Vintage Photos That Show Just How Different High School Was in the 1950s

Attending high school has been one of the hallmarks of teenagerdom since the 1930s. As a place to socialize high schools were incubation zones for trends, fads, and even entire subcultures. And, back in the 1950s high school curriculum was handled quite differently to today, as were health and safety requirements. Here are 9 photos that show just how different high school was for kids in the 1950s.

Bikes Unchained

Many high schoolers in the 1950s walked to school. Some even rode their bikes, which they left leaned against walls and pillars – free from locks or chains. It was a completely different time to now, when even locked bikes aren’t safe from theives.

Oak Ridge High School 1951
Via: Ed Westcott / Department of Energy/ Flickr

Flimsy Football Helmets

While football is still dangerous sport, we can all agree that at least the helmets are a lot better than they used to be- as the image below shows quite clearly.

Jefferson High School football team, 1947
Via: L. P. Stokes/ Department of Energy/ Flickr

Real Home Ec Classes

As the importance of being a homemaker waned over the course of the 20th century, so too did funding shrivel for home economics classes. But, there was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when girls were taught to sew, to decorate, to cook full meals, and how to plan their living spaces all in their home ec classes.

early 1950s home ec class
Via: Department of Energy/ Flickr

Boxing Teams

Many schools had boxing clubs or even boxing teams. Parents back then often took a much different approach to potential injuries while at school. You certainly don’t see boxing in most schools today due to how dangerous of a sport it is.

High School Boxing Team Oak Ridge 1947
Via: Ed Westcott/ Department of Energy/ Flickr

Girls Had to Wear Skirts

Nearly all schools had strict dress codes which did not allow for the girls to wear anything except dresses or skirts. Even in winter there were no pants allowed for the female students.

girls studying together in a high school library, 1951
Via: Ed Westcott/ Department of Energy/ Flickr

Any School Worth Its Salt Had a Majorette Troop

Drum majorettes were kitted out in satin uniforms with fringe, white boots, flashy hats with feathers, and other accouterments that made them sparkle and shine at school events. And, let’s not forget the baton twirling!

late 1940s drum majorettes
Via: Ed Westcott/ Department of Energy/ Flickr

Library Time

Back then kids had library time and it was their only research resource. And, they all learned how to use the card catalog and the Dewey Decimal System.

1950s high school students in the school library
Via: Department of Energy/ Flickr

Trophies Were Given Out for Various Events

It wasn’t only regional competitions that garnered trophies back in the day. Competitions were held within schools and a winner was declared- often awarded with a small trophy.

high school tennis player holding a trophy
Via: L.P. Stokes/ Department of Energy/ Flickr

Those Shoes

Basketball teams wore Converse Chuck Taylors or PF Flyers and the gymnasium bleachers were packed for each and every game. High school sports was an important part of the community back then.

late 1940s high school basketball game

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