Back in Time for Dinner·Recap

The arrival of the affluent 1950s: Your guide to Episode 2

THURS JUNE 21 at 8/8:30 NT. In the second episode of Back in Time for Dinner, the Campuses travel back to an age of baby-brain, back-seat parenting, brooding teenagers and atomic bomb warnings.
(Back in Time for Dinner / CBC)

Air date: Thursday June 21 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC | Watch full episode »

It's the 1950s and the Campuses are riding the wave of post-war prosperity. They enjoy a number of firsts — new kitchen gadgets, dining out at a restaurant and dinner in front of the TV. Meanwhile, mom Tristan continues to struggle with restrictive gender roles and the pressure for domestic perfection. 

Tristan gets an exhausting crash-course in the standards of 1950s housekeeping because she's suddenly expected to keep an immaculate and fashionable home, entertain in style and tend to her family's every need.

Aaron adjusts to Tristan working in the kitchen while he has fun with the kids. It doesn't come without guilt, however, as in 2018 they share the housework and he struggles with the barriers between them that come with 1950s standards.

Valerie and Jessica struggle to accept that their priorities as young women are preparing to be housewives, since in 2018 they aren't even thinking about getting married or building a family — they have university aspirations, travel and career plans!

Robert feels the weight of the Cold War fears as father-son time finds him preparing an emergency food box for the family in case nuclear war breaks out.

What's happening in Canada? Suburbanization and the Red Scare

The Baby Boom is in full swing, and Canadians are looking for places to raise all those babies. Huge numbers of them opt to move to the new suburbs being built outside Canada's cities. These homes have large front and back yards, central heating and white picket fences. A surprising number of them also have bomb shelters in the basement. That's because as soon as the Second World War ended, a new one began: the Cold War. Canadians are terrified of a Soviet attack. Children do duck and cover drills in case the USSR drops an atomic bomb, and home fallout shelters have enough food to keep a family alive for months.

What's happening in the home? Wives must be flawless. Children are indulged.

In Episode Two of CBC's Back In Time For Dinner, a family of five continue on the unique experiment of living through past decades of middle-class Canadian life, moving to the 1950s. Valerie (left), Tristan (second left), series host Carlo Rota (center left), Valerie (center right), Aaron, (second right) and Jessica (right) learn how they might have lived during this era of post-war prosperity. (Back in Time for Dinner / CBC)

For the 1950s housewife, nothing short of perfection was good enough. Houses had to be spotless and perpetually ready for company, meals had be delicious and hit the table as soon as husbands arrived home from work, and her appearance had to be equally flawless. That means pearls on, make-up done and salon-fresh hair.

Child rearing underwent massive changes in the 1950s. Earlier generations of parents had focused on strict discipline and enforcing rigid routines. But 1950s parents were told to treat their children as junior partners in the household, and that disciplining them to harshly could traumatize them for life, which could turn them into a social misfit, a juvenile delinquent or a schizophrenic.

Television also sweeps the nation. When the CBC launches its television service in 1952, only 26 per cent of Canadian households have a set. Within two years, that number will more than double.

What's happening in the kitchen?

After living through rationing, sugar is back in the Canadian diet in a big way. Sugary cereals aimed at kids appear on the shelves and are a massive success. Cake mixes allow housewives to have a cake on constant standby for guests. 

Gelatin can also be made from a box. Suddenly, it becomes a go-to ingredient in Canadian foods. In addition to being a popular dessert, salads suspended in jello also become a 1950s staple. 

Looking ahead: how will the Baby Boom change the country?

In the 1950s, teenagers developed their own culture for the first time. They had their own slang, music and styles of dress. But there weren't very many of them. Between the Depression and WWII, birthrates had been low for decades. But as the Baby Boom generation grows up, youth culture will become a powerful force that will shape the country culturally and politically.