Several decades ago on this very day, a baby girl was born to a mother and father, welcomed into a family with two older sisters, and brought home from a community hospital in the one car the family owned at the time to live in a modest two-bedroom, one bath home a few miles outside a small, picturesque town in middle class America.
It was during the 1950’s, a decade that many older Americans reflect back upon with nostalgia and pleasant memories. That era became a period of prosperity and well-being after the perils and difficult times of World War 2 in the 1940’s.
At the onset of the 50’s, one could purchase a new house for an average cost of around $10,000 and a new car for between $1500-2000. The average wage earner made around $4000 a year and it only cost 21 cents a gallon to fill up your vehicle’s gas tank. You could buy a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for a dime, a pound of coffee for less than 40 cents, and a roll of toilet paper for a nickel.
It was a decade when newly birthed rock and roll reigned the radio airwaves and Elvis the Pelvis (Elvis Presley) started his skyrocket to fame. Poodle skirts, bobby socks, hula hoops, and other fads became popular.
Television shows like I Love Lucy and The Rifleman rapidly replaced radio serial programs as one of the top forms of entertainment and the first frozen TV dinners were produced by the Swanson company. Movies galore were made starring Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, James Dean, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, just to name a few and a movie ticket only cost a few cents.
Children gathered around huge television consoles with small screens called picture tubes and watched Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and the Mickey Mouse Club. And visionary Walt Disney opened his dream called Disneyland in California for families to enjoy a magical world together.
The population of the United States soared to over 150 million because of a baby boom, which is why those of us born during those years are called baby boomers. Both Alaska and Hawaii were added as states to our country. And by the end of the decade, the first astronauts, former military pilots, were chosen to begin training for ventures into outer space.
But all was not rosy and perfect in the 1950’s. Another outbreak of war occurred in Korea and the American military was back in battle. Stirrings of another conflict to come in Vietnam were beginning. The threat of communism’s spread initiated a Cold War, while U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy sought to weed out communists on our home turf but was later censured for his ‘witch hunt’.
African American seamstress Rosa Park refused to acquiesce her bus seat to a Caucasian man beginning boycotts that eventually led to a federal court declaring bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. Civil rights struggles ensued, which eventually resulted in the first civil rights bill approved by U.S. Congress since Civil War reconstruction.
For more interesting aspects about that decade in America, you can view this video I found on YouTube. It’s a trifle long and is broken up by some ads (which you can skip), but it’s fun to watch if you lived in the 1950’s and even if you didn’t.
How do I know all of these facts about the nostalgic 50’s? I was the baby born on this day in the early years of that decade of history. And even though I was a young child during those years, I do remember many details about that era of time.
And I can hardly believe that the onset of the 1950’s decade was 70 years ago. I have a couple more years before I hit that landmark, but today on this day of my birth, I am left wondering how all those years have slipped by.
My father, wise in his 90 years of life, once warned me that as you get older, the years fly by in a whirlwind. And he was correct.
“In retirement, the passage of time seems accelerated. Nothing warns us of its flight. It is a wave which never murmurs because there is no obstacle to its flow.” ~ Sophie Swetchine