Archives for posts with tag: 50s

Driving to meet friend since junior high for lunch, I had visions of us when we were 12 and 13, back in the 50s, walking home from school. We had the look, the look of our friends, our school, our era. We wore skirts to school back then, below the knee, straight or pleated or full with petticoats with cute blouses or oxford cloth shirts with sweaters. Our shoes were Keds or penny loafers or “rock & rollers” (a less clunky version of saddle oxfords), or flats. We wore bobby socks. The years blur and each year had its style. We stood a certain way with our school books on top of our notebook balanced on our slung out hip. You knew how to hold them to look cool. Our hair was permed, long or short. We had to have a certain coat, a car coat it was called, with a hood edged in fur. The coolest ones were made by Thermo-Jac and we wore them pushed back off our shoulders. The minute our mothers were out of sight, we slung them back, even on the coldest days. Picture us, slouching along with our socks rolled down, our coats slung back, our hips slung out with the books. Cool. Or “Stud”…our phrase of the time.

The guys had their own look. Jeans and oxford shirts or plaid shirts. At one time, wheat jeans, a beige version of Levis, were in. Their hair was crew cut or short unless you were some kind of “hood” who wore it longer with ducktails or slicked back with some kind of grease. No longer hair until The Beatles arrived. One year, all the cool guys had red lightweight jackets that were the look. They remember.

I remember a summer when I was about 13 I hung around in very short shorts and one of my dad’s old shirts. Neat. By the time I graduated, skirts were a bit shorter, hair was puffier since we now had rollers and hairspray, and we were preppier. I’ve lived through the fifties, sixties, seventies and all the looks ever since. I can’t find a perfect illustration of junior high, but here’s one from college with several looks of 1964…babushka on my hair, round collar blouse, cutoffs, the purse of the season and thongs (flip-flops now). Carefully coordinated. What goes around, comes back…

Linda & Karen - 1965

Every age has its own style. My oldest daughter started junior high and came home almost in tears the first few days because she didn’t have “the” purse. My own youth flashed back and we rushed to the store. I was amused because “the” purse was the same one I carried in college, a wooden handled purse with different covers you could button on and off, “the” purse of my day.

When my older kids were in high school, a friend and I would sit outside the school waiting for the kids to get out and figure out the styles, laughing affectionately. Waiting for my daughter to get out of soccer practice, I would note the “styles” of each of the teams at practice. The soccer team all wore their socks pushed down without their shin guards…total show of toughness…their hair all the same. You could spot who played each sport as they came off the fields because each had it’s own distinct look.

My son went through every style there ever was. I could do a photo retrospective of his ever changing hairstyles. Always challenging the norm. Always on the front edge of the next look.

As one who lived in the 50s and 60s, I’ve tried not to freak out at every style change of my kids. You pick your battles as a parent and I held tight in my heart all my own looks. From the 60s, I learned that you don’t divide a family because your son comes home with long hair, dyed hair, no hair, no matter how much you may hate it. Hair grows out and they change it again. It’s not about you. Really.

No earth-shattering insights here. The thing I remember about kids is that they’re trying to stand out, to show they are becoming more independent and growing up. They’re also showing their desire to fit in with their own peers. Of course, there are some looks that may frighten us or be signs of some other problems, but, most kids are good, just exploring the world. Remember that this too shall pass. And sigh. And try not to snicker. And, most importantly, remember yourself at that age. And try not to laugh.

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to lots of magazines, and I read all of them through and through. Many are gone today, but there was Look, Life, Readers Digest, Ladies Home Journal, Newsweek, McCall’s, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, kids’s magazines like Highlights for Children. One of our favorites was the Saturday Evening Post. The Norman Rockwell covers were something to look forward to, knowing they would be something we studied carefully for all the clever details. We were used to his work as an illustrator for ads for Colgate, Kellogg’s, and other companies, instantly recognizable.

In 1999, my son and I took a day trip to Mark Twain’s hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. We were fortunate to arrive during an exhibition of the original paintings for Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for Tom Sawyer. I remember they were large paintings and so much richer than the flat pictures we were so familiar with in our day to day life. They were amazing works and their beauty stayed with me.


Yesterday, I went to see the Norman Rockwell exhibition of over 50 of his paintings and 300+ of his Saturday Evening Post covers at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR. I’ve not a professional art critic, even though I studied art history in college and worked in an art museum for over 7 years, but I do know that Norman Rockwell is a great artist. As is typical for artists in their own era, his work was scoffed at in art circles as too sentimental, too idealistic, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that myself. There are many great artists who included humor and sentiment in their works throughout the ages. An artist in his own time, alas…

The gallery was packed yesterday, mostly with older people (and I have to include myself in that group, shockingly), but it was a Monday. I watched their faces as they listened to the audio guides, studied the paintings. There were tender smiles, chuckles, pensive thinking. The main thing is that everyone was relating to the paintings. What more can art do?

Here are some of my favorites and the reasons why…

This one just made me laugh. It was Rockwell’s take on the recent idea that small towns should use speed traps to raise revenue…


This one also made me laugh and smile and study the details…the grandmother in the back who never changed expressions, the tired parents, the kids in various stages. Who can’t make up a story with these images?


Saying Grace is so sweet that you are silent with them, you want to bow your head. Then you see the details in the curtains, the clothing, the grandmother’s rear sticking through the chair, the grandfather’s cane on the floor. Another story for us to all fill in the extra lines…


My love of Santa is well known and there were some lovely Santa portraits along with all the Christmas covers of the Post. This is still one of my favorites for all of us who keep believing even knowing the evidence…


A Day in the Life of a Girl is so fun, so sweet, with elements that all females will remember. The boy version wasn’t on display, but it’s just as great…


Rosie the Riveter is part of the museum’s collection and a whimsical look at the women who worked at home during World War II. This was a bonus after the travelling exhibition.


Besides the fun, sweet portraits of America as we were at times and would always like to be, there were powerful portraits of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and two of Rockwell’s most important works during the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition had preliminary drawings and different drafts of his painting of 3 Civil Rights workers for a powerful, haunting, not-so-pretty picture of a moment in America’s history…


The iconic The Problem We All Live With was so beautiful in person. It was so familiar, such a powerful statement. But, the thing that struck me so strongly was the beauty of the painting, of the work itself. Norman Rockwell was a fabulous painter. His work is so real, so detailed, so skilled. The concrete wall behind the girl felt like real concrete, making me want to reach out and touch it. I didn’t of course – I know my museum manners. But, I’ve been up close to many of the world’s great paintings and these were as good as any I’ve seen. That’s to my untrained eye, but I do know what I’m looking at and it’s honest, thought-provoking, greatness.


Rockwell’s self portrait is so famous that you almost go by it, having seen it reproduced so many times. Looking at the details, I was taken with not only the cleverness, the originality, the self-deprecating humor, but also the skill. On his easel, he has small paintings, homages to some of the greatest painters, all painted beautifully. That’s not easy to do either.


I recommend that you find the closest place to see this exhibition or go to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts to see more. It’s such a treat for those of us who grew up loving him and for those just discovering his incredible legacy. I think that future critics will be kinder and hopefully, recognize his important place in art, American history, and the American heart. I understand his personal life was not always as rosy as his portraits of life, but that’s what being a human is all about. We thank him for the vision of our country that he shared to make us think, feel, smile and laugh, remember, care. There should be more geniuses with a sense of humor, shouldn’t there?…

A friend asked me to write a blog about Annette Funicello, who died earlier this week. We met her on TV when The Mickey Mouse Club first aired in 1955. It’s hard to describe to generations who always have had TV and have multiple 24/7 channels what this show meant to us back then. It was in black and white, or gray, as my kids used to call it, because we didn’t have color TV yet. Amazing, isn’t it?

The Mickey Mouse Club was on every day after school and we waited eagerly for it every day, like clockwork. If you missed it, you missed it. No videotape or DVR. Probably not even reruns. This was a variety show for kids in the days of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle and numerous adult or family variety shows. This one was just for us. We also weren’t as sophisticated as 9 & 10 year olds today. Unless you had older brothers or sisters, you weren’t really exposed to the teenage things. By some odd coincidence, almost all of my friends were the oldest in their family, so we were pretty much kids. We didn’t hit puberty as early, we didn’t dress like small adults, and we didn’t talk about adult things very much.

The Mickey Mouse Club was part of the magic that was Walt Disney. It was a world of imagination and fantasy and innocence that we loved. I found this photo online of the Mouseketeers from those days.


It seems so silly today that these kids clowned around with mouse ears, singing and dancing for us. Annette was adorable, a sweetheart both inside and out. You always knew that. She stood out from the rest from the beginning.

One of my favorite things on the show were the serials, continuing “dramas” featuring Annette, Tim Considine, Tommy Kirk. We couldn’t miss an episode of “Spin & Marty,” “The Hardy Boys,” “Corky and White Shadow.” The serials were fun, starring kids our age or a little older. They were the perfect way for us to have star crushes. Who didn’t think Tim Considine was just way too cute and Tommy Kirk was so funny and fun. And then there was Annette. I’m sure there were boys our age who were still watching The Mickey Mouse Club long after they had outgrown it just to see her. This Mousketeer was blossoming and it wasn’t hard to see what the boys were watching. She graduated on to her Beach Party movies, where that fully developed body and her singing were on full display. But, before that, she was the Mouseketeer all the boys loved and all the girls wanted to be. Always sweet.

We all outgrew the show and moved on to the boys and girls in our real lives, but those days with The Mickey Mouse Club are special memories. Who doesn’t hear that music start up and begin to sing…M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. We really did have sweet childhoods way back then.

Here’s some Spin & Marty for you…

When you’re watching your grandchildren grow up, you can’t help but compare their lives to yours at the same age. It’s always jarring to look at a picture of yourself and realize you look as old fashioned to them as your grandparents did to you. You only hope that they can look past that and learn from your infinite wisdom, also hoping you have any.

When I was in 7th grade, junior high then, most of us started social dance classes. Other communities had similar places, but, in Tulsa, we had Skilly’s, where we first learned etiquette. They seated the boys on one side and the girls on the other and the boys had to learn how to walk, not run, across the room and politely ask a girl to dance. That was palm-sweating, nerve wracking, embarrassing and, yet, we all learned to be gracious. Not only did we learn to dance – fox trot, waltz, swing, cha cha – in the basic class, but they had dances for us to get real practice. This is me in 7th grade at one of the dances. Since I started junior high at 11, I must have turned 12 by this time, probably wearing my first heels, strapless dress and petticoats.

Karen at Merry Maids Dance 1958

We had lots of dances in junior high and high school. It seems like there was always something going on. We also had social clubs in junior high and high school for both boys and girls. The clubs had dances, the school had dances, there were dances after football games, friends had dances in their homes where we played our stacks of 45s and 33 rpm records. And rock and roll was growing by leaps and bounds, so we had great music, lots of local bands, and plenty of opportunities to practice our skills. We danced fast and furiously and we danced a lot. At least I did back in the 50s and 60s. New dances came out all the time. The Twist was our new favorite my senior year.

As with most things, there was good and bad in the clubs, which excluded some kids and involved voting on members, not all of which was pretty, kind or fair. But, we learned to organize and plan events under the helpful eyes of our mothers, we learned to invite people out, and we started dating. Dating started with dance school, social club and school dances with your parents driving. There was the giggling with your friends at school while you eyed the boy you wanted to ask you out. There was the cringingly painful waiting by the phone, literally waiting by the phone since we didn’t have either portable or cell phones, and there was the horror when someone asked you out that you didn’t want to go with. And, finally, there was the joy of having the right boy call or ask you out, followed by the awkwardness of being together and getting to know each other. No wonder so many couples went steady, which was when you were supposed to be exclusively with that boy or girl. At least you didn’t have to wonder about the dance.

There weren’t just dances. We dated a lot. There were coke dates (casual dates to go get a coke and either get to know the person or just be together), movies, football games, basketball games, picnics, church events, and anything else we could come up with as an excuse to go out. Once you were going with someone, it wasn’t so much a date as deciding where you were going to tell your parents you were going. One time my future husband and I toured the Wonder Bread factory on a Friday night for a cheap date. I didn’t ever lie about where I was going, but I did end up other places, too. There was a lot of time until our Midnight curfew for most girls. I got to stay out until 1:00 when the dances ended at 12.

We hung out with our friends, too. I spent a lot of time cruising with my girlfriends and even groups of guys. Nobody seemed to ask where we were going on those nights, so we just cruised all over town, laughing, listening to the radio, and looking for whatever Friday night would bring. American Graffiti was the story of my high school days, music and all.

Anyway, I digress with lots of memories here. By the time we got to graduation, most of us had been on lots of dates of various kinds. Here I am at what was called the Southern Ball, a high school sponsored dance, my senior year. I had the dress and heels, had been to the beauty shop, because I know I could never have gotten my hair to do this on my own, and we were headed out. Rockin’ and rollin’ in the big heels and big hair. I think I still had my braces on – they came off right before my prom.

Scan 13

By the time we got to college, we were prepared as much as you can be to jump into the craziness of campus life. Here is a picture of my husband and me at a dance at Oklahoma State University a few months before we got married, my senior year. I love his high water pants – he had gotten out of the Navy that summer and grown a few more inches and his old civilian wardrobe needed some updating. But here we were, engaged and out on a date, going dancing as we had since we met.

Karen's engagement picture

My grandkids don’t date as much. They have a few dances, which they hate because there are so many drugs and the dancing isn’t as much fun. At least we knew how to do close dancing as well as do the newest ones and anyone drinking was thrown out. Movies are expensive so that isn’t an every weekend option. There don’t seem to be places for all the kids to hang out and they don’t attend the school sporting events like we did. It’s a new world. I don’t blame their parents for sheltering them more, for keeping them home where there are movies and video games to entertain them. I don’t blame parents for anything. We all do our best to protect and raise our children and who am I to say what I would be doing today. I’m just an observer, looking through the lens of what was and what is.

The word dating has a new generation meaning. Parents go on Date Nights, where we used to just go out with our husbands. The word dating is almost a euphemism these days. I never know for sure what they mean when adults say they are “dating.” It has shaded differences, for sure.

I’m being nostalgic as I remember the fun we had, blocking out the bad dates that also came with the experience. I hope my grandkids date with more than texts and emails, explore meeting different people and falling in love in the best of ways, not matter what they call the process. It’s all about learning to be in relationships where we feel the most comfortable and loved and have the most fun life can offer us. I wish everyone finds that, at least once in their lives.