Children's manners and etiquette in the 1950's

The behavior of your Children was a symbol of the Parents 'status'

Many people, especially those under the age of around 45 will often hear 'us oldens' say "If I'd have spoken to my parents like that, I'd have got a clip round the ear". If you gave a child a clip round the ear nowadays, they'd probably sue you and put you up in front of the European Equal Rights Committee or something similar!

But in most cases it's true what we say, you would never answer back, you would do as you were told because that's how it worked. Possibly part of the reason was that for the last 100 years, the vast majority of us were children of those who fought in the Services during the two Wars and this brought about a discipline. There again, discipline goes back centuries before that even.

It is best write how things were back in the 1950's by just giving examples and the 'rules' which existed, most of which are long forgotten I'm afraid.

1. When any adult, excepting your Parents, entered the Room, you would stand up. If you didn't you'd get ticked off for sure.

2. You would always vacate a Bus or Train seat for a Woman or someone in senior years. You would also offer them your place in a Queue when alighting a Bus

3. You would never leave the Table without seeking permission first. In fact, you would usually not even bother asking, in the 50's most would eat as a family and leave the Table together.

4. "Please" and "Thank you" were compulsory and unlike nowadays, if you didn't say it, it wasn't a case of the Adult saying what an impolite young child you were after you'd left, they would tell you face to face.

5. At School, every Teacher was referred to as 'Sir' or 'Madam' and upon entry into the Classroom, everyone would stand and unanimously say "Good morning Sir"

6. If you wore a Hat, you would never wear it indoors, Home or Shop. You would take it off if you met or you were talking to a Lady.

7. "I want" were two 'no no' words, it was always "I would like" or "may I have" (followed by the mandatory Please and Thank you of course.

8. You would always open a door for someone, a woman or adult and allow them entry or exit before you.

9. 'Speak when you're spoken to', another expression us oldens often say. You would not normally make the first comment other than to ask how a person was, you would sit politely when you had Guests ans wait for the question - and that was usually based around your Schooling!

10. Going back to Buses and Trains and even walking down the Street, if you saw a Lady struggling with her Shopping, you would offer to help, even if that meant going out of your way to take them to he home.

I'm sure there are many more you'd be able to find, but ten is a round number.

Much of the above would remain for some years to follow, but the main change in 'youth' came about in the mid 1960's. Sure there was the James Dean 'rebel without a cause' attitude and the 'Teddy Boys' later to become 'Rockers' and nowadays known as 'Bikers', although I must add it's hard to find a modern day Biker without manners.

Manners and etiquette was just a part of the 1950's lifestyle, it was more disciplined, you wouldn't see so much rubbish in the Street, you would find it hard to find untidy front gardens, people wanted to show others that they had things sorted, they were leading a decent life, did the right thing and the Children's manners were one way of showing this.

Is it amazing that kids from the 70s survived?
Or was it just a different way of life that society has forgotten how to live?

I am going to be honest. I haven’t been blessed (or cursed) with kids of my own. If I had, maybe I would be singing a different tune. But I have watched people my own age with their kids and I sometimes shake my head in disbelief. When did it all change? I am not debating whether the changes were good or bad… just noticing the change itself.

Car Safety:

When we were kids, we never wore seat belts. We would climb over the front seat or better yet went sliding all around the back of my mom’s station wagon with every quick turn.

I don’t ever recall seeing a car seat, mothers held babies in their lap.

Air bags were brown paper sacks that you blew air into then smacked it really hard with your hand to make it pop.

Pickup trucks driving thru town with passengers sitting on the side of the bed or even on the tailgate was an everyday occurrence.


This disease seems to have grown rampant. I don’t know how many times I hear parents these days screaming “Put that down, it’s dirty!” or “Don’t play on that, it’s filthy!”. Oh my god… I don’t think there was a day I wasn’t covered in dirt after being outside.

We would swim in anything that would hold water including lakes, ponds, streams, creeks, and even extremely large mud puddles after a heavy rain. (Heck we even played in the rain.)

We played on old rocks, bricks, dirt mounds, fields, junk piles, and everything else that looked liked an adventure on this planet earth.

We drank water out of wells, garden hoses, and public fountains.

Yes… we got leeches now and then, or ticks, or chiggers, or what not but it wasn’t a big deal. That was part of life, not a reason to stop doing what we were doing.

Toy Safety:

We had toys with small parts, toys that shot projectiles, chemistry sets that required flame, and wood burning sets that required hot irons.

We had trains, race tracks, and games that required us to plug chords into sockets without safety plugs.

We had hobby kits that required needles, scissors, x-acto knives, paints and glue.

We had model rockets and gas powered toy planes.

We had firecrackers, bottle-rockets, cherry bombs, smoke bombs, sizzling snakes, and plastic smoking monkeys.

We had all of this… and my parents house is still standing.

Child Safety:

I lived just outside of a small town so my bike was one of my best friends. I didn’t have a safety helmet, knee pads or elbow pads. Get dinged up? If I would even stop playing long enough for mom to look at it, she would wash it with a washcloth, slap a band-aid on it and out the door I would go to eventually crash into something else.

I couldn’t even count the number of times I kissed the concrete while learning how to skateboard, took a tumble while trying to walk on stilts, or slipped and fell out of a tree.

Family Time:

We ate as a family at breakfast and supper every single day. On weekends that included lunch.

We watched several television shows together like Hee Haw, Sonny and Cher, Battlestar Galactica, and The Muppet Show.

My father was not my best friend. He was my father. He corrected me, he paddled me, and he gave me his wisdom. We became best friends after I moved out and started a life of my own.

Cooking and Tools:

My mother was a stay at home mom until probably about the time I started 7th or 8th grade. She had taught me how to cook at a very young age. So when mom started working again it was nothing for my parents to come home and have seen that I had cooked Spaghettios on the stove or baked up a batch of cookies for a treat.

We used hammers, nails, knives, saws and drills to build things like ramps, club houses, and tree houses. (Though I must confess we did get in trouble a few times for leaving one of dads tools out in the rain.)


After my mom went back to work I rode my bike home to an empty house after school. I would watch after school programming while eating a snack and then go outside to play.

During the summers I would go to a friend’s house or just find something to do at home. What may start out as an adventure in the creek of the back field may lead to an all day extravaganza in town. My parents didn’t know where I was 24/7, and they didn’t worry. I just had to be home in time for supper. If I was doing something wrong, believe me, someone would have called my parents and they would be fully aware of the situation way before I got home.

Everybody seemed to lookout for your kids without you even asking.


I don’t ever remember fashion being an issue while growing up. When we were kids we could have cared less what each other was wearing. There weren’t any must have brands. The only thing I remember hating was new jeans. I wanted to wear them out as fast as possible so I could get some cool patches on them. (Which was really hard with those stupid Sears Toughskins.)


We also learned how to shoot “BB” guns and real guns at an early age. I had a my own very simplistic “BB” gun in grade school. When I showed that I knew how to use it respectfully, I was upgraded to a much nicer “BB” gun. Eventually I got my own .22 caliber rifle.

My father always had loaded guns in the house. We knew that the wrath of God would be upon us if we even touched it with the tip of a finger. We never, ever, handled those guns even when we were alone in the house.

The sad realization of this post is the fact that I grew up with loving and caring parents, I had a great time being a kid, and these same parents would probably be considered monsters by today’s standards.

But I also came to the realization of how much faith and trust my parents had in me. When looking back at all the privileges that I had, my parents trusted me a lot.