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The Fifties Paperback – May 10, 1994
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"In retrospect," writes David Halberstam, "the pace of the fifties seemed slower, almost languid. Social ferment, however, was beginning just beneath this placid surface." He shows how the United States began to emerge from the long shadow of FDR's 12-year presidency, with the military-industrial complex and the Beat movement simultaneously growing strong. Television brought not only situation comedies but controversial congressional hearings into millions of living rooms. While Alfred Kinsey was studying people's sex lives, Gregory Pincus and other researchers began work on a pill that would forever alter the course of American reproductive practices. Halberstam takes on these social upheavals and more, charting a course that is as easy to navigate as it is wide-ranging.
From Library Journal
The Fifties were more than just a mid-point decade in a century; they were to be the crucible in which the rest of the 20th century was forged. Halberstam ( The Next Century , LJ 1/92) here touches every thread in the warp and woof of the national fabric. This is the true drama of history: President Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur, the Eisenhower years, Senator Joe McCarthy's red-baiting, the early U.S. involvement in Indochina, the H-bomb, the purging of atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Supreme Court ordering the integration of schools, troops in Little Rock to enforce it, the Montgomery bus boycott, the rise of Martin Luther King, Russia's sputnik launch, and Castro's revolutionary Cuba. Halberstam also explores major social and cultural changes--the advent of national television, fast-food restaurants, the flight to the suburbs, huge cars with fins, the phenomenon of Elvis Presley, the contraceptive pill, and much more. A superb book; recommended for all libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/93.
- Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The book also seemed to lack a major thesis--less an answer to the question "What were the 1950's in America all about?" than to a request to "Tell me some interesting things that happened in the 1950s?"
But. . . still interesting and a reasonably good read.
Incredibly interesting. Informative. Easy to read. Changing topics with each chapter makes the book less intimidating than the 800 page size implies. Recommended for anyone interested in History and especially for those capable of connecting the dots from the 50's to the 60's, to the 70's and beyond.
The fifties were a transitional decade. In previous decades, important cultural issues seem to stop at the end of each decade. The roaring twenties ended with the depression of the 30's. The depression ended at the 40's with WWII. But issues in the fifties were the seeds for issues dominating our culture for the next fifty years. The Cold War. Korea and the Vietnam conflicts. The development of the hydrogen bomb and intercontinental delivery systems. Brown vs the Board of Education, desegregation and Equal Rights, the sexual revolution and Feminist rights. The car industry grew from simple transportation to high power status symbols. With increased mobility, veterans moved to suburban communities like Levittown (envisioned and built by William Levitt) and entrepreneurs like Kemmons Wilson built Holiday Inn and created the modern motel industry. Ray Kroc took a small popular California resturant chain and essentially created the Fast Food industry. TV grew from a novelty gadget to being a central part of family entertainment, the most effective method to advertise, created the Consumer Society and became the most effective political tool since the soap box. Music went from parent approved, to Elvis Presley and Rock-in-Roll. Add Eisenhower, Kruschev, Nixon, John and Allen Dulles, Gen. Macarthur, McCarthy Hearings, Sputnik, U2 Spy Planes, CIA Covert Op's and a host of other topics and characters too numerous to mention. Not just a nostalgic journey. Halberstam adds insight to why society and politics changed. Along the way you realize how much has changed while so much stayed the same.
The author takes people and events from the '50s and writes a chapter or more on each.
I spent my youth in the '50s, graduating from high school in 1959. I remember the historic events, but the chapters about people who contributed to the culture of the '50s gives you great insight into the era. The author gives you a glimpse at people from the head of General Motors to the founders of the Beatniks.
Contrary to popular misconception, the '50s was not the decade of the "baby boomers', but their parents. Soldiers who returned from WW2 and Korea and their wives. The baby boomers were pretty much still in playpens. You figure that if you were born in 1946, by 1956 you would only be ten. Not many were wearing poodle skirts or driving around in '49 Fords, listening to Chuck Berry.
But Halberstam needed an editor to flesh out the many abrupt introductions of names and places. It's as if he expected readers already to know a lot about the subject at hand.