What Life Was Like In The 1960s

Life has changed quite drastically in the last 50 years. While there has been much progress and many successes, there have also been some failures. Regardless, mankind continues to press on. While many of the traits that make us human remain the same, the world is almost unrecognizable from what it used to be. Today, we can see and talk to each other while thousands of miles away, find the answer to any question in a few seconds, and we now know more about the world around us than ever. It’s been a crazy 50 years. Read on to learn what it was like to live half a century years ago.

You Had To Go To The Bank To Get Money

John Melton/Oklahoma Historical Society/Getty Images
John Melton/Oklahoma Historical Society/Getty Images

While today we have the options of using an ATM or even online banking, that wasn’t the case 50 years ago. If you needed to do anything that involved finances, you had to go to the bank and talk to a bank teller.

Although Barclays introduced the world’s first automated teller in London in 1967, it didn’t make its way to the United States until 1969. Imagine having to wait in line at the bank every time you need to pull out a little bit of cash. No thank you.

There Were No ‘R’ Rated Movies

Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

Not only were there no ‘R’ rated movies, but there was no established way to rate the content of movies at all. It wasn’t until November 1, 1968, that the voluntary Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating system replaced the all-or-nothing Motion Picture production Code with designations of either G, M, R, or X.

Before this code was established, there was no way to judge whether a movie was okay for certain age groups.

Couples Married Much Earlier Than Today

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1968, it was not unusual for couples to get married at a relatively young age compared to now. Back then, the median age of an individual’s first marriage was 20 years old for women and 23 for men.

On top of that, close to 70 percent of adults were married, compared to the 51 percent that are married today. According to a Pew Research study, the current median age for women getting married is 26.5 years old and 28.7 years old for men.

Interracial Romance Was Frowned Upon On Television

Paramount Television
Paramount Television

It’s important to keep in mind that many of the liberties that we take for granted today weren’t always around. This was the case for interracial romance in television as well as the movies. Racism was still rampant in the 60s, so not everyone agreed with watching two people of different races involved in a romance on the screen.

However, William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols made a statement when they shared a kiss on the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” Before it aired, NBC officials feared that Southern TV affiliates wouldn’t dare to show it.

Seatbelts Were Optional

Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Since the invention of the automobile, countless older cars didn’t even offer seatbelts. However, in 1968, the first federal seatbelt law was put into place. This required that all new cars were to have a seatbelt for each passenger seat.

Even so, it would still be decades until drivers and passengers were required by law to wear a seatbelt. New York was the first state to require people to wear them on December 1, 1983. Before that, it was more or less a personal decision to use one.

911 Didn’t Exist

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Today, even the youngest children know to call 911 in the event of an emergency. It’s a quick and simple way to get help fast and has saved countless lives over the years. Now, imagine a time when 911 wasn’t even an option in case of an emergency.

The single, nationwide phone number for emergency help wasn’t established until 1968. After a meeting between the FCC and AT&T it was decided that 911 would be the digits because they had never been used as an area code or other service code.

The Drinking Age Was 18

Bela Zola/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Bela Zola/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

There’s an ongoing argument today that if you’re old enough to be a legal adult, vote, and fight in wars, then you should be allowed to drink. Well, 50 years ago that was the United State’s logic as well. Eighteen-year-old citizens could enjoy alcoholic beverages carefree until Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act on July 17, 1984.

You have to imagine how difficult that must have been for some young adults who had their alcohol privileges taken away right out from under them.

Heart Transplants Were Out Of The Question

Isabelle Fuhrman
Isabelle Fuhrman

Back 50 years ago, if you had a serious heart condition and needed something like a heart transplant, you were out of luck. The kind of technology needed for that kind of operation wasn’t available at that time.

Although Christiaan Barnard, a South African cardiac surgeon, completed the first successful heart transplant in 1967, the first one in the United States took place at Stanford University Hospital the following year. Around 100 heart transplants took place over the course of that year, with only a third of them being effective for more than three months

There Was A Designated Area To Talk On The Phone

Val Wilmer/Getty Images
Val Wilmer/Getty Images

While we may be used to being able to communicate or talk on the phone at any given place or time, this is a luxury that has only been around for a few decades. Fifty years ago, phones were stationary in a household and most families only had one.

This meant that you had to either sit and wait for a call and once you started talking to someone, you sure weren’t moving around. The cordless phone prototype was invented in 1965 although it didn’t become popular for residential use until the 1980s.

Phones Were Completely Different

Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Seeing a phone from 50 years ago makes iPhones look like magical devices. Back then, dialing involved clockwise finger rotation by sticking your finger in the hole and turning it until engaged the number, then waiting for it to rotate back. There was no Siri to lend you a hand, that’s for sure!

Not only did this take patience, but skill for those who needed to do it quickly. Good thing that local calls were only seven digits, as calling someone in the same area didn’t require an area code until the early 2000s.

Getting A Credit Card Was Easier Than Ever

Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Today, applying for a credit card can be a painful process with many applicants even getting denied. But it was a lot different 50 years ago. In many cases, many credit card companies opened credit cards without the recipient’s consent.

Consumers were mailed active credit cards and it was up to them if they wanted to use them or not. However, the Unsolicited Credit Card Act of 1970 stopped that entirely. Now, having a credit card is a privilege that has to be earned.

Chicken Pox Was Deadly For Children

Syd Greenberg/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Syd Greenberg/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Today, many people have survived the chicken pox as a child, even those who had severe cases. 50 years ago, the now relatively harmless disease was known to kill 100 children or more in the United States alone.

Thankfully, the vaccine was discovered in 1995, while before, there were only lotions and rest that could help children suffering from the itchy disease. Also, other advances in medicine in the last 50 years helped to reduce the death toll of chicken pox years before the vaccine.

Catholics Were Okay With Contraceptive Pills

Marka/UIG via Getty Images
Marka/UIG via Getty Images

Although in the recent past the use of contraceptives has been a heavily debated subject in the Catholic Church, surprisingly enough, 50 years ago it wasn’t as big a deal. While this may sound oddly progressive for the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI hadn’t yet released his July 1968 report Humanae Vitae (On Human Life).

This report strongly enforced the church’s anti-contraceptive stance which other cardinals and bishops had fought against and voted to ease up on.

Cans Had Pull Tabs

Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In today’s world, most of us haven’t known anything over than the push-through tab on cans that stay attached after you open it. 50 years ago, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see pull tabs from cans littered all over the street.

This is because the pull tab would come completely off of the can and have to be thrown away separately. Cans were made in this fashion until littering became a massive issue and the push through tab was invented in 1975.

You Couldn’t Escape Cigarette Ads

Gary Leonard/Corbis via Getty Images
Gary Leonard/Corbis via Getty Images

Although today, cigarette advertising has mostly been banned, that was the opposite of what was happening five decades ago. Before people fully understood how bad cigarettes were for them, it was more strange for people NOT to smoke than to partake.

Cigarette companies took advantage of this and posted advertisements wherever they could, from billboards to TV. They would even show pictures of families to get the point across that smoking was a common part of family life. Things were certainly different back then.

Nobody Worried About Skin Cancer

KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

While today, some people won’t even leave their house without applying a thick layer of sunscreen, people 50 years ago had no idea the negative effects the sun could have on the body. Although some forms of sunscreen had been developed in the 1940s, most of them had SPFs below 10 and people wouldn’t bother with them anyway.

It wasn’t until 1978 that the FDA proposed its first sunscreen guidelines to show people the dangers of skin cancer. However, it wasn’t very effective with the warning saying “In the long run, suntanning is not good for the skin.”

Playgrounds Were Far From Safe

Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

Back in the days when kids were expected to be independent and play on their own, the playgrounds they used were not very safe. While today we have wood chips or turf beneath play structures, 50 years ago, many of them were built directly on concrete.

There were also metal slides that would get extremely hot and other dangerous equipment that has long been banned from being built on playgrounds. Injuries at the playground were not rare — not always minor, either.

Building Regulations Were A Lot Different

Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images
Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images

Today, we know that substances such as asbestos and lead-based paint can be extremely dangerous to work with or even be around. However, before people knew the dangers of these kind of materials, they used them freely when building or repairing structures. Asbestos was used frequently and children painted with lead-based paints like they were watercolors.

The EPA’s ban on asbestos-laden fireproofing and other installation didn’t even go into effect until 1973. Now, people are working to undo all these building mistakes made in the past.

Countless People Suffered From Untreated Depression

Paul S. Howell / Liaison Agency
Paul S. Howell / Liaison Agency

Depression appears to run rampant today. Although it can’t be cured, there have at least been medicines and treatments developed in the last 50 years to help. However, before that, many people suffered from depression that went untreated for the most part, or wasn’t as recognized as it is today.

Prozac, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor entered the market in 1987. Since its release, over 35 million people worldwide have using the drug, among others, to combat the symptoms of depression.

Children Didn’t Have To Use Car Seats

Lambert/Getty Images
Lambert/Getty Images

Today, most parents wouldn’t even think about putting the keys in the ignition without having their child in a specialized car seat. Of course, 50 years ago, parents didn’t find this to be a necessity. Most cars didn’t even have safety belts to use, so why would they need a car seat?

It wasn’t until 1971 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began requiring that all seats be held by safety belts in order to keep a child in place. Since then, car seats have become more and more advanced to provide as much safety as possible.