Basketball And Growing Up In The 1950's

Basketball And Growing Up In The 1950's

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It has often been said that baseball is America's favorite pastime, Doris Kearn's Wait Till Next Year, brings this idea into perspective. Baseball gives people something to look forward to and a team to cheer for. This seems to be a constant theme throughout your memoir. America's love of baseball is still a part of today's life but not in the same way that it seemed to be in the 5O's. People of my generation have read history books and known the stereotypes of this decade but sometimes it takes a personal account of these times, such as your book, to really bring it into perspective.
Because you are the author and main character of this story, I am going to refer to the main character of this story in third person as Doris.
I have often fantasized about what it would be like to live in the 1950's. It seemed like such a glorious age, just how they depicted it in the movies. Though the movies do tend to romanticize things, this account of the fifties was a lot like I would have thought it to be. It seems that things are so different yet, so much the same. I was expecting to hear of playing in the neighborhood and long summer days spent riding bikes with friends but, the baseball aspect was a surprise to me. I thought that, in such a conservative, oppressive era, little girls would be given Barbie dolls instead of scorebooks. As a reader, we know that there are exceptions to the stereotypes, but we rarely get to hear their stories. That is why I found this memoir to be fascinating and inspiring.
It seems that every little girl should have a special connection to her father, especially in a decade that is know for its focus on family and children. We are told that the fifties is all about materialism, and parents, especially fathers, who were at work all day, showed their children affection by showering them with luxuries. It was the mothers who showed their children emotional affection because they were at home with them all day. This memoir tells a different side of the story, that parent-child relationships were much more complex and couldn't be summarized so easily. We tend to hear of father-son relationships and mother-daughter relationships in the fifties. Examples of fathers throwing the football in the back yard while mothers prepare dinner along side their daughters are the norm.

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Little girls showing interest in an all men's sport does not fit into the normal perception of the fifties. However, it is very refreshing to hear of a strong father-daughter relationship. Baseball was Doris's special bond with her father. Though Elaine, seemed to be a baseball fan, I wonder if it was hard for Doris to communicate with other girls her age about her favorite subject or were they baseball fans also?
It seems that Doris's sisters were very interesting people. I enjoyed learning about her relationships with her older sisters. They seemed to represent two very different role models. As Doris grew up into her late teens and early twenties, I wonder who she admired more or aspired to be. Charlotte represented glamour, while Jeane represented the motherly caring type. Also, which sister did Doris identify with more, and why?
Throughout this memoir, family proves to be one of the most important themes of the fifties. Perhaps this is because the older generation experienced the devastating effects upon families that the depression and World War II caused. An example of this is Russell Baker, who, in his memoir, recounts how his mother had to separate his family and send his little sister to live with an aunt and uncle during the Depression. It seems that many themes of the fifties were direct results of the 30's and 40's. Parents of the 50's felt a need to provide material things for their children because it was a time of great economic prosperity and they wanted to give their children all the things they never had growing up. Everybody wanted to give their children the childhood they never had and to have "land, grass, [and] soil of their own, the great American ambition." (Goodwin 56) The 1950's was the first time in many years that middle class Americans could afford to live this dream.
The American dream consisted of a house of one's own in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a loving wife, beautiful children, and a good job. In the memoir Goodwin tells us, "The house in which I grew up was modest in size, [and was] situated on less than a tenth of an acre. For my parents, however, as for other families on the block, the house on Southard Avenue was the realization of a dream." (Goodwin 55)
Suburban neighborhoods provided the safe haven of what seemed to be an endless playground for the Doris and her friends. Every piece of Doris's upbringing, though she may not have known it, were directly related to the larger forces that would later be written in history books. Doris's family "[were] early pioneers of the vast postwar migration which was to transform America into a nation of suburbs." (Goodwin 55) This is not just the case with Doris's upbringing but applies to every person, even to this day.
We are only products of our environments. Young Doris probably didn't know it then, but she was a member of the baby boomers generation, a phenomenon brought about by two decades of unrest in the United States. This is why her neighborhood was filled with children of all ages to play with. The baby boomers came about in the 50's because so many had "postponed marriage and childbearing during the Depression and war years." (Mintz 276)
Though Doris was not alive yet to experience the effects of World War II, she did experience the Cold War with Soviet Russia that kept the nation constantly on edge. I, myself, have always heard and read about the Cold War in history books, but never thought about how it actually affected Americans, and much less, how it affected American children. Though the 50's seemed to be a time of tranquility and represented the ideal America, we forget that people were living in constant fear at this time. Goodwin tells us that "Our generation was the first to live with the knowledge that, in a single instant, everyone and everything we know--our family, our friends, our block, our world.
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