dream Tools (http://www.writersdreamtools.com/).

I go there once in a while to verify or 'just to see'. It has lots of decades to choose from - including the fabulous 50's.

(which I am too young to know about - heh.)

01-28-2006, 05:01 AM
Speaking of beer - here's something I don't know if you are aware of or not: most beer then would have been sold in bottles (dark brown glass) and the cans were not the lighter aluminum but were much heavier. There were also no pop tops or pull tabs yet - you opened a can of beer with a small opener called a "church key" - the kind that is pointed on one end and rounded on the other (with which end you could open soda pop which had to be opened with an opener).

Just a couple details I didn't include the first time that might help!!

Ah, I couldn't think of what those can openers were/are called. "Church key." Yes! Thank you.

01-28-2006, 08:13 AM
Most people didn't lock their doors, even at night. Because they didn't have central air, alot didn't even have window units, often the front door was left open with all the windows as there were screens on the doors and windows.

Kids were usually left to play all day outside for the most part because pedophiles were extremely rare and dealt with very harshly if the law didn't get them first.

most girlie magazines were large busted ladies in very cute small outfits instead of cameras shoved up their privates. Most men had no desire to see the genitals of what other men where doing to others.

nuclear attack drills were common in school and the bomb shelter business did good.

Cassisus Clay changed history.

The cool cartoons were the incredible musicals about dancing bugs that hung out in there own little bug taverns and the bad bug seemed to always be a big hairy spider. Also, Bettie Boop, Felix the Cat. Also, cool cartoons as to what the futuristic world would maybe be like.

I think the huge kid starts were, Flash Gordon?, Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Superman, Dick Tracy. Also, Shirley Temple. And, Howdie Doodie and Sky King.

Old people seemed to always give a kid $ every chance they got, complete strangers. It was just a cultural thing to do, to go buy candy, or they would give you some sage advice about saving money, but you would spend it on candy.

Buble gum was a big deal. And , it was real bubble gum and kids mastered their bubble blowing talents, older people chew chicklets but alot of them made sure they knew how to make it snap and pop when they chewed it.

Women went out in public with rollers in their hair, but with cute scarfs. Scarfs were also warn around the neck if not in the hair.

Women carried hankie's in their purses and men had handkerchiefs in their pockets and someone seemed to always pull one out and offer it at the most necessary moment, even to total strangers.

Women wore garter belts, pantyhose weren't around that I knew of.

Children were given alot of freedom to play around adults but children knew what beyond doubt what the limits were as to what could be touched and what lines could not be crossed.

Children were engaged in adult conversations often, adults like to test them to see what they were knew. Adults also liked to pass knowledge along to the younguns, like whittlin, music making, drawing, map making, challenges as to abilities, like skipping rocks, shooting a gun, milking a cow without instructions, humor was more innocent in the overall culture.

Talking on the front poarch, under a tree, alongside the road, at the market was very common.

Modernity was thought of to be high society and most people strove to be as modern as possible to show how forward thinking and unlike their parents they were, however, they respected their parents very much.

People were compassionate and kind for the most part.

If a stranger came to your house asking for work, you let them do something like sweep the drive or some small task so that you could reward them for labor done with food, maybe some shirt or shoes. They didn't want a handout, they wanted to work for what they got. And, you could trust people to not kill or rape or rob you.

Strangers were always helping strangers and refusing any reward, even risking their lives for strangers. my dad was one of those people. I'm one of those people.

The boogie monster was the overall bad guy in the world, not every other person. Most people you knew were healhy. Most people, even the poor people, kept clean. Most people, even if they only had a few pieces of furniture, were hospitable and generous and would open their houses to feed ever a traveling salesman, and there were many. Fuller Brush man, vacuum cleaner salesman, etc. And, everyone felt they need to own a set of encyclopedias for the benefit of their children's education.

Actuallly, it was a really cool time during the 50's and 60's to live in this country. Now, I can't say the same. I'm 53.

01-28-2006, 10:25 PM
Yeah, it was garter belts and stockings. Panty hose didn't come out full force 'til 1965.

Bomb shelters and air raid drills. Those were scary things. And very real to a young child. Getting under a desk and praying it'd never happen.

Having a roller skate key around your neck when you roller skated. (The roller skates were flat metal things that expanded to fit your shoe size, worn over shoes with small toe grips. Four wheels and a ankle strap which invariably came loose and you used the key to tighten the skate. )

Pretzel rods sold in tall glass containers. Bonomo Turkish Taffy for 5 cents in strawberry, chocolate, and banana. It was a long rectangular flat candy that you could hit on a surface (with the wrapper on) and crack it into several small pieces.

Of course, this is from the early '60's, so I'm talking almost a decade after 1953. But I think the above held true for the early '50's too. Progress moved a little more slowly back then.

01-29-2006, 04:43 AM
The Platters, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny Bikini, Spudnik, Krushev, MacArthur, plastic furniture, bright colors in the kitchen, but lots of white.

The twist, tinsel christmas trees, horned rim glasses, soda fountains were really soda fountains, riding the city bus was a thrill.

Five and Dimes, walking with your friends to the store without adults was a big priviledge, a rite of passing.

Porch swings, the whole family laying on blankets out under the night sky to look at constellations, cheap entertainment.

Making home made ice cream. The smell of your clothes when mom brought them in from the clothesline.

Chili pies, bologne sandwiches, mayonaise.

Putting peanuts in your Dr. Pepper or 7-Up and then drinking it with the peanuts in .

Record players. Short-wave radio clubs. 4-H. Girl Scout/Boy Scout Meetings.

Collecting soda bottles for money.

wearing moccasins.

01-29-2006, 04:49 AM
Oh yeah, Purple People Eater.

The ice cream man coming down your street, going to the snow cone stand, company corporation christmas parties for the employees and their children.

Crew cuts, The Mickey Mouse Club. Pop beads, cap guns, peddle cars.

Wonderbread, campbell soup, jello, Kool Aid.

Bathrooms, escalators, elavators, water fountains that had signs, "White" "Colored". (that wasn't cool)

Was common to see an occasional case of real "Elaphantitis".

Some diseases were "quaranteened by the sherif's office/dept of health.

Prison road crews that had ball and chains on their legs.

Playing cowboys and indians, cops and robbers.

01-29-2006, 04:54 AM
It was common to see men, young and old, gathered around in a garage, in a yard, under a tree, working on a car, actually knowing how to work on a car. That is rare now.

Young people dating didn't do heavy petting in public, everyone covered up their hickies, it was common to hold hands.

Often , a younger sibling or the family was around when a young couple visited, it wasn't acceptable for alot of people for young adults to be unchaparoned.

Checkers, cards, pantomines, singings were common group games.

Going on picknicks or to the lake/river/creek was popular.

Drive-in movies.

04-01-2006, 01:15 PM
It was a time when we were into the Korean war, only no one knew where it was. In 1953 I was 13. The world was beyond my awareness. TV was black and white and broadcast only a few hours a day. Radio was the main entertainment with soaps for the women and us kids had Saturday morning. Google "Old Time Radio" and there will be many places you can see what programs were on and when. You can buy a few real cheap too. That and newpapers were the information we had of the world. Hot rod magazines had most boys fascinated and day dreaming. 1947 and later is when many started. Calif. was the center and many people dreamed of that state. Mix masters were the big kitchen craze. TV dinners were a few years off yet as life was not focusing on it yet. Fashion was still WWII looking and women did not often wear slacks. Usually it was dresses. Cars were NOT a focus until 1955 when Chevy introduced it's new V-8 and Ford the Thunderbird. The Corvette was introduced in '53, but with only a 6 cylinder for power it made no real splash. Beauty parlors were the gossip mill and men went to the barbershop. Bars were for low lifes and country clubs were for the rich. Bridge clubs were a social event and many people became fanatics. Canasta had a flare then too. he coon skin hat and Davey Crocket were a year or so off. Disney had the idea of his empire but hadn't yet begun. Mostly it was picnics, drives on the Sundays after church and cheap gasoline. Tires and new cars were big investments.