The Fifties

Updated on December 4, 2021

By Jerry Robbins

The thing about growing up in the fifties was that everything was changing in the world around me. Automobiles were exploding across the nation. The manufacture and sale of cars hit an all-time high just as I was learning to drive. Almost everyone owned a car. Everything automobile filled our daily lives, drive-in theaters, drive- through hamburger joints, and drive-through banks. You could do everything in or from your car. My father taught me to drive a Chevy coupe with stick shift which he later gave me.

The other big change in my growing up years was the introduction of TV. Imagine movies in your living room! We did not have to go to the theater to see moving pictures. We did not have to huddle around a radio listening to “The Shadow,” and imagine everything. Stories with actual live people showed up on a little screen in a box. Never mind that the first pictures were filled with snow and scraggly lines. Or long commercials. Never mind that the first shows were Ed Sullivan-type variety shows. (“And nowwwwww, I’d like you to welcome the BEATLES.”) We would have watched anything. It was the idea of a live picture in your living room. Of course, few people owned a TV at the start. I saw my first TV at a neighbor’s house as did many other Americans.

This was also the beginning of the nuclear age. TV brought that into our living room. The huge mushroom cloud, incredibly big, going higher and higher. Vast destruction all around. There were air raid drills in school during which we had to hunker down under our desks. Although President Eisenhower assured us, we were very worried. Accumulated supplies and locked doors. That was my first awareness that maybe neighbors really didn’t take care of neighbors anymore. Age, nine years old! At the time it seemed worse news than the BOMB.

Jerry Robbins is a graduate of Gettysburg College (Philosophy major), Yale University Divinity School, and Hartford Seminary Foundation (Ph.D.). He has had 3 books published (Carevision by Judson, The Essential Luther by Baker, and Provocables by C.S.S.), many articles, and over 100 book reviews.

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