When it comes to social groups from the 50s, there was a fine line between clubs and gangs. The gangs were referred to as “greasers” and they went around wearing leather jackets and quoting Marlon Brando from The Wild Ones. They were rebels without causes. Yes, they occasionally got into some shenanigans but for the most part, you outgrew your greaser ways when you decided to hunker down and start a life. That’s when you joined clubs. Just as today, there were plenty of social clubs back in the 50s that one could be a part of. A lot depended on where you lived and who your friends were. With these clubs, you were never far from a place where everyone knew your name.
Bridge and Mahjong Clubs
Life in the suburbs during the 50s followed a typical pattern. The men would go off to work, leaving the wives behind as homemakers. The debate still rages as to who had the harder job. One thing is for sure, those amazing ladies who took care of the home and raised the kids also needed the occasional break. That’s when they formed bridge and mahjong clubs. One is with cards and the other is with tiles. If you were to move into a neighborhood with an active bridge or mahjong club, then you could have rest assured you would have been recruited to join up. Often these clubs would rotate the locations giving each member a chance to host. You can see 50s bridge clubs in action in the Academy Award Winning film, The Help.
Shriners and Moose and Elks, Oh My
The men of the 50s had their own social clubs. The most popular of these social clubs were the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks and the Loyal Order of the Moose. Again, these were regionally based organizations but you can count on a few things for each of these clubs: the guys would usually have a big charity event at least once a year, they had an exclusive clubhouse where they could meet and they got to wear cool hats. Yes, the fez is a really cool hat. There are chapters of these clubs still active today. The Shriners probably being the most prolific with the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. That’s taking club work to a whole new level!
If you weren’t playing cards or wearing a fez, you could still belong to a club back in the 50s. There were many so-called social clubs that were gatherings of like-minded folks. On the surface that might sound a bit exclusionary. The sad truth is that many clubs back in the day had restrictions on who could join. Thankfully, those barriers seemed to have collapsed with time. You can still participate in a private social club but that club would be stronger when diversity is encouraged. Are you a member of a club?