17 Strange Things People Believed 50 Years Ago That Ended Up Being Totally Wrong


7. Teens were to plan active dates, to avoid the awful temptation of necking

When it came to teen dating in the ’60s, most of the advice boiled down to, “keep busy so you don’t end up getting busy.” Adults weren’t naive — they knew teens would prefer rounding the bases to sharing a cream soda, so their goal was to keep teens occupied, so things wouldn’t lead to sex. Ann Landers gave this advice: “Have a planned program of activity. Don’t just sit around with nothing special to do, or even worse, ride around with no destination … a sensible way to stay out of trouble is to keep active and busy. When necking becomes the major interest and No. 1 indoor sport, you’re playing with fire and you could get badly singed.” Basically, if you allow a date to have a single moment of downtime, the shameful necking will begin and you’ll end up pregnant with a bastard child from Hell.

Landers went on to say that if you must neck, do it on the couch with the lights on. Also, don’t pick some couch in the basement — you should pick the most public, well-lit place possible (the furniture store, perhaps) to ensure it doesn’t go too far. Because if it led to petting, God help you. Landers said, “Petting can: Make you feel guilty and ashamed. Ruin your reputation. Cause you to lose your boyfriend because, after he goes further than he knows he should, he may decide you’re cheap. Lead to pregnancy. Break your parents’ hearts.” You don’t want to be a cheap, crappy daughter with no boyfriend, do you? That’s why you need each date needs to be a triathlon so you can avoid your natural, teenaged hormones.



8. Calling Heavy Girls “dumplings” Was Considered OK

If you had a young girl whose charm was lacking, you could head out to your nearest Montgomery Ward store and enroll your daughter in a course at the Wendy Ward Charm School. You’d learn how to act like a lady and, for graduation, you did a fashion show. Thankfully, you got to keep a handbook to help you remember all the valuable knowledge you learned in a few hours at a department store. One part of the book talks about a feminine appeal, and that your job as a girl is to make a man feel manly, not draw attention to your feminine features. The chapter ends with, “wearing tight dresses or low necked sweaters has nothing to do with Feminine Appeal — THEY JUST MAKE EVERYONE UNCOMFORTABLE.” Caps were not added for emphasis, that’s exactly how it was printed.

Then comes the chapter whimsically titled, “For dumplings (rules for losing).” Yep, for all those poor, fat dumplings (fat little girls in Non-Terrible Speak), Wendy Ward had some tips to make you thin. Some were perfectly normal (eat slowly, don’t skip meals, only eat until your full). But one piece of advice has seemed to fade away over the years. “Regard those foods which will make you fat as “ugly pills’.” So, all those, ahem, “dumplings” have to do is pretend pizza makes you ugly? Well, why didn’t you say so? We declare obesity solved!


The Times

9. Talking on a date was overrated

If you were a teen in the ’60s and didn’t how to be hip, you could pick up a copy of Art Unger’s The Cool Book: A Teen-Agers Guide to Survival in a Square Society. You know that someone who teaches coolness is definitely the coolest person of all, and Unger had all kinds of tips for the kids. In the chapter “Cool ways to talk on a date,” Unger gives some vital tips of things to do to keep the conversation flowing … or to stop a conversation from ever happening in the first place.

Unger gives a few tips, like ask her if she’s read any good books lately. Or try out a few comical stories on your dad. If he likes them, commit the tale to memory and bring it up whenever you’re in need of something to say. But a lot of his tips are ways you can eliminate talking altogether, like planning a bunch of activities for the date, so no one feels the need to speak. He even tells girls to say something shocking “so he’ll be too stunned to realize what a bad conversationalist you really are.” That seems erroneous on about a billion levels, but okay. Lastly according to Unger, just pretend you lost your voice. Yep, feign an illness on your very first date so you literally can’t speak. Real cool.


10. A flight attendant had to retire on her 32nd birthday

In the ’60s, a stewardess had to live up to a very high set of standards to keep her job or get one in the first place. Some airlines opened schools for flight attendants, charmingly known as “charm farms.” Girls would step on a scale first thing every morning, make sure their weight and appearance were acceptable, and presumably learn how to smile while a drunk businessman gropes you.

The image of the stewardess held a lot of status for an airline, so they kept very firm specifications on how you were to dress, wear your hair, do your makeup, and that you had to maintain your figure. If you got pregnant or even just married, that meant you had to retire. Even without any of that, until 1972, a stewardess got a pink slip on her 32nd birthday. Who’d want some horrible 33-year-old hag giving them drinks anyhow?

Thankfully all those rules are gone today, but now someone’s emotional support dog might crap on your flight and make you turn around. So, you win some, you lose some.

The Guardian

11. ATMs wouldn’t make a difference in ordinary people’s lives

We truly take for granted how wonderful the ATM is. You can get cash at all hours, make deposits, and never see a bank teller for the rest of your life. But the original ATMs weren’t considered so important. The very first automated teller machine came to life in 1939, invented by Luther George Simjian. He convinced a bank to try out the proto-ATM service for six months to see how people liked it. Simjian was ultimately disappointed with the results, complaining, “It seems the only people using the machines were a small number of prostitutes and gamblers who didn’t want to deal with tellers face to face.” Not having enough hookers and hustlers to sustain the invention, they closed up the first ATM with little fanfare.


In 1967, three new ATMs opened up, one in Sweden and two in England. At first, they weren’t much of a hit. Since there weren’t any debit or credit cards at the time, the ATM would work by putting a token (that you’d get from the bank) in the machine, which would dispense the amount requested via the token. Some machines would hold the token, then mail it back to you once the bank completed all points of the transaction. So, it wasn’t a huge surprise that people were skeptical about the need for ATMs.

After about a decade, the ATM came closer to how we know it today. The machines were networked between banks, customers had a card with a pin number attached to their account they could use, and folks could go out on weekends without making an advanced withdrawal before Friday at 6 PM. Surely, the world of strip clubs would never have thrived without the lifesaving invention of the ATM.

Getty Images

12. TV corporations had no interest in video games

In 1967, the “Brown Box” was invented by Ralph Baer. No, the past didn’t go that long without cardboard box technology—Baer’s invention was the very first video game system.

He worked for a TV company and tried to sell them on the idea of including a video game system with their televisions. One boss said, “Are you still screwing around with that stuff?” Video games seemed pretty stupid to most of the executives, though he got a little money to produce a prototype.

Once the box was made, it was sold to Magnavox and marketed as Odyssey. Unfortunately, by the time their system debuted, Atari’s Pong stole all their glory. But Magnavox sued Atari, and they settled for $1.5 million by licensing Odyssey. Though the Brown Box or Odyssey may not be well remembered today, it was the birth of the incredibly huge video gaming industry.

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