25 things that were totally different about the 50s and 60s

June 8th, 2021

As technology evolves, almost everything about the way we live changes with it. For people who were coming of age in the 50s and 60s, just about everything is much different.

Recently, a Reddit user asked:

If I (age 26) were suddenly transported back to the 1950s or 60s and pretended to fit in, what would I probably not think to account for?

Get ready for a blast from the past!

1. Smoking everywhere

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Pixabay - geralt / 22961 Source: Pixabay - geralt / 22961

Back in the 50s and 60s, tobacco smokers were allowed to light up where ever they wanted to. So if you went back to those decades, just get ready for some serious secondhand smoke. Reddit user u/sadienora said:

“You would have to be good with people smoking in cars, restaurants, and just about everywhere. Non-smokers were as put upon then, as smokers are today. Ash trays were everywhere full of stale cigarette butts. Pipe smokers and cigar smokers were allowed to light up next to you in public places. Most everybody smoked.”

2. Local vs Long distance calls

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Pixabay - Alexas_Fotos / 21623 Source: Pixabay - Alexas_Fotos / 21623

In the 50s and 60s, they didn’t have cell phones so every call was made from a landline. This meant you had to be very careful not to call long distances on accident because it would cost you an arm and a leg. Just ask Reddit user u/urbanek2525:

“You had to be very aware of what was a local call and a long distance call. You didn’t dial (dial phone) the area code for a local call. Long distance calls were charged by the minute and relatively pricey.

3. Memorizing phone numbers and directions

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Pixabay - RWestDesigns / 1 Source: Pixabay - RWestDesigns / 1

Without smartphones to save all your contacts in, you either had to carry around a handwritten log of numbers or memorize all the important ones. Reddit user u/femundsmarka wrote:

“You memorized phone numbers and a lot of post codes and street maps of your town and the highways around.”

4. The Yellow Pages were your best friend

Used to have all the girls phone numbers off this bad boy here. Yellow pages phone book from nostalgia

If you didn’t have a handwritten phone book, you would have to look through the good old Yellow Pages and hope the person you were looking for was listed.

“Or used the phone book to look up numbers you didn’t know. Yellow pages for businesses, white pages for people.” Reddit user u/CLNA11

5. Ironing was essential

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Pixabay - ulleo / 4015 Source: Pixabay - ulleo / 4015

Back then, you couldn’t just rely on your dryer to unwrinkle your clothes, so ironing was an everyday thing for most people.

“Ironing was something that had to be done at least every week. Some did it every day.” – Reddit user u/adudeguyman

6. Life without Netflix

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When it came to television in the 50s and 60s, you were very limited on the number of channels you had to watch. There was no such thing as apps like Netflix, so the few channels you did have would have to do.

“I lived in the NYC area where we had the luxury of 7 TV stations (2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13) and a few PBS and Spanish stations in the “UHF range”. – Reddit user u/bicyclemom

7. Changing the channels by hand

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Pixabay - StockSnap / 27556 Source: Pixabay - StockSnap / 27556

Back then, remotes were just being invented so many people didn’t have them. This meant getting up to go and change the channel by hand.

“And no remote control for the tv!” – Reddit user u/Box145

8. Newspaper social section vs Facebook

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Pixabay - USA-Reiseblogger / 648 Source: Pixabay - USA-Reiseblogger / 648

Nowadays, people post everything about their lives on social media, but back then you only had two ways of finding out everyone’s gossip. One was word of mouth, and the other was the social section of the newspaper.

“Newspapers would print what people were doing, who they visited that weekend, and any ailments someone in town was feeling. In the newspaper! I assume most people would write in or tell the newspaper these things, but sometimes there were some scandals printed too.” Reddit user u/focusontherealthing

9. No Uber

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Pixabay - 12019 / 10260 Source: Pixabay - 12019 / 10260

In the 50s and 60s, there was nothing like the Ubers we use today. You could get a taxi, but it was nowhere near as convenient.

10. No ATM

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Peggy_Marco / 9285 Source: Peggy_Marco / 9285

There were no such things as ATMs back then, so if you wanted cash you would literally have to stand in line at the bank. Being that credit cards were brand new, most people only used cash and would be stuck waiting in the bank all the time.

“No ATM. You must go stand in line at the bank. Sometimes a trusted bar or store would cash your check. Otherwise your schedule had to conform with the banking schedule.” Reddit user – u/my_lucid_nightmare

11. Microwaves were a luxury

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Nowadays, we take things like microwaves for granted, but back then they were a new invention that many people couldn’t afford. This meant if you wanted to heat up food, you were using the stove or eating it cold.

12. Looking up things at the library

Back then, you couldn’t just Google stuff to find out the answers in a fraction of a second. Nope, you’d literally have to go all the way to the library to use the encyclopedia.

“It would seem strange to you having to go to a library and use the encyclopedia to look things up. There was no instant knowledge at your fingertips back then. You would probably feel less-informed about everything.” – Reddit user u/neveraskmeagainok

13. Cursing was a no-no

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Pixabay - RobinHiggins / 108 Source: Pixabay - RobinHiggins / 108

In the 50s and 60s, using curse words was something that was looked down upon. Unlike today, where every other word is an f-bomb for some people.

“People REALLY looked down on cursing, and you DEFINITELY did not “take the Lord’s name in vain!” – Reddit user LaurelCanyoner

14. No convenience foods

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Today, we have loads of premade meals, but back then there wasn’t a bunch of convenience foods that you could just throw in the microwave or oven.

“There was NO convenience foods. Pre-mashed potatoes, precut veggies,pre-made sandwiches etc, did not exist and there were only a few frozen dinners and they were not that great. Canned soups the same. There was pretty much only campbells and generic (anyone remember generic?). I remember when progreso came out and we thought it was FANCY.” – Reddit user u/LaurelCanyoner

15. The good old atlas

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Pixabay - DariuszSankowsi / 587 Source: Pixabay - DariuszSankowsi / 587

Without Google Maps back then, you’d have to reach into your glove box and try to use the Atlas for directions. This made traveling on road trips much harder, and people got lost much more.

“And atlases in you glove box. Usually for multiple states because family road trips were how vacations were spent, if you were lucky. Most went camping.” Reddit user u/ucnkissmybarbie

16. Drum brakes

Back in the 50s and 60s, vehicles had drum brakes which made for a much more physical drive and longer stopping times.

“Drum brakes and manual steering made driving much more physical than it is now, and stopping distances were significantly longer.” – Reddit user anonyngineer

17. No pumping your own gas

In the United States, there are still a few places where you’re not allowed to pump your own gas. However, back in the 50s and 60s everywhere you went had gas station attendants pumping your gas for you.

“Don’t get out of your car at the gas station. They are going to pump your gas, check your oil, fluids, tires, etc.” – Reddit user u/MillianaT

18. Watch out for the clothesline

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Pixabay - wilhei / 116 Source: Pixabay - wilhei / 116

While dryers were invented by then, most people still used clotheslines to dry their clothes. This meant you better be paying attention when walking through someone’s backyard.

“When venturing into someone’s backyard, watch out for the clothesline, just in case they didn’t remember to bring it in before inviting people over.” – Reddit user u/MillanaT

19. Kids playing in the streets

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Flickr - Rennett Stowe Source: Flickr - Rennett Stowe

You don’t see near as many kids riding bikes and playing in the streets these days, but back then seeing them everywhere was a given.

“Watch out for all the kids on bikes. Lots and lots of kids riding bikes everywhere. Oh, and playing softball in the streets.” Reddit user – u/MillanaT

20. Bigger candy bars

When you see the candy bars in movies from these eras, they always seem massive. That’s because they were, but now candy companies give us these tiny bars of chocolate for ten times the price.

21. Knowing how to start a car was a thing

Cars back then weren’t like the cars of today where you just easily turn the key and they start right up, it was much harder. You’d have to tap the gas pedal to get fuel to the carburetor.

“May not even be able to start the car. Wouldn’t remember to tap the gas pedal while cranking the key to get gas in the carburetor.” – Reddit user u/lowcarbbq

22. Baseball, baseball, baseball

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Pixabay - WikiImages / 1175 Source: Pixabay - WikiImages / 1175

Major League Baseball was known as “America’s National Pastime.”

“You need to watch major league baseball. We have football and basket ball, but baseball is the common language.” – Reddit user u/mushbo

23. No such thing as 911

Up until 1968, there was no universal emergency number so everyone had to memorize their local police and fire department numbers.

“You better memorize the number to the fire department and police station. No 911. Infact the you might not recognize phone numbers as phone numbers they were a lot shorter and often used letters.” – Reddit user u/The_Road_Goes_On

24. Be careful driving at night

Before LED lights were widespread, driving at night could be a scary thing. You couldn’t see anywhere near as good, and the streetlights didn’t brighten up the roads like the ones today.

“Car headlights didn’t work nearly as well as modern ones. There were no LED’s, only inefficient incandescent bulbs and exterior lighting was expensive. Where there were streetlights, they were sodium vapor that made everything a washed-out orange-yellow,” – Reddit user u/Nightmare_Gerbil

25. Having change was important

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Pixabay - fuji01 / 34 Source: Pixabay - fuji01 / 34

Back in the 50s and 60s, you better make sure you had a pocket full of change. It wasn’t only phones you needed them for, other things like some toilets required inserting change.

“Have change in your pocket, not just cash, actual change because you’re going to run in to phones, toilets, toll booths and buses that can’t make changes.” – Reddit user u/ringopendragon


What a time to be alive! Do you remember the 50s and 60s and the “good old days”?

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Source: Reddit – r/AskOldPeople, Instagram, Pixabay