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#1 clynnc

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 07:56 PM

I'm looking for general information about common knowledge and beliefs of the early fifties as well as common products used and farm life of the period. Anyone live through the period and remember it well or just have knowledge of it? I'd be interested in a writers' guide to the 50's but can't find one. I know there's lots of info online about the fifties, but it's mostly about civil rights, rock and roll, and the Cold War, which is not really what I'm looking for. Suggestions?

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#2 Mark Friedlander

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 08:52 PM

I was born in 1950 and grew up in NY on Long Island. I don't know much about farm life but if you've got any specific questions about the era, I may be able to help. What exactly do you want to know?


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#3 Yvette

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 10:04 PM

If you're looking for products used, have you tried googling "1950s commercials", or something similar?


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#4 clynnc

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 10:40 PM

Yvette,I haven't tried that, but it's a good idea. Thanks!


Mark, I'm not even sure at this point what questions I have. A lot of the info I find about the fifties involves things that developed in the mid to late fifties--rock music, tv ownership, beatniks, etc.-- but I'm more interested in the early fifties. Do you have any thoughts about what people's concerns were during that time, other than work and family, of course?

How common was it to have a tv, washer/dryer, and other modern appliances?

What radio programs were still popular?

What were people's impressions of the atomic bomb? Did they have any notion of the aftermath of the weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

We're duck and cover drills actually very common in schools?

Did you know of any school closings due to polio outbreaks? What was the fear level of polio? How did people think it was transmitted? What precautions did parents take to keep their children from catching polio?

What were popular toys for little boys to play with in the early fifties?

How repressed did women feel about the whole "good housewife and mother" role so common at the time? Yeah, that's a tough one.

As you can see, I have tons of questions as well as many I have yet to realize I need to ask. I'm interested in any thoughts or ideas you have.

Thanks, Mark. Hope I didn't overwhelm you!

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#5 LucidDreamer

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 07:37 AM

I wasn't born until 1956, but I did grow up next door to my grandparents' small family farm (in Virginia). I can tell you what I remember from the early 60's and also what my mother has told me about the earlier times on the farm and about my grandparents' lifestyle, etc. in the 50's:

 

How common was it to have a tv, washer/dryer, and other modern appliances?  It varied. Anyone with enough money would have had them. Although, remember that TV's were not common ANYWHERE until  the early 1950s, but by 1955, 50% of American households had a TV. So it depends upon the year(s).

As for appliances, most people had washers (not dryers -- hung clothes to dry even when I was a kid) refrigerators, etc. Freezers were very valued, because of storing farm meat and produce, so many people invested in those.  At least, this is what I know from the small town in rural Virginia where my mother -- and I -- grew up (near the Maryland border, close to Harpers Ferry, West VA).

What radio programs were still popular?  Not sure about this one, but that would be easy to find in reference books about radio. 

What were people's impressions of the atomic bomb? Did they have any notion of the aftermath of the weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not sure about this one. I don't remember anyone discussing this when I was a child. Really, I heard very little about WWII or Korea, even though they weren't that far in the past. It just wasn't discussed, at least not around kids.

We're duck and cover drills actually very common in schools?  They still were when I was in elementary school, and that was the early 1960s. (That was the big Cold War threat time, of course). We actually had a bomb shelter under my school.

Did you know of any school closings due to polio outbreaks? What was the fear level of polio? How did people think it was transmitted? What precautions did parents take to keep their children from catching polio?  This was after my time, sorry. I don't remember much discussion about this either, though I did know some older people who'd had polio. I do remember getting the polio vaccine (on a sugar cube!) when I was in elementary school. It was done at the school and there was a big crowd of parents and children there for this immunization. It was a big deal.

What were popular toys for little boys to play with in the early fifties? Cowboy stuff was big when my older brother was little. I remember he really wanted a pop-gun one Christmas too.

How repressed did women feel about the whole "good housewife and mother" role so common at the time? Yeah, that's a tough one. Well, they would never say so -- not to a child, anyway. But I have heard my mother talk about how she wanted to go to college and few in her town -- and only one girl -- could do so. (It was more about not having the money than anything else. There weren't all the scholarships, loans, etc. that we have now). My mother always deeply regretted not going to college and having her own career. That much I do know.

HOWEVER -- if you are writing about farm life, that's another story. On a family farm, everyone worked together. Roles were not so distinct as in suburbia. My grandmother and grandfather worked side-by-side and, because they only had two daughters, my mother and aunt did a lot of "boy chores". They weren't confined to housework -- they milked cows, helped with harvesting, helped shear sheep, drove tractors, etc. My grandmother did as much outdoors work as housework. So -- not quite the same feeling as you might get from a "Leave it to Beaver" type scenario.

 

I know a lot more about small family farming around your time period, at least in a small town in the northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia area. So if you have specific questions about that, let me know.
 



#6 Mark Friedlander

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:10 AM

Hope this helps.

 

Mark
 

I grew up in a middle class suburb commuting distance from NYC

How common was it to have a tv, washer/dryer, and other modern appliances?
 

We had a black and white TV and a washer, no dryer. Folks dried clothes outside on a dryer. The dryer was a vertical metal pole placed in the ground. Four horizontal arms radiated from the pole and clothes line was strung from one arm to another. You could stand in one spot, hand the clothes and rotate the pole so you didn’t need to move too much.

What radio programs were still popular?

 

I don’t know about the adults but the kids didn’t listen to the radio. We watched TV. One favorite show was “Winky Dink”. They sold, in stores, a Winky Disk kit consisting of a clear plastic sheet and crayons. You’d place the plastic over the TV screen and watch the show. When Winky Dink needed help, he’d ask you to draw what he needed on the screen. A “late night” TV favorite was Terrytoon Circus but we’d all turn it off right before the end at 7:30 pm because Ringmaster Claude Kirchner would end each show by saying, “And now, it’s time for most of you to be in bed.”

What were people's impressions of the atomic bomb? Did they have any notion of the aftermath of the weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

 

As kids, we didn’t have any notion of the aftermath but we knew of bomb shelters from TV and magazines.

We're duck and cover drills actually very common in schools?

 

Oh, yeah, I attended a single story brick elementary school with four foot tall outside windows wall to wall. We had fire drills and air raid drills and each one had its own unique siren. When we had a fire drill, we went outside. During an air raid drill, teachers herded us into the hall where we had to face the concrete wall with our hands clasped behind our necks. Teachers walked up and down the hall behind us telling us to keep quiet.

Did you know of any school closings due to polio outbreaks? What was the fear level of polio? How did people think it was transmitted? What precautions did parents take to keep their children from catching polio?

 

I didn't know of any schools closing and I didn’t even think about transmission. I was too young but I do remember the vaccines. I recall being in the school gym with what seemed like a hundred other people lining up to get a shot. At another time, we assembled in the gym for sugar cubes dosed with the oral vaccine. This may give you some insight. My elementary school was named for the street it was on but my junior high school was named Jonas Salk JHS. The new high school was named General MacArthur.

What were popular toys for little boys to play with in the early fifties?

 

Toy guns, baseballs, bats, gloves, toy rockets, bicycles, comic books, baseball trading cards. Almost any guy from my era will tell you how rich they’d be if they still had their baseball card or comic book collection

How repressed did women feel about the whole "good housewife and mother" role so common at the time? Yeah, that's a tough one.

 

I can’t speak for the women but I can tell you that my mom was the only one on my block with kids who worked. My dad had a heart attack, which left him unable to work for a year or so. When he went back to work, she continued working too. I can tell you that her working was hard on both of us because she wasn’t there when I came home from school.
 


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#7 Jeanne

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 11:01 AM

I was born in 1955, so I don't have strong memories of the 1950s, but I've been working on a novel that begins in 1957, so I do have some ideas on where you can find information. If you want to know what songs were popular in almost any year, check out this site:

 

http://tropicalglen.com/indexold.html

 

They've  updated it, so if you get the new version, click on the link to the old version where you can search for top tunes by year.

 

For clothing styles, toys, tools, etc., search for Sears Catalogs online from the 1950s. Anyone who lived in a rural area probably purchased a lot of goods from a Sears catalog. In fact, Sears even sold pre-fab homes during the early 20th Century, up through the late 1940s, so people could very well have lived in one. Here is a link with some images:

 

http://www.searsarch...mes/byimage.htm

 

From my research, polio was a big concern in the 1950s. There were two vaccines developed. The first one was a shot that left a circular scar on your arm (my mother had one), and the second one was given in the form of medicine-soaked sugar cubes. I can remember lining up in school to get my sugar cube. This Wikipedia site has a good history of the vaccine. Even though the vaccine became more common in the 1950s, there were children in school in the early 1960s who had not received the vaccine and did have polio. I had a girl in one of my grade-school classes who walked with a brace.

 

http://en.wikipedia....i/Polio_vaccine

 

If you're talking about the early 1950s, you need to be aware of the context for women. Many of them worked during WWII at very responsible jobs. When the GIs came home, they were expected to give up those jobs to the men and find a good husband. They may have felt repressed, but they never would have said much about it because advertising, propaganda, and common values insisted they should be fulfilled with their roles as a wife and mother. If you look at ads during this period, you'll see a lot of emphasis on clean laundry=happiness. In most rural areas, a woman was considered to be an "old maid" if she wasn't married before the age of 20. My MIL grew up in Kansas, and the "old maid" age was even lower in her community, usually about 18.

 

We never owned a TV until the 1960s because my parents thought there wasn't much worth watching. The first TV show I remember was Captain Kangaroo. Try Googling 1950s TV shows to get an idea of what was popular.

 

People certainly knew about HIroshima and Nagasaki, but they believed they were necessary to end the War. They knew nothing about the dangers of radiation from the atomic bomb tests in Nevada. In fact, Las Vegas casinos often sponsored atomic bomb watching parties. People would either go up to the roof of one of the casinos or caravan out to Mt. Charleston where they partied before dawn, waiting for the next scheduled bomb test. To learn more about the atomic bombs and the attitudes of the American people and the press, you might want to visit this site:

 

http://www.nationala...tingmuseum.org/

 

Hope that helps some.

 

Jeanne



#8 Tom Preece

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:23 PM

I was born in 1947 and have fairly good memory of many events and things after I was 4 (1951)

 

Most of my experience was rural.  My family lived in the small town of Weaverville, CA.  There wasn't a television signal available in Weaverville until about 1954 and then only one channel.  My first exposure was a neighbor family.  The Walt Disney program was deemed healthy for kids so every night it came on (Sunday?) all the neighborhood kids gathered at the Hawes place to watch it.  Though there was only one channel, my father bought a television without consulting my mother after he visited his father in Portland, Oregon and saw how well they were enjoying T.V.

 

My Mom had a modern style front loading washer, but hung her clothes on the line to dry.  My grandmother continued to use an old washing machine with a wringer on it until the early 80's when she joined her household to that of a younger woman.

 

Radio was very big.  I remember listening to The Green Hornet, Our Miss Brooks, Gunsmoke, Fibber McGee and Molly, and lots of news programs.  There was also an early form of NPR, a college station from the campus of University of Oregon where I could faintly hear Saturday afternoon programs for kids.  One of them was simply the serial reading of Hugh Lofting's "Doctor Doolittle."  Another reading was about the story of Chief Joseph's last war with the U.S.  (I will fight no more forever.)

 

I think the point of the duck and cover drill was both to minimize the effects of the atomic bombs as well as to advertise the possibility of war with the "Communists"

 

The war with North Korea started with a surprise attack and the North Koreans were considered communists. 

 

Senator Joe McCarthy and his allies inflated Communism to the status of an international conspiracy.  Their spies and sympathizers were supposed to be among us and the FBI was fighting back. (Early T.V. show, "I was a spy for the FBI!)

 

It is difficult to exaggerate how pervasive and generalized this paranoia became.  50's Science Fiction movies frequently extended the metaphor both by episodes of alien invasion and more sneakily the idea that mind control some how might have perverted ones neighbors.

 

I can remember digesting all of the propaganda and spouting it back to my grandfather in conversation.

 

Along with the political paranoia there was also a pervasive American triumphalism that was deeply engrained in the culture after WWII.  WWII vets were revered and continued to celebrate their victories.  I remember amputees showing off their prosthetic legs with pride.

 

Pushing women out of the workforce wasn't exactly a government policy, but the defense industries which had so broadly employed them were starkly cut back immediately after WWII.  The G.I. Bill provided various targeted forms of subsidy for the 90 per cent male soldiers returning from the war and now out of work.  If you went to school on G.I. bill you weren't counted as unemployed and these men were subsidized into more complex skills as well as subsidizing and  expanding the housing industry by the loan guarantees which made it possible to buy a modest home with no down payment.  The model of this subsidy was very much the restoration of the male dominated culture with the man employed at work and the woman working mostly in the home.

 

This part isn't memory.  I worked for the VA for 30 years.  Many of the benefits reflected the idea of women as chattel.  A widow entitled to benefit based on a diseased veteran husband lost that benefit in every case when she remarried until very recently, but now still if young do.

 

Women serving more often in the armed forces are challenging VA hospitals everywhere to provide women's medical care now.

 

Relatively few jobs were open to women in the 50's mostly in the "helping" professions, teaching, nursing, retail sales, clerical and office work but generally not much above the level of secretary.

 

I consider my step mother to be a serious advocate for women's rights, including the right to work, (she was a teacher) but she was also deeply subject to the mythologies of romance.  He marriage to my father when I was 6 was her second marriage.  Her first husband was very narccistic and emotionally abusive in ways that almost pass understanding.  He had affairs and in one instance felt so entitled to the services of his spouse that he brought home one of his honey's to my step mother for nursing after he had arranged for Honey's abortion.

 

My older step sister once suggested to my step mom that my father was dull.  Mom replied that the most romantic thing about Dad was that he worked steadily, was emotionally supportive, and valued her as well as her work.

 

My parents were a marvelous team and I feel fortunate to have shared their lives.

 

One of my older sisters friends was the very first woman to graduate from a Stanford University engineering program in the early 50's.

 

The fear of polio was real.  There are still members of my generation who suffer from the ill effects.  The fear was so real that though my sister and I had been immunized with the Salk injection when the sugar cube version came around we both took that too.  It was made available in the schools.

 

I suspect you can discover on the web some the wacky theories of how polio was spread.  Some which were taken quite seriously now seem like little more than superstition.

 

Antibiotics had saved so many lives in the war that they still seemed miracle drugs, and one looked to doctors for miracles that sometimes seemed to be forth coming.  I had a uncle who suffered from then considered incurable lung cancer.  He took a quack cure in Texas that remitted the disease for a while, but then rushed back and killed him.  My birth mother died when I was four because they thought the miracle of antibiotics might cure her ulcerative colitis.  Instead she developed antibiotic resistant pnuemonia which killed her.

 

Oh yes cigarettes were everywhere.  My parents were unusual in that they did not smoke.

 

My favorite toy as a 6 year old boy was a complete Roy Rogers costume with a cap gun.  The caps came in rolls of red paper that you mounted on an internal arm.  When the trigger was pulled the hammer went back and the paper was advanced to put the cap under the hammer so it would explode (very mild) when the hammer struck it.  I also remember having before I was eight (1955) a toy hand tool set that was realistic enough that I marred my parents furniture with a saw.  I was also given a Superman exersize set which included to hand things that you squeezed to improve your grip, and a set of two strong coiled springs between two handles that you did various resistance exercises with.  After the Disney T.V. shows I was caught up in Davy Crockett fever and of course had to have a coonskin cap as well as a single shot cap gun designed to mimic a Kentucky Long Rifle.  Bicycles of course were always popular, but almost none of them had gear shifts except for Schwinn 3 speeds that the better off kids sometimes had.

 

I was forbidden to drink Cola drinks of any kind, but Nehi Orange and Grape soda were permitted.  I think I didn't have my first coca cola until I as a 9 year old cub scout and marched in the Redding, CA 4th of July parade in 102 degree heat.

 

Worth remembering.  Almost nobody had air conditioners although there were a lot of evaporative coolers with a lot smaller capacity.

 

That's a fair to middling dump of 50's stuff.  I'll keep an eye on this thread to see if there's anything else you want to know that I might remember.

 

Tom P



#9 Yvette

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 09:28 PM

 

 

For clothing styles, toys, tools, etc., search for Sears Catalogs online from the 1950s. Anyone who lived in a rural area probably purchased a lot of goods from a Sears catalog. In fact, Sears even sold pre-fab homes during the early 20th Century, up through the late 1940s, so people could very well have lived in one. Here is a link with some images:

 

http://www.searsarch...mes/byimage.htm

Wasn't Sears also known as Sears and Roebuck? I remember that from a Stephen King novel - one of the secondary characters had false teeth that were called "Roebuckers", purchased from S&R.


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#10 Jeanne

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 12:12 AM

Yes, that's right. It was Sears and Roebuck. But you can probably find it either way searching on Google.

 

Jeanne



#11 LucidDreamer

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 08:35 AM

Many research libraries have copies of old catalogs (some are digitized) so check library websites/databases if you can't find the catalogs elsewhere. Although Dover Publications sells some reproductions of parts of the catalogs -- http://doverpublicat...?keywords=Sears



#12 Jeanne

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 11:36 AM

Here is a list of libraries that have old Sears and Roebuck catalogs:

 

http://www.searsarch...indcatalogs.htm

 

Jeanne



#13 dennism

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 01:49 PM

Get a copy of LIFE Magazine. Even better, I think most of the old issues can be viewed online.

#14 clynnc

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 08:37 PM

I am completely overwhelmed with the amount of responses I've gotten to my questions. I am immensely grateful to all of you who have responded. Of course I do have miles more questions...but I'm not sure what they are right now.

My parents were both born in 55, so they can't offer a lot of help on the early fifties, but they did grow up poor and rural and have shared some insight into what that was like. They have told me a lot about wood stoves in particular.

Again, thanks to everyone who has contributed! I love hearing about the past, and this time period seems especially interesting.

I will definitely have to look up some old Life magazines--shoulda thought of that myself.

LUCID DREAMER and TOM PREECE (or anyone else who knows about farming and rural life in the early fifties):

What were some common farm machines used in the early fifties? I assume there were tractors, but what else? People didn't still hand plant and reap the harvest did they?

I know family farms were beginning to disappear. Who was buying up the small farms? Bigger farms? How were people keeping their farms going? How much intervention did the government have in subsidizing farms at that point?

What chores did people do and were most of them still done by hand? I know there was milking and gathering eggs, taking care of livestock. Did most people have running water in their homes and electricity? In rural areas and especially farms, I mean. How many cows/milk cows did a small family farm typically have?

My mom has told me that they would make clothes out of flour sacks because the patterns were very pretty. Anyone remember this? Can you describe any of the patterns? Did most farm homes have a sewing machine? My mom said my grandma didn't use sewing patterns. She just eyed it. Anyone have that experience?

Oh, and what is a typical car someone would buy brand new in 53? A person of moderate income? Would the model be a year ahead, like it is now (you know, you buy a 2014 model even though it's still 2013)? What would the interior of the car look like?

I know they started putting more music on the radio as the fifties progressed. Does anyone know if they were putting much music on the radio in the early fifties? Was it a mixture of music and radio shows?


I hope you're enjoying this little jog down memory lane. I'm having fun learning about daily life during this time period. :-)

A BIG thanks to you all!

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#15 LucidDreamer

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 07:54 AM

What were some common farm machines used in the early fifties? I assume there were tractors, but what else? People didn't still hand plant and reap the harvest did they? No, not where my grandparents lived. They had combines and harvesters and balers -- much of the same equipment you might find on a farm now, although smaller in scale, and not everyone had every type of equipment. Also -- something very common where I grew up (this was still going on into the early 1960s) was that the farmers would help each other out with the big tasks, like harvesting corn or wheat, etc. (They would sometimes share equipment when they did this). Farmer A would be harvesting one day, and all the farmers in the area would come and help. Then, a few days later, they would all go to Farmer B's farm to help with the harvesting. When they all came to my grandparents' farm, my grandmother, mother, aunt (and even me, when I could do anything!) would make these enormous meals to feed all the people helping with the harvest.

I know family farms were beginning to disappear. Who was buying up the small farms? Bigger farms? How were people keeping their farms going? How much intervention did the government have in subsidizing farms at that point?  In my childhood town/area, the farms did not disappear until the 1970s (at the earliest). Because we lived about an hour or so west of Washington, DC, the farms were either bought by: a. Builders looking to create subdivisions, or b. Wealthy people from the city/other cities who wanted an "estate" or a "play farm".

I don't know how much the government might have subsidized anyone in our area, but I don't think it was much. Most of the farms were "subsistence farms" -- they were meant to take care of the family and sell just enough extra produce, animals, grains, etc. to pay for the things you couldn't grow or raise yourself. The gov. wasn't much involved in that -- they were more interested in the big, single-crop farms, like the tobacco farms in North Carolina.
 

What chores did people do and were most of them still done by hand? I know there was milking and gathering eggs, taking care of livestock. Did most people have running water in their homes and electricity? In rural areas and especially farms, I mean. How many cows/milk cows did a small family farm typically have? Oh goodness, what WASN'T a chore? :smile: There was everything you mentioned, plus tending the family garden, weeding crops and/or garden, repairing fences (honeysuckle was my grandfather's bane), nursing sick livestock, bottle-feeding baby lambs or cows or whatever if the mother died or rejected them, cleaning out the henhouse and barn stalls, repairing and/or painting farm buildings, repairing and doing other maintenance on equipment... I could go on, but you get the idea. Just think of doing EVERYTHING to keep a household and small business going while you simultaneously manage a zoo! 
:biggrin:

Most chores were done by hand, although my grandparents had whatever equipment they could afford.

Most people I knew had running water and electricity.  There were people living up in the mountains who didn't have these things, but they also didn't have farms.

My grandparents only had about 3-4 milk cows at any one time. They also usually raised two or three steers for beef. They did milk by hand -- milking machines were only used by the big dairies.

 

My mom has told me that they would make clothes out of flour sacks because the patterns were very pretty. Anyone remember this? Can you describe any of the patterns? Did most farm homes have a sewing machine? My mom said my grandma didn't use sewing patterns. She just eyed it. Anyone have that experience?  Oh, you're talking about "gunny sacks". (Ever wonder where that fashion term came from?) Yes, my mother and aunt also wore dresses made out of old cotton flour sacks, but that was in the 1940s.  I didn't know people were still doing that in the 1950s but I guess they were. The patterns would have primarily been florals -- usually small flowers and vines, etc. The sacks were much softer material than the sacks I'm familiar with.
I know people who can cut out dresses, etc. without a pattern, but I also know there were many paper patterns available in the 1950s.

 

Oh, and what is a typical car someone would buy brand new in 53? A person of moderate income? Would the model be a year ahead, like it is now (you know, you buy a 2014 model even though it's still 2013)? What would the interior of the car look like?  This I must leave for someone else.  I don't know much about old cars!

I know they started putting more music on the radio as the fifties progressed. Does anyone know if they were putting much music on the radio in the early fifties? Was it a mixture of music and radio shows?  There was a lot of music on the radio from the beginning.  It was interspersed with other types of programming -- dramas, serial adventures, comedy, news, etc. -- but there was always music. Usually it was specific shows, though, like the Grand Ol' Opry or the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, or a specific show highlighting the popular music of the day with a host. (Not just music played non-stop, like it is now).  This might be helpful (has other 1950s info. too):  http://www.downthela...radio-1950s.php



#16 Tom Preece

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 01:35 PM

I think Lucid and I are going to illustrate the variability of agricultural experience. 

 

My grandfather was definitely a small farmer.  I think the most land he had in cultivation at one time may have been 300 acres, 2/3ds of which was on land he rented from a cousin as a share crop. 

 

He did not have a tractor until the early 40's when my Grandmother persuaded him that he could farm more land with a tractor than the hundred acre homestead that he owned.  When I was little he had two tractors, a John Deere, always bright green, and an International Harvester which was red.  He owned his plows, and the disking machinery, and some device for distributing seed.  He did not own a combine to harvest the seed and always hired combine owners for both their labor and machinery.  He worked with them during the harvest and my grandmother worked very hard at cooking for all of them.  Try to imagine serving 15 guys at 5:00 a.m. a high calorie, hot break fast with lots of coffee with ordinary household equipment.  She did have an oversized enamal stove top percolator.

 

Grandpa farmed in the Willamette Valley in a region between Eugene and Corvallis, Oregon. He and his immediate neighbors planted mostly varieties of Ryegrass - not the food crop - but grass seed that is still used today in many lawn mixtures.  The seed came in both an annual and perrenial variety, (if memory serves correctly English ryegrass was the perrenial) and of course it was more desirable because you could skip years of planting it.  Each year that the perrenial was not replanted, the seed was mixed more with wild grains and weeds that took root since the field had not been disrupted by plowing.

 

From time to time to purify the seed, the fields were burned.  This was an extraordinary event to be witnessed by a five year old.  First a firebreak was plowed around the edge of a field.  Gasoline was distributed around the permieter of the remaining grass by dragging something - it may have been a gas can wicked with gasoline soaked rags.  When the gasoline had surrounded the field, the grass very carefully lit by some form of match on extended handle.  Very quickly with that familiar "whump" sound the entire perimeter of the field lit up.  The hot smoke rising from the flame drew a wind inward to the field and soon flames leaping thirty or forty feet in the air.  The field was burned in a fairly short time, (I can't recall with any certainty.)

 

My grandparents friends often made a party of the field burning event with a potluck dinner.

 

When Interstate 5 was completed in the 60's and higher speed driving became the norm, large accidents happened because smoke from the ryegrass fires blew across the highway and blinded the drivers.  Eventually regulations were passed.  There are no field burnings of this particular type in Oregon anymore.  To sterilize a ryegrass field today, the farmer pulls a rig behind his tractor which consists of a multijet propane log that burns the grass followed immediately by a water sprayer that puts out the fire.  This is a much more labor intensive practice.

 

Ryegrass farmers have always been very proud of nurturing a farm product that has never been federally subsidized.  Of course since it is a luxury (lawns) product and not a food product, I can't imagine why it would ever be.

 

If you can fit a field burning into your story it is a farming practice that is a great contrast between then and now.

 

Small farmer that he was, my Grandfather also kept a small dairy herd on the scale that would not be economic competing with the large dairy concerns of today.  I used to watch him hand milking some cows and using a milking machine on others.  His milk products were stored in large dairy cans that he placed at preset place along the road where dairy co-op staff would pick them up and take them to the plant for sterilization and processing, every day leaving behind cans for the next days milking.

 

Farming of course is a never ending chore.  My grandparents retired with savings and social security and their annual share of crop from the family homestead.   This was before Medicare.  Most of the family savings was wiped out when my Grandfather got colon cancer.  He survived, but regretted that he couldn't buy a new fishing boat with the money that paid for his surgery and care.

 

A moment about music.

 

Lucid's absolutely right that music was in the early fifites part of some prepackaged show.  I'm not remembering the name right now but there was a popular countdown of songs which supposedly represented popularity through record sales.  My folks didn't listen to that much.  I heard most of the popular music of the day when I went with my older stepsister to the diner for a milkshake or a hamburger where kids were competing the popularity of their favorite songs on the jukebox.  My sister had a crush on a boy named John so her friends would tease her by playing a melody on the jukebox that had the refrain of "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh"

 

There was a distinct dissolution of the radio programming which in some ways in very similar to what is happening to broadcast T.V. right now.  In the late fifties T.V. succeeded in stealing much of radio's advertising dollars.  Programming continous music was far less expensive than producing hosted programs.  The parallel in todays market with the Internet stealing the dollars would be the much cheaper to produce reality T.V.

 

This transition didn't have traction in the early 50's.  Music came at us through movies, the jukebox, and the programs.

 

Tom P



#17 clynnc

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 06:25 PM

Thanks, Lucid and Tom. Your memories are incredibly valuable and appreciated!

I like pithy quotes, but sometimes they get stuck in my teeth.

 

www.cherylclarkwrites.com

 

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#18 Tom Preece

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 04:16 PM

The sewing machine question.  Older women like my grandmother were still using the treadle machines they had learned on but most of the younger women seemed to have Singer's or equivalent.

 

We haven't mentioned telephones, but should.  Phone numbers almost always came with an exchange name which was represented by the first two letters of your phone number.  AT&T hadn't yet bought up all of the local telephone companies and in most rural places you were still being connected operators for long distance and sometimes even for local calls.  My Grandmother was on a party line.  Her distinct ring would tell her that a call was for her, but anybody else on the party could pick up the phone and listen in to her conversation.

 

I'm afraid I can't remember the year of the transition, but I remember the conversion to dial telephones was in progress all across the country.  My parents knew the owners of our local telephone company, and I can remember being present when the relay switches which could direct local calls were installed eliminating many telephone operator jobs.  You still had to ask for the long distance operator to get connected to a number beyond your local exchange.

 

Tom P



#19 AQCrew

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 01:52 AM

Wow, all -- just wow.



#20 Tom Preece

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Posted 04 September 2013 - 03:32 PM

I know it's not just for me, but thanks Crew!






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