Life Story Video

Saving lives through video

Family Life in the 1950s: Life Story Video

This month’s life story video is the story of a typical 1950s family.

The 1950s were a little different to the 2010s

These days, from the perspective of 2011 and the tail of a very difficult recession, the 1950s present as a kind of golden period for America. The economy was expanding, nearly everybody had a job, and new and better machines kept appearing to help with household chores.

And from this distance at any rate – the country seemed optimistic and unified behind a set of agreed goals that today just seem a million miles away.

Of course, it wasn’t all Coke and beach umbrellas. We had the Reds to worry about, potential nuclear Armageddon, and vast race and gender inequality.

The Earls were a classic 1950s family
The Earls were a classic 1950s family. New bikes for birthdays, peanut butter and jelly school lunches, buzz cuts for son Ben, and vacations at the beach. And much of this happy time was captured by Ben in Super 8 Kodachrome. Their whole story was recently told in their family history documentary (extract follows):

Parents in the 50s? They had to get through the 30s and 40s first!
Like a lot of parents in the 1950s, Pat and Ben both grew up in the 1930s and both experienced World War 2 – Pat from the home front and Ben from active service. They both did their duty with the clear-eyed acceptance and resolve of those who know that no matter how unpleasant the task, it was a task which had to be done.

With all the war stuff safely behind them, they started their real life’s work: raising the four children: creating a safe and nurturing home for them, and building a secure economic future for the whole family.

Work and home: the divided family
Ben worked, and Pat stayed at home with the kids. Ben played golf, and Pat stayed home with the kids. (The golf thing became the subject of some very good natured bantering between Pat and Ben.) Actually, Ben did a lot of business on the golf course, and Pat did take it up herself when time finally permitted.

But back then, it was barely even a choice. “It’s just what you did,” says Pat of the assigned gender roles of the 1950s. She sees a different set of choices, and different pressures, for women these days. But Pat has no regrets.

Image - life story video subject Ben

Ben: Stanford days

Creating a life story video
These stories and more are covered in the life story video – created by Your Story Here Life Story Video – which the family created to help remember and memorialize a magic time for them all.

The process took around 3 months from the first meeting to the delivery of the life story video DVDs. One chapter covered Ben’s Grandparents; Ben had the unusual distinction of having met a Civil War veteran. That veteran was his grandfather Joseph Earl, who served with the Union forces in 1865. His discharge papers bear the signature of Abraham Lincoln.

Big decisions for the Earls
Like a lot of couples back then, Pat and Ben did not discuss having children. It wasn’t the discussion about affordability and when and whether Mom would quit work to look after the brood. It was all just assumed. And for most 1950s couple, it all fell into place.

But when first child Jody arrived, Ben – normally in full control – was anything but prepared.

Over time, Pat and Ben would raise all 4 children in the house that Ben built – and where – despite considerable business success – they both still live. Ben is especially loyal to the old family home. Ben’s company built the house to Ben’s exacting specifications.

Image - life story video subject Pat

Pat: University of Arizona

The house on became the center of endless family activities. Pat lead a girl scout troop which met at the house. All the kids still remember Halloween and the haunted house in the front walk in closet – with Pat as the Wicked Witch of the West.

They all remember Christmas and Easter gatherings with the entire clan and the ping pong games and trash talking doubles matches. They remember the July street fireworks, the dogs Celeste, Jessie, Zig-Zag and Abe to name a few – as well as the cats and rabbits. And they remember Ben’s morning ritual of odd calisthenics and stretching – and his golf.

But most of all they just remember the simple joy and love of being together.

Filed under: family history video, Personal Documentaries, Uncategorized, , , ,

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This blog features stories about ordinary people and their experiences with life story videos.
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