Simple that's the word most often used to describe the 1950s when we were all kids in Oceanside, New York. Everyone knows when we were in school together, things were not so complicated as they are today.

It was not all rosy, then, of course. There were things about those times that we remember sadly, such as the Cold War, the threat of Communism looming over us and the related shameful and paranoid hysteria in America that was McCarthyism, the beginnings of a violent civil rights movement in the South, and a growing problem with juvenile delinquency in our cities. But they are not just distant memories ─ like the sweet things are. Even more sadly, most of these things are still with us today, more or less, or replaced by similar atrocities we can readily observe. We need those sweet, nostalgic memories of what we no longer have to help us cope with the many dark realities of modern life. We are lucky enough to be among the very few left who actually lived during the middle of the last century and who have these precious memories to hold onto and to share with the many others who don't.  And despite all those things we remember sadly, the times were, in general, marked with a sense of optimism, prosperity and overall well-being for most of usand simplicity.

According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and acclaimed historian, David Halberstam (widely believed to be America's leading authority on the 1950s), "In that era of general good will and expanding affluence, few Americans doubted the essential goodness of their society. They were optimistic about the future."

    

 

Although flamboyant and flashy, the styles then were simple but by no means ordinary.

And in no way and at no time was the emphasis on style more apparent than when our roads were ruled by those cool, chrome-plated dinosaurshuge cars that got lower, longer, wider, faster and (of course) cooler!

  
The cars came in cool colors like turquoise and pink with a host of new "power"  features, decked with enormous fins ─ and, of course, the chrome

lots and lots of chrome!

 

                      

"Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end 
We'd sing and dance forever and a day 
We'd live the life we choose 
We'd fight and never lose 
For we were young and sure to have our way."

From our point of view, those certainly were the days, my friend the best days ever to be in high school in America. (And we thought they'd never end.) No other time has been so closely identified with and fondly remembered for its teenage experience and culture. (In fact, linguistic research has demonstrated that even the word, "teenager," was virtually unheard of prior to the 1950s.) During that time, we were asserting a new independence and engaging in our own revolution the teenage revolution from which the world has never recovered.  

For the first time in history, we, the teenagers, had some money to spendwe had our own hairstyles, fashions, movies and TV shows, and our own cars (we were socool_md_clr.gif).

And most significant of all, as teenagers, for the first time, we had our very own music, and like the times that produced it, it was much simpler music than our kids have today and much, much more fun! This brand, spanking new and vibrant music of ours rock 'n' roll music was a powerful force that literally changed the worldIt could not have been anticipated and it certainly could not be stopped (although many tried).

 

One of our classmates, Mike Blumenthal, wrote, "I seem to remember that ours was the first generation to have and hold dear pocket transistor radios heralding the age of personal electronics. We tripped over the sill of the doorway between the industrial revolution and the service economy while retaining close family and other social values."

Noted music historian, the late Arnold Shaw (who was a friend of your webmaster's), wrote in his wonderful book, The Rockin' '50s:

"[H]istorians    are given to such words as fun, joy and innocence in recalling the songs  simpler than they became in the '60s and  made for dancing. But the  new generation was seeking to define itself through them  an embattled generation, for the Establishment fought the new music with bans, arrests, lawsuits, not to mention actual physical destruction."

There was a whole lotta shakin' goin' on as we "defined" ourselves dancing, dancing and dancing to our sensual and exciting new music  our young bodies exploding with hot, hormonal fireworks like bombs bursting red glare.

 

At places like the Sunrise Drive-In (we called it the "passion pit" ) , we explored and experimented with those new feelings, "sending" each other as we fumbled our way through a series of teenage crushes and awkward romances all the while protesting and struggling to prove to our perplexed parents that we were already grown up enough.

 

 

      
 

And we were


, eating 15 hamburgers and reading

  
(or PLAYBOY

     
) magazine.

Yes, like one of our most major heroes, James Dean, we teenagers were all rebels without a cause but all we really wanted to do was have fun.

And did we ever!!


 


  
Click on any of the following links for a trip down Memory Lane, U.S.A.  Just a few of the best ones have been selected, but each has links to virtually hundreds of others. 

And when you are done surfing, be sure to come back to our class site for more stuff.

          

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