The Sixties -- ah, the Sixties. A time of free love, flower power, and all things hippie and mellow. Grass was cheap, and everyone went from being Fifties uptight to righteously cooooolllll....Right? Everything was sooo wonderful...

Let's start the list:

  • Air pollution, especially in the Northeastern Corridor of the US. While Manhattan has never been the garden spot of the universe, as far as air quality is concerned, there were several major temperature inversions, most notably in 1969. (The weather was crappy, too -- temperatures in the winter stayed below zero FÂș for weeks at a time.) Water pollution was even worse: the Hudson River was slowly turning into a sewer.
  • Crime and urban blight. In the US, the crime rate was three times the rate it is now. Urban centers were emptying as the middle class fled to the suburbs and shopping centers displaced the great old department stores. There was a reason why hippies were able to occupy so many city apartments at rates an unemployed college dropout could afford -- no one else wanted to live there!
  • Bigotry.Anyone who likes Star Trek will notice that TOS contains much more ethnic humor than would be allowed nowadays. This was only the tip of the iceberg -- Native Americans were routinely called "Hiawatha" and squaw in the press, Latinos were like Negroes, but worse, and so on. It was axiomatic that conditions in what were still called slums were caused by the inhabitants, not by poor maintenance. Women in the media were at their most objectified, being divided into Barbie-like girls and shrewish mothers-in-law or housewives (Phyllis Diller). (Yes, I know about Laura Petrie. But she and a few others were exceptions.)
  • Sex, Censorship, and Birth Control.Yes, The Pill was invented in 1959, and marketed heavily. But birth control of any kind was still illegal in many states. "Shocking" books (which contained descriptions -- not pictures -- of explicit sex) had to be decriminalized one by one by court order. Trials would go on for weeks deciding whether anyone would be able to read Naked Lunch or Eros Magazine. Free love generally meant that the woman was free to say "yes" -- anytime the man wanted it. Saying "no" meant a) you were still repressed or b) you were a man-hater. (Of course, the man could still change his mind back to the old double standard any time he wanted.) Birth control not working? Maybe your parents can send you somewhere...otherwise, I know a trick with some gin and a coathanger...
  • Food.Food prices were much more expensive, in relative terms, than now. "The grocery bill" was an obsession even into the middle class, and the poor did indeed go hungry. Part of this was the American diet, which was much more meat-oriented than now, part was the fact that there was a great deal less food. Fruits and vegetables were a laugh, in modern terms -- the average grocery carried about eight varieties of fruit, and a dozen vegetables.
That's all I can think of, let's get the ball rolling.

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