While researching our latest book, Desert Ice, we spent a significant amount of time at the UNLV Library’s Oral History Center. Histories were recorded and transcribed from people who lived and worked there during several eras and cataloged for easy access.
Participants that were interviewed talked about their memories of growing up in Vegas. My husband and I were particularly interested in the normal life of people living there: school, social events, work, travel, etc.
Several women talked about their homes, backyard parties, school and fashion. Many mentioned their clothes in the 50’s. Some were teenagers in the 1950s talked about their poodle skirts, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and Bunny Shoes. Growing up in the 50’s but in New York, I hadn’t heard of Bunny Shoes, so I investigated and sure enough, it was a popular style of shoe in Vegas and in some parts of the west. They insisted the shoes were comfortable and were sad to see them go out of fashion.
Many also talked about their bedrooms, how they shared their room with sisters, cousins, even aunts visiting and staying for a while. Pajama pillows were a big thing then, they came in many shapes: clowns, bears, dogs, just about any design. Entertaining their girlfriends in their bedroom was the social thing to do.
Television was late getting to the area, so much time was spent listening to the radio or phonograph records. Local talent and visiting performers were consistently on the radio as well as school groups and community organizations. Once TV began, many mentioned the Howdy Dowdy Show, Lassie, The Mickey Mouse Club, and Gunsmoke.
I was surprised how similar my life was to these ladies who also grew up in the 50s separated by thousands of miles. I grew up in a urban Long Island, New York.
The hours we spent at the Oral History Center was rewarding in getting the feel for the life and time of 1955 Vegas.