Bodgies and Widgies – rebels without a cause in Lower Hutt

 

Our new display, Bodgies and Widgies, stirs up mid-century memories for many of our visitors.

The Bodgie

A.E. Manning, The Bodgie : a study in abnormal psychology. (A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1958) Reproduced with the  permission of Penguin Books.

 

Elbes Milk Bar on High Street was the place to be in 1950’s Lower Hutt.  Some of our visitors remember socialising there, while others remember being banned from the Elbes by concerned parents.  Our display and this blog look into the reasons for this ban and the far reaching panic our local youngsters caused with their fashion and musical tastes.

 

Milk-bar Cowboys and Brylcreem

Young men and women from the Hutt Valley were central to the creation of the idea of the ‘teenager’ in 1950s Aotearoa New Zealand.

The years following World War Two were a conservative time in Aotearoa New Zealand.  With the devastation of the war sitting heavy in the NZ psyche, many adults desired safety, order and control.  At the same time, American pop culture was gaining in popularity. Young people began experimenting with new hairstyles, clothes and activities.

 

Rock and roll dancers

Rock and roll dancers at Youth Club, Taita, Lower Hutt. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1957/3619-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22744683

 

Many of the boys (Bodgies) wore ‘Teddy-Boy’ hairstyles, and quiffs styled with Brylcreem, while the girls (Widgies) cut their hair short and often wore trousers.  These changes might seem harmless to us today, but they were very challenging at the time.

Bodgies and Widgies met up in cafes and milk bars, socialising and listening to daring new music. Doris Day’s Secret Love was deemed too risky, with Elvis Presley’s first hit Don’t Be Cruel soon to follow. Here in Lower Hutt, Elbe’s Milk Bar on High Street became a popular spot where motorbikes could often be seen parked on the wide curb outside.

This new generation of teenagers had employment, leisure time and money to spend. They also had a keen interest in each other. The media reported sensationalised stories of gangs of Hutt youth meeting ‘for sex purposes’, shocking the population.

 

High Street

High Street, Lower Hutt. Ref: 1/2-047550-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22794347

 

To learn more about Bodgies and Widgies drop by and see us:

April–November Open Wed–Sun 10am–4pm

December–March Open every day 10am–4pm

 

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