Being a teenager during the late 1950’s was very different from what it is today. My uncle Bill Mills, who is 72 years old, told me of how he grew up in what seems like it would be an entirely different world. After asking him several questions about what teenager life was like I found out how different life really was.
Technology plays a very important role in our everyday lives. According to Bill technology was almost nonexistent to the teenagers of his teenage years. They did not have cell phones, laptops, iPods, or their own televisions. The only kind of TV that they had in the house was small, black and white, and had only three channels, compared to the hundreds with satellite services of today. Instead of cell phones they just had house phones that had only one line. These were usually tied up from older people gossiping with their friends. This meant that the kids actually had to have a face to face conversation with each other. That would be unheard of by today’s standards. When asked how they spent their extra time and the weekends, I was shocked to find out how different and similar it really was. When not in school the kids could be found in bowling alleys, soda shops, ice cream shops, drive-ins, sporting events, and
other places that the teenagers of today would also be at. How they got around with transportation is what was very different. Since my uncle lived in a pretty large city it was not hard for him to get around. Kids didn’t get their own cars so they had to ride the city bus around town and walk to get places they wanted to go. The gas from back then may seem to be very cheap when compared to today’s prices but it really wasn’t. The average cost of gas was thirty something cents if my uncle could remember right, which seemed high to them. They considered this high because the people’s earnings were less than what they are now.
School was also different from today’s standards. College was not necessary as it is now and if you graduated high school you were doing well. High school classrooms would have been considered prehistoric if compared to a current one. They still used chalk and blackboards unlike our markers and whiteboards. Grades were kept in just grade books only unlike our infinite campus system and grade book system we use today. I was highly warned against attempting to change grades in the books since it could lead to “heavy paddling”. The subjects were only the basics such as algebra, arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, and biology. There were very few electives and all that could be remembered was shop class.
Clothes and fashion were at the top of my uncles priorities. He wore button up shirts and slacks to nearly anywhere that formality was asked. This even included school. The sharing of clothes between family members that would fit was very common
in their household. Since the job of his father wasn’t enough to buy new clothes every year hand-me-downs and shopping in thrift shops was common. Since the black Friday shopping event just happened I thought I should ask his thoughts on it. He said that nothing like that ever happened and that, “there is no sense in going to fight over things that you can buy everyday”.
The way that all kids acted towards adults was the total opposite of how they act today. All kids respected adults and what they said when they said. They not question anything and answered everything with yes sir and no sir. Kids today lack respect for others, adults, and authority figures. According to him kids today are handed everything they ask for and that doesn’t teach them a thing.
When you talk to people that are outside of the people that you spend every day with and ask them about how things were when they grew up you can learn a lot. I learned that things are a lot different in many ways for teenagers. I have learned a lot through asking my uncle these questions and the long conversation that followed with him. Having this informal style of interview with him will encourage me to have more talks with him about the past and I will no longer dread going to this house for holidays.
Mills, Bill. Personal Interview. November 25, 2012
"The People History." The People History. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov 2012. <http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1950s.html>.