Was the 1950's an era of happy days?

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The answer to that depends on which groups are being referred to. While the world breathed a collective sigh of relief after the end of Word War II, and GIs came home to find a receptive atmosphere for them to go back to school and buy homes, women who had tasted independent lives and jobs outside the home were forced back into conformity as housewives, and African Americans, even those honored in the war, faced just as much discrimination as ever. (Not to mention there was never an apology for the Japanese internment camps, and Japanese Americans were still regarded with deep suspicion.)

And don't forget that the term "PTSD" had not yet been coined. Many of the World War II vets suffered in silence for the rest of their lives after what they had seen (and done). So, no, in general, the illusion that this was some kind of Golden Age of American life is just that—an illusion.

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For some they may have been "happy days," but I suspect one could say that of any decade. The 1950s saw the rise of teenage culture, one which included the freedom of automobiles, the release of rock n'roll, and a rise in standard of living that released many (but by no means all) young middle class people from the burdens of work to support a family. It is this, I think, that is often remembered in American popular culture (including the television show alluded to in the question.) But the 1950s also witnessed a great deal of turmoil, including the civil rights movement and the first wave of school integration, McCarthyism and numerous Cold War diplomatic crises. Additionally, many Americans challenged the dominant culture. Critics from Jack Kerouac to Betty Friedan argued that the 1950s were a decade that emphasized conformity and stifled individuality.

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