"Mrs. Everywoman": The Backbone of America
2005 Local Historians: Laura Bowman, Kaylee Coons, Ellie Mattews, Kristin Paglia, and Olivia Zetter
Wayland, like many other small suburban communities in the 1950s, is a good representation of the country's social and political climate condensed. Many national issues such as conformity, consumerism, and the baby boom that brewed during that time also affected the town of Wayland. The 1950s was a decade in which women had many social expectations; they were expected to stay at home and find satisfaction and enjoyment in raising a family. The interviews with Mrs. Betty Sweitzer, Mrs. Ros Kingsbury and Mrs. Jean Pratt showed that most women in Wayland and on a larger scale, the nation, found much satisfation with staying at home, raising their chidren and volunteering in the community.*
It seems that in general they were not caught up in the hysteria that swept through the country about communism and fear of the Soviets. The women did, however, support the growing consumerism throughout the country, as seen by their purchase of appliances and other newly created luxuries. This growing consumerism could be seen in the different advertisements that were directed towards women to buy things such as cosmetics, stockings, and daily household appliances.
The women of this decade were the mothers of the baby boom. The baby boom was a direct effect of the fifties being a "couples society", when, as Peter Jennings reported, 97% of all marriagable people, were in fact married. There were not many single parents and the husband and wife always stuck together.
Not many women went to college and they were generally discouraged from attending because it was thought to be more of a man's duty. However, there were exceptions to this trend. A few women did aspire to spend time outside their homes and neighborhoods. They became secretaries, receptionists, and other low-status jobs. Mrs. Helen Turchinetz was one of these women. Many had to sacrifice their jobs once they had children. The status-quo seemed to justify women leaving their occupations and devoting years of their lives to their children, while their husbands continued to provide the income. While they stayed at home they managed the household economy, bought groceries at the local supermarket, and ensured the kids were safe. The quiet neighborhoods in Wayland provided for a safe and serene place to raise children. Mothers let their kids leave the house, unwatched, to play with their friends for hours at a time. The general consensus seemed to be that parents were less protective and watchful of their children due to the level of security they felt, even though many others in the country were terrified because of the worldwide tension between the Soviets and the Americans. Mothers seemed to be isolated and disconnected from the world in a sense, because even though the Nike Missile site was nearby, which potentially had nuclear warheads, they did not worry or even give places like this a second thought. These women overall seemed to be levelheaded and did not stress themselves out over the frightening issues that they read about in the newspaper. Instead, they focused on the important responsibilities at the center of family life.
The Stepford standard was not expected of women during the mid to late 60's. The feminist movement began in the early 70's and women no longer accepted the submissive roles that were expected of them.
* Mrs. Sandy Hoyt also followed these social norms, yet she started a family during the mid 60's.
Use the links to jump to selections from our interview of 1950's women:
The following is a collective interview of the following women who lived in the 1950s:
Q: How was your relationship with your mother in the late 1950's?
Judy: I was 17-18. Mine was great, my sister's was terrible. I was the oldest in my family of four. I was what you would call more straight than my sister's. My sister was what you would call a real free spirit. My mother used to call her gypsy because everything she put on never matched. I think that they had more problems with her than they ever had with me. I never had a curfew because I knew what time I was to come home.
Q: What was the marriage age back then?
Everybody: I would say around the early twenties. Yeah, I would say around then.
Barbara: People were worried about bringing an old maid home. And girls didn't necessarily have the goal of going to college back then as they do now. It wasn't available to them.
Q: So was there a lot of pressure getting married?
Everybody: No I wouldn't call it pressure. Yeah, it was more like just something you did, or tradition.
Barbara: Going back to what you said about college, quite honestly, I didn't go to college. I had a father, we had four girls, and he didn't believe in girls attending college. Had there been a boy in the family, he would have attended.
Q: How were the ideas of women in the fifties different from the ideas of women now a days?
Barbara: Very very different. They're raising families, and they have responsibilties. Of course we didn't have all the things that the young folks have now a days, of course they are waiting to get married later, but we got married right away and started raising our families. And we had a lot of responsibilities, being at home and to be good parents. And economically, it was great; we were still rebounding from the war. Everyone was very frugal.
Joanne: I bet you don't even know about butter or meat rationing, or a sugar rationing [WWII]. Or stockings! Times have changed. But there was camaraderie around closer things. Local sports and schools were good for me. What was provided locally really helped.
Barbara: I was always surprised how my mother could turn a can of tuna fish into many sandwiches, it was amazing, and I yearn for those times thinking could I do that now? And we didn't suffer for it; we didn't feel deprived at all.
Evelyn: And food was never ever thrown away.
Everybody: Oh, never! No.
Joanne: You could have a casserole with one hotdog.
Evelyn: And what my mother always said,
Everybody: Think of the starving children in Europe!
Q: Were there girls that differed from the norm?
Judy: I think everybody was pretty normal.
Evelyn: I can remember one girl in high school that became pregnant and one girl that ran away from home. Those were the two traumatic things and unusual thing that happened. Other than that as we say we were all straight.
Q: So would you say that it was conformity?
Judy: Yes I would say that it was definitely conformity.
Q: What was your wedding like?
Barbara: My family gave me a beautiful wedding and I met my husband in church, and our mothers knew each other, and everybody thought that he was the best person in the world. I had a beautiful wedding at a church and my dress was beautiful. It was satin with inserts of lace and a veil. We came back from our honeymoon with fifty cents in our pocket.
Mrs. Manley in her wedding gown in 1952.
Judy: We had a synagogue wedding and we met each other at a singles dance. Because women didn't go into bars those days, so the only ways to meet people was through other people.
Mrs. Keller on her wedding day in 1965
Barbara: Yes, we didn't wait in those days.
Evelyn: I also met my husband in church when I was sixteen. We also had a church wedding, gown and all. This gown was satin and long sleeves, and very hot to wear in July. Satin was popular but not in July.
Joanne: Our wedding plan was a little different. I borrowed a dress, and it was also satin. We got married in St. Zepherin's Church, not the same St. Zepherin's Church now days though, and it was a lovely wedding. We didn't go through the amount of planning as you guys probably had.
Q: What was the fashion back then?
Judy: They go down practically to your socks. White socks. It was a belt circle and on it was an applicated poodle. Everybody wanted one it was the thing to wear.
Barbara: We wore sweater sets. A cardigan sweater was sometimes worn backwards, and pearls were popular. In a school picture, I was never seen without pearls. Yes, it was different.
Judy: Everybody would take nylon and say "Oh I would like to see that!" Then they would put their hand through the nylon so that they could see the color of it. And they would have straight seams in them. And if they didn't have stockings, they would paint their legs so that it would look as if they were wearing them. We would all use makeup to paint our legs different colors.
Barbara: Everyone was doing it. It was very popular. But the colors weren't always great.
Joanne: Saddle shoes were also popular to wear; it was the "in" thing to wear them with white socks.
Barbara: We wore jeans, and dungarees rolled up, and maybe your father's shirt with the tail sticking out.
Judy: Tangy lipstick. It sort of gave your lips a little bit of color, sort of like a colored lip-gloss.
Barbara: The Jansen one-piece swimsuit was the cat's meow! We never had the midriff revealing. We were sexy in our own ways.
Eveyln: One thing that I remember growing up, was that it was very safe. When we were in high school, we would walk downtown, go to the movies, and take the bus home, and walk a couple of blocks back home and thought nothing of it. We never locked our doors, but it was very safe.
Barbara: We didn't have drugs either, and the worst thing we did was puff a cigarette. And we also didn't drink.
Q: Did you go to college?
Judy: My father didn't go to college, my mother didn't even finish high school, but they wanted better for the kids, so I went to college and majored in speech therapy. I actually wanted to be a nurse but my mother didn't want me to because she said to me, all they do is empty bedpans, and of course, you never defy your parent's wishes.
Evelyn: I think your case is a little unusual. That's because you're probably a little younger than me. But most girls' back then didn't go to college. My mother didn't want me to go to college.
Barbara: Quite honestly, I didn't go to college. I had a father, we had four girls, and he didn't believe in girls attending college. Had there been a boy in the family, he would have attended.
Judy: Our expectations were fairly low, not as high as you young folks today. We all went to college early on until we got married, and some of us worked after we got married.
Q: Was there a lot of dependence upon your husbands?
Barbara: I really didn't have a great stance of independence. I was really dependent on my husband. But I think we all were. Not until I found a job of my own as a librarian did I find myself, and gave me a sense of accomplishment that I didn't feel before. I didn't always have to ask my husband for money.
Excerpts from Mrs. Nagle's Interview
Q: Did you ever feel threatened by any communist scares during the Cold War?
A: Not really, I had gone through WWII with him (Mr. Nagle) in the Air Force and he was gone for three years. He came home once in that time and at that time I taught first aid to the people at the department store where I worked. The president gave me time off to go and get a certificate in it and then I ended up teaching it to the air raid wardens in Wakefield and to the fire department because we never had first aid.
Q: Were you close with your neighbors?
A: Bow Road was a wonderful neighborhood at that time, and you know there wasn't the traffic and the kids all played in the street and learned how to ride their bikes and to roller-skate and all of that on the street, which you dont see today anymore.
Q: Did you ever go to the Mansion Inn?
A: Yes, I did for cub scout dinner or something.
Q: Did you ever go dancing with your husband there?
A: No, but I did at the temple, I did when it was Monroe on Route 20. It's now, what's it been inbetween, it's now Temple Shirtikva, but it's been a lot of things before that.
Q: Did you ever have any desire to have another job other than being a mother?
A: No, and there weren't too many jobs for women then unless you were a good typist or a graduate. I'd been the secretary of a school at night while I was working during the war so that I could get a job other than retail. (I had gone nights.) I wasn't good enough or didn't take short-hand, I did speed writing but I wasn't good enough to go in and get a Katherine Gibbs kind of job.
Excerpts from Mrs. Mills' Interview
Q: Were you mainly a housewife, or did you have another job?
A: I had a job when we first moved out here, I worked at channel four. I was a confidential secretary to the manager and assistant manager of radio and TV. I worked on Soldiers Field Road.
Q: Did you like the community when you moved out here? Did your neighbors have children as well, and did you ever go to block parties?
A: Yes, because what we did back then you can't do today because we used toput our children to bed and then there would be a neighborhood party at someone's house and we would do what they used to call 'baby checks'.
Q: So, you felt that the community was very safe?
A: Yes, yes, wonderful.
Q: Did you know about the Raytheon Plant?
A: Yes, there was a big fight when it went in, there were those for and against. I was against it because it was gonna raise the taxes in the town.
Q: Were you at all afraid of any emissions from the plant?
A: No, it was just the idea that the taxes would go up, because they would need more police more fire to cover the growing of industry in the town.
Q: What about the Nike Missile Site?
A: No, that didn't bother me, that seemed like something we didn't think about.
Q: Even though there was the possibility that they had nuclear warheads there, didn't it bother you?
A: I heard there were too, but we really didn't know for sure, and an awful lot of people were over there at Lincoln Labs, the secret laboratory over there.
Q: Were you caught up in all the hype about the situations in the world during the 1950s?
A: No, I was to busy raising little children. We didn't get as involved as people do today.
Local historians Olivia Zetter and Kristin Paglia interview Mrs. Helen Turchinetz.
Q: Where did you grow up and where did you live when you were older?
A: I became an orphan after my father died when I was eight years old so I was put into foster homes in the town of Boylston, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Athol. No electricity, no bathroom or anything like that. I was one of three children and we were put in foster homes and all separated. I was state ward until I was 21 and had lived in nine different foster homes and during that time most children go home and have homework to do but the foster parents always had housework for us to do. They didnt believe in homework. So we did all physical labor.
Q: Were all of your foster homes in the Massachusetts area?
A: Yes, several in Worcester, Grafton, Newbury in that area. When we first came one was in Dorchester and then another in a nuns home in Worcester.
Q: After you got married where did you live?
A: We lived in Brighton for eight years and then moved to Wayland when my son was two but I was married seven years before I had a child.
Q: How many children do you have?
A: One, a son.
Q: How old were you when you had your first child?
A: I was 36 years old.
Q: How old were you when you got married?
A: I was 29 in 1951 when we got married.
Q: Did you have a house in Brighton?
Q: What was your everyday life like?
A: Well, I worked at Gilchrist as a counter girl. I had gone to girls trade in Worcester and I had a hairdressing background so I worked on Newbury Street and I got acquainted with the people in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. Those people were everyday people. They came from the old money crowd and they did not throw their weight around. They would have an alligator bag or a leather bag and they would wear it till it was worn out and then they would replace it with a new one and their clothes and things were the same way. They didnt act above everyone else. They were just ordinary people. The ones that were schoolgirls would come into shop. They would hitch onto real-estate rich mens sons who were very wealthy. Then the schoolgirls would come in and throw their weight around and go in the ladies room and throw everything on the floor. They were the ones that wanted to be waited on. You could always pick them out. That was one type of clientele.
Q: What did your husband do for a living?
A: He worked in the Navy Yard. Then he went to school nights. After that he took courses at Northeastern where he graduated night school. He then took another course at Northeastern and got another degree and then he worked at Raytheon. Then he went to Babson and got another degree.
Q: Then he went and fought in World War II?
A: He was a sailor and an only child but I didnt know him when he was over in the Pacific. He was over there when they dropped the bomb but I met him after he arrived home.
Q: How did you and him meet?
A: Mighty interesting, when I lived in Worcester I had a boyfriend who had caught polio and he was at Cushing so I decided to come to Boston. I worked at Gilchrist but it was not safe walking the streets alone because I was always being followed. So I took a live in job as a maid just to be off the streets because I couldnt handle it. When you are all alone and you have no family and no one to talk to nobody to communicate with and they dont care what you do so you have to live a pretty straight life. So then in Boston one day I was coming home from the bus and I was walking one of the dark streets, and this car pulled up and he was looking for directions to a certain street and I said I dont know much about this area and so forth. The fellow in this car was with another woman and a few days later a knock came on my door and he had followed me home or saw where I lived and it was a fancy house in Chestnut Hill. He asked me if I would like to go out sometime. I said no I cant go out I only can go out Thursday afternoons and every other Sunday, that was my time off. So then a few weeks later he came up again and I said no but I didnt tell him why because I had my other boyfriend at Cushing. So finally he says to me I have tickets for the Ice Capades. Would you go with me? I said no, I have another friend in Cushing. And this man said I will drive you there and then we will go to the Ice Capades later. So finally I said why not. Thats what happened. Then on the way home near the pond in Chestnut Hill, the car ran out of gasoline about three and half or four miles from where I lived. We walked home from the car. He was so embarrassed a few weeks later he then asked if I would go out with him again.
Q: What was your average day like in the 50s? When you woke up what would you do?
A: I was working on Newbury Street, then I would go home and cook dinner for my son and husband. But I would cook for my son first and then my husband would come home later.
Q: In home life, did you do most of the housework like cooking and cleaning or did your husband help out at all?
A: He was a student, an only child, his grandmother waited on him all his life until he went into the Navy. He did not know how to tie his shoestrings. I call myself a Russian slave because he has never been made to do anything. He did not hold a hammer when we got married to hang a pictures because he lived in the west end of Boston and his family was afraid he would get hurt so they let him play on the roof with a book in his hand and thats what he has done the rest of his life, had a book in his hand.
Q: What kind of housework would you do?
A: Everything, cleaning, cooking, laundry anything and everything that needed to be done.
Q: Would your family ever take family vacations?
A: Yes, because my husband was working a lot of the time so my son and I would go on vacation. I took him cross-country on the Greyhound bus because I wanted to see the country. I think at that time when he was under 10 he could probably get a round trip ticket for 10-15 dollars. We took this vacation a couple of times. Then another vacation we went on was to California and saw Disneyland and Tijuana, Mexico. I also took my son and his friend to Texas to see where Kennedy was assassinated and then we went over the border to Mexico. Traveling alone with the two boys in Mexico we got over there okay but trying to get back to the states was harder. So I took the boys to a policeman and told the policeman I wanted to take a bus back to Texas and needed to make sure I was on a bus. We got back to the states on something like a dollar and half.
Q: Did your son play any sports or was he involved in any outside of school activities?
A: My son, an only child, had a newspaper route as something he did outside of school. He went to Claypit Hill School and in the first grade his marks were poor. But I knew he knew the material. Then in the second grade we got a very bad report card, right down the line was all poor, lower then poor marks. They said he couldnt read, couldnt write, couldnt do this, couldnt do that. Then they said we had to keep him back. I knew he knew it all. He knew it all verbally but could not communicate on paper. So we got him a tutor. At that time a tutor was very expensive $60 or $70 an hour. We told him we had to help him and if he didnt pay attention to what she was doing then he would have to take part of his money from the newspaper route and pay her. That didnt set too well but he learned. He was invited to a birthday party and it was one of the tutoring days so I was trying to figure out if the money was more important or the birthday party. So I let him go to the birthday party and they went bowling. He could not throw the ball down the middle, and he became very self-conscious and he asked if he could keep score. But the mother noticed he could not write. He was writing from the bottom up. So afterwards she told me that she had spent something like 1600-1700 dollars for test scores for her child and we learned it was a learning disability called dyslexia. So one of the tutors told us about a private school in West Newton just starting up by a Dr. Cole from Mass General for people with dyslexia. My son was one of the first fifteen people in this special private school and the private school was cheaper then the tutoring. My son was taught on a one to one basis for five years until he graduated that school and moved to Wayland High School. So when he graduated from high school he had had enough with education and wanted to just work. But while he was at Wayland High School he got a job as a dishwasher and watched the chef at the restaurant and learned how to make meals. I made him pay room and board to me except I put the money he paid me and put it in the bank and by the time he was twenty three he had saved 3,500 dollars.
Q: What types of music and radio shows were popular in the 1950s?
A: Guy Lombardo was very popular in the 1950s. Swing and sway Tommy Dorcy and Frank Sinatra.
Q: Were there any popular television shows in the 1950s or ones that you especially enjoyed watching?
A: In the 1950s when we first got married we bought a small television that was built into a cabinet, which I still have because it had my only childs fingerprints still on it with white paint. I liked the quiz games the best. They were my favorite to watch since I didnt get any education I could learn by listening to them.
Q: Was there news on the television also?
A: Yes, there was news and music channels. I would never watch plays or anything like that because I would get interrupted and then I would loose the context of what was happening. But if you listen to a talk show or music if you lost something you havent lost the whole program.
Q: What were styles like in the 1950s? Hairstyles? Clothes styles?
A: In the 1950s people dressed. You would go to church and people would have hats and nice shoes. Now you go to Easter Sunday and you see sneakers and dirty old sweatpants. There is no such thing as class anymore. There were loads of elegant dress shops in the 1950s. The hairstyles were up-dos. No one had curly hairstyles like dish mops like they have now.
Q: Did you go shopping a lot just for fun?
A: Window-shopping, since I didnt have any money I would go window shopping and see what everyone else was wearing and see the styles.
Q: How often would you go shopping for new appliances or new clothes?
A: Not very often, you had to make do with what you had. When you dont have any money and you are self supporting you had to pay for your food, place to live, your clothing and in those days the pay scale was 18-20 dollars a week. At this time you could buy a new car, such as a Chevrolet for 300 dollars.
Q: Did you have a car when you lived in Wayland?
A: Yes my husbands mother and father both worked so they bought the car for him. It was a maroon 1949 Oldsmobile convertible.
Q: Were you close with your neighbors when you moved to Wayland?
A: Well because when I was young I had no one to turn to I kept my own council and kept my problems to myself because who was going to listen. So I wasnt one to socialize with the neighbors.
Q: Do you have any experience with or what do you recall of McCarthyism?
A: No, I dont recall anything.
Q: Was the war in Korea something that you were very aware of? Or did you not pay much attention to it?
A: I hated the war and it disturbed me like it disturbs me now to see all these young people going over their poorly trained and they are the ones that are losing their childhood. It hurts me to no end to watch this. I didnt know whether my son would be one of the ones to go over there. He was not drafted because he was in between ages.
Thank you very much for your time and incite into life during the 1950s. It was very helpful and informative.
May I tell you a story? When we first moved here I lived in the city and I
used to hang my clothes outside and I saw these big black birds way in the
back. Every time I would go out I would watch the crows and I became
fascinated by them. Every time I went out I would throw something way out
and I kept throwing things closer and closer to the house and I would watch
them and see what they would do. I wrote down all the different things that
they would do. Finally I got to a point and I sent an old neighbor the
paper I had written and she said, ěHelen you have to do something with
this.î The language was poor in my paper but my husband took it to Mrs.
Mulkeran at the high school and she corrected it for me. So last September
I called up a publisher and they took the manuscript over the telephone and
I am still waiting for the book to finally be published and come out this
summer. It is called The Crows, the Other Side of Them.
Local Historians Olivia Zetter and Kristin Paglia interview Mrs. Sandy Hoyt
Q: Where were you from when you were younger and where did you live when you got older?
A: I was born in Albany NY but moved to the Boston area when I was three. I lived in Brighton all through my childhood, through my college years. I went to Brandeis and when I graduated which was in the 1950's I went to NY city for a year but I didn't like it and moved back to the Back bay area of Boston.
Q: How old were you in 1950?
A: I was born in 1934 so I was 16.
Q: What was an everyday like in the 1950's?
A: Well when I went to Brandeis I commuted from Brighton, there was a bus that drove me so I got up in the morning and went down to where the bus was and then spent the whole day at Brandeis until five o'clock. When I lived in NY city I was a children's Librarian, very poorly paid and on pay day my roommate, who was a friend from college, and I would go to a restaurant. Now it was very exciting to be in NY city because in Boston if you wanted foreign food you could go to China Town or the Northend and have chinese or italian food but that was it. In NY city there were two whole yellow pages filled with restaurants. So every month we went to a different restaurant. It was very limited compared to the way you kids have it.
Q: Did you have a television?
A: I had a television at home but when I left home I never spent the money on a television, that was just too expensive and not in the game plan. When I went to college I didn't bring anything. You kids bring refrigerators and televisions today, nobody did that. You might bring a record player or something like that but that was it. So it was much simpler than it is today.
Q: What types of things did you study when you were at Brandeis.
A: I studied literature, American english literature because I wanted to be a children's librarian. Then I went to Simmons where I got my library degree.
Q: So when you were living in Boston were you a children's librarian then too?
A: No, after I got out of college I lived in NY city and worked for the NY city public libraries then I came back the last years of the 1950's and worked in Brookline in a school.
Q: When did you get married?
A: I didn't get married until I was about 28 so that was in 1962. My first child was born in 1964.
Q: What did your husband do?
A: He was a school teacher at the same school that where I worked as a librarian and he was a school teacher until he retired.
Q: Did you continue working after you had children?
A: No. It's a very different world now, hardly anyone kept working and daycare would have been a major major issue because there weren't daycare centers then like there are now. It was very difficult to continue working. We had three sons who all went to Wayland High School and I had them in four years. There was no way that I could have worked even if I could have gotten daycare which was almost impossible to do. I only knew in the school that I worked in that had kindergarten through eighth grade, and four classes of each grade, there was only one married woman with children who worked. It was almost like not an option, you didn't even think of doing it.
Q: What was housework/home life like?
A: I did most of the housework but my husband helped a lot. It was unusual for a husband to be that helpful. He was really great and helped a lot but he worked long hours, he never came home from school until five so I did most of the housework. Everything was very automatically divided into his and hers those days. The husband took care of the yard and the wife took care of the inside of the house. Equality between the sexes and sharing things like you do today just wasn't there.
Q: When did you move to Wayland?
A: We moved to Wayland in June 1964, three weeks after my son was born. We had a house in a very nice neighborhood with a baby-sitting club so that if you wanted to go out one of the members of the club, which was one of the neighbors, would baby-sit for you. We didn't have much money because my husband was a school teacher and they don't earn much and going out was expensive so we would go out every other saturday night.
Q: Were you very close with your neighbors?
A: Yes because a lot of us had children and we all walked our carriages around the street and we would gather in backyards and sit and talk. When Santa Clause would drive by on the fire engine at christmas time all the neighbors would gather to watch. It was a very friendly street.
Q: Did you take family vacations when your kids were younger?
A: Yes we went to the Cape in the summer. Most of the time in the summer however I took the kids to the town beach. Sometimes my husband would come because he was home the entire time during the summer, but he usually would stay home and I would take the kids for the entire day. When my three children were in the sixth, seventh, and ninth grades we went out west and that was our first real family vacation. It was the first time my kids were ever on a plane. My grandchildren who are six and ten now have more frequent flyer miles than I do. It was a very different world.
Q: Were your children very involved in sports and after school activities?
A: Well my youngest was very involved in drama and school clubs like the WHY club which did community service. Neither of my other two sons were very involved in school activities but they all worked. They all had jobs during the school year and summers.
Q: Would your children's friends come over to the house a lot?
A: Yes, my middle son was big into Dungeons and Dragons and they would have these all afternoon meetings around the dining room table. I would also take them into Arlington to buy game pieces and stuff. So there would always be lots of kids. One boy even stayed with us for a summer while his parents were away.
Q: Was it common for you to go into Boston and go shopping there?
A: Well when we moved to Wayland I had a favorite restaurant in Boston called the Red Fez which served babaganoush and humus and all that kind of food. We would go often on Saturday nights to eat there and my neighbors though we were insane going all the way into Boston to eat. It was really not something you did. I did it some because I had lived in Boston and missed it. It was also really dead around here, deader than now.
Q: How often would you buy new things such as appliances and clothes?
A: Not often. In the fall when I bought things for my kids before school I'd buy one or two things for myself or my husband. In the christmas time part of the gifts were always clothes and in the spring time I'd just get some summer things that they needed, minimum clothing. It was not like now and my kids always worked throughout high school so they could buy clothes and save for things like old junker cars. It was a lot less materialistic than seeing the way kids are being raised now and part of that was the money but part was also our choice of the values we wanted our kids to learn.
Q: What were hair and clothes styles like in the 1950's?
A: Well when I was in college I had a pony tail but when I started working I cut it off because that seemed immature to me. It was very interesting because the gay population always had very fashionable clothes and that was just beginning to come into use by straight people. I had a few gay friends and they though it was very amusing that they were setting the fashions even though people didn't really realize it at that time. One of the things about Wayland that was interesting was that things were a lot more casual here than when I lived in Boston or NY. People dressed a lot less fancy. The first time I went to church with my husband for easter he insisted I buy a hat since you couldn't go to church with out a hat. So I went out and bought a hat with a brim and went to church and in the whole church there were only three women with hats on and I never wore it again. It was just a lot more casual than it was in the city.
Q: Was there a thing that everyone was getting like a TV or cars?
A: I think TV. TV came in when I was in high school and that was the big thing for people to buy TV's. In my family we had a TV when I was a teenager and a record player. When I was single I had neither of those things and didn't really care about it. When I got married we got a TV.
Q: Did you have any favorite TV or radio shows?
A: Oh we would watch the Ed Sullivan show, get excited about the Beatles stuff like that. I had a lot of radio shows that I loved. Half hour shows on sunday like Jack Benning and other comedians that were funny. On saturday on the radio they would always have the opera and we would always listen to that.
Q: Did you have any favorite bands or music?
A: Well in the 50's I was really into jazz and I always liked classical music so I would save up to go to the symphony.
Q: Do you recall of any accounts of McCarthyism?
A: Oh yes, very well. When I was going to Brandeis people would say to me, "that's a pocket of liberals!" and "they're all communists!" because the kids on campus were always protesting. That was something that we were always glued to the television for, to see the McCarthy trials, he was just a despicable person. The secretary for the lawyer who prosecuted McCarthy lived in the apartment house my parents lived in so we heard a lot of news that way. It was like it is now in that people are afraid to say anything, like you read stories of people being arrested in airports for saying the wrong words, it was like that. It was a very scary time.
Q: Do you remember anything of the Anne Hale case?
A: I knew about it but it was very far away because that's when I was living in Boston but now I know a lot of people who were living in Wayland while that case was taking place.
Q: Do you remember anything about the Korean War?
A: Yes my brother was in the war and I remember his letters home were very unhappy and told of very hard conditions. It was something that you heard about and talked about all the time.
Q: How did the Korean War affect your everyday lifestyle?
A: It didn't really except for paying attention to it and my brother going away and knowing how unhappy he was and how hard things were for him.
Q: Did anything change after the war ended?
A: Well not that I'm aware of, not in my life really.
Q: What was one of the biggest overall changes you see between now and the 1950's?
A: Well you can't read the same books now that you could read to children back then. The books I would read to three year olds back then are hardly suitable to kindergartners now. Children's attention spans are much shorter and I attribute much of that to TV.
Local historians Kaylee Coons, Laura Bowman and Ellie Matthews, interview Betty Sweitzer
Well I think in the 50's and 60s it was a more traditional family. Women stayed home if they could, and took care of the kids. The father went out and took care of the money. We moved here in 1959, with two little children.
Q: How old were you then?
A: 31. Um, and the town was much smaller in those days. It had been you know, before the world, World War 2, it had been a very little farm town. And then after the war, people used to move out here. It had been a big summer colony around Dudley Pond. People moved out here and stayed, found that it was a good commuter town to Boston, and it began to grow fast- just right after we came. The post office was on Pelham Island Road. And Collins Market was the big white building with the columns right opposite the Historical Society. And that was a store. And it was wonderful! Everybody went there, and you could always tell when money was running out at the end of the month because they let you charge. And they also would deliver groceries to the house. The High School had just moved out of what is now the Town Building. That became the Junior High School. The High School had just been built. It was all written up in Life Magazine, it was a wonderful building. And the Town Building had the jail, all the offices, the selectman, fire engine, everything- was in a tiny little brick building. There were only three Churches- two Catholic, St. Zepherin's and St. Anne's. There was the First Parish-the big white one. We had no temples. We had no Episcopal Church. The part of the town that now has Whole Foods and all of that, that wasn't there. That got built shortly after we moved. There was no grocery store for a long time, except for Collins Market. And up on 20, near plain road was a grocery store.
Q: Did women have jobs in the '50s?
A: No. Well I mean, some women did. But it was unusual for a woman to work if she didn't have to. When her children were little, even people who were professionals like lawyers, stayed home. There was very little in way of daycare or anything like that. There weren't even any public kindergartens. Children went to the Town House, you could pay to have your children go there- it was a kindergarten. A lot of people sent their kids to it. And there were nursery schools around, but there was no public kindergarten, and no public daycare. Generally people, when they had babies, stayed home and took care of them. We didn't have much of an option in those days, and personally I don't mind. I think it would've been different now.
Q: Out of the few women that had jobs, what were the jobs that they had?
A: Oh I don't know, I'm trying to think. Well, some of them were secretaries. Some of them worked part time. Some of them, as time went on, did take children into their house and provided childcare. Some were teachers. Quite a few were teachers, and went back to teaching as the kids got older. Most of my friends stayed home. Um, then in the late 60s, early 70s, a bunch of us went back to school. Got another degree, went back to work, but in the early days, with the little ones, you stayed home.
Q: How old were you when you got married?
Q: Was that the average age back then?
A: Um, yeah. We got married earlier. Jobs were very easy to get after the war- for both men and women. I was a Navy Wife, which was another reason I never had much of a job, I moved around a lot. But most of us got married and raised very large families. The average number of kids was four or five. That's what everybody wanted to have. I only had two and I thought I was a failure. I had a friend in college with fourteen!
Q: What was your daily routine?
A: Well, I got up. Got people off to school. Went grocery shopping. When we had babies, most of the other women in the neighborhood also had babies, so we'd get together in the morning. Let the kids get together, drink coffee. A lot of committees. I mean this town as you know, was run by volunteer committees. Almost everybody was on one of some kind. Helped out that way in the town. I don't think there were any women selectmen until the 60's. There was a woman town clerk. I was the trustee of the library, and got sworn in on the steps of the grocery store by a town clerk. Things were more easy going than they are now.
Q: What was the fashion of the time? Clothes you wore?
A: Oh, I always think about that! We never wore pants! The idea of wearing pants to Church or anywhere else, except when you're just around you're house? well you never never did. You always were dressed up to go to Church. Wore more skirts and sweaters than pants. The kids always got dressed up whenever they went anywhere. We scrubbed them up when they went to Sunday school. We would NEVER let them go to Sunday school in a t-shirt, or a baseball cap, or any of the things they wear now. We were not as relaxed. In the school, no jeans.
Q: That'd be hard.
We got more dressed up, too. I belonged to a group called the Wayland Dancers. We had a big formal, black-tie, dance every month. And we went to a different place all around. A golf club or a country club. We all got dressed up and went to dinner parties. That was fun.
Q: Were your daily clothes skirts, or did you just wear pants?
A: In the summer I'd wear pants, and shorts. And I think most of the time I think everybody had a uniform of a gray flannel skirt and knee socks, and sweaters. There were clothing stores- we had to go to Wellsley, there were no malls. Shoppers World was the first one, that I know of. When we wanted to get really dressed up we went to Boston and went shopping.
Q: What was thought to be unladylike?
A: Well we all smoked, but smoking in the street. Never. When we went to Church or we went to any place like that. I wore a hat and gloves. We got a whole lot more dressed up. We never let the children hear us say anything, even like "Damn!" That was considered unladylike.
Q: Was drinking alcohol considered unladylike?
A: No, we all drank. Actually, after the depression and after prohibition, drinking became much more of a social things with families because we hadn't been able to. There were lots more drinking at parties, and college. Nothing like you hear about now, like the binge drinking, but we all drank a lot. We all sort of eased off as we got older. That was not considered unladylike. It was considered unladylike to get drunk, but we didn't do that.
Q: Were there any famous people that you strived to be like?
A: Well, Ann Lindbergh. She was a wonderful person. Amelia Airheart, she really did something before her time.
Q: What would the perfect wife be considered to be?
A: Did you ever read a book called The Stepford Wives?
Q: I saw the movie!
A: A little bit like that, although that's exaggerated. But she could cook and even when women started to go to work, the poor things thought that they had to do everything. Be the perfect wife, have all the dinner on the table, take all the care of the children, and work! Pretty soon they realized they couldn't do that, and the husbands began to take more of a part in that.
Q: In your leisure time, what would you do?
A: We did things with the kids, I was a den mother. There was a big bowling alley over on route 20. We used to take the kids bowling all the time when we didn't know what else to do. Families went bowling and it was fun. We used to go square dancing a lot. Dancing all over the place! We went to the theatre in Boston.
Q: How much time did you have for yourself when you weren't taking care of your children?
A: Well, after they went to school quite a bit. Another thing we all did was volunteer! We all volunteered our heads off. That's a thing of the past. You don't find women who have the time or the leisure, or to afford maybe, to not work. People worked for the library, for the museums. They still do, they use a lot of volunteers, but almost all of us did something like that, so that took up time. It was interesting.
Q: So did women generally not go to college?
A: I think most of the women I knew did.
Q: And after college did they get married?
A: Yeah. A fair number after a certain amount of time went back to work. But most of them went back to work. Usually you had to go back to school, unless they had a very specific training of some kind while they were in college. They began going back to work.
Q: Did women not have cars?
A: Oh sure we did, we were pretty isolated if we didn't.
Local historians Kaylee Coons, Laura Bowman and Ellie Matthews, interview Ros Kingsbury May 26, 2005
A: Ros Kingsbury moved to Wayland in 1952, when Wayland was first becoming a popular residential town. Mrs. Kingsbury, her husband, and their three little children moved into a newly build house. During her days as a housewife, Mrs. Kingsbury embodied the typical "Mrs. Everywoman" in the 1950's.
Q: What was your average daily routine?
A: I had three little boys. When we moved to Wayland, my eldest was just starting first grade. The middle child was starting nursery school. The youngest boy still stayed at home. I was very busy with my family, we would do everything together. During the week days, I would look after the children, and keep house. I would meet with friends and their children. I was also a part of the Wayland Historical Commission, so that occupied some of my time. We were a big skiing family, every weekend we would go skiing.
Q: What were the stereotypes of women in the 1950's?
A: Women were expected to stay at home, and care for the young children. The husbands were the bread winners of the family. It was common for the wife to have multiple children, more then the average number these days.
Q: What qualities did the ideal woman posses in the 1950's?
A: The ideal woman was probably a mother, a mother who stayed home and brought up the children to be well mannered and respectful. A good wife supported her husband, and was appreciated of him.
Q: What were the expectations of women within the household?
A: The woman was responsible for keeping together the family. If a woman did not have children, then it was common for them to find work. Many women found employment in Cochituate, working in the mills. Wayland was an industrial town, and women easily found work in the 1950's.
Q: What was considered acceptable behavior for women?
A: Women were very conservative, compared to today. Women had many morals, and a different kind of lifestyle. Women were value oriented; many people were church going citizens.
Q: What were the common jobs of women who regularly worked?
A: Many women were school teachers. I was a kindergarten teacher, even when my children were young. Some women only taught in the summer. Most of my friends did not have jobs because they were just starting their families. It was very common for women to get involved in community projects and volunteer work.
Q: Who did women consider their role models in the 1950's?
A: Town leaders were admirable figures, as well as those in the Women's League of Voters, and Women's Club. Ministers and library workers were also role models to many.
Q: What was the common attire of women in the 1950's?
A: Women wore skirts, sweaters, shirts, and blouses. There were no slacks early on; I only wore slacks while I was gardening. Slacks were only worn while walking, and doing athletics. Dungarees were not allowed in the schools until much later. Once school teachers started wearing dungarees, I was shocked.
Q: Was education important to women in the 1950's?
A: Education was very important at first. A college education for women was
normal, although not everyone had one. Women also were very interested in
the education for their children. Many families were interested in putting
their children in public or private kindergartens. Education was beginning
to gain more importance.
Local historians Kaylee Coons, Laura Bowman and Ellie Matthews, interview Jean Pratt May 25, 2005
Q: What was your daily routine?
A: We got television early, for the first time in the fifties, we moved here in 1954. And I remember that I got up early and the television was in the basement, and I watched a course in history. It was a very good course. Then I'd get the kids up and make breakfast - I always had breakfast for my husband who worked in Natick at the Natick Labs. He was a scientist, insect physiology, and he trained dogs also during the time of Vietnam to look for poisons. At one time I remember my younger daughter wanted to go out to the bus stop at 6:30 or 7:00 because she liked to see her friends and ride all the way around town instead of going directly to school, and they were picked up at Happy Hollow. I didn't spend a lot of time on housewife? because I could move fast then, and I did. But the most important thing I had in those days was the League of Women Voters. And I did study - we had units, we studied different subjects and it was a great way for a newcomer to meet other people? My friend was just telling me that one of the first things we did was a big survey, and we went to every house in town and asked the housewife many questions - and we actually went to every house in town. She said that she remembers one particularly was when she went in the middle of the afternoon, a woman who was still pretty bedraggled looking and had several children running around and she was frightened to death because she thought it was the welfare agency coming to check on her, but she finally relaxed and answered questions. But even in those days there were more people who lived around Dudley Pond, and those areas where there was more evident poverty - people who had not quite recovered from the Depression. Its such a wealthy town now, but as I told you before we were like the middle class moving into the middle of town and taking over, and the high school of course was what we wanted, and I worked very hard for that. The second thing I remember most about coming into town was going to the town meeting, and sitting with our representatives. She oriented us to all the important people, and our moderator was Howard Russell?So I remember town meeting and I was interested in the people, and working on League committees, and I did go the Unitarian Church because that's something we wanted when we moved back to Wayland. Both my husband and I grew up in Massachusetts?but after we married we were away for fifteen years and lived in various places. So I did feel when I came here that I had some national view. So we were delighted to find people who were interested in the world, interested in government, interested in politics, interested in social action - that was really what I worked towards. But I was always at home, I didn't work until the seventies, although I had worked before we came here. And as my daughter said one day, "But that's your job, you're supposed to be here, at home, waiting for me." And I did all my own housework: washing, ironing, cleaning, entertaining - but never very extraordinary entertaining. We had lots of friends in, but it was not very formal. We had a wonderful neighborhood, which was one of the best parts about living here, although my younger daughter said that her impression when she came to Wayland was that its so small, because we lived in the built-up area around Washington D.C. And I did watch after the kids. One of the things that shows a great difference is, both of my daughters, they both had the same experience because we lived on Coal Road and they went to Happy Hollow, and they liked to walk along the aqueduct, and sometimes they went into a farmer's field, and when he saw the kids crossing his farmland across the street he'd go storming over there, and one day, he even had a gun. We didn't think anything about it, but nowadays if that happened, there would be great tumult, but we didn't worry about it, about our children because they would just go about and do what they wanted to do. Sometimes they rode their bikes down to Lake Cochituate, but they did not participate in many social events, they were both nerds.
Q: For the women that did work, what were the common jobs?
A: I don't think any of my neighbors worked. None of us did - it was the fifties. Later, in the sixties women began to take jobs, and one of my neighbors was a manager of a wonderful dress and gift shop.
Q: What kind of clothes were thought to be acceptable, I know you mentioned kids couldn't wear jeans to school?
A: They wore skirts and blouses, and there was a special blouse that she would wear - just a tailored blouse, but it had a little tag on the back, and they used to collect those tags, they'd rip them off each other's shirts. I don't know whether they wore saddle shoes, I wore saddle shoes back in the thirties when I went to school, but just ordinary skirts.
Q: What would you wear for your day-to-day life?
A: Actually about what I wear now, just a skirt and blouse. And I never wore slacks, my younger daughter once wrote a thing in school about "My mother bought a pair of dungarees today, and it's the first time I've seen her in pants." I don't think any of the women wore anything besides skirts, blouses, sweaters - cardigan sweaters
Q: Were there any stereotypes of women?
A: One of my neighbors had been a sergeant in the army, and she was pretty strict and bossy with everybody, but she kept house. We played bridge, and walked around and talked to each other, which now doesn't happen so much in a neighborhood. Everybody just drives their car in and drives home, and you don't see each other. I always walked around a lot so I was comfortable with the neighbors. Where we lived though, at least two of the houses were built by the people who bought them, and he house we bought was built by an owner who then built another house and another house in the neighborhood. But it took us three months to find a house in the thirties, we wanted to live in the country with lots of land, but we ended up with what seemed like a pretty empty neighborhood because it was so new. But it grew, and the best part was we were fortunate to move into a small, dead-end circle, where we were all very congenial, and the children were the same age, and they all just ran around the neighborhood.
Q: What did people think was the 'ideal woman'?
A: Well I suppose I thought someone like Mrs. then Burdleson. She wasn't a career woman, which is something I would admire now, but she did the League of Women Voters, and she was on the Board of Health. And I admired the women who was one of the Hamlins and lived up on Old Connecticut Path. But I was not particularly interested in fashion plates, and keeping house and that sort of thing wasn't the most important thing, it was having a happy family.
Q: How did Wayland fit into and react to the major events at the time? Did it get involved at all?
A: I think so because of Anne Hail. That happened just before we came, so it was kept pretty quiet when I was first here, and there wasn't a lot of talk about that. And we moved just after Dowe? was voted in, so we weren't involved in that. But as I said, we went to town meeting, and that was well attended in what is now the gym at the town building. Wayland was advanced as far as planning goes, planning for zoning, planning for the town center, we had a cooperative down there when I first came - we were interested in cooperatives. The national government - we were worried because it was the Nike site, and I don't remember reading about that especially and neither of my daughters remember that. What I do remember is that people built their own shelters, underground shelters. And the discussions that we as a family had - and Julia? says she remembers sitting on the stairs listening, and watching in video stores, programs about the Russians, and worrying they might attack us. One of our neighbors actually built a cellar. We had a friend who was very serious about it, and he said 'really, if I build one I'm not sure I could let you in, and then what about all of the people who couldn't come in because of the limitations, and what would we do?' So we just figured not to worry about that.
Q: Did most women have college educations?
A: Most of the people around us did have college educations of some kind. Not always four years, I had three years. It was pretty important though, it was the thing. After World War II, pretty much everyone who served in the war could go to college. So we were very, very interested in education. I was the first one in my family to go to college, my husband was the first one in his, but that was a generation before - we were in our thirties when we moved here.
Q: What did you like to do with your free time?
A: Well I always liked to read, so I read, and I began to think about going back to college to do something, but I didn't do it in the fifties. I liked to go sightseeing, I liked to go to Boston, I liked to get together with people and talk. I wasn't a sports woman, I never played tennis or golf, I liked the ocean for swimming, and I used to go to Lake Cochituate - I used to swim lengths there quite a bit. And my daughters loved Lake Cochituate, they don't even remember how cold it was when they went there in the morning for their swimming lessons. Another thing that happened during that time was the polio epidemic, we had a neighbor who died. We had family visiting from California, and we couldn't take them to the beach, we couldn't go sightseeing, we just sat in the back yard because we were so afraid. And my girls remember having their first polio vaccine, drinking the polio vaccine. It was mostly just being in the neighborhood, and watching the children play, helping them with their theatrics and ballgames. But except for my League studies, there wasn't much that I remember being organized for me in the fifties.
Q: Did you have a lot of leisure time?
A: I don't remember having a lot of leisure time, because if I did then I read - and I used to read non-fiction.
Q: Did you have any role models?
A: The wife of the minister at our church was a mentor for me when I first came to Wayland, Anna Fen? And she definitely a role model because she was very well educated, and she was also very willing to state her opinion, and I never did do that. So I did enjoy going to the sewing circle at the church, that's what I did. And I did work for her husband, Dr. Fen?, at the end of the fifties I guess, as a secretary. That was when the Parish house was in the house across the street. The stairs there were very steep, and the machine was at the top of the stairs, and it was so hard to go up and down those stairs, and I hated that mimeograph machine. But I did do that for the League too, I used to do their newsletters, so I was typing things for people all the time.
Q: Did you have any heroes?
A: I really admired people who spoke up, activists in some way. I'm not one who has ever been able to take charge, but I admire people who do, so I really try to hang on their coattails, but I don't remember all these people. There were a lot of people I did not think of as heroes in the McCarthy era.
Q: What were some things that were unacceptable or unladylike?
A: When I went to school in Boston, in the thirties, you always wore your hat and gloves, but by the mid-fifties we didn't dress up for much. They did much more than now, where anything goes, if you're going to church or the theater, unless you're going to a prom. And also I guess sitting with your legs apart. But by then, women in Wayland, which may not have been true for women in other places, but women in Wayland were speaking up. Our town representative was a woman in the fifties, and we were beginning to feel important. We'd been through the war with our husbands, and we'd seen a bit of country, and I was scared to death to speak up in a meeting before I came to Wayland. But then I learned through the League of Women Voters that it was ok to speak, and we had lots of people come to speak. And we always thought that Wayland was a very bright town where people were cogniscent of the world and cared about doing things that would make us a good town. There were a lot of people who worked for zoning and planning and building sidewalks for the schools. And there was the Strawberry Festival, and lots of emphasis on recreational activities, we were very children oriented. But children in that age, they weren't restricted as much as you are now.
Q: Did women deal with any financial issues, or was that the husband's job?
A: My husband didn't like to work with numbers, so I did the financial work. One of the things he did love to do was go over to Happy Hollow school, and take in some great big cockroach that he had around his neck. We didn't have a dog, we had a cow, but when we moved up from Maryland, we brought our pet duck in the back of the car. But our duck thought he was a dog, because he grew up with a dog, and when we came here someone came by with dogs that attacked him, and he thought the dogs were friends. That was our main pet, but one day I decided that Ping - that was the duck's name - needed a friend, so I went driving around the countryside until I saw a house that seemed to have some ducks, and I went in and asked if I could have a duck, and we named her Matilda. But Ping was scared to death of her, because he'd never seen another duck before. That was the main attraction in our yard for a while, our two ducks.
Q: What was your relationship like with your children?
A: Through their school years we weren't particularly strict, but we didn't have to worry about a lot of things because they weren't particularly social. There was one restriction, which I guess was not particularly typical, but Joanna, when she came here was three, and there was a boy in our neighborhood the same age, and they were inseperable. He had several brothers and sisters, so whenever we went anywhere, we'd take him with us on quite a few adventures. We didn't take long trips, but we did excursions here and there, and my family lived in Cohassett, so we often went down there and played in the beach with the rocks. They walked to school together - they were the ones who caused the farmer to come out - this went on for about six years, and then one day we heard his mother told him he was too old to play with girls, and we never saw him again. He lived at our house for six years, I don't know if that's how it is now, but people did lots of things as a group, and not as separate peaces. They were just play friends?but I don't remember being restrictive with my children, but we were still somewhat dependent on the man in the fifties, but by the sixties, women were out to work. There was a professor from Northeastern who came out here, and there were lots of us who went to his lectures on the next step because our children were reaching high school age, and we wanted to get out and do more. We had been at home for ten years, and I remember the women in that group, who are now still working, some of them. My husband is willing to do whatever will make me happy.