The fifties were a complex era..
there was a bucolic sense of peaceful and happy rightness..with a faint whisper of bad things to come;
the schools had their playgrounds,
and their brick walls;
in my school, the floor which was used for our Christmas pageants and
concerts was finally condemned..we didn’t worry about it; the basement where we had our lunch tables was also used for air raid drills..
we didn’t think too much about a possible war..the school was an ugly building with an ugly front entrance, but it was where we went, so we didn’t see it that way;
At recess, we girls liked to chase a boy named Harvey McNutt..
he was the school lothario;
in a way, Harvey was a symbol of the 50’s..he was blond and bland and handsome, and happy to be chased by small females..
he was everything nice and innocent that an American boy should be;
I have a memory of another boy named Kenny Baker..
we had arithmetic tests every day, which were corrected and handed back the next morning;
Kenny always drank the chocolate milk, while most of us drank the usual white variety..
one morning the math tests were handed back, and it seems that Kenny received an “A”-
he was so excited that he threw up all over his desk..I remember this because poor Kenny was definitely NOT the all- American boy..
he was skinny and clumsy and not very handsome, and we never chased him around the school yard;
One day the school sent us home with a notice to our parents..
I don’t think any one of us read it..
my mother told me years later that the notice asked the parents to decide where their children should go in the event of an attack-
at school in the basement, or sent home on the bus..not much of a choice..
I can’t see a school bus as a safe haven-
the 50’s also had the hearings on un-American activities- anyone who seemed suspicious for whatever reason(s) was in danger of being called a communist, and was in danger of being ostracised and losing his livelihood-
some committed suicide, some moved to another country, and some stuck it out in prison;
children were taught by parents what to believe, and what loyalty meant..
my mother took my brother and me to see a movie called “Point Of Order”which showed how the hearings were conducted; the committee’s main function was to get people to name names, and then these
people would name names, etc.
finally, Harvard University refused to make professors take an oath of allegiance, and then other colleges and universities followed suit..
the hearings would eventually be declared unconstitutional- the fifth amendment states that no one may be made to incriminate himself;
we kids thought of safety as having two parents, a dog (or cat), a house with a neat front yard, and a television to provide hours of entertainment;
meanwhile, my father was building a bomb shelter in our basement, and we saw daily civil defense ads showing us what to do in the event of an enemy attack..we were basically asleep with our
luxuries and our pride..