Cast your mind back to the summers of your childhood. What do you think about? Maybe those long days spent with friends riding around on your bikes, cooling off at the local pool, and eating tons of ice cream? If you were born in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, then the long summer months probably looked a lot like that. But times have changed since then. Sure, some elements of summer have certainly endured, but the world is very different today. Let’s take a look at these vintage photos to refresh our memories of how the season used to be.
Here we see a kid having the time of his life. The year is 1954: it looks like it’s a perfect day for getting down to the beach and building some sandcastles. Sadly, the boy appears to be equipped only with a couple of watering cans. A bucket and spade would have been a lot more useful!
With respect to the boy’s building skills, a bucket and spade may have helped with his construction. Without them, his castles ended up being a little, well, rough around the edges.
Cooling off New York-style
How do you deal with a heatwave? Well, if you’re a New Yorker, there’s one tried and tested tradition that’s sure to help: you open up a fire hydrant! Is there any image that captures a New York summer better than a bunch of kids on the street, playing around a fire hydrant that’s spraying water?
It’s the quintessential way to keep cool in the Big Apple, as even The New York Times has acknowledged. The paper once described the fire hydrant as “the lifeline of summer.”
Poolside at the motel
Here we see the pool at Tahiti Motel, in the New Jersey city of Wildwood. Doesn’t the water look refreshing? This photo was taken in the mid-’60s, and it captures the immense popularity of the area during the summer months. Families from all over the place flocked to the Jersey Shore for their summer vacation.
Wildwood isn’t the biggest place in the world, but once summer rolled around the place could expect to welcome thousands upon thousands of visitors.
Miss America contestants
The Miss America 1972 pageant took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It actually took place in September ’71, at a place called the Boardwalk Hall. This photo shows us the contestants, who were dipping their feet in the water not long before the winner was announced. In the end, that was Miss Ohio: Laurie Lea Schaefer.
Here, looking from left to right, we see the representatives from Texas, Oregon, Ohio, Nevada, Nebraska, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, California, and Alabama.
Family RV trip
Is there a better group activity a family can embark on than camping? Well, this picture from 1967 would suggest not. Mom, dad, and all the kids seem to be having the time of their lives. And why not? Spending time together in the fresh air, with no distractions besides a guitar? Sounds blissful.
Even though we only see what they were up to during the daytime, it’s a safe bet what happened later that night: they surely bundled around the campfire to make s’mores.
Is there anything more American than this photo? Two kids in 1950 dressed as cowboys, cooling down on a hot day with some refreshing slices of watermelon. It just screams of an American summertime; watermelon is, after all, the ideal fruit for the warmer months. When the year is at its very hottest, these massive, juicy fruits appear.
Perhaps this is going too far, but it could be argued that watermelon gives ice cream a run for its money on a summer’s day. It’s just so juicy and refreshing!
Virginia Beach bliss
Here’s a group that looks ready and eager for a long day spent catching rays along golden sands and swimming around in a turquoise sea. The year is 1960 and the family is walking past the Colonial Inn at Virginia Beach. It’s a safe bet they’re headed for the coastline.
To this day, Virginia Beach welcomes plenty of families looking to get away from it all, but whether or not things still look this quaint today is up for you to decide.
This kid from either the ’40s or ’50s looks like he stepped right out of the pages of a Mark Twain story and into real life. With a hat keeping the sun out of his eyes and a twig fish pole on his shoulder, we might guess he’s on the way to a nearby river: a day of fishing awaits.
It’s about as quaint a scene as you can imagine. There aren’t gaming consoles or the internet to keep this boy from getting out and about in the fresh air!
Whether you were inclined to agree with their way of thinking or not, there’s no question that the hippies left their mark on the 1960s. Typically sporting long hair and bright, colorful clothing, the hippies were people who stood for notions of free love and peace. They were trying to break away from a more consumerist version of how American society should be.
If any single event came to represent the hippy movement more than any other, it’s the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival of 1969. As anyone who was there could tell you, it sure was groovy.
Running in the dunes
Palm Springs in California has welcomed many a happy tourist through the decades. These three seem typically delighted to be soaking in the sunshine there. They’re literally jumping for joy. Or maybe they’re not, and they just can’t keep their bare feet on the hot sand for too long.
Palm Springs doesn’t just come to life during the summertime. Since the beginning of the ’50s it’s been a great spot for spring break. Maybe that’s what this trio are enjoying there?
Ah, the old-fashioned carousel! You just don’t see them as much nowadays. According to a website called Our Fair Carousel, somewhere in the region of 6,000 of the wooden rides popped up across the United States between the years of 1890 and 1930. Those were their peak years: numbers have fallen dramatically since that time. Only about 180 of them are still around today.
This woman in the photo was having the time of her life on a carousel back in 1955, which was not too long after the attraction’s heyday.
Fishing has always been an important part of American life; even presidents as far back as George Washington were keen anglers. During the early days of the United States, it helped to sustain people as they lived their lives. Later it became a driver of the economy and employed lots of people.
But it was only after World War II, according to Bass Angler Magazine, that fishing really took off as a leisure activity across the United States. This woman was snapped around that same period, during the early 1940s.
Buying a candy apple
The origins of the candy apple are disputed. On the one hand, some sources claim they were around in London as far back as the 1890s. But others credit an American guy named William K. Kolb with concocting them in 1908. He started selling them and found there was a big market, especially around the Jersey Shore.
We might consider candy apples to be a fall or winter treat nowadays, but this woman appears to be buying one during a bright, summery day in the ’50s. We love the nostalgic decor and the other retro treats for sale.
Things are getting pretty hot and heavy in the back of this convertible. Snapped at some point in the middle of the ’60s, this photo shows us what young love looks like in no uncertain terms. Perhaps each couple would be better off getting a room, but who are we to judge?
After all, the sun is shining and these kids are smitten. What could be better than that? No wonder they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves.
Lazy days by the river
This kid is reclining in 1953 at the edge of the Delaware River, the so-called “Lifeblood of the Northeast.” Snaking along the boundaries that mark the states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and, of course, Delaware, this immense waterway stretches for 282 miles. It’s the longest of all the eastern United States’ free-flowing rivers.
Anyone from the region must surely have spent a summer’s day relaxing by the Delaware River, at one point or another. It’s the stuff of which nostalgic summer memories are made.
At the carnival
Is the chair-o-plane the perfect carnival ride? These people from the late ’40s seem to think so. And maybe they’re right. For one thing, it’s incredibly eye-catching, which is half the battle when it comes to amusements like this. And then there’s the experience of actually riding it. Spinning around, high in the air, at a gentle but exciting speed: it’s relaxing and exhilarating at the same time!
You can see that in the expressions of the people photographed here. Their smiles show us they’re having fun, but they’re not blighted by the terror that can accompany other carnival rides.
Biking at the beach
There’s nothing quite like the experience of your first love, and this picture from 1959 captures the feeling perfectly. Two young people, cycling along a boardwalk at the Jersey Shore on a gorgeous summer’s day. The young man can’t keep his eyes off the girl, even as he cycles.
We obviously don’t know what awaited these two down the line, but no matter what they’ll always have the memory of that dreamy day on the boardwalk.
Family in the sea
This photo is going really far back in time. Taken in 1937 it presents us with a dreamy snapshot of the ideal family vacation. Packing up the family into the car and setting off for the coast somewhere warm: it doesn’t get better than that, does it?
Family vacations spent lounging around in the sunshine and swimming in the sea can be some of the most treasured memories people hold. You might look at this and assume that this trio surely remembered this trip forever, but it’s actually a staged promotional shot by Hungarian commercial-image pioneer Zoltan Glass.
This convertible looks fun in a different sort of way. Here we have a dreamy scene from 1969, with a bunch of kids all coming together to play guitar and sing some songs together. And with the smiles on their faces, they’re clearly all having the time of their lives.
Later on in their lives, those people probably looked back on moments like this with great fondness: they doubtless think it was the greatest summer ever.
Of course, families don’t have to go on vacation just to spend some quality time together. Ideally, it can be done at home, too. Just look at this clan, hanging out in the park together at some point in the mid-1950s. Equipped with a picnic and baseball gear, this looks like a great summer outing.
A parent showing their kids how to play baseball is a true American tradition: the kid on the right seems to appreciate that. The boy beside him seems a little less sure!
Walking in the shallows
There really is nothing like dipping your toes in the sea on a hot summer’s day, as these young women would surely tell you. It’s a gorgeous 1949 day, and they seem perfectly delighted by their surroundings. Their colorful swimsuits look quite old-fashioned today, but a change was just on the horizon.
The bikini might have been invented a few years before this photo was taken, yet it obviously hadn’t fully caught on just yet. Soon, though, ladies’ swimwear would look quite different.
By the 1950s glasses were coming to be seen as a fashion item, rather than simply as something to help you see better. And that sense of style soon found its way into sunglasses, too. As the decade wore on, new styles began to emerge. Colorful frames became popular, with patterns such as leopard print and polka dots considered very desirable.
The lenses of sunglasses took on different colors, too. It was no longer unusual to see novel tints like green in people’s shades.
Frolicking in the sun
Swimsuits of the ’50s may generally have exhibited more modesty than they tend to nowadays, but they were unquestionably stylish. And this woman’s garb is a prime example of that. There can be little doubt she turned some heads as she took a paddle in the sea at this beach.
The materials used in producing swimwear started to improve throughout the ’50s, which meant they could stretch further and dry more quickly than ever before.
Faye Dunaway on a boat
Wouldn’t it be nice to spend some time catching rays on a boat somewhere sunny? Faye Dunaway seemed to think so. Here we see the actress hanging out in 1967 during the filming of her movie The Happening, which follows the exploits of a group of hippies who kidnap a former Mafia kingpin.
The Happening wasn’t a massive success by any means, but it was one of Dunaway’s first flicks. Later on, of course, she would enjoy real stardom thanks to iconic films including Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair.
Audrey Hepburn and pals
Here we have another snap of acting stars catching some sunshine. This time we have Aud Johanssen on the left, Enid Smeedon on the right, and in the center, the most famous of them all: Audrey Hepburn. The photo is dated June 28, 1949, and was taken on top of a theater.
Besides giving us a glimpse of a young Hepburn, the image also reminds us that summer bliss wasn’t strictly reserved for people by the coast or in the countryside. Those in cities could enjoy it, too!
Eating ice cream
Ice cream arrived in the United States thanks to the Quakers, but it was a rare treat in those days. Only the very richest could get their hands on it, but by the 20th century it was starting to become very popular indeed. As refrigeration became cheaper and more widespread, so too did ice cream.
New flavors were developed, and stores sprung up all over the country. By the ’70s, which is when this photo was taken, it had long become an American favorite.
Putting on lotion
Everyone nowadays knows it’s really important to protect your skin from sunburn. That’s why we apply sunscreen! But back in the day, people weren’t quite as concerned about it. Sure, suntan lotion existed in the ’50s, but, if anything, it was used more to soothe burns, rather than to prevent them.
Hopefully this lady ended the day with a healthy tan, as opposed to a nasty burn. It would have been a shame to ruin what looks to have been a great day.
Ice cream is obviously a delightful treat for a hot, summer’s day, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. Here we see a trio of young women cooling down with a shared bottle of milk. For some people, that’s just the ideal beverage for a hot day, assuming, of course, that it was served chilled.
This trio all seem fairly enthusiastic about it, so it’s probably fair to suggest this bottle wasn’t served to them warm.
Relaxing with your... cat?
The fact these people were vacationing hours away from the coastline wasn’t ever going to stop them sunbathing. Here they are in 1960 catching some rays right outside their accommodation, which is a place called the Jolly House Motel in Greenville, New York. It might not be the most scenic spot in the world, but they all seem happy enough.
Look carefully, and you’ll see even the family cat is having a nice time. The creature is resting on the guy in the middle’s lap; it seems perfectly content.
Here we have yet more people soaking in the joys of the summer sunshine. This was taken at some point in the mid-’60s, and the woman can be seen wearing a bikini. This was a time when this item was really becoming widespread throughout America and other Western nations.
The popularity of the bikini was really encouraged by stars of the ’50s and ’60s, such as Brigitte Bardot and Rita Hayworth. And, of course, the one worn by Ursula Andress in the Bond film Dr. No became iconic.
Yes, big stars like Rita Hayworth popularized the bikini, and here is Hayworth in a bikini. The actress can be seen cooling down from the Sun’s heat by taking a dip in her own pool, as her pet dog watches on. It looks like a perfectly wonderful summer’s day.
Hayworth was one of the greatest stars of her era, featuring in 61 movies and becoming a fashion icon along the way.
Walt Disney has a paddle
Lots of kids have fond memories of splashing around in a little paddling pool on a hot summer’s day. The difference here, though, is that this boy’s family clearly owns a far larger swimming pool, too. And that’s no surprise, considering who’s in that paddling pool with him. That’s the boy’s grandpa: Walt Disney.
That’s the very same Disney who revolutionized the animation industry and whose studio still bears his name today, decades after his death.
Family at Niagara Falls
Marking the boundary between New York and Ontario, Canada, Niagara Falls has been a beloved tourist attraction for a long, long time. Here we see a mother and her children paying a visit on the American side during the 1950s. They all seem riveted to be there — even the kids!
Niagara Falls actually comprises three different waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Picnic on the beach
What are two of the best activities a family can do together? Easy: going to the beach and having a picnic. Combine those two things, and you’re onto a real winner. This clan had the right idea back in the 1940s, filling their baskets with food and hitting the coast.
Organizing a picnic at the beach isn’t a complex task, but it’s one of the best. It’s the simple things in life!
For as long as there have been humans and hot days, there have been water fights. It just seems to be something we do by instinct; even babies find splashing water to be a fun thing to do. The older we get, of course, the more elaborate our water fights can get.
Take these girls, for instance. In this 1954 snap they can be seen taking aim at the photographer with a bucket filled with water. Let’s hope the camera wasn’t damaged!
This photo shows Elizabeth Taylor spending time with one of her many husbands. This one is Michael Wilding, whom she wed in 1952. The marriage was relatively short-lived, ultimately disintegrating after reports emerged that Wilding had hired strippers while his wife was away shooting a movie. They were divorced by 1957.
This photo was obviously snapped during the good years, on a warm and sunny day. Our snapper has pictured Taylor intently capturing images of her other half.
This is how a summer’s day used to be done in Las Vegas back in the day: in 1968 to be precise. These stylish women are a trio of dancers, who used to perform at the Hotel Tropicana. The Sun is shining bright and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It looks like bliss.
The blonde in the middle is named Virginia Justus. To her right is the red-headed Lydia Torea, and to her left is Sharon Cunningham.
Woman with umbrella
Here we have a photo of Dorothy Abbott, an actress, showgirl, and model known for her big smile and joy-inducing aura. Posing here with a big, colorful umbrella, those qualities are clear to see in this pic. But sadly, despite the apparent summery bliss on show here, Abbott’s story is ultimately a sad one.
In the wake of her failed marriage, Abbott fell into a terrible depression. It was a battle from which she wouldn’t emerge: she died in 1968 just a day short of her 48th birthday.
Here’s more evidence showing us just how New Yorkers have kept cool during the hottest points of the year. This photo was snapped at some point in the mid-1950s in the neighborhood of Harlem. You can just imagine how welcome and refreshing it must have been for all these kids getting sprayed.
It’s still permitted to open up fire hydrants in New York today, provided you fill out the correct paperwork. That probably takes the sense of spontaneity out of things, though!
The perfect summertime snack
When it comes to food, the humble hot dog is about as American as it gets. These delightful snacks didn’t originate in the United States, of course, having been brought to the country by immigrants from Germany in the 19th century. But it wasn’t long before the hot dog had become an iconic part of American cuisine.
There are few things better than tucking into a hot dog on a fine summer’s day, as these two boys from 1953 would surely attest.