By Paula Crites Pieri
Some people think we are making things up when we talk about how wonderful things were in the 50s and early 60s. I have never talked to anyone who grew up during that time that ever said anything bad about it. So as I scan the paper, and watch TV News, and see what a terrible shape the world is in today, I thought I would write a little about what it was like growing up in the 40s, 50s and 60s and how different it was then than it is today. Some things are better now, Women’s Rights, race relations, medicine-we have nicer houses, and bigger and better “things”. However the essence, the quality, the honesty and the simple pleasure of our life during the 50s is so hard to explain…but I will try.
Growing up in a small West Texas town may not seem very exciting; however, I had such wonderful memories of my childhood that I just had to write them down, before they are forgotten. Midland was a small town then and we knew most everyone. Many of the friends I made then are the friends I have today.
I was born on September 11, 1940, in Lubbock, Texas. We moved to Midland in 1943, and that is the only home I knew. Our house was a pretty white frame house with green shutters on the corner of Storey Street and Pecos. The neighborhood had nicely kept houses with big elm trees lining the street. I guess it was considered “middle Class” then-but we didn’t think of things in that way. It was comfortable, pretty, and my Mom had it fixed up really nice inside and kept it immaculate. Most important, it was full of love. My Dad worked for the gas company and was considered an “essential worker” during the war. He later worked for Lone Star Cement and traveled all over West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
I have few memories of the War Years. I do remember not having meat and eating spam. I have never liked it and have not eaten it since then. We had to take the bus due to gas rationing. We had a nice young pilot live with us for a few months. Midland Air Field was a training base for the Army Air Corps (now USAF) and they had little or no housing for the troops. Local families took in the military men and they shared our lives for a brief time.
My parents were loving and caring and listened and always made me so important in their life. My Dad was a quiet man-very much a Southern Gentleman. I never heard him cuss and he never told a “off color” joke around a lady. He also made sure we had the brightest porch light on our street. When I was coming home from a date I would always say, it’s the house with the bright porch light. I think you could land a plane on our street. If anyone managed to unscrew the light, he would replace it with a brighter one. A lesson learned for any parent and one I used many years later.
My Mom was the nicest person I have ever known. She spent her whole life loving and supporting me in everything that I did. She was a real Southern Lady who taught me the proper way to dress and act for any occasion. What kind of dress to wear, what kind of gloves to wear with what outfit and whether to wear long or short gloves with your evening dress. (yes we wore gloves then-and hats to church). This was essential for a Southern Girl. You didn’t curse, didn’t raise your voice, and always treated people in a considerate manner-as you would like to be treated yourself. You knew proper table manners, always said thank you, and called any older person Ma’am or Sir, never talked back to your parents or anyone-especially teachers. There is one word to describe this-it is CLASS. I can instantly tell-even today-if someone has it of doesn’t. My Mom had lots of class.
We went to the First Methodist Church where I sang in the church choir from third grade through high school. My Mom was a Sunday School teacher and taught Laura Bush there. She was a few years younger than we were, and my Mom thought she was such a sweet girl.
I was an only child, but I was never lonely. There were neighbor kids to play with, trees to climb, swings to swing and books to read. I also loved to climb the big old elm trees in the backyard. They were great wide branches that were so comfortable and I could get up there really easily. Then I would spend hours nestled on my comfortable tree limb and watching the world go by. There were also large, wide alleys between the houses that were great for getting from place to place. Alleys were much more fun to run up and down than streets and we felt like we were being so stealthy
I remember the Midland Indian baseball games with my Dad on a warm summer evenings. We had a whole world to explore and we were seldom bored. We played ball in the street and stayed out until the street lights came on, or Mom called us inside.
We used to go to the Ritz Theater every weekend and paid 9 cents. Sometimes we went to the Yucca, but it was a very expensive 25 Cents. The Yucca is such a beautiful theater. Years later, I went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and I was thinking the Yucca was just as nice, only smaller.
With no TV, we spent the evenings listening to the radio. Those were interesting shows back then-The Shadow, Gunsmoke, Gang Busters, The Lone Ranger, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (and his dog King). I think that listening to these shows gave us a great imagination that kids don’t have today. I remember the first time I ever saw these actual people on a little black and white TV; I was shocked they didn’t look at all like I imagined them. We also loved The Hit Parade, and my Dad and I sang every song. I learned to dance standing on my Daddy’s feet.