"This is probably the greatest honor that I've ever had in my life." Elvis; after making his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956.
In many ways I miss white picket fence America. For me, that era lasted from about when I was born in 1941 in Florida through growing up in Cincinnati in the ‘40’s, ‘50s and early ‘60s. It was an era when the norm was mom, dad, and a couple kids growing up in American suburbia in a nice little home with the ubiquitous white picket fence surrounding it.
The comfort of a white picket fence
In the late afternoon, dad would usually be getting off the bus up the street and walking home as his kids would run up to greet him. Mom would have been home all day doing household chores and getting a nice roast in the oven for the family dinner at about 6:00.
During dinner the family would talk about their activities that day. After dinner, the kids would help mom with the dishes before starting their homework while dad lit his pipe and read the evening paper.
It was a sedate lifestyle much the same as illustrated in the popular television series “Father Knows Best” which ran on CBS and ABC from 1954 to 1963. Robert Young played father Jim Anderson with Jane Wyatt as his wife Margaret. That show gave a good look at life in the ‘50s when dad would sit in his easy chair to read the paper without even taking off his suit coat or loosening his tie.
It’s pretty mundane stuff compared to family lifestyles now where every member has their own agenda and if the family does accidently eat dinner together, it is something picked up at a fast food joint.
September 9, 1956: Elvis makes his first
appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show".
In those “Father Knows Best” days, television was a luxury. In many neighborhoods, maybe one home on the street owned a TV and lucky were the kids who were invited to watch “Howdy Doody” at 5:30 each afternoon in beautiful 12” black and white. TV didn’t even come on until 5:00 in the afternoon and would go off the air at about midnight after a late movie. There were three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS.
Hit songs were heard on the radio and sold in music stores on either a 78rpm or 45rpm disc. Most record stores had a listening booth where you could play the record before buying it. Needless to say, most of us kids would go listen to the songs in the booth and never buy anything much to the chagrin of the store owner.
Friday nights usually meant walking to the theater to see a double feature. No multi screen places in those days but there was a balcony in some of the larger shows. No one cared if we got to the show for the beginning. Usually we walked in half way through and when the film cycled back to that point someone would whisper down the row that “This is where we came in.”
We hitchhiked everywhere, rode streetcars, walked to and from school, went to football games on Friday nights, counted the days until we were 16 and could drive, and spent as much time as possible at Cincy’s great amusement park of that era, Coney Island. It was a special treat to take the paddle wheeled “Island Queen” up the Ohio River to Coney from downtown. I will always remember the calliope playing.
The kids of today don’t know what they are missing by not liking cars. We loved hot rods and Sunday always meant going to the Beechmont Levee drag strip. We also didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, and iPhones which meant that we played a lot of outdoor pickup games of football, basketball, and baseball. We didn’t know the meaning of “obese.”
I also can’t remember anyone ever having an accident because of a distracted driver. With stick shifts and a car full of buddies with the windows wide open, we didn’t have time to be distracted.
There was no air conditioning in houses or cars then so making it through a hot and humid summer in Cincinnati was quite a feat. I never lived in an air conditioned home until I was 29 and living in Kansas City.
Growing up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s was quite an experience. America seemed a lot more relaxed then even as we feared “the bomb.”
A lot of things look better in retrospect so I can’t say that those days were better but when comparing the two eras, it seems that life was a lot more lighthearted compared to now. Today, I see a lot of unhappy people who don’t know the meaning of “common sense.” It’s too bad they can’t return to that simpler era when we all liked Ike and watched “Father Knows Best”.