Ancestors' Social Life and School in the 1950s

With the end or near the end of the school year in 2021, it can be interesting to look at what life at school was like for any of your relatives or ancestors who attended classes in the 1950s.

One thing was apparent, that fashion and dressing the accepted teenager way was very important to the older students. Boys loved the white buck shoes and wearing jeans. It was not just younger students but the older ones, like those in college worn similar styles. A more casual shoe was the white oxford style shoes worn with white bobby socks.

A student wanted access to the family telephone for sure. They had to be on the phone for hours talking with their friends. To spend a couple hours on the phone at night was very common.

Having a steady boy or girl friend was great, or playing the field and dating many individuals was also popular.

Most kids lived close to their schools and could walk to school. Classes in the 1950s especially for younger students became overcrowded very quickly due to the ‘baby boomer era’, with more children born after the end of World War II. Students had to learn how to use a typewriter for submitting their papers. Teachers wrote information and assignments on a chalkboard. To see photos projected on a screen in the classroom, filmstrip projectors were highly used.

Segregation of black and white students was still done during the 1950s in most locations, each group having its own schools. At both types of schools especially for higher grades; baseball, basketball and football were the sports.

The fear of nuclear attack from the Russians also faced the students of the 1950s. ‘Duck and Cover’ was practiced where children covered their heads with their hands and got under their desks. The schools and parents wanted the children to be prepared in case of an attack.

The average teacher salary was about $4,000 per year. Teachers were also stricter and corporal punishment was used, either paddled in the classroom or sent to the principal. The number of students in the 1950s who did graduate from the 12th grade tended to be low, about 40-45 percent.

So if a relative did attend school, any grade, in the 1950s, take the time to ask what they recall.

Photo: 1950s girls’ fashion

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