The Great Life of the Forties and Fifties
By Tom Morrow
Growing up in the forties and fifties was an idyllic time. The nation had just survived a depression, a world war and was beginning a recovery to the American way of life. Detroit was making automobiles again, housewives could now have a new refrigerator, and vets were going to college on the GI Bill. It was a time we’ll never see again.
Some war-time rationing still lingered until the late forties, slowly disappearing as the nation shifted from war production to a domestic footing that allowed an unprecedented opportunity for homebuyers to realize the American dream – buying a home.
By the fifties some high school teenagers could own their own car. Depending upon financial status, “Wheels” could range from a Ford jalopy to a near-new Plymouth or Chevy. For myself, I got to drive my Dad’s old 1929 Chevy coupe, which at the time was 24 years old with only 24,000 miles — the driver’s manual was still in the glove box.
Ford and Chevy were the popular models for young people. You could always tell who the nerds were because they drove a Nash or Hudson. If you didn’t have a Ford V-8 engine you weren’t “cool.” And, you simply had to have a glass-pack muffler for that distinctive V-8 rumble. A lowered (shackled) rear-end was optional, but you stood out from the rest if you also had rear fender skirts. With my Dad’s ’24 Chevy, I was in a class all by myself. Getting a date had its challenges. Girls didn’t want to be seen in “an old car,” when they could be riding in style with other boys. But I had something no one else had: an “Ooogah” horn.
Gas in Iowa was a steady .29.9 cents per gallon. We could slip over the Missouri border some 7 miles away and get gas a lot cheaper due to the frequent gas wars. In Kansas City I filled up for .13.9 cents in 1957.
Each industrial company had contributed to the war effort. Some produced the popular GI limousine — the Jeep. Studebaker produced thousands of trucks, which were sent to Russia to use on the Eastern Front against Germany. Ford built B-24 bombers, G.M. and others built everything from trucks to machine guns.
After the war, Henry J. Kaiser moved from building Liberty ships to a new line of automobile: the Kaiser. Henry also added a luxury vehicle to his line, the Fraser. From the late forties to the mid-fifties Kaiser was a popular, inexpensive car.
In 1948, Preston Tucker, an automotive engineer developed a new, revolutionary car. He was able to build some 51 vehicles before being stopped by the “Big Three Detroit auto builders.
The Tucker was the talk of the automotive world, scaring the heck out of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But his revolutionary design were too futuristic and it would be several decades before many of his futuristic innovations were embraced by other companies.
MOM’S LOGIC – Somehow mothers have their own peculiar way of making their point by extolling age-old logic to their children. Such as: “Because I said so, that’s why,” or “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.” Another gem: “If you run and fall, breaking your leg, don’t come running to me.”
WILL ROGERS: “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.”
SCAG SEZ: It seems like a lot of married folks these days work hard at keeping everything they have, except their spouse. – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features.