Lost in memories of the 50s

If baby boomers are full of anything at all, it is memories (and hold your tongue if you were going to say anything else!). Which is why we like this piece by Redondo Beach, California writer Erin O’Brien. She might be one of the younger boomers, but she is Lost in the 50s.

I might have seen it in a movie. Or maybe I asked my mom and dad. I sure thought I knew an awful lot about the 50s, but I wasn’t even there!


I was infatuated with that time period, though, and loved to look at Dad’s ’55 and Mom’s ’56 senior high school yearbooks. Mom even let me wear her letterman sweater to school for 50s Day.

Some things I remember very well, like 15-cent McDonald’s hamburgers, (well, they were 20-cents when I was in grammar school), metal roller skates, TV dinners, Woolworth’s, Mad comic books, drive-in movies, and 45-rpm disc adapters for turntables trickled down to the 60s.

t-birdGrandpa O’Brien had a white T-bird with red interior and that little round window in back. I was only three-years-old, on my mom’s lap in the back seat, but I thought a round window was pretty odd.

My mom had Blue Chip Stamp books with the little squirrel on the front, and my siblings and I took turns licking the stamps and sticking them perfectly in the rectangles in the booklet. It seemed a shame for my mom to relinquish the book for a purchase when finally every page was filled.

Erin O'Brien

Erin O’Brien

I was an expert at playing jacks (up to “twelvesies”) and my friend Elaine had Sea Monkeys, and we were disillusioned when my dad claimed they were just brine shrimp.

There were those air raid drills, because ducking under our school desks at the sound of the siren would certainly protect us from nuclear fallout.

Some of the people who belonged to the 50s I recognized from pictures — the beautiful Marilyn and handsome James Dean — or from reading about them — Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, Joseph McCarthy, and the Rosenbergs.

“I’m going to miss the 60s,” I worried aloud to my mom one summer vacation. We were running out of them — just a few more to go. Then it would be the 70s — fear of the unknown!

[Someone has produced a nostalgic video of iconic images of the 1950s …]

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  1. I was born in 1950. Your post brought back so many memories of my childhood. It was a time in America filled with hope and promise, and yes, change. The civil rights movement was taking shape and America was now, after World War II and the Korean police action, the leader of the free world. Vietnam was not yet on people’s minds, and the nation was booming. What a time to be growing up what with television replacing the radio, automobiles available to many as well as homes for returning GIs. And as you reminded us it was a time of the “15-cent McDonald’s hamburgers,… metal roller skates, TV dinners, Woolworth’s, Mad comic books, drive-in movies, and 45-rpm disc adapters…” You bought a smile to my face this morning for it was indeed, at least for many of us, a wonderful time to be a child growing up. Thank you so much for the memories.

    1. One of my favorite old photos is one my dad took of my mom, sitting on the hood of his yellow and white ’55 Chevy Bel Air. It captures those idyllic days!

  2. One of my favorite family photos shows my mom & dad in Sacramento’s Capitol Park, circa 1952. My older brothers were born in the mid 1950s. I knew a lot about the 50s from my parents & their friends. But the real 1950s nostalgia kicked in with American Graffiti & Happy Days & Grease. In high school (1975-79) each day of Homecoming Week had a theme. And no day that week was more popular than “50s Day.”

    ♡ this piece & all of Erin OBrien’s writing. Thank you for another trip down memory lane. 🙂

  3. Nice! I remember that all of our vegetables seemed to come out of the can or a frozen bag. Always corn, peas, lima beans (yuck) and the mixed stuff. Odd given that I grew up in CA where all these fresh veggies are grown. I still love canned corn though.

    Thanks for writing this Erin!

  4. Well written, Erin! Loved hearing about your family and the vivid memories that evolved. One great place to see iconic items that you remembered enshrined for all to see is the Ford Museum (a.k.a. Greenfield Village) in Dearborn, MI. I think that you would really enjoy the trip!

  5. Reading your article was like browsing through an antique shop in my head! We are about the same age, and I grew up in CA too. So your memories are my memories! Thank you for sharing and taking me back in time!

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