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Tag Archive: 50s

Jul 10

From: ‘Remembering summers past, a series’. This installment remembers that ‘Summer romances rarely survived until September”. A summer series first published in The Examiner, an easter Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper

“What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose,”
- Henry Ward Beecher

Summer romances, a cultural phenomenon, were big in the 50s and 60s.forget_just_summer_romance_snow_1035825

I doubt if teens today truly understand what our summer romances were like– the giddiness, the misery, the sweetness, the inevitable parting.

Teen sweethearts do not part these days at summer’s end anyway. They simply text each other into infinity and blog unceasingly on Facebook.

We had one option and one only–write letters or hope they came. Usually we never saw or talked to our summer loves again.

For me, summer love meant Frank, and yes Pete, too.

I met Frank one summer at swim camp, and the next summer I met Pete while working out-of-state at a summer resort.

Both relationships lasted only for the summers in question. Letters were the way we stayed in touch at summer’s end as few people in those days had the technology to make long-distance phone calls. Traveling was out of the picture as well.

Eventually and predictably in the fall, the letters slowed and the romances faded.

When love went bad, girls and guys alike cried in our cherry phosphates while losing ourselves in movie and song.

It was a bittersweet, delicious time of life.

Once years later, just out of curiosity, I tried to find each of these dreamy guys.

I learned that Frank pursued a calling as a chaplain and likely died in Vietnam. Pete pursued a career as a hippy and might still be in Haight-Ashbury somewhere.

So life works out.

Yet, I still remember the songs about the heartbreak of summer when romances were sure to be fleeting and nearly always heartbreaking.

Remember the song “Summer Nights” from the blockbuster movie “Grease”. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John sang “Summer Nights” about their rockin’ summer romance of 1959.

The lyrics of “See you in September” by The Happenings sounds like it was directed at lonely kids away from home for the summer, “I’ll be away each and every night/While I’m away don’t forget to write.”

While at summer camp, these teens often met their true love only to realize too late that their storybook romance would be fleeting. Or, they would worry if the boyfriend or girlfriend back home would wait for them and vice versa.

Gary Lewis and The Playboys sang, “Save your heart for me.”

Chad and Jeremy’s ballad “A Summer Song” admonished summer lovers to live in the moment because autumn would surely come.

The Beach Boys sang the upbeat “All Summer Long” while Brian Hyland crooned “Sealed with a Kiss” as he wrote letters to his sweetheart lest she forget him.

Do kids today have any idea what a summer romance was really like in the summers of our youth? Romantic. Unrequited. Unconsummated. I am guessing no.

At least we had the comfort of knowing that summer romance could live on in our hearts forever.

Summer Nights

Sep 16

In recessions, hula hoop comes to the rescue

“When the world is in kind of a messy way and people are unhappy, something like the (hula) hoop lets them just forget everything while they go crazy for a minute or two spinning around.” –Barry Shapiro, vice president of Wham-O Toy, 1982.

Can you still hula hoop?

Do you remember the hula hoop fad in the late 50s and again in the early 80s? It might be making a comeback now because, just like then, we are in a recession and that means it is time to dust off the hula hoop and start swirling those hips.

Why? “You just can’t help but laugh and smile when you’re hooping,” says Marisa Tomei, Academy Award-winning actress and star of a new ‘hooping’ fitness video.

If the recession is making you frown, then perhaps the hula hoop will make you smile again like it did in previous recessions and loose a few pounds in the process.

When we were kids, we took to it naturally. Anyone can do it, right? I wonder if I still can without landing in the chiropractor’s office.

At age 11, I could whirl it around my waist or spin it around my arms or neck for as long as I wanted. So could my friends. Most adults could not. It baffled my parents, as I recall, but it made them smile.

The hula hoop was first introduced during an economic recession in 1958. It was a simple 4 ft.-wide plastic hoop that came in a variety of colors and cost less than $2.00. It became an instant rage. Some consider it still the greatest fad this country has ever seen.

It was one of those inventions that made its creators, Richard P. Knerr and Arthur K. Melin, rich indeed, and left the rest of us wondering why we had not thought of it ourselves.

The fad was short lived, however.

By the time I attended college in the sixties, the hula hoop craze was over.

Fast forward 25 years to the early eighties when a severe recession hit. That particular recession was complete with high interest rates and a drought that ruined crops. Farms and businesses went bankrupt. People were unhappy.

Re-enter the hula hoop.

Wham-O, the Australian company that originally produced the hula hoop, decided to try to make a comeback in 1982 saying, “Wham-O believes that the current economic troubles may be just what is needed to give the Hula Hoop another whirl.”

Twenty-five years after the original hula hoop craze, Time Magazine wrote in 1982, “that during a slightly mad six-month period 25 years ago (in the fifties), as many as 120 million hoops were sold around the world.”

Wham-O believed it might be time to try it again.

The 1982 model, according to a Time Magazine story was known as the “Peppermint Hula Hoop” because it was peppermint-scented and striped like a barbershop pole. It made people happy during hard times. I remember that one, too.

Regrettably, that fad was even shorter-lived.

And now here we are again in a nasty recession, and whammo (pardon the pun) here comes the hula hoop to save the day, once again. This time in the new fitness craze called ‘hooping’, as Marissa Tomei explained.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can remember how to hoop.

Let’s see, first you have to bend your knees slightly. Put the hula hoop around your waist and start moving your hips in a gyrating, whirling circular motion to keep the hoop up.

Bend my arthritic knees slightly? Move my bad hip in circles over and over?

I don’t think so.

I see why my parents stood back and watched.

Jul 24

Remembering summers past, a series Summer’s end brought road trips and slide shows

“See the USA in your Chevrolet. America is asking you to call.”
—recorded by Dinah Shore in 1950. Lyrics and music by Corday and Carr.

August was vacation month for those who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.

When July ended, it was time to pack as much as one could into the station wagon, whatever the make (ours was a DeSoto), and take a road trip.

The clock was ticking because the lazy, carefree summer now had an end in sight. School would start in mere weeks.

Looking back, I have to wonder who was left to “mind the store” since it seemed as though everyone was on vacation in August.

And oh my, the things we took on vacation.

A neighbor once reminded us as we prepared for a trip, “Those who say you can’t take it with you never saw your car packed for a vacation trip.”

For example, the shoebox.

All our shoes were tossed into a large cardboard box and put in the back of the wagon next to the smaller box of Spam and white bread, a necessity for roadside lunch stops.

Once we made it all the way from northwest Missouri to Falls City, Nebraska, before we realized that our shoebox was still at home. We turned and went back for it.

I also remember spending entire road trips playing in the back of our green DeSota station wagon, sans seat belts of course. We had not heard of those yet.

One cross-country trip in our “woody” station wagon included a full load of travelers–parents, we three siblings, our grandmother and aunt. The trip was quite similar to the movie “Vacation” although no one died en route. And that is all I will say about that.

When seeing “sights”, self-respecting travelers took pictures, typically in the form of slides. Lots of slides.

If one were up-to-date like our dad, one would have a screen and a fancy projector with slide boxes so that the slides could be fed in quickly one after the other. The only problem was that most folks had boxes and boxes of slides.

It was expected that one would call friends and family together after the trip and show slides. Everyone did this. We watched each other’s slide shows and no one complained.

Can you imagine how boring we would find that today?

The vacation slides often depicted posed shots by historical roadside markers. Trust me, there were hundreds of them between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean.

Some slides featured well-known landscape scenes located in national parks, and others focused on visits with relatives. Nothing creative, just expected and predictable photos.

We didn’t care.

We watched and watched; never tiring of them, and then ate cake and ice cream afterwards.

I once heard someone describe a vacation and its subsequent slide show as just like love. We anticipate it with pleasure, experience it with discomfort, and remember it with nostalgia.

And that we did quite happily.

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