17 Vintage Photos of American Teenagers in the 1950s

In June 1954, LIFE magazine published an article titled “The Luckiest Generation” that, revisited 60 years later, feels like an almost perfect snapshot of a certain segment of American society at a particular moment in the nation’s history…

In aura of fun and well-being, students dance in gym of Carlsbad’s high school at weekly ‘Sock Hop’ to music of a 12-piece student band.
Cars of Carlsbad High students fill own parking lot.
Electrician, Jack Harris, 16, still in school, picks up $40 to $50 in part-time repair jobs.
A teenage sales girl holds a blouse up to a customer in a store, 1954.
Young investor, David Lenske, 17, having bought four AT&T shares, talks with banker, 1954.
Outtake from “Luckiest Generation” feature in LIFE magazine, 1954.
Teenage mechanic, 1954.
Bookkeeper Rada Alexander, 19, gets $200 a month in auto firm job she got after graduation.
Sonny Thayer, 19, packs for hunting trip.
Utility worker, Jack Krueger, 19, who finished high school in 1952, earns $2.24 an hour.
Prosperous pay-off of after-school jobs brings Mike Sweeney and Harold Riley (right) with Pat Marsh (left), Nita Wheeler, all 17, to Carlsbad’s Red Barn restaurant, a favorite party spot.
Young couples at formal dance dreamily sway on crowded floor of dim, chandelier-lit ballroom, 1954.
Outtake from “Luckiest Generation” feature in LIFE magazine, 1954.
Outtake from “Luckiest Generation” feature in LIFE magazine, 1954.
Outtake from “Luckiest Generation” feature in LIFE magazine, 1954.
Pay in trade is taken by Margaret High, 17, who works in music store, spends salary on records.
Breeder of chinchillas, Jere Reid Jr., 17, holds $3,000 animal, has paid off note father co-signed.

(Photos by Nina Leen—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

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