Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summertime Dating in the ‘50s

Window air-conditioners were just becoming affordable in the early 1950s, making the ritual of Saturday night date preparation much more comfortable for us Southern young ladies who were of dating age. Prior to the installation of the mammoth metal monsters hanging from the window, we took cold showers, pointed every fan in the house in our direction and prayed the sticky anti-perspirant held until we got to the air-conditioned movie theatre.

Our attire was much different than what is worn in public today. No shorts and halters for our “hot” dates in August (yes, I said that on purpose). We wore “peasant” blouses and “circle” skirts underlined with several layers of starched crinolines. Nylon hose were worn to show off our new Capezio “flats.” We accented our dainty little necks with brightly colored silk scarves. Screw-back pearl earrings set off our Prell-washed hair. Our dates wore sports jackets or even suits, but mostly in the summer just starched and ironed white dress shirts or short-sleeve plaid shirts, ties optional, and slacks. No jeans for date night unless the date rode a motorcycle, but that’s a different story.

Since most of our dates drove un-air-conditioned cars (yes, the times were indeed primitive), we had two choices. Insist on windows up or shellac our hair with so much spray that not even gale-force winds would move a single hair. One problem. Humidity increased the stickiness of the spray causing hair to droop from the weight and/or catch every leaf, bit of paper or tine of comb, and refuse to let go. Any young man with more than an hour's experience, knew NOT to touch his date’s hair.

Summer drive-in theater dating during July and August was not even an option. In addition to hot and humid air, the mosquitoes were voracious, pouncing on every bit of exposed skin. Even with a mosquito coil burning on the dashboard, the tiny pests flocked into the car, got high on the camphor aroma, then danced around exposed skin looking for a tasty treat. So much for our Midnight in Paris, Channel No. 5 or Tigress cologne; within five minutes of lighting that coil, we were bathed in eau de citronella or camphor.

The only relief was the air-conditioned snack bar, usually crowded with sweating teens trying to look “cool.” (Yep, meant that one, too.) As soon as the lights came on between double features and the dancing popcorn boxes strutted across the screen, teens popped out of Fords and Chevys to line up for snow cones and large Cokes with extra ice.

As much fun as it was in the other seasons, the neighborhood drive-in was just not the place for a Saturday night date in August, no matter how good the “Monster from the Black Lagoon” was said to be.

© Copyright 2007 Suzzwords


  1. Hi Suzz, a lot of that brings back memories of early dates, not that I suffered in the ways you describe but some of my dates sure did.

  2. lol What a blast from the past! I wasn't old enough to date in the 50s but I do remember circle skirts & crinolines. In the 60s, we were preppy & wore Ladybug shirtwaist dresses and Weejuns loafers. My daughter, in the 90s, wore jeans and a sweater and Reeboks. I miss seeing people dress up.

  3. I didn't date in the 50s but my 60s nightlife was very similar. I always wore a sweater over my shoulders with a sweater chain, because my mother insisted I could get a cold from the air conditioned theater. I loved this little visit to my youth!

  4. I was a 60's dater too...and oh how I loved those drive-in movies. So much fun and the source for some pretty great memories. I think I'd trade some of this technology for a few of those wonderful times back then. Thanks Suzz...

  5. Suzz, you surely have brought back memories for me. I started dating in 1955, at age 15 (too young, by the way), and experienced nearly all of what you said. My boyfriend had a convertible, so my hair had to blow in the wind no matter what! I usually wore a scarf. Remember Ipana toothpaste? I used Prell too (loved the smell).

    I came here to thank you for the visit and comment about names.

  6. p. mona10:06 AM

    I've still got a bottle of Chanel No. 5, but can't unscrew the lid. Either it's glued together or I'm tooo old to loosen it. Think I'll sell it on E-Bay. I remember when the mosquitos were so bad at the drive-in, we rolled up the windows with the speaker inside. The windshield fogged up and we couldn't see the screen, so we just "smooched."

  7. Boy did I hate those crinoline slips and when I sat down my skirt raised up so high it almost touched my chin -- well, that's a bit of an exaggeration.

    What I hated even more were some I had to starch, and all that ironing -- yuck!

  8. Anonymous3:50 AM

    Wow, this piece was very interesting. I am 19 years old, stuck in the times of technology, and I would love to go back and visit the 50's and 60's. I think I would really enjoy living in that time period.

    One lady left a comment saying how she misses how people used to dress up like that. I wish people still did it today. The style in the 50's was "cool."

    It seems like in the 50's, every thing was slowed down. Unlike today, where everyone is in a hurry and don't take time for anything.

    Thanks for this. I enjoyed it.