Friday, April 28, 2006

Poodle Skirts and Polio

Life seemed simple and innocent in the 50's, didn't it? Most moms stayed at home while the fathers worked and it was still safe to play outside all day and sometimes into the night without checking in at home unless you were hungry. I think many of us, the baby boomers, look back wistfully the simplicity of life back then but if you think really, really hard about it, was all of it really that good?

If you were an unmarried, divorced, or widowed woman back then you absolutely couldn't expect to be paid the same as a man even if you were fortunate to be hired to an equal position. The labor ratio for male/female was 5/2 and married women who insisted on working were considered to be less a true woman since they weren't available to care for their husbands as well as a wife who didn't work. Minimum wage was a whole $1 (that hasn't changed much).

Polio killed almost 12,000 of our children in the 50's before a vaccine was available nationwide to stop it.

Many families had bomb shelters and there were pamphlets distributed to tell us how to survive radiation fallout.

People of color had few or no rights and couldn't drink from the same fountain, attend the same public school, or sit in the same dining room as a white person. More than 50% of black families back then were below the poverty level.

Spousal abuse, including spousal rape, wasn't considered a crime.

Many human subjects, a lot of them uninformed minorities, elderly people, persons with mental retardation, terminal patients, and prison inmates were used in experiments involving radioactive materials which have led to today's treatments for cancer and for diagnostic tools. In the 50's these experiments weren't as strictly regulated by the US government as they are today.

I turned 5 during the last year of the 50's so I really only remember the carryover of many of these events into the 60's but I think life was probably better then because we never actually knew much about this stuff going on until we heard about it as adults. These days we're bombarded instantly with so much of the worst in the world that we're becoming immune to it.


Mary Lou said...

Hey! You fixed it~~~

Andie Pandie said...

And also? The Earth hadn't gone to pot so much. However, speaking from a female point of view, if I myself had to live during that time imagaine how hard that would have been? At least (even if they seem to be getting taken away again) women now have a bit more freedom and some rights.

Sally said...

I just found this post!

Yep, everything you said is true. In some ways it was better, and in some ways not. Personally, I think I would have liked living in the early part of the 1900's instead of in the middle.

I know my mom resented my father for not wanting her to work outside the home. I think it's good when a choice is given. And, Brenda, you're so right about the news. I hate to say this, but I actually try to avoid listening too much. It seems the gorriest of gory turns people on these days, or, at least the news people think it does. I know we need to keep up to date with what's going on in the world, but Lord have mercy, it's hard to find a 'good' story. And, television, pffft; if it isn't violence, it's sex, bad language. Makes me sick. Sorry didn't mean to go on & on.

Attila The Mom said...

What a really fabulous summary!

I was talking to my little guy the other day, and he wanted to know if I had a CD player when I was a kid.

I explained about the original Walkmans, and then we went through a whole list--fax machines, DVDs, Cable television. It's endless!

Makes me wonder what new innovations will be on the horizon 10 years from now.

I love your blog!

MissKris said...

I'm so glad you were able to recover your original site! I caused a glitch in mine several months ago where I thought I'd lost mine forever, too, and I was literally sick in my soul. Congrats!!! I have a half-uncle who was one of the last people in Washington State to contract polio..he was 12 years old so that was around 1963. What a devastating disease!! It pretty much ruined him for life, emotionally as well as physically. I am so thankful so many of the issues you touched on here in this entry have changed. We could still come a long way, baby...but we've done a lot of changing just in the past 40 years, haven't we? Hope your weekend's going well, Brenda...I hope you have some kind of notification to help you find this comment, lol! I'm a day late and a dollar short...typical for me, lol!