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Imagine a time when teens were listening to Elvis on turntable record players, and every kid wanted a hula hoop. Families were eating a hot new item called TV dinners while watching Lassie, I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke. You may not want to go back to the days before computer gaming and smart phones, but I think we’d all like to go back to gas prices of the 1950s, which were — get ready for this — an average of 20 cents a gallon!

1950s styles looked very different from today, and so did Publix. The iconic art deco architecture of the 1940 Publix Super Market continued into the decade, giving each Publix its distinctive green marble and glass block design.

Speaking of style, uniforms were much different. Ladies wore uniform dresses, complete with aprons. Men’s uniforms weren’t quite as fancy. They usually wore basic white shirts and black pants. On special occasions such as store openings, they wore ties with P-U-B-L-I-X spelled out vertically. If you missed our story about the Publix uniforms through the years, check it out!

It wasn’t just the Publix associates who showed off their style. Customers got pretty dressed up too — from hats to high heels.

Without the conveniences and technology we enjoy today, there was no such thing as scanning. Publix cashiers rang up each item on key-punch registers. Every item in the store had to be individually marked with the price, marking all those boxes, packages and cans took time. Of course, the stores were smaller, an average of 20,000 sq. ft., so there wasn’t the volume or variety of products we have available today. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Publix brand items appeared on the shelf. Some of the very first products were green peas, bacon, coffee and eggs.

Despite humble beginnings during the Great Depression in 1930, in 20 years Publix had grown to 24 locations in Central Florida. As the number of stores increased, so did Publix’s expansion into new cities. In 1959, we stretched across the state with a store in Jacksonville and a store in Miami. During the 1950s, we added 35 stores, bringing the chain to a total of 55 locations. The family of Publix associates grew to 3,000. (Compare that to 190,000 associates in 2017.)

At the start of the decade, the original Publix headquarters in downtown Lakeland, FL moved to a seven-acre site in west Lakeland. George Jenkins opened his beautiful new 125,000 sq. ft. warehouse and office complex in 1951.  He was preparing his team for a new decade of incredible expansion that was to come in the 1960s. Stay tuned for more as we continue our look at the past in an upcoming article!


We’ll leave you with a mystery photo from the 1950s. If you know what this held, leave a comment below.

Jennifer B.

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Jennifer B. has been with Publix since 1980, when she started working part time in high school. She has held positions of Assistant Director of public relations and Director of media relations, but her current role as the Company Historian is the highlight of her career. She loves sharing Publix trivia, telling stories about Mr. George and solving Publix’s history mysteries. In her life outside of Publix, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her husband and catering to the whims of their cat Jackson, who is master of all he surveys.

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