Late forties culture

The fifties had a culture. So did the twenties and the seventies. The sixties had two cultures: early and late.

But what about the late forties? Not 1940-1945 - that was World War II. I mean the post-war years.

If you were going to a party and the theme was the late forties, what would you use to invoke that era?

Obviously, there were events that happened in that era but most of the big ones were in other countries. Does any image or event or person invoke the late forties for an American?

Harry Truman? That’s all I got.

And I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t watched American Experience on PBS last night.

The only pop culture referenced in the program had to do with how Truman and Dewey spent their free time while campaigning (by rail). Dewey’s people drank martinis and played bridge. Truman’s folks drank bourbon and played poker.

The late 40’s were very much a between time, I think.

I see noir, big shoulder pads and the transition from big-band jazz to bebop. There’s your party. Zoot suits. The rise of Las Vegas as a gambling destination. Hard-boiled cynics like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas and William Holden instead of heroes like John Wayne. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, home from the war and trying to survive.

I guess I always think of the GIs returning home and everyone moving to the suburbs. Radio shows, like Roy Rogers or that guy in the Yukon. The early days of television, maybe. Jackie Robinson plays for the Dodgers.

A party would be difficult. Maybe something with the UN? Or David Ben-Gurion?

I always think of ladies wearing elegant little hats perched at a jaunty angle on their heads and wearing pencil skirts and suit jackets with stockings that have seams down the back.

I also think of guys with a cigar or cigarette clamped in the corner of their mouths, wearing three-piece suits and drinking martinis.

The first look that came to mind was “Frank Sinatra.”

The late 40’s really are defined by a lack of certainty. We’d beaten the axis, but were not yet enemies-to-the-death of the commies. So we had nobody to fight. The sudden influx of men to the economy had a lot of guys wondering “What do I do now?” Especially the guys who went straight from High School into the war. Older guys at least had a family and a chance at their old job to come back to. The rampant consumerism of the 50’s was just getting started as the economy converted to peace time. So yeah, the late 40’s could be considered the “Getting our bearings” era.

I think of it as being a lot like the 1950s. Men wore fedora type hats more, thin ties and thin lapels, and dark suits. For more casual wear, sport jackets with flat bottoms and sharp corners in the bottom (instead of the curved profile you see on a suit jacket) seem to have been fashionable.

Presumably because of all the G.I.s just home from the Pacific Theater, anything reminiscent of the South Seas seems to have had some currency.

SigmaGirl, I think the acme of Zoot Suits was a little earlier than the late 1940s.

Just remembered another thing, although this might be limited to the African American community. Chuck Berry wrote that when his older brother Henry came back from WWII, Henry bought a “drape” suit that was somewhat tapered at the hem, but 36" around at each knee! Chuck’s statement: "The wider your pants were at the knee, the sharper you were styled. "

Looking at some of his early TV spots now on YouTube, you can see he really did dig that style.

Which brings up another point…the OP should troll YouTube for early TV appearances. God I love the Internet!

I always think of it as being very similar to the 1950s. In fact, between 1946-1962 there doesn’t seem to be one point or even year you can point to as the sea change point. Perhaps because musical, political, and social changes all happened at different times rather than simultaneously. (As opposed to the other decades which really did have semi-firm ending points in 1963, 1970, 1980, 1992, and 2001.)

I was thinking you could do a show like Happy Days or That 70s Show and it’s easy to throw in fashions or fads that establish the setting. But there’s no equivalent for the late forties.

If it was a late forties themed costume party, everyone would show up either dressed like Harry Truman holding up a Chicago Tribune, Jackie Robinson wearing a Dodgers uniform, or a Roswell alien.

Archie Comics debuted in the 1940s, so there’s a place to look for teen culture.

Here’s a gallery of covers from that era.

I’m thinking of two cultural icons:

  1. “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac.

It was published in 1951, but most of the events described took place in the late 1940s.

  1. “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

Not sure what this all means in terms of a party. The women should all dress in black-and-white waitress uniforms, I’m pretty sure of that.

I think of film noir, GI Bill, housing shortages (all those veterans returning home), and general national optimism at the thought of another war won. Of course, Korea loomed, and Russia-as-ally was replaced by USSR-as-commie-threat.

But necessities were no longer rationed (food, gas, tires, etc), you could buy Jello once again, and no-one (AFAIK) had heard of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

As the doper says, that’s all I got.

Love, Phil

Judging from those Archie comics, Bettie Page hairstyles (bangs in front, long in back) would be de rigeur for the ladies at a late-40s party.

Hank Williams was another musical icon of the late 1940s.

Apartment/housing shortage, at first.

Milton Berle. Everybody getting a TV set just to watch him.

Bobbysoxers swooning over Frank Sinatra.

I know that most older people arn’t so techie and wouldn’t be on the SDMB (on the average)…

So why don’t we ASK someone who was alive then?

I know many people who are in their 80s from where I work (I now work on a different floor, but I used to work exclusively with the elderly)… If I get a chance I’ll ask one today if they remember much from that time.

IIRC, it was called “Shell Shock” during and after WWI and “Battle Fatigue” during and after WWII.