Today’s “Freaky Friday” edition explores what I would encounter if I lived in a different era. I thought it would be easier if I started with the decade prior to my birth and then move backwards!
Women weren’t entering the work force as more than nurses, teachers, switchboard operators, secretaries, waitresses or stewardesses (notice the different terminology than today?). Generally if women attended college, it was for a nursing or teaching degree, to get involved in a sorority which could help them move in the correct social circles or to find a husband. They weren’t inspired to reach for the sky to do anything they desired.
Families found entertainment through television which had reached the mainstream. Evenings were spent watching “Your Show of Shows”, “Ozzie and Harriett” and Milton Berle. They also spent time at local community social events or through travel usually in their new “finned” automobiles. Air travel wasn’t as common as it is today. Films that captured attention included science fiction especially in the face of the new Cold War. (see Footnote 1)
Young women wore poodle skirts, rolled up blue jeans, penny loafers and bobby sox. They dressed conservatively lest they be saddled with an unsavory reputation. Married and older women wore tailored suits to church and social ocassions. They were polished and dressed well when they were out in public.
Rock and roll was brand new and under close scrutiny from parents and those in authority. Musical artists who came into their own during this decade include Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley and the Comets among many others.
Women who were married, especially after children were born, stayed at home and ran the household. Not only was she the housekeeper, the cook, and the laundress, but she took care of everyone’s schedule, made a hot meal three times a day, joined the PTA, the church ladies organization, and community or social groups.
When she went to the grocery store, she generally paid less than $1/gallon of milk; less than .20/loaf of bread; and less than $1 for a T-bone steak. When her new Ford (costing less than $2,500) was filled up with gas, she paid less than .30 per gallon. (see Footnote 2)
SummarY 1950S vs 2008
- Career: Secretary – CEO/owner of own business
- Education: high school diploma – PhD
- Being Unmarried: Old Maid – Single Woman
- Being married: wife & mother – partner in marriage
- Entertainment: Ozzie & Harriett (not quite reality TV) – Survivor (reality TV)
- Films: The Blob – The Dark Knight
- Music: Early Rock & Roll – Heavy Metal
- Daily life: Centered around needs of family & others – attempting to be Superwoman
- Social activities: PTA, garden club – (still) PTA, physical fitness activities, sports, volunteerism
- In the Home: cooking, cleaning, etc. – dividing up the chores, hiring a lawn & maid service to help
- Prices: .27/gallon of gas – $3.40/gallon; .90/gallon of milk – $4/gallon of milk
- Travel: family vehicle – air travel
In conclusion, I can’t honestly say I would be less happy in the decade of the 1950s as I am today. My parents were older when I was born so they had lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the 1950s so they had the values of the time. In many ways my values were shaped from how I was raised and the ideals within my family. Yet, I’ve come to appreciate and sometimes depend on the technology we have today. Don’t have time to go to the library, check the internet. Want to see a movie that no one else in the family wants to see, download it and watch it whenever you want on your computer or Ipod. Forget what else you were supposed to buy at the store, use the cell phone to call home. Don’t have time to wash all those dishes, load the dishwasher. Don’t have time to preheat the oven and cook dinner, set the microwave. Unfortunately the down side to all of this is that patience is tested – not only for waiting for a page to download from the computer but waiting in line at the post office or in traffic. Not often is there time to actually stop and smell the flowers let alone eat two or three meals together each night. Days are scheduled down to the last minute without any give built in for spontaneity and fun. Perhaps it’s time to bring a little of the 1950s “slowness” to modern times – if only to be able to appreciate each day before it draws to a close, lost forever in all those other days that we eventually wish we could have again.
Footnote 1: Wikipedia – 1950s
Footnote 2: What it cost in 1954