Looking Back to the Fifties
November 22, 2015
When I work on client memoirs, I like to bring in as much social history as I can. After all, each and every one of us have a front seat to history, and that history makes us and shapes us, individually and collectively. It also resonates today. If you are thinking about your personal or family history, consider what past events influenced the way you think and feel.
Here are some suggestions pertaining to the Fifties for you to consider.
- Bond and Brown. That’s James Bond in Spectre and Charlie Brown in Peanuts, who, earlier this month, were numbers one and two at the box office, respectively. The iconic Secret Service agent first showed up in novelist Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in 1953. Sean Connery played the first James Bond on the big screen in Dr. No in 1962. Peanuts, a 3D computer-animated movie, commemorates the 65th anniversary of the popular comic strip.
- Polio take down. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine to immunize children against polio in 1952. After extensive testing and the subsequent licensing of the product, it became universally available in 1955. Although polio has been eradicated in the U.S., it is still recommended that babies receive three dosages starting at two months of age and a booster shot when four to six years old.
- City or suburbs. Taking a cue from Levittown be it in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, the suburbs boomed in the Fifties. But where will Millennials chose to live? Right now, they seem to enjoy urban areas, close to work and play. Census data and survey results, however, suggests that many still yearn for the single-family houses where they grew up.
- In the matter of. The Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Brown versus Board of Education in 1953. Unanimously, the court declared that “separate educational facilities” for black children were “inherently illegal.”
- Baby, it’s cold outside. Tensions ran high during the Cold War, when the West grew anxious over the Soviet Union’s push to advance communism around the globe. Here at home, Senator Joseph McCarthy fueled the fear in 1950 by declaring, “The State Department is infested with communists,” and he went after them furiously and recklessly. In 1954 the Senate voted to condemn him for his behavior to “obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity.” The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), which tracked down Communist sympathizers in Hollywood, thrived in part due to McCarthy’s actions. The recently released movie, Trumbo, tells the story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of hundreds who were blacklisted, that is, denied employment for their suspected political beliefs.
- Hasta luego. The Cuban Revolution took place from 1953 – 1959, when the rebels overthrew the Batista regime and Fidel Castro established a communist government. Two years later President Eisenhower shuttered the American embassy in Havana. After months of negotiations to restore diplomatic relations, Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington D.C. in July of this year and we reopened our embassy on the island in August. Tensions between the two nations still exist, but travel restrictions have been relaxed. It’s possible that U.S. airlines will begin offering regularly scheduled flights to Cuba in the not too distant future. See you soon.
- Work hard; play hard. Hugh Hefner first published Playboy magazine in 1953, putting actress Marilyn Monroe on its cover. Known for decades for its scantily dressed, if dressed at all, centerfolds, it announced last month that it will no longer feature full nudity, as it can’t compete with pornography on the Internet, only a click away.
- In living color. The New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade in 1954 was the first national television broadcast in color. Bonanza, the television program chronicling the adventures of the Cartwright family on the Ponderosa ranch, was one of the first series to be filmed and broadcast in color. First airing in 1958, it lasted fourteen years. You can still catch the show in syndication.
- United we stand. In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, respectively.
- It’s now or never. I can’t write about the Fifties without mentioning Elvis. In August 1953, Elvis first walked into the offices of Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. In an evening session in July, 1954 with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, he recorded “That’s All Right” which Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played to great reception. In 1956 Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” became a number one hit in the U.S. Later that year he appeared on The Milton Berle Show, The Steve Allen Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show. He also made his first movie, Love Me Tender. In 1958 he was drafted. In March, 1960 he was honorably discharged and returned home.
A lot happens in a decade. What music were you dancing to?
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
Filed under History is Our Story, Tip Sheet.
Tags: Cold War, Elvis, Levittown, memoir, Peanuts, social history
It was so cool reading Looking Back to the Fifties. I’m actually a 60s/70s girl, but I love reading about the past. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you for your like.
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What a wonderful post, Susan. So much happened in this decade.
Thanks, Chris. Now on to the Sixties.
You are very welcome. Back into the time-machine.