13. Single women were advised to pick up men at A.A.
Sex and the Single Girl became a go-to textbook for dating when it hit the shelves in 1962. Though it was nice to see women allowed to be a little more open with their sexuality, not all of Helen Gurley Brown’s advice would hold up today.
In 1962, it wasn’t easy to find a good and/or rich man. In the book, Gurley recalls a way a friend found herself a husband. She didn’t meet him at a bar but cruised a local AA meeting to find a beau. “She was about 43, had no drinking problem of her own, but since outsiders are permitted to attend AA Meetings … she wandered into the Beverley Hills chapter of the meeting, sat next to a famous writer, and bagged him within the year.”
So, all a girl needs to do is prey on a rich man during a time of struggle and need, and you’ll have yourself a rich husband in no time. Certainly, all the women who took this advice ended up with stellar mates.
14. Wives were to provide an orderly home and only talk in low, soothing tones
If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you know that the expectations of a wife have changed greatly over the years. But some of the ways women were supposed to keep a home for their husbands are still a little surprising. Housekeeping Monthly published a “Good House Wife’s Guide” in 1955 to let women know the best way to keep the men in their life happy.
Outside of making sure dinner’s on the table when he gets home and keeping the house neat and clean, a woman was expected to create a calming haven to give her man respite from his weary world. The home should remain peaceful, and that meant no noise from kids. The guide suggests, “Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.”
The guide has another gem for how the conversation should go after a husband’s long day at work. “You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first—remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.” So, make the kids pretend they’re angels and stifle yourself and your stupid, womanly thoughts. Who knew that men required such silence in a ’50s and ’60s home?
15. Good speech was an important womanly virtue.
Housewives weren’t the only ones seeking advice on how to please men. Teenagers needed their dating tips, too. Seventeen Magazine gave out beauty advice and told girls how to dress, but looks weren’t the only important thing. How you speak was just as important.
‘How pretty do you sound?” the magazine asked. “You can’t expect to charm a royal ball or end up with Rex Harrison with sloppy speech habits.” Every teen dreamed of having a beau like the always old-looking and temperamental Rex Harrison. Also, we didn’t realize royal balls were so commonplace for ’60s teenagers.
But how can you get yourself to sound pretty? Seventeen had you covered. “Hold a matchstick in your teeth the next time you phone your best friend. Can she tell it’s there? If so, you need practice.” What does the matchstick accomplish? Most any human would sound weird if you talked with a matchstick in your mouth, so it’s hard to imagine why that was desirable. Unless high-level ventriloquism skills were considered the height of beauty at the time.
16. Detroit was a great city with a bright future.
Detroit! A city of commerce, progress, and a bright future! At least that’s what we thought 50 years ago. Looking back on the educational film Detroit: A City on the Move is pretty sad. The city was full of constant activity, new construction, and an array of businesses in the area. They would never have imagined that the year 2000 would bring a time of abandoned buildings and rampant crime.
Watching this film about the unbridled hope of Detroit’s future is so depressing now. The film said things like “[Detroiters] enjoy more sparkling, pure water than any similar area in the world.” You wonder how many new swear words these hopeful Detroiters would come up with when they heard about a poisoned water crisis in Michigan half a century later.
Or how about ’60s Detroit bragging about being “second only to New York in legitimate theater attendance.” Sure, Fox Theater is still there and still a beautiful work of architecture, but it sits in a weirdly empty neighborhood, with most of the theatergoers over age 65.
The film also sings the praises of a wonderful up and coming neighborhood filled with shops, businesses, and fun. Yes, “the inner city is becoming an exciting place to live.” Today, Detroit will literally pay you to move downtown, and if you tell anyone you live in “inner-city Detroit,” people are amazed you’re still alive to tell the tale.
17. State-run lotteries were a moral outrage
New Hampshire dared to have the first state-run lottery in 1964, and it was not a popular choice. Government lotteries did not exist 50 years ago and were illegal. But New Hampshire found if they kept it within state lines, it shouldn’t violate the law, so they wanted to try their hand at the lotto business to raise money for schools. When the initial legislation went through state congress, they received hundreds of letters expressing outrage at the idea of using gambling to fund government efforts. All the same, the bill passed, and New Hampshire scheduled their first lottery for September 14, 1964.
Now, this wasn’t a normal lottery. New Hampshire wasn’t going to deal with balls and numbers. They had a horse race. People would buy a ticket, then a drawing was held to link a person to each horse. Then, whoever’s horse won the race won the money. The media were infuriated. One columnist wrote that New Hampshire had worked hard to cultivate a beautiful state worth living in. “Now, almost overnight, all that’s to be wiped out.” Another journalist wrote, “What’s happening to New Hampshire’s image at the hands of politicians shouldn’t happen to a dog.”
But people bought tickets in droves. Though it was technically illegal, people even came from other states to get a chance at the winnings. In the end, six people had a chance at the jackpot. The group included a six-year-old boy and the wife of a virulent anti-lottery campaigner.
The Sweeps was a huge success. At $3 a ticket, the state made $5.7 million. With so much money to be made, it’s not surprising that all the outrage faded away and other states jumped on the lottery bandwagon.