Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Fifties A Great, Great, Decade

Looking back other than my Father passing away in 1952 I have almost nothing but great memories of the fifties. So many things happened to me in that decade that shaped my life and are still some of the most wonderful things in my life to this day.

My Mom and I moved from West Virginia to Maryland when I was 13 years old so my entire teen age years were spent there. Moving was very traumatic for me. I had one more year to go at my school in Cass, W. Va. I couldn't wait to go into the eight grade as I would have been able to go to Washington D. C. with the safety patrol and for a 12 year old kid from such a small town that was almost like a dream.

I also could not wait to be a freshman at Green Bank High School as I wanted to play football and basketball there. My hero was Bruce Bosley who played both sports there. He was an All American Football Player at West Virginia, and an All Pro Lineman with the San Francisco Forty Niners.

Moving from West Virginia to Maryland was almost like moving to another planet. I dressed different, I talked different, so I took a lot of good natured kidding, I was called a Hillbilly, was told that from walking on the mountains one leg was shorter than the other. Just a couple of examples, what they called soda I called it pop, what they called a branch or a stream I called it a creek, took a lot of kidding about that one and lots of other little things. Had to do a lot of adjusting.

Just a few highlights of the fifties for me. Met my best friend Butch, he is the brother I never had. Met and married Bubba, my daughter Martha was born.

Got my first car, 49 Mercury in 1956 or 1957, paid 75 dollars for it. The music from the fifties is still some of my favorites to this day.

My days at Ellicott City Junior High and Howard High School are still some of my fondest memories.

I could go on and on but enough about me. LOL

As I go through the different decades will try to take note of some of the changes. Example:

Forties population 132,122,000 Fifties 151,684,000

Life expectancy Forties women 68.2 men 60.8

Fifties women 71.1 men 65.6

Average salary forties 1,299 a year

fifties 2,992 a year

cost of a loaf of bread in the fifties was 0.14 cents a loaf

Important Historic and Cultural Events:

1953 The Korean War ended

1954 Racial segregation is ruled unconstitutional in

public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court

1956 Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio

1956 The Federal Highway Act is signed, marking the beginning of work on the interstate highway system.

1958 Explorer 1, the first U.S satellite successfully orbits the earth.

1958 The first domestic jet-liner passenger service is begun by National Airlines between New York City and Miami.

1959 Alaska and Hawaii became the forty-ninth and fiftieth states.

I see people with all these modern electronic devices and we had transistor radios, wow music could be heard in any location because it was now portable. LOL

People in the fifties loved sports. We had stars like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Jim Brown, Frank Gifford, Johnny Unitas.etc.

Big names in basketball were Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, in boxing we had Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano.

For us in Maryland we had the St. Louis Browns baseball team in 1954 come to Baltimore and become the Baltimore Orioles. We had the great Baltimore Colt teams of Johnny Unitas, Gino Marchettei, Raymond Berry and we have never forgotten the Colts playing in the first ever overtime game when they beat the New York Giants for the 1958 championship of pro football.

Fashion was blue jeans, poodle skirts, pony tails, for girls, flat tops and crew cuts for boys. Teenagers were defined as a separate generation and were represented by James Dean, who starred in Rebel Without A Cause and created a fashion and attitude sensation.

Fad hits with kids were toys like hula hoops, Hopalong Cassidy guns and western gear, Davy Crockett coon skin hats and silly putty.

And oh the music, when the fifties are mentioned the first music that comes to most peoples minds is That Good Old Rock And Roll. Developed from a blend of Southern blues, and gospel music with an added strong back beat, this type of music was popular with teenagers who were trying to break out of the mainstream, conservative, American middle class mold. Popular artists like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, were promoted by just as popular Disc Jockeys like Alan Freed, Dick Clark and for us around Baltimore Buddy Dean. The deaths of Buddy Holley, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Booper are still lamented by fans to this day.

Music in the fifties was more than just Rock And Roll, crooners like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra , Perry Como, and Dinah Shore were all popular. The influence of these early stars is still felt in music worldwide. A lot of the songs of these stars is still being played on radios, home stereos, and CD players all over the world.

Perhaps the most far reaching change in communications worldwide was in the advancement of television. During the fifties television became the dominant mass media as people brought television into their homes in greater numbers of hours per week than ever before. The affect on print news media and entertainment media was felt in lower attendance at movies and greater reliance on TV news sources for information. In 1954 black and white broadcasts became color broadcasts. Shows called sitcoms like the Honeymooners, Lassie, Father Knows Best, The adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and I Love Lucy featured popular characters whose lives thousands of viewers watched and copied,Families enjoyed variety shows like Disneyland, The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings. Day time television was dominated by shows called Soap Operas some of which are still on today.

Those of us that were teenagers in the fifties are very biased when we say the fifties were the best time this country has ever know but historians in looking back at the growth of the United States are now saying the same thing.

I know for sure the fifties for me were a very happy time, I still have a lot of friends from those days and when any of us get together you can only the imagine the wonderful reminiscing we do.

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