1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
The image of the Small Town in the United States
(population 2,500 to 10,000)
is etched into the image of the 1950s
even though only 10% of the people in the United States lived in Small Towns in 1950.
Describing Kent, Connecticut in One American Town, Donald Connery noted evidence of “individual self-reliance, self-confidence, good humor, good manners, concern for neighbors, readiness to lend a helping hand, pride in town and nation, and respect for the natural world” in the character of people in small towns.
Small Town USA
Whether it was Greenville, Highland, Springfield, or Mayberry, the small town, identified by its church steeples and its name proudly displayed on the water tower, was a middle ground between the farm and the city. The park, with its bandstand, the town hall, the church, and the school were the pride of the community. Homes were close to downtown and people walked to do their shopping in independent stores owned and operated by local merchants.
The townscape with its rectilinear street grid along a train track and standardized lot size created an ordered environment and semblance of equality. Trees arched over numbered streets parallel to the train tracks with cross streets named after presidents (Washington, Madison, Adams) or trees (Oak, Elm, Maple).Gentry houses, middle class, and lower-income family’s homes were inter-mixed. Small town ways exerted a leveling influence on displays of wealth.
Courthouse Square or Main Street was the symbol of small town commerce. The limited range of building materials, the use of common construction techniques, and the popularity of a few architectural styles brought visual cohesion and scale to small town business districts.
In the fifties the streetlights on Main Street were upgraded to equal the white-way lights in bigger cities, and at Christmas, streets were draped with garlands of redand green holiday lights. The train track that bisected the town created a less desirable south-side-of-the-tracks for the poor and misfits.
Small towns, with their low crime rates, gave children extra-ordinary freedom and security. Doors didn’t need to be locked. Sitting out on the front porch encouraged neighbors to stop and chat. Basketball games at the high school gym were citywide events. The county fair, with a parade down Main Street to the city park, was an annual festival. The friendly, honest, fair people knew that they were part of a community.
Typical town of 2,500 would have:
A Clothing and Dry Goods store, Furniture store, Hardware store, Drug store with a soda fountain, Shoe store, Dime store, Jeweler, Dry cleaner, Appliance store, Post Office, Bakery, Bowling Alley, Frozen custard stand, Telephone switchboard office, Farm implement store, Feed and grain store, Lumber Yard, and a Movie theater, plus several Grocery stores, Meat markets, Barber shops, Beauty shops, Car dealerships, Gas stations, Restaurants, Taverns, Pool halls, a Hospital, and offices for Doctors, Dentists, and Lawyers.