Life in the 1960s

This is a list of items describing life in the 1960s, mainly in the Los Angeles, California, USA, area.

Price Comparisons 1960 1969
gasoline (average price per gallon) 31¢ 35¢
Dow Jones Industrial Average 679 800
minimum wage (per hour) $1.00 $1.60
postage (first class letter)
Gross Domestic Product ($ billions) 527 1004
Consumer Price Index (1977 = 100) 50.9 62.3
Inflation (1960 = 1.00) 1.00 1.24
  1. The decade was one of economic growth: US GNP nearly doubled from 1960 to 1970.  Inflation was low, at least until the end of the decade. Gasoline prices were between 20 and 36 cents a gallon.  (See the chart, above.)
  2. Telephones were mostly black, and had dials. A.T.&T. introduced and promoted Touch-Tone telephones at the 1964 world’s fair, but they did not come into common use until the 1970s. The phone company owned all the telephones; you had to pay extra to have an "extension" phone, and extra for a color telephone.
  3. Until 1964, City Hall was the tallest building in Los Angeles, having 32 floors. Most downtown banks were located on Spring Street, as was the Los Angeles office of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange.  The major department stores were located on Broadway.
  4. There was no Amtrak; the railroad companies operated their own passenger trains. Some of the famous named trains terminating in Los Angeles were:
  5. The railroads had problems adjusting to changing conditions, with the reduction of mail and express service on trains, competition from trucks and private automobiles as the Interstate highway system was built, and competition from the airlines with the introduction of jet service in 1958 (which led to most business travel going by air), along with deteriorating track, government regulation which required approval for every rate increase and passenger train discontinuance, and a highly unionized industry with inflexible unions.  This led to the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads in 1968, which went bankrupt in 1970, the largest corporate bankruptcy up to that time. Talk of the pending merger of PRR and NYC may have lead to other railroad mergers that took place during the 1960s, including the C&O and B&O (1963), the Southern absorbed the Central of Georgia (1963), the Norfolk & Western absorbed the Wabash and the Nickel Plate (1964), and the merger of the Atlantic Coast Line into the Seaboard Air Line to form the Seaboard Coast Line (1967).  These latter mergers were all successful, as was the 1970 merger of the Great Northern, Northern Pacific, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.
  6. The last streetcars ran in Los Angeles in 1963.  The last of the "Big Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric ran in 1961.
  7. ZIP codes were introduced in 1963. From 1943-63, large cities had been divided into numerical zones. Before World War II, most mail was carried on Railway Post Offices, which were special cars designed for carrying and sorting mail, and often delivering and picking up mail on the fly.  By 1960 passenger train travel was declining, and as there were fewer passenger trains to carry the mail, the post office took more and more mail off the trains.  An act of Congress in 1958 allowed the railroads to discontinue money-losing passenger trains. As fewer trains were available, the mail continued to be taken off trains, causing a further loss in revenue for passenger trains, creating a downward spiral.
  8. The postage for a first class letter was 4¢ per ounce since 1958, 5¢ from 1963 to 1968, and 6¢ from 1968 to 1971.  Air mail cost more (until 1977), and unsealed greeting cards could be sent at the (lower) post card rate.
  9. There were many airlines that no longer exist, including Eastern, Western, Braniff, Bonanza (until 1968), Hughes Air West (from 1968), TWA, National, and Pan American. Because the FAA regulated air traffic, and set interstate air fares, several in-state airlines charged lower fares, and drew sizable market share, including PSA (founded 1949) and Air California (founded 1967). These two airlines were began charging lower fares than the interstate airlines could legally charge, and virtually drove them out of the internal California market. Incidentally, Air California hired married stewardesses, when the rule at the time was for stewardesses to be unmarried.
  10. Jet travel was becoming the rule, the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 being the main "workhorse" airplanes. The Boeing 727 (1963), Douglas DC-9 (1965), and Boeing 737 (1968) were introduced during the ’sixties.  The first jet aircraft, special Boeing 707s to be used as "Air Force One", were delivered in 1962. (They were used until replaced by 747s, in 1990.)
  11. Smoking was permitted indoors, and even in airplanes; there were not even separate smoking sections. Trains, though, had some cars designated NO SMOKING, and buses usually only allowed smoking in the last few rows.
  12. The "Surgeon General’s Report" about the dangers of smoking to health was issued a report in 1964, leading to the warnings printed on all cigarette packages beginning in 1966.
  13. Television was mostly black and white in 1960; by 1970, color was becoming the rule.  In the 1960s, the FCC began requiring new TV sets to have built-in ability to receive the UHF channels (14-83).  In 1962, KMEX, channel 34, the first Spanish-language station began broadcasting. KCET, channel 28, began broadcasting in 1964. "Sesame Street" began in 1969, on what became PBS.  PBS was formed the same year, and merged NET (National Educational Television) the next year.
  14. Cigarettes were advertised on television and radio until January 2, 1972.
  15. Polio was still a significant concern, so that most people got polio vaccinations, either the Salk vaccine, or preferably the Sabin oral vaccine, which was introduced in 1961. People were routinely vaccinated for smallpox.
  16. Roller skating was popular, both in rinks and on sidewalks.  Steel skates that could be attached to your own shoes were popular.
  17. The Vincent Thomas Bridge opened in 1963, connecting San Pedro with Terminal Island, replacing the Terminal Island Ferry.  (The San Pedro ferry building is now the Cabrillo Marine Museum; the Terminal Island ferry building was torn down.)
  18. There were more gas stations and more brands:  Chevron Dealers and Standard Stations; Texaco; Union 76; Hancock; Mobil; Wilshire (which became Gulf); Shell; Richfield; Phillips 66; and Enco (which became Exxon).
  19. Radio was mostly AM.  Some of the most important radio stations in L. A. during the decade were:
  20. Most office reprographics was done using mimeograph machines (such as Gestetner or A. B. Dick). For a small number of copies, carbon paper was still in wide use. For making copies of pages in books, there were copiers that used heat-sensitive paper, but cost about 25¢ a copy, which was a high price for large numbers of copies. Dry photocopiers (using "xerography": Xerox) came into use during the decade, and greatly reduced the cost of copying (after the initial investment in the equipment).
  21. There were no handheld electronic calculators until 1971. There were desktop adding machines used in offices, and slide rules, used by scientists, engineers, and students.
  22. Computers were large mainframe systems, like the IBM System/360.  Companies that could not afford to own or lease their own computer could subscribe to time share services.  There was no internet, but its beginnings were realized when the first connection of ARPAnet was made between Stanford and UCLA in 1969. 
  23. Most home music systems consisted of an amplifier & radio (with tubes!) and a phonograph.  Small portable transistor radios were common, with a single earphone.
  24. Music was sold on LPs and 45s. Most record players had four speeds: 78, 45, 33 1/3, and 16 2/3. There were snap-in inserts for playing 45s on players lacking a large spindle. Tape recorders were reel-to-reel and bulky in 1960.  In 1962 Earl "Madman" Muntz introduced 4-track tape cartridges, but they never really caught on. In 1964 Bill Lear (of Lear Jet fame) introduced 8-track cartridges.  Compact cassettes were introduced in 1964 in Germany, and in 1966 in the US, but did not become dominant until the 1980s.
  25. The Los Angeles Dodgers played in the Coliseum until 1962, when Dodger Stadium was built, in Chavez Ravine.  Vin Scully was their principal announcer, having started with the team in Brooklyn.  Famous players on the roster included Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Jim Gilliam, Willie Davis, and Tommy Davis. Walter Alston was the manager.
  26. The Los Angeles Angels (American League) team was organized in 1961.  They played their first season in Wrigley Field (where the old PCL Angels had played), and then moved in 1962 to  Dodger Stadium (which the Angels referred to as "Chavez Ravine").  Their attendance was about half of the Dodgers’ attendance, so they moved to Anaheim in 1966, and renamed themselves the California Angels.
  27. Professional football was dominated by the National Football League (NFL). But in 1960 a new (fourth) American Football League (AFL) was founded, and began to compete with the NFL for free agents and TV coverage. The two leagues agreed to merge in 1966, effective for the 1970 season.
  28. The Los Angeles Rams played in the Coliseum.
  29. The first Super Bowl was held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in January, 1967.  The Pro Bowl was held every year (1951-72) in the Coliseum.
  30. Monday night football didn’t begin until 1970.
  31. The Los Angeles Lakers played in the Sports Arena (1959-69) and then moved to the "Fabulous" Forum in Inglewood.
  32. In 1960, most professional men wore suits and ties to work, and white shirts. By the end of the decade, colored shirts were becoming popular.
  33. King Harbor in Redondo Beach was built between 1956 and 1963, and Marina del Rey was completed in 1965.
  34. Presidents of the US were Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.
  35. Other world leaders included Khrushchev and Brezhnev in the Soviet Union; Macmillan and Wilson in the UK; De Gaulle in France, Castro in Cuba, and Mao in Communist China.  Others included:  Diefenbaker, Pearson, and Trudeau, PMs in Canada; Chiang Kai-Shek in Nationalist China (Taiwan); Nehru in India; Ben Gurion and Eshkol in Israel; Nasser in Egypt; Tito in Yugoslavia; and Adenauer in West Germany.
  36. Popes were John XIII (1958-63), who began the Second Vatican Council,  and Paul VI (1963-78), who concluded the Second Vatican Council and implemented its decisions, issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, reaffirming the church’s condemnation of artificial contraception.  He became the most traveled pope (up to that time), but he displeased conservatives (because of their objection to the "new" mass) and liberals (because of Humanae Vitae).
  37. Around 1960, many people still felt that Made in Japan was synonymous with cheap; by 1970, Japanese products were, in many cases, perceived as superior and more reliable than American products.  Japanese cars (Toyotas and Datsuns) first began appearing in large numbers.  By 1970, Honda was the largest maker of motorcycles.
  38. Signs for routes of the Interstate Highway system first began appearing in California in 1960; the system was scheduled for completion in 1972.  The Los Angeles freeway network was built largely in the ’sixties. At the start of the decade, the Harbor, Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Ana, and San Bernardino Freeways had been built. By decade’s end the 605, 91, 405, 170, and 60 (and others) had been added.
  39. There were many US numbered highways in Los Angeles: 6, 60, 66, 70, 91, 99, and 101.  Pacific Coast Highway was numbered Alternate US 101 (now California 1). Many other highway numbers were changed in 1964. Artesia Boulevard used to be California state route 14.
  40. Some streets have changed names since 1960.  Artesia Boulevard was known as Gould Avenue in Hermosa Beach, Gould Lane in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach Boulevard in Redondo Beach, and 174th Street in Torrance.  La Cienega Boulevard was known as Freeman Boulevard in Inglewood, and Anza Avenue in Los Angeles city and county.  Anza Avenue in Torrance did not connect with either 190th Street or Pacific Coast Highway.
  41. The civil rights movement continued throughout the decade, although the main movement ended around 1968.
  42. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
  43. There were religious changes in the 1960s. Many "mainline" protestant churches continued to lose membership throughout the decade, including the Episcopal Church, The United Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, The American Baptist Churches, and the United Church of Christ.
  44. The "space race" existed throughout the decade. President Kennedy announced in 1961 that the US should set a goal to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The lunar module of Apollo 11, named Eagle, soft-landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
  45. In 1960, there were two evening newspapers in Los Angeles: the Mirror-News, and the Herald-Express. In 1962, the Mirror, which was published by Times-Mirror, went out of business. Also in 1962, the Herald-Express merged with the Los Angeles Examiner to become the (evening) Herald-Examiner; the Examiner, Herald-Express, and Herald-Examiner were all part of the Hearst syndicate. There was a strike at the Herald-Examiner which began in 1968, and the paper never really recovered; the paper had been the "working-class" paper, and many of its writers and subscribers refused to support it during the strike, and it never got them back. The Herald-Examiner ceased publication in 1989.
  46. Milk delivery was common early in the decade.
  47. Many social movements had their beginnings in the ’sixties. Many of the social movements of the decade did not become "mainstream" until the 1970s.
  48. Seat belts were not required on automobiles in the U.S. until 1968.
  49. In 1967, several California banks (United California Bank, Wells Fargo, Crocker National Bank , and Bank of California) issued Master Charge credit cards, to compete with Bank of America’s BankAmericard.
  50. There were more grocery chains: in addition to Ralph’s and Von’s there were Market Basket, Shopping Bag, Thriftimart, Mayfair, Food Giant, and many more independents.
  51. Some companies that existed at the time were: Douglas (merged into McDonnell Douglas in 1967), Hughes, TRW, Convair (part of General Dynamics), AeroJet, Northrop, Lockheed, Martin-Marietta (formed 1961), Garrett AiResearch, Honeywell, Boeing, The Aerospace Corporation (formed 1960 out of TRW), and North American Aviation (merged into North American Rockwell, 1967).
  52. Automobile assembly was an important industry in the Los Angeles area, with these plants: Chrysler (City of Commerce), Ford (Pico Rivera), GM (South Gate: Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac), and GM (Van Nuys: Chevrolet).  In fact, Los Angeles produced more automobiles than any city except Detroit.
  53. There were also tire manufacturing plants in the Los Angeles area:  Firestone in South Gate, Goodyear in south central Los Angeles, and U. S. Royal (became Uniroyal in 1967) in the City of Commerce.
  54. There were more department stores, including Robinson’s (merged by May Company in 1993 to form Robinson’s-May; in 2003 most stores became Macy’s), I. Magnin, Joseph Magnin, Bullock’s, Ohrbach’s, The May Company, and The Broadway.  Both J. C. Penney and Sears had retail stores that have since closed.
  55. The trend of unincorporated suburban areas in Los Angeles County incorporating as cities continued from the previous decade:  Commerce, La Mirada, Temple City, San Dimas, and Cudahy (1960); Bell Gardens and Hidden Hills (1961); Palmdale (1962); Hawaiian Gardens and Lomita (1964); and Carson (1968).
  56. There were dime stores, including F. W. Woolworth’s and J. J. Newberry’s.
  57. The movies were made according to the Hays code until 1967. In 1968 the code was replaced with the system of ratings, which were then G-M-R-X.
  58. Religious movies continued to be popular, until about mid-decade, including Elmer Gantry (1960), Barabbas (1962), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
  59. Notable songs in popular music for the 1960s.
  60. Notable movies of the 1960s included: 
  61. Notable Broadway musicals of the 1960s included (by season):
  62. Notable TV shows of the 1960s included: Bonanza (1959-71), Dobie Gillis (1959-63), The Andy Griffith Show (1960-8), Mr. Ed (1961-5), The Flintstones (1960-6), The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66), The Monkees (1966-68), Get Smart! (1965-70), The Defenders (1961-4), The Fugitive (1963-7), Mission: Impossible (1966-73), The Andy Williams Show (1962-71), Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-73), Secret Agent, The Prisoner (1969), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), Beany and Cecil (1962-7), Petticoat Junction (1963-7), The Patty Duke Show (1963-66), Green Acres (1965-71), Jeopardy! (1964-75), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-8), Bewitched (1964-72), The Addams Family (1964-6), The Munsters (1964-6), Underdog (1964-73), F Troop (1964-7), Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., Hogan’s Heroes (1965-71), Star Trek (1966-9), The Wacky Races (1968-70), The Brady Bunch (1969-74), Let’s Make a Deal (1963-7).  For more on 1960s TV shows, visit this Wikipedia page.

This list was intended to be similar to the "Mindset List", published each year by Beloit College. For more information about social, political and cultural trends in the decade, see the Wikipedia article on the 1960s. For suggestions, additions, and corrections to this list, please email me: tf_mcq {at} yahoo {dot} com.


See also: