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Thread: This was how it was in the USA in the 50's

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    This was how it was in the USA in the 50's

    I came across this well written article that I thought some might would enjoy reading it. I was a youngster in the 50's and it was most interesting to me. For us of us in their 60's and older, the last sentence should prove to be quite surprising.


    Sometimes we idealize the United States from the 1950s. What was common in the 1950s that would horrify us now?

    The 1950s were a time of prosperity for the US. Poverty and crime were at all time lows. It was a time when national unity was at one of itís strongest points. It was far from idyllic however. As too who would be horrified by what that depends on how old you are and what your background was. Massive changes have occurred since the 50s.

    Racism was the norm all over the world until the 50s. That was when the civil rights movement really began and when Whites in the US took a long hard look at the way minorities were treated and realized it was wrong. Changes were begun in the 50s but it would take until the 70s before racism was generally ended among Whites. The 80s were the time when I saw the lowest levels of racism in my lifetime. In the 1950s racism was still alive and well. Seperate doors and eating establishments existed. Coloured doors existed in not just the South but in areas outside the South.

    Protestantism was very dominate and rather strict. Catholics were often treated like 2nd class citizens and Jews suffered open prejudice. Muslims were essentially unheard of what few there were kept rather quiet.

    It was a time of innocence but also a time when being an unwed mother was a huge shame and got a girl shunned in her community. Divorce was legal but also scandalous. People who were divorced were often considered defective or low lifes. A divorcee was viewed as a sort of ****. Abortion was illegal but in high demand among teenage girls who trusted the wrong boy and got pregnant. Birth control consisted of mostly rubbers and was not legally available to teens. Backroom abortions killed thousands of teenage girls every year. Suicide was also a huge shame. It still happened but it was usually covered up as suicide was considered a great embarrassment to the survivors. Open gays were rare and generally beaten up on a regular basis.

    Fist fights were not unusual in the 50s. In fact they didnít start becoming uncommon until the 90s. Men and boys were expected to know how to use their firsts and be willing to use them until they reached their 50s. Even then many men still continued to get in occasional fist fights. A guy who wouldnít fight was shunned by the community as a coward and suspected of being gay.

    Safety until the 70s was an afterthought. Workplace deaths were common and car wrecks were an epidemic. Few cars even had seatbelts. Kids often played in the spacious back seats of cars or sat in their unbuckled motherís lap in the front seat. Roads were nowhere near as good. Ike launched the Federal highway program in the 50s. Until then there was no Interstates. Instead roads like Highway 66 connected the country. These were a route through a series of state highways that often had hair pin turns, unbanked turns, iffy road signs, potholes, many were not even paved. Dirt roads were very common in the 50s still, especially once outside major cities and population centers. A lot of highways had no center stripe and few had guardrails.

    Beating a confession out of a suspect was still the norm. Prisons were brutal places where guards and or inmate trustees (in that day trustees were armed prisoners who in exchange for privileges like extra food and better accommodations would do the dirty work for the guards) carried clubs and used them on a frequent basis. People with a record were shunned heavily. Enforcement was very subjective. Cops knew everyone in their community and looking the other way was normal for locals but strangers faced a myriad of hazards going through small towns where law enforcement often saw them as victims to be fleeced. Most people still lived in the same communities they were born in, though people migrating started in earnest during the 50s. Economic opportunities drew people all over the country and this was creating a lot of tension with locals as their communities would double in size in as little as 5 years sometimes.

    Hispanics were a tiny percentage of the population. Almost negligible and most Hispanics in the US were of Cuban or Puerto Rican descent. Waves of migrant workers first started coming to the US and the first Illegals began to appear. The US was 90% White. There were only 15 million Blacks in the country and 3 million Hispanics and 300,000 Asians.

    It was normal to buy a new car with cash. In fact most people didnít finance much of anything. People saved up and bought houses with cash. Cars with cash. People rarely had insurance of any kind. It was used for emergencies only if anyone had it.

    Health care was just about to advance light years, the 1950s marked and explosion in knowledge and waves of changes in health care. However lobotomies were still being performed in the 50s, insane asylums were nightmare places and hospitals were transforming into the kind of hospital we know today. Ambulances were strictly transport. The drivers min wage workers who knew little or nothing about health care and their job was simply to load em up and get em too the hospital as fast as they could. Many hospitals didnít even have an ER yet. Trauma centers wouldnít come about for another 20 years or so. People were still coming down with things like polio and iron lungs were still in use though the Polio vaccine began to erase Polio from the US during the 50s. It was however not at all uncommon to meet Polio survivors who were on crutches, in wheel chairs or otherwise permanently injured by their bout with Polio.

    Dress codes were rather strict. Skirts above the knee were scandalous and showing a bare navel was super rare even in bathing suits. Guys with hair below their collar super rare. Beards were what convicts and sailors grew. Normal men almost never had a beard.

    Efforts to eliminate wife beating had been going on since the 20s, but folks looked away still as late as the 50s and it was fairly common in many American subcultures. There was little legal recourse. The normal way it was handled was relatives of the lady took care of things.

    Pregnant women often drank alcohol as nobody knew about alcoholís effects on pregnancy yet. Drugs were often administered with little or no trials. It was massive drug disasters in the 40s and 50s that brought about our system of drug trials.

    Child molesters were rare and usually just buried in an unmarked grave rather than prosecuted. So children were allowed to roam about and play where they wished. The entire neighborhood or community looked out for and after the children in their area.

    Neighbors knew each other and people were out and about in their neighborhoods. Somebody from the 50s driving through a modern neighborhood would think it was a ghost town. Phones were what rich people had. In many areas they were still party lines where any conversation you had could be heard by anyone who picked up their phone at that time. TVs were expensive and few people owned them. Instead most people had a radio. Though by the late 50s TV became rather common for middle class families, but the poor still usually didnít own a TV or phone.

    Sports were normal, everyone played them as a kid and many adults did as well.

    Few men didnít know how to work on their car or did not do most of the constant maintenance cars of that period needed themselves. When you went to a gas station an attendant came out and pumped your gas for you, washed your windshield, checked your fluids and sometimes air pressure. Nobody pumped their own gas.

    There were no ATMs. Banks were 9Ė5 but you could often float a check for a little extra cash at a grocery store. Though they too were generally closed by 7pm. After 8 pm there wasnít much of anything open except bars, restaurants and theaters. If you were low on gas at 10pm you just didnít go anywhere until morning as there were no gas stations open that late and you couldnít just gas up at a station that was closed.

    Anybody could walk in and buy a gun. At least anybody of age and kids could go in and buy something like a .22 rifle without questions. In rural areas it wasnít unusual to see a pack of kids walking down a road all carrying rifles, as they were out shooting targets or hunting small game.

    All men served a stint in the US military unless they were rejected. There was a universal draft still in effect and you could get a college exemption or go do your stint in the military before you were drafted but you were going into the military one way or another before you turned 25. Though exemptions were not difficult to get for people with money.

    There was no welfare. No food stamps, no disability, social security was what elderly widows collected. Men worked until they died or had enough saved up to retire. Though most people had savings and being able to save in the 50s was considerably easier. Few people carried the kind of debt we do today and credit cards were just started to show up.

    Multi-generational families living together was extremely common. The 50s was when young couples first started getting their own places too live. Housing combined with rapid growth in wages and opportunity first made owning a home affordable for a young couple. Subdivisions boomed and the first malls started opening up.

    Everyone smoked, something close to 60% of the US population and about the only places you couldnít smoke were if there was a hazard such as next to gas tanks.

    Really old people were uncommon. The average American lived to their mid 50s and few lived past 65. 80 year olds were uncommon and only a rare few saw 90.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    seems like humans just adapt to anything and have no clue what there supposed to be doing. like deer have been doin the same stuff for a million years and we are extremely different every 100 years.

  3. #3
    Boolit Man
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    Yep, that's the way it was and then some. AND in some places very little has changed, overt has become covert!
    West of Beaver Dick's Ferry.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master nvbirdman's Avatar
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    Tattoos were confined to sailors and a few other servicemen, and the one percent bikers, and NO women had them.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    I am a 1951 model myself. I know the average age expectancy was not what it is today, but still, I knew quite a few folks who made it to well past 80.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    I agree Froogal; numerous folks made it into their 80's; almost all of my family did. BTW, I'm 73 and hope I don't outlive my mind and body.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparky45 View Post
    I agree Froogal; numerous folks made it into their 80's; almost all of my family did. BTW, I'm 73 and hope I don't outlive my mind and body.
    I hear you! If my body outlives my mind, please, just shoot me.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    I have lots of stories and observations ...no time now...marking post to come back later.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Just an observation---The folks that were "in charge" leading up to the 50's were born in the period from the late 1800's up through about 1939 (or so). These folks had a much lower life expectancy than those of us born in the late 30's and beyond. These folks benefited from the rapid increases in the things that made our quality of life what it has been. There were many things to lament about yesteryear, but in terms of quality of life we are much better off now than then. I have posted this before but I think it bears repeating---In a nutshell---Those who pine for the long-ago, should think of the outhouse at 40 below!
    R.D.M.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackthorn View Post
    Just an observation---The folks that were "in charge" leading up to the 50's were born in the period from the late 1800's up through about 1939 (or so). These folks had a much lower life expectancy than those of us born in the late 30's and beyond. These folks benefited from the rapid increases in the things that made our quality of life what it has been. There were many things to lament about yesteryear, but in terms of quality of life we are much better off now than then. I have posted this before but I think it bears repeating---In a nutshell---Those who pine for the long-ago, should think of the outhouse at 40 below!
    I agree on the outhouse, and I'm also happy that I no longer have to cut firewood to stay warm, but I also feel that we have come a little too far with electronics technology.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    I thought the banks were open 0900-1500 Mon-Thurs. And until 1800 on Friday's. That didn't change until the early 1980's.
    I HATE auto-correct


    Happiness is a Warm GUN & more ammo to shoot in it.

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  12. #12
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    I remember "commodities" when I was a kid in Pennsylvania... The cheese would plug you up like glue, and we traded the powdered milk to the local farmer for fresh milk. He mixed the powdered stuff for his new calves...
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Hi...
    I am only 64 but I can remember using the out house at my grandparents farm house.
    I remember using the outside pump to get water and no heat if the woodstove wasn't kept burning.
    Granddad still had a couple of draft horse's when I was very young. Somewhere there is a photograph of me standing beside him and his Grey Percherons.
    I still remember calling the operator to get connected to my cousin's phone. All I had to tell the operator was my Uncle's name and she would connect us.
    I also remember my grandmother on my mother's side of the family getting ice deliveries for the ice box. I guess I was about 4 or 5 when she got her first refrigerator. I think it was a Kelvinator.

    I also remember when my father bought his first gas lawn mower. He used an old reel type push mower for years when I was a kid. I still remember him sharpening the reel out in the garage. He didn't own a single power tool, either...he had hand drills and about 15 different hand saws. I wish I had them but my mother sold almost all his things after he died in 1968.
    I remember when we got our first television back in the early '60s. A big upright box with a red cloth covering over the speaker made by Sylvania. My grandmother bought one identical at the same time. Very small picture, out of focus most of the time and constantly had interference that was referred to as "snow" in the picture. Two stations, one on the VHF side and one UHF. Both went off the air around midnight and played a test pattern either at night or in the early morning.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    Pretty good post a couple points could be argued by small degrees but the entire thing is very close might even be spot on in some parts of the country as moving could mean a lot of changes as mentioned in a way about people tending to stay put. Gun control laws had been passed in many places but only enforced when a black tried to buy or carry a gun . Until 1969 even a kid could order a rifle C.OD. though the mail if he had the money a friend got a Italian Carcano in 1967 . It was years later we discovered the artery model he got had a 15" barrel and was not legal to even own the way he got it! Child molesting was probably more common then known however most of it ended with the molester just disappearing so they had fewer victims!
    No welfare but families took care of their own a illegitimate child may be shipped to another area with family and raised as if parents died Infirm elderly would be taken in along with disabled .
    Safety on that i will defer to Jeff Foxworthy warning labels may just be why we have so many idiots with us today!
    When I think back on all the **** I learned in high school it's a wonder I can think at all ! And then my lack of education hasn't hurt me none I can read the writing on the wall.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master


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    What is the source of that article, please?
    Micah 6:8
    He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    "I don't have hobbies - I'm developing a robust post-apocalyptic skill set"
    I may be discharged and retired but I'm sure I did not renounce the oath that I solemnly swore!

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I was born in the late 50's.
    I remember some of these things.
    On this rock, we didn't have many of them, and still have many of them today.
    Everything started to go down hill when Americans no longer understood "Shame"
    When we forgot what "Honor" is.
    How many people, today, even know what "bastard" really means.
    They know it's bad, but don't know why.
    Country has lost it's morals.
    It's sad.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Yanda View Post
    What is the source of that article, please?
    It was from a guy on an open forum about all sorts of topics....I saw it a thought it would be a good one on Cast Boolits. I recall in 1974---I was a young man ... I walked into a Coast to Coast store -----plunked down $159 for a Ruger Supeblackhawk....no forms, no questions asked. When I was 12 I used to buy .22 Long rifle ammo at Gambles.... now. with all our gun lawns/regulations/restrictions----we now are so much worse off... we also have lost so much of our freedoms. We have a 2nd amendment that clearly states the peoples rights pertaining to gun ownership, shall not be infringed. Yet public officials who swear to up uphold the constitution routinely violate it--- In one article, about the Bill of Rights, states plainly that those rights are not given to us (the people) from our government---they are unalienable rights given to us by our Creator...ie God and that no one can take them away.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    I will touch on something that made a huge difference in life in this country.
    Up to 1900 heat and power was produced by burning firewood and coal.
    Ships, locomotives, homes etc all burned some solid fuels.
    In 1901 the world changed and many people got left behind because they did not or could not keep up with a changing world.
    On Jan 10, 1901 the Spindletop gusher blew in and its production literally doubled US oil production.
    Within another year or so 5 additional wells at Spindletop doubled the oil output of the entire planet.
    We essentially went from a wood and coal burning country to ships, trains, power generation and home heating being made easier by oil and other petroleum products.
    Coincidentally the airplane and the automobile arrived at exactly the same time as the fuel source gasoline. Within about 20 to 25 years millions of draft horses went to slaughter and rendering plants as farmers switched over to tractors. We developed natural gas and LP gas for heating.

    I grew up knowing old folks that complained about the Great Depression as if it existed right up to their deaths in the 1960s to 1980s. The real truth is the world changed a lot due to Spindletop and other events. Those people that were too old and lived a subsistence living without a paychecks had no good way to keep up with the change. To take advantage of all the new oil fueled technology you needed a cash paying job. Many rural people had no specialized trade or business skills, had little to no education nor understood the advantages of job skills. Those folks got left behind. For them the Great Depression did last until they died.

    History of oil production in the USA.
    https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/Le...s=mcrfpus2&f=a
    EDG

  19. #19
    Boolit Master RogerDat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wally View Post
    I came across this well written article that I thought some might would enjoy reading it. I was a youngster in the 50's and it was most interesting to me. For us of us in their 60's and older, the last sentence should prove to be quite surprising.


    Sometimes we idealize the United States from the 1950s. What was common in the 1950s that would horrify us now?.........

    It was normal to buy a new car with cash. In fact most people didn’t finance much of anything. People saved up and bought houses with cash. Cars with cash. People rarely had insurance of any kind. It was used for emergencies only if anyone had it.

    Health care was just about to advance light years, the 1950s marked and explosion in knowledge and waves of changes in health care. However lobotomies were still being performed in the 50s, insane asylums were nightmare places and hospitals were transforming into the kind of hospital we know today. Ambulances were strictly transport. The drivers min wage workers who knew little or nothing about health care and their job was simply to load em up and get em too the hospital as fast as they could. Many hospitals didn’t even have an ER yet. Trauma centers wouldn’t come about for another 20 years or so. People were still coming down with things like polio and iron lungs were still in use though the Polio vaccine began to erase Polio from the US during the 50s. It was however not at all uncommon to meet Polio survivors who were on crutches, in wheel chairs or otherwise permanently injured by their bout with Polio.

    Child molesters were rare and usually just buried in an unmarked grave rather than prosecuted. So children were allowed to roam about and play where they wished. The entire neighborhood or community looked out for and after the children in their area.


    Few men didn’t know how to work on their car or did not do most of the constant maintenance cars of that period needed themselves.....

    There was no welfare. No food stamps, no disability, social security was what elderly widows collected. Men worked until they died or had enough saved up to retire. Though most people had savings and being able to save in the 50s was considerably easier. Few people carried the kind of debt we do today and credit cards were just started to show up.....
    Food stamps were a depression era program, it was revived by Kennedy in the early 60's https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farmin.../money_09.html Partly to fight hunger and partly because farmers were producing a large surplus and food stamps act to expand the market for farm products and prop up prices.

    Health insurance became popular in the 30's and post WW2 it was a commonly negotiated item in union contracts because unlike wages insurance wasn't subject to any income tax. So it was a tax free form of compensation. https://www.bcbsm.com/index/about-us...r-history.html

    Racial conflict was still going strong into the 70's I can still recall that many gas stations in the south while they removed the "colored" signs over the extra drinking fountain and/or bathroom still had them. The Black Panther Party was organized in the 60's and continued into the 70's originally focused on history ignoring black participation but also in opposition to unarmed blacks being shot by police. Still something of an issue today.

    Child molesters were not especially rare, and since I can recall some being prosecuted I would sort of doubt the idea that they were just executed. What is different today is the stories of a child molester anyplace is national news story. Back then they were mostly treated as fairly local news. I only know of ones that happened in Michigan. Maybe an especially horrible offense in Toledo or Chicago might get mentioned but it would be rare that a molester would get end to end coverage no matter where in the country it took place. Today that sort of coverage is fairly common.

    There were more out of wedlock births during the Eisenhower administration than there were after the invention of the birth control pill and the free love era of hippies in the late 60's. Homes for unwed mothers where girls would go to have a baby far from home often with a cover story of visiting a distant relative were not uncommon. Sexual activity changed when penicillin made syphilis and gonorrhea curable, and the pill allowed women to have sex with the prevention of pregnancy in their hands. Interestingly a handful of modern pilot programs that provided free birth control found that abortions dropped by over 80% in the group that had the option to participate. The programs were viewed as "promoting" unmarried sex by some and some objected to certain forms of birth control in a program that allowed the women to select any form. So they were defunded.

    I know more people COULD work on their cars but wages were such that many I think would pay to have work done on the car in order to preserve leisure time. Or as my brother in law put it not too long ago "I can pick up 4 hours of overtime and pay a guy to wire in those garage lights easier than I can do it myself" Cars did get harder to work on going through the 70's and 80's that is for sure. Practically needed a plumbers union card and computer science degree just to properly swear at them by the 90's Nearly every gas station had a service bay and a mechanic or two. Which got me thinking when did those service bays get converted to convenience stores? Because I can recall at one point the self-serve gas station and gas station convenience stores started to replace the service stations with mechanics.
    Je suis Charlie
    Scrap.... because all the really pithy and emphatic four letter words were taken and we had to describe this way of getting casting material somehow.
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    My dad was born in 1904. He told lots of stories about his life. He said to me "boy you should have lived in my time, you would have loved it."
    I have lived in houses where the primary source of heat was wood. Even some where the only source was wood. My grandpa had me out in the garage splitting kindling all day long when I was 6. To this day I love to cut firewood. I also love to get up in the morning, stir the coals, stoke up the stove and put on some good pan coffee. That is living.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check