Growing Up In the 1950’s

My earliest memories are of life in the early Detroit suburbs, a time when families were moving out of the city into the country.  So it was with our family.  My Aunt and Uncle and their sons had bought some land and built a home in the country, about twenty miles or so from downtown Detroit.  My uncle, who was a carpenter, built the home himself, and it was small.  My aunt said that their first winter, there were no walls; they partitioned rooms for privacy by hanging blankets from the rafters.

When my parents decided to move to the country too, I was a baby.  It was

ArtPatRubyJessie1950s

Me, Mom, “Grandpa” & “Grandma”

1947, just after WWII.  I was a “surprise” result of a second marriage for both of them, and they wanted me to grow up in a carefree environment.  My uncle and my dad converted a garage behind my uncle’s small house into an even smaller house for our family.  There was a compact living room, kitchen, teeny bathroom with a stall shower, a decent sized bedroom, and a teeny bedroom (no windows) off the kitchen that was mine after I was old enough to move out of my crib.  We lived in that house until I was five years old, then my uncles and my dad built another small house for us next to my uncle’s house.

It was a funny neighborhood. Just a few years before we moved there, it was just farms, but the post-war building boom had begun. Next to our property was a street that was lined with houses built after the war.  On the other side of us was a farm, with chickens, cows, and pigs.  We were friendly with the farmers, and I played with their children.  Their mom churned butter and made the most delicious homemade donuts.  Their older brother trapped muskrats and hung the skins in the basement, where there was a giant coal furnace, and a big coal bin.  We played in the corn crib and the barn.  It was fun.  When the pigs got loose, we chased them down (my mom helped) in the neighborhood of suburban houses.  I’ll bet that was quite a surprise to those homeowners!

cowgirlpatsy

The Neighborhood Gang

Mostly we played outside.  That is what kids did back then – built forts, climbed trees, played on the swing set, had water fights, rode our bikes, played tag.  There was a small corner store with a candy counter and a water bath cooler filled with bottles of pop.  My favorites were grape and orange.  Those were for special treats only, though.

The one inside activity I remember from the summer was gathering at 5:00 pm to watch Mickey Mouse Club on television.  TV was pretty new, and when we got our first one, the only thing on during the day was reruns of the fights, and old cartoons from before the war. The one I remember is Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie!

meandrobbie1952

Me and my nephew, and the TV, 1952, in our first tiny house in the suburbs.

Eventually, every Saturday night, Mom and Dad and I watched Uncle Miltie – the Milton Berle show.

By the time I was six or seven, I would come home from school for lunch and have “Lunch with Soupy”, Soupy being Soupy Sales, and his pals White Fang and Black Tooth.  We all learned to do the Soupy Shuffle.

The big one, though, was Mickey Mouse.  The first Mickey Mouse Club show began in 1955, when I was eight years old, and ran until 1960.  It was the days of Jimmy, Darlene, Annette, Doreen, Cubby, Bobby, Karen and the rest of the gang.  Every day they would have the roll call, they would sing the Mouseketeers’ song, and there was a special theme for each day.  Monday was Fun With Music, and Tuesday, was Guest Star Day, for example.

Then there were the serials – Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys and a wonderful one in which Annette Funicello played a young Italian immigrant.  I don’t remember the name, but it was quite romantic for the times!

420px-Mickey_Mouse_Club_Mouseketeers_1957

There were so many great shows for kids in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Fury (about the black horse), Captain Kangaroo (starting in 1955), Romper Room for the littles (beginning in 1953), Rin Tin Tin, Howdy Doody, Lassie, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and Sky King are just a few examples.

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1955 were:

The $64,000 Question (CBS)
I Love Lucy (CBS)
The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)
Disneyland (ABC)
The Jack Benny Show (CBS)
December Bride (CBS)
You Bet Your Life (NBC)
Dragnet (NBC)
The Millionaire (CBS)
I’ve Got a Secret (CBS)

What were your favorites?

I have only good memories of those times.  We weren’t rich, but there was love, and good friends, fellowship and good clean fun.  I’m sure I remember those times through the lens of a child’s eye, but I can’t help but believe that those were better times.  We knew what was right, and what was wrong.  There was no ambiguity about that.  Children were treated like children, and we knew what our place was in our families.

Treehouse Gang Circa 1955

Treehouse Gang Circa 1955

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3 Responses to Growing Up In the 1950’s

  1. The Tundra PA says:

    What a great post, Stella. We are five years apart and share many of the same memories; I, too, grew up in the 50s, raised by parents who grew up in the 30s and 40s. Despite the current opinion of the modern era that the 50s were repressed and suffocating, I remember the decade as a wonderful time in America. Right was Right and Wrong was Wrong and there was no question which was which. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and had prayer at school at the start of every school day. Everyone I knew went to Sunday school and church every Sunday. Families sat down together for breakfast and dinner and very few moms worked outside the home. We rode the school bus, which picked us up at 7:45 and delivered us home at 3;30. School lunch cost a quarter and was mostly decent. We always had fish sticks on Friday, though I don’t remember many of my friends being Catholic. In summer we were out the door right after breakfast and didn’t come home all day. The neighborhood gang descended on the mom at whichever house we were closest to for a PB&J sandwich on white bread sometime around noon. We rode our bikes everywhere, built forts in the woods and played out after dinner until moms called us home. Hide and Seek, Mother May I, Simon Sez, Red Rover. Everyone knew you better play fair and be kind or your mom would hear about it and you’d be in Big Trouble.

    TV was a minimal part of entertainment. We didn’t get a TV until 1957, after we returned Stateside from a 2-year assignment in Germany when my dad was in the Army. It was a giant cabinet with a small screen (black and white, of course) that weighed a ton. We kids lay on the floor on our bellies, with chins propped on hands right in front of it to watch, and be ready to change the channel if Dad said to. I remember all the shows you mention above except Milton Berle. Must have missed that one. I loved Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans. I Love Lucy, What’s My Line?, I’ve Got a Secret. And of course, Mickey Mouse Club. I wanted to be Annette when I grew up. My favorite cartoons were Mighty Mouse, Tom & Jerry, Tweety and Sylvester, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, Heckle & Jeckle. Saturday mornings were endless cartoons from 6 am to noon. We could have a bowl of cereal and watch cartoons all morning and Mom and Dad got to sleep in. My dad never missed an episode of Perry Mason and I loved to watch it with him, just because he loved it.

    A special treat was going to my grandparents house on Sunday evening to watch Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Grandpa worked for Alabama Power Company and it was a matter of pride to him always to have the latest appliance, so they had one of the first color TVs. Wow, was that awesome!

    Staying up really late meant watching the station sign off at 11 pm or midnight with the National Anthem with the flag waving in the breeze and then the test pattern which stayed on all night.

    Thanks for the memories, Stella. It was a great time. I hope we recapture some of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. czarina33 says:

    All of that. My best friend was Catholic, so when I slept over at her house on Fridays we ate mac & cheese or fish sticks. We roller skated with skates which attached to the edge of shoes (and came loose causing us to fall over & scrape knees & arms), & rode bikes endlessly. I also read every book in the little library a couple miles down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

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