In the scheme of things, fifty years ago doesn’t seem all that long ago, but you’d be surprised how much has changed since the 1960’s. While fifty years ago proved to be a time of important milestones, like putting the first man on the moon and fighting for civil rights, there are a handful of things our parents and grandparents were really wrong about. Whether it was in the medical field, social sciences, or just plain everyday health, people living in the 60’s believed some seriously wild theories to be true.
Many of the things people believed to be true in the last fifty years were actually based on experiments and studies. However, a lack of true understanding of many things due to societal influences and traditional thought got in the way of many truths. This lack of understanding trickled down into schools, hospitals, and news outlets, making many falsities believed to be factual back in the day.
To this day, there are still some remnants of these old theories and schools of thought that still hinder us to move forward today. And then there are those that we can’t believe anyone actually thought was true for one minute. Here are fifteen of some of the craziest things people believed just fifty years ago. Just think, what things do we hold true today that will become laughable to our future generations? Because we all know the internet is just a fad…right?
15. Pregnant Women Should Never Cut Their Hair
Since the Victorian age (and even longer), many believed that women were inferior to men and therefore not as mentally stable. Even as we approached the 60’s, a time of cultural revolution, many doctors and medical practitioners believed that women were strongly controlled by their hormones. That’s why many viewed pregnant women as emotionally charged, hormonal hot messes.
These hormonal surges supposedly cause women to make crazy, rash decisions, including bad hairdos. Women have been advised over the years to not cut their hair when pregnant because of the intense regret that will probably follow—because of course, an iffy haircut is what most pregnant women are worried about, anyway. This belief even made it into many cultural traditions and has even deemed haircutting a superstitious act. It is worth noting, that women’s hair during pregnancy is oftentimes shiny and super-healthy due to all the hormones surging through them. So if anything, what better a time to have some fun with it?
14. Lasers, Baby
We all laughed at Dr. Evil when he introduced “freakin’ laser beams” into his plot to destroy Austin Powers. However, it’s actually no surprise that someone in the 50’s would be privy to the use of lasers and be easily impressed by their supposed capabilities. Laser technology was just beginning to be developed, and many enthusiasts were excited about what the new development would mean for the future. For writers, this was especially exciting.
The “laser erasure” was believed to be able to actually erase mistakes you’d make while using a typewriter. We’re spoiled these days with our digital internet boxes, giving us the ability to create and erase pretty much whatever we want. These laser erasures, however, would shoot out of laser guns, and could delete one letter at a time if lined up correctly. It would only take about twenty minutes. Who knew that today we’d be using lasers to help us see more clearly and to erase that tacky tramp stamp tattoo we got back in college?
13. Sharks Cure Cancer
Sometimes, even with evidence, people still believe scientific theories to be true, so is the case of the magical cancer-erasing effects of shark cartilage. Since the 1950’s, sharks were believed by many to have cancer-fighting powers. Dr. John Pruddon, a surgeon in the 50’s, conducted countless studies examining the healing effects of shark cartilage on cancer patients. This belief even traveled into the early nineties, leading many to believe that sharks are one of the few animals to never get cancer.
While many believed that sharks could be a medical marvel, it has been proven that sharks actually do get cancer. In fact, there are 42 recorded cases of sharks that appeared to have growing tumors. Oopsies!
12. Mary Jane Kills
Over the last fifty years (and even earlier), countless myths about Marijuana have led people to believe that the plant is in fact a mean, green killing machine. It started back in the 30’s with movies like Reefer Madness portraying the natural drug as a deadly narcotic. Many ill-informed people even believed smoking pot would turn them into crazy people, even causing them to hallucinate and commit unspeakable crimes.
These days, most of us have become way more lax about marijuana and know it is less likely to kill you than just about any other recreational drug. We also learned over the years that cigarettes, the seemingly harmless drug, kills many as opposed to pot. Pot has also proven to help many physical and mental ailments and continues to help many sick people. It also goes great with…well…just about anything.
11. The Communism Domino Effect
Back in the 50’s and 60’s, Americans were utterly terrified of communism and were completely threatened by its devastating effects. We watched as countries like Russia were ruled by communism and were convinced that it would spread to the U.S. The Domino Theory was the idea that communism would start in one community and quickly spread from one country to the next, eventually taking over the world.
The United States’ highly controversial involvement in the Vietnam War was largely due to the Communism Domino Theory. The U.S. came to Southern Vietnam’s aid when they fought against the communist government of North Vietnam, a war that lasted over a decade and that killed many Americans. This fear of communism ran rampant in the states, resulting in the containment of many Americans who were believed to be involved in the communist regime (oftentimes irrationally). Today, we learned that communism was not in fact “contagious” and is seen as a fairly dark time in American history.
10. Excessive “Pleasing” Is A Medical Condition
Humans are s*xual beings. During the middle ages, the 60’s, and today, humans act on s*xual urges whether it be with a partner or with a party of one. However, only in recent years have we viewed mast*rbation as a natural and healthy practice. In ancient studies and well into the Victorian era, mast*rbation was seen as taboo, and something we really shouldn’t speak of. However, thanks to studies by scientists like Alfred Kinsey, s*xuality was explored and mast*rbation was put on the forefront.
While mast*rbation was starting to be looked at differently in more liberal studies in the 60’s, it was still frowned upon by some. In many medical communities, it was still deemed unnatural. If little girls or boys were found mast*rbating too much, they would often be taken into therapy and such to be studied and diagnosed. It wasn’t until 1972 that mast*rbation was seen as a “normal” activity. While we are more open to talking about it today, the subject is still very controversial in many families.
9. Video Games Are a Stupid Investment
Video game inventor, Ralph Baer, started shopping around his idea about putting video games onto a television monitor in the late 1960’s. Baer worked at a TV company at the time, and asked many of his higher-ups if they thought putting video games onto a television would be a good idea. Most of them laughed in his face. Eventually, Baer scrounged up enough money to develop his first successful prototype for Magnavox that they called Odyssey, which ended up getting overshadowed by early Atari developers. In the end, he got his game out to the public and the rest is history.
8. Conversion Therapy Works
While it was widely frowned upon and ultimately rejected fifty years ago, there were still plenty of LGBTQ people struggling to live a life of acceptance and happiness. But as people often do when they are scared of something or have a lack of understanding, they don’t accept it and oftentimes act against it. 50 years ago, Conversion Therapy was a tool used on people believed to have gay tendencies to help shock them into a heteros*xual lifestyle. While the practice was done frequently, it was never considered an official psychological treatment so there aren’t too many recordings of how exactly they were conducted.
In the late 60’s and well into the 70’s, different types of aversion therapies were practiced on gay individuals. These different types of therapy spanned from estrogen treatments in men to suppress s*xual urges, to administering shock treatment to patients while they looked at same-s*x er*tica. The different treatments left many patients with permanent brain damage including memory loss. While Conversion Therapy was still practiced into the 21st century, many have finally realized that it doesn’t work. Since being gay isn’t considered a mental disability these days, there’s no official “treatment” for it. Definitely not one of humanity’s shining moments.
7. Cigarettes Help Pregnant Women With Constipation
For a while now, we’ve known that cigarettes and pregnant women do not mix. But in the 50’s and 60’s, cigarettes were basically an extension of the human arm and those expecting a baby were no exception. Fifty years ago, many women were not only told that it was alright to continue smoking, but were also encouraged to do more of it! For pregnant women who complained of constipation, many doctors advised them to smoke a cigarette at the same time every day to get things working regularly again.
Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy wasn’t the only thing doctors said was good for the baby back in the day. Some believed that drinking red wine while pregnant would guarantee the baby to be a boy. Obviously, we’ve come a loooong way ahead of that absurd thinking!
6. Marital R*pe Doesn’t Exist
Marital r*pe wasn’t even considered a thing until the last fifty years. Although marital r*pe happened decade after decade, dating back to at least the 1700’s, most considered getting r*ped by your spouse to be impossible. For a long time, women refusing to have s*x with their husbands was grounds for a divorce. Many believed that marriage was considered automatic consent, and there was nothing that protected women from being s*xually abused by their husbands.
It wasn’t until nearly the 80’s that marital r*pe was considered a crime. Over the years, different states began to get on-board and consider marital r*pe to be a crime. Today, all fifty states deem the despicable act a crime.
5. Sugar Isn’t Bad For You
There’s not one doctor, personal trainer, or dietitian today that believes sugar does no serious harm to the body (despite our incessant denial). While many of us love it and are addicted to it, we know that sugar is really not great for us. But if we know this, why is there sugar in practically everything? Probably because for years, the sugar industry was paying other industries out to keep the harmful effects of the chemical under wraps.
And it’s true. In the 1960’s, the sugar industry actually funded studies that highlighted the negative side of fat instead of sugar. They also were trying to hide the fact that they were finding evidence to support that sugar was linked to coronary heart disease. Today, the sugar industry is trying to make up for the fact that they created a general distrust when it comes to industry-funded food research. The sugar industry is continuing to better their name and vows to do further research on sugar’s effects and its link to things like heart disease.
4. The Future
If you watch any movie that portrays “the future” from the 60’s, 70’s, and even the 80’s, you’ll see that they had a very clear idea of what today would look like. In most cases, they were pretty far from the truth. Many movies like Back to the Future, show people of the 21st century getting around town with hover boards, jet packs, and flying cars. Today, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 1967, News Anchor Walter Cronkite, aired a special showing all of the technologies that he predicted would be common in the 21st century. While some things he predicted were somewhat on the right track like a 3-D TV and sound system that could be controlled by one control panel, there were other predictions that were off. Cronkite explained that Americans would live a more relaxed life, working just 30 hours a week on average and taking vacations that would last a month. We really wish that were true today.
3. Single Women Can’t Be Trusted With Credit Cards
Sick of getting endless credit card offers in the mail? It wasn’t always quite like that. Back in the 60’s, banks were actually allowed to refuse giving single women credit cards because they thought they simply couldn’t be trusted with them. And if the woman was married, she’d only receive the card if her husband co-signed on it with her. Eventually, banks were no longer allowed to say ‘no’ to anyone trying to get a credit card whether they were a man or a woman.
What else couldn’t women do in the 60’s, you ask? They couldn’t serve on juries or get birth control in some states. While the decade was a revolutionary time in many ways, they still had a lot of beliefs about women that were far from accurate.
2. Lobotomies Work
With each decade, we learn more and more about the mysterious human brain, although there’s still a lot to learn. It’s pretty unbelievable to imagine how little we knew about the brain just fifty years ago. In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s (and even beyond in some cases), lobotomies were performed on many people, causing them to have permanent brain damage. In 1946, Psychiatrist Walter Freeman first attempted a lobotomy using a small metal rod. He would insert the tool into the eye socket of his patient while they were awake. Freeman’s main goal in performing lobotomies was to disconnect the emotional part of the brain, helping people with mental issues like depression, hysteria, and personality issues. As you can imagine, lobotomies weren’t successful and oftentimes left patients mentally damaged and even paralyzed.
Even though lobotomies started to look suspicious and wrong in the seventies after one of Freeman’s patients died from the procedure, some continued to practice them under wraps. Because there was little to no research on the brain and mental health at the time, there wasn’t any information out there to give alternative options to people under mental distress.
1. Rock Music Corrupts Youth
It’s safe to say that the emergence of rock’n roll music has changed the world forever. It brought attention to the younger generation in the 50’s and 60’s and gave them a culture. But because this new culture featured themes of rebellion and thinking outside the box, rock music threatened the older generations. Just over fifty years ago, social establishments like restaurants and swimming clubs actually banned rock music from being played.
Because rock music became popular after WWII, older generations were seeing their kids not having to work and living a more enjoyable life for the first time. The youth became more about having fun and socializing—something they never really got to do. These older people didn’t understand rock music and therefore demonized it. Music was obviously more powerful as it is still such a huge part of popular culture today.