In the post-World War II era, Austin saw a real estate boom, particularly in the suburbs. These were not the high-rises or apartment complexes we associate with modern urban living; instead, most families aimed for detached houses with yards. The homes generally had a more traditional layout with distinct rooms for cooking, dining, and living, and they were often furnished in styles that reflected post-war optimism—think mid-century modern designs, patterned wallpapers, and pastel colors.
Leisure and Entertainment
Television was a relatively new but fast-growing phenomenon. Shows like “I Love Lucy” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” were popular and became topics of water-cooler conversations. The drive-in movie theater was another popular form of entertainment for families and young couples. For children, the local parks were playgrounds, and the neighborhood streets were safe spaces for riding bikes or playing catch. Social events, like church activities and potlucks, were significant community gathering points.
Food Shopping and Meal Preparation
Grocery shopping was different from today’s one-stop-shop supermarkets. Many families had their milk delivered directly to their doorsteps, while meat was often purchased from a local butcher, and fruits and vegetables from local markets or stands. The 1950s saw the rise of processed foods, like TV dinners, but they had not yet fully displaced the culture of home-cooked meals. The food was often straightforward but hearty, relying on staples like casseroles, stews, and barbecued meats.
Education and School Life
Schools were an integral part of community life. Unlike today’s focus on technology in education, schools of the 1950s were more likely to emphasize basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students would also take part in activities like choir, band, and various sports, which often served as the backbone of community events. Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) were active, and parents were deeply involved in their children’s education, often volunteering for various school activities.
Dress Codes and Fashion
Fashion was more formal compared to today’s casual styles. Men often wore suits or slacks with button-up shirts to work, and women typically wore dresses or skirts. Hats for men and gloves for women were not uncommon accessories when going out. Children’s clothing was often homemade, particularly in middle- to low-income households.
Transportation and Mobility
Cars were becoming increasingly common, and many families aspired to own one. However, Austin’s public transport system was also an essential part of daily life for those who didn’t own a car. Buses were the primary form of public transport, and they were used for various purposes—from getting to work and school to doing grocery shopping.