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Around Town In The 1950s


this section is divided into 4 parts:


Shopping & More
Shopping trends and Googie architecture

Travel & Nightlife
Vacation spots, motels, car trips, nightclubs and cocktail lounges

Dining Out
Drive-ins, lunch counters, soda fountains, malt shops....yummy!

Town & Country
Views of city, small town and rural life



Googie design was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and got its name from Googie's, the California coffeeshop famous for its modern, space-age look.

In the 1950s space travel and atomic power were very hot topics, and any establishment that wanted to promote a modern or futuristic image used these motifs in their designs.

California led the way, constructing coffeeshops and other public buildings with large expanses of glass, synthetic materials, exposed metal beams and upswept roofs. Signs weren't complete until they had a starburst, atom or sputnik on the very top. The theme was carried on in the furnishings: boomerang and amoeba-shaped tables were very aerodynamic! Disneyland's Tomorrowland was Googie in the extreme.

Just picture the Skypad Apartments on The Jetsons, and you get the idea!


Googie Architecture Online
Roadside Peek
Googie & Tiki At Disneyland

My Retro Diner logo
is very Googie!


The shopping experience was in a state of transition in the 1950s.

If you lived in the city, you could take the bus or streetcar downtown for a day of shopping.

But what if you lived in one of those new housing developments out in the country? To accomodate the growing suburban population, developers began to build strip shopping centers and huge discount stores in the outlying areas, signaling the beginning of the end for downtown shopping.

----- Shopping

Macy's in New York City

The St. Regis Room in Simpson's Department Store

Visit my Dining Out page for lunch counters and soda fountains

Ladies always dressed up when they went downtown

Department stores had several floors of merchandise. The floorwalker directed you to the appropriate department, where the clerk behind the counter helped you with your purchase and wrapped it up.

department stores
Sak's Fifth Avenue
The May Company
Abraham & Straus
F&R Lazarus
Marshall Field's
Bergdorf Goodman

Macy's History
Federated Department Stores In The 50s
Macy's Herald Square
Department Store Design In The 50s

Before the 1950s, many stores issued their own charge cards, but there wasn't a credit card that could be used at many different locations. In 1950 a forgotten wallet led to the creation of Diner's Club, the first credit card.
In 1958 both American Express and Bank Americard were introduced, and credit cards soon became a way of life.

Most people bought their clothing at small specialty shops. For the ladies, there were dress shops, hat shops and jewelry stores. The well-dressed man did his shopping at the haberdashery.

Robert Hall
Three Sisters
Florsheim Shoes
Lane Bryant
Bond Clothier
Jolie Gabor Jewelry

History Of Florsheim Shoes
Western Auto
Blain's Farm & Fleet

other stores
In the 1950s the home and auto store became popular. In addition to tires and auto accessories, these stores also sold appliances, toys, bicycles, electronics and garden supplies. Western Auto and Farm & Fleet were two examples.

Toys R' Us (1957)
Western Auto
J.C. Penney
Blain's Farm & Fleet (1955)
Montgomery Wards


The drugstore sold magazines, perfume and penny candy. You could also get your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy or drop off your film for developing. When it came to clothing, cosmetics, gifts and housewares, if the local five-and-dime didn't have it, you probably didn't need it. The soda fountain or lunch counter was a great place to stop for a snack or quick meal.

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin Nostalgia 1951-1969
Walgreens History

Get your prescriptions filled!

"mom and pop" businesses
candy stores
appliance stores
butcher shops
small grocery stores

The local grocer was gradually becoming a thing of the past, as self-service supermarkets like Piggly Wiggly and A&P became popular. By 1955 supermarkets were responsible for 60 percent of America's grocery sales.

Piggly Wiggly

Piggly Wiggly History
About A&P Supermarkets
Supermarket History & Architecture

shopping centers

The ancestors of the modern shopping center and enclosed mall could be found as early as 1890. In that year, the Cleveland Arcade provided indoor shopping under a cast-iron and glass skylight roof.

Modern shopping centers were introduced in the 1920s and were designed with the automobile in mind. Between 1922 and 1948, a few small shopping centers were built featuring parking lots, landscaping and stores united by a single architectural theme.

By the late 1940s, two types of shopping centers had emerged....strip centers allowing you to park in front of the store you wished to visit, and court centers that placed all of the stores around a center court and moved the parking lot to the outer edge.

In the 1950s the regional shopping center became popular. These large complexes were located in the suburbs, where they could usually be found near major highways and freeways. This made it possible for each center to serve many towns. In 1956 Southdale Shopping Center near Minneapolis was the first modern enclosed mall.

Times were changing, and downtown retailers realized that they needed to open stores in the new suburban shopping centers in order to stay successful. Giving up personal service in favor of lower prices was a trade many shoppers were willing to make, and this trend gave birth to the discount store.

History Of Valley Fair Center
To The Mall, Bearing Money
A Shopping Giant Arrives
History Of The Shopping Center & Mall

Catchy name, huh?

continue to:
Travel & Nightlife--------------Dining Out

Town & Country

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