Life in the 50’s

What were the 1950’s like? Now that we are in a new century and millennium, 1950 sounds so very long ago. Well, put that pie in the oven, hang up your apron and get set to go back as we take a peek in our retro time machine and drop in on the likes of Lucy and Ethel, Alice and Trixie, and maybe even some real people too.

Fab 50’s Facts

  • The average house in 1950 sold for $14,000
  • The average annual income in the ‘50s was just under $3,000
  • Kitchen debuts – Tupperware at home party sales, electric frying pans, nonstick cookware
  • In 1950 fewer than 1 in 10 American homes owned a TV set. By the end of the decade, 9 out of 10 American homes were tuned in
  • The popular sitcom Leave It to Beaver premiered on October 4, 1957, the same day the Russian satellite Sputnik was launched
  • Gunsmoke first aired on television in 1955. The series lasted a full 20 years
  • 1956 was a big year for Elvis! He scored his first number-one hit (“Heartbreak Hotel”), and he released “Hound Dog,” the top-selling single of the decade
  • TV lamps that sold for around $10 in the 1950s go for about $125 in today’s collector market

Presidents

  • harrytruman

    • Harry S. Truman
    • 33rd President
    • 1945 – 1953
    • Wife: Bess
  • dwighteisenhower

    • Dwight D. Eisenhower
    • 34th President
    • 1953 – 1961
    • Wife: Mamie

Things Invented
in the
50’s

  • McDonald’s
  • Barbie Doll
  • Kleenex
  • Geiger Counter
  • Life Savers Candy
  • The Cold War
  • Credit Card
  • Corvette
  • TV Dinners
  • Super Glue
  • Liquid Paper
  • The Hovercraft
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Radial Tires
  • Aluminum Can
  • Birth Control Pills
  • Black Box Recorder on Airplanes
  • Microchip
  • More TV Dinners
  • My Mothers Recipe for Boiling Water
  • The Cold War (at home)
  • Color TV
  • M&M’s Peanut Candies

Beauty

avon-ad-1950_small Avon 1950“Avon brings you 13 shades in Color-last Lipstick and matching Nail Polish”

Cosmetic companies certainly did not shy away from using good, old fashion fear as a motivator to purchase their products. Should you not buy Dorothy Gray Salon face cream, your husband will leave you for another woman and you will die alone. This tragedy is compounded by the fact that nothing they had back then actually worked! (Strivectin hadn’t been invented yet.)

The only thing that prevented millions of wrinkly women from being abandoned in favor of their smooth-skinned counterparts was the fact that divorce was more than frowned upon and not quite so easy as it is today.

Cooking

What’s Cookin’ in the ’50s, or Where’s a Good Place to Get a Steak?

1955-junior-cookbookThe cover of the popular 1955 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book says it is for the Hostess & Host of tomorrow. A deliciously exact reprint of the red plaid 1955 cookbook for kids. Original vintage illustrations, full-color ’50s-style images, and pages that appear gently aged. The book has a practical side too! Easy-to-use tabbed chapters including beverages, breads and sandwiches, candy and cookies, desserts, main dishes, and vegetables and Sides. This fun heirloom gift is perfect to give to children who are just beginning to cook.

The first place I turned to find out what folks were eating in the 50s was to my mother. Seemed reasonable, she was in her early 20s at the time, so I figured she would be full of great recipes for 1950s home cooking. I was a bit surprised by her recollection, as it seems steak was on the menu in the 1950s.

According to her, when friends came over or people went out to eat, they ordered steak. No chicken, no fish (“oh god no, if you were going to go out, you were going to have a steak” was how she put it), no fancy gourmet pasta, dinner was meat, steak if you could choose, along with a salad and some French bread (maybe a vegetable too).

Appetizers consisted of booze; beer, wine or martinis, but according to her, no one got drunk. I told her to ask some of her friends about what they ate and she said:

“Why should I do that? I just told you what we ate, Steak!”

Then I said I needed three independent sources to run the story which somehow made sense to her, so she said she’d ask. Stay tuned, we just may break the story:

“Extra Extra, People Ate Steak in the 50’s”

50’s Fast Food Still With Us Today!

Burger King – 1954
Dunkin’ Donuts – 1950
International House of Pancakes – 1958
McDonald’s – 1955
Pizza Hut (Wichita, KS) – 1958

50’s Fads

good-wifes-guide_smallIn case you were wondering just what it took back in the 1950s to qualify for “Good Wife” Status, Housekeeping Monthly was kind enough to print a set of guidelines in their 1955 May Issue.

Noteworthy: The pictured children do not appear to be screaming, the wife is wearing 3 inch heals and the husband looks like a cross between Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. Of minor interest may be the fact that my sister inherited a stove just like the one in the picture from our Grandma, and I can tell you right off that one does not appear so calm when trying to cook dinner on a 1950s match lit gas stove.

A Fad that Stayed: At the start of the 50’s, only about 3 million American families had a TV set (black & white, of course), and by 1954 more than half of all U.S. households had purchased the funny buzz box./p>

50’s Stars/TV Shows and Movies

Fashion

poodlepalaceWe know what Lucy wore, and there are plenty of pictures of Grace Kelly, but what did the average American housewife wear in the 1950s? Was it all gloves, skirts and sweaters? Find out here as we research the fab 50s fashion.

Fashion successes were Bill Blass and his blue jeans, poodle skirts made of felt and decorated with sequins and poodle appliques, pony tails for girls, and flat tops and crew cuts for guys. Saddle shoes and blue suede loafers were popular. Teenagers were defined as a separate generation and were represented by James Dean who wore blue jeans in Rebel Without a Cause and created a fashion and attitude sensation. Activities we liked were flying saucer watching , and watching and dancing to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

40′s Movies
  • Full Skirts that accented the slime waistline
  • Pencil Silhouette that accented the slim waistline
  • Slim Waistlines
  • Aprons

Home Decor

In the 1950s, young families furnishing their new homes wanted new styles. Working with top designers like Nelson and Eames, companies like Herman Miller and Heywood Wakefield sprang to the forefront of modern design with their combination of clean lines and a futuristic look.

Typical 1950’s Style Living Room…So typical in fact, it is in a museum…
The classic 1950s style of furniture design is still popular, and usually is called “retro” (although retro can just as easily be the 60s, 70s …). 50s style furniture appears solid and sturdy, with simple, clean lines.

Formica. There was a time when every surface in the house was made of Formica. Kitchen counter tops, tables, even the bathroom countertops were made out of Formica. Turns out that Formica is a BRAND of Laminate. So technically, everything is still made out of Formica. We just call it Laminate now, and it has changed so much in appearance that we wouldn’t recognize it as the same product.

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