17 Bits of Nostalgia from 1957

In 1957, President Eisenhower sent army troops to keep the peace during desegregation.
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Life in America in 1957 was much simpler. Everybody loved Lucy and Father always knew best. Make yourself a root beer float, sit on the davenport, and head on over to the next page to take a look at life in 1957.



1. You know what they say about the size of a man's fin.

General Motors and Ford were duking it out with their "Olds vs. Edsel" wars. Ford's Edsel included such forward-thinking features as lights that reminded drivers that it was time to service the engine. Chevrolet opted to put their money into advertising. This is the year that had Dinah Shore singing "See the USA in your Chevrolet" on radio and TV spots. Whatever people chose to drive, the average cost of a car was only $2,749. Brace yourself -- gasoline was only 24 cents a gallon!


2. "Welcome to Babyville."

After World War II, people were settling down and getting back to the business of creating the American dream. Record numbers of babies were born between 1946 and 1964, and even today, this generation is referred to as the "Baby Boomers." By 1957, everybody on the fast track was moving out to the suburbs. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and cops created a mass exodus to the land of lawn mowers and charcoal grills. With all the new babies being born, it's no wonder that suburbia became known as "Babyville."


3. All eyes toward the sky.

In July 1957, American John Glenn set a new transcontinental speed record. The navy test pilot flew a supersonic jet from California to New York in just 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds.


4. What's with all the hips?

Music lovers had plenty of choices in the year when rock 'n' roll took over the charts. Songs like Sam Cooke's, "You Send Me" and Jimmie Rodgers's "Honeycomb" were popular, but the true sensation of the year was Elvis Presley. He rocked teens across the country with hits like "All Shook Up" and "Jailhouse Rock." You could buy a 45-rpm record (that's the little one) for 79 cents or an album (the big one) for about three bucks. The only problem was that a hi-fi record player cost $79.95.

What else was happening in 1957? Read about more bits of nostalgia on the next page.


5. And the Oscar goes to . . .

. . . The Bridge on the River Kwai, for Best Picture. Alec Guinness also won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the movie. Joanne Woodward claimed her statue for Best Actress in The Three Faces of Eve. Other favorites were An Affair to Remember, 12 Angry Men, and that kid who swivels his hips in a movie called Jailhouse Rock. With the average price of a movie ticket at just 50 cents, you could afford to see them all!


6. The Braves win the World Series!

They weren't from Atlanta, however. In 1957, they were the Milwaukee Braves (just four years earlier they were the Boston Braves). In the 1957 World Series, the Braves, led by Hank Aaron, beat Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees, but it wasn't easy; it took all seven games.


7. Does this price include the white picket fence?

The American dream was a whole lot cheaper in 1957. You could buy your very own house for about $12,200. A custom built, split-level cost a little more -- around $19,000. For those who weren't quite ready to buy, rent was only about $90 a month!


8. It's all relative.

Those house prices look pretty good, but what was the average household income in 1957? On average, people made around $4,500 a year. If you sold cars, you made $7,000 to $10,000 a year. A secretary made about $3,900 a year. So, could you afford to own?


9. It was a small world, after all.

In 1957, the Census Bureau reported that there were 171,984,130 people in the United States, and 2,889,768,830 in the entire world. Today, there are 6.6 billion people in the world, including more than 300 million Americans.


10. Rabbit ears were popping up all over the place.

In 1957, there were 47,200,000 TV sets in America; the RCA Victor model cost $78. What was everybody watching? Top shows included Gunsmoke, The Danny Thomas Show, I Love Lucy, and The Ed Sullivan Show.

11. What's a Sputnik?

Before astronauts, space missions flew without a crew. The first of these, Sputnik, came from the Soviet Union. Sputnik technically wasn't a satellite, it was a 184-pound basketball-size bundle of radio transmitters that took only 98 minutes to orbit Earth. When it was launched on October 4, 1957, during the height of the Cold War, the United States was caught completely by surprise and the "Space Race" was on!

Discover even more highlights from 1957 as our list continues on the next page.

12. This black and white had nothing to do with TV.

In the interest of school desegregation, President Eisenhower sent army troops to keep the peace at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, so that nine black students could attend the formerly all-white school. These kids are forever stamped in history as the Little Rock Nine.

13. Who's Dick Clark?

People started bopping in the middle of the family room in 1957 when ABC began airing American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark. Teens danced to the hits of the day, and each week a different band performed. After each song, Clark would interview the teens and have them rate the song for its "danceability." The first nationwide audience poll ranked Patti Page as American Bandstand's favorite female vocalist of the year. The show went off the air in 1989.

14. Teen idols were "dreamy."

Teenage girls had plenty of swooning to do thanks to the many teen idols of the late 1950s. Ricky Nelson rocked and rolled on his family's hit TV show, Ozzie and Harriet, and people tuned in every week just to see if he'd sing. And Pat Boone cut such a wholesome image in his white patent leather shoes that even parents couldn't object. In 1957, he topped the charts with "Love Letters in the Sand."

15. "Fashion Forward" had nothing to do with Paris.

In 1957, American women had houses to clean, children to rear, and parties to plan. With cardigans, pearls, knee-length skirts, and heels, a lady always looked good. Teenage girls opted for bobby socks, saddle shoes, and poodle skirts. Females young and old even wore pants from time to time, especially pedal pushers, or Capri pants. For guys, a leather jacket or a letterman sweater was a must.

16. Lennon and McCartney meet for the first time.

In 1957, a chance meeting at a church in Liverpool would forever change the face of rock music. On July 6, The Quarrymen, a skiffle group led by singer and guitarist John Lennon, performed a gig at the Woolton Parish Church. Among those in attendance was a young musician named Paul McCartney. The two future Beatles were introduced by a mutual friend, and McCartney helped Lennon set up for the gig. Lennon was so impressed with McCartney's musical abilities that he invited him to join the group. The Quarrymen eventually became The Beatles, and the rest is music history.

17. Baseball moves to California.

Due to aging stadiums and slumping ticket sales, the archrival Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved west following the 1957 season. The Dodgers played one final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, before moving to Los Angeles. The stadium remained without a team until it was torn down in 1960. The Giants played one last game at the Polo Grounds on September 29, 1957, before heading to San Francisco. The stadium was vacant until the Mets moved in for the 1962 and 1963 seasons. It was demolished in 1964.


Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen