Looking Back - April 21, 2013

History column

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

When I was asked by a local group of senior ladies to take them on a walk down memory lane through the 1950s, it turned out to be a lot of fun. The decade was one of prosperity and change for the American people. Here is just a sampling of what life in America (and Albany) was like during those times.


• The end of World War II brought thousands of young servicemen home to pick up their lives and start new families in new homes with new jobs. Americans began to buy goods not available during the war and industry expanded to meet peacetime needs.

• The Korean War began in June 1950 and ended in July 1953. Government archives show six casualties from Dougherty County.

• The first wave of the baby boomers were preschoolers or in primary school. Most were cared for by their stay-at-home mothers. For every five men in the workforce, there was one woman employed outside the home.

• Families moved to the “suburbs,” many financing their homes through VA loans. The average cost of a new house was $9,550.

• The average wages for a year — $4,000, with teachers making just above that. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 2.9 percent.

• The Corvette went on the market. The average cost of a new car was $2,749 and gas was 24 cents a gallon.

• Cigarette smoking was reported to be a cause for cancer.

• The Academy Awards were broadcast on TV for the first time. A small (10- to 12-inch) back-and-white model cost $75-$100, but brand new color sets sold for around $1,200 each.


• Seven out of 10 American families had an automobile and news laws were passed requiring all new vehicles to have seat belts, but there was no law that they had to be used.

• “In God We Trust” was added to all paper currency.

• The first pocket transistor radios hit the stores. Also new on the market — Legos and Velcro.

• The “Mickey Mouse Club” made its debut on ABC. A popular toy was the Mouseketeer typewriter ($3.98).

• Popular musicians included Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and the Platters.

• Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio.

• The cost of a first-class stamp was 3 cents.

• “Gunsmoke” made its debut on CBS and would last until 1975. “The Phil Silvers Show,” “Lassie” and “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” also were family favorites.

• Of Americans, 60 percent were in the “middle class,” having incomes between $3,000 and $10,000 per year.


• The year brought with it a recession, with unemployment rising to 7 percent. For those unable to own a home, rent averaged $92 per month, which often included utilities.

• NASA was formed. The U.S military stated that it was possible with satellites orbiting the Earth to make detailed maps from space. The first of such satellites was launched from Cape Canaveral.

• American-made cars continued to get larger and heavier with bigger engines. Toyotas were imported and the Datsun made its way to America. The Packard ceased production.

• Elvis Presley was inducted into the Army.

• Wham-O introduced the Hoola Hoop and Zennith introduced the first remote control for television sets.

• New on TV was “77 Sunset Strip.” Other favorites included “Wagon Train,” “Perry Mason” and “American Bandstand.”

• VISA and American Express credit cards were introduced.

• The grocery bill for five 46-ounce cans of tomato juice, five pounds of oranges, two loaves of bread, one gallon of milk, a one-pound package of Kraft caramels, four 15-ounce cans of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and three 14-ounce boxes of Uncle Ben’s rice — $3.57, before sales tax.

Do you remember ...?

• Cars with fins

• Poodle skirts

• Saddle shoes

• Letter sweaters

• Saturday afternoon double-features

• Baseball cards in bicycle spokes

• Milk delivered to the back door

• TV dinners (and TV trays)

• Carhops

• DA haircuts and flat tops

• Sock hops

• Davy Crockett and coonskin caps

• Pony tails and/or beehives

• Blue and pink bubble gum cigars (for new dads)

• Fallout shelters

• The Twist, the Hokey-Pokey and the Bunny Hop

• Paint-by-number

• Telephone booths and 10-cent calls

• Dime stores

• Returnable Coke bottles

• Party lines

Only in Albany ...

1950: The Igloo Girl, an ice cream drive-in, opened at the Triangle Corner just east of the Broad Avenue bridge. Single dip cones were 10 cents.

1951: A week-long Girl Scout day camp was held at Chehaw Park. Participation jumped from 68 the previous summer to 118.

1952: Slap-Happy Carpet Golf provided family fun daily from 4 p.m. until midnight, as well as on Sundays from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.

1953: A great source of city pride, the Merry Acres Motel opened on Dawson Road. All rooms featured carpeted floors, air conditioning and a telephone and radio.

1954: The Albany High School band, which continued practices in the summer, gave several free concerts at Tift Park.

1955: The new A&P opened at 252 E. Oglethorpe Blvd.

1956: The Liberty Theater held a Cartoon Carnival each Saturday morning starting at 10 a.m. Admission for everyone was 25 cents.

1957: Once a week for eight weeks, junior and senior high school girls were invited to attend a “Charm Course” held at the Teen Center.

1958: Hubble’s, at 311 N. Washington St., advertised one-half fried chicken for $1. Hotdogs were two for 25 cents and hamburgers were 25 cents each.

1959: The Swap Shop, located at 108 Front St., offered top prices for all military personnel and families wishing to sell their used furniture. New items were also available for purchase, such as screen doors for $1.99.