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Old 09-10-2010, 07:01 AM
 
Location: Terramaria
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Many people today think of the 1950s as this glitzed up, teenage-friendly time popularized by American Graffiti, Grease, and Happy Days during the '70s, making most people under 50 believing that's how the '50s and early '60s actually were like. But in reality, this was just Hollywood, and was pretty far from the truth in many cases and has led to some misconceptions. Most post-Baby Boomers feel that as soon as JFK was shot and the Beatles arrived, having diners/drive-ins/jukeboxes/tailfins/poodle skirts suddenly became "uncool". But in reality, some of these trends lingered well past events, and a couple even ended beforehand (such as Tailfins, which were only offered on Cadillacs in 1962 and were much smaller than the 1956-60 tailfins. For diners, they probably just gradually became less popular, eventually giving way to Fast-Food restaurants such as McDonald's, and I feel some of this culture lingered into the early '70s when diners were viewed as just "old' but not quite vintage/nostalgia. It was probably common to walk into a diner in 1964-65 and have Beatleholics enjoying the records; it's just that not all diners were really chrome and checker with red seats. The same goes with drive-ins. Although the number open peaked in 1958, drive-ins also had just a long, slow decline (a few still exist even today). A certain generation just didn't feel that those places were good hangouts, preferring nightclubs/shopping centers/homes.
As far as fashion, poodle skirts (often referred to as a "shaggy dog" during the actual era) were already pretty much a thing of the past well before JFK was shot, being mostly popular from 1951-1956, according to some old newspaper searches. Also, the jukebox that people thought was popular in the '50s was the Wurlitzer 1015 bubbler, actually produced in 1946-47, and by the time the main "malt shop era" began around 1955, they were already on the way out in places as 45 RPMs were taking over. They were usually called "coin operating machines" back then.

Last edited by Borntoolate85; 09-10-2010 at 08:26 AM..
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Old 09-10-2010, 08:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Borntoolate85 View Post
For diners, they probably just gradually became less popular, eventually gving way to Fast-Food restaurants such as McDonald's, and I feel some of this culture lingered into the early '70s when diners were viewed as just "old' but not quite vintage/nostalgia. It was probably common to walk into a diner in 1964-65 and have Beatleholics enjoying the records; it's just that not all diners were really chrome and checker with red seats. The same goes with drive-ins. Although the number open peaked in 1958, drive-ins also had just a long, slow decline (a few still exist even today). A certain generation just didn't feel that those places were good hangouts, preferring nightclubs/shopping centers/homes.
Have to disagree with this in part, you are not seeing the whole picture. One major reason for the demise of diners and mom-and-pop restaurants were families traveling with children. As the economy rerounded after WWII and more families were able to afford more luxury items, family vacations became the norm. The highway system was well on its way, people had more leisure time. Television and movie travelogues made places like Yosemite and Yellowstone desirable places to visit. Don't know if you have ever traveled with kids; kids do not like surprises when it comes to their food. Places like McDonald's came along at the right time for traveling children because everything was standardized.

If you ever have a chance to visit The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI, you really should. They have a wonderful exhibit about the impact of the automobile on american life. This very subject (diners/drive-ins/dives) is covered in some depth.

Can't speak for everyone, but I did a fair amount of cruising in the early 70's and the drive-ins we frequented were thriving.
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Old 09-10-2010, 08:23 AM
 
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Since I live in NJ, the idea of diners not being cool is kind of surprising. Diner culture has certainly changed over the years, but diners themselves are alive and well here. Where else would people go for coffee and eggs at 2am? With that said, people don't go to diners because they're cool per se, but many people, especially teens do hang out there drinking coffee in the wee hours.
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:16 AM
 
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There were alternatives to diners. Howard Johnsons, Huddle House, A&W, and a number of other places were doing well. Hotel chains like Holiday Inn had restaurants. McDonalds and White Castle and others made a lot of inroads because of having lower prices, reliable food, and cleanliness.

Drive-In theatres had a lot of factors involved in their popularity that people forget. The automobile held much of the interest that computers and other high tech have siphoned away. The basics were easy to understand and fiddling with the car was a passtime for many. Going to a drive-in was a way to enjoy the car as well as a movie and date. Remember that without home air-conditioning, sitting outside at night was often much cooler than sitting inside. Drive-ins also sprayed and fogged for insects, sometimes nightly. Television was black and white, with as many as three channels. Playgrounds for kids at drive-ins often had more than swings and slides, and included little trains or carnival rides. Rules were more lax at the ozoners than the hardtop theatres. Very few cars had bucket seats, and bench seats were great for cuddling and more in the back row.
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:38 AM
 
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I was in Jr. H.S. and H.S. from 1950 - 1956, and college from 1956 - 1960.

You have to remember that American movies have been notorious for collapsing various markers from a long stretch of time into a single time period, resulting in a host of anachronisms in films. If you want to judge the 50's and 60's by films, one is much better off using films produced in those eras that were about those eras. Rebel Without a Cause or Blackboard Jungle, even with their exaggerations and sensational plots they are miles ahead more accurate depictions of clothing, music, interests, etc. of those years.

Where I was growing up in the 50's the term "malt shop" was totally unheard of, hangouts were called "soda fountains." Malted milkshakes I associate with the 40's when I was a child. I worked a soda fountain in the Fifties, and, yes, there was a container of malt on the shelf....it was almost never used, and then on those very rare occasions when it was requested it was always an older adult who asked for it.

Perhaps "malt shops" were a teenage rage somewhere else.

Older teenagers were not at all inclined to hang out in soda fountains. In the very age-conscious, age-stratified teenage world of the Fifties no seventeen year old wanted to be caught dead in a place packed with Jr. High school age kids.

In my state at age 16 you could get a "junior" driving license, which allowed you to drive only during daylight hours. If you took driver ed at age 17 you could get a senior license, which allowed for 24-hour driving, and at 18 you were automatically qualified for the senior license if you passed the driving test. Thus, access to a car meant that older teens transferred their patronage to places away from younger kids....hot dog stands outside of town, or small restaurant/beer joints located in the countryside.

Rhythm and Blues was just emerging in some parts of the country at this time as music for white teenagers. It was renamed Rock n Roll but in the first few years featured exactly the same recordings and performers previously merchandised only to black audiences. It was a thousand miles from the "Your Hit Parade" ballad confections and novelty tunes that had emerged as pop music after WW II.

If you liked this music, you knew you were "cool" and with your peers you acted this out, even if you were the most cowed adolescent in the family home or with teachers. This musical preference alone set you apart in the earlier Fifties, and there was - in the beginning, at least - the implication even among teenagers that those who liked this music were somehow "not nice." It was an absolute paradise of coolness to be suspected of being "not nice," especially if you were nice. And what could be more wonderful to a teenager than to see Your Hit Parade fold under the onslaught of this music, and finally disappear in 1959.

The legal drinking age was 18, which meant that drinking illegally began around 16 for some teens, and there were always out-of-the-way places that would cater to underage drinkers. Drive-in movies were patronized by families with kids, and older teenagers who had beer or booze and wanted a private place to drink....and hopefully to have sex.

As for diners, where I lived they closed simply because the land they were on was wanted for something more profitable, and there was no single cause and some lasted for years and years more. For the brief time they lasted I never heard a "poodle skirt" referred to as anything other than that. Down by an abandoned quarry where kids parked to pet and have sex there was a tree which usually had several used condoms hanging from it, a trophy rack of sorts.

College was a 4-year time warp....nothing that signified Teenager was tolerated! And that included Rock n Roll among many other Fifties innovations. The music that was preferred was that the of dying Hit Parade type or jazz. The reason is clear, many many of the upper classmen already in college when I entered in 1956 were old enough and conservative enough to have rejected R&B when it came out as RnR. Socially college in many respects was the same conservative bubble that Fifties parents lived in....very proper, sedate Ivy League clothes were what was cool, blue jeans were suspect, etc..

I should probably add that this conservatism was not shared by the University faculty, who surely must have felt like space aliens when faced with that sea of conforming upperclassmen.

When I got out and took off for NYC in the summer of 1960....there was the real world again. College really had been a bubble.....though the Fifties, in my estimation, did not really bite the dust until the mid-Sixties.
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Old 09-10-2010, 11:08 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,661 posts, read 77,693,300 times
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I guess I'm the same age as kevxu, graduating from HS in 1956.

In my small (6,000) midwestern town, there was one "malt shop" and it was never called that, it was called by it's name, "Supers", the Super Ice Cream Company, where they made their own ice cream in house. And it was a teenage hangout. There were also three drug stores with soda fountains and booths, but only one tolerated hangout status. No juke boxes in either place. Boys only, no girls hanging out. There was an A&W drive in, and another drive in not part of a franchise, where families went---edge of town and inconvenient to walk to. A few small restaurants with counter and a few booths, only hangouts at night, but you had to order food, which few could afford. Mostly, the hangout was the street corner. Or some kid's house when his parents weren't home, with poker and beer (sold at 18, on presentation of a draft card) being the chief amusements. Again, no girls.

There was a very small number of kids who had their own car before graduating from high school---maybe 2 or 3 at any given time. Full DL age was 16, and some kids could get their dad's car a couple of nights a month. In the 50s, not even all dads had cars yet. I lived in a town with range-bound income---nobody was rich, nobody was poor. Or, at least, not that we could notice.

Last edited by jtur88; 09-10-2010 at 11:18 AM..
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Texas
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I graduated from high school in 1967 and by then in Texas and Oklahoma, the rage was hanging out at the drive in hamburger stand and "dragging Main."

Since you could get a regular license in Texas then at 16, all of our socializing revolved around cars.

Drive-in movies still existed, but they were for parking on the back row and necking while drinking illegal beer bought across the river in Oklahoma, rather than watching the movie. The nearby lake was for late night drinking and screwing parties, though there was a WHOLE LOT MORE drinking than there was sex.

Over all, it wasn't a pleasant time to be young, in spite of what the movies show. The nation was in the early throes of an almost complete breakdown, driven by the civil rights movement, the budding counter-culture enclaves in California, violent riots in the large cities and a war which just would not go away.

The draft board loomed behind all our fun and frivolity and we all knew our day of reckoning with them was coming with graduation. It really did put a damper on everything.
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:50 PM
 
Location: Earth
17,444 posts, read 25,207,976 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevxu View Post
I was in Jr. H.S. and H.S. from 1950 - 1956, and college from 1956 - 1960.

You have to remember that American movies have been notorious for collapsing various markers from a long stretch of time into a single time period, resulting in a host of anachronisms in films. If you want to judge the 50's and 60's by films, one is much better off using films produced in those eras that were about those eras. Rebel Without a Cause or Blackboard Jungle, even with their exaggerations and sensational plots they are miles ahead more accurate depictions of clothing, music, interests, etc. of those years.

Where I was growing up in the 50's the term "malt shop" was totally unheard of, hangouts were called "soda fountains." Malted milkshakes I associate with the 40's when I was a child. I worked a soda fountain in the Fifties, and, yes, there was a container of malt on the shelf....it was almost never used, and then on those very rare occasions when it was requested it was always an older adult who asked for it.

Perhaps "malt shops" were a teenage rage somewhere else.

Older teenagers were not at all inclined to hang out in soda fountains. In the very age-conscious, age-stratified teenage world of the Fifties no seventeen year old wanted to be caught dead in a place packed with Jr. High school age kids.

In my state at age 16 you could get a "junior" driving license, which allowed you to drive only during daylight hours. If you took driver ed at age 17 you could get a senior license, which allowed for 24-hour driving, and at 18 you were automatically qualified for the senior license if you passed the driving test. Thus, access to a car meant that older teens transferred their patronage to places away from younger kids....hot dog stands outside of town, or small restaurant/beer joints located in the countryside.

Rhythm and Blues was just emerging in some parts of the country at this time as music for white teenagers. It was renamed Rock n Roll but in the first few years featured exactly the same recordings and performers previously merchandised only to black audiences. It was a thousand miles from the "Your Hit Parade" ballad confections and novelty tunes that had emerged as pop music after WW II.

If you liked this music, you knew you were "cool" and with your peers you acted this out, even if you were the most cowed adolescent in the family home or with teachers. This musical preference alone set you apart in the earlier Fifties, and there was - in the beginning, at least - the implication even among teenagers that those who liked this music were somehow "not nice." It was an absolute paradise of coolness to be suspected of being "not nice," especially if you were nice. And what could be more wonderful to a teenager than to see Your Hit Parade fold under the onslaught of this music, and finally disappear in 1959.

The legal drinking age was 18, which meant that drinking illegally began around 16 for some teens, and there were always out-of-the-way places that would cater to underage drinkers. Drive-in movies were patronized by families with kids, and older teenagers who had beer or booze and wanted a private place to drink....and hopefully to have sex.

As for diners, where I lived they closed simply because the land they were on was wanted for something more profitable, and there was no single cause and some lasted for years and years more. For the brief time they lasted I never heard a "poodle skirt" referred to as anything other than that. Down by an abandoned quarry where kids parked to pet and have sex there was a tree which usually had several used condoms hanging from it, a trophy rack of sorts.

College was a 4-year time warp....nothing that signified Teenager was tolerated! And that included Rock n Roll among many other Fifties innovations. The music that was preferred was that the of dying Hit Parade type or jazz. The reason is clear, many many of the upper classmen already in college when I entered in 1956 were old enough and conservative enough to have rejected R&B when it came out as RnR. Socially college in many respects was the same conservative bubble that Fifties parents lived in....very proper, sedate Ivy League clothes were what was cool, blue jeans were suspect, etc..
This is very interesting. I was not born yet in the 1950s but I love talking to or communicating with people about that time. Most of what you say is verified by other people I've talked to who were around at that time.

Quote:
I should probably add that this conservatism was not shared by the University faculty, who surely must have felt like space aliens when faced with that sea of conforming upperclassmen.
I was told by a man who was a university professor in the 1950s that the faculty were more able to relate to veterans attending universities on the GI bill then they were able to relate to the kids coming straight from high school, because the veterans had much more life experience.

Quote:
When I got out and took off for NYC in the summer of 1960....there was the real world again. College really had been a bubble.....though the Fifties, in my estimation, did not really bite the dust until the mid-Sixties.
Would it have been different for students going to college in NYC?

I've often heard it said that the '60s really started on November 22, 1963 just as the 20th century really started on June 28, 1914....
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:21 AM
 
Location: Texas
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Here ya go, all you lovers of the 50's.

This is Ed Byrnes and Connie Stevens, both of whom played characters on the TV show "77 Sunset Strip." Byrnes' character, Kookie, couldn't pass a mirror or store window without whipping out his pocket comb and slicking back his ducks.

That resulted in this single, issued in 1959. It's full of teenaged 50's lingo.



YouTube - Edd Bynes with Connie Stevens - Kookie Kookie (lend me your comb) 2
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:50 AM
 
13,510 posts, read 15,368,021 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by majoun View Post
...I was told by a man who was a university professor in the 1950s that the faculty were more able to relate to veterans attending universities on the GI bill then they were able to relate to the kids coming straight from high school, because the veterans had much more life experience.
I can recall that vets definitely had more rapport with the instructors and professors, and in some cases where instructors socialized in the campus bar I can clearly recall that they were in the company of vets.

Quote:
Would it have been different for students going to college in NYC?
Referring to the college I attended being a kind of bubble, presumably. I don't know. On my campus we got quite a number of students from Long Island and NJ, the NYC metro suburbs - most of them Jewish. They certainly were considerably less uptight about the 50's teen culture even though they conformed to the prevailing dress codes, joined fraternities, etc.

Possibly, though I do not know, this may have been because like the area where I came from, NYC had been one of the earliest places for new teen subculture and music to emerge; thus, they like me may not have found such a need identify with the more conservative aspects of 50's life.

Quote:
I've often heard it said that the '60s really started on November 22, 1963 just as the 20th century really started on June 28, 1914....
Well, its a memorable event to hang the end of a period on, though my own sense is that the Fifties died a rather slow death that stretched out a couple more years in many ways. It may simply be a totally personal impression and that I was still shedding or changing my own Fifities outlook/habits, etc.

On the other hand, (off topic) I would be inclined to say what I think of as the New America in which we now live was truly ushered in with the Reagan inauguration and we were off and running with it very quickly. So, I do think that historical events can be sudden catalysts.
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