I was not yet born in 1955, but I have a distinct impression of what that year must have been like.
Despite fears instilled by the Atomic Bomb, post-war anxieties slowly faded, replaced with a Nationalistic sense of pride that somehow allowed middle-class whites to ignore rampant racism. The G.I. Bill allowed white veterans to save enough money to move from the crowded city and into exclusively white suburbs.
Blacks were excluded. Many of these houses came with basements, and one of the first things that the new dads did with their castle was ‘finish’ the basement. This often included the installation of a bar where he could retreat after work and sip a beer with the neighbors. My dad built a bar in the house I grew up in, and so did every single one of his friends. Our social lives revolved around each other’s basements.
Around the same time, ‘hi-fi players’ were becoming commonplace and soon enough, every family had a hi-fi system on which to play their gorgeous new 12” long-playing albums. Successful suburbanites could sit in the bar they built in their basement and play records. It was…miraculous. It was…exotic.
For listening pleasure, they’d play albums that emphasized ethnic pride, perhaps a smattering of comedy...and always, almost without exception, the Harry Belafonte album. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because it provided a taste of exotica, or maybe it provided a subtle distraction from the Wonder Bread surroundings of their newfound existence. It’s hard to point at a specific reason, but I can only say that this album was ubiquitous. For years, these songs seemed to surround us. You simply cannot understand the fifties unless you are familiar with this album.
Take My Mother Home
In That Great Gettin' Up Mornin'
Jump Down, Spin Around
December 1955 - Billboard Charted #1
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