Recalling 1954

The fifties may seem to have been a more innocent decade than today, but those years also had controversies and social upheaval. In "The Early Show"'s "Time Machine" series, we took a look back at the year 1954.

That year, "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith remarked, the suburbs were growing in a "profound" and "explosive way."

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The advent of television brought iconic shows, such as "Superman" and "Father Knows Best" to Americans everywhere.

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez remarked that year was also when TV dinners were invented.

Transistor radios were developed in 1954. "Early Show" news anchor Russ Mitchell noted that that radio was portable. "It wasn't this big box in your home anymore," he said.

Smith observed that it was the year the U.S. was proud of the nuclear-powered submarine Nautilus. "You know, just like Jules Verne," Smith said.

"Early Show" weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price joked that all cars on the road that year were getting just two miles to a gallon of gas.

That year, the Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision on Brown vs. The Board of Education. The ruling, Price said, ended segregation among white and black students in public schools.

Mitchell said, "I remember looking at images from the mid-1950s and seeing things like the Little Rock Nine, where these kids had to be escorted into school. All they wanted to do was go into school. It was hard to believe. But that decision back in 1954, it changed life for my family, and ultimately, it changed life for me."

The year 1954 also marked an early start to The Cold War, according to Smith, because Sen. Joe McCarthy was on a witch hunt to root out communists.

McCarthy said in 1954, "Even if there's only one communist in the State Department, that's one communist too many."

CBS News broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, Smith said, "boldly recognized" McCarthy's behavior, and took him on in a historic "See It Now" broadcast.

Murrow devoted an entire broadcast of the news show to McCarthy.

Watch the McCarthy episode of "See It Now"

In the broadcast, which aired March 9, 1954, McCarthy called Murrow a "symbol" and "the cleverest of the jackal pack." McCarthy also alleged Murrow had Communist ties. However, the broadcast backfired on McCarthy, helping lead to his political undoing.

At the beginning of 1954, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got married, Rodriguez said. That same year, Monroe filmed the famous scene from "The Seven-Year Itch" where her white dress gets lifted up on top of the subway grate.

DiMaggio was on the set during the filming.

"He saw that scene and did not like it one bit," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if it's because of this. But later that year, they got divorced."

Price said, "Compared with today, everything in 1954 seemed so manageable."

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Rodriguez said, "I think 1954 was an important year in American history because people stood up for what was right, whether it was desegregation or speaking out against a Senator who was targeting people as Communists with, some people say, no real evidence."
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