Childhood in the 1950's

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I was born in 1953. Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's was much different from today.

First, most mothers did not work outside the home. I know today that many mothers have to work outside the home because of necessity, including myself. But it did seem that homelife was more calm, organized, and structured when Mother was at home. We had regular, home cooked meals. She had a daily schedule for laundry, ironing, housework, baking, and sewing. Every week she made home-made cookies, pies, and cakes. She had time to sit and talk with us, to make us clothes, and to sew clothes for our dolls. She also had time to be a Sunday School teacher and a Brownie Scout leader.

Because my dad worked long hours in management, my mother took on a lot of the outside work, too. She would mow in the summer, and rake and burn leaves in the fall. The area in which we lived in Ohio had formerly been a forest, so there were still plenty of trees. It was delightful to help rake up all those leaves into big piles and then run and jump into them. Then, of course when we were done playing, we would help rake them into piles again. We had a big yard, almost an acre. My mom and dad would rake the leaves and transport them by wheelbarrow to the end of the yard. Then they would spend the better part of a day burning the leaves. That was allowed in our area. Everyone did it.

Toys in the 1950's and 1960's were more simple and yet we had hours of fun. My sister and I had plenty of dolls that ranged from baby dolls to Barbie dolls. Barbie dolls were fairly new. We had the original pony-tail Barbie's with the black and white striped swimsuit. The outfits would come in packages complete with shoes and accessories. The outfits even had names, like "Enchanted Evening". However, the outfits were very expensive, so my mother, who was a skilled seamstress, made oodles of clothes for them. She said it was easier to make clothes for us than those tiny Barbie doll clothes. But they were much nicer than what we would buy in the stores. Sometimes they matched our dresses, because they were made from leftover scraps from clothes she made us.

Other popular dolls of the era were Chatty Cathy, Thumbelina, and Shirley Temple. We also played a lot with cut-out or paper dolls. We had almost as much fun with those as with real dolls. In a way they were even more versatile. These dolls would come in delightful, colorful pocket folders. You would cut out the cardboard dolls and paper clothes, and then the folder would transform into a house or room. It would already be decorated like that when you bought it. When we wanted more paper doll clothes, we would simply trace the pattern on more paper and design and color them any way we wanted them to look. The clothes had little paper tabs that would fold over the dolls and hold them on.

Stuffed animals were a big part of our toy collection. My dad was a toy-buyer for a large department store. He would go on buying trips to New York City. So of course, we were always well supplied with toys of every kind! Everyday, after our beds were made, we would arrange our stuffed toys on them just right. We also slept with them at night.

When we lived in Ohio, we had a spacious, warm basement. My sister and I spent hours down there playing, especially on cold winter evenings and Saturdays. I remember turning the card table on its side with the legs out. We would pretend it was a car. We would put our dolls behind us in the card table and pretend to be driving them to school and dance lessons and various places.

We had only black and white televisions. By the time I was about nine years old, some of the neighbors started getting color TV's. But they had very poor color quality, a lot of green and yellow. Yet they were thrilled to have a real color TV! Some of our favorite programs were the Flintstones (a new show!), Fury, My Friend Flicka, Howdy-Doody, Beanie and Cecil, The Jetsons (another new show), and Felix the Cat. We also watched episodes of Spanky and Our Gang. They were old shows even then. Tarzan was another favorite.

It's fun to walk down memory lane into your childhood. The ways of life that seemed so normal then are a treasure now. The fifties were sort of a golden era, a prelude to the tumultuous sixties.

Credits: Inez Haythorn

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