I was born in this great city of Tucson in 1958. My father was a carpenter and well off, making the average wage of about $4,200 per year. Considering that America was in recession and the unemployment rate was 7.0%, this really wasn’t bad money. He drove a brand-new, big gas-guzzling, light-beige truck, which in 1958 cost under $2,000, and since gas was only a quarter a gallon, he could afford it.
His truck was part of his toolset as he hauled lumber to and from different jobs, including helping build a set for “Gunsmoke” in 1958. This would be the first of many movie sets he would build throughout the years.
My mother was a housewife who took care of my sister and me on a rather tight budget, but she made it work. A half-gallon of milk cost about .42¢ and a loaf of bread about .20¢. Tater tots, Jif peanut butter, Rice-a-Roni, and Cocoa Krispies were all invented that year. Frozen foods were all the rage and 400-million frozen pot pies were sold in the U.S. Though I was just an infant in 1958, I had many wonderful foods to look forward to as soon as I cut some teeth.
In Tucson, the summers of the late 50s were a time to pack up the gear and head to Roosevelt Lake, which was an affordable way to spend the weekends. Packages of hotdogs were a quarter and cold soda was a nickel a bottle. Campers and boaters listened to transistor radios, playing “At the Hop,” by Danny and the Juniors, “Tequilla,” by The Champs, and “Get a Job,” by The Silhouettes. Elvis was singing “Jailhouse Rock” and Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire” was at the top of the charts.
More than 45 million Americans had TV sets and Tucsonans were watching shows such as “Gunsmoke”, “The Danny Thomas Show”, “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Father Knows Best,” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” 1958 was the peak year for drive-in movies with over 4,000 outdoor theaters nationwide. Popular movies that could be seen at the downtown Fox Theater included, South Pacific, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Gigi, with Leslie Caron. Let’s not leave out such classics as The Blob and The Fly, which are not to be confused with a fly that looks like a blob.
The Hoola Hoop was introduced and sold over 20 million in four months. It was also the year the last of the Packards rolled off the auto-assembly line. It was the year that American Express introduced the charge card. In 1958, George Harrison joined a band named the Quarrymen. The lineup included a school buddy, Paul McCartney, and the band’s founder, John Lennon. Who knew that later, this team would end up being The Beatles and history would be made? This alone made1958 more magical.