Remembering a special time in 1951.
Bill and I married January 7, 1955. We would have been married 60 years if he had lived. Precious memories.
I posted this picture on Facebook to commemorate a treasured day in my life—and much to my amazement it started a long chain of comments, phone calls, and questions wanting to know more about the picture, what the story was, where it was taken, where we were headed, etc. so here’s my time capsule story.
It was a happy, carefree time. The 1950s were like an oasis in the desert, sandwiched between changing and disruptive decades. The difficulties of the Great Depression and World War II were in the past. In 1951, patriotic America was still celebrating the return of the soldiers and the reuniting of families. The 1950s have been called the last generation of innocence before it was lost in the sixties with the assignation of President Kennedy.
Saturday night was the main date night in 1951 Texas. We were high school seniors and the whole world stretched in front of us. We had just gotten off the streetcar that is visible in the photo behind us. Very few teenagers had cars of their own. Unless one of the guys could borrow their family car, we used public transportation. We boarded a bus in Oak Cliff then transferred to a streetcar on Jefferson Avenue, which took us to downtown Dallas.
Side note—parents didn’t worry very much about their children dating, after all, how much trouble could a couple get into riding on streetcars and buses!
Bill and his friend John had just received their new football letter jackets bearing a “D” for Dallas. A large “A” for Adamson High School was on the back. It’s worth noting that the guys were showing off—notice that the girls had sleeveless dresses on! The letter jackets were really important; the guys had just completed their last season of high school football. To put this in perspective, a letter jacket was as significant to them as the Super Bowl ring is to the football players of today.
Side note—Bill would wrap his hand around mine and put both hands in his pocket laughing and saying, “I’ve got you now. You can’t get away.” If you look closely, you can see he’d just done that and was laughing about it.
Downtown Dallas was a vibrant, exciting place to be on a Saturday night. It was the place to go see “who was dating whom” and to be seen. It was the place to “hang out.” Most of the movie theaters were in a three-block stretch on Elm Street. We had four choices, the Majestic, Tower, Palace, or Rialto Theater.
Side note—The Majestic Theater is still there today. Look at the photo at Elm Street in the background. Notice the lack of traffic and the cars parked in front of the buildings, which are not as tall as they are today.
I don’t remember what we saw that night. It could have been A Streetcar Named Desire with Marlon Brando, An American in Paris with Gene Kelly, My Favorite Spy with Bob Hope, It’s a Big Country with Gary Cooper, or I’ll See You in My Dreams with Doris Day and Danny Thomas, or any of the others that were released that year. And they were all G-rated!
In the 50s, everyone I knew had small homes. They only had one car, if they had a car at all. Income was around $3,500 a year. New homes averaged $9,000, and a Ford car was $1,500. Wouldn’t this be wonderful today—gas was 20 cents a gallon! There was no air conditioning, microwaves, dishwashers, computers, or cell phones. And clothes were hung outside to dry. Televisions were around, but we didn’t know anyone that had one.
Side note—my parents bought a black and white TV with an exciting six-inch screen in 1952 after I went to college. Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Lawrence Welk, and I Love Lucy became popular around that time. And the screen went black at midnight.
With salaries less than $300 a month and minimum wage at 75 cents an hour, most dates were “stay-at-home” dates. We played monopoly and Chinese Checkers, worked puzzles, made fudge, and sat on the front porch talking. Sunday afternoons in the park, touch football, and a freezer of homemade ice cream was considered the best of all.
Bill and I met ninth grade English class. I was 13 and he was 14. Looking back, I’m not sure how we knew at that young age—and that seems younger as I get older—but we knew we were meant for each other. After graduating from high school in 1952, we went to different colleges hundreds of miles apart, and we decided we should date others. However, three months later on his first trip back, Bill put an engagement ring on my finger and said no more dating anyone else!
Oh yes, the hot peanuts! When the movie was over, we’d come outside to the tantalizing smell of roasted peanuts. The Planters Roasted Peanut Store was located in the midst of the movie theaters. I’m quite sure they must have piped the smell out someway! Of course, we’d go in and buy peanuts before boarding the streetcar for the ride home.
Buses, Streetcars, and Hot Peanuts—Oh, yes, great memories!