What Goes Around… by Karen Shughart

I grew up in the 1950s, a time shortly after the end of World War II when all most people wanted was a simple life that included a modest home, food on the table and a little bit of money for extras. We had one TV, a black and white at first, and sometimes we ate TV dinners, prepackaged with meat loaf and macaroni and cheese or chicken pot pie, as we sat on chairs in the living room and watched the evening news.

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Our recreational activities were, for the most part, ones that cost little money. Our family had picnics with neighbors, relatives, or friends at a local park. One of my friend’s dad had a pick-up truck and on a summer evening he’d pile 6-8 of us into the back of it and take us for ice cream, which we ate standing around the truck or sitting at a picnic table. We played hide-and-seek outside when the sun set late, board games with our parents on cold or rainy days, or put together jig saw puzzles. Sometimes we went to movies; in the summer to drive-ins in our pjs; or to a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. At least once a year we had a family outing to an amusement park with a wooden Ferris wheel and penny arcade.

One vivid detail that stands out is how bright the sky was then and how clear the air. When we couldn’t go to the community pool my mom turned the sprinkler on, and I remember loving the rainbows and diamond-like sparkles that were created by the sun hitting the water as we jumped and danced through the ephemeral spray. I remember, too, looking up at night and marveling at the carpet of twinkling stars that covered the sky.

Each July or August we went to the Jersey Shore, an eight-hour driving trip from Pittsburgh, where we lived.  All six of us (four kids and two parents) piled into our car, leaving at 2 a.m. so we could get to the beach by mid-morning, thus extending our week-long vacation by a day. My mother packed breakfast, small foil-lined boxes of Kellogg’s assorted cereals and a cooler filled with milk and fruit, and we stopped on the shoulder of the highway to eat it. Once there we played on the beach, body surfed in the ocean, ate bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread, and at night walked the boardwalk.

Photo by Karen Shughart

We were fortunate. For many, life wasn’t so blissful. There were scares and concerns. The Korean Conflict. The Cold War.There was no pandemic, but the epidemic of polio shattered a multitude of families, closed swimming pools, movie theatres and religious services; instead of ventilators there were iron lungs. The Salk vaccine, and then the Sabin, helped alleviate some of the concerns, but even so fears lingered, there were no vaccines for measles and mumps or other disabling childhood diseases.  Despite so-called prosperity many still struggled; there was rampant discrimination, and gross inequality. During this time a pot simmered slowly, but it wasn’t until the 60s that the pot boiled over, paving the way for the beginnings of change. Perhaps, though, not enough and it appears the pot’s boiled over again, as it should.

As we’ve woven our way through and around COVID 19, it’s been feeling a bit like the 50s to me, and, because of the recent protests that have occurred here and around the world, reminiscent of the 60s, too. Isn’t it odd how things that go around come around?

12 thoughts on “What Goes Around… by Karen Shughart

  1. Thank you for the memories. I’m surprised we didn’t know each other! This from a fellow “Yinzer”.


      1. You are welcome. I grew up in a little borough called Mt. Oliver in the South Hills area. And you?


      2. I grew up in the East End. Not too far from Highland Park and Shadyside. I know where Mt. Oliver is.


  2. love this…..brings back wonderful memories…he beautiful blue skies with clouds shaped like anything you could imagine..The gorgeous blue of robin eggs, rainbows in the skies, lightning bugs, dandelions ..loved that yellow and Queen Annes lace…rainbows in oil slicks and looking through my Mother’s crystal perfume bottle that I wasn’t allowed to touch, and the color of creamsicles.. …And by the way I think of these things from my childhood every time I am in my studio painting..Today I happened to listen to Marvin Gaye “What Goin On” and it made me smile…Jus keep smiling and looking at all the miracles that are around us….


  3. Those were the days..so special
    memories we were fortunate to
    have enjoyed. Simple pleasures.


  4. Wonderful post. I grew up at the same time in Southern Florida and much of my childhood was similar. Only it was year-round at the beach. I’m so glad you shared this!


  5. History repeats itself. You would think with all the technology humans can come up with they could learn to deal with diseases and understand we are all the same- human. Good post!


  6. So eloquent and true. Thank you for this 💕

    Lisa D.

    Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

    -Mother Teresa



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