The fifties was a time of political confusion, some of which still lingers. It was a time when child actors or actresses were on black lists, “politically unreliable” the usual excuse. Drunken Joe McCarthy literally tore the country into factions, none of which were real at the time, but sadly now exist. Allen West and his “infiltration by communists” has nothing new, and it’s no more correct today than it was when Drunken Joe was on his reign of terror and destruction.
It was a time when you might be listening to the early rockers, Elvis, The Platters, a host of others, by day, and Mitch Miller or Laurence Welk on TV at night. Musically, a time of change, but the requirement for some excellence still required. A gimmick didn’t get vary far, without some musicality, figure you were going to zero out, contrasted to today when any musicality will zero you out.
Arthur Godfrey was mentioned, but what was not, Godfrey was a tyrant where the show was concerned. None of his regulars were represented by agents, if they tried, it was their last appearance on his show. They were informed they were leaving on his program, live. Tenor Mario Lanza was one of them, one of the greatest voices of the time.
It was a time when you could buy a well used car for fifteen or twenty bucks, maybe twenty years old, and one hundred thousand miles was almost unheard of even for one that old. A “T-Bone” or “T-Bucket” was “cool”, a “Deuce” or “A-banger” just as cool. I can remember filling Dads car at nineteen cents per gallon, or $0.189, which was during gas wars. and they were frequent. Cigarettes, Lucky Strike for 25 cents per pack, and two pennies under the wrapping out of a machine, 23 cents from anywhere else. Candy bars came in two sizes, five and ten cents.
Underage beer parties, someone would somehow get a half barrel, disappear with buddies and girlfriends, wouldn’t be seen until the next morning, usually in the bathroom trying to , well, that would be pretty graphic. The parties weren’t just winked at, if they were discovered, it usually meant the night in the juvie and your parents would be called, then you caught hell.
Longer, graceful skirts, the gentle swing as the girls walked, down almost to the ankles. At least until they were out of sight of their parents, then the waistbands were rolled and the skirts came halfway to the knee. Boys blue jeans tapered far more, and it was “cool” for the cuff to be just above the ankle.
Gym shoes rarely seen outside of the gym, loafers more common. Spit shine for some styles, and the “blue suede shoe” wasn’t as common or wanted as much as one might think. Solid colored shirts, good slacks, and a white sports coat, either to a dance, usually sponsored by the high school or some other community organization, chaperoned well. String ties, almost always a tie of some kind nearly required.
Slide rules, almost a necessity, three ring binders were made to last years, even in school use. Learning the prelude to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the old English, and reciting from memory in class, as well as a host of other things that now mystify as much as they did then.
My brother and I spending the summer months pulling on a two man crosscut saw, fell a tree, cut it into firewood lengths, load on a trailer and when it was home, split into firewood. No big deal, unless we wanted to be cold all winter. But there was too much work that had to be done to be thinking about getting in trouble.
It wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t even difficult. By the time I reached eighteen, I was already looking for the trade I’d make my living at. It didn’t always work like we wanted, I changed my mind before I was nineteen. Now, I know it was for the better.