7 Things That Didn't Fly In The 1960s But Seem Tame Now

Culture | February 12, 2019

Family Riding In Convertible, 1960s. A man, woman and three children smile from a convertible while driving on a family trip, 1960s. Source: (Lambert/Getty Images)

There were many things kids couldn't do in the 1960s that aren't terribly shocking now. Today, when we look at "helicopter" parenting and stronger safety regulations, we envision a past when free-roaming kids were the norm and cars weren't cluttered up with booster seats. In some ways, the past was a time of greater freedom for kids -- freedom from overscheduling and overprotection -- but let's not kid ourselves. There were plenty of things kids and teenagers couldn't do in the 1960s, and many of them hardly raise an eyebrow today.

Well, you could try to do them, and risk incurring the wrath of your '60s-style mother. The 1960s was a decade of cultural upheaval and challenges to the established norms -- that's how we often think of it, and it's true. But children and teenagers in the 1960s -- and the late 1950s as well -- were struggling to enjoy all that change and rebellion while living with parents raised in the 1930s. Parents in the '50s and '60s had survived the Great Depression and a World War, and they had very strong ideas from the bad old days about how children should behave. There were things you couldn't wear, things you couldn't say, things you couldn't eat, and sexual taboos aplenty.

It's the same old generational thing -- parents in the 1960s were desperately trying to hold on to the truths they had been taught as children. When the '60s kids grew up, they ended up in the same position, trying to maintain order as their kids were running wild in the '80s. It's true that the times, they were a’ changing in the 1960s, but if you grew up in that era, you might recall that your parents hadn't gotten the memo.

Hey, '60s kids! How many of these things were taboo in your house during the groovy era?

1. Eating Dinner In front Of The TV

A family eating dinner. Source: (bariatriceating.com)

Eating dinner at the table was a MUST in my family! When I was a kid, my dad’s job required him to work several different shifts. Depending on the shift of any given week, we ate at some strange times, but you can be sure that we all ate together. That was the time when the family caught up and let everyone know what was going on. Oh, yes, we had TV trays, but they were for parties only! It was unheard of to sit in front of the TV and eat a regular meal without it being a special occasion. Even if we were sick, we sat at the kitchen or dining room table for meals. Even worse than eating in front of the TV was sitting too close to it. Now that might ruin your eyes! These days, I still think it is important to eat as a family when possible, but I feel like our time together is just as meaningful whether we are in the dining room or the family room sitting too close to the TV. Sometimes we even eat a cookie before dinner!

2. Calling Adults By Their First Name

Dennis Mitchell had plenty of ways to get Mr. Wilson's goat -- but addressing him as 'George' was a bridge too far. Source: dennistvshow.com

Adults were to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs. When I was growing up, the right way to address an adult was with their title and last name. First names were reserved for use by a person’s family or peers. The only exception to that rule was to call an adult Sir or Madam. The first time one of my kids' friends called me by my first name, it sounded funny to me. As time went on, though, I realized that there was nothing wrong with it. After all, that is my name!

3. Girls Wearing Pants To School Or Another Public Place

A group of school children. Source: (adelaiderememberwhen.com.au)

Wearing pants to school was not an option for girls in the groovy era. It was the late '60s – early '70s before girls were allowed to wear pants, or slacks, as my mother called them, to my elementary school. That’s right: girls were forced to wear dresses to school. It was in the dress code. In elementary school, I remember having to sit on the floor during story time or reading group in my dress, trying to make sure my flowered Carter underwear didn’t show. The boys always made a point of letting the girls know if it did! Physical education and recess were other humbling times for a girl in elementary school while wearing a dress. Girls just didn’t have the luxury to climb to the top of the monkey bars or hang upside down.

4. Eating Raw Eggs

Mom and daughter baking. Source: (southernliving.com)

How many of your friends died from eating raw eggs in the '60s? Eating raw eggs was a huge no-no in my house. It was sheer torture being involved with, or even just watching, baked goods being prepared for the oven. Very few cookies or cakes are made without cracking a few eggs and that batter is just so delicious… no need to bake it, right? Often, we would have a moment of silence as we watched the batter bowl, mixer beaters and scraper go right into the sink filled with hot soapy water. What my mother didn’t know (or so we thought) was that it never actually made it to the sink before us sneaking a tasty finger full, and we lived to tell about it!

The reasoning behind it was that, way back when, eggs weren’t always pasteurized, which is the process that kills bacteria. It just wasn’t worth the risk of getting salmonella poisoning. Families often pulled eggs right out of the hen house and carried them to the frying pan. For years, it was even considered risky to crack an egg right into a bowl full of other ingredients. I was an adult before I felt safe not inspecting my eggs in a separate bowl before adding them to a batter. Look at us now… a lot of people either make or buy pre-made cookie dough that gets devoured without ever seeing an oven. Raw eggs are now considered healthy and enjoyed by health fanatics.

5. Talking About 'The Birds And The Bees' Or Worse Yet -- Kissing In Public

Couple kissing in public. Source: (theguardian.com)

Talking about sex -- "the birds and the bees" -- was taboo for children brought up in proper homes and so was PDA (public display of affection). Properly raised young men and women didn’t openly talk about the birds and bees; especially in mixed company, much less act it out. It was considered to be in poor taste to even mention such things. Most of the time, parents, if asked a direct question on the subject, would give only enough information (and not necessarily accurate) to satisfy their child and change the subject. Schools weren’t allowed to teach sex education until the mid- to late 1970s, and even then, it mainly focused on the reproductive organs and personal hygiene... nothing very useful. Still, parents had to sign a detailed permission slip for their child to participate. Unless parents were grooving in the counterculture demographic, chances are that their little darling took part in an alternate activity. One thing that completely died was the taboo of PDA. These days, our kids are teaching us things we didn’t know!

6. Openly Taking Birth Control Pills

The pill. Source: (prospect.com)

Birth control pills were for "fast" girls! Forget about sex education class -- they probably skipped that boring and uninformative lecture and were already doing it! Condoms, in many forms, had been around for centuries by the '60s, but the pill wasn't approved for use in the United States until 1960. Typically, the pill was developed for young ladies with menstrual issues, but it soon caught on as a great way to prevent pregnancy. Of course, that didn’t mean that a girl could go to her parents and ask to be put on the pill. Oh, dear God, No… It had to be done in secret either by asking a trusted family friend to take you to a clinic or lying about your name and age. Nowadays, a lot of parents are more than willing to help in this respect to avoid untimely surprises.

Years ago, if a girl found herself pregnant without being married, chances are that she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. There was a huge stigma attached to the concept of unwed mothers and the situation was usually unplanned. These days, women actually purchase sperm and purposely get pregnant just because they want to and nobody says, “BOO!”

7. Swearing, Spitting And Going Out In Raggedy Clothes

1960s girls' fashion. Source: (welovedates.com)

Everything we did as kids was considered to be a reflection on our parents, or so we were told. Swearing, spitting in public, going out without your shirt tucked in are all things that had the neighbors looking down their noses at the neighbor’s kids. Remember Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver? He was the model friend when Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver were watching. Thanks to him, now all those groovy era parents know how kids really acted when no one was looking. These days, adults don’t give a second look or listen to those behaviors and appearances once considered so important. June Cleaver would certainly have been horrified by pajama-clad shoppers at Walmart.

These are just a few of the things I remember from my childhood. I’m sure there are many more. I am also quite certain that in 50 years, our grandchildren will have a list of their own from this era.

Tags: 50s Kids | 60s Kids | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Remember This?... | The 1950s | The 1960s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.