The 1950s is probably one of the most
remembered decades of the Twentieth
Century. Good things happened and bad
In my book I cover Rock and Roll, Integration,
Television, and the Conquest of Polio. I did a
lot of research for this book, however, the
1950s was my coming-of-age decade. Writing
this book swept this grandmother/writer back
to the decade of her youth.
I was a small town girl and did not experience
rock and roll concerts or sock hops. But poodle
skirts and saddle shoes, the polio scare, first TV
set in the living room, and integration graced small
town America as well as the cities.
Television arrived in our area when I was
about 12. My mother's Aunt Nyra and Uncle Roy
were the first people we knew to buy a TV set.
We went to their house for our first view of this
new device. The screen was snowy and deep
concentration was required to make out any
images on the screen. Still, we thought it was
wonderful and within a few weeks my parents
bought a set. We watched everything that was
televised from the test pattern to the end-of-day
sign-off with the National Anthem playing in the
background. Puppet shows and westerns
dominated the programing in the earliest days.
However, before long reception improved and
new shows were added to the schedule. From
that point the television industry expanded
rapidly. Television changed American life and
brought this country girl a whole new view of the
My little brother and I took turns getting
the pick of the litter each spring. Here
we are about 1950 with our "picks."
I grew up under the treat of polio. No
one knew what caused it. And there
wasn't much to do about it once a child
got it. Parents feared it and children
dreaded summer with no swimming, no
movies, and nothing much to do when
every parent tried to keep their children
away from crowds. I lived on a farm and
went to school in a nearby small town.
We only had one case of polio in our area.
The little girl survived but wore braces on
Dr .Jonas Salk's polio vaccine ended the
fear, saved lives, and put fun back in
I liked to walk on the drums Daddy
used to store fuel for his tractors. I
also liked to pose for photos,
however, any movement was a blur
on the film we had then. So I sat on
the drum for the photo the drum for
By the mid-50s TV programing has improved
and we enjoyed sitcoms and variety shows most
I was watching TV the night Ed Sullivan introduced
Elvis Presley. Like almost every other teen age
girl in America, I liked what I saw. In fact, a few
months ago, I had the opportunity to see an Elvis
impersonator preform and I was completely
captured by his charm. I did not have the
opportunity to see Elvis in person back in the 50s
so I joined an audience of Grandmothers in a
stroll down memory lane with an Elvis look-alike
whose talent might have given the original Elvis
some competition. It was fun!
Sixteen in 1956 , I thought I was
grown up. My parents did not
Going to the movies was a favorite pastime. I loved anything starring Sandra Dee and the Gidget movies also
topped my list. Westerns were very popular, too. I liked John Wayne, of course.
My girlfriends and I were charmed by sideburns, a duck tail, a black leather jacket, and that James Dean/Elvis look.
We loved dragging main on Saturday night and hanging out at the local drive-in. We collected 45 singles of our
favorite singers. Some of my favorites were Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Molly Bee, Paul Anka, and Buddy Holly.
For many of us, the 50s was a time of tragedy. James Dean died in a car wreck and Buddy Holly's career
ended in a plane crash. For me, tragedy also hit close to home probably as a result of the hot-rod craze, drag
racing, and young drivers with fast cars on two lane highways and dirt roads. A mix of gasoline and alcohol
scattered a car-load of kids along a highway near my hometown. One boy was dead at the scene. He had been my
first date. Most of the others were severely injured and faced long hospital stays. In another accident, a young man
who had attended the church I attended, failed to negotiate a curve late one Saturday night. He, too was dead at the
scene. And, one boy, a grade ahead of me, was diagnosed with bone cancer in junior hi. He died within a couple of
years. The girls and boys basket ball team from a nearby town crashed on the way to a game. Several of them
My school integrated peacefully about my junior year. I didn't notice much difference. The few black kids who
came to our school stayed together in a group. And as far as I know, the white kids ignored them those first two
years. The tragedy was, I believe, that many black kids simply dropped out of school and no one cared.
One spring day in 1958,
graduation day came and I was on
my way to college that fall.
|Ready for college in 1958.
I loved writing American History by the Decade: The 1950s. It was the decade
I began as a child and ended as a young woman. In fact, Dan and I were married
in 1959. The 50s will always hold special memories for me. I hope you enjoy my
book. I bet someone you love (your grandmother and grandfather) can tell you
about their memories of the 50s. Think up some questions to ask them and then
get ready to listen for awhile!
|Page created by and property of Deanne Durrett
Last Update 8-24-08
|American History by the Decade
Author of Nonfiction for Kids and Young Adults*
*Rated Ok for Adults