These Habits Were Totally Rad In The ’60s – But We’d Never Try Them Out Today

The 1960s were a different era, of course, but sometimes it seems like the entire decade took place on another planet. Television was mostly black and white, for one, while lucky homes only had one telephone – and that had to be wired to the wall. Many of the children’s toys available also appeared to be designed to maim the little darlings. And there was one fad in particular that could be very dangerous. In fact, much of what people did in the ’60s seems completely crazy in the 21st century.

60. Powdered orange juice

A carton or bottle of fresh orange juice in the fridge is something we take completely for granted nowadays. But back in the 1960s there was a whole different world of juice in America. This was juice that came in a jar – and was powdered. Just fling a spoonful into a glass of water, and – hey presto – orange juice. We’ll stick to fresh if you don’t mind.

59. Ice cream on Cream of Wheat

Cream of Wheat is still a breakfast staple for many Americans today. You see, porridge-like Cream of Wheat is actually a type of farina made from cracked wheat. And it’s as healthy a start to the day as you could wish for. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for some folks back in the 1960s. They added a scoop of ice cream, presumably to make sure they got enough sugar first thing.

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58. Lethal razor blades

These days, men have a choice of a remarkable array of high-tech razors with multiple blades to choose from. But shavers in the 1960s were not so privileged. Sure, things had moved forward from the days of the cut-throat razor, but the lethally sharp blades of the day were more than capable of delivering a nasty facial laceration.

57. Cellophane for baby

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You’ve heard about wrapping a baby in cotton wool, but how about cellophane? Of course not! Surrounding an infant in a plastic coating is an obvious suffocation risk. But apparently nobody told the Du Pont company that. Advertisements for its cellophane featured pictures of smiling babies completely enveloped in the see-through product.

56. Jell-O salad

It’s a warm summer’s day and your fancy turns to salad. Fresh, green lettuce leaves, perfectly ripened tomatoes, perhaps the crisp bite of radish. Sounds good, but it seems folk in the 1960s had very different ideas about what constituted a salad. The main ingredient, it seems, was Jell-O. You could have any of your favorite salad ingredients encased in Jell-O. Plain weird.

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55. Brighten up your house with lead paint

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Today, you can’t buy paint with lead in it even if you wanted to. Indeed, it was outlawed throughout the United States in 1978 for very good reason. You see, lead is highly toxic and can be absorbed through the lungs before entering the bloodstream. But in the 1960s home improvers were still cheerfully slapping paint that contained the poisonous substance onto some high-end houses.

54. Exploding children

Any ambitious parent might have bought their children a chemistry set in the 1960s in the hope they might grow up to be a scientist. But if they bought a Gilbert chemistry set, there was the chance that the kid might blow themselves and their family home to smithereens. For, incredibly, these kits included highly volatile and potentially explosive chemicals such as ammonium nitrate.

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53. Cops in drag

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The habit of male cops dressing up as females may not have been widespread in the 1960s, but it certainly existed. Evidence for this comes from an incident in New York City in 1962. Police officers there donned women’s clothing in an undercover exercise called Operation Decoy. The cops walked the streets after dark posing as women in an effort to catch thieves.

52. Presidential pet care

During his time in the Whitehouse from 1963 to 1969, President Lyndon Johnson enjoyed the company of his two beagles. But he caused a sensation when, in the presence of journalists, he demonstrated how he could lift them by their ears. Whether this was a common habit in the 1960s is a moot point. But the President claimed that this habit was a benefit to his pets. Exactly how this was so remains unclear, and the dogs’ yelps tended to contradict Johnson’s claim.

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51. How many in a bed?

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Famously, sexual morals were relaxed during the 1960s. But even so, eyebrows must have been raised in 1964 when students at Wakefield College in England tried to set a record for how many people could cram into one bed. Their target was 50, but they had to call a halt at 47 when one student developed a severe nosebleed. And Puritans can be reassured that the students were fully clothed throughout.

50. Predicting the future with baby burps

Public belching was just as taboo in the 1960s as it is today. But in 1964 Dr. Milton Berger imbued baby burps with a surprising property. The doctor told an international gathering of psychiatrists in London that the strength of babies’ burps could predict their future. The more robust the burp, the more likely a baby would become a leader. However, this theory does not appear to have survived.

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49. Patriotic panty girdles

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The panty girdle has fallen out of favor compared to its 1960s’ popularity. Even in the 1960s, there were panty girdles that some viewed with horror, especially ones that sported a Stars-and-Stripes design. You see, the Daughters of the American Revolution were apparently outraged by this development. Their sway in public life was such that the manufacturer was forced to withdraw the offending lingerie.

48. The bubble bonnet

In a decade of weird fashions, the bubble bonnet has to be right up there. We have Braniff International Airways, a long defunct carrier, and the designer Emilio Pucci to thank for this particular style crime. Braniff claimed the glass helmets protected the hair-dos of air stewardesses, as they were known back then, when they crossed windswept runways. But the stewardesses were unimpressed, claiming that they couldn’t hear a word anyone said while wearing them.

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47. Workplace sexism 1960s style

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Bosses at the International Paper mill in the Oregon city of Gardiner sparked open rebellion in 1966 when they suspended a female worker for wearing tight pants. The managers claimed that Pat Morris, 35, was distracting male staff. Unexpectedly, the male union members at the plant staged a walk-out until Morris was reinstated. She returned to work with less form-fitting attire. Whether this was an early victory for women’s lib is open to debate.

46. Communist sandals

Clever marketing of everyday leather sandals boosted sales but also probably crossed a red line of good taste that would be unacceptable today. You see, in 1967 the Vietnam War was raging, and New Jersey company Habrand saw a way to sell more sandals. It ended up claiming one design was genuine Viet Cong footwear, captured from the enemy. Sales rocketed, but the company admitted in the fine print that it had been selling the sandals for ages until rebranding them.

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45. Periwinkle high

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These days, when so many states have legalized marijuana, needing to look for highs in peculiar places is pretty much redundant. But things were different back in the 1960s. In 1967 a juvenile court in Florida heard how a 15-year-old boy and his pals had been smoking periwinkle leaves. A scare gripped the country, and the authorities issued warnings about the dangers of periwinkle, which apparently included hair loss.

44. How to make your daughter charming

Good manners are still valued today, but in the 1960s the pursuit of proper etiquette sometimes descended into an unhealthy obsession. This was especially so when it came to girls and young women. A specialist in the field was the Sears Discovery Charm School. They would teach your daughter all about such key subjects as grooming, manners, speech and make-up. No mention of engineering, physics or math, strangely enough.

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43. Mind your hands ladies!

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In fact, etiquette was a minefield for women in the 1960s. For example, there was the crucial matter of hand and arm position. According to one leaflet titled “Lady Lessons – Hand Don’ts” women had to take care not to allow their “hands to hang like dead fish.” Fidgeting was also out, and perhaps worst of all was having “hands interlocked at the waistline.” Horrifyingly, this could add “weight to the figure.”

42. The paper dress

Another fashion horror inflicted on women in the 1960s was paper clothing. The Scott Paper Company, perhaps best known for bathroom tissue, seems to have been the first to introduce paper dresses in 1966. You have to ask, what happened if you were caught outdoors in a rainstorm? Mercifully, the fad had apparently passed by 1968.

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41. Beatlemania

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It all started in February 1964 when John, Paul, George and Ringo arrived on American shores. The Beatles then proceeded to take the United States, or at least the nation’s teenage girls, by storm. Some 3,000 of them screamed hysterically as they disembarked from their plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport. To be fair, Beatlemania didn’t just affect teenage girls. Around 73 million Americans watched when the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

40. Smoking advertisements on TV

Ten minutes before midnight on January 1, 1971, the last commercial for cigarettes was seen on American TV during a broadcast of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Up until then – and right through the 1960s – cigarettes could be openly promoted to folks in their living rooms. This was despite the fact that research mentioning the connection between smoking and deadly disease had appeared all the way back in 1939. In fact, emphysema – which is often linked to smoking cigarettes – killed Carson in 2005.

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39. Hitchin’ a ride

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The more romantic view of hitchhiking says that you can experience the freedom of the road, feel the wind in your hair and have not a care in the world as you travel around the U.S. But, of course, this dream would be quickly shattered if you were picked up by a murderer. Such a fear – stoked by so many Hollywood movies – probably explains why thumbing a ride is nowadays a rarity. Car ownership has increased, too, since the halcyon days of the ’60s.

38. A golden tan at any price

The 1960s was a time of sun worship, and the lotion you applied to your skin was typically to enhance your tan rather than to shield it from UV radiation. Now, of course, we are all well aware of the dangers of sunning ourselves too much. In fact, two words neatly sum up the risk: skin cancer. And today, few of us dare go to the beach without bottles of sunblock.

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37. Poisonous antiseptic

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In the 1960s, Mercurochrome was a popular over-the-counter medicinal product that acted as an antiseptic. If you were a kid at the time, then, you probably had the stuff applied to cuts and scrapes. But – as the name suggests – this solution included mercury, which can harm fetuses in pregnant women and cause kidney and brain damage. These days, Mercurochrome is therefore no longer available at drugstores in the U.S.

36. Take a flight, have a smoke

Today, the idea of casually lighting up a cigarette on a flight sounds plane crazy. It’s interesting to note, too, that most countries had banned smoking in the air by the mid-1990s. The holdouts were the Cubana airline in Cuba, which didn’t halt the practice until 2014, and China, which finally told passengers to stub them out in 2017. But back in the 1960s, it was a case of smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.

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35. Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

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Yes, “Ice Cream for Breakfast Day” really was a thing in the 1960s. The event was initially dreamed up by New York woman Florence Rappaport as a ruse to amuse her bored kids when they had been snowed in. Then, after that, the annual celebration – held on the first Saturday in February – caught on far and wide. And it’s all a far cry from the healthier options pushed towards children – and adults – today.

34. A pedal bike is not a motorbike

Anyone can point out the key differences between a motorcycle and a pushbike. Back in the 1960s, however, someone decided that bicycles should look just like the highly fashionable chopper motorbikes – meaning you could be born to be wild through nothing more than pedal power. And while nobody ever won the Tour de France on one of these machines, their banana seats and ape-hanger handlebars made them highly popular with kids.

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33. Implausibly wide bell-bottom pants

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Huge flares were all the rage at the height of the swinging sixties. Yes, bell-bottoms – which were apparently influenced by the baggy pants worn by the U.S. Navy – swept the world to become a must-have fashion item during the period. However, these items were only fine until it rained, as after a downpour you’d have several square feet of sodden fabric flapping around your ankles.

32. A hairdo like an alien space helmet

We’re talking about the bouffant hairstyle, of course, which involved teasing your locks into a kind of dome. It’s even been said that Marie Antoinette had such a ’do in France in the 18th century. Sporting a sky-high mane took off in the U.S. in the 1960s, however, with Jackie Kennedy being arguably bouffant hair’s most famous exponent.

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31. Hiding from nuclear weapons

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The threat of nuclear Armageddon seemed only too real during the 1960s. And as the Cold War was at its height at the time, that fear was not without good cause. The two major antagonists in the conflict, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, were both armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles, leading the American government and even some of its citizens to build shelters to survive the fallout of any Russian strike. What sort of world these people would have found if they had ever emerged alive is moot.

30. Go-go boots were made for walking

Nancy Sinatra perhaps did more than anyone to popularize go-go boots through her number one hit “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” To be truly authentic, though, this style of footwear had to be white, mid-calf in length and have low heels. Some even saw them as a symbol of the era’s nascent feminism. Sadly, though, by the end of the 1960s, go-go boots had go-go-gone out of style.

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29. Stealing your grandma’s glasses

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You didn’t have to snatch your grandmother’s spectacles off her nose, though, as the 1960s fashion for granny glasses meant that they were widely available in stores. They had to be wire-rimmed, too – although they could come in different shapes – with John Lennon perhaps the best-known exponent of the style. The British could even join in with the trend by simply sporting the ugly eyewear given out through their National Health Service.

28. All hail the lamp with lava!

Briton Edward Craven Walker – whose varied interests included naturism – is the man credited with dreaming up the concept of the lava lamp. It was Hy Spector and Adolph Wertheimer, though, who introduced this trippy style of light to the American public. Those two men founded the Lava Manufacturing Corporation, which manufactured the original Lava Lite Lamp that illuminated homes in psychedelic colors.

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27. Hippy love beads

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Hippies, it can be argued, were guilty of a range of crimes against fashion. And if you accept that charge as proven, love beads were a case in point. Arrays of multi-colored beads – often hand-strung – were draped around the neck in cascading drifts. They probably looked good at the time.

26. Rickie Tickie Stickies

Rickie Tickie Stickies were an entirely inexplicable craze of the 1960s. And the man we have to thank – or blame –for this weird phenomenon was Don Kracke, who came up with the idea in 1967. For those who weren’t around back then, Rickie Tickie Stickies were reusable stickers in brightly colored flower shapes that could be planted on your clothes, shoulder bags, automobiles or indeed anywhere you saw fit. Americans had bought a staggering 90 million of these adhesive blooms by 1968, too.

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25. Slaves to slot cars

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You’re either fanatically obsessed with 1960s toys or of a certain age if the name “Aurora Thunderjet 500” means anything to you. This, you see, was the moniker given to the best-selling slot car of the decade. And watching a little electric-powered car race around a track was more popular than you may think, as tens of millions of Aurora Thunderjets were bought by ardent slot aficionados.

24. The everlasting smile

According to some accounts, smileys were brought into the world by artist Harvey Ball. Apparently, Worcester, Massachusetts’ State Mutual Life Assurance Company commissioned the artist to produce some work that could cheer up its staff. And after that, the smiley face Ball produced – for which he earned a mere $45 – spread around the world like a virulent disease.

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23. The bounciest bouncy balls in history

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With their incredible ability to bounce, Super Balls lived up to their name. And the man responsible for the phenomenon was none other than chemical engineer Norman Stingley, who was an employee of the Bettis Rubber Company of Humble, Texas. The toys were simply rubber balls that had been exposed to extremely high pressure during their manufacture – thus making them exceptionally springy. In fact, an adult of normal strength could make a Super Ball bounce as high as a three-story house.

22. Let’s twist again

Chubby Checker’s hit single “Let’s Twist Again” was his 1961 follow-up to “The Twist” – the pop song that had originally introduced the world to the gyratory dance of the same name. And “The Twist” even spawned a brood of routines that were best performed to rock ‘n’ roll numbers, including the Mashed Potato, the Funky Chicken, the Pony and the Monkey. The more buttoned-up types around at the time found many of these moves to be unbearably uncouth, however.

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21. Tie-dye everything

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Tie-dye was yet another creation of the feverish psychedelic imaginings of 1960s hippies. T-shirts, long-flowing gowns, bell-bottom pants and practically anything else that could be worn were all subjected to the tie-dye treatment. Even ritzy outfitters such as Simpsons of Piccadilly in London, England, got in on the act.

20. Troll dolls never knew the internet

Nowadays, trolls are people who write deliberately provocative words – maybe even profanities – on social media. Originally, though, they were characters from Scandinavian mythology. It’s fitting, then, that a Danish fisherman crafted the first troll doll from wood in 1959 as a Christmas present for his daughter. And eventually examples of these legendary creatures made their way to the States, where the little critters sold like hot cakes in plastic form.

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19. Monkeying around with Sea-Monkeys

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Sea-Monkeys may have been marketed as a children’s toy in the 1960s, but they were actually living creatures. Specifically, they were a type of shrimp sold in the form of eggs along with the nutrients that they needed to survive after hatching. But it seems that kids weren’t the only ones to be fascinated by Sea-Monkeys. Decades on from their heyday, NASA’s John Glenn took some into space with him aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

18. Running around butt naked without good reason

Running around butt naked was more commonly known as streaking back in the 1960s. And it required no special skills whatsoever. First, take off your clothes. Next, run through a public area or venue such as a sports stadium. Then, finally, get arrested for offending public decency. It sounds like a marvelous idea, doesn’t it?

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17. A sandwich of dismay

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The jellygrill sandwich first came into being in the ’60s, although it really shouldn’t have been a thing at all. How do you make this delicacy? Well, to begin with, take some cheese so heavily processed that it has only a distant relationship to any genuine dairy product. Then scoop up a generous dollop of grape jelly, smush these unlikely bedfellows together between two slices of bread and grill. And, yes, you were expected to put this in your mouth. Food company Kraft claimed that the sandwich should be made with Velveeta, too, just to make it all even worse.

16. Dressing women as children

The 1960s may have been a time when women were casting off the chains of the patriarchy, but it seems that not everyone was on-message. The popularity of the babydoll dress is a case in point, as it ended up making any grown woman look more like a child. Most men were probably more than happy with the babydoll look, though, given its sex appeal. And on the upside, this style of dress was said by some to be a badge of rebellious youth.

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15. Is the car full yet?

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The first recorded instance of the peculiar habit of Volkswagen stuffing – trying to cram as many people as possible into a Bug – came in 1959. But this pointless pursuit, which can perhaps be traced back to a previous phone booth-stuffing craze, continued into the 1960s. And in case you were wondering, the record number of people ever squeezed into one of the cars is 20.

14. Boozy mealtimes

In 1962 Helen Gurley Brown published her bestseller Sex and the Single Girl – a daring title for the time. And, among other things, the tome promoted the then-shocking idea that unpartnered women could have sex lives. Crucially, though, Sex and the Single Girl also advocated the egg, steak and wine diet. Breakfast was an egg – cooked as you wished but without butter – along with a glass of white wine. Lunch, meanwhile, was another egg and glass of wine, and a steak and yet more wine were recommended for dinner. Not the healthiest plan, then.

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13. Legal LSD

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Famously, LSD was a favored drug during the hippy era, and it was credited with expanding and enhancing consciousness. And one of its proponents, Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary, notably extolled the hallucinogenic through the enduring slogan “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” There was a downside to LSD use, however, in the possibility of severe mental anguish – including paranoia and delusions. Even so, this potent and potentially dangerous drug was legal in the U.S. right up until 1968.

12. Coffee for babies

For millions around the world, there’s no better way to start the day than with some good strong coffee. And while the idea of infants drinking cups of steaming joe may horrify us today, that was exactly what one Dr. Walter Sackett recommended in his 1962 title Bringing Up Babies. At six months, Sackett claimed, your child should already be chugging down black coffee. Alarmingly, the good doctor also believed that babies should start on a full breakfast of egg and bacon at just six weeks.

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11. Pregnant? Have a cigarette!

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Smoking rates in the U.S. have declined massively within the past few decades – understandably so, given the health risks we all know about. Having a cigarette while you’re expecting is regarded as completely reprehensible, too. But a 1966 book by Laury Oaks entitled Smoking and Pregnancy: The Politics of Fetal Protection begged to differ. Unbelievably, Oaks claimed that it was fine to have up to ten cigarettes a day while pregnant.

10. Dads at childbirth? No!

Nowadays, most fathers elect to be right there when their children are born. But in the 1960s, attitudes were very different: a man’s place was outside in the waiting room. Speaking to NPR in 2017, medical historian Professor Judy Leavitt said that, back in the day, “traditional childbirth was really a female event.”

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9. Reading for babies

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According to some, if your infant was not perusing the pages of The Wall Street Journal by their third birthday, there was a problem. And in 1963 the Ladies’ Home Journal revealed a new teaching method that aimed to get toddlers reading from the age of two. Smarter babies could even start at the age of ten months. So much for childhood.

8. Don’t love that baby!

We’re back to the venerable Dr. Walter Sackett with this one. In his 1962 book Bringing Up Babies, Sackett railed against being too indulgent with infants. Night-time feeds were a no-no, for example, regardless of the intensity of your child’s crying. In fact, according to the medical professional, giving a baby what it wanted was a recipe for turning them into a socialist. Perish the thought!

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7. Spam Fiesta Peach Cups

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Yes, Spam Fiesta Peach Cups were a genuine meal suggestion from the 1960s. Spam celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2017, and to mark this milestone makers Hormel revealed some recipes – including the details of how to make this less than appetizing concoction – from its vault. As well as peaches and the legendary canned meat, the guidelines suggested mixing mustard, oats and catsup. And Hormel rather dubiously claimed at the time that this dish would “bring California sunshine to winter’s meals!”

6. How to be “a career girl”

One of the ways in which young women could get a handle on the world of work in the 1960s was by playing the board game What Shall I Be? Naturally, the jobs proposed were highly predictable, as girls were encouraged to become, for instance, actresses, models or secretaries. But climbing the career ladder wasn’t easy, and the game emphasized this by including tokens boasting messages such as “Your make-up is too sloppy,” “You are overweight” and “You are a slow thinker.” Yep, pretty sexist all round.

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5. Light up your tires

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Quite why you would want your automobile to have illuminated tires is a fair question to which there is no sensible answer. But thanks to Goodyear, that’s just what was on offer in the 1960s. And not only would your wheels be lit up, but the tires were also available in an array of colors. To explain this dubious range, a Goodyear executive said in a 1962 interview quoted by website The Drive, “Goodyear’s translucent tire can be produced in any color to match the car… or perhaps the wife’s new outfit.” Well, that explains everything.

4. Unsafe toys

Monopoly and Candy Land may not have been harmful, but there was a slew of toys in the 1960s that had much more potential for danger. For example, there was Swing Wing, which was basically a hula hoop attached to a helmet that you had to fling round and round via whiplash-like head movements. Then there were Jarts – darts with dangerous-looking hooks attached that would fly through the air and could land on other kids. And, of course, BB guns and cap guns were both plentiful during the era, too.

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3. Ironing your hair

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Hair fashions may come and go, but a particularly persistent 1960s women’s style was to have a mane that hung almost perfectly straight. And if your hair was naturally curly, that presented difficulties. So, what can make things flat? A clothes iron, of course! All you need to do, then, is to lie your precious locks down on a board and get a friend to run over them with an electric iron. What could go wrong?

2. Crummy car seats and seat belts

Yes, in the ’60s, little kids would sit in passenger seats without protective belts. If mom or dad had to stop short, then, they’d just fling an arm around their offspring instead. And while infants sometimes rode in unattached baby seats, they’d typically either be across from mom or in someone’s lap. Serious seat belts and appropriate car seat regulations did not arrive until the 1970s, while airbags only emerged in the 1980s.

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1. Drinking from garden hoses

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Bottled water wasn’t even a thing in the 1960s unless you had a canteen. So, the hose – either your family’s own or a neighbor’s – was how you stayed hydrated while playing outside as a kid. And, naturally, while H20 coming through hoses wasn’t regulated in the same way as drinking water inside the home, no one ever dreamed that it actually contained unsafe levels of lead. That brass nozzle was also a danger, as it, too, could leach lead. Plus, during the decade, it was similarly common to drink from public water fountains that were later determined to be potential health hazards. Oh dear.

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