Summer was once a time for fun in the sun and enjoying the great outdoors with friends and family. Before we had today’s societal stresses and the distraction of the internet and technology, all we had to worry about was having a carefree good time.
Lucky for us, we have some of these fantastic summer moments captured on film, and can now take you down memory lane for your daily dose of nostalgia. In honor of the approaching Fourth of July holiday and summer arriving at our doorstep, here is our collection of beautiful vintage photos of summer back in the day.
Life on Two Wheels
Back in the 60s and 70s, all the cool kids on the block owned a banana bike, otherwise known as a spyder bike, muscle bike or wheelie bike. Designed to resemble a chopper motorcycle, these were the best way to roll around the neighborhood.
These days, we rarely see kids outside enjoying the great outdoors, but back before iPhones and video games, summer break looked much different. Kids of all ages were outside, riding from place to place and taking full advantage of their time out of school.
Ice Cold Lemonade!
Who remembers selling lemonade to your neighbors on the hottest day of the year? Everyone wanted to be a young entrepreneur and set up shop right in their front yard, offering ice-cold lemonade to anyone who passed.
Kids back in the day came up with the most creative ways to make their stand shine among the rest. Some believe this concept was the best way to teach children useful business skills that they could utilize in later years.
Summertime meant it was time to arrange the yard and invite over close friends for a BBQ. This was the time when every neighborhood smelled of delicious hamburgers, and hot dogs, and everyone recognized this as the scent of summer. Back then, festivities of any kind was an excuse to fire up the grill.
Similar to today, Fourth of July parades, BBQs and fireworks almost acted as the unspoken signification that summer had officially started. Good vibes filled the streets as the country celebrated their love for their country together.
Fourth of July at the Glasgow Air Force Base located near Glasgow Montana. This base operated from 1957 to 1968 and again from 1971 to 1976. The US Air Force selected the site because of its clear skies and flat terrain. A town was constructed to house the projected 7,000 airmen and their families.
The development led to massive growth in the local population and had a large effect on the local community. The air base became a town larger than Glasgow as thousands of military personnel and their families moved into rows of ranch-style houses surrounded by public buildings.
For those living on the coast, the start of summer season meant it was time to whip out the surfboard and sunscreen and head to the beach. Locals of all ages would gather their supplies and spend the whole day out under the sun.
There was nothing like having no worries in the world and just enjoying the sandy beaches and fresh blue waters of a new summer. It didn’t matter what drama you were dealing with in school or what chores were waiting for you at home, now it was time for great vibes on the beach.
The only pain of beach season is that most times, you aren’t the only one with the same idea. What you thought was your secret spot away from the crowds turned out to be not so secret after all.
As summer progressed, beaches would become more and more crowded with locals and tourists alike. But that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying their time and soaking in the sun as long as they could before the clouds came out.
Girls on the Beach
One thing that has changed immensely through the years is beach fashion. The introduction of nylon and lycra in the 60s changed the way women wore their swimsuits, as they became tighter and more varied in styles.
Although introduced back in the 40s by the French model, Micheline Bernardini, bikinis did not become widely accepted until the 60s. As the years went by, bikinis got smaller and the fabric thinner. The 80s introduced the high bikini line with colorful neon prints and plunging back lines.
An American Legend
As America’s past time, baseball has long been a huge part of summer in the U.S. From little league to the major leagues, the sport is instilled in summer traditions. Who can forget July 4, 1939, when the Iron Horse of baseball, Lou Gehrig stood up at the home plate in Yankee Stadium to make his memorable speech.
With his now famous words, “today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” the longtime Yankee first baseman stood up between games of the Independence Day doubleheader against the Washington Senators and announced his retirement. The day quickly received recognition as “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”
Swimwear trends were heavily influenced by Hollywood stardom. Iconic women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly inspired the evolution of the swimsuit and set the standard for women all over the country.
The 60s is considered a turning point for beach fashion. The hippie movement and second wave feminism encouraged women to embrace their body and proudly wear whatever they wanted.
For New Yorkers, Coney Island has long been an important centerpiece of summertime fun. The Brooklyn entertainment area became a popular seaside resort by the late 19th century and reached a historical peak by the first half of the 20th century.
Today, the Island consists of two amusement parks with several rides and carnival games. It’s also home to a public sand beach, several public parks and other attractions such as the New York Aquarium and the Ford Amphitheater.
The Deserted Island
Debbie Harry, lead singer of the new wave rock band, Blondie, at Coney Island in the summer of 1977. After years of neglect following the Second World War Coney Island of the 1970s was rundown and lacking its old appeal.
Although crowds still visited the beach in the summer, it did not compare to the decades previous. Various development projects were proposed in order to revive Coney Island, however, most were declined. It wasn’t until decades later that the area received proper renovations.
New York City children on July 9, 1936, discovered an innovative way to deal with the summer heat. The kids, living in the Lower East Side used fire hydrants to turn a WPA street excavation site on Mulberry St. into a temporary swimming hole.
The 1936 heat wave was one of the most intense of its kind in U.S modern history. The record high temperatures set that summer were only surpassed in 2012.
Southern Californian surf culture first peaked in popularity in the 1950s and 60s. It affected music, fashion, film and youth slang of that time. The culture, which originated in Hawaii, Australia, and California, soon spread throughout the world.
The phenomenon became so huge that surf gangs were even formed to preserve the culture’s identity as well as to protect the beach from trespassers. Long Beach is home to one of the oldest of these surf gangs, named “Longos.” Surf culture also inspired the later development of many other board sports including, the skateboard.
The Boys of Summer
It’s almost impossible to talk about summer without mention of California based rock band, The Beach Boys. They are one of the most influential rock bands of the 60s and gained notable prominence through their surf songs famously based on California surfing culture.
The band later strayed from their beach themed lyrics but are still known today for their early hits such as “Surfin U.S.A,” “Surfer Girl,” “All Summer Song,” and “Girls on the Beach.”
Time for Family Road Trips
For some families, summertime was once a time to take the RV out of the garage and set out on another family road trip. No matter what your plans were, summer always opened doors to new adventures.
Now in days, all the kids pictured here would probably have an Ipad in hand. Back in the day, all they needed was a nice picnic lunch and outdoor quality time with the family.
Once upon a time, summer meant letting your kids run loose and not having to worry too much. Before specialized camps, packed schedules and the internet, kids had to get creative with their free time.
Finding creative ways to have fun made for some interesting times outside. Pictured here are two children jumping through a fire hydrant’s spray on a street in New York circa 1950.
Wartime restrictions on materials in the late 40s are actually what encouraged the popularity of the two-piece suit. That being said, it was still frowned upon to expose the navel so the design was limited to the high waisted style, exposing a gap only three to four inches wide.
Sporting the popular two-piece, film and television actress, Joan Crawford poses on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii in 1949. Hawaii has long been a popular summer vacation destination to American and non-Americans alike. Tourism is to this day an important part of the Hawaiian economy.
Fourth of July Traditions
1960s children put together their own Fourth of July parade through the neighborhood. This is a rare sight to see these days. Back then, all the kids living nearby knew each other and were always looking for new ways to play and have fun.
Over time, summertime activities became more and more associated with the Fourth of July, including historical pageants, picnics, baseball games, watermelon and hot dog eating contests and trips to the beach.
Stars on the Boardwalk
Actress, Grace Kelly turns the table on a photographer by snapping a photo of them with her Rolleiflex camera in 1972. Rolleiflex is a long-running line of high-end cameras, primarily used by professional photographers.
It only makes sense that one of the greatest female stars of classical Hollywood cinema got her hands on one of these. Kelly, who was also the Princess of Monaco from 1956 till passing away in 1982, left a lasting legacy as a model, theater artist and iconic film and television actress.
Cooling Off at the Pool
The Astoria Park Pool in New York City, 1936 with Hell Gate Bridge in the background. This 54,450 square-foot swimming pool is the oldest and largest in New York City.
The pool has attracted large crowds during the summer months since it was installed in 1936. It is to this day, one of the most popular swimming facilities in the country,
Old School Style
It’s hard to speak of summer back in the day without mention of late night drives in the Volkswagen. This Karmanna Ghia model was a sought out sports car back in the day and now is a prime vintage collectors item.
In 1957, Volkswagen introduced their convertible version of the Karmann Ghia. If that doesn’t scream “summer nights” and take you down memory lane, we aren’t sure what will.
Escape to Catalina
Just over one million people travel to Santa Catalina Island every year. It has long been a prime scuba diving and snorkeling location and is well known for its crystal clear waters and beautiful coves.
Starting in 1921 until 1951, the island also served as the spring training ground for the Chicago Cubs. It was also utilized for military training facilities during World War II.
Good Times In the Florida Keys
Actor, film director, race car driver, and philanthropist Paul Newman taking it easy in the Florida Keys. He takes a well-deserved break between filming his 1967 directorial debut film, Rachel Rachel.
No matter what the situation, Newman always seemed to woo his fans with his dashing good looks and impeccable style. He set the standard for 50’s Hollywood fashion, both on and off the red carpet.
Who remembers playing “chicken” with your friends in the pool? This 60s pool party looks like a great time that we wouldn’t have minded getting an invite to.
Nothing says summer like a cold beer and great times in the pool with good friends. Seems like you didn’t need to be a kid to enjoy the great days of summer.
Chances are most kids these days have never even been on a picnic with their friends or family. Back in the day, not a summer could pass without packing up the picnic basket and blanket and taking at least one meal outside.
Dining outside with family and close friends was one of the summer’s greatest pleasures. If you’re like us, this picture is sure to inspire bringing back the tradition to our family this summer.
Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen
Summer was once a time for adventures. This was not limited to just relaxing or surfing on the beach. Kids, teens and adults alike were all catching the sun’s rays at every moment possible. Fun in the sun meant lots and lots of sunscreen, even back in the day.
The hazards of sun exposure became widely recognized in the 40s. One of the earliest widely-used sunscreens, produced in 1944, was actually not meant for the public but rather the U.S military. In the 1950s Coppertone recognized the need to extend this to the masses so they improved and commercialized the product.
Viva Las Vegas
Another summer hot spot full of history is Las Vegas, Nevada. For years the so-called Sin City has encouraged visitors to arrive in pursuit of wild nights and reckless abandon. Established back in 1905, Vegas legalized casino gambling in the 1930s, and it was all uphill from there.
This photo, taken in 1942 shows vacationers relaxing in the pool of the El Rancho Hotel and Casino. The El Rancho was the first resort on the Las Vegas strip and the largest hotel in Las Vegas at the time. This was long before the days of packed pools filled with partiers who are all looking for the best social media update; these women were all looking to relax.
Psycho for Vegas
Vegas has also long been a place for Hollywood royalty to get together and let loose. Pictured here is classic Hollywood actress Janet Leigh in 1953 posting on top of one of the signs at the iconic Flamingo hotel.
The Flamingo Hotel opened in 1946 and still stands today along the Las Vegas strip. It was reported that owner and famous mobster, Bugsy Siegel named the resort after his girlfriend at the time, Virginia Hill who had long skinny “flamingo” legs and loved to gamble.
Atomic Pin-Up Girls
Summertime in Vegas meant good times by the pool, drinking and gambling through the night and of course, iconic showgirls. One such showgirl, Linda Lawson stood out among the rest.
In May of 1955, Lawson became an “atomic pin-up” girl, a pop-culture concept inspired by the Nevada nuclear test site located just northwest of Las Vegas. Here she is posing at the Sands Hotel and Casino.
Can’t Stop Loving You
Tom Jones and his wife Linda Trenchard take a stroll on the beach way back in their teenage years. Although Jones was well known for being a womanizer and for his infidelity, he often declared the fact that Linda was the only love of his life.
Linda was Tom were high school sweethearts. They decided to get married at the early age of 16, after finding out that they were expecting a child together. The couple stayed married for 60 years before Linda passed away in 2016.
Another California summer staple is the infamous Santa Monica muscle beach. Many believe this to be the birthplace of the physical fitness boom of the 20th century. Muscle beach began in 1924 with gymnastic activities in Santa Monica and gained momentum by 1940.
By the 1950s, muscle beach became well known across the globe and has since moved to Venice, California where Muscle Beach Venice is now the official title of the outdoor weightlifting platform. Here we see a young Kirk Douglas showing off his muscles on the beach.
The Love Goddess
It seems old Hollywood stars just could not get enough of summertime fun. Pictured here is actress and dancer Rita Hayworth taking in some sun rays in California. This starlet received fame in the 1940s, appearing in over 60 films in the span of 30 years.
Alongside Betty Garble, Hayworth was one of the top two pin-up girls of her era, all thanks to one photo published in a 1941 issue of LIFE magazine. As a top glamour girl of the 1940s, Hayworth long stood as a beauty icon for women.
Who remembers the 1963 hit movie Beach Party? This movie is what kick-started an entire sub-genre of feature films; the beach party movies. The genre comprised of over 30 low budget films, entirely dedicated to teenage trends and interests.
The light-hearted films generally consisted of comedic storylines, cheesy romance plots, and popular songs. As you would imagine, the younger characters always acted as heroic protagonists while the adult figures as either villains or comic relief.
Roller Dance Party
Now here’s a fad we forgot about! Rollerskating used to be what summer was all about, and roller dancing was a huge trend in the late 70s. You won’t believe some of the moves that people perfected back in the hay day of hippie ideals and disco beats.
The paved promenade lining California’s Venice beach made for the perfect hub for roller dance party’s and competitions. Times have changed however and the roller dancing scene has since been taken over by the local skateboarders.
A local skateboarder shows off in front of nearby beachgoers circa 1975. These were the days of youthful freedom were fun in the sun happened in excess. Although California skating culture is still alive and well, nothing compares to the energy and enthusiasm of the young kids who started it all.
Although sidewalk skating became highly popular in the early 50s, skateparks were only first constructed in the 1970s. The sport was inspired by the growing popularity of surf culture. Basically, the surfers needed something to do when the waves were too flat. It’s crazy to think that such a worldwide phenomenon was born due to kids feeling bored.
The Sandcastle Days
Whatever happened to building sandcastles on the beach? This underrated art form was all the rage back in the day. Kids and parents alike would find whatever tools they could find in order to construct their sand masterpiece.
Now in days, kids have much more high tech toys and gadgets to play with on the beach. Gone are the days of sand castle competitions and finding out who can build the most extravagant mote around their palace.
Golden Age Icon
Here is she is again — one of old Hollywood’s most beautiful stars, Grace Kelly. We could not help but include her twice in this list. Looking as glamorous as ever, Kelly sets the trend with a simple high waisted two-piece.
Grace Kelly’s legacy as a fashion icon is indisputable, and designers such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen have called her an inspiration. She is known for introducing the “fresh-faced” look, always showing off her natural beauty.
The Queen of the Double Take
1960s model, June Pickney gained fame for her signature super-sized sunglasses. She would wear these glasses for photoshoots as well as in her day to day life.
Here she is walking on the beach, sporting her super specs. It’s clear to see that her glasses earned her double takes everywhere she goes. I guess she knew what she was doing since people are still hanging photos of Pickney and her sun glasses up on their walls at home.
My Fair Lady
We can’t talk about vintage beach moments without bringing up this pop-culture icon. Audrey Hepburn was always one for enjoying the sun and sand come summer time. There are so many photos of Hepburn with an ear to ear smile having fun on the beach, we had a tough time choosing which to include.
The star is to this day noted for her distinctive fashion choices and minimalistic, relatable style. Hepburn took the world by storm with her charm and grace and is even considered by many as the most beautiful woman of all time.
Old School Suburbia
Suburban life in the 50s and 60s looked much different than it does today. Here is a group of neighborhood kids in 1958 taking a break from summer play time to pose for a group photo.
Every kid stands over their bike with pride. We all remember how much we cherished our two-wheeled mode of transport back in the day. Check out that old school Chevrolet behind them. Seeing a classic vehicle like that is a rare sight to see these days.
An All American Afternoon
Let’s take it back even further in time for this next photo. 1920s girls on the beach enjoy an all American good time with their delicious hamburgers and refreshing Coca Colas. Did you know that the Coca-Cola company dates way back to the 19th century?
By the 1940s, the company had already manufactured one-billion gallons of the Coca-Cola syrup and had reached iconic status in the USA. Oddly enough the cola syrup was initially sold as an over the counter dietary supplement for an upset stomach.
Last Surviving Star
Actress and singer Ann Marie Blyth poses on the beach in a gorgeous skirted two piece. Blyth started her career in show business at the young age of five years old.
She was often cast in Hollywood musicals both in film and TV. Blyth stepped back from her career in show business in the mid 50s to focus on raising her five children. At 90 years old, she is still alive today and is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
This might look like an impressive classic car auction, but its actually just a typical day of 1960s California beach culture. One thing seems to have stayed the same since then, finding a parking spot on the beach looks like it was a pain then too.
This colorful display of vintage vehicles takes us back to the days when seeing a “punch buggy” was still a common sight and piling all your friends in one wagon was still accepted.
The Stars of Summer
Actress Priscilla Presley sports a unique denim bikini during a photo shoot at her Los Angeles home in the 1970s. Priscilla is well known for her marriage to rock n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley.
The pair began seeing each other when she was only 14 years old and got married eight years later. A year after their marriage, Priscilla gave birth to their daughter, Lisa Marie. Although their marriage did not last long, the pair remained friends until Elvis passed in 1977.