Students learned best by drilling and repetition. Diving under our desks and covering our heads with our arms would protect us from a nuclear attack. In the 1950's the fear of Russia’s power was as real and accepted as the sun rising in the east.
Children of the Lone Ranger and Popeye years grew up under a cloud of other beliefs that shaped our lives. We were eating the best apples ever produced with the help of DDT and arsenic. We couldn’t drink coffee because everyone knew it would stunt our growth, while smoking cigarettes was chic and cool, one of those things adulthood held as a carrot to a rabbit. Most of us lived in second-hand smoke without a single thought for our health, but we didn’t swim for an hour after eating.
Like every decade, the 50’s pushed and pulled us in directions guided by shared truths. It was a time when packaged and canned foods were considered a boon to contemporary families. We knew our doctors held all the answers. They were, in fact, responsible for our well-being. Though teenagers rebelled, gyrating, moving hips were generally considered a threat to public morality and banned from family television.
In a time when I was keenly aware of living with unprecedented modern conveniences and snickered at my grandmother’s admonitions about tomatoes eaten with milk poisoning me, I didn’t stop to consider the umbrella of beliefs during my childhood. Looking back, I’m fascinated by the truths shaping the choices of people in the 1950’s. Sitting with my laptop in a new era, I find it great fun to consider the bits of wisdom my grandchildren will look back on with snickers and fascination.
Notes along the way... Jeanne McElvaney
If you would like to share on Facebook, click "Like".