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Thread: WTF was the deal with the 1950's?

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    WTF was the deal with the 1950's?

    To me the 1950's stand out as a decade having a particularly strange identity. Granted, in their own way the 1960's were even more bizarre, but I'm talking about the introduction of conspicuous mass-marketed popular consumerism, reactionary politics/mores, and.....I'm not sure how else to express this, but a certain strange garrish plastic-ness/artificiality surrounding the pop culture of the era.

    You know what I'm talking about?



    Do you really like Ike? And WHY was that time period such an unusual one?

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    Last edited by Maister; 26 Sep 2012 at 10:20 AM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    You know what I'm talking about?
    Why did they make so many pies?
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    To me the 1950's stand out as a decade having a particularly strange identity. Granted, in its own way the 1960's was even more bizarre, but I'm talking about the introduction of conspicuous mass-marketed popular consumerism, reactionary politics/mores, and.....I'm not sure how else to express this, but a certain strange garrish plastic-ness/artificiality surrounding the pop culture of the era.

    You know what I'm talking about?



    Do you really like Ike?
    My mom was never the Mrs. Cleaver type with pies in the oven. She liked an Old Fashioned in the evening. When we shot skeet, my older brother was the only one who could out-shoot her. She ate her steaks bloody rare. Once when a teen-aged boy tried to spit on me, she came after him with a garden trowel, all the while he was yelling, "whoa, little mamma." My dad adored her but I think he also wished she was a little more city and less country.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    My mom was never the Mrs. Cleaver type with pies in the oven. She liked an Old Fashioned in the evening.
    My mom never baked anything from scratch in her life and generally hated cooking anything at all. She made Dad's birthday cake (from a mix) and he made everyone else's (from a mix). She liked a Whiskey Sour in the evening. Mom never did anything remotely athletic when we were kids, but oddly, in her 80's, loved shooting baskets with my son.

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I was just looking at that picture again and it struck me.....we are every bit as much a consumerist culture now as we were then, the thing that has changed is that the message has become both more subtle and pervasive. At the dawn of the media mass marketing era, they were still devising the play book and hadn't mastered the techniques yet. The advertisements of the era have a certain obviousness/ham-handedness that you seldom see now.

    It also seems like the advertsing of that age tried way too hard in emphasizing the whole 'a woman's place is in the home' message.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I'm a member of Gen Y (barely, born in 1981), so I didn't live through the 50s. My impression of it, though, has always been that the weird plasticness and sense of 'isn't everything just great'? that the pop culture of the time conveyed was just a cover for the huge amount of cultural repression that was waiting to explode into the 1960s, the beginning of the era in which we're still living. Or maybe I just watch too much Mad Men, I don't know.

    That said, my own dad likes to reminisce about the 50s as some kind of golden age where the nuclear family was stronger, moral value was considered a virtue, and people didn't act like animals. I don't agree with him and think he is overlooking the virulent racism and sexism that permeated those years. But I have to wonder if there is something positive to be said for a time where everyone moved a little slower, a little more deliberately, and didn't rush their lives away the way we do now.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    I'm a member of Gen Y (barely, born in 1981), so I didn't live through the 50s. My impression of it, though, has always been that the weird plasticness and sense of 'isn't everything just great'? that the pop culture of the time conveyed was just a cover for the huge amount of cultural repression that was waiting to explode into the 1960s, the beginning of the era in which we're still living. Or maybe I just watch too much Mad Men, I don't know.

    That said, my own dad likes to reminisce about the 50s as some kind of golden age where the nuclear family was stronger, moral value was considered a virtue, and people didn't act like animals. I don't agree with him and think he is overlooking the virulent racism and sexism that permeated those years. But I have to wonder if there is something positive to be said for a time where everyone moved a little slower, a little more deliberately, and didn't rush their lives away the way we do now.
    I didn't live through the 1950's either. Only a few of our older Cybs actually experienced that decade (and then primarily through the eyes of children).

    There's a lot of mythology where 'Golden Ages' are concerned and in the case of the 1950's there seems to be a desire on the part of certain conservative forces in this country to want to return to a time when 'Britannia ruled', so to speak.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    my 86 year old Mom says it was a myth (yes?) - that many women were depressed - husband or boyfriend back from the war, not the same person, takes over the house though women had been working during the war - women had a taste of doing their own thing and it got taken away so they perfected their homelife to cope

  9. #9
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    It sounds like a horrible decade to live through if you were a woman.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    It sounds like a horrible decade to live through if you were a woman.
    Or non-white, or non-Protestant, or non-straight...

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    It sounds like a horrible decade to live through if you were a woman.
    Interestingly, my grandmother never left the 50's behind. For decades afterwards she was the typical 1950's house wife. However, she was born in the early 20's and had to deal with a lot during the 30's. I remember growing up and going to their house, there was always the smell of fresh baked goods in the house. Today she has terrible dementia and does not know who most of our family is, but thinks that my sister he actually my mother from time to time. Interestingly enough, when she is in her lost moments, she thinks it is the 50s. I find it surprising that she was not more progressive given that she lived in Detroit during the 40's, 50's and 60's. It was a nice neighborhood when they first moved there, but after all the neighbors moved away, all that was left was the hood.

    On a side, yet related note, I think that there are cultural differences for both sexes for most major time periods, and sometimes particular elements of that time period cycle back into popularity. I am waiting for guys wearing hats to make a comeback.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post

    On a side, yet related note, I think that there are cultural differences for both sexes for most major time periods, and sometimes particular elements of that time period cycle back into popularity. I am waiting for guys wearing hats to make a comeback.
    I agree with you 100%!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    I always thought that the 50's were a great time for a select few, no matter how much Happy Days tried to white wash it. I think the 50's was America's attempt forget the horrors of WW II and enforce some normalcy. It was also our first experience with mass consumerism.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I didn't live through the 1950's either. Only a few of our older Cybs actually experienced that decade (and then primarily through the eyes of children).

    There's a lot of mythology where 'Golden Ages' are concerned and in the case of the 1950's there seems to be a desire on the part of certain conservative forces in this country to want to return to a time when 'Britannia ruled', so to speak.
    That would be me.

    The Fifties were the reason the Sixties were the way they were. My first awareness of national news was hearing about the anti-school integration riots in Little Rock, AR in 1957 over the kitchen radio. The televised news clips of the police in Alabama turning the water hoses and siccing their dogs on the civil rights marchers brought the horrors of Jim Crow into American living rooms and set the stage for bringing the Vietnam War into American living rooms a decade later.

    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    my 86 year old Mom says it was a myth (yes?) - that many women were depressed - husband or boyfriend back from the war, not the same person, takes over the house though women had been working during the war - women had a taste of doing their own thing and it got taken away so they perfected their homelife to cope
    QFT.

    My mother, who worked in a factory during WW II, hated being a housewife, but she felt that she would be disloyal or betray her family if she went to work outside the home. One of her sisters, my godmother, though, went to work during WW II and never stopped. I don't know if her young man died in the war or married someone else or she just wasn't willing to give up her freedom, but she was sort of an independent spirit for a working class Polish woman in the 1950s. She used to travel all over the country with her 2 single girlfriends (in the 1950s, they traveled to California by car!) whereas my mother never traveled further from Buffalo than the Thousand Islands on her honeymoon.

    My aunt was my role model growing up as I have a much more adventurous spirit than my mother ever had. In fact, I was closer to my aunt because we shared a love for horses (she rode and she bought me my first pony while my mother was afraid of horses) and photography (she also gave me my first camera). My mother, however, really enabled me to accept people as people NOT as stereotypes, and to do the right thing, even though I didn't realize it until much later: when we lived in Buffalo, she insisted that I attend the predominantly Jewish/Protestant public school rather than the local Polish Catholic school since it meant that most of my friends were Jewish or Protestant. That was quite a defiant move for any woman to do in the 1950s, especially for a daughter (heaven forbid, I might marry one of them!). Of course, this was only possible because my father supported her as he had no use for private or religious schools and thought them "un-American".

    Another thing that you don't hear about the 1950s is the numerous WW II and Korean War veterans who returned with post-traumatic-stress syndrome and were never diagnosed. Like many Vietnam Era vets, they descended into alcoholism as a defense mechanism.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    My mother, who worked in a factory during WW II, hated being a housewife, but she felt that she would be disloyal or betray her family if she went to work outside the home. One of her sisters, my godmother, though, went to work during WW II and never stopped. I don't know if her young man died in the war or married someone else or she just wasn't willing to give up her freedom, but she was sort of an independent spirit for a working class Polish woman in the 1950s. She used to travel all over the country with her 2 single girlfriends (in the 1950s, they traveled to California by car!) whereas my mother never traveled further from Buffalo than the Thousand Islands on her honeymoon.

    My aunt was my role model growing up as I have a much more adventurous spirit than my mother ever had. In fact, I was closer to my aunt because we shared a love for horses (she rode and she bought me my first pony while my mother was afraid of horses) and photography (she also gave me my first camera). My mother, however, really enabled me to accept people as people NOT as stereotypes, and to do the right thing, even though I didn't realize it until much later: when we lived in Buffalo, she insisted that I attend the predominantly Jewish/Protestant public school rather than the local Polish Catholic school since it meant that most of my friends were Jewish or Protestant. That was quite a defiant move for any woman to do in the 1950s, especially for a daughter (heaven forbid, I might marry one of them!). Of course, this was only possible because my father supported her as he had no use for private or religious schools and thought them "un-American".

    Another thing that you don't hear about the 1950s is the numerous WW II and Korean War veterans who returned with post-traumatic-stress syndrome and were never diagnosed. Like many Vietnam Era vets, they descended into alcoholism as a defense mechanism.
    I often refer to it as "the way we never were".

    I was born in the 70s so have no idea. My mom was raised in the 50's having been born in 1941. Her mother was a doctor and never married preferring her education and independence over tying herself to a husband. It's interesting that my mom settled into getting married at 20 and being a stay at home wife and mother until she divorced and I went to elementary school and she would have preferred to be a stay at home wife and mother.

    I am sure that the 50s was a breath of fresh air compared to the Great Depression and WWII, but it wasn't for everybody and that become pretty apparent in the 60s with all the social unrest in that decade.

    Mona Lisa Smiles, although probably considered a chick flick by many, was an interesting movie with a snapshot in time of that era especially from a woman's perspective.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Another thing that you don't hear about the 1950s is the numerous WW II and Korean War veterans who returned with post-traumatic-stress syndrome and were never diagnosed. Like many Vietnam Era vets, they descended into alcoholism as a defense mechanism.
    Slightly off topic, I think they did, but called it my different names i.e., shell shock, battle fatigue, etc.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjel View post
    I often refer to it as "the way we never were".

    I was born in the 70s so have no idea. My mom was raised in the 50's having been born in 1941. Her mother was a doctor and never married preferring her education and independence over tying herself to a husband. It's interesting that my mom settled into getting married at 20 and being a stay at home wife and mother until she divorced and I went to elementary school and she would have preferred to be a stay at home wife and mother.

    I am sure that the 50s was a breath of fresh air compared to the Great Depression and WWII, but it wasn't for everybody and that become pretty apparent in the 60s with all the social unrest in that decade.

    Mona Lisa Smiles, although probably considered a chick flick by many, was an interesting movie with a snapshot in time of that era especially from a woman's perspective.
    I'm NOT sure it was really a "breath of fresh air" compared to anything except possibly NOT having strict limits on luxuries and even necessities, either because of economics or war shortages. Conformity was the expected. I suspect that your mom, being raised by a single mother, probably reacted to having been an outsider -- the girl without a father.

    BTW, the 1930s were a pretty radical period with many intellectuals, working people, and college students intrigued by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and some historians argue that for all the whining from the Right about the New Deal, it was a very conservative answer to the possibility of some kind of communist, populist or fascist uprising. Huey Long was probably the most notable radical, but there were others on both the left and the right.

    One of the reasons that Joe McCarthy could find so many "Commies" in the 1950s was because so many young people had been radicals in the 1930s, and the US/Soviet alliance during WW II gave Communism a significant measure of respectability for a while in the 1940s.

    A lot of today's "conservatives" want to go back to the 1950s because it was the last "golden age" for the patriarchal, WASP male dominated society before said males had to start competing with the uncultured, unwashed masses of Jews and Catholics and women and people of color.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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