The 1950's Video

An introduction to the 1950s

The Korean War, Communism and a polio cure were three big issues of the day in the 1950s. It’s also an era in which the network for Arizona Blue Cross and Blue Shield (as we were known then) had grown to include 900+ physicians and 33 hospitals—not bad for an organization that had started less than 20 years before! Keep reading below for more fun facts from the 1950s.

Women in 1950s advertisement

Arizona fun facts and national milestones

The Korean War broke out, McCarthyism emerged, and a football shrine (Sun Devils Stadium) opened in Tempe. Those are just a sampling of events from the 1950s, both here in Arizona and around the world.

  • June 1950 – July 1953: In the Korean War, the United States—acting on behalf of the United Nations—seeks to repel the North Korean invasion of South Korea (hostilities eventually cease, but technically, North and South Korea remain at war to this day).
  • Early ‘50s hearings conducted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin look into suspected Communist activities by various Americans; the term “McCarthyism” is coined. 
  • Fidel Castro, in 1959, leads the charge to overthrow Cuba’s government, which results in the western hemisphere’s first Communist dictatorship.
  • Oct. 4, 1958: Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium—with a capacity of 30,000—sees its first kickoff.
  • The Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, which studies UFO sightings, is founded in Tucson in 1952 (it stays in business until 1988).
  • The first U.S. commercial airline crash leading to more than 100 deaths happens over the Grand Canyon on June 30, 1956.
  • Durant’s, a Phoenix landmark for steaks, opens in 1950 at 2611 N. Central Ave., where it’s still serving dinners today.
  • April 1, 1954: The Wallace and Ladmo Show, produced in Phoenix, debuts. It runs for 36 years, making it one of the longest running, locally produced daily children’s television shows in American broadcasting history.
  • More homes are built in metro Phoenix in the 1950s than in the previous four decades combined.

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1950s print shop

BCBSAZ fun facts

In the 1950s, the Asian flu and polio vaccines kept doctors busy. Meanwhile, Blue Cross plans make it into popular culture to the point that Bob Hope uses them in one of his jokes.

  • Health issues of the day: The Arizona Blue Cross Blue Shield newsletter notes that 1957 could have been called “the year of the Big Needle, what with the Asian flu epidemic and the Salk polio injections” (the flu outbreak of 1957-1958 killed about 1 million people worldwide, including about some 70,000 in the U.S; the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955).
  • A year later in the newsletter, a columnist observes that “Bob Hope, on T.V., referring to a violent political debate, says to his listeners, ‘Don’t worry; they’re all covered by Blue Cross.’”
  • In 1958, the company switchboard receives 1,100 incoming calls each day through 51 extensions, representing a 100 percent increase in just two years!

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Work environment

Pop culture fun facts

Charlie Brown made his first appearance in the comics, Elvis recorded his first hit and Beatniks arrived on the scene … man. Dig some other trivia from the 1950s.

  • Oh, brother! The Peanuts comic strip debuts on Oct. 2, 1950, in seven U.S. newspapers.
  • 1950: Diners Club, the first modern credit card, is introduced, though it’s designed strictly to pay for meals.
  • The Texaco Star Theater is the most popular TV show at the end of the 1950 season; Gunsmoke shoots down all its competitors for the 1959 season.
  • In 1951, color TV makes its first appearance (although it’s not until the ‘70s that color sets begin outselling black-and-white models).
  • Elvis Presley records his first hit single, That’s All Right, in 1954.
  • In 1957, Ford introduces a car, promising that “its elegance, its engines, its exciting new features, make other cars seem ordinary.” That car was the Edsel, and it was no ordinary flop.
  • Popular men’s hairstyles of the day included the pompadour, the Ivy League and the crew cut. Women stepped out in the bouffant, the beehive and the pixie cut, among others.
  • The term “beatnik” is coined in 1958 to describe members of the Beat Generation movement started earlier by author Jack Kerouac. Kerouac himself said members were “beat, meaning down and out but full of conviction.”
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1950s Blue Cross Blue Shield building

1950s: what did it cost?

If you were a consumer in 1950, you would have paid, on average, $8,450 for a new house. Check out some other pricey items from the decade, and see what inflation did to costs.

  • A new house cost $8,450 in 1950 and $12,400 in 1959.
  • The average annual income in 1950 was $3,210 and $5,010 in 1959.
  • The average cost of a new car in 1950 was $1,510; in 1959 it was $2,200.

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