Being a Teenager in the 50’s

Being a teen in the 50’s was not the same as current day, especially when your father was German and your mother was Italian. My father never spanked us but he was the champion of punishment.

This is one example: Late June 1956 I was 13 and just finishing my first year of High School. There was only about a week or so to go and I could not wait for school to end. No homework to do nightly, no studying for quiz’s or tests, nothing to do but have fun. Until school was out my curfew was 9:30pm. as long as all my chores and homework was complete. We, my sisters and friends were making plenty of plans for the beach, the Aquacade, movies, and anything we could think of. We had grand ideas, of course our parents all had to agree to all of this, but we had high hopes. I figured if we shot ten ideas at them they would maybe agree to about three or four of them. I was determined to get up extra early, do my chores and have a great summer. After all I was a teenager now and I knew it all.

Before school let out I had to be in by 9:30pm as I said. This one night we were all sitting on my friends stoop talking to some boys that lived on our block. Billy V. was among them and I had a huge crush on him. My father and mother were usually sleeping by the time we got home and it was very close to my curfew. I really did not want to leave. I knew if I missed curfew there would be consequences, but that was if I was caught. Yes I shamefully admit I did on occasion get in a little after 9:30. The one thing you have to understand is that in those days we had only one clock in the house. My father did have a wrist watch but he took it off when he got home from work and had to set and wind it in the morning. Our one clock sat on top of our refrigerator. Being that my parents were asleep when we got home if I was  five or ten minutes late I would turn the clock back to 9:30 because I knew my father would get up after I was in and I would hear him go into the kitchen then go back to bed. When I heard him snoring again I would tip-toe to the kitchen and fix the time. This was one of those knights. It was about 9:40 or so when I quietly entered the back door to the kitchen and tip-toed over to the refrigerator. I had to get on my tip-toes to reach the clock, but it was possible. With thoughts of Billy on my mind and the up coming summer I was in seventh heaven. I turned the dial to curfew time and smiled. I then turned to go to my room and wound up nose to nose with my dad. I swear I never heard him coming. He was staring at me I didn’t know weather to shit or go blind. “Uh, Uh, Umm, Uh, hi dad,” was all I could manage.

“Get to bed” was his reply. I figured I was dead. I tossed and turned all night thinking about my fate. I had disobeyed a rule. God I wanted to kill Billy V., it was all his fault. When my sisters came in (there curfew was ten. They were a bit older than me.) I told them about what happened.

” We told you not to do that,” my oldest sister said.

” Boy, you are dead. I’m glad I am not in your shoes,” my other sister said, and started laughing.

Morning finally arrived. It was a beautiful sunny day, but I felt a big black cloud hanging over my head. I went into the kitchen. I expected my mother to start yelling at me, nothing. She was her usual happy self, she never even mentioned it. My spirits lifted a little. I went off to school and figured my dad was letting it go. God how lucky can you get, he was finally realizing that ten minutes was no big deal. ALRIGHT! I thought, ” Thank you God.” I said out loud. I was a little nervous entering the house after school, but my mom was fine. I was thrilled. I didn’t even complain when she told me to help her and then set the table. I did it with a smile. I heard my father’s car pull up. My stomach did a flip, but when he came in the house he just said ” high girls.” He acted like nothing happened. I was thrilled. I ran into my sister’s room to let them know I had dodged death. We all went into the kitchen to eat dinner. Some small talk at the table, but only the usual. I looked for sign’s but nothing. When dinner was over I was ready to run, actually I felt I could fly out the door to meet my friends. My sisters and I had to clear the table and do the dishes and then we could go. I said ” Come on girls, let’s get the dishes done, I am suppose to meet Lucille soon.” My father said. ” Arlene and Denni you can go. Your sister Patti will be doing the dishes tonight and every night until school starts again, and the reason for this is that she is a sneak and a liar and please tell her friends she will not be meeting them after dinner until September.”

Yes folks, I was not allowed out after dinner for the whole summer. I tried to talk my parents out of this horrible punishment, but to no avail.

” Maybe this will teach you to respect the rules in this house young lady, and I want you to know that your mother and I were going to extend you curfew, but you are not mature enough for that, so maybe next year.”

Those were the day’s folks. I could not wait for school to start…….

20 thoughts on “Being a Teenager in the 50’s

  1. Great story Patricia, reminds me just how different things were back then…..like Laurie your I think your punishment was a tad harsh, my punishments were usually swift, painful and just as quickly forgotten by both sides. That’s not to say lessons were not learned !

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  2. What a story Patricia – not the same today is it. I can appreciate where your Father was coming from, the harshness was for the whole summer – but you’ve got to give him credit he stuck to his word. Today, one whine from the child and parents cave giving-in. Lots of lessons, but the whole summer was a tough punishment, maybe a month.

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    • The lesson was, not respecting my parents, being sneaky, breaking a rule. Setting a bad example for my siblings. I was allowed out during the day, but not after dinner. They wanted to make sure I would remember it and learned from it. I am 71, I did. :o)

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  3. Oh boy, Patricia. I remember. Life was much different back then and strict. Sometimes wonder if it was better or not. Remember having to ground our daughter for something she had done which meant she couldn’t go to the prom. It was hell from a parent’s perspective. 🙂

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  4. Pat, Iloved this story and can identify it so well. It seemed like punishments were so much longer and harsher when we were kids–maybe a good thing. Now, kinds get their TV taken away for a few days. I love reading your short memoirs. I have a site that takes them if your interested. Remember to do a final edit.

    Hugs, Micki

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Micki, I would appreciate the site for the short memoirs. Yes, when you think of my parents reasons for the punishment I think now it was justified. I even apologized to them. All of the reasons they gave me were right on. It made me a better person.

      Hugs Back

      Pat

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  5. Patricia, what a lovely way to tell the story! Still, being an adolescent has always been difficult, because adolescence is about breaking with mandates and starting to become what we’ll be as future adults. In the fifties it was about the many rules that smothered freedom. In the sixties we waged a bloody war against our “elders and betters” and won a Pyrrhic victory. Nowadays adolescents are struggling hard for limits to come back. One way or another, the gap will be felt, because it’s necessary.

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    • Thank you Mimerajver, true about adolescents, but at times I wonder if the old way was better. I think to a degree it was. However we did not have the confidence in our own judgment that is so necessary. Although we did gain it as we got older.

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  6. Hi Patricia – I’m British, not American, but recognise the authentic flavour of the 50s in your story. Our parents were strict too, compared with their permissive counterparts today, and a smack for misbehaviour was simply par for the course. We knew we were loved, and we loved and respected our parents in return. Yes, respected: we respected our parents, teachers, Bobbies and the beat, and so on – a concept that often seems to have gone out of the window these days. The boundaries were clear, as they are not today, and as kids we felt secure in an ordered society. Okay, I’m speaking generally, but you know what I mean. Of course the Swinging Sixties would be a whole different ball game…

    I love your story; you fairly swept me along. And I like young Patti very much: quite the feisty one, wasn’t she!

    Happy Easter,

    Paul

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    • Thank you Paul. Yes many lessons learned the hard way back then. If you take into consideration that my parents were raised by parents that were raised by parents with very little or no education. Love, respect, honor and obedience were their core values. My father would never raise his hand to a woman especially his daughters (there were five of us, and one son) but as you know discipline is necessary when needed. All of us knew our parents loved us dearly, and worked tirelessly to give us the best they could. They did a great job.

      Happy Easter to you too :o)
      Pat.

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  7. “I didn’t know weather to shit or go blind.” Best line we’ve read this week! lmao~Now what’s funny about this to me, is that children back in those days had a descent grounded respect for their parents & a slightly healthy fear of punishment!! Also, the word…C.H.O.R.E!! Kudos to you Patty!! I myself also knew what chores were and kept them ’til I left my parents home where they then took on the new term of “Housework”. lol. Kids now-a-days have no concept of responsibility as given in the form of chores. Nor do they have respect based on a healthy portion of fear from what their punishment would be! Your father sounds a lot like mine. My father never once put his hands on me to whip me. Yet the man didn’t have too! All he had to do was speak…and his words & tone were crippling! Fantastic trip down memory lane my dear!! Sharing this one now. 😉

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    • Thank you for visiting. Yes, my chore’s only turned into housework after I married. My children had chores and now my grand children also have chores. It makes me smile to know that a little word like that can conjure up memories that take us back across the years in an instant. :o)

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