the 1950s part 1

The 1950s, part one



pump show (2) present (3)
dial stalking uniformed
rotary vaccine look up (2)
gallon gasoline revolutionary
appear standard uncomfortable
gratify point (3) intimidating
stilted chuckle depression (2)
stretch fool (2) look beyond
rough unease rough times
praise motorize Great Depression
appear post-war settle down
gadget uplifting suburbs/suburbia
chore washer emancipation
drier science crosshair
ensure live (2) way of life
coal chemist appliance
sheer nightie invention
fabrics care for depend on
yarn darling attendant
DNA fabulous call the tune
polio destroy index card
pave highway tempting
wheel symbol crowding
price mobility budget (2)
dirt comfort spring up
funny uptight sewer system
liberty literally infrastructure
fun progress well-being
cloud survive dark cloud (2)
target trample at that time
enemy sight (2) to make fun of












The time was 1957. Rock and Roll was new, and Elvis was the king.

Gasoline was cheap: 25 cents a gallon (4 liters). And it was pumped for you by uniformed attendants.

Telephones had rotary dials, and when you needed to look up information, you didn’t go online; you went to the library, and looked through index cards.

It was a very different world than the one we live in today. And perhaps one of the biggest differences is that it was the early days of national television.

Television was revolutionary. And it made it possible for America to show itself to itself and the world.

Everything presented on TV looked different than shows look today. And quite often, the people appearing on TV looked by today’s standards uncomfortable — and they were.

Shows were live then. And TV cameras were huge.

And remember, almost no one had ever been in front of a TV camera before, so when this intimidating box was pointed at them, people often spoke in ways that seem a bit stilted.

It’s tempting to chuckle and look at these people from the 1950s as uptight.

But don’t let this fool you. Look behind their unease, and you will find that these people were ordinary American citizens, just like us, who felt lucky to be living in what they felt were the best of times.

And in many ways, they were. As a nation, we had been through some very rough times: ten years of the Great Depression and six years of World War Two, when tens of millions had died. And much of Europe and Asia were destroyed.

Now, post-war Americans felt that it was finally their time to settle down to live what was called “the good life”. For most Americans, the good life meant working toward living the American Dream.

Man: “Maybe a nice home in suburbia and some nice kids. And appear at a ballgame on a Saturday afternoon.”
Woman: “We’ll have the living room right in here. And the kitchen right here. Oh darling, it’s going to be just perfect.”

The American Dream: owning a home … and a car or maybe two … and modern appliances that their grandparents had never known.

You can own your own home, complete with its own refrigerator, television set and clothes dryer.

Housewife: “Here’s real emancipation from old-fashioned chores.”

A refrigerator, washer and dryer, perhaps a dishwasher, and so much more.

And all of this was possible because of our industrial and economic power, and because of what was commonly called better living through science.

Inventors, engineers and manufacturers continually offer us improvements so we can have ever greater progress in science and business that ensure a way of life that is physically gratifying and spiritually uplifting.

Chemists have a lot to do with this, turning coal into everything from truck tires to sheer nighties.

The world of science has given us some fabulous things. Materials that fabrics more beautiful and easier to care for than natural ones. A new and better stretch yarn for women’s stockings.

In the world of tomorrow, plastics will certainly call the tune.

The scientist has something to offer to the public which is far, far more than gadgets and inventions.

We had faith in our science and our scientists.

In the 1950s, American scientists had given us the discovery of DNA and the Salk polio vaccine.

And American engineers won high praise worldwide for our new American highway system, with millions of miles of paved roads, creating more motorized mobility than ever dreamed of before — freedom of movement for all; a symbol of democracy.

We have become a nation on wheels.

To make the American dream a reality for everyone, developers were building tens of millions of houses, budget priced homes. This symbol of modern American living has changed the great USA.

You can raise your children far from the city’s dirt, crowding and crime in comfort and safety.

Suburban cities sprang up almost overnight with new water supply systems, streetlights, sewer systems, electrical power grids and more. Much of the infrastructure we depend on today was built during this time.

As millions of people bought homes and got college degrees, and “settled down”, they became part of something the world had never seen: the huge American middle class.

Never in history has the American family known such well-being, a standard of living beyond the wildest dreams of anyone who lived half-a-century ago.

Today, the middle-class American Dream is sometimes made fun of. But for adults at that time, it wasn’t funny — It was literally a dream come true.

But there was a dark cloud hanging over that dream, over every home, over every suburb and every city: the possibility of a nuclear war in which some will survive.

You are the target of those who would trample over the liberties of free men. You are in the crosshairs of the bomb sight of an enemy is centering on you, the United States of America.


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1. Life was “primitive” in the 1950s. True of false? What were some differences?

2. What was the major technological innovation back then?

3. TV producers and personalities had lots of experience creating programs. Is this right or wrong?

4. Was life harsh, hard and difficult for people in the fifties? Had life always been great?

5. What was the “American Dream”?

6. According to the documentary were politicians the heroes of this era?

7. What was the major demographic change in the video?

8. People’s main fear was crime, shootings and terrorism. Is this correct or incorrect?
A. Is there a “Golden Age” in your nation’s history? When was the best time in your country’s history?

B. Do your parents and grandparents talk about the past? What do they say?

C. What do politicians, writers and academics say?

D. Is there a lot of arguments and debates regarding this?

E. Many older people feel nostalgic. Yes or no?

F. How might you feel in the future? What will you tell your children and grandchildren?




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