The year was 1956


The year 1956 was a special time for me. I was in the sixth grade, a time of growing up. That year, I moved to a new school, met my first boyfriend and made friendships that last to this day. It was a time when most families had only one car and the mother usually stayed home with the children. That’s how it was at my house.
It had only been 11 years since the end of World War II, and the country was just experiencing prosperity. Even so, most adults still couldn’t forget the Great Depression of the 1930s and the many people who lost their jobs and homes and had little to eat.
I remember the 1950s as being conservative and comfortable. Families were everything in those days. There were no electronic devices to divide our attention. Often on Sunday afternoons, many families would get in the car together and take a ride. That meant going out in the country and see something interesting or driving to a friend’s home and spending some time with them for the afternoon.
I recently came across some statements that people made in 1956 and they will really make you laugh. Of course, we have to keep in mind that inflation has hit us over the past many years and that salaries were comparable with the lower prices.
This statement will bring a chuckle: “I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $10.”
We can’t buy groceries now for one dinner for $10. The first year I was married, in 1967, I remember putting away $75 cash in the drawer and that’s what I used for groceries for the whole month. It’s interesting that I say cash. Now, most of us pay for our groceries with a credit card, but certainly that didn’t happen until the 1970s or 1980s.
Then there’s this one: “Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won’t be long before $1,000 will only buy a used one.”
At this point in our lives, $1,000 will just buy a really nice racing bike … certainly no car that would go any distance. I believe a basic car would now cost 20 times that.
Now here’s a good one: “If cigarettes keep going up in price, I’m going to quit; 20 cents a pack is ridiculous.”
Hopefully a lot of people quit. In the 1950s, 60s and even 70s many people smoked. I never did, thankfully, but many in my family did. Just watch an old movie from the 1930s, 40s and 50s and everyone is smoking. It was considered the cool thing to do.
Now smokers are pretty much shunned and relegated to outdoor space. When I was growing up, people smoked in our house and we really didn’t think too much of it. When my parents had a party, they would put containers of cigarettes on the table and ashtrays everywhere. It was part of setting up for the party along with the food.
Now we know how dangerous smoking is and everyone is more health-conscious. In the 1950s, there was little time for working out, walking or trying to keep your body heart healthy. Women were also content to be much more round in their body shape and not concerned about taking off weight.
Then there’s this statement: “Who would have thought gas would cost more than 20 cents a gallon. Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.”
This is really funny. In the last couple of weeks I noticed that the gas was only $1.86 per gallon. Somehow I missed the opportunity to fill up and two days later it was $2.19 again. I think just two years ago it was nearly four dollars a gallon. Is the price lower because it’s an election year, or do we just have too much oil now? Whoever thought we’d say we have too much oil? Isn’t that the whole reason we are involved in the Middle East?
In 1956 some people said, “I’m afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying damn in “Gone With the Wind,” it seems every new movie has either hell or damn in it.”
Oh my gosh, wouldn’t people from the 1950s be horrified now to hear the language in our movies and even on television? Very few words are off limits. This is all part of the relative innocence of those times in the 1950s and even extending into the 1960s. Every private thing and thought didn’t have to be discussed in public in this those days.
This statement seems crazy now: “It’s too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women have to work to make ends meet. Also, young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.”
This was something most women of the 1950s never saw coming. They would have to leave their children at home and go to work to help the family. Then came a second car and eventually what we called Women’s Lib. Daycare, of course, became a common thing for most families whether the children liked it or not. Now fortunately there’s a tax credit for that.
Good thing this happened: “I’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.”
We are thankful it did, and that Honda Manufacturing came to the Marysville area in the late 1970s. We’re grateful to have them and all the benefits they have provided our community along with the employment of more than 10,000 people.
(Melanie Behrens –
Editor’s note: In last week’s Off The Hook, it was incorrectly stated that Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes amassed 15 national championships. Actually, his teams only had five titles. The mistake was not the fault of the author, but of the copy editor. The newspaper regrets the error.

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