“How is life different today compared to when you were a child?”
I was born in 1947, three years before the midway point of the 20th century, two years after World War Two, in the first wave of what was eventually called “Baby Boomers.” My Dad was Jim Lamb. His wife was Josephine Cassanese, the daughter of an Italian immigrant.
What was it like growing up in the 1950s?
Great question. Like Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …”
Advanced technology developed during WW2 sent waves of change throughout society. It was an exciting time to be alive, but scary, too. On one hand, new inventions changed people’s lives forever, often for the better. On the other hand, new weapons—like Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles—meant no city, country, or continent was safe from the horrors of war.
The most significant innovation I can remember is television—also known as TV. Before that, we only had radio—which was sound with no moving pictures.
TV was a marvel. The image was fuzzy, black and white, and grainy—but who cared? We could watch the flickering images of people, places, and things glimmer and glow from the slightly curved glass screen poking from a wooden cabinet in our living room. TV people talked, sang, preached, ran, danced, and played baseball. It was captivating, enchanting, mesmerizing. All from a little magic box.
One problem though: Those images were transmitted and received via antenna—large ones at the broadcast station and skinny metal ones at home. Initially, we used what were nicknamed “Rabbit Ears”—small V-shaped antennas placed on top of the TV cabinet. Later, we had a large H-shaped antenna, on our roof, attached to the top of what looked like a flagpole.
Even with a TV and antenna, we were able to get only two stations: WJAC in Johnstown, PA, and KDKA in Pittsburgh. Both started broadcasting in 1949. (By the way, “broadcasting” was originally a term used to describe the throwing of seeds by farmers on the ground.)
Television opened doors and windows to the world. There were cowboys, puppets, preachers, jugglers, dancers, monkeys, dogs, and more.
My favorite show was “I love Lucy.”
There were no video games back in the ’50s, so we played cards and board games, like Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders, Scrabble, Candy Land, and Sorry. Checkers, too—a game I loved to play with my Grandpa Lamb.
We also built things.
My cousins and I put together little houses and other buildings made from Lincoln Logs, which were about three-quarters of an inch in diameter and notched at each end so they could be stacked together. When we were all-done playing, we’d take everything apart and put the logs back into a box and start all over again next time we got back together.
Of course, when the weather was nice, we played outside: baseball, football, hide and seek, etc. Sometimes we ran and ran and ran—just for fun.
By the way, we didn’t have portable telephones back then. (Couldn’t even imagine a phone that could be carried in your pocket, take photos, play music, tell time, and send text. )
There were no home computers or Internet, either—which meant there was no Google, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter.
There’s so much more to tell you that I don’t know where to start—so I’ll stop.