40+ Vintage Photos Of Life In The 50s

Life in the 1950s was very different from what it is today. Lacking the technology of the 21st century, it was a much simpler time. People weren’t distracted by personal devices and spent more time face to face and outside enjoying nature. The post-World War II boom boosted the economy, allowing Americans to purchase new cars, homes and enjoy more leisure time than ever before in the 50s. Now, travel back in time with these vintage photos.

Kids Got Excited by Toys Like This Robot

The ’50s were a simpler time. Kids weren’t exposed to the technology that’s prevalent today, and they had a lot of fun with items that were a bit more low key. Check out this young boy wearing a futuristic space helmet and goggles. He’s using a toy called Robert the Robot, which was manufactured by the Ideal Toy Corp.

Bettmann/Contributor Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor Getty Images

The robot was showcased during the summer of 1959 at the American Fair in Moscow. The robot was touted for its ability to walk and talk. Even its eyes lit up with the help of a remote control. The robot cost just six dollars.

Greasers Were Rebels With Their Own Particular Brand of Fashion

Some teenagers, like this group of young men, passed the time by hanging out on their motorcycles in parking lots. This group of San Francisco teens was known as greasers. They were young people with rebellious attitudes who liked rock and roll music, rockabilly, and doo-wop.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Greasers were characterized by their rebellious attitude and working-class attire (t-shirts, jeans, and boots). They greased their hair back with products such as petroleum jelly in order to style it into various shapes, such as the pompadour. Female greasers wore leather jackets and tight, cropped pants such as capris and pedal pushers.

TVs Catapulted in Popularity, Bolstered by Shows Such as I Love Lucy

The stereotypical ’50s family spent quality time together on a regular basis. That often involved watching television programs like this family viewing a boxing match in 1950. Some popular TV shows during that time were I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, The Honeymooners, Leave it to Beaver, and Gunsmoke.

Camerique/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Camerique/Archive Photos/Getty Images

By the mid-fifties, nearly two-thirds of all households owned a television, something that was a luxury item just a decade earlier. TV programs depicted ideal homes with working dads, housewives wearing pearls, obedient daughters, and sons who got into good, old-fashioned trouble. Few American homes actually had perfect families like the ones seen on TV.

Teens Went on Double Dates Before ‘Going Steady’

Much of the ’50s brings to mind one word: innocence. Check out these two teenagers sharing a milkshake in 1958. They look like they were on a date. While it was very innocent, it was also an intimate moment. It was common for teens to go on double dates, particularly for people who were a little shy. Eventually, couples would start single dating and eventually “go steady.”

Bob Barrett/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Bob Barrett/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the ’50s, going steady meant a couple was exclusive but didn’t necessarily mean they were on the road to marriage. Often boys gave their girlfriends a class ring, letterman sweater, or an ID bracelet to wear.

Many Women Worked In Typing Pools

Pictured here is the typing pool at the offices of the London retailer Marks and Spencer in 1959. If a woman worked outside the home, one of the most popular jobs she would have held was a secretarial or typist position. Prior to the digital age, men often employed women who knew shorthand or could type.

Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images
Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images

Shorthand-typists took dictation and typed letters and documents, often working in a pool alongside other typists. Secretaries answered phones, took care of files, typed, and did her boss’s bidding. Similar positions exist today, but the jobs are referred to as office administrators or personal assistants.

Kids Spent a Lot of Time on Their Bicycles and on Paper Routes

In the 1950s, it was common to see kids playing outside. This photo shows several children in Fairfax, Delaware, riding around the neighborhood on their bicycles. One of the most coveted bikes between 1949 and 1960 was the Schwinn Black Phantom. These bikes featured a leather saddle, fender lights, brake light, and luggage rack.

Bettmann/Contributor Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor Getty Images

While some kids rode their bicycles on their paper routes, the Phantom, a.k.a. “the swellest-looking bike in town,” was reserved for sunny days or impressing other kids. These days, kids don’t spend as much time outdoors. The proliferation of technology and video games keeps many of them inside.

Teens Listened to Records and Liked Singers Such as Elvis Presley

Radio disc jokey Dean Calgano did just one show a week, but he had a large teen audience. He’s pictured here with a stack of records in 1955. The smaller records, 45s, were officially introduced to the public in 1949 with the following genres: folk and country, blues and rhythm, pop, classical, and international music.

Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images
Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images

Popular music of the ’50s included Dean Martin, Perry Como, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, and Harry Belafonte. Records have made a comeback for vintage enthusiasts, but these days most people prefer listening to music on streaming radio stations.

Roller Skating, The Limbo, and Hula Hooping Were Popular Pastimes

Roller skating was a popular pastime for kids in the 1950s. The photo here shows two young girls sitting on a curb putting on a pair of skates. Notice how they kept their shoes on and simply attached the metal skates to the bottom of them. A key was required to tighten the skates to the feet. It wasn’t until 1979 that skates transformed into rollerblades.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What did kids do for fun in the ’50s? Typical games included a limbo contest, bubble-gum blowing contest, or hula hoop contest. A popular party game was Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Families also enjoyed watching Name That Tune on TV.

The Fashion Was on Point

This photo from a 1958 issue of Vogue shows two models in New York City with the Chrysler Building in the background. They have on fur muffs, velvet dome hats, and a sleeveless baby-waist dress in wool plaid (left) and a wool-tweed baby-waist dress (right). Iconic styles of the era for women included petticoats and full skirts, slim-fitting pencil skirts, and tight sweaters.

Sante Forlano/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Sante Forlano/Conde Nast via Getty Images

Women commonly accessorized with gloves, a waist-cinching belt, chiffon scarf, and red lipstick. Kitten heels and stiletto heels were also popular. Teens liked wearing poodle skirts, and Peter Pan collar blouses were also popular.

McDonalds Hamburgers Cost Just 15 Cents

While the fast-food giant first launched in 1940, the iconic Golden Arches logo wasn’t introduced until 1953 at a location in Phoenix, Arizona. The photo here shows a McDonald’s drive-in in 1956. The restaurant advertised hamburgers for just 15 cents. Due to inflation, things cost considerably less in the ’50s than they do today.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The average price for a gallon of gas was 18 cents in 1950 and 25 cents by the end of the decade. In 1959, a new car cost on average $2,200. A one-carat diamond ring was $399 (compared to $4,125 today). A woman could buy a basic dress for just $3.29.

NASCAR Got Its Grip on the American Public

The 500-mile-long Daytona 500 held its inaugural race in 1959. Pictured here is the famous Richard Petty alongside his 1957 Oldsmobile at the first event in Daytona Beach, Florida. Petty lost that race due to engine failure. Over the course of his career, Petty ended up winning the NASCAR Championship seven times.

ISC Archives via Getty Images
ISC Archives via Getty Images

Today, the Daytona 500 is considered to be the best and most important race on the NASCAR circuit. Many may forget that NASCAR has its roots in bootlegging. Some ’50s racers also had entertaining names: Chicken Boggs, Peanut Brown, Pee Wee Jones, and Shorty York, for example.

The Popularity of Drive-Ins Reached Their Peak In the 1950s

While drive-in theaters first launched in the ’30s, they became super popular in the ’50s among teens and families. In 1958, the number of drive-ins peaked at over 4,000. “Drive-ins started to really take off in the ‘50s,” Jim Kopp of the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association told Smithsonian Magazine.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“They offered family entertainment. People could sit in their cars, they could bring their babies, they could smoke. Drive-ins offered more flexibility than indoor theaters.” Drive-ins showed B movies because the theaters could only show one film a night, versus five or six times at an indoor theater.

Gunsmoke First Aired On Television In 1955

Although Gunsmoke started out as a radio series in 1952, lasting until 1961, it’s popularity led to the development of the television show of the same name. Gunsmoke first aired on television in 1955 and ran for 20 whole seasons until the series came to an end in 1975. In total, there were 635 episodes by the end of its run.

Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Los Angeles Times columnist Cecil Smith wrote Gunsmoke was the dramatization of the American epic legend of the west. Our own Iliad and Odyssey, created from standard elements of the dime novel and the pulp Western […] It was the stuff of legend.”

Credit Cards Were Invented

In 1951, Franklin’s National Bank issued the first charge card. The New York institution issued cards in order to loan customers. At the time, it was only available to Franklin’s account holders although it was similar to previous charge-it cards.

Jochen Blume/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Jochen Blume/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Then, in 1955, the first United States patent was granted containing the phrase “credit card.” The patent, (2,717,049) was granted by a trio who invented the first gas pump that could accept credit card.

Buying A House Wasn’t Incredibly Hard

Back in the 1950s, unlike today, buying a home for your family wasn’t entirely out of the question for most people. While homes cost lifetime amounts of money these days, forcing many people to rent, in 1950, the average home only cost around $14,000.

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Tom Kelley/Getty Images
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Most families were expected to own a home as well and would probably be beside themselves if they heard the average price of homes today. Not only could people afford houses, but they could also pay them off relatively early and not spend their whole lives paying their mortgage.

TV Dinners Were A Huge Hit

Although today, eating TV dinners may be looked down on, that certainly wasn’t the case back in the 1950s. While most people currently might resort to fast food or other quick meals over TV dinners, back then, they were all the rage.

William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The term “TV Dinner” was first used as part of a brand of packaged meals developed in 1953 by C.A. Swanson & Sons, with its full name being TV Brand Frozen Dinner. Most TV dinners came in an aluminum tray that was then heated up in the oven. They typically contained some kind of meat, vegetables, potatoes, and a desert.

Beauty Companies Were Ruthless

Even though some advertisements in modern times bash on other companies, it is nowhere near to how ruthless beauty and self-care companies were in the 1950s. Back then, companies were not afraid to use fear to sell their products or throw other companies under the bus to get more customers.

Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some beauty products might even threaten that a woman’s husband might go so far as to leave them if they use one product and not the other. Although we know that’s probably not true, in the 1950s, it very well may have affected the sales of a product.

Meals Were Quite A Bit Different

Access to food and the variety of food changed drastically after World War II. This led to cookbooks being filled with recipes including ingredients such as canned fruit and vegetables, jello, boxed cereal, cake mixes, etc. Back then, there were few to no “foodies” like we have today.

Camerique Archive/Getty Images
Camerique Archive/Getty Images

Many families sat down to dinner to a cooked meal of meat, vegetables, homemade desserts, and food when in season. Nothing was too complex while making most of the food groups at the same time. Meals weren’t entirely unhealthy but straight to the point.

Fallout Shelters Were A Legitimate Concern

Although World War II had ended, it wasn’t long before the United States was involved in the Cold War. This was a time of heightened fear of the Soviet Union and the use of atomic and even hydrogen bombs. Starting at the end of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, fear of nuclear war families all over the country began creating fallout shelters of their own in case of such an attack.

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Pictorial Parade/Getty Images
Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

These fallout shelters even began to be advertised and turned into an actual market for those who feared for the worst. The government had even announced that it would be the best way for families in suburban areas to survive in the case of an attack.

Interior Home Decor Became Important

Considering that the 1950s were a time of relative peace and prosperity in the United States, individuals and families began turning their attention to making sure that they were comfortable. This led to a sweeping trend of the importance of interior home decor. Most of the typical styles were vibrant designs along with a focus on space, use of technology, and cleanliness.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Most 1950s homes actually looked like they were straight out of a magazine because most women spent their days tidying up and making sure that everything was in tip-top shape and working order.

The Slang Back Then Was Pretty Unique

Like all of the decades before and all of the decades after, the 1950s saw the invention of some slang terms and phrases among the youth and even the adults. However, back then, the slang can be described as a lot more innocent, some of the phrases can still be heard today.

Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Yet, many of those phrases have been lost and would leave many people clueless as to what most of them meant. For instance, the phrase “Big Daddy” today has a whole different meaning from what it meant back then which was used to describe an older man. Or if you wanted to say you were mad back then you might say you were “frosted,” a term that’s relatively unheard of in today’s culture.

Access To Education

Entrepreneurs debate this, but the bottom line is, the more you are educated, the more you should see your bank account increase. Studies show that those with degree-level education see more money in their lifetime. The sad part is, college isn’t for everyone due to how expensive it is. Back in the ‘50s, this wasn’t an issue thanks to the G.I. Bill.

Lawrence D. Thornton/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Lawrence D. Thornton/Archive Photos/Getty Images

From 1944 to 1956, the bill raised a lot of funds to allow returning servicemen a chance at education. Thanks to this bill, around 7.8 million veterans were able to get their knowledge up. That’s more than the entire UK university population.

Spending Power

Were you aware that after WWII and before 1970, purchasing power exploded? A single man working a blue-collar job was able to take care of his entire family. Paul Krugman (Nobel Prize-winning economist) said this was largely due to a third of America’s workforce being unionized.

Ernst Haas/Getty Images
Ernst Haas/Getty Images

You could stretch your money further as well. Anybody working on a minimum wage budget could pay for rent with a little over a week’s full-time work. Even those at the bottom of the food chain had money to spare.

The Suburbs Were Great

We don’t know what you think about the suburbs these days, but in the ‘50s they were a great place and symbolized everything that was amazing about America. For a large portion of American citizens, the suburbs meant a chance to get away from the inner city and into your own home.

Woman Mowing Lawn Poolside
Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images
Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images

Before WWII, the younger folks were renting apartments with horrible conditions and focused on saving up. Children from the ‘40s knew the suburbs were a huge improvement. All of a sudden you had space, light, and a place to call your own. They also gave the growing middle-class something to strive for.

The American Dream Was Highly Attainable

When you think of the American Dream, what comes to mind? Anyone who works hard will be rewarded handsomely at the end, right? That’s pretty much what’s been embedded into our systems and during the ‘50s, this theory couldn’t have been truer. It’s like that dream was on steroids back then.

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Getty Images
Getty Images

Children born in America after WWII had more than double the chances of achieving this. This trend would continue right up until the early ‘70s. Today, we’ve gone from being the best to the absolute worst.

Debt Wasn’t That Big Of An Issue

The second war had us falling severely into debt, but by the time the ‘50s came rolling around, that same debt was highly under control. At the start of the ‘50s, the debt was around 70% GDP. Then, by 1960, it fell to about slightly above 40. Moreover, it kept falling.

GraphicaArtis/Getty Images
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

This was more than just some brief dip and was more of an on-going trend that Congress can only dream about. To put it in perspective, America has spent the last few years adding back the debt like the pounds your aunt gains back after the holidays.

The New Era Of Architecture

The Lever House is a glass-box skyscraper at 390 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Constructors built it in the International Style following the design of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This building finished in 1952.

FPG/Getty Images
FPG/Getty Images

What’s so significant about this you ask? It ushered in a huge change. Other corporations started mimicking this and it marked a transition to the International Style. Basically, the trend of skyscrapers became more popular after this.

The Winners Will Now Be Televised

Tuning in to catch your favorite actors and actresses win an Academy Award is always fun to do. As the announcers read the nominees you start to get butterflies in hopes that the person you want to win takes home the award. Everyone is dressed up in their best outfits and it’s an overall good time.

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Betmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Betmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Did you know that we weren’t able to watch this until 1953? That’s right, March 19 was a new tradition for TV watchers as it was the 25th annual Academy Awards and the first that got broadcasted on TV.

Optimism Was High

As of the end of 2018, it’s like half of America is either depressed, full of anxiety or hopeless. It’s become a trend in music, the television we watch, pretty much all the media we consume, and we all have at least one or two friends that love self-deprecating. Rewind the clock and this was not the case in the ‘50s.

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Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

According to the book Economics & Happiness, the ‘50s saw a huge cast of people claiming they were extremely happy. This peaked between 1955 and 1960 at around 40%, which is the highest it’s ever been.

The Happiest Place On Earth Arrives

Today, if you live in America, California especially, you had better hope you don’t have any kids, wife, or girlfriend. Speaking to the men, if you’re lucky this won’t be the case. However, many of those titles just mentioned won’t stop bugging you until they are treated with a trip to Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth.

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

This all thanks to Walt Disney himself. The theme park opened on July 17, 1955, maybe this is why happiness was at an all-time high? Whatever the case, it cost around $17 million to build at first.

Soda Fountains Were The Ultimate Hangout Spot

Although today, soda fountains refer to the drink dispensers at most fast-food chains, they had a whole other meaning in the 1950s. Back then, soda fountains were establishments that offered a variety of soft drinks, ice cream, and sometimes light meals.

Teens sitting at a soda fountain bar
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

They were incredibly popular among teenagers and young adults who used them as their base camp when meeting up or hanging out. However, soda fountains decreased in popularity with the rise of fast-food chains which were seen as more convenient.

Teens Loved A Good Sock Hop

Back in the 1950s, sock hops were usually informal and school-sanctioned dances. The students would typically remove their shoes and dance in their socks on the high school gymnasium floor. With the beginnings of rock and roll, the freedom of dancing without shoes, combined with upbeat music gave way to a whole new style of dancing.

Teens dancing in their socks
Bill Johnson/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Bill Johnson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The TV dance show American Bandstand was a popular show among teens where high school students could show off their moves, inspiring new dances for the next sock hop.

Sideburns Were A Popular Male Style

Although sideburns had been a popular style among men in the mid-19th century, they experienced a revival in the 1950s, especially after Marlon Brando sported them in the 1953 film, The Wild One.

Elvis with sideburns
Charlie Gillett/Redferns
Charlie Gillett/Redferns

The style as further popularized by Elvis Presley and were common among groups such as “greasers,” “rockers,” and “hoods.” Although the sideburns made a comeback in the 1950s, they stayed around for a while and were common in the hippie subculture of the 1960s and 70s.

Everybody Do The Twist

Although dances such as the hand jive, box step-step, and the stroll were popular, the Twist was easily one of the most popular dances of the decade. Inspired by rock and roll music and the moves originating at sock hops, it was seen as provocative by adults although later became popular among several age groups.

Twist competition
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

The move became even more prominent after Hank Ballard wrote and recorded “The Twist,” after seeing the dance move performed in Florida. Released in 1959, the song reached number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. When Chubby Checker covered it in 1960, the song shot to number 1.

3D Movies Were Introduced

Believe it or not, 3D movies actually originated in the 1950s, and are even credited by some as saving the film industry. With the rise of television, fewer people were going to the movies when they could be entertained from the comfort of their own homes.

Audience wearing 3D glasses
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So, studios knew they needed to do something revolutionary to fill seats in the theater and came out with 3D films. Like any 3D film today, moviegoers were given a special pair of glasses to make the film pop out at the audience. By 1953, there were over 5,000 theaters in the US equipped to show 3D films.

The Rise Of The Beatniks

A subculture tends to come out of every decade and this was no different during the 1950s. During that time, the subculture of the beatniks began to take shape who considered themselves urban intellectuals who had their own style, prided themselves on their creativity, and fought against the status quo.

Beatniks on the street
REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

They were known for freely expressing their desires, thoughts, and beliefs. Some prominent figures at the time included Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky, among others. Some even attribute the beatniks with paving the way for the upcoming hippie movement.

Coonskin Hats Were The Go-To For Little Boys

Media has a huge effect on consumerism, especially when it comes to style. One piece of attire that was certainly a product of this was the coonskin cap. These unique hats were insanely popular among children, especially little boys, and was inspired by the one worn by Fess Parker when he played Davy Crockett in the 1954 miniseries of the same name.

Boy wearing hat
D. Corson/ClassicStock/Getty Images
D. Corson/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Part of Disney’s weekly show The Wonderful World of Color, it is estimated that the show resulted in the sale of over $100 million worth of coonskin caps.

Varsity Jackets Made A Statement

Although it’s still commonplace for high school athletes to receive varsity or letterman jackets for their skill at a sport, this is a tradition that can be traced back to the 1950s. During that time, owning and wearing one of these jackets wasn’t only a fashion statement, but also a visible sign that you were an accomplished athlete.

Boy and girl walking
Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images
Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

They were traditionally made out of wool or leather with the school’s mascot and the players name on it. This style was popularized by icons such as James Dean and Elvis Presley and has withstood the test of time.

People Loved Their Pez

Although the still popular candy was for sale well before the 1950s, it was the introduction of the Pez dispenser that caused the company to explode in popularity. After the space gum dispenser was released in 1956, Pez saw its success and created their own version of it, meant to be used with their rectangular peppermints.

Pez table
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

After that, most people had a Pez dispenser on them, the cool, and new way to eat a mint. The Halloween Witch was the first character head to come out in 1957, making the candy even more popular.

Saddle Shoes Were In

Also referred to as the “saddle oxford,” as a type of low-heel casual shoe that were distinctive for their plain toe and the saddle-shaped decorative panel in the center. Typically made out of leather, popular colors included black and brown although all types of colors were manufactured.

Girl wearing saddle shoes
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Worn by both men and women, they were a staple of the 1950s and were immensely popular until sneakers grew to be the shoe of choice. Elvis Presley can be seen wearing this particular style in the 1957 film, Jailhouse Rock.

Supermarkets Finally Caught On

Although supermarkets started popping up across the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, many still had their doubts about them. People never thought that they would be able to replace their local butcher or the small groceries that many people were so accustomed to.

Mother with children in supermarket
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

However, in the 1950s, that mentality began to change, and people found themselves going to supermarkets for all of their basic needs. Today, local butcher shops and small stores are becoming more difficult to find.

Women Took Over The Workforce

During the tumultuous years surrounding World War II, the United States saw a vast number of able-bodied men leaving their jobs, homes, and families to go fight overseas.

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McNeill/Getty Images
McNeill/Getty Images

Not only did this leave a massive gap in the workforce, but because of the war effort, more jobs opened more than ever. This resulted in women joining the workforce to support their families to help fill the gap and ensure that the Allies were victorious.

Hanging Around In The Barracks

One thing that some people don’t know about the military is that there can be a lot of downtime when not in action.

Hanging Around In The Barracks
Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This photo is a perfect example of just that. In 1940, the number of soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had a massive increase, going from just 5,400 to 67,000 men in just one year! With such close quarters, the men didn’t have any other choice than to befriend their fellow soldiers surrounding them.

Tenement Housing Was The Norm

During the 1940s, more and more people began immigrating to the United States for a variety of reasons, with World War II being one of them. The increase in population led to the further development of affordable housing.

Tenement Housing Was The Norm
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Because housing was so cheap, it meant that the homes weren’t the greatest. Referred to as tenement homes, these housing developments were small, and usually had no plumbing or proper lighting. Folks would typically try to fit as many people in one as possible.

Riding In Airplanes Was Like Flying In A Five-Star Hotel

Unless you’re flying first class, and even if you are, many people still dread going on airplanes. They’re cramped, the food is bad, you’re packed in like sardines with strangers, and the whole process is stressful.

Riding In Airplanes Was Like Flying In A Five-Star Hotel
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

However, back in the 1940s, riding in an airplane was a luxurious experience, at least for those who could afford it. Passengers traveled in style and were treated like royalty, having all their needs met by a finely-dressed crew.

Cars Weren’t The Norm

While most people today have cars to get around (even if they don’t have all that much money), in the 1940s, cars were primarily owned by the wealthy. For the most part, people relied on public transportation.

cars
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Yes, that meant scheduling their days around the times of buses, trains, and other modes of transportation. This picture shows a group of commuters waiting for the train in Lowell, Massachusetts, for the ride home after a long day at work.

When Wireless Was Only In Science-Fiction

On top of all the mechanics, logistics, and skills that go into getting a fighting aircraft off the ground, it’s easy to forget all of the electrical work that has to be done back on the base.

When Wireless Was Only In Science-Fiction
Charles Fenno Jacobs/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
Charles Fenno Jacobs/PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Here, women receive and send messages to control all of these electronic components while working at their posts on a PB2Y patrol bomber. This was certainly no easy job, and we should all feel lucky we don’t have to do it.

Schools Weren’t Like They Are Today

Back in the 1940s, the school system was not nearly as organized or important as it is today, especially in rural areas. In these specific parts of the country, children were lucky to go to school instead of staying at home and helping out with the work in the fields.

Schools Weren't Like They Are Today
John Vachon/Buyenlarge/Getty Images
John Vachon/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Pictured here are students attending one of these rural schools in San Augustine Country, Texas, in 1943. More than likely, they still had work to do that evening.

A Barrage Balloon Overhead

A barrage balloon is a kite balloon that was utilized to defend ground targets against enemy aircraft. They were tethered to the ground using steel cables, which posed a major risk to aircraft that made an attempt to fly through them.

A Barrage Balloon Overhead
Flying Officer W Bellamy/ Imperial War Museums via Getty Images
Flying Officer W Bellamy/ Imperial War Museums via Getty Images

Taken from the design of the initial kite balloon, this new shape meant that it could be operated even if there was wind, unlike the regular circular balloon. These were heavily used during World War II.

Don’t Be On The Other Side!

Following World War II, those not on the side of the Allies or who helped the German forces were publicly shamed, particularly in Europe. To have sided with the Axis may as well have been heresy, and those that did were treated as such.

Don't Be On The Other Side
Robert Capa/Getty Images
Robert Capa/Getty Images

Here, in a town in Europe, women that corroborated with the German oppressors are being marched through the streets in front of everyone. This image was taken in Charters, France.

Ride At Your Own Risk

Although today, there are rollercoasters that appear to be the most dangerous thing you could strap into, in reality, they’re quite safe. Intense inspections and codes are set in place to ensure nothing bad happens.

Ride At Your Own Risk
Jack Delano/Library Of Congress/Getty Images
Jack Delano/Library Of Congress/Getty Images

In the ’40s, let’s just say the rules were a little more relaxed. Rides were basically set up and operated on the spot without much outside management. Regardless of the risk, plenty of people were still eager to ride.

Fairs Were A Popular Attraction

Unfortunately, most state fairs ended up being closed during World War II in order to focus on the war effort. However, at the end of the decade, they experienced an explosion in popularity, bringing them back to the forefront of the entertainment industry.

Fairs Were A Popular Attraction
Jack Delano/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Jack Delano/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Featured here is a fair attendee in Vermont about to try his hand at ringing the bell with the hammer. It’s safe to assume he’s trying to impress someone that’s watching on the sideline.

Elizabeth II Wasn’t Always Queen

Although for many people, Queen Elizabeth II of England has been the monarch of England and a bit on the older side, of course, that’s not who she’s always been.

Elizabeth II Wasn't Always Queen
Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images
Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Getty Images

Featured in this photograph is the original Queen Elizabeth and her two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Little does Elizabeth know just what an extensive reign her future held! Even at a glance, we can tell this is Elizabeth!

Just Like Our Ancestors

If only the wealthy had cars in the 1940s, you could imagine that only the richest of farmers had access to a mechanical tractor. Back then, horses and mules were still used to plow fields, as they have been for thousands of years.

Just Like Our Ancestors
MisMaeers/Fox Photos/Getty Images
MisMaeers/Fox Photos/Getty Images

At the time, farmers probably didn’t know what farming would look like in the future or imagine a life without their trusty livestock. While this picture might as well have been taken back hundreds of years, it’s actually the 1940s!

Anything To Make A Dime

After the discovery and production of penicillin it helped to cure countless people of their ailments. However, during the 1940s, in order to attain it, you still needed a doctor’s prescription, and it had to be administered by an actual physician.

Anything To Make A Dime
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

This picture shows a man putting up a false advertising sign because penicillin was yet to be made available over the counter. We can assume this gentleman made a pretty penny from this lie.

All-Natural Ice Skating

Although it’s safe to say that ice skating has decreased in popularity in recent decades, when we typically do see people ice skating, it’s usually on constructed rinks and during the holidays.

skating
GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
GHI/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Rewind back to the 1940s, and not only was ice skating popular, but people just did it wherever the ice was thick enough to skate on! This may have seemed like no big deal at the time, but you wouldn’t catch most people doing that these days!

Women Served In The Military Then Too

Although when we think of World War II, we usually envision men fighting in both the European and Pacific theaters, women were involved too! Not only were they helping back at home, but some also joined the ranks of the military.

Women Served In The Military Then Too
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

Pictured here are two women enjoying a picnic who are serving as members of the Women’s Land Army. Mostly, they were made up of domestic servants, shop assistants, housewives, teachers, and other similar jobs at the time.

A Growing New York

Featured here is roof spotter Benjamin Franklin as he takes a break and admires the budding New York skyline at the end of a long day of work. Not only has the city evolved over the decades, but clearly so have safety procedures.

A Growing New York
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

It doesn’t seem like Franklin is wearing any safety gear at all that might prevent him from a long fall to the bottom of the street. Little did he know this snapshot would become a famous picture one day either!

What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas

After the ending of World War II, and leading up to the 1950s, the economy began to boom, and people became more accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle. Pictured here is the famous Hotel Flamingo located in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1949.

vegas
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

At the time, it was considered to be one of the most beautiful establishments of the world and welcomed the rich and famous to come and lay out by their pool, shaded by the palms.

Being A Sailor Was Dirty Work

Being out on the open seas has never been the cleanest of jobs. You’re stuck on a ship in the middle of nowhere, crammed in with a bunch of other men, with no place to go.

sailors
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even in the 1940s, it is clear that this was a job not for the faint of heart. Pictured here are a group of grease-faced sailors as they share water from a bucket (or something else) on a ship in 1940.

Surfin’ U.S.A.

At the end of the 1940s and leading into the 1950s, the United States wasn’t as on guard as it was during the war. This gave people the opportunity to spend time doing the things that they enjoyed doing and inventing some hobbies of their own.

surf
Camerique/Getty Images
Camerique/Getty Images

During this time, beaches began seeing the emergence of surfing and the surf culture that would soon come to dominate many California shorelines in the coming decades.