50 Reasons The 1950's Were An Awesome Time To Grow Up
The 1950s were an exciting time to be alive and a time when the world witnessed many significant events that deeply impacted America. It was also called the 'Golden Age' and remains a symbol of opposing concepts like normalcy and quiet suburban American family living. In addition, it was an epic decade for pop culture, with TV shows, celebrities making their mark, and iconic movies. Americans were enjoying their family lives, and the economy was booming.
In the 1950s, unemployment levels dropped to under three percent, and anyone who had lost their job could count on getting back to work within four months. The economy was definitely booming, and the gross national product more than doubled to more than five hundred billion dollars between 1945 and 1969.
The middle class grew significantly, leaving people with more money than ever before. The country was confident that the future held peace and prosperity.
Suburban Life Boomed
In the 1950s, suburban life was booming because returning soldiers were able to buy a suburban home with a low-cost mortgage. They were able to obtain a suburban home because of the G.I. Bill.
The new homes were so popular because they were perfect for young families, with backyards and more room for the children to run around in. More room was necessary because the 1950s were also the time of the baby boom. Every year during the 1950s, about four million babies were born.
Most Optimistic Times For Our Country
The 1950s were known for being the most optimistic time for the country. The polls showed that between 1955 and 1960, roughly forty percent of the people questioned were very happy.
The results represented an increase in personal contentment that has never since been matched. In addition, the decade was also called a peak smiling time for our nation, especially considering how things in society went downhill after that.
The nation was in serious debt during World War II, but it was finally under control by 1950, and things were improving quickly. The national debt of GDP dropped to forty percent, down from seventy percent.
Moreover, in the postwar boom, the labor union movement had come into its own, and corporate America was sharing its profits with factory workers. As a result, the economy was flourishing, and Americans were happier than ever.
America Was Popular
After World War II, America's popularity exploded, and in the 1950s, even French citizens were very interested in the United States of America. In addition, the household became more modern, with many appliances invented, making life easier.
The average middle-class family in the 1950s had a television, electric appliances, a dishwasher, and much more. It made America popular and an ideal place to live.
The 1950s were also great because there was much less crime, with the murder rate at its lowest in fifty-five years. It went down to four murders per one hundred thousand people, leaving it safe to leave your doors unlocked.
In addition, it was safe again to allow children to ride their bikes around the neighborhoods and just be kids. So the 1950s brought with it a strong sense of safety and security for people in most neighborhoods.
Greater Purchasing Power
After World War II ended and well into the 1970s, purchasing power in America exploded. An entire family could be provided for and live comfortably by one man working a blue-collar job. Even Americans that worked full-time on minimum wage were able to pay rent with just a week's worth of wages.
By the end of the 1950s, the average American family had thirty percent more purchasing power, and inflation was minimal, mostly due to Eisenhower's efforts to balance the federal budget.
Taxation Was Considered Fair
In the 1950s, taxes were raised on the middle class, when people were enjoying their increased wealth. Basically, the rich and middle-class citizens paid the same rate of taxation instead of the rich being given giant loopholes and not having to pay full taxes.
When everyone has the same tax rate, it is a lot easier for your hard-earned money to go to the Internal Revenue Service. It was a time when taxation was considered fair.
The 1950s is where the 'American Dream' came from, and it has long captured the imagination of the world. The idea behind the 'American Dream' is that if you work hard enough, your dream will come true, and you can accomplish anything.
Things were great for dreamers in the 1950s. In addition, children born in the 1950s were more than twice as likely to graduate from high school. This upward trend continued through the early 1970s.
In the 1950s, Gwendolyn Brooks, a poet, won the Pulitzer Prize for her second book of poetry, titled Annie Allen. In the book, she talked about topics such as racial discrimination, poverty, and so much more.
She is one of the most highly influential, regarded, and widely read poets and was the first African-American to be given the Pulitzer Prize. In addition, Brooks was a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress and the first Black woman to be in that position.
Disney's Cinderella Premieres
In 1950, on February 15th, Disney released the movie Cinderella. Cinderella was one of Walt Disney's most highly-anticipated films, and it became one of the highest-grossing movies of that year. Audiences were eager for something similar to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a film that helped people during the Great Depression.
"It was the audience that wanted a full-length feature like Cinderella. Walt would meet people outside, critics, and so on, and people said, 'Why don't you do something like Snow White?' We had Cinderella in the backs of our minds for a long time." ----- Frank Thomas.
The First Peanuts Comic Strip Debuts
In 1950, the "Peanuts" comic strip debuted, and it was written and illustrated by Charles Schulz. These comic strips introduced the world to iconic characters such as Snoopy and Charlie Brown.
It first ran in Schulz's weekly comic "Li'l Folks" in his hometown newspaper from 1947 until 1950. The comic strip was later picked up and was then renamed "Peanuts." The other characters introduced were Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, and Sally.
The First Color TV Episode
In 1949, there were less than a million households in the United States that had television sets. However, by 1959, eighty-eight percent of households had at least one television, and the numbers continued to grow from there.
In the 1950s, RCA broadcast the first color TV episode, with TV really coming into its own during the 1950s. It went from a rare novelty to a staple of the national culture and lifestyle almost overnight.
I Love Lucy Debuts
One of the most successful sitcoms of all time debuted in the 1950s, I Love Lucy. The television show was so popular that just one episode drew in fifteen million viewers. The sitcom stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who were actually husband and wife at the time of the show.
It first aired in 1951 and ran until 1957, running for six seasons. It quickly became the most-watched show in the U.S. and received many awards and nominations.
The Catcher In The Rye
In 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was released by J.D. Salinger. The book is widely regarded as the most influential work of literature to come out of the decade. However, a lot of the book's material was first released in short stories and magazines such as Collier's and The New Yorker.
The character in the novel became an icon for teenage rebellion. One million copies are sold every year, and it has consistently been listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century.
One of the music genres associated with the 1950s was 'Doo-Wop.' It is a style that involves vocal harmonies, which are usually built on nonsense syllables such as 'doo' and 'wop.'
There has been an ongoing debate as to who originated the term first, but the two earliest known songs that feature it are "In the Still of the Night" and "When You Dance." The two songs were released in the same year, and both are considered 'doo-wop.'
The Interstate Highway System Was Constructed
In the late 1950s, the cutting-edge Interstate Highway System was constructed, and it revolutionized the way America operated. It has remained crucial to the country's functioning to this day.
President Dwight Eisenhower had the system built because he had been concerned that the country would be in immense peril if an unforeseen military emergency were to come up. The military needed to be able to move from place to place quickly and efficiently.
Invention Of The Polio Vaccine
In 1952, the polio vaccine was invented and first tested and then launched in 1955, with more than seven million Americans receiving the vaccine. It was one of the most important scientific achievements of the 1950s and was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk.
The vaccine dropped the number of cases from fifty-eight thousand to six thousand. The world has been using that same vaccine since and has continued to save millions of lives.
TV Dinners Were Introduced In 1953 By Swanson
In 1953, Swanson invented TV dinners, which were convenient frozen meals. The first TV dinner consisted of a Thanksgiving-style turkey meal with cornbread, stuffing, and peas. Gerry Thomas, a Swanson employee, invented the microwave dinner when the company had two hundred and sixty tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving.
It was all sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars and needed to be used. He came up with the idea of putting the turkey with some sides in aluminum trays that would be frozen and then heated up in the oven or microwave.
The First Credit Card, The Diners Club Card
America's first credit card was called the Diner's Club card, and it was first introduced in the 1950s. Businessman Frank McNamara invented the credit card after being at a restaurant and forgetting his money.
He went back to that restaurant in 1950, but this time he paid for his meal with a small cardboard card, the Diner's Club card. That event was called the First Supper, and it paved the way for credit cards.
Disneyland Opened In Anaheim, California
On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, and was the start of a theme park empire. It eventually spread to multiple locations around the globe. However, Disneyland in Anaheim holds the honor of being the original Disneyland and the only Disney Park built and designed under the supervision of Walt Disney himself.
The theme park was built on one hundred and sixty acres of former orange groves, and some of the first attractions were the Castle, Snow White's Adventures, Stage Coach, Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and Space Station X-1.
Dr. Suess Published His Landmark Book The Cat In The Hat
The 1950s also introduced Dr. Suess books, and most children born in the 1950s grew up reading them. His usage of nonsensical words and surreal characters enticed children to have wild imaginations.
Theodor Seuss Geisel's books helped to ease the minds of young children, and his most famous book, The Cat in the Hat, was released in the 1950s. The books and stories are still treasured today all over the world and have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Car Culture Really Took Off In The 1950s
Car culture was another thing that really took off in the 1950s. President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, which created forty-one thousand miles of national highways. In addition, more people were able to afford to buy a car in the 1950s.
The culture has had a huge influence on the culture of the U.S. By the end of the 1950s, one in six workers were in some way employed in the automobile industry. The U.S. became the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world.
NASA Was Established
The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed in the 1950s, which created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA. NASA became the world's premier agent for exploration.
The driving force was the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and since then, they have put astronauts on the moon and created the International Space Station. Many astronauts have been sent to outer space.
Alaska Became The 49th State
In 1959, Alaska passed a referendum after World War II to become a state. After, Hawaii also wanted to become a state and was seen as a GOP-leaning state; there was a bargain to admit both territories as states.
President Eisenhower signed a special proclamation allowing the territory of Alaska to become the forty-ninth state and largest state. The area has been home to various indigenous people for thousands of years.
Hawaii Became The 50th State
Over sixty years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, Hawaii officially became America's fiftieth state in 1959. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as a state and issued an order for an American flag featuring fifty stars arranged in staggered rows.
He wanted five six-star rows and four five-star rows; the new flag became official on July 4, 1960. Hawaii is a cluster of islands about twenty-four hundred miles off the U.S. mainland in the South Pacific.
Alan Freed Started Calling The Emerging Popular Music Genre 'Rock and Roll'
One of the highlights of the 1950s was the introduction of rock and roll, a term coined by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed. Teens around the country became fond of the new music that celebrated themes like love and freedom from oppression.
Freed produced and promoted large traveling concerts with different acts, along with spreading the importance of rock and roll music. In addition, Freed was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Hillary And Norgay Reach Mount Everest Summit
A monumental achievement in the 1950s was the first human ascent to the summit of the tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest. Tenzing Norgay and British explorer Sir Edmund Hillary became the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest at 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953.
The summit is at 29,035 feet above sea level. The queen knighted Hillary, but Norgay, who was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks took a stand and made the life-altering decision to sit in a section reserved only for white passengers on her bus ride home. She was arrested because she refused to offer the seat to a white man, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The boycott lasted for three hundred and eighty-one days and was the end of segregation on Montgomery's buses. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that bus transportation within a state couldn't be segregated.
A Positive Step Toward American Civil Rights
The 1950s saw progress being made by the civil rights movement, which had begun a decade earlier. The highlight is the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.
The case stated that the racial segregation of blacks and whites into separate schools was unconstitutional. It was a cornerstone of the civil rights movement and helped establish separate-but-equal education.
Audrey Hepburn Debuted
Audrey Hepburn, one of the most recognizable Hollywood actresses of her era and beyond, made her debut in acting in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. Hepburn was a mainstay of 50s pop culture.
She won her first Academy Award for her performance in Roman Holiday, in which she stars alongside Gregory Peck. Audrey received the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress, the Academy Award for Best Actress, and the Golden Globe.
First Miss America Broadcast
In 1954, the Miss America Pageant was broadcast on live television from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the first time. It broke viewing records from coast to coast, with twenty-seven million Americans watching.
Since then, it has been one of the most highly rated television entertainment programs featuring women every year. Miss America is so much more than just a title, it is a movement to empower young women to dream big.
Fast Food Was Born
The first McDonald's fast-food restaurant opened in April 1955 in California. The burgers were sold for fifteen cents each, but it was the milkshakes that won everyone over.
The Hula Hoop Was Born
The hula hoop craze swept up Americans during the 1950s. The fad started in July of 1958 and was designed by Arthur K. 'Spud' Melin and Richard Knerr, and it was an instant success.
In just the first four months, twenty-five million units were sold. You could see people all over with a hula hoop around their waist; it was the new, iconic, and extremely popular toy. The hula hoop is still a popular toy among kids today.
The First Indoor Mall Was Opened
Another big moment in the 1950s was when the first indoor mall opened in Minnesota. It was named the Southdale Center and was a temperature-controlled indoor mall with 1,297,608 sq ft of leasable retail space.
The mall's architect was Victor Gruen, which featured elements of the green village of European city centers, with elegant arcades and galleries. When it first opened, it included seventy-two stores in a two-level design and offered free parking.
The Barbie Doll Debuted
The now-iconic Barbie doll was first introduced in 1959 by Ruth Handler and the Mattel company and was inspired by a German doll called Lilli. The doll was eleven inches tall, had blonde hair, and was the first mass-produced toy doll in the U.S. with adult features.
Mattel was the first toy company to broadcast commercials to children, and they used the medium to promote their new toy. In 1963, Barbie's best friend, Midge, was released, and in 1964, her little sister, Skipper, was released.
Hollywood Movies Such As Ben-Hur And Sunset Boulevard Were Released
The 1950s boasted many of the biggest movie stars of all time, such as James Dean, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. They made big movies such as The Ten Commandments and Rebel Without A Cause.
In addition, Alfred Hitchcock was a massive force with films like Rear Window and North by Northwest. Ben Hur was released in 1959 and became one of the most successful films in history. In addition, it won eleven Academy Awards.
Bikinis And Stilettos Gain Popularity
The 1950s saw many new fashion trends develop, with people preferring brighter clothes; bikinis became popular, and stiletto heels reached a new level of popularity. Givenchy debuted its first collection in Paris.
Popular swimwear designers in the 1950s were Tina Leser, Carolyn Schurer, Clair McCardell, and Tom Brigance. The fabrics used in swimwear were greatly improved in the 1950s, combining acetate, taffeta, and cotton.
The Coronation Of Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II's coronation took place in 1953 on June 2nd, after the death of her father, George VI. She acceded to the throne at just twenty-five years old, one year after her father's death, as is tradition to allow an appropriate length of time to pass after a monarch dies.
During the ceremony, Elizabeth took an oath, was invested with robes and regalia, and was anointed with holy oil. Finally, she was crowned queen of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Ceylon, and Pakistan.
It Was The Decade Of Elvis
The 1950s were known as the decade of Elvis. Elvis Presley became known for his classic rock 'n' roll style. Elvis became a massive star and bought his now-iconic estate, Graceland, in 1957. In 1953, Elvis made his radio debut and still remains the biggest-selling artist of all time.
During 1955 and 1956, he performed in the south primarily and made several personal appearances at high schools, county fairs, and more. His most popular song in the 1950s was "Love Me Tender." However, not everyone was an Elvis fan; he rubbed some people the wrong way with his hip movements and dancing.
The Beatles Got Together In The 1950s
John Lennon was seventeen when he formed the band The Black Jacks, who later changed their name to The Quarry Men. The band consisted of McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, drummer Colin Hanton, and piano player Duff Lowe.
They recorded the songs "That'll Be the Day" and "In Spite of All the Danger." The Quarry Men broke up in 1959, but Lennon and McCartney continued to write, and with Harrison, they performed as Johnny and the Moondogs before becoming The Beatles.
Julia Child Enrolls At Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School
Julia Child enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in the 1950s before she became a TV hit. She graduated from the cooking school in 1951 and opened a cooking school with two French women.
Julia and her co-authors wrote an eight hundred and fifty-page cookbook, which was the result of seven years of collaboration. Julia went on to become a TV star and changed the way that we eat.
Betty White Wins Her First Emmy
Betty White starred in several sitcoms in the 1950s; she starred in Life with Elizabeth and Date with the Angels. Her career began to take off with those sitcoms. Life with Elizabeth aired from 1952 until 1955, and she created the show with George Tibbles.
In 1954, Betty started hosting a morning daytime talk show on NBC called The Betty White Show. She won her first Emmy Award for her role in her show Life with Elizabeth. "Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, 'Hey, that was great!' It's not hard to find great stuff if you look." ------ Betty White.
The Oscars Were Broadcast On TV For The First Time
Audiences were able to sit in their living room and watch the Academy Awards in 1953. It was the first time that the award show was televised live on television. Oscar night became Hollywood's most anticipated event of the year on NBC.
Fredric March presented the award while Bob Hope was the host. Hope was the most venerated Academy Awards host, hosting the show eighteen times. Ratings for the Academy Awards have been uneven throughout the years.
Jacqueline Bouvier Married JFK
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John F. Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953, in Newport, Rhode Island. There were more than eight hundred guests at the wedding.
Jackie wore an ivory dress with a portrait neckline, fitted bodice, and a bouffant skirt embellished with bands of more than fifty yards of ruffles. Thousands were outside of the church and lining the road during the wedding; it was one of the most memorable events of the 1950s.
The Double Helix Was Discovered
The double helix was discovered by James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick in 1953. It is the twisted-ladder structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and the discovery marked a milestone in the history of science and gave way to modern molecular biology.
First, the discovery led to ground-breaking insights into genetic code and protein synthesis. Later, it helped produce new and powerful scientific techniques such as genetic engineering, rapid gene sequencing, recombinant DNA research, and monoclonal antibodies.
Grace Kelly Married Prince Rainier III Of Monaco
Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in April 1956. They were married at the Prince's Palace of Monaco and the Saint Nicholas Cathedral. More than thirty million viewers watched the wedding on live television, and it was called the 'wedding of the century.'
Grace Kelly was a popular American actress, and the widespread coverage of their engagement made the wedding the 'world's most anticipated wedding.' Sadly, the fairytale romance ended in 1982, when Kelly died in a car crash at just fifty-two years old.
The Wizard Of Oz Was Shown On TV For The First Time
Before 1955, most Hollywood studios didn't broadcast feature films on network television, except for Walt Disney. However, studios began selling the films to local television stations in 1956, and in November, The Wizard of Oz became the first major film to be shown in its entirety on a television network.
CBS offered MGM two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars per year to lease The Wizard of Oz. It quickly became an annual event until 1991. "This was the ultimate appointment television for decades. Families looked forward to this with keen anticipation. I was certainly there, planted firmly in my seat to take it in like everybody else." ---- Leonard Maltin.
The Mercury 7
The Mercury Seven were a group of seven astronauts that consisted of Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. The group created a new profession and established the image of astronauts for decades to come.
The group was announced in 1959, and all of them eventually flew into space. Project Mercury's job was to determine whether humans could survive space travel, and the seven men became national heroes.