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For a Glimpse into the 'Fabulous Fifties,' Head to the History Museum

“Everything Old is in Again,” says Joan Hampton-Porter, Museum Curator
Fabulous Fifties Exhibit, History Museum
Photo Credit: Rebekah Clark

From now until the end of October, the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County presents an exhibit called “The Fabulous Fifties.” The vintage display shows pictures of the Springfield area and displays artifacts straight from the 1950s, including pictures of local schools and the downtown Square. This exhibit is the first temporary display in the new downtown museum building. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.


The northeast corner of the square houses three of the oldest buildings in Springfield. In its heyday, these buildings were used to sell clothing and jewelry, and they held a bank and theater. Now, they sit almost one-hundred years older, ready to embark on a new endeavor. If development goes as planned, these buildings will soon house the Springfield’s new history museum.

A couple of years ago, local developers and museum supporters felt Springfield needed to have its history displayed in the heart of the city. Developers stumbled upon the Sherwood Building, sitting quietly on the corner of Boonville Ave and Park Central Square. They bought the building before there was even a solid plan for using it.

Allen Casey is the project architect.

“So it was acquired a couple of years ago and made the target for the new museum. In the meantime though, it was felt that the museum really ought to be expanded. We’ve called it an expanded vision from those first thoughts.”

After a few renovations, like the installation of a black-and-white checkered floor, Casey says the ball started rolling. A few months ago, the first temporary exhibit moved into the downtown location. It’s theme? The Fabulous Fifties.  

(The Chords: “Sh-Boom”)

Joan Hampton-Porter spent three months gathering artifacts and pictures from local archives, agencies and long-time residents. Her results don’t disappoint.

She clacks along the black-and-white linoleum, explaining the significance of each display. The first room, and entrance, shows a grand presentation of what the schools in the area were like at the time.

“Hillcrest was one of the new schools during the fifties. There’s a gym uniform…I couldn’t imagine doing athletics in that…and that’s a girl’s gym uniform. And then a number of items from Parkview. We also had one other high school during the 1950s, that was the segregated Lincoln High School, where all of the African American children went.”

Today, that building is Lincoln Hall on the campus of Ozarks Technical Community College.

The next room holds a giant television camera. 

“Springfield had the first nation-wide country music program, not out of Nashville, out of little old Springfield, it was the Ozarks Jubilee. There are some items related to the Jubilee in here, including a dress from the Ozark Promenaters, which was a square dance team that actually started out of SMS, now MSU, students.”

Porter moves through the exhibit, describing the time Elvis played at the Shrine Mosque, or the first television in Springfield, which had a screen five inches in diameter. It's here, too.  She says on one grand weekend in 1952, both Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan stayed in Springfield—one to promote a movie, the other to host a WWI army veteran reunion. 

The exhibit runs during the Art Walk this weekend, or anytime Monday – Saturday between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Plans are underway to expand the museum into the two conjoining buildings beside the Sherwood, Rosenbaum’s Jewelry and Abundant Life Covenant Church. No finalized purchases of those buildings have been made.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.