Archived Story

It was the best of times

Published 11:00pm Friday, November 2, 2012

What my daughter said kind of surprised me.

“Mama, I wish I’d grown up in the 1950s.”

What was she thinking!?

She wouldn’t have lasted a day in the 1950s. She would have been bored to tears, this girl who finished six years of changing colleges and changing majors in an effort to extend her matriculation in an institution of higher learning — and socialization.

We, the boys and girls of the 19050s, believed that storks brought babies, that Santa Claus came down the chimney and that the tooth fairy put dimes under our pillows.

My daughter wouldn’t have bought any of that for a minute.

What had prompted her to think such a thing, I didn’t know. Maybe she’d watched a rerun of the television program, “Happy Days” or perhaps she’d heard Ricky Nelson, sing “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” on the oldies station.

But whatever it was that got her thinking about that idealistic time got me thinking, too.

The 1950s were the best of times and I’m very thankful that I grew up in those tender years.

And, yes, I wish my daughter and my sons and all the rest of the world could have grown up in the 1950s. I kind of think it would be a different world today if they had.

To say that the 1950s were a time of complete youthful innocence would be somewhat of a stretch, unless you don’t count the cherry bombs that mysteriously exploded in the commodes in the boys’ bathroom or snakes that somehow got loose in the science lab. Little things like that.

But the 1950s were simple and sweet times.

Why, we were just as happy as hogs in slop on Saturday nights, sitting around at Hazel’s Café eating burgers and fries or honking for curb service at The Hut and ordering an orange drink and a slice of lemon pie.

As girls, we swooned over James Dean at the walk-in picture show and mooned over Troy Donahue in “A Summer Place,” which had an extended run at the drive-in theater.

The drive-in, which was dubbed “the passion pit,” — and I don’t have a clue as to why — was a favorite gathering place for teenagers.

Most cars didn’t have air conditioning so instead of hanging the speaker in the car window, we’d just leave it on the post and sit on top of the car to watch to the picture show, which was usually about outer space. Back then, boys were interested in space ships and aliens.

Sock hops in the school auditorium were Friday night events, especially during football season. The girls sat on one side of the auditorium and the boys on the other. The music came from a record player that was prominently placed in front of the stage and 100-year-old teachers with eagle eyes and wagging tongues kept watch over their “broods.”

In an effort to keep from being wallflowers, girls danced with girls. Bitterweed boys just stayed in the bathroom waxing their flattops until the music stopped.

The last dance at every sock hop was “Red Sails in the Sunset’ by every girl’s heartthrob Tab Hunter. When that record came on, we knew it was the last dance of the night and it was “our song” of every couple in puppy love.

Most afternoons were spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries or drawing hearts and arrows in the margins of our writing tables while listening to the Troy radio station that took mail-in requests and we had plenty of them.

Drugs stores, cherry Cokes, bobby socks, starched petticoats, jukeboxes, white kid belts, penny loafers, the Everly Brothers, Tommy Sands, Fats Domino, the Hangout at Panama City Beach, the Big Bam Shows, glass packs, mirror dice, fender skirts, drag racing, skating rinks, playing “Penny” and “Spin the Bottle” and cars that you could actually distinguish from one another were all part of growing up in the 1950s.

As simple as they were, the 1950s were the best of times, at least for those of us lucky enough to have lived them.

But I still don’t know what my daughter was thinking.

 

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