The Rules of 1950

The Rules of 1950

My granddaughter's date honked the horn and out she came. When I asked my daughter why they young man didn't come in the house for the "look over", the response was "Father you're so old fashioned'. Indeed I was and am happy to admit it. How did one date in the late 1940's and the 1950's?  Lean back and turn the clock to my teen years when dating was a mystery and the rules and etiquette were defined.

My parents had four sons and I was number three. That meant there were five men in the house and our mother. I had no idea of what you do on a date, especially my first. Ok, to begin. First you had to ask the girl you liked to "go out with you". Sounds ancient. Then you had to set the exact time; dates were usually on Saturday night.

I was shocked when I found out I had to wear a suit. I was lucky to have my own pants and sometimes had to wait for my older brothers to give me their hand me downs. Then, a white shirt and a neck tie was considered appropriate. Ok, I was without any of these too so my brothers and Father pitched in. My older brother gave me his suit to wear and mercifully it fit. Now for the shirt. Luckily Pops had a shirt that fit me along with a neck tie that was wide and loud. Sounds like the current style. And the last wardrobe requirement, make sure your shoes were shined to impress your date.  So I shined my only pair.

There were more rules. You were supposed to bring your date flowers as a matter of courtesy. And, hold on: make sure you walk on her right side and protect her from any possible auto hitting her. And that's not all. How about her parents? You had to meet them. And instead of honking a horn we rang the bell and went to the door. My first date, Betty F. greeted me at the door. Oh she was pretty. I was so nervous that I'd  hoped she wouldn't be the one to answer.  But she did and I quickly gave her the flowers. I didn't say much more than "here" and of course she responded "oh how beautiful,  thank you" or something like that.

And then the dreaded moment, the parents together, coming to inspect their daughter's date.   Her Mother wore an apron around her waist and her Father extended his hand to shake mine. He should have known I was shaking beside the hand shake. Yahoo! I got through the first part of my date successfully. And oh yes, don't forget to open the door for your girlfriend and mind your manners.

There were strategies for a date. First, lake sure you got to the movie theatre before they changed the price of admission. (In those years prices changed depending on the time of day). Then, decide where to eat. My buddies advised going to The Hoe Sai Gai. Everyone liked the restaurant and it was less expensive than most other places at that time. And lastly, I had to make sure I had enough for the bus fare to return home. Yes, I was making 50 cents an hour and had to figure out how to have a nice time and have money left for car fare.

So we were off. We walked down the stairs and to the nearest bus station. Very few people owned cars in that era and walking and public transportation were the main means of travel. 1949 & 1950 had some great movies at that time. There was Samson and Delilah with Heddy Lamarr and Victor Mature. Sunset Blvd. with Bill Holden and Gloria Swanson. Annie Get your Gun with Howard Keel and the fabulous Betty Hudson. And James Dean even appeared in a Pepsi commercial which was was the start of his career.

Downtown Chicago was the real dating Capitol of that time. Now here is where my memory fails somewhat. I don't remember the movie we saw. All I remember was trying to hold Betty F. without success. That rule is the one nobody told me about. After the movie we went to the restaurant, Hoe Sai Gai which was on Randolph St. and is now the present site of The Chicago City Hall. (Bet you didn't know that.) After dinner the date was over and it was the proper time to bring my date home.  We arrived at her apartment and I took her to the door, thanked her for a wonderful evening, shook her hand and left. Kissing on the first date was usually taboo. I never did kiss her since we never had a second date.

And that dear reader was how you dated as a teenager. And they were great times. Betty F. eventually married a friend of mine. And I was about a year away from meeting the love of my life, my wife of 55 years.

Memories light the corner of my mind and I hope yours too.


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  • Nice piece. My dating years were in the later 1950s and early 1960s. We still were expected to open the door, but thankfully we had ditched the suit. Can't imagine what's expected on the first date anymore.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Thanks Dennis. I'm afraid to know and don't ask. I liked it better when things were done the old fashioned way.

  • Actually, that restaurant was on the site of what's now the Daley Center, not City Hall. City Hall's block has been municipal since the City was incorporated.

  • In reply to Icebox:

    Thanks for your comment. It was known as the Chicago Civic Center until December of 1976 when it was renamed The Daley Center after the Mayor's death. My memory isn't lit in all corners all the time at my age :)

  • As a 40-something woman who was dating in the 80's I really enjoyed reading this! I wasn't allowed to date in high school since my parents were very religious. I left home for college and found dating to be really confusing!

    Seems like it was easier on everyone when there very defined rules.

    On the other hand I am very glad to have been dating after the 2nd wave feminist movement. No more girdles thank god. No more gloves and hats in 90-degree heat. I could ask someone out if I was interested, I did not have to sit there and play coy and hope someone asked me first.

    I don't really remember my very first date (isn't that sad?) but I'm pretty sure we kissed good night.

  • What a lovely article. I wish I dated in the 40's/50's. I am instantly smitten when a man is chivalrous and was lucky enough to find and marry a man who still opens doors and brings me flowers. It's so different now. I saw a couple of teenagers out on a date and the young lady was wearing pajama pants and slippers! Kids these days... Great post!

  • Thank you ladies. I'm glad that I dated back then when there were rules; not now when anything goes. Thank you for reading, I appreciate it and hope you continue to enjoy!

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    Thank you for sharing!!
    Gonna tell you....'round these parts, there will be no honking & my girls running out. My boys will not honk to retrieve his companionship for the evening. In my mind, it is just disrespectful. As erago these days!! Ack!!

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