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1950s Lifestyle and Activities.

In the 1950s Australian lifestyles and living standards were progressing rapidly. Relatively untouched by the Second World War, our primary industries were able to supply Great Britain and Europe with much that they needed as they recovered from the War. Our standard of living was one of the highest in the world and shiploads of immigrants were arriving from Britain and Europe to build a new life here after the destruction and displacement of the War. The construction industry was working flat out build the homes required by the returned servicemen and the new arrivals. Employment was high and Australia was a place of prosperity and opportunity.

Once released from the disciplines of life in the Armed Services, young ex-servicemen and women turned their backs on the conventions of the past and showed their preference for casual living. The changing lifestyle was reflected in 1950s fashion and music. Bright cotton frocks, striped T-shirts and Hawaiian beach shirts typified casual 1950s fashions. As in previous generations, dancing was a very popular form of entertainment. The favourite place for young singles to meet members of the opposite sex was the Saturday Night Dance.

In the late 1950s, the lifestyle of former generations was changed for all time by the advent of Television. The birth rate was high following the War. What is now known as the Baby Boon was under way as men and women, whose lives had been interrupted by the War, returned to civilian life, married and had children. Most young people decided to get married in their early twenties, and it was usual for a girl to give up her job when she got married, or at least when the first child was on the way.

Some conventions remained generally unchanged in the 1950s. Living together before marriage was still frowned upon. Girls, and their parents, preferred the formality of marriage and the situation of young couples living together was unusual.

A man's wage was usually quite sufficient to pay the rent or mortgage and support the family. As a rule, the purchase price of a home was between 4 and 5 times a man's annual wage, and lenders would not accept a home loan application if the repayments exceeded one quarter of the man's income. Add to this the requirement to have a substantial deposit before the loan was even considered and you have the situation where people could manage their commitments on one income, and where lenders requirements ensured that borrowers could afford to meet their commitments. As a result, housing prices were pegged at a more affordable level.

It seems that home prices these days (2008) often exceed 10 times one man's annual salary and that little or no personal deposit is required. These days one salary might not be enough to meet the mortgage repayments plus other commitments and living expenses. Lets hope the good times continue to roll, for if they don't, ..............?

Like most kids in the 1950s, I left school after completing the Junior Public Exam, the now equivalent of year ten or intermediate. In those days, every school leaver quickly found employment. Whether you left school at fourteen or sixteen, every kid got a job. Banks, insurance companies, pastoral houses, merchants, the public service willingly took on juniors to learn their business from the ground up, and apprenticeships were readily available for those seeking trades. At the high school I attended, there were several hundred students in the junior and sub junior years, about twelve students in sub senior and five sitting for senior, so that year, no more than five students from that large school could possibly have gone on to university. Of course many of those who left school to go to work studied university subjects or completed their education in work-related fields.

My first job was as an insurance company junior, licking stamps, running messages, banking and filing documents at the Stamp Duties Office. This was all part of learning the insurance business from the ground up, and soon led to more responsible jobs and eventually led to a transfer to Brisbane, but that's another story.

When I started work, conditions for most office workers in Australia were pretty comfortable. Everybody started between 8.30 and 9.00 am, had a 15 minute morning tea break about 10.30, and a full hour for lunch, when they usually left the office to do some shopping or to get some exercise. Everybody finished work about 5.00 pm and left the office. Rarely did anyone work outside the normal working hours and no one took work home. No one was expected to work longer hours, and no one needed to, as work was generally kept up to date.

Occasionally, perhaps at the end of the financial year, it was necessary to work some overtime to finalise work, do a stock-take, or attend to end of year returns. At these times the Boss would ask the required staff to work back, and they would be paid tea money and overtime.

For a time in the early 1950s, Banks were open on Saturday morning, so Insurance Companies and other offices opened too. However, demand for services was not high and the banks closed. After that, few offices were open at all on Saturdays and retail shops closed for the weekend at mid-day Saturday.

Only service stations and convenience stores were open on weekends. Friday night till Monday morning was leisure time for just about everyone, so whole families could get together for picnics, sporting events or go away for the week-end. Unfortunately the push for shops to be open seven days a week killed the social benefit of friends and families having time to spend together. There used to be an old saying that should have said, “The family that plays together, stays together.”

In the 1950s, Australians generally enjoyed a healthy lifestyle, ate good food and took an interest in sport and outdoor activities, spending much of their leisure time at the beach. With weekends off, why not?

In the 40's and 50's there were no Credit Cards. Borrowing money was avoided except when a loan was required to purchase a home. Refrigerators, furniture and even cars were usually saved up for and paid for in cash. If you couldn't afford to pay cash for a new fridge or lounge chair you simply did without or bought a second hand one until you could afford to pay cash for a new one.

More leisure time to spend with the family and less financial stress - life was pretty good in the 1950's.

Read a little about Health in the 50s

You can shop here now for Music from the 40s and 50s, Fashion from the 50s, as well as for Books giving more information about 'Life in the 1940s and the 1950s'.

To take you back to living-family-history from the 1950s.