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10 ‘Normal’ Things People Did In The 1950s That Were Actually Quite Bad For Them

by Jess Butler
Jess is a curly-haired Jersey girl who adores penguins and watches the worst reality shows on TV.

Ah, the 1950s.

This decade was known as a simpler, much happier time in history. I won’t lie, when I look back, it does seem like there were many positive pop culture moments, fashion evolutions, and discoveries in music.

Times were much different then, but that doesn’t mean that people didn’t make their fair share of mistakes.

In fact, there are a few things that people did in the 1950s that we probably wouldn’t even think about doing today.

Some of these things were part of the ’50s daily routine. Others were widespread habits amongst the population that seemed completely normal, safe, and healthy.

Little did they know, they were doing horrible things to themselves without realizing it at the time!

So, let us take a step back. Get your Oxfords ready and check out this list of 10 not-so-great things that people did in the ’50s, that may just make you happy to be living in today’s world instead!

Thumbnails sources: Wikimedia Commons 1, 2

1. Use LSD As A Cure

Optical illusion pattern

According to Business Insider, 1950s studies claimed that the hallucinogenic drug LSD “could cure alcoholism, criminal behavior and schizophrenia.” It didn’t take very long for this to fall out of practice, as you can imagine. 

2. Ignore Seat Belts

Seatbelt test dummy

Today, the first thing we do when we enter a vehicle is put on our seat belts. In the 1950s, if cars even had seat belts, people tucked them into the seat so they wouldn’t be in the way. Safety measures were clearly different in those days, with seat belt legislation not really appearing until the ’60s.

3. Stuff Into Telephone Booths

Telephone booths

A strange and well-known habit among college students was telephone booth stuffing. People would squeeze inside, trying to fill the booth with as many participants as possible until nobody else could fit. With no real goal in mind, other than fitting a lot of people in a tiny space, the fad was definitely a painful one, and had the potential for serious injuries!

4. Play With Questionable Toys

Atomic energy lab from 1950s

There were a few toys from the 1950s that we wouldn’t let children play with today. There were guns with surprisingly painful ammo, lead-based contraptions, and even an atomic energy lab, which included small doses of radioactive material.

5. Smoke And Drink During Pregnancy

Pregnant women drinking and smoking

Although it sounds crazy today, excessive smoking and drinking during pregnancy was acceptable, if not encouraged. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for doctors to offer their patients a cigarette during their visits.

6. Try “Controlled” Drag Racing

1950s drag racing

To “create order from chaos,” the frightening sport of drag racing was taken to another level. The National Hot Rod Association decided to set up races and charge people to watch in more organized, official events. The sport remained just as treacherous, only racers began to see monetary value in their danger.

7. Venture Outside In Smog

City filled with smog

An eerie cloud of smog floated over many parts of the U.S. in the 1950s, Los Angeles being the most notable location. According to Marketplace, “smoke and fumes from steel and chemical plants, oil refineries and backyard trash incinerators” created the dirtiest air as people breathed it all in. Just being outside in a city seems to have been bad for you.

8. Get A Lobotomy For Mental Health Issues

Doctors examine x-ray of head

In the ’50s, lobotomies were viewed as a miracle cure for mental health issues. Doctors believed that severing “the brain’s connection to the prefrontal cortex” would cure mental illnesses, mostly because there weren’t any other options. Unfortunately, most patients ended up worse off than they were before the surgery. Good thing medicine has come a long way since then!

9. Worship The Sun Without Protection

Man and woman on beach

In the 1950s, tanning became a form of leisure. The tanner you were, the more privileged and admired you were. The emergence of UV reflectors helped people tan more quickly, but as we know today, with those fast tans came huge health risks. Although many people still worship the sun today, we are much more informed about things like skin cancer and other medical complications due to sun exposure.

10. Forgo Bicycle Helmets

Kids riding bike

Wearing a helmet was kind of taboo in the 1950s. Rarely did you see kids riding around the neighborhood covered in protective gear. Helmets with protective liners were around, but people just didn’t take to them that well.

Please SHARE if you’re glad that these are no longer the norm!