Risk in the 1960s

I’ve just started watching the AMC show Mad Men on DVD. (Yes, I know, I am three seasons behind.)  And while I was aware that the show was set in 1960 in New York ad agency world, I had no idea there was so much risk going on back then. So much smoking, hard drinking and drunk driving.

Everyone smokes. All the time. Even the gynecologist was smoking in the examination room. In the first episode, our ad man is trying to come up with a campaign for, well, you guessed it, cigarettes.

To complement the smoking, there is lots and lots of drinking. Whiskey. Rye. Martinis. (I do not think I’ve seen a beer yet.) What’s more there is lots of drinking and driving. Someone told me in one upcoming show, the protagonist pours himself a big glass of scotch and gets in the car to drink it. Since those 1960 Buicks didn’t have any cup holders, when he’s done, he throws that empty glass out the window. Love it.

In another episode, a sober woman is driving through the tree-lined suburban neighborhood at low-speed and crashes into a bird bath on someone’s lawn. The kids are jumping over the front bench into the back seat moments before and unrestrained at the time of the accident.

All this got me thinking about personal risk in that period. Are we safer today because smoking at work is limited to 15 ft from the building? Have we learned the lessons about drinking and driving? Are seat belts saving lives?

When I think about what’s going on with Toyota today, I think I would much rather being driving a Prius today than be on the road in 1960 with Don Draper cruising next to me with one had on the wheel and another on a glass of Old Overholt.

If you have some stats about then and now, please share them in the comments box below.

5 thoughts on “Risk in the 1960s

  1. Which makes me wonder…is Big Tobacco funding this show? I mean, obviously, they can’t run tobacco ads these days, but in a TV series depicting the 60s as they were, they can, can’t they?

    Anyway, your posts reminded me of my childhood in Germany in the early 70s, watching a detective show on TV called “Der Kommissar”, and watching some of the episodes on YouTube recently, I a making the same observation: The protagonists are constantly smoking and drinking; there’s hardly a scene without someone pouring a drinking or lighting a cigarette.

    I think we have learned the lessons, although sometimes I think the Environment-Health-and-Safety rules are becoming overprotective, especially in the workplace, for of fear people not being able to think for themselves? Maybe because they have grown up in a now supposedly risk-free world…just saying.

  2. Which makes me wonder…is Big Tobacco funding this show? I mean, obviously, they can’t run tobacco ads these days, but in a TV series depicting the 60s as they were, they can, can’t they?

    Anyway, your posts reminded me of my childhood in Germany in the early 70s, watching a detective show on TV called “Der Kommissar”, and watching some of the episodes on YouTube recently, I a making the same observation: The protagonists are constantly smoking and drinking; there’s hardly a scene without someone pouring a drinking or lighting a cigarette.

    I think we have learned the lessons, although sometimes I think the Environment-Health-and-Safety rules are becoming overprotective, especially in the workplace, for of fear people not being able to think for themselves? Maybe because they have grown up in a now supposedly risk-free world…just saying.

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