Littering pre-1970: was it really like Mad Men?

Sadly, that is becoming literally true.

Guess you’re not a bicyclist. Traveling along the shoulders of busy roads, you get to see just how much they’re treated like trash cans.

I’m also a (hobbyist) photographer and I frequently pull over to the side of the road to take pictures. It’s staggering how much crap people have thrown over embankments or into the underbrush.

I was reading a Mommy board recently and they were talking about the kids fighting in the car. The number of women who said they take away whatever the kids are fighting over and throw it out the window astounded me. And when called on it, they saw nothing wrong with it - couldn’t see why it was a problem - EVERYONE throws trash out their car window - and it wasn’t like they were throwing Gameboys - it was just the McDonald’s toys or cheap stuffed animals or baseball caps or…

There were more women admitting to and defending the behavior than people saying “wow, that’s screwed up.”

Thinking about it, it seems like the type of littering today is much different. In the 1970s, there was a lot more trash on the roads and shoulders, in parks, on sidewalks, and so on. Today, such locales are much cleaner; not always litter-free, but not as bad as 30+ years ago. However, there’s a lot more street spam, such as plastic corrugated signs advertising “work at home”, “lose weight fast - ask me how”, “finally, affordable health insurance”, “I buy ugly homes” and other such schemes; stickers on light poles and parking meters advertising bands, raves and other events appealing to hipsters; guerrilla advertising; and so on.

Graffiti also seems to have changed since the 1970s. Then, it was seen on and in mass transit vehicles, in bathroom stalls, and carved onto wooden restaurant tables. Today, there’s spray-painting on buildings and public infrastructure, and tagging of utility poles and boxes.

In “defense” of the large amounts of litter still found in certain areas, not all of it is heaved out of windows. Where I live, between rampaging raccoons and the gale-force winds that often blow through my wind-tunnel of a townhouse complex on trash day, it’s hellaciously difficult to secure trash. My garage is too small for those big plastic dumpsters.

I believe that scene was more about the Drapers and how they live their lives than it was about social norms. Dan, in particular, throws semen around just as carelessly as he threw that can.

Roadside litter is rare around here – rare enough so that you’ll notice just one small item, like a beer can. Plus, it’s like throwing that dime bottle deposit out the window.

Do other states have Adopt A Highway programs? Families, churches, community organizations take responsibility for a mile or so of roadside.

We didn’t leave trash behind at picnics because there wasn’t any to leave. We didn’t have paper plates, cups, napkins. Picnic dishes and food containers were reuseable plastic, or even the regular dinnerware. Leftover food went home with us.

I grew up on the Louisiana/Texas border in the 70’s and 80’s and even respectable people littered like a mo fo. We threw out just about any junk but especially fast food containers. Everyone did it and then the Boy Scouts and other groups cleaned it up. It was a big deal in the 1980’s when Texas rolled out its “Don’t mess with Texas.” anti-littering program with increased charges.

Unfortunately I have seen people take their meal trash and throw it all over as they finished that item. It was someplace I’d just cleaned up too. It was hard not to do something that would have had police arresting me.

I’ve also been to a park were somebody threw their meal garbage to the ground, and a reporter for the local rag, took a picture. The reporter was walking ahead of our party, so we saw what the reporter did. The reporter then walked away and drove off. We picked up the bags wrappers and cups, and put them in the trash can which the reporter and trash had been right next to. The next day this picture and the story about the horrible people that threw the trash on the ground leaving an unsightly mess was in the paper. What a hypercritical person. They left the trash there after photographing it and then wrote up an article on it.:smack:

WRT tossing trash out car windows - I believe the true culprit is the increased prevalence of automatic windows, for the simple reason that cars lack the window cranks from which to hang those plastic trash bags. Remember them?

I have no doubt Americans’ failure to manually crank their windows is also a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic as well… :wink:

I came by to say I remembered Ladybird’s efforts to clean up the highways. Here is a nice piece about her:

Yes! There might be space for a litter bag in an SUV or a van, but there’s no place to hang one in my car and there’s no room in the front for a little trash bin either.

*Hypercritical *or hypocritical? In either case, I disagree. The reporter was reporting on a societal ill. And one of the standards of a photojournalist is to just observe, and not get involved in the the scene that being photographed.

My folks have land in rural UP Michigan. It’s where my grandparents lived as well.
It was very common to take your large trash items and dump them over the nearest embankment, where you couldn’t see it any more. Out of sight, out of mind.

When my folks decided to build on that land, they had to have someone come in and clean out a hillside. A piano, a refrigerator, lots of tires and cement chunks and other misc. junk.

they made a lot of improvements in the 70s. I think it was the movie inconvenient truth where they showed rings in permafrost of where the air pollution dropped significantly in the 70s after catalytic converters were implemented on cars.

I was a teenager (mid 1970s) before I realized that you weren’t supposed to leave your trash on the floor of a movie theater. I also thought you were supposed to throw your candy wrappers out of the car window - Mom did it, so it must be OK, right?

Blatant littering like the picnic blanket thing? Never saw that personally though it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Sometime in the early sixties, my dad threw a piece of trash out the window, and my grandpa pulled over, backed up, and made him get out and pick it up. So not everyone was a litterer back then.

One issue is that, until after WWII, almost everything was biodegradable. There were no styrofoam burger containers or plastic straws, etc. Littering wouldn’t be viewed the same by someone born around the time Don Draper was.

Yeah, but they’re a bunch of uneducated redneck hillbillies up there. You can’t expect them to act like normal upright folk. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, I wouldn’t depend on Mad Men to get anything right about the time period. They’ll jettison any actual facts so the audience can feel smug and superior to life in the early 60s.

I’d be interested in hearing the specifics of Mad Men that make you say this. So far, a lot of the stuff they portray rings true to me, based on Mr. Athena’s memories of the time and from talks with my parents. Not everything, but a lot of it.

Heck, some of it from my own experience. Like Don Draper’s daughter, I could make a mean Manhattan at about 8 years of age.