The 1950s

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My first picture, February 15, 1953.
I was born in Rahway Memorial Hospital in Rahway, New Jersey, on Valentine's Day in 1953 on a Saturday evening.

I've been told that I arrived on the wrong day (just hours before my Aunt Peggy's birthday, which was the day my parents were hoping that I would be born on) and was also the wrong sex (my only chosen name was Jenifer.) I was also told that when my father arrived at the hospital with my mother, they had to turn around and go back home because my father had forgotten his wallet.

I was the second child, after my sister Eloise, and there would be two more: my brother Laurence and my sister Jenifer.

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Our new house in Colonia in 1954.
I left the hospital for our house in Rahway on Plymouth Drive, across the street from my father's sister and her family: my Aunt Adele, Uncle Bill, and cousin Tim. In 1954 we moved into a larger brand-new house on Runnymede Road in Colonia that my parents had built.

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The Howdy Doody Show credit panel.

During the 1950s, Dad started working on (and ultimately directed) The Howdy Doody Show and The Pinky Lee Show. Television had a significant influence on my life and my father would frequently take me along to work (where I would get to mingle with famous actors and I would get to sit in the Peanut Gallery on the set of The Howdy Doody Show). Since NBC was owned by RCA, we always had one of the best television sets so that we could show them to our neighbors, and as such we were the first in our neighborhood with a color television set.

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Waiting for my father's train at the Rahway train station with my sister Eloise and my mother. 1954.
We lived in Colonia, which is a small town in New Jersey 22 miles outside of Manhatten in New York City. Colonia had originally been founded as an art colony, a quick escape for the wealthy from the New York City summer heat, and was almost entirely residential. We lived on a two-acre lot that was at least half wooded, and there were nearby fields with tall trees to play in. The house was at the end of an unpaved dead-end street. We didn't have mail delivery for a few years (and had to make a daily trip to the post office next to the train station to pick up our mail from our post office box). Since my father usually took the train to work. and we were a single-car family, getting the mail and picking up my father from the train was a daily event that I looked forward to.

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On a picnic with my sister Eloise and my parents in 1955.
We were also 30 miles from Asbury Park and made frequent trips to the Atlantic shore, especially during the summer. My parents really enjoyed going on "drives" around the countryside, frequently visiting many of the American Revolutionary War historic sites that are prevalent in northern New Jersey. Regardless of the season, as a family we loved to take those weekend drives and have picnics. (My mother was very meticulous in packing everything we would need for our outing and picnic.)

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I've been taking pictures at least since I was three years old in 1956.
I went to nursery school in Rahway. Because my older sister Eloise has an intellectual disability, we both went through some extensive testing at Rutgers University. Because of that testing I simply assumed that I had an intellectual disability, too, but to my surprise I was removed from my kindergarten class in Colonia and advanced ahead to the first grade. This made me the youngest student in any of my classes throughout school (and I was always struggling to keep up).

My great-grandmother Alma died when I was two.

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One of my baby pictures, 1953.
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Riding the Staten Island Ferry, 1954.
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Sledding on our road (being pulled by our car), 1956.
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Sitting with my grandmother Eloise and my sister Eloise in our living room, 1956.
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Skating on Freeman's Pond in Colonia, 1956.
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Playing in our Model-T Ford, 1956.
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Easter with my sister Eloise, 1956.
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Eloise and I carving our pumpkins, 1956.
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Blowing bubbles in our front yard, 1956.
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My fourth birthday party, 1957.
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Our 1959 Christmas card family photo.

When I was born...

  • Separate public schools for black and white students were legal as Brown vs Board of Education was more than a year away, The Civil Rights Act was 11 years away, and the Voting Rights Act was 12 years away.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird had not yet been written.
  • No one had reached the summit of Mount Everest.
  • No one had ever been to space and the first satellite was still more than four years away.
  • The Korean War was being waged.
  • Public showers were still being provided in Louisville.
  • Slavery had only been outlawed nationwide by the 13th Amendment for 87 years.
  • The Berlin Wall had not yet been built.
  • There was no Miranda right.
  • There were only 48 stars on the United States flag.
  • Memorial Day and Veterans Day were not official holidays.
  • Medicare did not exist.
  • There were no artificial satellites in space.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the words "under God."
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States.
  • World War II had only been over for 7 years.
  • Joseph Stalin was still alive.
  • Earl Warren had not yet been appointed to the Supreme Court.
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were awaiting execution for conspiracy to commit espionage and passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets.
  • Sen. John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier were not yet engaged.
  • Hurricanes were not given human names.
  • There had never been a human heart or kidney transplant.
  • Smallpox and polio were still a threat. Polio vaccine trials would not begin for another year.
  • Rubella vaccinations would not be available for another 17 years.
  • The world's first "test-tube baby" was 25 years away.
  • The first human implanted pacemaker was five years away (but it only lasted three hours).
  • DNA wouldn't be discovered for two more weeks.
  • There was no King or Queen of England. (King George VI had died in 1952 and Queen Elizabeth wasn't coronated until June.)
  • There was no Maker's Mark whiskey with a red wax dipped top.
  • There was no Internet.
  • There were no digital watches.
  • There were no handheld mobile phones.
  • There were no push buttton phones.
  • There wasn't a computer mouse.
  • Computers took up entire rooms and were fed data on punch cards.
  • There were no home-use microwave ovens.
  • There were no commercially available videotape recorders.
  • Doppler radar wouldn't be invented for almost 40 years.
  • Gatorade hadn't been invented yet.
  • Straws were made of a spiral of paper.
  • Aluminum cans with pull tops were nine years away.
  • Barbie and Ken had not been created yet.
  • Sports Illustrated had yet to be published.
  • The White House had never had an outdoor Christmas tree.
  • The first McDonalds franchise using the golden arches logo had yet to open.
  • There were no frequent flier programs.
  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr would not deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech for another 10 years.
  • The cassette tape wouldn't be invented for 10 more years.
  • New vehicles were not required to have seat belts.
  • Air bags did not exist.
  • There was no Interstate Highway System. The Kentucky Turnpike (later I-65) would not open for three years.
  • Organized Daylight Saving Time, established by the Uniform Time Act, was still 13 years away.
  • "It's a Small World" wouldn't debut for another 11 years.
  • Disney Land was still 2 years away.
  • The Rubik's Cube hadn't been invented yet.
  • The laser had not yet been created.
  • Birth control pills did not exist.
  • There had never been a televised presidential debate.
  • There had never been an interactive video game.
  • There had never been a James Bond film.
  • Spider-Man had not yet appeared.
  • The Boeing 727 jet had not been made.
  • There had never been "instant" color pictures.
  • No one had heard of The Beatles.
  • There were no network nightly news programs.
  • There were no television instant replays.
  • There were no Ford Mustangs.
  • The television remote control had not yet been invented.
  • There were no Alvin and the Chipmunks singing Christmas songs.
  • There were no bar codes.
  • There were no crash test dummies.
  • There were no Post-It Notes.
  • There was no GPS.
  • There were no Zamboni ice resurfacing machines.
  • There were no intermittent windshield wipers.
  • M&Ms were not available to the public. They had been around for 11 years after being created out of necessity for World War II soldiers who required chocolate that didn't melt but they wouldn't be available to the public for 5 more years.
  • There was no 9-1-1 emergency telephone number.
  • There were no Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics. EMTs were 16 years away, followed a year later by Paramedics.
  • The Internal Revenue Service was 5 months away from being founded.
  • Women wouldn't be allowed to join the National Press Club for another 18 years.
  • Rock And Roll had not yet been invented.
  • The Corvette was not yet in production.
  • The Guinness Book of Records would not be published for another 2 years.
  • The first Muppets were 2 years away.
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) had never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Passenger helicopter service did not exist.
  • There were only 100 elements on the Periodic Table.
  • Bubble Wrap wouldn't be invented for another 7 years.
  • The Etch A Sketch had not yet been invented.
  • Ellis Island was still open for immigration processing.
  • It was not against the law to burn a U.S. flag.
  • General-purpose credit cards did not exist.
  • A new car cost $1,850.
  • Gasoline was 29 cents/gal.
  • A new house was $17,500.
  • Bread cost 16 cents/loaf.
  • Milk cost 94 cents/gal.
  • A postage stamp was 3 cents.
    The Dow Jones Index stood at 281.
  • An Average Annual Salary was $4,700.
  • Minimum Wage was 75 cents per hour.
  • Life expectancy was only 68.2 years. 
  • No one had ever climbed Mount Everest.
  • Linus wouldn't search for the Great Pumpkin for another 13 years.
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