(Part IV a brief pause)
AMERICA’S CHANGING LIFESTYLES
Harry Truman was beginning his second year as president in his own right as January 1, 1950, dawned clear and cold. The Korean War was still raging. American hopes were that it would not spread further because of China’s involvement. A somewhat insignificant Senator from Wisconsin gained more power than he deserved as chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations.
During the first four years of the fifties, McArthyism was coined and brought fear into the hearts and lives of anyone who even thought “liberal.” Anyone who didn’t agree with him was a pinko, leftist or traitor. He saw communism in every corner of the country and destroyed the lives and careers of decent Americans who dared speak for peace. He wanted war and raged his kind of war in the papers, on radio, television and every form of communication known to mankind. He was destroyed by his own colleagues when the U. S. Senate formerly censored him on two counts:
1. Contempt and abuse of a Senate committee that looked into his financial affairs in 1952.
2. Insulting members of this committee on national television, thereby bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute and obstructing the constitutional process. McCarthy soon sank into the morass of his own self-aggrandizement.
Harry Truman and his family moved into Blair House while a White House in disrepair was being renovated. On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola stormed Blair House in an attempt to assassinate President Truman. Torresola mortally wounded White House Police officer Leslie Coffelt, who killed him return fire. Secret Service agents wounded Collazo. President Truman, upstairs in the residence, was unaware and unharmed.
BLACK AND WHITE – A REDUX
During the fifties, there was an unusual amount of Black people from countries across the globe, coming here for a better chance at life, unlike the first influx when they were brought to this country in shackles and chains as slaves. However, some things seemed never to change. Jobs were controlled by Whites, many of whom would not hire Blacks, despite their abilities or training. This was primarily in the southeast part of the country, but do not be deluded. It occurred in every city or community across the fruited plains. The problem was, as it often is today, racism is just below the skin.
THE ORDINARY COST OF LIVING
During the early fifties, a house could be had for $8450. Wages averaged $3200 a year. Most of us would look at that as more a monthly income today. $3.50 would fill the tank of even a Cadillac at 18 cents a gallon. Five dollars would feed the family for a week. Except for veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights, higher education still escaped many who would have wanted to get an education. Professors and Regents have always been outspoken activists against free education.
A GENERAL TAKES COMMAND OF THE COUNTRY
“I like Ike” was the mantle for Eisenhower’s charge toward the Presidency in 1952 and 1956. His opponent, Adlai Stevenson, whose grandfather had been Vice-president, was swept aside in both elections in which he opposed the popular general who had conquered Europe. The most memorable thing about Stevenson was a lapel button crafted from a hole in the sole of one of his shoes. For the eight years of Eisenhower’s term in office, we were officially at peace with the world. However, at home, our social habits were changing at a rapid pace. We were introduced to the slogan, “Do Your Own Thing,” and the invention of T.V. Dinners. Everybody had a social agenda that did not include sitting down to family dinners. It was too easy to slip a packaged meal into the over and voila, dinner, and “Sorry, I’ve got to run. I have an important event this evening.” And so it went.
Teenagers had always, from childhood up, been told to speak when spoken to, and not to interrupt an adult or have an opinion of their own. All of that was about to change. Black musicians were mostly limited to Black radio stations. The idea of a Black entertainer being accepted by White Americans was something only jazz enthusiasts entertained, despite the Duke Ellington’s and Cab Calloways. All of that changed when a young black man, adopted by a white family after being tossed out on his ear by his father because of his homosexuality, hit the airways with a song called “Tutti Fruitti.” It skyrocketed in the charts and suddenly a new medium called rock and roll became of American culture, although several years earlier a White group, Bill Haley and the Comets performed “Rock around the Clock” in a film, “Blackboard Jungle which integrated White, Hispanic and Black into what would become the basis for the fifties teenage revolution that rocked this country like nothing since the Boston Tea Party.
Then came Jerry Lee Louis, Elvis Presley and a melange of copy cats that had the big band parents shaking their heads. Popular music would never be the same.
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