The 1950’s: True or False?

Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

Hi folks, this is Retro Dee and today we’re going to take some ideas from the 1950’s and find out if they’re:

True or False?

All right, folks. When people start talking about the 1950’s era, there is a lot of information that might or might not be true. The 1950’s were long enough ago to become something of a misunderstanding, if you will. The further away we move from a time period, the more the truth gets skewed. So here are 30 True or False topics about the Best Era Ever which I’ve done my best to get accurate. Enjoy!

Babies were born at home in the 1950s.

False. Most babies were born in hospitals by the 1950’s.

A candy bar was only 5 cents in the 1950’s.

True. Most candy bars only cost a nickel.

The toothpaste in the 1950’s was in powder form.

True. While toothpaste in a tube had already been invented, for the first part of the decade at least, people still used tooth powder from a can. In the later part of the decade, tubes of toothpaste became more common on the market.

Toothpowder ad

Most products that Americans consumed were made in the U.S.A. in the 1950’s.

True. Most factories produced American-made goods which helped boost the economy.

There was no such thing as color TV in the 1950s.

False. Color television existed, but was very, very, very expensive to own. Most shows were broadcast in black and white, however certain shows such as “The Perry Como Show” were shot in color as early as 1956. Of course, you had to have a color television to see it in color, otherwise it would be in black and white. If you had the cash, a color TV in the 1950’s would cost about $1,300 (which is the equivalent of $12K in today’s money)

There were no computers in the 1950s.

False! In 1956, IBM created a computer which could store up to 5 megabytes of information. It was about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide and required a forklift to move.

IBM’s 5 megabyte computer, 1956

There were no jet planes in the 1950s, and all planes had propellers.

True. Commercial planes looked basically like they do today, but did not run on jet fuel and had propellors in the front to help them fly. They were sometimes called “prop planes”.

They were terribly afraid of nuclear war in the 1950s.

False. Although the Cold War had begun and children in school did “Duck and Cover” drills, folks in general did not give much thought to war. WWII was over, and times were secure. Duck and Cover was nothing more than a routine fire drill to children.

In the 1950’s, all cats lived outdoors and caught mice to survive.

False. Many cats were kept as pets, the Siamese was the trendy breed of the era. There was even more than one brand of cat food on the market!

All young people wore saddle shoes in the 1950’s.

True. Saddle shoes aka oxfords were the go-to shoe for all young people, male and female in that era. If it wasn’t a special occasion or a Sunday, chances are, a young person was wearing saddle shoes.

Teenage girls in saddle shoes ca. 1950s

Teenage girls wore poodle skirts every day in the 1950’s.

False. Poodle skirts were for dancing at The Hop. They were not every day attire.

Girls and women were required to wear skirts or dresses to school and to church in the 1950’s

True. Skirts and/or dresses were required to be worn by females in both schools and church, this includes public schools. Pants were only for weekends, and very casual occasions.

There were no clothing sizes for overweight women in the 1950’s.

False. While “Plus Size” fashions were not called such, sizes went up to XXL to accommodate larger sized ladies.

Trendy boys’ haircuts were considered “improper” or even “delinquent” in the 1950s.

True. Boys who wore their hair in styles such as the “D.A.”, and the “Jelly Roll” were considered “bad boys”. These kinds of styles were equivalent to the mohawks that showed up on young men in later decades.

Examples of 50’s haircuts for boys

They did not know that smoking was bad for you in the 1950s (and everyone smoked).

True. Smoking was a social habit and practically all adults (and many teens) smoked. Most folks were not even aware that they were addicted to the nicotine! People didn’t begin to understand smoking’s ill effects on your health until the 1970s.

Rock N Roll was considered “The Devil’s Music”.

True. Conservative adults shunned and even banned Rock N Roll for its raucousness and blamed it for contributing to the delinquency of teenagers.

At Sock Hops in the 1950s, they actually took their shoes off and danced in their socks.

True. “Sock Hops” were said to have begun because they didn’t want to scratch the floor of the school gym. So teens would take their shoes off and dance in their socks.

Sock Hops were actually when teens danced in their socks.

There were no seatbelts in cars in the 1950s.

Mostly true. Although some automobiles offered seat belts by the mid-fifties, most consumers were blasé about using them.

There was no toilet paper in the 1950’s, they had to use newspaper.

False. By the 1950s, they had toilet paper. Gone were the newspaper-wiping days of the 1930s. Still, it was considered crass and crude to mention bathroom habits. Just the fact that people must use the bathroom was not generally talked about. Needless to say, the standard “bathroom humor” that so many juveniles love, just did not exist yet.

Butter was one of the food groups in the 1950’s.

True! Butter was one of the Seven Food Groups starting in the 1940s. This carried over into the 50’s. Make sure to have your recommended daily servings of butter every day!

They waited until marriage to have sex in the 1950’s.

True… and False. It was more than just ideal to wait for marriage, it was “right“. And in those days what was “right” was supposedly the norm in society… but it certainly wasn’t the case for everyone. Admitting to pre-marital sex could ruin your reputation in the 1950s, and a good reputation was everything in those days. So with those strict Gold Standards, it might be impossible to really know how many young people actually adhered to the rules.

A couple necks at the passion pit ca. early 1950s

They didn’t have condoms in the 1950’s.

Although the technical answer to this is “false”, you didn’t find condoms for sale on every corner like in the 90’s. Sex in the 50’s was a hush-hush topic. Teens were “supposed to” refrain from sex until they were legally wed. Therefore, condoms were difficult to even find.

There was no sex ed in the 1950s.

True. Talking about sex was tabu in those days. I’m not even sure how young people learned about “the birds and the bees”, but it certainly was not in the classroom.

Girls did not go to college in the 1950s.

False. While far less females attended college in those days, there were plenty of young women who got their college degrees in the 1950s.

Women in college ca. 1950s

In the 1950s, if you were not married by age 25, there was considered something terribly wrong with you.

True. This was especially true for women. The average age for marriage in the 1950’s was 21, although some teens wed when they turned 18, and if there was an “oopsie”, even younger!

All women were housewives in the 1950s.

False. While the typical woman of the 1950’s was more than likely a housewife, some women had to work, and some even wanted to! They had jobs like secretaries, waitresses, nurses and seamstresses. However, women in the 1950’s were not usually doctors or lawyers.

Married couples slept in separate beds in the 1950s.

True! What you see on the old TV shows was real. Married couples slept in separate beds. However, this never seemed to hamper their ability to produce big families. By the early 1960s, this began to change in the real world, although TV couples slept in separate beds until about 1969.

Lucy and Desi in separate beds: true to life in the 1950s.

“Damn” was a “bad word” in the 1950’s.

True. The simple word, “damn”, was considered a four-letter-word used only by sailors and delinquents and Rhett Butler when he was leaving Scarlett. It was not frequently used in society and considered crude and improper.

They didn’t have women’s feminine hygiene products in the 1950’s.

False. Kotex offered feminine napkins, with very limited advertising. Tampons technically existed but were not offered on the market at the time, making napkins the go-to solution. However, the entire topic was completely tabu and not usually discussed; even in private.

In the 1950’s, the voting age was 21.

True. Eddie Cochran was not lying when his congressman said he was “too young to vote.” The voting age didn’t get lowered to 18 until 1965.

Kennedy button for those under the voting age, 1960

So there you have it, folks. 30 True and False facts about the Nifty 1950’s!

If you liked this post, you can stay tuned for more posts about the 1950’s by following Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82

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