Learn American History through 50 pop songs

Boom! (went the 50s)


The end of World War II brought thousands of young servicemen back to America to pick up their lives and start new families in new homes with new jobs. With an energy never before experienced, American industry expanded to meet peacetime needs. Americans began buying goods not available during the war, which created corporate expansion and jobs. With growth everywhere, the baby boom was underway.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

And the 1940’s came grinding to a halt
Enter the age of burgers, French fries, and malts
GIs returned to their own Bill of Rights
Designed by congress to let them resume their post war lives
They got loans for colleges, farms, and homes
And William Levitt built them their very own towns
And the 1950’s came rushing in like a storm
In a short time 29 million babies were born

Boom! Went the fifties
Boom into ‘burbs
Driving big ole cars
Watchin’ Hollywood stars
Boom is the word…somebody say Boom!

From a war to a depression and then war again
American’s were hungry for this cycle to end
They bought cars and TVs and washing machines
The standard of living was like nothing we’d ever seen
And the American middle class came into being
Watching Howdy Doody and I Love Lucy on TV
Elvis Presley swirled his hips, pouted, and crooned
And American teenagers screamed and swooned

Boom! Went the fifties
Boom back to war
Hey a new arms race
Sputnik’s in space
What are we fighting for
Somebody say Boom!

Music’s new ring, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly sing
Young people were loving this rock and roll thing
And materialism ran rampant and wild
Into car lots and appliance stores, people filed
Some didn’t like it and condemned big business values
Beatniks like Kerouac thought this new middle class shallow
But challenges to mainstream were few and far between
Cause everyone was loving and living the American Dream

Boom! Went the fifties
Boom into ‘burbs
Driving big ole cars
Watchin’ Hollywood stars
Boom is the word…somebody say Boom!


GI Bill— The GI Bill was a bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.

William Levitt— William Jaird Levitt (February 11, 1907 – January 28, 1994) was an American real-estate developer widely credited as the father of American suburbia. Levittown, New York was the pilot community built by Levitt which followed an assembly line like construction of identical affordable houses for returning soldiers to begin their families.

“29 million babies were born”— The end of World War II brought a baby boom to the United States.

“Boom into ‘burbs”— The cost of living in the city was too high for many young couples after WWII. The solution was the development of new tracts or subdivisions, on the outskirts of cities. Far enough from the city so the land was cheap, but close enough so people could still shop and work in the cities. These were suburbs. The first great suburb was Levittown, NY but soon suburbs sprung up across the nation.

American middle class— The 1950s saw a large-scale expansion of the middle class.

“Howdy Doody and I Love Lucy”— The popularity of television skyrocketed, in the US, when 77% of households purchased their first TV set during the decade of the fifties. Howdy Doody was a popular children’s program and I Love Lucy was a popular “sit-com”.

Elvis Presley— Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century and a superstar of the 1950’s. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Arms race— The nuclear arms race was a competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Sputnik— Sputnik was the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, launched October 4th, 1957 by the USSR.

Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly— Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959) known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll.

Rock and Roll— Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of the blues, country music and gospel music. In the 1950’s rock and roll was a very popular genre of music for American teenagers.

Beatniks— Beatniks were an anti-materialistic literary movement whose name was invented by Jack Kerouac in 1948 and was at its zenith in the 1950s

Kerouac— Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Materialism— the importance placed on material possessions. Someone with a high level of materialism, described as "materialistic," considers material possessions to be central to their life and their identity, and focuses a good deal of their energy on acquiring possessions.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

Write a paragraph that describes the 1950’s.

Tier 2 Questions

Compare and contrast the 1950’s to the 2010’s.

Tier 3 Questions

Do you believe in pop culture’s portrayal of the 1950’s as an ideal moment of American history? Why or why not?

Test Prep Questions

1) Which development led to the other three?

  • (1) The United States government increased funding for science and math education.
  • (2) The Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite.
  • (3) A joint Soviet-American space mission was announced.
  • (4) President John F. Kennedy set the goal of landing a man on the Moon.

2) A major purpose of the GI Bill was to provide World War II veterans with

  • (1) educational opportunities after the war
  • (2) protection against racial discrimination
  • (3) civilian jobs in the military
  • (4) increased Social Security payments

3) Population increases that resulted from the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s contributed to a

  • (1) housing surplus
  • (2) drop in immigration
  • (3) reduction in government services
  • (4) rise in demand for consumer goods

4) This photograph shows the post–World War II growth that was typical of

  • (1) tourist resorts
  • (2) suburban communities
  • (3) inner cities
  • (4) public housing projects

5) The GI Bill affected American society after World War II by

  • (1) eliminating child labor
  • (2) expanding voting rights
  • (3) increasing spending on space exploration
  • (4) extending educational and housing opportunities

6) What was the main purpose of the GI Bill passed by Congress shortly before the end of World War II?

  • (1) to offer low-interest loans to the defense industry
  • (2) to provide economic aid to veterans
  • (3) to contain the spread of international communism
  • (4) to expand career opportunities in the military

7) The rapid growth in personal income in the decade after World War II contributed to

  • (1) a decrease in the birthrate
  • (2) a major economic depression
  • (3) expansion of the middle class
  • (4) shortages in the supply of luxury goods

8) In 1944, Congress enacted the GI Bill of Rights in order to

  • (1) provide economic aid to veterans
  • (2) reduce military expenditures
  • (3) ban racial segregation in the armed forces
  • (4) create government jobs for returning soldiers

9) The immediate impact of the 1957 launch of Sputnik I was that it

  • (1) forced the United States to find new sources of fuel
  • (2) focused attention on the need to regulate the uses of outer space
  • (3) heightened the space race as a form of Cold War competition
  • (4) ended the period of peaceful coexistence between the United States and the Soviet Union

10) The baby boom primarily resulted from the

  • (1) economic prosperity of the 1920s
  • (2) Great Depression of the 1930s
  • (3) delay in marriages during World War II
  • (4) counterculture movement of the 1960s

“Sputnik Launch Propels Soviets Ahead in Space Race”

11) In 1957, the United States government responded to the event described in this headline by

  • (1) reducing military spending
  • (2) building a joint space station with the Soviet Union
  • (3) constructing President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” defense system
  • (4) providing funds to improve the educational system in the United States