Civil Rights / Cold War
CR Teen Music 01 Elvis Bday Concert CW/CRM Teens and Fun 01 Teen Town Dance CRXX Teen Music 02 Elvis Signing autographs CR Teen Music 04 Teen girl squad CW/CRM Teens and Fun 04 Fair Park CR Teen Fashion 02 Beatles in memphis

Teens & Fun

Teens often hung out in drugstores like the Elliston Place Soda Shop on Church Street in Nashville where they drank fountain sodas, chocolate shakes, and bottled soft drinks, and listened to their favorite 45 RPM records on table-side jukeboxes.
Like today, teenagers wanted their own cars. Boys often purchased older cars called "jalopies."  If they had a car or could borrow their parent’s car, teenagers went on dates or cruised with their friends. Cruising involved driving around certain local spots looking for familiar faces or new people to meet.  It also involved playing the car radio loudly.

Elvis and other rock and roll performers became popular with all teenagers, black and white, working class and middle class. Teenagers listened to rock and roll music on the radio, record players, and on television. Popular songs celebrated teen life. 

Teen fashion
Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins
Teen boys & cars 
409 by the Beach Boys
Teens against adults Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back by The Coasters
Teen love
Runaround Sue by Dion

Going to school
Football players and cheerleaders were usually the most popular high school students throughout the era. There were also the smart kids, the misfits, and the kids in between—much the same as today. 

More students were encouraged to go to college after high school. Enrollment at colleges increased 56 percent between 1950 and 1960. Although the majority of those attending college were white males, there was also large increase in female and black college enrollments.
There was also an emphasis on studying science and mathematics in the 1950s, as the country was in the middle of the Cold War. Leaders felt that the country would need more doctors, scientists, and engineers to counter the Soviet Union in the future. The National Science Foundation increased its educational budget from $1.5 million in 1952 to $84.5 million in 1962.
Sports teams were popular, and teens spent a great deal of time at high school sports events. Schools would hold “sock hops”, dances held in the gym where everyone would have to remove their shoes to keep from damaging the floor. They danced in their socks—thus "sock hop."
During the 1960s, the teen world remained centered around school, but some important changes took place. As social protest movements grew, more teens experimented with free-style dress. Girls wore miniskirts and bikinis with flowered or psychedelic patterns, for example. 
Many teen boys began to grow their hair long. They also picked up on the "hippie" style, wearing tunics, flowered shirts, and sandals. Around the same time, the black pride movement persuaded African American teenagers to go natural, wearing African-inspired prints and Afro hair styles.

Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of the Beatles arriving in America for their first tour in 1964.  Their shaggy haircuts were copied by teenage boys of the time.  Photograph by United Press International.  Library of Congress
  • A photograph of a young Elvis Presley performing in concert.  The date is unknown.  The photograph was part of a 1995 "Elvis Presley's Birthday Concert" program, produced by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.  Tennessee State Museum Collection
  • Photograph of the Feminine Complex, a teenage girl band, performing on NBC's Showcase in 1968.  The young women, Mindy Dalton, Judi Griffith, Pame Stephens, Lana Napier, and Jean Williams, formed their band in 1966 while they were 10th graders at Maplewood High School in Nashville. Photograph courtesy of Nashville Links.
  • A photograph of Elvis signing autographs for young teenage girls.  This photograph was in a 1956 Elvis concert program.  Tennessee State Museum Collection, 1999.203.1.1
  • A photograph of a Teen Town dance in Nashville in 1956.  The photograph ran in a newspaper with the caption "Teen Town meetings are attracting a growing number of the high school set."  This meeting was held at the American Legion Post 5 clubhouse on Ninth Avenue.  Nashville Banner Archives, Special Collections, Nashville Public Library
  • A photograph of Fair Park in Nashville during the 1950s. There are signs promoting the State Fair and auto races.   Amusement rides can be seen in the background.  Metro Nashville Archives

   Civil Rights / Cold War >>  Everyday Life >>  Leisure Time >>  Teens & Fun

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