High schoolers were dancing at sock hops, while younger kids were playing with silly putty. College students were swallowing goldfish and cramming into phone booths. Adults were introduced to cardboard 3-D glasses in movie theaters and everyone was trying to learn how to spin a hula hoop.
Guns and Dolls were popular kid’s toys
Gender roles were strong. Boys played with Hopalong Cassidy guns, Roy Rogers western gear, Daisy Air Rifles, Red RyderBB guns, and Davy Crockett coonskin hats. Girls played with Dale Evans western toys, doll houses, and generic dolls until the Barbie Doll took the world by storm in 1959.
The Hula Hoop
Starting with an inspiration from Australian bamboo ‘exercise hoops,’Richard Knerr and Arthur ‘Spud’ Melin,manufactured 42-inch hoops with Marlex plastic in 1957. The Hula Hoop gained international popularity when this plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s Wham-O toy company. A fad was born. Twenty-five million plastic hoops were sold in four months and Wham-O sold 100 million by the end of the decade.
The Sock Hop
The new style of rowdy pop music combined with the liberating freedom to remove their shoes while dancing gave teens the inspiration to jitterbug, hand jive, stroll, shake, rattle, and roll in ways that went far beyond the dance moves from their parents generation. Piles of shoes were scattered in high school gyms and legion halls while teenage girls danced in their bobby-sox1.
3-D movies viewed with filtered glasses
Using a technique called stereoscopic linear polarization, movie directors filmed scenes from two slightly different angles with filtered lenses. Theaters projected the films using two separate reels aimed at the screen and viewers donned cardboard glasses with filters that merged the double images making movies appear to jump off the screen2.
The Coonskin Cap
Popular among boys in the mid 1950s, the coonskin cap was a faux fur lined skull cap with a faux raccoon tail attached. Coonskin caps were associated with the old west and frontiersmen, due in large part to Walt Disney’s television program‘Disneyland’ and Fess Parker’s portrayal of ‘Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier’ episodes in 1954 and 1955.
1. Bobby-sox were similar to crew socks with thick uppers that were turned down to form a bulky cuff at ankle height.
2. The first color stereoscopic 3-D feature movie wasBwana Devil released in 1952. Other popular 3-D films in 1953 and 1954 included Creature from the Black Lagoon, The French Line, Phantom of the Rue Morgue, House of Wax, Hondo, Kiss Me Kate, Fort Ti, It Came from Outer Space, and Dial M for Murder. The 3-D era declined after 1955 with theater owners preferring simpler flat, wide-screen films.