In honor of the 166th anniversary of San Mateo County, the Historical Association will hold the second annual “Happy San Mateo County Day.” The theme of this year’s birthday party is the 1950s.


Photo: Manor Theater in San Mateo, 1955 by Norton Pearl

Teenagers and their cars at a movie theater
Redwood City Arts Commission Logo
Port of Redwood City Logo
Cover of the Discover San Mateo County in the 1950s activity book featuring an image of a helicopter over San Francisco International Airport

Activity Book

Partygoers will receive the new children’s activity book, Discover San Mateo County in the 1950s.

Copies of Discover San Mateo County in the 1950s are available at the History Museum.

Click here for an online version.

Hands-On Activities

Celebrate San Mateo County’s birthday with crafts related to the 1950s!

  • Create a 1950s television with 4 channels!
  • Make a “milkshake” like at a soda fountain!
  • Help a sailboat find its way to the Port of Redwood City!
  • Enjoy a birthday cupcake! (while supplies last)
  • And more!
paper sailboat on paper background

Sailboat at Port of Redwood City

In the 1950s, more than 27 million tons of cargo came through the Port of Redwood City, making it the “Golden Age of Cargo.”  A recreational marina for personal boats was also added in the 1950s. Create a sailboat to sail into Port.




  1. Color sailboat scene
  2. Cut out oval
  3. Use hole punch to punch hole at beginning of sailboat line
  4. Cut line for sailboat
  5. Trace sailboat template on foam
  6. Cut out sailboat
  7. Glue to craft stick

Benny Bufano Statue

When Hillsdale Shopping Center opened in 1954, famed sculptor, Beniamino Bufano, was given a storefront as an artist’s studio. Visitors could watch him creating statues, including ones of animals, that still decorate the mall today.



  • Model Magic


  1. Use Model Magic to recreate statue
  2. Store Model Magic in plastic bag to keep fresh


Milkshakes were a popular treat for kids, teens, and people of all ages in the 1950s. Teens gathered at soda fountains, malt shops, and diners to share this delicious drink. Soda fountain employees developed their own slang.


“Burn One All the Way”-chocolate malted with chocolate ice cream

“Shake One in the Hay”-strawberry shake

“White Cow”-vanilla shake



  • Cotton Balls
  • Tacky Glue
  • Clear Plastic Cup
  • Tissue Paper
  • Pom Pom


  1. Choose colorful tissue paper and scrunch into cup
  2. Push straw into cup
  3. Put tacky glue on cotton balls
  4. Press cotton balls onto glue
  5. Glue pom-pom to center cotton ball
paper tv with picture of Dennis the Menace

 1950s Television

For the first time, many Americans had televisions in their homes. Since most homes only had one television, families usually watched TV shows together. During the 1950s, there were four channels to choose from: ABC, NBC, CBS, and DMN. Programming stopped at 10:30 each night. Despite the limited channels, there were many popular shows for both kids and adults.




  1. Color and cut out a TV
  2. Hole punch bottom of the dotted lines and cut dotted lines
  3. Choose four “screens” and color the pictures
  4. Cut out around the outside line
  5. Glue the four screens in a line
  6. Feed line through TV screen and glue in a circle
  7. TV will stand by leaning on circle

 1950s Kids

Teen culture in the 1950s also meant teen fashion. Blue jeans were popular with boys, who wore their hair short at the beginning of the decade, but by the end of the 50s, the Elvis pompadour was in style.


Girls wore full skirts. For the first time, felt was available in many different colors and was easy to sew, making it easy for teens to personalize their skirts.




  1. Color cardstock kid
  2. Trace and cut out hair, shoes, and clothes on felt
  3. Stick hair, clothes, and shoes to kid outline
  4. Glue googly eyes to face
  5. Tape balloon to face as bubble gum

Free Material Kits

Not able to come to the museum? FREE material kits are available for the first 100 registrations.

Please contact us for availability of material kits.