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Life in America in 1962

Updated on July 10, 2011

Magazines for a time past reveal many things about how society was. Take Life Magazine. It was THE magazine to subscribe to in America then until it stopped in the 80s. It arrived weekly and for only $5.00 a year! The Beatles were on its cover in 1964, 1965, 1968, 1980. Not many rock bands did that then. Inside the magazine, it remains a time machine that one now travels to.

In 1962, TWA airlines flew to 70 US cities and 15 International destinations and America was glued to the US-Soviet stand-off in the Cuban missile crisis. and when President Kennedy went on TV to gain the support of the people, 50 million watched. Vietnam was already a slithery mess that Kennedy was reluctant about. He resisted sending US troops there then. Most American car makers were selling their cars with ads telling the buyer that their five year or 50,000 mile warranty was never heard of before. General Electric introduced a revolutionary coffee maker that showed how much water should be used for X amount of cups! Also, its new electric sweeper for floors and light cleaning. Two new TV shows seem to dominate: The Lucy Show (of I Love Lucy fame) and The Nurses, a serial about the life of nurse's in the big city.

Being a time long before computers, the cheapest portable typewriter from Royal cost only $50. The top selling books like, Ship of Fools, cost only $6.50 hardbound. Your ballpoint open cost $2. The new Japanese transistor radios sold for $13, they fit in the palm of your hand! Today, the dishwasher is an expect appliance to own, but then, it was optional. Full page ads try to convince the woman of the house why it was important: " Don't be a dishwasher.... buy one". Save 500 hours a year with one and think of what else you can more, shop more, play more. It was not a hard sell-America totally bought into dishwashers!

Flying to the Caribbean from NY round trip cost only $320. The Bell Telephone system even had full page ads trying to convince you to "make that long distance call" because it is so easy to touch your loved ones. Connections were not always that great. Tampax introduced a new feminine pad that is worn internally-no more bulkiness, odor and irritation. It is for the active woman. On the stereo music scene, Magnavox introduced radio and record player that produced over 100 watts of music power without a single tube. To understand this, most record players then had to have 65 tubes to produce 100 watts of music power and it consumed 600 watts of power to do it. The new transistor stereo, did the same thing on only 60 watts of power and no tubes. This enabled whole systems to become much smaller. It was only the beginning in 1962.

Another marvel then was the Polaroid camera. You took a photo and within minutes the picture was developed inside the camera. Much like digital cameras now. They were so cool. The downside was they were expensive and the film only provided maybe 10 photos, half the amount of a Kodak roll. Studebaker cars were making their last attempt to survive by introducing the sporty, Avanti. Today, it is a collector car. Then, the styling was revolutionary but even the Avanti could not save Studebaker.

In 1962 and most of the sixties, color TVs were a novelty. They were big, at least $500, and only a few shows and networks had color TV programs to broadcast, so there was no reason to buy one. But, in 62, they did have them and those who bought them needed color TV antennas (there was no cable then). They cost about $25.

Timex introduced a new type of watch-the electric watch that used a tiny 3\8" round battery cell that cost $1 to replace, once a year. Another revolutionary development.

The Renault R-8 car was a French car imported,like the VW. But with Renault, it had something no other US car had then as standard equipment: 4 wheel disc brakes. Yes, racing cars and luxury cars had them but cost $13,000. The R-8 cost a mere $1900 new. About the same as a Chevy rear engine air-cooled Corvair. Chevy also introduced its racy Corvair Spyder that was turbocharged with 150 HP.

That was your visit into 1962.


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    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      7 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Since I was born in 1960, I can't remember 1962. However, I've noticed lots of things have gotten cheaper since then. You can buy a computer for $500 now, and watch streaming episodes on it. Considering wages are a lot higher now, that makes computers cheaper than TVs were back then - and personal computers didn't even exist in 1962!

      It's true that compared to then, the social scene, like dances, sucks now. But maybe we can re-learn how to socialize with each other. The world really is improving, through new discoveries and inventions, and knowledge!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Marellen,

      Thanks for the birthday wishes and mine to you.

      We did have some fun!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just to say sorry about some of my really bad grammar in my previous post on this topic - should have waited until the two grandsons had gone home. Little devils just love helping me type my stuff!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I had the same Swinger and still have some of those black and white pics...

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      I had a Swinger polaroid camera. It was the B\W version only and much cheaper. It took small photos. This was in 68 or so.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      @jansplace....Happy Birthday I will turn 60 soon and loved living in those era too.

      Fun article and filled me with memories of my past too. Now on to another year??? This would be fun...Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the walk down memory lane (UK resident).

      I use to live near the Chicksands American air base in Bedfordshire. During the Vietnam conflict some of the American people on the base made friends with some of us locals and I can remember some of the guys being sent to nam. It made us all cringe just thinking of those brave soliders were being sent to that hell hole. I hope they all come back safe to their families. It was so long ago and there were many happy times to be had in those days. That war just pushed a dark cloud over everything.

      The Beatles - wow what a musical revolution! They changed everything about modern music or pop as it became renamed.

      The 60's and 70's was a fun time and and not too much was expected of anyone. Designer labels were for the more wealthy and we just accepted what we could afford. How things have changed. Wonder sometimes if all is for the best!

      I turned 60 on Friday and I cannot believe where all those years have gone. There was no era like the 60's and 70's and I'm pleased I was young in that time.

      Loved everything about your article - fantastic!

    • mkrandhawa profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Thanks for sharing.


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