There are plenty of people out there who were born 30, 40, 0r 50 years after the 50s started, so let’s take a trip back to that time to take a look at what we might have missed. Public pools were the place to be, TV became the time-waster that it still continues to be, and so much more. We can see it all, and get a better appreciation for history at the same time.
Time for a Dip
If it was the 50s and you wanted to take a swim, then you didn’t actually have a whole lot of options. You could find the closest beach, sure, but who knows how far that is. The advent of the private pool in the backyard hadn’t happened yet, which meant that during the summer, kids would flock to the public pool.
According to this picture, you’d also get plenty of teens and adults, which meant that those pools had to be big enough to accommodate a whole lot of people. While the pool in this picture is huge, there are still plenty of people who are more than content to sit around the outside and sun themselves, just like today. They’re there to be seen, not swim.
Young Speed Demons
Do you know any kids these days that have gone into their garage and made their own go-karts? We can’t think of any. They might be able to recruit a parent or uncle to help them construct one, but in the entire neighborhood, that means there’s one go-kart. It’s no fun going go-karting unless you have a couple of friends beside you.
If you’ve ever seen a bunch of kids zoom past in homemade karts, then you’re one of the lucky ones. This picture, from June 1957 in Harlem, shows us that it was a much different time. Would there be space to do this kind of activity in today’s world? Would parents let their kids do something with so much danger without helmets? It seems like no.
Reading the Funnies
There are a couple of things to talk about in this picture. First off, yes, the comics section was far more robust back then. The comics themselves were larger, and they had a whole lot more real estate to work with, too. This pin-up girl is enjoying some Dennis the Menace, hidden almost entirely behind the comics section.
There’s no doubt she’s wearing something behind all that, but the placement of the paper makes one think she COULD be undressed – the closest such a picture could get at the time. She also has a very of-the-era pose, pointing her foot and moving it closer to the camera to show off her gams. The 1950s were all about the legs at the time. Those things tend to go in cycles.
Visiting the Panhandle
This little lady is going for a ride, hanging off the panhandle section of a “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign, and she looks plenty happy to be doing it. The panhandle makes up about one percent of the total population of Oklahoma, but it’s still one of its most famous features.
One of the biggest changes that we can see in this picture compared to today is the style of clothing that the gal is rocking – simple flats, long socks, long pants, and a shirt tucked in, as well as a short hairstyle (though we can’t see all of it). Most people who are out in the sun in such a place nowadays, especially women, are much more likely to go for less coverage in shorts or sandals, or tank tops.
Almost as Big as She Is
You don’t see a whole lot of children wearing a combination of high-ankle, lime green slacks, and a bright red long-sleeve shirt these days, especially while also sucking down a big milkshake on a wide city sidewalk. This tow-head (a person with very light blond hair) gal doesn’t seem to mind getting her picture taken, since she’s enjoying her treat and striking a dynamic pose at the same time.
We’re not sure exactly when or where this picture was taken, but based on the sign behind the picture’s subject, it could be in the city of Cobourg, which is found in Ontario, Canada. We found no evidence of something called “Cobourg Cafe,” but that’s our best guess.
Brace for Big Glasses
We see here a grinning office lady who is working hard in the marketing department of Merril Lynch in New York City. The company is still around, but I think we’re all glad that the lady’s style of spectacles has gone the way of the dodo. We know that there are still some people out there that throw them on when they need to read a telegram, but they’re just deluding themselves into thinking they look any good at all.
In addition, the way stock information is portrayed is now far different – no longer are piles and piles of very thin paper sent into the wastebasket at the end of each day – now it’s all electronic. A lot has changed, but we’re most glad about the glasses going out of style. They weren’t even flattering then.
When Ice Cream was King
One of the biggest changes that you’ll see when it comes to pictures that are this far-removed from our current time is how different people treated kids. This little tot is perched precariously on top of a picnic table, ice cream smeared down his or her front – all over the overalls, the skin, the face, and the table that provides a seat.
Obviously, letting a kid have a sweet treat isn’t something that a lot of parents will turn their noses up for these days, but outside on a picnic table, just letting the kid go at it? It feels like we’re missing a little something from our current world. Maybe we need to let kids get dirty and messy more. Maybe we need to let them cover themselves in ice cream.
The famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino was established in Vegas in 1946. This grand establishment, built under the supervision of infamous mobster Bugsy Siegel, marked the beginning of luxury accommodations in the region. Legend has it that the hotel was named after Siegel's girlfriend, who bore the nickname "Flamingo."
With its opulent amenities, lavish decor, and sprawling gardens, the Flamingo Hotel became an instant symbol of elegance and sophistication in Las Vegas. Its legacy continues to thrive, serving as a testament to the city's enduring allure as a premier destination for entertainment and leisure. And when a hotel is called "Flamingo," you know that guests are going to have at least some fun.
No Escape for Car Thieves
People who steal cars these days take them for a joyride and leave them smashed into a lamppost on the side of the road before making a break for it, but back in the 50s, it seems like things were a little different. We don’t know how someone took a picture of this event, of a New York City police chopper coming to rest on the ground as the thieves raise their hands high.
Obviously, police choppers are a common-enough thing nowadays, but back then it was probably a surprise to jack a car and then realize that a big metal bird was in pursuit. We, on the other hand, are a little surprised that the police actually brought out a chopper for this kind of event.
A Friendly Wave From Williams
We see here none other than Tennessee Williams, one of the foremost American playwrights of the 20th century. He’s responsible for such amazing plays (which almost always became movies in some way) as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” or “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” He’s standing on the deck of the USS Liberty, a technical research ship, in 1952.
We’re unsure why he’s on this ship, but at least he wasn’t there during June 8th, 1967, during which Israel mistakenly attacked the ship, believing it to be part of the Egyptian navy, with whom they were at war. Also, how many American playwrights have publicity photos taken aboard a part of the United States Navy? Especially dressed in such a heavy suit as Williams is. Not that many.
Home After a Long Journey
The young man we see here is named Kenneth Hallwhich, and he was at the tender age of seven when he collected all his worldly possessions and headed west to Fort Apache from Detroit in January of 1955. He had his clothes, a couple of toy guns, a toothbrush and hair brush, a teddy bear, a box of his favorite toys, and his bank book, which gave him access to a whole ten dollars and 50 cents.
He hopped on a bus headed from Detroit all the way to the mythical Fort Apache, but police stopped the bus to recover Kenneth before the bus left the city. He also had $65,000 in play money. He wasn’t running away from home – he just wanted to see the world.
Having Fun Away From the Movie Cameras
Of course, movie stars have always known how to have fun, but it seems that “fun” in 1954 meant something a little different for James Dean and Marlon Brando while they were filming “Désirée." In this film, Marlon Brando played none other than Napoleon Bonaparte, acting alongside Jean Simmons as the title character, who was a one-time fiancee to Napoleon.
James Dean was already a well-known actor at the time, which meant he had access to his friend Marlon, but he wasn’t part of the film. This picture was taken on December 31st, 1953, which meant that Dean was just a year and a half away from his untimely death behind the wheel. He only appeared in three movies before he passed away.
Eyeing the Prize
Have you ever played marbles? Do you know anyone who has? We don’t. But, back when this picture was taken, it was a game to play in the schoolyard after homework was done. And it was a big deal, too – if you were on the losing side, the players on the other team could pick a marble from your collection to add to theirs.
Grab your shooter (also known as a taw, aggie, boulder, Steele, king, or middleman) and try to knock all the other marbles out of the circle. If your shooter lands inside the circle, it can be knocked out for a quick end to the game. But that’s just one way of playing – there were endless variations of the rules that kids played, both friendly and ultra-competitive.
Facing the One-Armed Bandit
Las Vegas was another big event that occurred during the 50s – casinos, shows, gangsters and bright lights brought a certain kind of allure that it still has to this day. It landed hard with plenty of glitz and glamor, and fun for all ages, as long as you were old enough to drink and gamble.
We see a bunch of people enjoying the slots from 1959 in this picture, risking a penny a play to win a big prize of five whole dollars. Sure, that’s worth more than 52 dollars in today’s money, but it’s still a little low when you think of what a jackpot could be. And there’s a machine next to them that could give out 25 dollars! What a score!
The Classic Lovey-Dovey Shot
A pair of lovebirds are sitting across from each other at a small table, taking drinks of each other’s sodas, and it’s such a sweet shot that we can hardly bear to look at it. Soda parlors were a common gathering place for people of all ages during the 50s, and that of course meant happy couples who wanted to grab a drink.
Guys had short haircuts and girls had fashionable bobs, and none of them could keep their eyes off each other while they were partaking of some sweet substances. These two are practically dressed to the nines, so either they had planned a big date, or this was just how people dressed during the time. Either way, they look quite a bit better than most people these days.
Debra Paget, a renowned American actress, captivated audiences with her mesmerizing performances in films such as Cecil B. DeMille's epic masterpiece "The Ten Commandments" and Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." However, it was her daring and sensual snake dance in "The Indian Tomb" that solidified her status as an alluring screen presence.
Paget's talent and beauty earned her a remarkable accolade - she was once regarded as the woman who received more fan mail than the iconic Marilyn Monroe. This recognition speaks to Paget's immense popularity and the indelible impression she made on audiences around the world during the height of her career.
A Big Machine for a Big Job
As soon as people realized how handy cotton is for making clothes, it became one of the biggest crops that the world has ever seen. People will always need something to wear. The thing is, cotton is actually pretty difficult to harvest, needing either a whole lot of manpower or a continuously-improving series of technological advancements, such as the famous cotton gin.
This farmhand is working as a mechanical cotton picker and stripper, which is able to both harvest the raw cotton and separate the useful bits from the pieces that we can’t use in the clothes-making process. This kind of contraption was quite a handy little device, and though newer versions are much larger and have a lot more bells and whistles, this was a big step toward harvesting the right amount.
Entering the Golden Arches
Another big part of the 50s was the rise of the fast food industry, which began with what is easily the most famous option of them all, McDonald’s. This cheerful couple just can’t wait to get into one of those famous restaurants and grab themselves some burgers, fries, and shakes – which would only cost about 15 cents each.
Yes, obviously there was inflation, but forty-five cents then is still only about four-fifty now. For that much food, that still seems like a really good deal. No doubt this proper gent was also paying for his date’s meal, which means he had to shell out an entire dollar, but if it means getting a big smile from his number-one gal, no price was too high.
Partying in New Orleans
Yes, it seems that New Orleans has always been a party destination for people who really need to let loose before Lent begins. These gals are all dressed up in pirate outfits, masks, and even veils as they show off a little bit of leg and a couple of big smiles.
Sure, Mardi Gras might look a little different now compared to what was going on back in the 50s – a whole lot more beads being passed around now, we expect – but it was still quite the event, as anybody who visited at the time will tell you. Where else can you see a bunch of ladies that are dressed as sassy pirates? You might be able to come up with one or two, but this was the mother lode.
Ready to Roll
Betty Searle was a restaurant cashier during the day, but by night she was part of the group called the “Hell Cats,” at the roller derby in Harringay. Roller derbies first became popular in the forties as an active activity that you could do on your own or with friends. Searle might have been a jammer, which scores by lapping opposing blockers, while a blocker tries to hinder opposing jammers and clear a path for their jammer.
There’s also a chance she was a pivot, a special player who was one of the more experience on the team, a blocker who can be converted to a jammer during a special sequence. This sport is still popular in some circles now – take a look, because it seems pretty fun.
Up and Atom City
The post-World War II era ushered in a remarkable military boom for Las Vegas, as former military bases were repurposed into Cold War facilities. One of the most prominent installations was the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear tests were conducted. This unique circumstance created a surreal juxtaposition within the city. Hotel guests would occasionally witness mushroom clouds rising on the horizon, a stark reminder of the intense nuclear arms race of the time.
Postcards proudly proclaimed Las Vegas as the "Up and Atom City," capturing the spirit of the era. This unexpected fusion of the entertainment capital and the atomic age created a distinct identity for Las Vegas, intertwining themes of excitement, innovation, and the ever-present specter of the Cold War. It stands as a testament to the city's ability to adapt and thrive amidst the shifting tides of history.
They’re Here to Learn
With forty-one kids and two teachers, this classroom was enormous. Class picture day meant that you had to keep your outfit as nice as possible – avoiding mud, chewing gum, spitballs, and other kinds of nasty things. But, it looks like this class managed to make it in front of the camera without too much trouble. The little lads are in overalls and eye-catching ties, while the mini madams are in black shoes and dresses.
The teachers on either side also look quite pleased with themselves, seeing as how they managed to get almost everybody to smile at the camera without someone melting down. There are a few kids that can’t be bothered to show their pearly whites, but anything above 90% smiles is still pretty good.
The Mightiest of All Mice
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is practically an American tradition, seeing as how it got started in 1924 – that’s right, almost 100 years! While the kinds of floats and paraders that we see have changed with time, it seems to pretty much have been the same thing year after year, which is nice – not everything has to change so wildly. In this picture, we get to see one of the 1952 floats, Mighty Mouse.
He was a cartoon character trying to try and combat Mickey Mouse, and he had superpowers like flight, super strength, and more. He appeared as recently as 1988 in cartoon form. This parade also had eleven bands, 31 comedy acts, and 54 clowns, as well as 14 other floats.
Searching for Crumbs
The skyline of New York City is constantly changing, but even back in the 50s, there were plenty of huge buildings that would shock someone who lived even 100 years ago. Still, the legendary Central Park has plenty of space for little bridges, birds, and people who are brave enough to take a walk through the snow.
We see a big collection of pigeons trying to find something tasty to gobble down as a pair of people approach the other side of the bridge. Aside from the fact there might be a few more or fewer trees in the way, or the buildings might have changed, this is a scene that you should be able to see even if you went to Central Park today. Well, as long as it’s winter, anyway.
Grabbing a Dog for the Road
If you’re after a hot dog while you’re in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood, then there’s no more well-known option to visit than Tail o’ the Pup, a stand that has been active since 1946. The small, walk-up stand is a great example of what is called novelty architecture, and it’s one of the few surviving buildings from the middle of the 20th century that has the shape of the product it sells.
It’s also, without a doubt, one of the most famous. In 2006, the City of Los Angeles declared the stand a cultural landmark. It’s still open as of now, but the location has changed at least once, now being found in West Hollywood.
Already Bored of TV
To say that TV was an incredible addition to homes in the 50s is definitely to undersell it. It caused an enormous cultural shift. So powerful was the television before color came around that people started to dream in black and white! This picture, circa 1955, shows us that even back then it was easy for kids to get bored of shows that were geared more toward adults.
Still, at least one of them, on the far left, is keeping her attention on the screen. The other two look like they’d rather go outside and play. Three channels, and absolutely nothing on. Maybe they just wanted to face the camera or were deep in discussion about the merits of whatever program happened to be on.
Showing off the Best
Beauty pageants in one form or another have been held for centuries, but the familiar form of contests that we might know started to take shape in the 1880s, but they weren’t considered respectable until the advent of the first modern “Miss America,” which took place more than 100 years ago in 1921. Since then, these events have been huge draws for crowds of all kinds.
While nowadays the women are selected based on their state of residence, it seems like this picture has them separated by city, such as Detroit, New York, Baltimore, etc. That would end up being changed before too long, seeing as how people who didn’t live in a city didn’t have much of a chance to even enter the contest.
Racing for the Gold
There are all kinds of physical tests and competitions available for anyone who wants to compete nowadays, but there’s one specific competition that is and always has been king. All you need are your own two feet and a desire to go fast. Running – even more specifically, the legendary marathon – has long been seen as a way to prove who is the fittest.
It makes even highly-trained calves and quads quake once they’ve run their race. This picture is from the 54th Hopkinton Marathon in Massachusetts in 1950, and it’s right after the starting gun. Just because someone is out in front right at the start doesn’t mean they’ll stay there, though. It doesn’t matter what your starting speed is – after a 26.2-mile run, you’re going to be going slower.
Going for a Pull
Now, this looks like a rowdy bunch. Are they at a family reunion, full of soda, hot dogs, and potato salad? Maybe this is a work outing with the families of the employees getting together for some fun in the sun. Well, it’s a little closer to the latter, but you might be surprised to find out the exact workplace these people belong to. This is none other than the Republican Assembly of California having a picnic on the eleventh of August, 1951.
We can see Wayne Van Buskirk, Steadman G Smith, Lieutenant Governor Goodwin J Knight, Judge Frederick F Houser, and many more. It seems a bit strange to see people from so high up in the government palling around on the lawn like a bunch of kids, but things were different then.
Preaching From the Pulpit
After World War II, there were quite a number of people who were looking for more in their lives. They felt called to a higher power, and none other than famous evangelist Billy Graham was going to tell them all the details. Graham was world-renowned for the huge events that he put up in order to spread the word of God from 1947 until his retirement in 2005!
He’s been named one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, and it’s without a doubt that he spread it to more people than anyone else in the history of the world. He legitimized presidents, turned Christians against racial injustice, and brought prestige to civic events. Even after his death in 2018, his organization continues its work.
Getting Dressed for a Ride
French actor Jean Claudio is seen here throwing on a jacket before jumping onto his 1950 Triumph Thunderbird and racing over the hills of...well, actually, we don’t know where this picture was taken. Perhaps his native France, perhaps the wide ranges of California, outside Los Angeles. One way or another, he’s an addition to the absolute cool that some people of the decade were able to exude almost effortlessly.
Consider Marlon Brando, James Dean, and so many others that started dressing down and sending young ladies’ hearts aflutter all over the world. Jean Claudio, born in 1927 and died in 1992, was an actor with a long filmography, but he also wrote a number of novels and even published a collection of poems, showing us that cool can also mean artistic.
Queuing for Some Grub
There’s hardly a single thing about our civilization that you can point at and say “That’s exactly the same as it is now.” As a great example, let’s take a look at this cafeteria...from the United Nations. The UN is perhaps one of the most important organizations in the entire world, and you’d expect them to have a little bit of a better selection back then.
We’re sure there are all sorts of good stuff to stack on your plate now, but back in the 50s, it was a lot different. On the other hand, this picture is apparently from the temporary cafeteria at the Secretariat (the main building in New York City), so maybe they were working on putting the fancy one in at that point.
A Different Kind of Royalty
If you’re wondering who these two fine ladies are, they’re Lillian Gish on the left and her sister Dorothy Gish on the right, holding the dog. If you’re unaware of them, then let us educate you. Lillian Gish was known as the “First Lady of American Cinema,” having enjoyed a career on the stage, in movies, and in television from 1912 – when movies were just getting started – until her retirement in 1987. Yes, that’s right, 75 whole years.
She lived just a few months shy of 100 years. Her sister Dorothy, while also a famous figure in her own right, just barely couldn’t reach the level of her older sister. Even about 60 years after their birth, both ladies look like stunners and have smiles to prove it.
Fun for the Little Ones
A “Kiddieland” was not exactly a franchise – instead, it was a general term for an amusement park made specifically for children. This picture, of a kid having fun and a dad wondering what his life has come to, is from the Kiddieland in West Hollywood, found at the spot where the Beverly Center Mall can now be located. During the 50s, it became incredibly popular, and one enterprising man took notice – his name was Walt Disney.
And it’s said that this little amusement park was the one that inspired him to create Disneyland. The names are quite similar, you have to notice that. Kiddielands peaked in the late 50s, but after that point, other forms of entertainment, such as television, became popular enough to make them less attractive.
A Kiss for All the Ones We Missed
Absence makes the heart grow fonder – that’s what they say, at least. If that’s the case, then this sailor (L.M. E Alex McFarland) and his girl (Dorothy Phillips) are going to be locking lips for quite a while. You see, McFarlane had been away for an entire year, on duty with the Royal Navy in the Persian Gulf area. When he returned, in May of 1957, Dorothy was waiting with bated breath.
We see them here in Devonport, getting back to what they do best. Back then, there was no internet, no satellites, and phones didn’t have the reach that they do now – meaning the only way these two likely communicated was via good old-fashioned hand-written letters. They’re something to keep for the grandkids, too.
A First Look at Lady Liberty
There’s nothing like returning home after a long trip, and that’s exactly what these American GIs are celebrating. They’ve been off fighting against those dirty commies in Korea, and now they get to take a trip home for Easter. The date is April 3rd, 1953, and they’re on the transport ship Gen. William Weigel, the first troopship to bring the fighting boys to New York straight from Korea.
That’s a long trip, even by today’s standards. It carried over 2000 GIs, and the scene when they landed was a gala event, attended by not only friends and family but also by some Broadway stars. Really, it’s clear that as soon as these gents saw the Statue of Liberty, they were celebrating. Even the other boats are celebrating.
Getting Ready for the Luau
If you travel to Hawaii nowadays, you might see a few people in grass skirts, but only because they’re putting on a traditional outfit for a party to give the tourists something special. But, maybe they were a little more common as everyday wear in 1955, when this picture was taken.
It was taken circa 1955, which is still four years before Hawaii entered the union, in 1959. So we get to see what it was like for this island nation before it even got a star added to the flag. The two younger gals are dressed in grass skirts and have floral garlands, known as leis, around their necks. The women in the back are wearing more sensible outfits, carrying an acoustic guitar and a ukulele.
The Haberdasheries Have Gone out of Style
Here’s a big difference that you might notice while looking at all these pictures. Compared to even the 1950s, we wear far fewer hats than in decades past. Sure, there are plenty of people who throw something onto their brow before heading outside even now – and there are even some people who are bringing back the classy styles of the 50s – but you have to admit that there aren’t as many people who wear hats these days.
Why is that? Cultural norms just shifted. In the 30s or 40s, it was practically unthinkable for someone to go out without a hat on their head. This picture is also from a New Year’s celebration, meaning a lot of those hats are there to keep people warm.
Crumbled Like a Tin Can
Kids, if you haven’t learned how to drive yet, or you’re just getting started, we have some advice for you. Never get into an accident with a train. Do you know that thing in movies where a car races a train to a crossing? Yeah, don’t do that. It won’t end up well for you. For example, in this picture, a car that appears to be a VW beetle has smashed into the back of a train car.
The car looks totaled, while the train car seems to have experienced no damage whatsoever. What’s worse, back in 1951 when this photo was taken, there were likely no seatbelts, airbags, or other now-commonplace safety features. We don’t like to think of how the people in the car are looking, but you can bet it isn’t very good.
Too Hard to Clean Up
Back before people started getting smart about it, there were things called ticker tape parades. This was when people would take ticker tape – the really thin paper that comes out of financial machines – chop it up into bits, and toss it out of high buildings as the parade went by.
Yes, it was hard to clean up, but once computers started being used in financial institutions, ticker tape disappeared in a hurry. Now, when people want to create this sort of effect, they use confetti. They also take waste office paper and chop it up, or use toilet paper that has gone through a paper shredder. We’re not sure what this parade is for, but it seems like an amazing one as it passes the Woolworth Building in New York City.
The Showboat Hotel
While many hotels in Las Vegas achieved resounding success, not every establishment experienced smooth sailing. The Showboat Hotel, which opened its doors in 1954 on the North End of the Boulder Strip, faced its fair share of challenges. Struggling to attract visitors due to its location, the hotel endured difficult years. However, a stroke of ingenuity turned the tide when they introduced an incredibly affordable breakfast deal that outshone their competitors.
This strategy resonated with local residents and led to a surge in popularity. Despite its brief resurgence, the Showboat Hotel ultimately met its demise and was demolished in 2005, leaving behind memories of a once-prominent but ultimately eclipsed chapter in Las Vegas' ever-evolving hospitality landscape.
Scanning for Fires
Indeed, Dalmatians have a long history as part of fire crews in America. They might just act as mascots these days, but back when fire carriages used horses, Dalmatians would not only bark at people outside the station to warn them that the carriage was going to be leaving, but they would run alongside the horses to protect them from other animals.
They also comforted the horses as they neared the fires – horses being not-so-keen to approach big blazes. Even once cars and trucks came into use, Dalmatians would sit in the trucks to guard possessions, as well as provide fun, companionship, and protection from rats at the firehouse. This dog, named Spanner, is seen riding with a pal sometime around 1954.
Still Ruling the Kitchen
If you know anybody under the age of 60 who had polio, then you know somebody very rare indeed. Polio was a destructive force to anyone who contracted it, and Mrs. Phyllis Chavez, in this picture, is no exception. She, as well as her daughter Geraldine, contracted the disease at the same time – it got so bad at one point that Phyllis delivered her child Bradley while inside an iron lung.
In this picture, taken in March of 1956, Phyllis demonstrates that she still knows her way around the kitchen despite being partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Let us tell you, it doesn’t matter what the situation was, a housewife in their 50s could do things in the kitchen that would wow you today.
Learning Their Way Around the Mouth
Dentists, since they are given reign of the entire mouth zone, have to learn their trade just like anyone else. Most people don’t have a trade that has to do with poking soft parts of your body with sharp tools and then wondering why it’s bleeding, so they have to go through even more school than most of us. This picture, circa 1955, shows how dentists get their hours in before going off and opening a private practice.
Lots of them, stuffed into a small room, working on a revolving door of patients that probably don’t have to pay as much. We assume that there are teachers going around to make sure molars aren’t getting ripped out without good reasons, but all in all, it looks like most of them are getting on fine on their own.
With the Wind in Her Hair
Betty Skelton Frankman Erde was both a land speed record holder and an aerobatics pilot who, during her long career of being the absolute coolest, would set 17 aviation and automobile records. She was the first woman to undergo NASA’s astronautical tests, like those given to the Mercury Seven astronauts. The astronauts, whom Skelton charmed immediately, referred to her as “7 ½.”
This picture shows her with the pedal all the way down at the Dayton Beach Road Course sometime in the late 50s. Betty also got into advertising, becoming a spokeswoman for Chevrolet. When she and her second husband lived in a retirement community in Florida, where most residents used golf carts to get around, Betty was still driving a bright red convertible.
Here Come the Cars
On May tenth, 1950, San Francisco changed forever. It was the day the now-ubiquitous railway cars were put into service. People are crowded into them for their maiden voyages, happy to be part of transportation history. As you probably know, San Francisco is hilly from one end to the other and beyond, meaning that people who wanted to walk from place to place were having a tough time of it.
Cars were chugging up and down winding, hilly streets, and people were sick of it. The city decided that cars running along the street on rails, like miniature trains, were the solution, and we guess it was since they’re still in use today. They’ve been around for a while now, so they don’t seem too special, but they were all the rage when they first arrived.
Warming up His Voice
If you’ve ever gone to an aquarium and caught a trained seal show, then you know how much fun they can be. The aquarium at Marineland, Florida, was one of the first to put on a show of this type, which featured an “educated porpoise.” As you might expect, as the porpoises aged out of the show they had to train up new ones.
One porpoise named Flippy is famous for being on postcards, but we’re unsure if this porpoise is Flippy. This picture was taken in 1955, while Flippy was around in 1965. Porpoises in captivity have been found to live in excess of 20 years at times, so it’s very possible they are one and the same.
Eating Good Outside
A lot of things have changed since the 50s, but it seems like there’s at least one thing that remains the same, and that is people love roasting marshmallows over a campfire. It makes sense, of course, since it’s easy to do, it’s fun, and even kids can be a part of it, as this picture shows us.
We don’t know if these little explorers were camping or just needed to get out of the house a little bit, but their minds are fully on their food. Hopefully, Mom back there is waiting with some Graham crackers and chocolate bars, or those marshmallows just aren’t going to be able to reach the best they can be.
Going for the Strike
Yet another big change in the culture during the 50s was the bowling alley. Bowling got its start long before properly-recorded history - perhaps even as far back as 7000 years ago. The first depictions of bowling seem to be from around 5200 BC in Egypt.
It went through plenty of changes before we reached the 50s, but it came to have ten pins, a smooth, heavy ball, and a long, oiled lane of polished wood. Since then not much has changed, and the popularity of bowling has risen and fallen. It was a huge event during the 50s as a fun activity for all ages, but then it became a game for old fogies. Now it has a certain middle ground.
Home on the Range
Huge cacti, a couple of horses, and some big hats tell us one thing for certain - we’re out west, pardner, and we have miles to go before we get back to the ranch. These cowboys and girls are setting up camp for the night, getting out some marshmallows, and preparing for some chow. They can’t rely on the chuck wagon while they’re this far afield, but it looks like they know what they’re doing.
They look fairly well-dressed to be authentic cowpoke, which means they’re probably city folk out to get some fresh air and sunshine in God’s country. There are two gals and three guys in view - is one of the guys going stag? Of course not - his date is taking the picture.
Nothing Like a Good Stretch
Yoga as a practice has been around for a pretty long time - at the very least it’s 5000 years ago, but some researchers believe it’s as old as 10,000 years. There’s a whole lot to it, but most of us just know it for the stretching regimen that bears the same name.
In this picture, a couple of students are warming up at the Indra Devi Yoga Studio in Hollywood, California - a place that has been under the control of Yoga ever since it first took off during the 1950s. It was not only a way to exercise and forget about the stressors of the day, but people also used them as a sort of club - a place to meet others and socialize.
Swing Those Hips
If you’ve never come across a hula hoop before, then you might be surprised at just how big these things were. And we mean that physically, too, since they could range in size from a few feet across to more than a dozen - though of course, the bigger ones take more strength.
A little lad like this one is still working on mastering the basic version, which requires moves that might not come naturally to everybody. Trust us, it isn’t as easy as it looks. This kid, complete in jean overalls, is still coming to grips with a motion that will keep the hoop in the right spot.
Taking out the Trash
Just because we’re more than 70 years on from the start of the 50s doesn’t mean that we aren’t producing any less garbage. Some might even say that we’re producing a whole lot more. This picture has a garbageman dumping out a bin into the back of his truck, making sure those streets stay clean and his customers stay happy.
The trucks have gotten bigger, the bins have become more numerous, and the cities have become busier, but other than those superficial things, not a whole lot has changed about this very important service. Well, okay, maybe the outfits have become a little less classy, but they’re dealing with trash all day, what are we supposed to do about it? Sometimes function beats form.
There Was No Time Like It
There are tons of superficial differences to look at when it comes to this picture - the uniforms for the Navy (or whatever group these guys belong to) look super different, and they probably wouldn’t let their crewmen fish over the side too much, but let’s look a little deeper. This guy is hoisting a huge fish in one hand, a lung dart dangling from his lip and a pack of cigarettes rolled up into his right sleeve.
He seems like your regular tough guy from the 50s until you notice the book stuffed down his pants. What was he reading during the off-hours, do you think? A little bit of Hemingway, perhaps? “Old Man and the Sea?”
Working on Her Tan
Even today, if you want to make sure you get your daily dose of Vitamin D and some fresh air, there are few places better than the beach. The 50s were when the bikini really started to take off, which meant that everybody was able to get as much sun as they could have wanted after just a few hours.
This gal is giving her biggest grin to the camera while soaking up the rays, looking like a grown-up Coppertone girl the way she doesn’t seem to care about the sun. With a brilliantly white smile, cherry-red lips, and sun-bleached hair, we can bet that she was the kind of gal that was always making guy friends.
Tossing the Pigskin
Long before he declared that he was not a crook, Richard Nixon was an up-and-coming politician who was at the head of many bodies. This picture shows him throwing the football around with a couple of kids and their parents - but this isn’t just any family.
The boy on the far left is Andrus Suritis, the one-millionth refugee that was relocated due to an international welfare organization. In an attempt to celebrate this momentous achievement and get a good photo op at the same time, Nixon invited reporters into his office at some point during the 50s to capture this image.
A Picture of Sound
On June 20th, 1950, FK Harvey did something that must have seemed like the realm of fiction to onlookers - he made sound become visible. Well, sort of. He demonstrated the focusing of an acoustic lens on sound waves being emitted from the horn on the left, which in some way made them visible to the naked eye. We think he also used some light. That sounds like it makes sense.
The 50s had a whole lot of amazing advances - satellites were launched, computers got closer to being useful for the world at large, and people could even see sound waves. Truly a brave new world. We don’t know what visible sound waves could help with, but there must have been something.
Slow and Steady
It doesn’t matter what decade it is - in some places, there’s just too much snow. If you happened to live in Idaho during the 50s, then you probably had to deal with something similar to this picture a couple of times - especially if you lived in the mountains.
Even if plows were actually able to reach you, they’d only be able to clear a certain amount before the snow got too big and heavy to move around, which means it was slow and single-file until you got to better conditions. How long was that going to take? Well, we hope you don’t have a train to catch, let’s put it that way. On the other hand, the people inside that first car don’t look like they’re too upset. Maybe this is exciting for them.
Looking Through the Files
If you’re trying to figure out what this young office lady is using, it’s the very distant progenitor of the device you’re using to read this article. It’s an IBM 650 Data Processing System, the very first mass-produced computer. It’s not just the odd switchboard-esque front piece the woman is using, it’s the entire box surrounding it, too.
Just how much power and space did these things possess? Well, accessories for the machine included up to four disk units, each holding an absolutely WHOPPING…6 megabits of data. Not megaBYTES, megaBITS. There are about eight megabits in a megabyte, which means each of those disks wasn’t even large enough to hold a single megabyte. Back then, however, that was a whole lot of space to use.
He Knows How to Rule the Court
Going to the Harlem Globetrotters has always been a good time, but back when they got started they were a huge hit. People flocked to their “games” in droves - even though everybody knew that they weren’t actually going to see a real competition between two teams. This picture has Globetrotter Robert Hall in 1956, showing that he has the skills to dribble with any part of his body.
And don’t think that he won’t be dribbling with each and every part of his body during one of these fun performances. You never know what you’re going to get when you go to a Globetrotters game, but you can be sure it won’t exactly be a fair game.
We’ll Play Ball Wherever We Want
It seems like a bad choice to play baseball right in front of a big tour bus, but that’s what Duke Ellington and his friends think is best, and who’s going to argue with them? Well, the people that run hotels are going to argue with them.
You see, while they were traveling through the south, they found that a lot of hotels were still segregated - they wouldn’t let the black band members, such as the famous Duke himself - stay for the night. In an odd way of protesting these places, the band would split into teams and play a little bit of ball in front of the hotels. As you can see from the picture, it certainly got people’s attention.
Going All Kinds of Buggy
Before the 50s, jitterbug dancing was said to be the original version of swing dancing. It more or less grew into a catchall term for dancers that had fast, bouncy movements, or anybody that is a swing dancer. These dancers were seen putting on their best moves at some point during the 50s, and they are really letting loose.
Jitterbug is also synonymous with the lindy hop dance, but it can contain a whole lot of other elements, including jive, east coast swing, collegiate shag, charleston, balboa, and plenty more. This dance craze started to flourish once dance halls started to desegregate. The first use of the term jitterbug comes from the Cab Calloway song of the same name. It was fast, it was energetic, and it was fun.
The Only Place to Get New Sounds
If you want to find some new music now, there are lots of places to do it. You can go to Spotify, or iTunes, or hit up your favorite music blog. During the 50s, they had none of that, which meant that there was only one place to buy something new - the record store.
You couldn’t even hit the record button with a blank cassette in the recorder while listening to the radio, since they didn’t have blank cassettes or even recorders yet. No, if you wanted to listen to your favorite song on repeat you had to get a vinyl from the store and hope that the store wasn’t out of the hottest tracks. As you can see, the record stores were a hip and happening place to be.
We couldn’t tell you exactly what was going on here, but we can try. We’re told this is Marilyn Allen, the “Mairmaid,” who is sporting some long fins, a breathing tube, some big goggles, and a camera. Yes, we’re told it’s Mairmaid and not Mermaid, but we couldn’t find any other information about it and spent quite a bit of time looking.
If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say that this woman is in an aquarium or something like that, taking pictures of the people who are looking at her from the other side of the glass. No, it might not make a lot of sense, but that’s the best we can come up with.
Looking for Old Treasures
If you were at the famous Coney Island amusement park during the 50s and you misplaced something, you were taken to a magical place - the lost and found department. There, you might not only be able to discover the things you had misplaced but a whole lot of other fun stuff, too.
In this pic, a young lady is being led inside by a security guard, a man who, dollars to donuts, was in World War II, and now works as a security guard at an amusement park. Is the little girl lost, and that’s where she needs to stay until someone comes to find her? Or is she after something that got lost among the shuffle of feet and sand at Coney Island?
They Like Ike
Dwight D. Eisenhower wasn’t just a man who was in the army – he was the man in charge of everything. Like...he was all of it. He was elevated to the post of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Everyone, from a private GI to the generals, reported to him. He planned the attack on Normandy in June 1944 under the codename Operation Overlord, still perhaps one of the largest military events the world has ever seen.
Once he had helped to bring home the W during World War II, he decided that his next step was to be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, and ran for president. Eisenhower was president for most of the 50s, from 1953 until 1961, and these two gents look pleased with the prospect.
Time for Supper
No, we aren’t looking at a rudimentary X-ray – this is a picture of a living, human student “feeding” a fake person that is called a transparent man. It’s during an engineering and fine arts day at the University of Pennsylvania during the 50s. This display was devised to show how a number of the body’s systems work together, such as the digestive system, the lungs, and the circulatory system.
Nowadays there are easier ways to show how all of these very intricate things work and in greater detail thanks to computers and the internet. Even if you were specifically looking for pictures, it’s simple to find an explanation of the digestive system, for instance, by just going to Google. Before that, it took things like this to give people a better look.
Hammocks are Forever
Of course, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to set up a picture like this these days, but the framing still has a certain 50s quality to it. Maybe it’s the style of the bathing suits, maybe it’s the fact that the camera isn’t shoved up into these ladies’...finest qualities, but it seems a little simple and a little less cynical than so many things we see these days.
If you want to take your relaxation to the next level like they have, you’re going to need a hammock or three and a couple of friends. Actually, how did they get up there? Hammocks are notoriously bad at helping people climb, so maybe there was a ladder that is now off-camera. Or there was a boat or something.
Way More Important Than You Might Think
There were tons and tons of incredible scientific advancements that happened during the 50s to make our lives a lot easier, and this picture is showing us one of them. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s only the wonderful little thing known as cellophane. American Scientist Hale Charch was hard at work developing a cellophane film that would resist mold, block water and would come apart easily.
Just like every development of this kind, it took some time, but eventually, cellophane entered the market and immediately became a lifesaver for a lot of people. You might be familiar with cellophane tape, but how many times have you needed to save it for later and wrapped it in cling wrap? It all came from cellophane, even if we have gone beyond it by this point.
All right, all right, roll your tongues back into your heads. Yes, there’s a little bit more skin than you might be expecting in this picture, but it’s for an important reason – everybody has to bathe once in a while, even during the dirty, dirty decade known as the 50s.
We don’t know why this young woman is sitting in a tiny tin tub and not in, you know, an actual bathtub since we know that those were around during the 50s, but maybe they had a good reason for it. Maybe the dog had just taken a bath. We thought that maybe this picture was from a country that might not have gotten to the latest in bathtub tech yet, but we’re told this picture is from New York City!
The Maid of the Future
In the 50s, they assumed that the future was going to be flying cars, bubble homes, and electronic servants. Well, we’re working toward that last one in little steps, but the other two we’ve barely gotten close to. We guess someone could make a bubble home, but they would be pretty expensive.
As for this robotic helper, it’s being controlled by its creator, Harvey Chapman, as it runs an electric soldering iron in 1953. People were really excited about the prospect of using robots to get all the housework done, and while there are plenty of those machines on assembly lines, they aren’t exactly found in the home. Sure, we have waffle irons and coffee makers and things like that, but nothing like Rosie from “The Jetsons.”
Making Sure it’s Done Right
That isn’t just any tree that is being put up for the holiday season – it’s the gigantic tree that is always the center of attention at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. And that isn’t just any big elderly man in a red-fur velvet...it’s Santa Claus himself! This picture is from December 5th, 1951, just as the colder months were starting to really set in and people were beginning to figure out what they were buying for their loved ones.
By the time the tree was all set up, it would be one of the biggest and best things that a person could see in the city of New York. Truly, is there anything more spectacular than seeing an enormous Christmas tree decorated to the nines?
Caught in the Water
The 50s weren’t all sock hops and soda parlors. Just like any period of life, it wasn’t perfect, and this picture is a terrifying reminder that you can have all the short buzz cuts you can, but you still might get caught in the flooding. We see a man carefully climbing out of his car through the window in order to avoid flooding – all that water is due to heavy rainfall that was cleaning out the New York streets.
It’s from July 25th, 1953, and it’s one of those things that will never really leave us. No matter what decade we’re in, we’re going to have to deal with what the weather gives us. At least now we have a more robust sewer system to handle rainfall of this amount.
They Need to Refresh Themselves
Why yes, that is a bunch of babies drinking milk through straws that are attached to the world’s largest bottle of milk (or it’s at least quite a bit larger than most bottles, anyway). If you’d like to know WHY this is happening, we can help you out a little bit. This picture was taken on August 8th, 1953, after something that was known as a “Diaper Derby” or a baby race.
This was a common sight in a lot of places starting in the 1930s – you’d likely see it at a county fair or at halftime shows during basketball games. The rules were (and are, since this still goes on) simple – the first baby to cross the finish line wins. Afterward, of course, they were parched from their exertion, so they got to crowd around the milk bottle and take a well-earned drink.
Queen of the Jungle
You’ve never seen a lady with this much ‘tude at your local beach, but that's for a good reason. First off, we’re pretty sure it isn’t allowed to have a leopard out in public, even if it is on a leash. It’s just flirting with disaster, is the thing.
Also, that woman is actress Gene Tierney, who is adding insult to injury for her pet by wearing a bathing suit that is either made from a member of his species, or it’s designed to look like it. Acclaimed for her great beauty, Gene Tierney was a leading lady behind the camera and on the stage, and we like to think it’s because she showed up to every audition looking like this. Who, exactly, was going to turn her away?
The Moulin Rouge
This photo captures the essence of 1950. This iconic establishment of the Moulin Rouge hotel radiated elegance and allure. The photo transports viewers to an era when the United States was undergoing significant social change. The Moulin Rouge, as the first integrated hotel-casino in Las Vegas, played a pivotal role in breaking prejudice barriers during a time of segregation.
It symbolized unity and progress, welcoming guests from diverse backgrounds to revel in its opulence. As a landmark of the era, this image encapsulates the pioneering spirit of the Moulin Rouge and the cultural transformation taking place in the United States during the 1950s.
College of Gambling
The College of Gambling became a prominent institution during this era, offering specialized courses to aspiring casino dealers. In these classes, students honed their skills in handling dice, mastering the art of throwing them with precision and control. With Las Vegas experiencing an unprecedented surge in tourism, the demand for skilled casino personnel skyrocketed.
As people from all walks of life flocked to the city for a chance at employment, the College of Gambling provided a gateway to lucrative careers in the fast-paced world of casinos. The dice gambling class symbolized the dedication and professionalism required to excel in the industry, fostering a culture of excellence among dealers who would go on to become integral figures in the development of the Las Vegas entertainment empire.
Aerial View of Las Vegas
Captured from an aerial perspective, this remarkable photograph shows a bygone era when Las Vegas was still in the nascent stages of its transformation. In this tranquil snapshot, the city exudes an air of anticipation, as if on the cusp of a remarkable evolution. The landscape showcases the vast potential that lay before it, yet to be fully realized. Looking at this image, one can almost sense the city gaining momentum, its burgeoning resort industry poised to become a defining characteristic.
It serves as a poignant reminder of the captivating allure that drew countless visionaries and dreamers to this desert oasis. This aerial view encapsulates the essence of an era when Las Vegas was on the precipice of greatness, poised to become the iconic symbol of glamour and excitement that it is renowned for today.
Evel Knievel, the legendary daredevil, remains an emblem of audacious feats and extraordinary risk-taking. This photograph immortalizes a pivotal moment in his daredevil career: his daring attempt to jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The magnitude of this leap, spanning approximately 141 feet, was matched only by the bravery it demanded. However, fate had a different plan, as Knievel's ambitious leap ended in a devastating crash.
The impact left him in a coma for an arduous 28 days. This image is a reminder of the tremendous physical and mental toll that Knievel tolerated in his relentless pursuit of pushing the boundaries of human capability. Despite the setback, Knievel's indomitable spirit and unwavering determination solidified his status as an icon in the realm of daredevilry.
Amidst the racial tensions of the 1950s, Mayor Cragin's intention to regulate Black residents out of sight inadvertently sparked a remarkable resilience within the local community. Faced with adversity, African Americans in Las Vegas turned adversity into opportunity, coming together to build a vibrant and tightly-knit neighborhood. Despite the challenges imposed by segregation, this thriving community established businesses, created cultural institutions, and fostered a sense of unity.
It wasn't until the 1960s, with the wave of civil rights movements sweeping across the nation, that integration finally became a reality in Las Vegas. This pivotal shift granted African Americans the freedom to choose where they lived and shopped, empowering them to shape the future of their own neighborhoods. The struggle against oppression transformed into a catalyst for change, forging a stronger and more inclusive city for all its residents.