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Frontier Of Dreams

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Life in the 1950s


In the 1950s life in New Zealand was racing ahead. We had one of the highest standards of living in the world. A boom in sheep numbers was almost matched by the boom in babies.

From the late-1940s on, a desire for a return to normality and a flood of young men returning after the war brought a marriage boom. Getting married was quite the thing throughout the 1950s and 1960s and at a younger age than ever before.

The just-married set about enthusiastically having children. More than a million New Zealanders were born in the 20 years after the war. The generation later to be known as the 'baby boomers' were arriving.

Everyone wanted a home of their own. Dad was the bread winner, Mum was a housewife, and babies and young children were everywhere.

Through the late-1940s and 1950s women moved back to the home after filling men's roles during wartime. Hospitality culture was prized and most women's fashions emphasised the maternal and the feminine. 

In 1957 the country's first supermarket opened in Auckland. It was an instant success and would change the way we did our shopping.

Dad's domain was the pub and the sportsground and rugby was the measure of a man. When the Springboks toured here in 1956 New Zealand had never beaten them in a series. The rugby public hungered for victory and this tour is known as one of the most exciting and brutal contests the All Blacks have ever taken part in.

Our chance to triumph came in the fourth and final test at Eden Park, when New Zealand were ahead two victories to one. For many New Zealand men this ultimate victory confirmed our place at the top of the world.

Throughout the fifties this world-beating energy characterised the nation. Edmund Hillary climbed higher than anyone had ever been reaching the summit of Mt Everest in 1953. Yvette Williams jumped further than any woman. In the 1960 Olympics in Rome Peter Snell got gold in the 800 meters. An hour later Murray Halberg broke away to win the 5000 meters. It was the most golden hour in our whole sporting history.


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