The Fifties were years of rebuilding after W.W.II and the Korean (War)
Police Action - Congress never declared
it a war and finally in 1953 settled on the 38th parallel as a treaty
line between North and South Korea. During the Korean War
(1950-1953), Stalin supported the Communist North Korean forces that
invaded South Korea. The war ended a few months after Stalin's
Kruschev's power in the Soviet Union reached its peak in the late
1950s. The Soviet Union continued to encourage "wars of
liberation." As a result, the United States came to regard
"peaceful coexistence" as the Communist effort to conquer
countries without a major war.
President Truman left office and President Eisenhower was a favored
son to lead the country. The GIS thought since he was such a
great general that he would make an even better president. Some
were sorely disappointed and some heralded him as one of the best we
had ever had.
Most thought we were at peace with the world, little did we know that
the Viet Nam war was in the brewing. It was the longest war in
which the United States took part. It began in 1957 and ended in 1975.
Truman had declared that the United States must help any nation
challenged by Communism.
The USSR launched the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik 1. In
January 1958, the United States launched its first earth satellite.
Soviet rocket power was more advanced, but the two powers had clearly
established a nuclear "balance of terror." The
"space age and race" had begun. The USSR stopped
testing nuclear weapons in March 1958, and the United States halted
its tests in October.
After World War II, major factors encouraged the beginning of a new
movement for civil rights. Many African Americans had served with
honor in the war. African Americans had made economic gains, increased
their education, and registered to vote. Rulings by the US Supreme
Court during the 1950s brought major victories for African Americans.
In 1957, King and other Southern clergymen formed the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to coordinate the work of civil
rights groups. King urged African Americans to use peaceful means to
achieve their goals.
Polio became an epidemic and one summer had San Angelo, Texas with the
most reported cases in the Nation. We kids complained about not
being able to go swimming and having to take naps. The medical
world was at a loss as to how to prevent this horrible disease, so
they tried scolding hot packs to freezing cold packs to ease the pain
and just maybe stop the paralysis. Finally the polio vaccine was
developed saving many of us from that horrible crippling disease.
Our babies were given vaccines against measles, whooping cough, mumps.
On the State level, Allen Shivers and Price Daniels were our
Governors. And in 1953 Lyndon Johnson, at the age of 44, was
made U. S. Senate Democratic leader-the youngest person ever elected
to lead either party in the Senate.
The drought of the Fifties was devastating and put many a farmer and
rancher out of business. Any dry spell today is compared to the
Fifties' drought. There was not a building constructed that
could keep out those little fine grains of sand. Our blue
northers were really brown. Our Moms would go around with a dust
pan (card board, if you couldn't afford the pan) and a paint brush to
sweep out all the sand that was left on the window sills.
Our homes became air conditioned along with our cars. We could
afford the gas so we began going on long vacations. When the
Fifties began families were sitting in front of radios listening to
the Green Hornet, Hoppalong Cassidy, Lux Theater, Amos and Andy, the
Louisiana Hay Ride, and the Grand Ole Oprey. Then we became
television junkies. Television changed our way of receiving news of
our community, country and world. We sat in our living rooms
watching that little box and no longer did we stroll through the
neighborhood or sit on our front porches where we had home made ice
cream with family, friends and neighbors. We now sat closed up
in our homes watching Uncle Miltie, Jackie Gleason, Steve Allen, Howdy
Doodie, Captain Kangaroo, the Mickey Mouse Club, Gun Smoke, Have Gun
Will Travel, Loretta Young Theater, Perry Como, to name just a few,
perform for us in the little box that we called Television.
Our music went from war time blues and ballads to pop and rock and
roll, and hill billy became country and western. Bill Haley and
the Comets launched the rock and roll era and Elvis Presley fueled it
to the top and over the moon. Teenagers could get their driver's
licenses at age fourteen. In Uvalde, kids had access to the
family sedans and began dragging Getty with radios blaring out the
tunes of Elvis, Johnny Mathis, Chuck Berry, Ray Price, Buddy Holly and
Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings. When they could beg Dad for the
keys to the family car, they gathered at the newly built
Dairy Delight and then made it across town to the Honey Hut.
On the way if they had money, they would stop off at the Dairy Kream
and listen to the same tunes by putting nickels into the juke box
while eating those wonderful home made hamburgers and ice cream.
Marty Robbins sang A White Sport Coat and the Searchers came out with
a new song that started a new dance step - The Stroll. We
learned the new crazes in dance by watching Dick Clark host the
In the lower grades boys wore black Converse tennis shoes and played
touch football on the play ground while the girls wore pony tails and
played jacks, jump rope and paper dolls. We played Annie Over
and Kick the Can and slept outside in the summer. The girls had
slumber parties and the boys tried to crash them. Teenage teenie-boppers
wore petticoats made from miles of netting to help those felt poodle
skirts stand out over bobby socks and penny loafers or saddle oxfords.
The boys wore Levi jeans with a cuff and white socks in buckskin
The Ford Thunderbird was the sports car of the decade and the Ford
Edsel was the automobile failure of the decade. There was the
Henry J that never caught on, but the little Nash Rambler had a song
written about it and was the first automobile to offer seat belts.
The cost of a Cadillac was around $5,000.00 -- a year's salary for
most of our parents. But by far the most popular car has to have
been the 1957 Chevy hard top.
On the Water Front with Marlon Brando, the Seven Year Itch with
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, Giant with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor
and James Dean were movie hits of the Fifties. Dean was later
killed in a car crash caused from his excessive speed. Gary
Cooper won an Oscar for his role in High Noon also starring Grace
Kelly. Kim Novak and William Holden were hits in Picnic.
Debbie Reynolds was America's sweetheart, starring in Tammy and
Singing in the Rain to name a couple.
In the sports world, Roger Banister from England broke the four minute
mile. The National Football League was formed. The
Baltimore Orioles defeated the New York Giants. Oklahoma
University's football team held the longest winning team title by
winning 57 straight games under the coaching leadership of Bud
Wilkersen. The Hula-Hoop was the craze. Sonja Henie was the ice-skating
sweetheart of the Olympics and Americans loved her. She tried to
break into show biz, but finally gave it up. Rocky Marciano,
Jersey Joe Walcott, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Lewis were some of the
boxing greats of the Fifties. Jim Shoulders from Big Spring,
Texas was the world champion all-round cowboy.