Oh, sweet summertime. Swimming pools, popsicles, and sandy bare feet are the things I dream of all fall and winter long. Classic summer pastimes honestly haven’t changed that much over the years, as these vintage summer photos show. You won’t find a single selfie on this list, but the glory of a day spent poolside with family and friends is on full display.
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From backyard barbecues with burgers on the grill to makeshift wading pools on rooftops and even a group of teenagers engaged in some serious shenanigans on the beach, these retro photos are a snapshot of what life was like during summers gone by. Community pools were packed with kids lined up to tackle the high dive, beachside boardwalks were abuzz with tourist traffic, and a family camping trip was the major highlight of a three-month reprieve from school.
Perhaps the pools and beaches will be less crowded in the summer of 2021 (fingers crossed!) but I hope the sentiment is the same — kids playing, waves crashing, and the summer sun shining down. Let the nostalgic vibes of this vintage summer photo collection inspire you to enjoy all that summer has to offer this year and every year.
1 Ready For Fun Leila Grossman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
At the Cascade Plunge public pool in Nashville, Tennessee in 1948, this woman struck a pose on the steps leading up to the high dive. Her smile is just so radiant — she looks like she’s ready for plenty of fun in the sun.
2 Soak Up Some Rays Newsday LLC/Newsday/Getty Images
In the summer of 1964, Jones Beach, New York was the place to be. I’m not sure that I would have wanted to brave the crowds, but these folks look like they’re able to relax in the sunshine despite the masses.
3 Walking In The Waves H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
This 1970s vintage summer photo is just complete perfection. The sun is shining, the waves are splashing, and this family looks like they’re soaking up every solitary moment of fun in the sun together.
4 Make A Splash
Are rooftop pools like this still a thing? If not, we should bring them back. Every single person in this vintage summer photo from July of 1935 looks like they’re having an absolute blast.
5 Dive In ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Back in the 1970s when this vintage summer photo was taken, I wonder how many of these teenagers’ moms were just out of the shot, slathered in tanning oil? Or maybe they just let their kids walk themselves down to the municipal pool — sweet freedom!
6 Ah, Those Summer Nights
This vintage summer photo at a drive-in in August of 1970 just makes me think of the movie
Grease. (Wrong decade, I know, but still.) What a classic way to spend a summer night — better yet if it’s watching a musical. 7 Backyard Bliss H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Perhaps this picturesque poolside picnic photo from the 1960s is staged, but I honestly do not care one tiny bit. I’m going to set my backyard up exactly like this over the summer. The only difference will be that you’ll find me in shorts and a tank top instead of a dress.
8 Here Comes The Ice Cream Truck Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Buying a sweet treat from an ice cream truck is such a quintessential summer activity. I bet the kids in this photo from 1976 were thrilled to have a reprieve from the sweltering June heat and excited to spend their pocket change on a vanilla cone.
9 Reel One In Found Image Holdings Inc/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
This vintage summer photo from the 1960s reminds me of many, many summers spent fishing with my grandparents. A summertime lake trip that ends in a fish fry just can’t be beat.
10 Summertime Spray Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
At a community sprayer in the Frederick Douglass Housing Project in Washington, DC in June of 1942, this little boy lets the stream of water spray up at him. Anything to get cool right?
11 The Great Outdoors Marka/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
On my family’s next camping trip, I’m going to have to remember the raft-on-a-hammock hack from this 1956 vintage summer photo. These kids look like they’re having so much fun!
12 Under The Boardwalk Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Here’s a look at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights New Jersey in 1978. Between the bright, blue skies, the emerald waters of the Jersey shore, and all the fun the boardwalk has to offer, I can see why so many families flock to the area.
13 A Potluck Picnic MediaNews Group/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images
This vintage summer photo from June 1, 1977 shows families gathered at an end-of-school picnic at Hygiene Elementary School where they enjoyed a plethora of pot luck dishes, free drinks, and ice cream to kick off the start of summer.
14 Vacation Vibes Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images
This family enjoyed some poolside popsicles at a resort in Spain back in 1969. Popsicles in the pool are still a summertime staple today, especially when you’re on vacay.
15 A Bicycle Built For Two Orlando/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
This vintage photo from 1955 shows a couple enjoying a tandem bicycle ride on a summer day. What a quaint pastime to relish if you want to experience some nostalgia of your own this summer.
16 School’s Out For Summer H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
As soon as the last bell before summer break rings, kids are ready to
go. It looks like things haven’t changed much at all since this vintage summer photo from the 1960s, showing kids racing toward all that summer has to offer. 17 Cooling Off Alexander Alland, Jr. /Corbis Historical/Getty Images
When did playing in the spray of a hydrant stop being a thing? These kids just look like they’re having the time of their lives and they’re staying cool in the summer heat, too.
18 Beach Play H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
This vintage summer photo circa 1960 captures the simple joys of playing in the sand with some good, old-fashioned beach toys. Literally, a plastic bucket and shovel are still all your kids need to have a good time at the beach.
19 Beat The Heat Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
How refreshing does this pool at the Raleigh Hotel and Resort in South Fallsburg, New York back in 1978 look? I seriously want to just jump right in.
20 Slip & Slide ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Raise your hand if your kids have pulled a backyard slide up to a kiddie pool to attempt this very stunt. (Raises my own hand.) Apparently, kids have been doing this very thing since
at least the 1950s. 21 Playing On The Porch mark peterson/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that this vintage summer photo from the ‘90s was actually of me on the front porch of a vacation home in Florida with my parents. Just a girl and her hula hoop, living it up all summer long.
22 Summertime Shenanigans ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
These 1960s teens look like they’re having the time of their lives tossing one of their own straight up into the air on a blanket at the beach. This honestly looks pretty scary to me, but I bet they had a blast.
23 Summer Swim Lessons Michael Ochs Archives/Moviepix/Getty Images
Back in 1955, actress Esther Williams opened the Esther Williams Swim School with a kick-off event at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Surrounded by a gaggle of kiddos as some lovely ladies lunching looked on, Williams looks absolutely joyous during this summer event.
24 Hand-In-Hand H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Even in the 1970s, the iconic “family holding hands at the beach” photo setup was a thing people did on vacation. I know I have several photos just like this from family vacations growing up, and even more from beach trips with my own kids.
25 Fun In The Sun Denver Post/Denver Post/Getty Images
During a family river rafting trip in June of 1980, a water “fight” broke out with buckets of water being thrown and splashed about. What a fun way to cool off after a float down the river.
26 Inflatable Family Fun Photo by PreFab International/Stone/Getty Images
I have zero information about when or where this photo was taken, but what I do know is that the kid holding the water hose is living his best life. If your kids constantly beg you to get in the kiddie pool with them, you get it.
27 Retro Resort Aladdin Color Inc/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
A diving board, a slide, and plenty of sunshine. What more could these poolside guests at Tony Leone’s Resort in the Catskills in the 1950s ask for?
28 Splish, Splash, Superstar Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images
Singer, dancer, and actress Debbie Reynolds shows off some dance moves on the diving board in 1960. This is the sassy attitude and confidence I hope everyone has waltzing onto a diving board this summer.
29 Summer Camp Life Irving Haberman/IH Images/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Summer camp is basically a rite of passage for many young kids — it’s a taste of independence and the bonds built can last a lifetime. At a New York summer camp in 1948, these boys got to splash, play, and make memories together.
30 In The Driver’s Seat Carl Sutton/Picture Post/Getty Images
The summer of 1952 was a great one for eating popsicles in a swimsuit with a floppy summer hat on — even if it was just for this one kid. I hope their legs didn’t stick to the leather car seat