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The 1950's
Boomers and Bomb Shelters - The Nifty Fifties



Boomers and Bomb Shelters - The Nifty Fifties
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.27

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    cities-were, cityscapes, entertainment-television, forward-looking, heels-ethnic, Homes-preferably, male-female, non-whites, redlining, role-play, thriving-if, mentality, civic, idyllic, low-income, non-white
     content words:    Great Depression, Leave It, Father Knows Best, American Dream, Federal Highway Department, Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Were Communist, Suspected Communists


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Boomers and Bomb Shelters - The Nifty Fifties
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     The decade of the fifties was a funny time in U.S. history. It was as if the culture as a whole was engaged in massive role-play. The forties, with their dark clouds of war, had at long last departed. Now, Americans wanted more than anything just to live without drama. They wanted to live in a stable, forward-looking nation with no problems. They wanted prosperous families with nothing more warlike to worry about than the kids playing "cowboys and Indians" in the back yard.
 
2     The happy event of soldiers returning from war had already taken care of the family department. The explosion of post-war babies was called a "boom." (Now, over sixty years later, people born in the post-war boom are at or nearing retirement age. They are still known as the "baby boomers!")
 
3     Many of these fifties families found that post-war life was settling into some pretty comfortable patterns. They'd lived through the hardships of the Great Depression and the rationing and sacrifice of WWII. Now, many families were enjoying a steady paycheck. At the same time, industry was producing a bountiful supply of goods to buy.
 
4     A major focus of fifties culture was material. The "stuff is good" mentality was reflected in the newest form of entertainment—television. The number of TV sets owned by households in the U.S skyrocketed during the decade. In 1950, there were ten-and-a-half million TVs. By 1958 there were forty-five million.
 
5     TV programs of the day showed Americans a pleasant, rosy picture of themselves. Shows like Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Ozzie and Harriet were about middle-American families who lived in nice homes and solved all their problems by the end of each 30-minute episode. Whether it really panned out that way or not, families at least thought they should look like the ones on TV, with Dad going off to work and Mom in the housewife role. The male-female employment rate was 5-1 at the time.

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The 1950's
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