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Everyday Life

Questions to Consider

What similarities do you see in the photographs from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s?

What changes do you see reflected in the photographs from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s?

About the Images

The images in this topic provide a glimpse into the daily lives and changing lifestyles of Californians during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, as the country moved from postwar to protest. From birthday parties and family meals to homecoming rallies and political protests, these photographs reflect how life looked during those years. Two images show Californians interacting with political figures who shaped those decades.


The images from the 1950s reflect family, organizations, and celebrations. Family photos celebrate family moments: A family shares a meal around the kitchen table. Friends roast marshmallows around a campfire. Children pose in front of the Christmas tree at their grandmother’s Anaheim home. Even Vice President Richard M. Nixon (a Whittier native) is shown (in a posed picture) playing the piano for his wife and two daughters.

Patriotic community service is another theme shown in some images. In one photograph men and women enjoy a formal dinner at an American Legion post in San Bernardino. In another, a Girl Scout troup prepares a new 50-star American flag in 1959, when Hawaii became the fiftieth state.

On historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles, costumed adults and children celebrate Mardi Gras. And in Fullerton, students sitting on an old “jalopy” celebrate Homecoming (see more images from Olvera Street)

The 1960s brought more change. In 1960, the year Velia Juarez and Albert Varela were married in Corona, the national presidential elections were in full swing. Ted Kennedy campaigned for his brother, Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy, in Oxnard. The Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, spoke to a crowd in Los Angeles. Three years later, shopper in San Francisco’s Emporium watch department store TVs in shock as news anchor Walter Cronkite reports President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

In 1964, the Beatles performed at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. One news photograph shows members of the Beatles Fan Club voicing their excitement in Union Square. The same year, high school seniors all over California (like the San Bernardino couple shown here) were photographed at their proms. And everyday life—birthday parties, childhood friends, Boy Scout hikes—continued to be documented in family snapshots.

By the late 1960s, social protests were in the news. California, like the rest of the nation, was deeply split by the war in Vietnam. One photograph from the San Mateo Public Library shows a ceremony in Vietnam honoring soldiers who died in the war. Another shows Christian anti-war protesters singing on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall. A news clipping shows Brownie Troop 1202 sending pudding cups to San Mateo's adopted sons, the men of Company A, 101st Airborne Battalion, the Screaming Eagles, in Vietnam.

As the 1970s began, the photographs show female secretaries working for the City of San Bernardino, a high school sewing class with no male students, and young women competing in beauty pageants. Women’s rights and traditional gender roles were being actively questioned and defended as proponents tried (and failed) to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into law. One photograph shows a woman protesting the ERA’s passage. Another shows a young African American girl at the Watts Summer Festival holding a balloon that proclaims “I am somebody.”

The suburbs continued to grow, as shown by this advertisement for the planned community of Mission Viejo in Orange County, promoting a small-town lifestyle. And the daily lives of California’s multicultural population continued to be documented in photographs: the Lee family enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner, Morningside High’s pep squad members pose for the camera, and Danny Flores and his wife pose next to their decorated 1952 Chevrolet. In 1976, Californians—like the costumed women shown cutting a huge cake—celebrated the nation’s bicentennial.

California Content Standards

English-Language Arts

Grade 4

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications

2.3 Write information reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications
2.2 Make informational presentations.

Grade 11

1.0 Writing Strategies: Research and Technology

2.0 Writing Applications

2.4 Write historical investigation reports.

2.0 Speaking Applications

2.2 Deliver oral reports on historical investigations.

2.4 Delivery multimedia presentations.

History-Social Science

Grade 11:

11.8 Students analyze the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II America. (11.8.2, 11.8.8)

11.9 Students analyze U.S. foreign policy since World War II. (11.9.4)

11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights. (11.10.5, 11.10.7)

11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society. (11.11.3, 11.11.7)

Visual Arts

3.0 Historical and Cultural Context Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts. Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Rico Family Berkeley girls roasting marshmallows Angie Padilla's Nephews and Nieces [graphic]
Vice President Richard Nixon playing the piano for Julie, Tricia, and Pat Nixon Event at Amercian Legion Post 710, [graphic] Girl Scouts prepare new 50-star flags for the City Council
Mardi Gras festivities on Olvera Street, Los Angeles (Calif.) [Students sitting on car at Homecoming] Velia Juarez and Albert Varela
Inglewood Christmas Parade Ted Kennedy campaigning for his brother JFK Title: Vice President Richard Nixon gives a speech during his 1960 presidential campaign
Shocked people in Emporium watch television reports of Kennedy's assasination :110 Beatles Fan Club, Bay Union Square (Two photos) :95 Prom night at San Bernardino High School, [graphic]
49th Street Kids, [graphic] Birthday Party for Patti Hirahara, Anaheim [graphic] Boy Scout Troop 19 on a Hike, [graphic]
Ceremony honoring dead soldiers - Vietnam There were a large number of Christian anti- war slogans on picket signs - singer was singing about finding true peace with Jesus. U.C. rally moratorium, steps of Sproul Hall, University of California, at Berkeley :18 SM Times photo Brownie Troop 1202 - photo only
Rachel Mendoza, mayor's secretary and Bobbie Koenig, council secretary, [graphic] [Sewing class in mobile classroom] Female protestor campaigns against the Equal Rights Amendment
Miss Suburban Optimist Pageant Winners, Anaheim [graphic] I am somebody balloon [Ride your bike to Saturday night-- Mission Viejo, where "home" is a "hometown" again photographic print].
Lee Family at Thanksgiving [graphic] Morningside High School's "Varsity Yell" Pep Squad Danny Flores' 1952 Chevrolet, [graphic]
Cutting the bicentennial cake

Note about picture captions

The original captions on some of the historical photographs may include racial terms that were commonplace at the time, but considered to be derogatory today.

Analysis Tools

6C's of Primary Source Analysis (PDF) (Source: UCI History Project)
Photographs (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)
Posters/Visuals (PDF) (Source: Bringing History Home)
Written Documents (PDF) (Source: NARA)
Primary Source Activity (PDF) (Source: Library of Congress)