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1955: The Year That Was

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

1955: America at its Best

1955 was the year America hit its zenith. It manufactured half of all the goods made in the world. More people went to church in 1955 than ever before or since in the United States. More churches were built in 1955 than in any other year of American history.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the United States in 1955. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe were the hot new film stars. McDonalds had just been started. The first department stores were built, and the very first hotel chain: Holiday Inn. Soon to come was the Interstate Highway System that would transform America forever.

But the big event of the 1950s was the coming of television. Milton Berle became the first bonafide TV star. Television would shape presidential elections enormously in the decades to come. And TV advertising would acquire tremendous power over the purchasing decisions of the average citizen.



The Fifties: Suburbs, Elvis, Television

In the Fifties a big move to the suburbs began in the United States. After World War Two, there was a serious housing shortage. Entrepreneurs like the Levitt Brothers, who built Levittown on Long Island, created huge new communities outside the major cities and thus a whole new lifestyle was born.

In the Fifties Elvis Presley became the most famous man in the world. Hugh Hefner launched his magazine in the Fifties. Both men would profoundly change American culture.

I Love Lucy and Ozzie and Harriet were the big television programs of the Fifties. Both were unusual mixes of reality and fiction. Television would confuse the two in the minds of viewers ever since.



1955: The Atomic Bomb and Civil Rights

In 1955 people in advanced societies lived in fear of an attack by the Soviet Union with nuclear bombs. Bomb shelters were built by the millions and school drills were common.

In 1955 the Civil Rights Movement was just getting started, uplifted by the Brown v. Board of Education ruling the year before that made segregated public schools illegal in the United States. American sports teams were integrated in the 1950s and many Americans of African descent emerged as huge stars, idolized by people of all ethnicities.

J. Edgar Hoover ruled the FBI with an iron hand. The CIA was very active with secret agents around the world involved in clandestine operations.



The 1950s: Great Migration, General Motors, Beatniks

In the 1950s the Great Migration—the movement of millions of black Americans from the rural south of cotton fields to the big industrial cities of the northern United States—accelerated. Martin Luther King Jr. was just getting started as a Civil Rights leader.

General Motors was by far the largest corporation in the world and sold half of all automobiles in the United States in the 1950s.

Toward the end of the 1950s the Beats or Beatniks became cultural icons. They rejected society and conformity in favor of "doing your own thing." They were heavily into drugs and homosexual behaviors.

The Kinsey Reports on sexuality were amazingly influential in the 1950s and since, though it turns out the author was a sado-masochist child molester who falsified all of the data.



The Fifties: Conformity, Prosperity, Baby Boom

The Fifties are criticized by some as a time of stifling conformity. The decade was also a time of unprecedented prosperity in America—prosperity enjoyed by a larger percentage of the people than ever before in human history.

The Fifties was a time without pornography, without vulgar language spoken in public.

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It was a time of little government interference in the liberty of individuals.

Lawsuits were unusual rather than ubiquitous as they are today.

Crime was so low that most people never bothered to lock their doors, and many left the keys in their cars overnight.

In the Fifties the sounds outside were full of the laughter of children. Everybody on every block knew everybody else. Children were taught in school about how fortunate they were to be born in America.

The Bible was read in public schools and children prayed in class. America was a thankful nation. Little did the people know all hell was about to break loose in the 1960s.



THE 1950s: Movies, Novels, and Television

The top ten movies of the 1950s were: Singin' in the Rain; 12 Angry Men; Rear Window; Sweet Smell of Success; Bridge on the River Kwai; All About Eve; Ben-Hur; Vertigo; Some Like it Hot; and The Searchers.

The most famous novelists of the 1950s included Ernest Hemingway, James Michener, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and Ayn Rand. Norman Vincent Peale was the best-selling non-fiction author.

Television made it possible to become famous overnight. Quiz shows were immensely popular on television in the 1950s. It ended up that quite a few were rigged so that contestants who were most popular with the audience kept on winning.



The Raconteur

Once upon a time, there was a fifteen year boy who ran away from home. He took off hitchhiking southbound from Michigan, with no destination in mind. He decided to go wherever a ride might take him.

A gorgeous gal in a Corvette wearing a short skirt picked the boy up. She was headed to Nashville, and he rode along. The second person who gave the lad a lift was on his way to Atlanta, which sounded fine to the young man. The third ride was going to Sarasota, Florida—so there he went.

It so happened the young man knew two girls from his hometown that had moved to Sarasota. They introduced him to some hippies who invited him to live in their commune, which he did for a couple months. It was far out, man—but that is a story for another day.

The lad was broke and got homesick. So, he called his father, who had no idea where he was. When his father asked and was told he started laughing. He said "A salmon always goes home to spawn." The young fella didn't get it until his father told him that he was most certainly conceived in Sarasota during his parents' honeymoon—in 1954.



The Work That People Do

Americans that were born in the 1950s and later are engaged in diverse occupations to make a living these days. Among these activities are installing telecommunications systems, working as an aircraft technician, working for corporations in administration.

Other people fly charter jets for the rich and famous, sell used aircraft, play pool for a living, or own small construction companies.

Some Americans own a little business that supplies ice, some renovate old houses, some work as bartenders. There are people who own small town hardware stores, and people who have a heating, air-conditioning, and plumbing business. Some people are actors off-Broadway, some tutor the children of wealthy Manhattanites.

And there are those who refuse to work because they "can't stand to be around people." They live off of taxpayers, and constantly work on angles by which they might increase those government checks and services. In that subculture there are many tricks of the trade.

James A Watkins has members of his immediate family engaged in all of the activities above.



Obscure World Record Set in 1959

In 1959, two little boys recorded a new world record, as yet not broken. These lads, from Benton Harbor, Michigan, had an uncle with an unusual talent—he farted in his sleep.

This uncle would come home tired from working all day and take a nap on the couch. The boys would be watching television in the same room, probably "Danger is my Business" or some such.

The thing is, he not only farted in his sleep but the farts themselves were exceptionally long. Boys will be boys, so they concocted the idea of timing them. Anyway, I am here to report that the longest fart they were able to record was a full thirty seconds, and consisted of one solid note. It did not waver in pitch whatsoever. All the more remarkable.



1955: The Year of My Birth

Your author was born in 1955. His birthday was just a few days ago. Now that the speeches, parades, and fireworks have passed, he decided to write a little Hub in celebration of another year passed. The world is a different place than it was in 1955.

Last year your author had received many requests from his regular readers to write more about himself for a change. Your author writes articles on HubPages about history, religion, politics, art, music, baseball, books, economics, science, travel, and other topics.

Your author, never wanting to disappoint his regular readers, obliged and decided that perhaps once a year he would write from a more personal perspective.

Last year's piece included short sections about your author's childhood and parents; how he developed a lifelong love for reading books and for playing music. It also featured some of your author's favorite song lyrics and the words to one of his original compositions.



Your Author

James A Watkins received hundreds of wonderful notes in response to 'It is my Birthday.' He also had a few cranks chime in with criticism.

One person wrote "Everybody has a birthday, but only James is pompous and arrogant enough to make a big deal out of his." Of course, this same person, a fellow writer on HubPages, received political asylum in the United States and has returned this favor by spewing steaming piles of venom about how she hates America because it is not any different than the old USSR.

Another HubPages writer wrote a whole Hub lambasting the Hub because it expressed gratefulness for many undeserved past blessings, which she called "bragging."

Yet another wrote a Hub that was a broadside of vigorous vitriol. It claimed that the fall from grace to poverty was a calculated plot to illicit sympathy from ignorant rubes so they might be swindled out their hard-earned life savings.





James A. Watkins

James A Watkins has but two sentences to describe himself on his HubPages Profile Page. Many of his readers have written to him to request more information about this utterly fascinating writer.

James A Watkins made a meager living as a rock and roll singer and drummer for a couple decades. He also worked for a number of years in the family auto parts business—founded by his grandfather in 1945. He sold a ton of automobiles in his day for various car dealerships. He sold computer hardware in bulk over the phone for a year. And he managed parts departments, service departments, and sales departments for auto dealerships.

Finally, James A Watkins got into the aviation business—twice. The first company went under after the Payne Stewart Plane Crash. The second company went bankrupt after fourteen glorious years in business, growing to 150 employees from 4 before the economic downturn of 2008, mostly the doubling of jet fuel prices, put us down.

Your author decided to reinvent himself as a writer. For several years, he kept his head down, laid low, and wrote internet magazine articles for HubPages. Eventually he published his first book; then his second; then a third. James A Watkins is currently working on his fourth book.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2013:

Vladimir Uhri--- You are quite welcome, my friend. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your kind comments.

James :-)

Vladimir Uhri from HubPages, FB on February 12, 2013:

Nice cross-section of American history. Thanks James.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 16, 2013:

Randy Godwin— Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I had no idea that you are older than me. I am surprised. You seem like a much younger man in your writings. I would have guessed in your thirties! And I mean that in a good way. You are right; I must respect my elders. :D

The 50s were a magical time for me too, my friend. New innovations such as television? I do not think many foresaw the powerfully negative effect it could have; or shall I say, the evil it can be used for. It seems it was used to portray high and noble ideals at first, ideals to which we could aspire. Maybe it was too good to be true but now . . . now it appeals to the most base of human desires.

Now a lot of folks cannot stand nostalgia, especially the militant progressives. They insist that the Fifties were only good in our puny little minds; that "Golden Age" thinking is a joke we play on ourselves, that no "good old days" were very good, that things are always getting better. But that is not true. The 1890s were better than the 1910s; the 1920s were vastly better than the 1930s; and the 1950s were heavenly when compared to the nightmarish 1970s.

Yes I was one of the "fart-timers."

Thanks again, Randy. I appreciate the correspondence.


Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on January 10, 2013:

How did I miss this one, James? I see I am 5 years your senior so show me some respect! LOL! You are so right, the 50's was a magical time for me, as well as, a time of time of "new" innovations such as the TV and the many innovative shows we suddenly had access to.

My father--a WWII veteran--bought the first B&W TV in the area even though we could only pick up one channel--and that not too clear at times.

The economy was booming and farming was a good life for my family. I suppose there's a lot to be said for "the good ole days." At least in my part of the world. Loved the old shows you mentioned on this hub among other fond memories.

I too have had a great life and am so pleased to remember these good times. Thanks for your great reminders!

P.S.--Just curious, were you one of the "fart timers?" LOL!


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 10, 2013:

Deb Welch--- I am well pleased that you enjoyed this Hub about 1955. That was the year I was born (but don't tell anybody).

It seems to me that most people were doing well in the 1950s. Life was not perfect by any means. But then, it never is nor will be in this world.

They say you can never go home again. Maybe we will never get back to the virtues and safety and peace and propriety and prosperity of those times. Compared to the nightmare that our society has become, it does seem like a dream. That is why the 1950s are mocked by the Left, because they know their vision leads to perdition but they don't want the young to realize it, or realize how life could be like; clean and nice and polite. It is very sad.

Thank you very much for the "Useful, Funny and Interesting." :D

Deb Welch on January 09, 2013:

James - I really enjoyed this Hub about 1955 and the humor within it. What a neat idea to write about a year in review. I was 4 yrs. old. My parents were doing well - middle class - a new car - television set - new house and many other features of that time that I barely remember. My daughter's Dad was born in 1955 and made a big deal about being younger. Life in that time will never be again almost as a dream. Sad. Useful, Funny and Interesting.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 13, 2012:

John Z--- What a pleasure it is to hear from you again, my friend. So we share the same birth year? As you say, a very good year it was. :D

Thank you for visiting, the birthday wishes, and your kind compliments.

John Z from Midwest on November 12, 2012:

Good hub James. I also was born in 1955. November 17th that is. Fine year it was. Happy belated birthday to you

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on April 01, 2011:

Alastar Packer— I think you've got it. You lived in Mayberry! Cool. I hope you enjoy my piece on that program as well.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 31, 2011:

How does that quote go James, you can't please all of the people all the time....anyway I used to live in Mayberry (Mt Airy)for a time, so I think I'll read that one next.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 31, 2011:

Alastar Packer— I know! You can't please everybody no matter how hard you try. Well, I am glad you enjoyed this piece. Thank you for visiting and leaving behind your remarks.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 30, 2011:

James, "1955" was a fine over-lay of that year and if it makes you feel any better, I once saw on Amazon a book that had 18 or 19... 5 stars...down at the bottom one person had rated it ..1 star. Go figure.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 30, 2011:

Dara-- It is truly a pleasure to hear from you twice in one day! :-)

The reality TV programs of today have their ancestors in the "I Love Lucy" and "Ozzie and Harriet" shows, which were real people using their real names (mostly) combined with fictional premises. Lucy even had her real baby on the show! (Well, they didn't go in the delivery room.) Many people got the real people and the fiction mixed up. Ever since, this phenomena of blurring fact from fiction has grown stronger, though it waxes and wanes with cultural trends.

Thank you, my dear, for your fine words. I am with you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 30, 2011:

Dara-- Hello there! I am really happy to receive your note. It has been a while since we have engaged. One of my great regrets is that I failed to make it down to see you last year when you came over this way. I am flying under the radar, so to speak.

Thank you for coming by to say Hi and stopping in to read my humble little Hub here. I originally wrote this as "My Birthday Hub" but HubPages is having to change, under pressure from Google (where the advertising dollars come from) and they are no longer accepting "personal" Hubs. I rewrote it three times before it was acceptable and here it is.

I know you know that boy in "Racontuer." That was you and Denise who were my Sarasota friends!! :D

Being born in 1955 has given me a birds eye view of the complete revolution in American society since then. That is what my book is about.

I hope all is well and that your art is flourishing. God Bless You!

dara on March 30, 2011:

Fiction, Fact and TV being the most profound comment I found on this Hub. I am most simulated by your encompassing observation.

I would also like to note that I am aware that only in America could I feel the way I do about being born in the 50's. It rocks like solid ground and man you rock too.

PS: I Love Lucy...what a nut

dara on March 29, 2011:

Hello There Jimmy. I have been meaning to come by and read this one and say Hi.

Now that I have I can tell you I really enjoyed this. A very interesting read.

It was the best time on the planet to be born in my opinion.

I love your story about the Raconteur...I know that Boy!

Happy Birthday to you my friend and I am glad you are still here with us. May you have many more. You will..longevity runs in your family.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 28, 2011:

mojefballa-- Thank you very much. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

Ikeji Chinweuba from Nigeria on March 28, 2011:

well written hub, keep it up.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 27, 2011:

ESTAN FULLER- Captain Fuller, I appreciate the birthday wishes. No, it wasn't my dad who was the prolific farter, It was my Uncle John. :D

The 55 Chevy! You're right. I should have mentioned that and included a photo of one. I miss Sunjet too. Did you read the aviation Hub I wrote for you?

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 27, 2011:

SUSIE42- Well, I am well pleased to have brought back great memories. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 27, 2011:

Betty Wilson- You're welcome, my dear friend. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I can hear your voice in your words. Thank you for coming! The book will be out this summer. :-)

ESTAN FULLER on March 26, 2011:

James; Happy 56th they sure fly by fast when you get in your 50's The story about the record set in Mich.about passing gas was that your father Jim by chance ??? Also the year 1955 GM produced the fabolus 55 Chev. Estan F. PS I still miss SUN-JET AND all the folks that worked there in good and bad times.

SUSIE42 on March 26, 2011:

I also remember those years. They were the best. All of the things you mention bring back great memories.

Betty Wilson on March 25, 2011:

James, I remember those years and you have it correct. They were wonderful years. Thanks for the "Stroll down Memory Lane". Keep on writing. Waiting on your book.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 28, 2011:

Wooded— Thank you! Thank you very much. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 28, 2011:

RealHousewife— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 28, 2011:

DavePrice— Yes, my friend, I am sad to admit it but I only have three brain cells left.

I am well pleased that Kerry Wood is back home with the Cubs. I saw him pitch once for the Cubs AA farm team in Orlando years ago and he was smokin'!

Thanks for coming to see me on my birthday Hub. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 28, 2011:

katiem2— Why, thank you so much, my dear! I am glad you enjoyed this piece. What lovely compliments you paid. I am feeling pretty good right about now. I am basking in the glow of your warm words :-)

I am proud to call you my friend, Katie. I used to have groupies—but I never did anything with any of them. Well, maybe I got weak a couple times.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 28, 2011:

Lady Blah Blah— I have written many songs, music and lyrics, now that you mention it. Here is a link to a Hub with videos of a couple of them:

Thaks for asking! :D

Wooded on February 27, 2011:

Happy Belated Birthday! Great hub.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on February 27, 2011:

Haha! Very good one!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 27, 2011:

RealHousewife— Welcome to the Hub Pages Community. Thank you for your kind compliments. You are truly welcome. Go Cubs! :-)

DavePrice from Sugar Grove, Ill on February 26, 2011:

Finally confirmation: I knew that brain was fried somewhere along the line :)A belated Happy Birthday friend, and keep on writing - you have found your true calling. And, best of all, Kerry Woods is back home with the Cubs where he belongs!

Katie McMurray from Ohio on February 26, 2011:


I adore you, you ooozzz with all the qualities making a person positive and directed by peace. I enjoy very much reading about you, your family and history. I come from a family of six kids.

Oh where would this country be without great documentation from the gifted few such as yourself that do so and so carefully. I love that your a muscian most of all. Call me a groupy/friend! Happy Birthday! :) Katie

P.S. Remember this, negative people and their opinions of you are none of your business nor those of us who love you! Happy Birthday!

Lady Blah Blah from South Carolina on February 25, 2011:

Happy belated birthday. Ever think about writing song lyrics? Not to suggest you should stop writing articles're a good writer.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on February 25, 2011:

Very excellent writer you are! I loved this from the first word to the last! Happy belated birthday:) thanks!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 25, 2011:

sonia05— It has indeed been an adventure, melady. I enjoyed reading your fine comments. Thank you for coming to my birthday party. Good to see you!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 25, 2011:

Prasetio!! Good to hear from you, my friend. I am proud to have you as a friend, too, brother. Thank you for all the nice things you wrote to me. God Bless You!


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 25, 2011:

WildIris— You're welcome, Iris. I'm glad you enjoyed my little story. It's good to see you. Thank you for your warm words.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 25, 2011:

crystolite— You're welcome. I look forward to checking out your Hubs. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 25, 2011:

bbnix— Thank you and you are welcome. Happy Birthday to you too. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community. I'll be over soon to see what you've been writing so far. I looked at your titles and profile page and that had me interested in checking out your work.