America glided into the Fifties on the heels of a robust post-war economic boom amid a flurry of scientific and technological breakthroughs. We were becoming a mobile society as well. The decade saw many thousands of middle class families forsake the bustle of the inner cities for suburban life and many thousands more took to the roads each summer to vacation on beaches and in resorts and national parks hundreds of miles from home.
Today, many of us look back on the Fifties as a time of relative peace, overlooking the fact that we were mired down in Korea for three years and suffered through an escalated Cold War with the Soviet Union and the new Communist state in China. Air raid drills and duck and cover exercises were a routine part of school life throughout the decade.
Technology and economic health brought increased leisure time to most Americans. We had more time to learn and more time to play. The Fifties saw the birth of Barbie, the Hula Hoop and Rock and Roll. While World War II veterans married and settled down to raise families, their younger brothers and sisters discovered drive-in movies, the local malt shop, sock hops and drag racing.
Advances in medicine brought long lifespans to many. With more years ahead of them, grandma and grandpa were no longer content to while away their senior years rocking on the front porch. In the Fifties, many seniors flocked to new retirement communities in Arizona, Florida and southern California.