To answer the question of whether or not the 1950s’ were really the “Happy Days,” is like
saying that there was a chicken in every pot when Hoover was president. There are many good
reasons why the 1950s’ could be called the “Happy Days,” as well as many reasons why this was
just an illusion to many.
With the 1950s’ a whole change of lifestyles erupted among people. The war had ended,
and people had money that they did not have before. Because they were not able to buy anything
during World War II, the only logical thing to do was save it. After World War II, many products
became available to the public that had not during the war. Many new devices and time-saving
gadgets had also come out and were now available for purchase. Families were now able to afford
a vacuum cleaner, washer, and drier, to keep women busy all day cleaning and cooking. The first
television sets directed more towards home use were now being sold. Along with these
televisions, VCRs’ were available as well so people could record episodes of The Mickey Mouse
Club, or Howdy Doody, and display it on their whopping six-inch black and white screen.
Automobiles once again took off after the war, and people were able to purchase them using time
payments. Many people found their freedom again in their car. Millions were able to take that
Sunday drive to just get away from it all. Some say it was the pursuit of material things that kept
Americans going.
There was a dark side to it all as well. Along with the ending of the war, jobs were not as
abundant as they were during the war. Many found trouble finding jobs that would pay enough to
support their families. Even though many were able to afford automobiles on time payment plans,
not many realized the need for safety in them. Thousands died each year in automobile crashes,
and it may be the pursuit of materialism that clouded the minds of many into denying such a
threat. Many families had to scrimp and save every month to be able to pay for house payments,
car payments, the chance to take one’s family to go camping for a week, and so on. Not many had
any extra cash to use as spending money. The 1950s’ also involved a lot of fear. McCarthy was
running around screaming, “Reds, Reds... the U.S.A. is full of communist sympathizers, in every
important level of our society.” Another Red Scare emerged again as the U.S. and Russia went
head-to-head in an Arms and Space Race. Many feared that after Russia had launched their
satellite SPUTNIK, that they would be able to launch Inter-Continental Balistic Missiles and
destroy America’s big cities. Because of this fear, thousands built underground bomb shelters to
shield them if an attack ever occurred. Our military developed planes that could stay in the air for
days at a time and not be caught on the ground by a surprise atomic attack. We also developed
the Polaris missile for use on an underwater submarine.
I believe they were all afraid but unable to truthfully admit it due to a fear of the lack of
strength and courage they showed in World War II. Many people used material possessions to get
their mind off of this, as did people in the 1920s’ when they went to movies, or ball games to take
their mind off the depression. The 1950s’ seemed to replicate many events of the 1920s’ but with
a new style. There was a depression in the 20s’ and a recession in the 50s’. Jazz became the music
of the 20s’, while Rock’N’Roll developed in the 50s’. There was also a Red Scare in both
decades, which led to the murder of some innocent people. So to say that the 1950s’ were the
“Happy Days” is much like saying that magic is real.