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Road House: 1956

1956. "Segregation in South Carolina. Separate and unequal recreation facilities." I've looked at hundreds of photos from this assignment and would have to agree -- the white folks in general seem to be having a lot less fun in their hopelessly boring bars, uptight country clubs and over-chlorinated swimming pools. Eventually they got wise. Color transparency by Margaret Bourke-White. View full size.

1956. "Segregation in South Carolina. Separate and unequal recreation facilities." I've looked at hundreds of photos from this assignment and would have to agree -- the white folks in general seem to be having a lot less fun in their hopelessly boring bars, uptight country clubs and over-chlorinated swimming pools. Eventually they got wise. Color transparency by Margaret Bourke-White. View full size.

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Each one teach one

While in the service in the south, Florida, to be exact, I had, as a white northerner, no inhibitions about where I partied. Many bottle shops, liquor out front, juke joint in back, had separate facilities for the two races. The white side was mostly angry drunks looking for a fight, while the 'colored' facilities had the best music, dancing and good times. Eventually, some of the rednecks would cautiously slip inside for the good vibe. But stay away from the gals, their boyfriends wouldn't hesitate to let you know the score.

Southern Nights

I worked with a guy who in the '50s was an Airborne soldier stationed in SC. He said all the white bars played only country music. If Jazz or R&B was desired you had to go to a colored establishment. Since he is white this would have caused unpleasantness. If he wore his uniform there was never any trouble. He is a Northerner. I don't know if this would have worked for a white Southerner.

Knotty Pine

The paneling tongue-and-groove knotty pine. Definitely from the past.

The fellow with the ear bud is wearing a hearing aid. There was a kid in junior high with me in the 50's that wore one. He had a special pocket inside his shirt to hold the power pack. If he carried it in his shirt pocket, he had to keep it buttoned to keep the power pack from falling out.

I have to wear hearing aids now, and thankfully, they have come a long way.

The AB pack and earbud

The A/B battery pack was only used in tube radios, where the high voltage was the plate voltage and the lower voltage was for the filament. Transistors have no filament, and operate at much lower voltages.

Regency was the first transistor radio on the market. They came with a warning to "never under any circumstances use a meter with more than 1.5 V on the probes in this radio" that gave service people fits. Some Regency owners would not even let a serviceman check the battery voltage! Like the Regency, most of the original transistor portable radios used a NEDA 216 9V battery, although a few used two to four AA cells.

$79 to $99 for a name brand 4 tube battery portable is about right. Most of the Burgess and Eveready 90/7.5 V packs for Zenith portables cost $10.00 or so and lasted 15 to 20 hours of intermittent use. The 90/1.5V "farm packs" were the same price, but lasted a bit longer. Western Auto had farm packs in a tin can for $10.95, and had the reputation of lasting much longer.

That earbud is a puzzler. That style was fairly common with hearing aids, which were usually carried in a shirt pocket, but not at all common with any sort of radio. In fact, many radios had no earphone jack. While that may be a pack of smokes in the man's pocket, I don't think so. And it's too short and too narrow for any of the popular transistor radios of the era. I think it's an early one tube hearing aid with a 22.5/1.5V battery pack, since I have seen them in cases that size.


There were "shag dance" places in both NC and SC where the races danced together. This particular dance seemed to bring all together and still does.

Booze by the Drink

I grew up in North Carolina about this time, and made frequent trips to Ocean Drive, SC (known as OD to the intiated), which is now called North Myrtle Beach. Liquor was not available by the drink in the Carolinas except at private clubs, and most of that probably wasn't legal.

There were a number of "beer bars" and dance halls like The Pad in OD that sold beer to those 18 and over. Underage guys would find an empty beer can, take it back to the bar and ask for another. Worked for me!

But many of the people in this shot look well under 18 and they spent good money too. So there were a lot of places, known as family places, that sold just soft drinks.

We don't have to drink to have a good time. And this is an example of seeing a market and catering to it. Smart!


Bobby from New Orleans...What the He!! are you talking about??? I am just saying, I am a black man - I am assuming you are as well - and I don't see a bigoted statement in the description of this picture. It actually is a statement to the rigidity of the "established" recreation facilities. Basically from what I can tell whoever the author was was saying that the "darkies" had more fun. As my godfather once said: "people with hate in their hearts see hate wherever they look". I think maybe you should look at your heart, what you find there may surprise you...

"Freedom to be your best means nothing
unless you're willing to do your best."
(Colin Powell)

Oooh, check out suave dude

Oooh, check out the shoes of the suave dude with the boater. Those look like spats! I love that the men are hatted, indoors, and the women are not. These are definitely Hats of Coolness, not everyday headgear.

[He's wearing two-tone wingtips. And yes, they are tres cool. - Dave]

Hearing Aid

Why couldn't it be a hearing aid? The guy looks to be of an age that could suggest he is a WW2 vet where in a number of circumstances he could have lost his hearing.

The picture is a wonderful slice of life.

Reminds me of "Hairspray"

All I can think of is the scene in Hairspray (the original one, if you please!) where the kids are dancing in Motormouth Maybelle's record shop.

Cool shot!


The woman in the upper left is looking askance at the photographer. I wonder what she's thinking Bourke-White will do with the photo.

I dance quite a lot

I dance quite a lot, so this photo really grabs me. The kid in the middle is leading with his right hand which probably means he's got a few moves in his bag. Plus, he's just using his fingertips. Sign of a good lead. I can kinda sorta imagine how these people are moving just by their body positions, but I'd really love to know what kind of music they're dancing to. Looks like some variant of your typical rock and roll jitterbug that has a myriad of styles. Love to see what's on the jukebox list. I don't see any ads for liquor, just food. So I suppose this could have been a roadhouse, but without any drinks on the bar there, it just might been a little cafe on a weekend night with a well stocked jukebox. Someone from South Carolina might weigh in on whether they had dry counties.

What song is playing?

No one knows, but my guess is Little Richard's Rip It Up.

I'm also guessing from the poster on the wall that the photo was taken somewhere in Greenville.

Early iPod

Love the earbud on the man in the straw hat. Since there is music playing on the jukebox, do you suppose he is listening to the ball game on his transistor radio?


The first Japanese transistor radios didn't arrive here until 1957. The fellow on the right, with the earpiece, may be listening to a Zenith AM receiver priced at about $75., a sizable sum then. Perhaps he was wearing a hearing aid, but I doubt it. It wasn't until the early 1960s that the popularly priced Asian radios first hit the market, priced under $30. The first Panasonic transistor radio, circa 1959, marketed under the brand "National" was a fairly large piece, that worked on 4 C cells. It sold for $59. The competition was a Sylvania slightly larger and much heavier. It was powered by 2 batteries an "A" and a "B" battery. If I remember correctly the batteries sold for around $40, the radio around $79. We had a lot of sales resistance because of the Japanese manufacturer. A lot of people still objected to the Japanese products even though the war had ended 15 years before. When Mitsubishi marketed their first TV's in this country, the brand was MGA, the spector of the Mitsubishi
Zero fighter airplane and their heavy bombers were fresh in the memories of Americans. However, their lower pricing and acceptable quality gave them the foothold they needed and their lower production costs was the beginning of the end of American electronics production.

Looks like fun

Looks like a fun place to hang out!

Is the man on the right wearing a hearing aid? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with earbud technology from the 50's.

Interesting tank top shape under his shirt, at least to modern eyes.

Family Matters

The guy in the skimmer looks like Steve Urkel

Who said what?

I am assuming that:"Segregation in South Carolina. Separate and unequal recreation facilities." is from Bourke-White. Who is the author of the rest of the statement? Trent Lott, maybe? Hopefully it is not Shorpy. Although the statement, "I've looked at hundreds of photos..." might be read as a simple statement about the levity shown in them, it also carries the bigoted message, "The darkies so much enjoy their place!"

[Oh brother. - Dave]

What's on the Jukebox?

I'd love to hear what they're dancing to!

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