THE "FIFTIES"
    I retain sketchy memories of the forties, so I'll lead into this
    chapter/page from there..........

     Only the "rich" had indoor toilets or toilet paper.
       We had ours at the rear of our backyard and our
       "toilet paper" consisted of multi newspaper sheets
       torn to A4 size with a hole poked in one corner
       and string passed through to hold the paper sheets
       together.  This was then hung on a nail behind the
       toilet door.  I remember being so young and small
       during WW2 that I couldn't reach the paper without
       dismounting from the "throne".
     Refrigerators were not the domain of the "poor" either.
       Our lot was an icebox (look-alike frig.) where the
       iceman would deliver two or three times per week into
       the icebox for you.
     Washing day without a washing machine!  My mum had to.
       We had this bricked in copper (tub) in the laundry
       with a fireplace under it which was boiled with our
       stuff and laundry powder in it.  Mum would boil it
       and poke it vigorously for the appropriate time.
       I remember marvelling at her strength as she used
       the stick (prop-stick) to lift the washing out of the
       boiling water when it was done.
     We were not affluent enough to have the very latest gas
       hot water installed over our bath - which was in the
       outside laundry.  Mum used to boil water in the copper
       and bucket it into the bath. about two metres away.
       I remember sharing the bath with my brother on most
       occasions.  I was the one who brought home the many
       barrow loads of wood this process actually consumed
       over my earliest years.
     Mum's "stove" consisted of a bricked in wood stove and
       chimney above, which I remember at times caused the
       room to fill with smoke when faulty or certain other
       conditions prevailed.
     There were none of those newfangled electric irons either.
       Mum would have two solid (and heavy cast) irons which
       she rotated from the stove as one cooled and each time
       she did this, wax was rubbed on to the iron's surface
       so it wouldn't stick and burn things.
     Carpets and tiles?  We had a very cheap lino and I remember
       the many layers of newspaper that was spread below this
       lino to protect it from undermarking.  Mum would wax
       and polish it for years each time and I reckon it lasted
       so long only because of her great attention and the fact
       we were probably walking on the wax mostly!
       If anyone around our area generally had carpet it was
       probably in the form of a rug in their lounge room. This
       rug was taken out periodically and emitted great clouds
       of dust as it was beaten clean.  Tiles were in banks and
       big department stores only mostly.
     Door bells were the simple "twist' type that sounded like
       the old bicycle bell. My aunty lived in a house that had
       a sunken brass cavity with a brass pull knob and chimed,
       but this wasn't the average.
     There were lots of other things from the forties - like
       cutting small back yards with hand scissors (yes) and
       hand darning my socks when a hole appeared. Clotheslines
       that mum hung clothes on and pushed a long wooden prop
       under to lift up, we played local competition marbles,
       cracker night and the street bonfires, lighting "brownouts"
       and the accompanying air raid sirens at times during the
       war, troops marching and truck and tank convoys, the six
       o'clock pub closing, the traffic policemen resplendent in
       their dark uniforms and vivid white domed hats and gloves,
       the yellow traffic domes on the road at intersections,
       the "rabbit-o" selling fresh pairs of rabbits and the
       milk-o selling his milk plus the bottle-o buying your
       bottles - all in their horse and carts plying their trades.
       The liberal sprinkling of concrete air raid shelters that
       were sprinkled around the suburbs in parks, the Saturday
       not to be missed afternoon movie matinee....... and heaps
       more - some of which I touch on in better detail in other
       pages or chapters but I dwell here on the fifties era.

      In 1960 I turned 21...... so the fifties is the era that I grew up in,
      and I naturally identify with the fifties with great fondness.
      Despite this, I wouldn't want to do it all over again - as growing up
      is not easy with all its uncertainties .   ....and looking back at all
      those mistakes you now know you made then would turn you off
      too.

                               ---------------
    *  * *  "Life's a mistake that can never be corrected".
                                                 Me  1994
                               ---------------

      I didn't realise once that older people weren't born that way and
      maybe that's why realisation of my age now comes as such a shock.

      There can be no old age without youth - that seemingly endless errant
      blundering apprenticeship of life.    But I wonder why middle age
      is so short and seems to come and go so quickly.

      The period that anyone grows up in is the most memorable for them,
      but the fifties seemed to start trends never before seen that largely
      persist today - and it signalled the start of our headlong flight into
      technology - and (yes!) related problems.

      The era of 1910 to 1930 I see also as an exciting period, but a snail
      pace by comparison.

      The sixties, seventies and eighties had their highs, with accelerating
      technology reaching the dizzy pace its at now, but the fifties seems
      to have spawned the modern era.

      I will never be able to convey all of my memories because I would
      need another lifetime.  I'm like the great majority of people (not just
      the ageing......) - I've forgotten more than I can recall anyway.

      I draw deep for the following:

      Our population had climbed to around 8 million.

      Society seemed to be mainly influenced by overseas trends. Anything
      American,  was 'in' and sought after.  English steel was OK but the
      Poms were "bastards" because they'd "tried to take our army off us
      during the war (WW2!) and they were going to abandon us to save
      themselves!!!!!!" at the time.

      Our favourite comics were, Dick Tracey, The Phantom, Prince Valiant,
      Ginger Megs, Joe Palooka, Speed Gordon and Jet Jackson.

      Big value was put on French fashion, perfumes, wines and champagnes.

      Fur coats and stoles were a status symbol, as were hats with big brims
      for ladies. and great big feathers adorned some I remember.  Most men
      wore a hat too and even felt a tad undressed without one.

      Teenagers split off into different groups.

      There were the 'bodgies' with the swept forward hair trained to a
      'veranda' over the forehead, square cut and brushed to a ducktail at
      the back.   Most early rock stars had this style.

      Also there were the "crew cuts' or 'flat tops' that seemed to coexist
      with the bodgies. They had their hair short on top, same at the back,
      but without long side levers (louse levers). What little was on top they
      'trained' forward at the front.  Most wore casual 'Nile' aero weave
      tee shirts, stove pipe trousers with 14inch (35cm) bottom cuffs and
      used copious quantities of "Brylcream" or "Californian Poppy" hair oil
      for effect (men didn't use body deodorant as freely then - very sissy
      at that time).

      The bodgies generally, were more flamboyant dressers on occasions,
      with style and colours. Canadian Jackets were popular. 'In' colours  were
      "hound dog" red, "Mitchell" blue and black.

      The girls were 'Widgies' and usually had short hair or ponytails pulled
      high. They wore huge roped flare skirts, multiple petticoats under
      them and there was a distinct muffled rustle as they moved.  Their
      shoes were flat heeled  and their tops were usually  short to long
      sleeved. They had the aroma of baby powder so I guess perfumes were
      hard to come by for girls then. They were generally referred to as
      "teeny boppers" by older people.

      Widgies had alternate formal fashion called H Line or A Line. The
      more daring had skin tight dresses which they 'poured' themselves into.

      The boys gasped with delight while other girls shook their heads in
      disgust - until they could get their own that was.

      'Surfies' were popular with parents, because they were the next door
      'natural' clean cut lads, all parents wanted their daughters to keep
      company with - if they "had" to have a boyfriend"  (and the girls
      apparently had to).

      These guys  frequented  surf clubs and dances on the local beach etc.

      Their image was tanned, fair hair parted to one side, blue eyes and a
      convertible car or panel van with a huge surfboard next to them.

      The girls served solely as ballast and to hold down the surfboard
      it seemed!   (Our derogatory comments were unending, but again
      I've forgotten most of them )

      So most mums and dads felt more comfortable with surfies.

      There were the bikies and their 'moles' we couldn't say it properly)
      who dressed roughly the same. The well dressed bikies wore leather
      waist jacket, jeans, boots and was resplendent in his sunglasses and
      peeked "captains" cap.

      The bikes had 'crash bars to the front and sometimes shorter bars  at
      the back so that when the bike went down, his leg didn't get mangled.
      Single cylinder machines were more popular (up to 1000cc) because they
      'burbled' loudly ............  and loud of course, was a visual sign
      of being rebellious and therefore beautiful (!).

      Last and least in everyone's eyes was the Beatnik. This bloke dressed
      in anything that WASN'T ' hep' (hip?) - was usually floppy and scruffy
      and didn't seem to change it too often either.       His hair was
      usually long, greasy and unkempt. This was mostly just our perception)

      Rumour amongst us was, that when he went for a haircut, he asked  for
      a quote first !  The beatnik was characterised as barefoot and speaking
      in parables.

      His girls ( heaven help him ) were the same basically, with ill fitting
      long dresses dragging on the ground (and no taste in men to boot....!).

      The average beatnik could have been respected just a little - but the
      fact he usually didn't want to work, was completely unacceptable to
      normal practice, so he was labelled a "bludger" as well.

      These groups didn't tolerate one another in general and frequented
      different places.

      The bodgie and the crew tops had the milk bars but the crew tops were
      seen as the street gangs as well.  The bikie usually rode the main
      streets or hung around the coffee shops that seemed to be springing up
      everywhere at the time.

      The surfie haunted the beaches - and any facilities nearby, including
      surf clubs, were his territory.

      The beatnik, with no one to tolerate him, went bush or found contentment
      at home with his own peers and listened to off beat 'message music',
      that for the majority of us, sounded worse than "parental advice".

      Music had quickly gone from forties style to the early fifties rock and
      roll.  The biggest immediate impact group was Bill Haley and the
      Comets along with Elvis, Little Richard, The Everley Brothers, Johnny
      Ray etc. etc. followed by our own Col Joye and Johnny O'Keefe,

      The biggest show on TV  for the teenagers was Bandstand with Brian
      Henderson and gave rise to most local talent of the era .....and for a
      while after as well.

      Mo (Roy Rene) - one of our most beloved comic performers - died.

      Pat Boon's love songs and Harry Belafonte's calypso tunes were
      popular with the girls when their mood was romantic or melancholy.
      The boys much preferred the heavier stuff of Crash Craddock who was
      also popular with the girls - until they found out he was married !

      The big names in movies in the early fifties were Bud Abbot and Lou
      Costello, Rock Hudson and Doris Day, Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers
      Bing Crosby and Bob Hope among others. Who would dare not to mention
      John Wayne (The Duke),  Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney,
      The Marx Bros., Edward G. Robinson, Clarke Gable.......or my two very
      favourite "nice guys"..... Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

      Chips Rafferty was a big star on the local scene. Sure, we all thought
      he was a ham, but it was good to see and hear an aussie hero on the
      big screen for a change.

      Parents didn't like us taking their daughters to the latest 'fad'.....
      .....drive-ins.

      The guys that drove our girls  closer to us with (mock) fright at
      the drive-ins were  Boris Karloff and Lon Channey in those horror
      movies that wouldn't raise a sweat even with pre-schoolers today.

      Later to better suit the mood came James Dean the girls heart throb
      .......and Marlon Brando, who was more our macho style of guy.

      There were many 'memorable movies, but for mine - The Robe, The Ten
      Commandments,  The Wild One and On The Waterfront spring readily to
      mind.

      I remember the 'phenomenon' of us dancing in the aisles at the Lyceum
      Theatre in Sydney when we saw Blackboard Jungle and the shocked adults
      saying the rock and roll 'fad' wouldn't last.

      The weather forecasts seemed more accurate.

      We drove the big "yank tanks" (big "fins" and hard to clean)
      and our beloved FJ Holdens.

      Rags were OK to replace lost petrol caps .

      We started hanging around coffee shops.( What class!)

      Billy Graham the evangelist was everywhere trying to save souls and
      the last of the soup kitchens for the poor that had been government
      subsidised since the 30's depression were closing up.

      Dry cleaning was becoming popular and a 20 pack of cigarettes broke
      the 3 shillings (30 cent) price barrier.

      Two bottles of beer and mosquito repellent were quality entertainment.

      Polio and Diphtheria were a threat every mother feared and us kids had
      to endure the mass inoculation lines each year, manned by what seemed
      to be well meaning amateurs armed with blunt needles.

      Motherhood was considered an acceptable and important 'career' for
      women, and quite 'natural' for them to crave.

      We lay en masse on beaches, soaking up the sun for the tan that was
      fashionable - oblivious to the danger of skin cancer.

      The "White Australia Policy" attracted little comment.

      Bob (dubbed Ming or Pig Iron Bob) Menzies ruled our politics and
      'sucked up' to the Royals while the dreaded communist scare produced the
      call of "Populate or Perish" to quell disquiet of the rapid migration
      policy devised.  Anything that floated and procurable at the time was
      used to scurry backwards and forwards bringing  masses of humanity to
      our shores,  mostly leaving the poor souls to their own devices, to
      settle in this "new" country that was as foreign to them as they were
      to us.

      Where I grew up, we were suddenly 'invaded' by Italians, Greeks, Maltese,
      Germans, Poles, Dutch and Russians - to name a few.

      We called them I'ties, Wops, Wogs, Dago's, Spics, Garlick Breaths,
      Czars, Polski's, Dykes......and neatly parcelled them all as "Reffo's".

      We'd always used nicknames and it was acceptable to us,  so we were
      surprised how thin skinned the newcomers were with the names we gave
      them.  We just knew they'd never fit in with us so we used to tell
      them to go home, forgetting they considered they WERE at home.

      And we happily maintained our 'sport' of "Pommy knocking".

      The Snowy Mountains Scheme came into being - to give us all "cheap"
      electricity.

      The Korean war started and finished without clear result, apart from
      the casualty lists and those affected by it.  US President Harry
      Truman had threatened using the A Bomb on North Korea and the
      'arms race' was in full swing.

      People started seeing UFO's.  Anything that glowed or moved at night
      was a sighting and any good story was  printed by a media, hungry
      for anything that sold newspapers or magazines at a profit.

      We were just starting to talk marketing, consumables and turnover
      in earnest.

      We had a cliché that 'we rode on the ships back'. Wool was our biggest
      export earner  and very profitable. Wheat was another big earner to a
      hungry world still recovering from the ravages of world war.

      Uranium was discovered at Mary Kathleen, and at Rum Jungle - and it was
      seen as a better than gold or diamonds.

      The Poms didn't exactly endear themselves to us when they started
      exploding A bombs at the Monte Bello Islands near Western Australia and
      in central Australia as well.  We were told by them, it was quite safe
      ( to the United Kingdom? )........ and we shouldn't worry.

      A dishwasher had to be married and not bought.

      Baby sitters were mothers.

      Girls stayed home when they had "nothing to wear".

      The only garbage problem was getting someone to put it out

      Health foods were whatever your mother said you'd better eat or else.

      We sat down at the table and counted our blessings instead of calories.

      Our meals were carefully thought out, rather than thawed out.

      Our food was nutritious but bland. The sausage, black bread and garlic
      our new arrivals ate was seen as barbaric. Vegemite and Kraft Cheddar
      cheese was our closest claim to taste and we stuck with it until we
      became more adventurous.

      We saw products appear like the Victa mower, Hills hoist, stick gum,
      Canadian Dry soft drinks and TV dinners.

      The royal visit by our (new) Queen Elizabeth in 1954 packed the streets
      with waving cheering people in Sydney. I dont know for sure if they
      "freshly painted only the sides of the ships she would see" in Sydney
      Harbour as rumoured at the time, but they did reseal only the side of
      some of the roads her car travelled on in parts of Sydney that I saw.

      I first saw a television broadcast at the Royal Easter Show with my
      dad in 1954 and it was in colour.

      When TV's first came out they were black and white, full of valves
      like the old radio, dear as poison to buy and so unreliable, you needed
      to employ a full time technician to keep it going.

      TV characters of the time were Bob and Dolly Dyer with Pick a Box,
      Jack Davey ("Hi dee ho dee every bo dee"), John Deece with his bratty
      Quiz Kids, Brian Henderson with Bandstand and Rodger (the dodger)
      Climpson with the news.

      There was a lot of English content on our early TV that matched some
      of our own sad attempts to produce programs at the time.

      Gradually the slicker productions from America would dominate, but in
      the fifties, we were just happy to have this mind boggling technology
      in our homes.

      The Olympic Games were held in Melbourne in 1956.

      Our favourite sports people were too many to list here, but included
      our tennis players of the era, who dominated the world. Names like
      Rosewall, Hoad and Sedgeman were tops.

      Jimmy Carruthers became our first recognized world boxing champion by
      knocking out Vic Toweel in South Africa and repeated the dose in a
      rematch in Australia.

      Sprinter Hector Hogan was the equal of the worlds best and John Landy
      'owned' the mile races. Russell Mockridge 'owned' the cycle velodrome.

      Our girls were the best. Betty Cuthbert, Marjorie Jackson, Marlene
      Mathews and Shirley Strickland.  Dawn Fraser and Lorraine Crapp did
      us proud in the water.

      The 1956 Melbourne Olympics came to the privileged few who owned a TV
      set, but it was no less riveting on our radio or at the continually
      playing newsreel theatres, who were rushed the footage and  packed
      out every day, with long queues waiting to rotate in to see it.

      There was the Redex Trial - around most of outback Australia and at
      first it was dominated by the Peugeot (frog) cars. There were many
      well known identities entering but the man who captured everyone's
      imagination was 'Gelegnite' Jack Murray. This man carried explosives
      which he used to blast his way through any obstacles in his path that
      stopped or slowed him down in the outback.

      Disneyland was planned and construction started.

      The poor old Hungarians tried an uprising so the Russians over ran
      them  with tanks.

      The Arabs and Egyptians took on Israel and lasted only six days,
      losing much equipment and land as well as suffering many casualties.

      National Service was for any fit male of 19 years and consisted of
      a 90 day army stint. These boys were labelled '90 day wonders'.
      The regular army men  were called "chokko's".

      The Pill was released onto the market with strict controls.    Large
      regional supermarkets  started to take the place of the corner stores.

      1957 saw the Russians put their Sputnik into orbit and though the
      Americans got to the moon first 12 years later, the 'Russkies' were
      first in space. The Russians even put a dog up, but it ran out of
      oxygen and died up there.

      Made you wonder WHO was dog's best friend.

      The fifties was the era which most changed the human face of Australia
      and set the path to where we are today.      Now my generation is in
      charge of our country's current course and direction.

           (And we seem to be struggling with the job!)

©Ted Middleton 1998.

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