He is clearly smitten with her as she sips from his soda glass. I love her tartan dress which I imagine to be blue and I'll bet the bow wrapped around her ponytail is black velvet. The moody glow from the lanterns, the tile floor, the leather seat covers make this a charming photo of a 1950's couple on what looks like an innocent first date. Mom and Pop are most certainly at home in front of the picture window, waiting for their young miss to return by 11 o'clock. I'm sure she will...
In spring, I like to revisit some of my favorite teenage novels - nearly all set in the 1950's. I call them Soda Fountain Stories because soda fountains figure so prominently in them. I can't say it's a trip down Memory Lane because I only know the 50's from pictures, my mother's anecdotes, and novels. But the heroines' travails seem universal and somehow familiar to the struggles of every decade: there's the fast crowd who refuses to welcome newcomers, the benevolent and understanding teacher, and of course, a shy bookish late bloomer who doesn't know someone in the wings thinks she's fine.
My books are a comforting trip back in time when good manners were valued and expectations for behavior were cut like glass. Most important to me though, were the stories' emphasis on home and family. Nearly every novel has a loving mother who volunteers at church and school, sees that her children and husband eat a good breakfast, and still bakes brownies from scratch...or gingerbread, as one of my favorites tells. Dad works at the office in the city and comes home tired and put-out but shakes it all down with the help of Mother and her pineapple upside-down cake. The family dog and kid brother help too. Oh, if only...
Still, as far removed as 2017 is from the Atomic Age (and all those bomb shelters that were never used), we have it pretty good now too. Medical care is at nearly science fiction-level, we have the internet and cell phones, movies and books on-demand, and many other magnificent things. I'm not completely idealizing the purity of the 1950's - I'm just saying that it's some kind of wonderful to escape to a simpler time every now and then when the biggest problem in life is whether the prom dress you made will be as pretty as the illustration on the pattern cover.
Come with me to the suburban 1950's. Your reboot is ensured.
Wait for Marcy by Rosamund du Jardin - (Marcy is known as "Squirt", a nickname she detests.)
Sister of the Bride by Beverly Clearly - (Oh how you'll cry!)
Almost April by Zoa Sherburne - (A sudden tragedy which surprisingly aligns with the 21st century too.)
And, there is one elusive novel that I have never been able to locate after reading it once in the 8th grade. It must have been dear to me as the story line has never left me. A girl's mother is institutionalized and while she is gone from home a beneficent housekeeper takes her place. But when Mother is well enough to return, our heroine is torn between the warm replacement and the mother she all but forgot. Does this outline ring a bell with anyone?
Finally, do you have a tender 1950's teenage novel that has remained steadfast in your heart?