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

Watch it honey, that’s my neck your describing! :smiley:

From what I’ve seen in other very rural areas, dumping your garbage over behind the hill wasn’t all that uncommon in other places either.

There was an article about the creator/writer of Mad Men in the NY Times Sunday Magazine a few months ago. It stressed – using examples – how much of an obsessive stickler he is over getting the period facts right. You can be sure that if MM describes a fatal plane crash at LaGuardia Airport taking place on such and such a date, that’s when the crash took place.

That said, I actually think they got the picnic scene wrong. Not because *no one *would leave a pile of picnic trash at a park in 1962 (?), but because a family that so fiercely clung to its identity as members of the affluent, suburban, white country club set, like the Drapers, would not do so. I think they would have thought it too messy and lowbrow – something that poor people who were not raised with good manners did. Sure, Don might toss that beer can into the weeds – boys will be boys – but mom would make sure that the kiddies tidied up the picnic area before they left, like she makes sure they clean up their toys before bed every night.

Just because littering was common and not publicly stigmatized until the late '60s, doesnt mean it was practiced by the entire population. After all, I’m pretty sure that there were anti-littering laws back then, even if they were not strictly enforced or carried a heavy fine, so the practice had to have been frowned upon in certain, probably somewhat upper-crusty, circles.

pssst… chocolate… check out my location tag…

Bullshit. It amounted to about 5 pieces of trash picked up in a few seconds. The person was just a pompous ass.

Glass bottles are not biodegradable. I have a friend who lives in an old house where the inhabitants apparently used the back hill as a dumping ground. As a result, you can’t walk out there without scuffing up broken glass from 50-100 years ago.

So what? The story was about people who throw crap on the ground. That’s a societal ill. There’s nothing pompous or assish about that.

And it isn’t actually bullshit. Changing a scene that has been photographed is actually a hotly debated ethical issue for photojournalists.

It seems to me that you’re stereotyping in a manner that isn’t really relevant to the creation of characters as specific individuals. I’d actually dispute the stereotype of (1) it being unrealistic for specific individuals in upper-crusty circles throwing trash around and (2) the Drapers actually being “upper crusty,” but taking your assumption as given, the important character point of this scene is that the Drapers are the type of people who throw trash around.

I am 35 and still have never realized that to this day. I am pretty sure that you are supposed to leave your trash on the floor of a movie theater. It is possible to throw away your own trash but the trash cans are usually in odd and inconvenient locations which leads me and almost everyone I know to just leave it where it is. I never see lines of people leaving the theater mostly with their own trash ready to be disposed of.

What, your theatres aren’t running the “please dispose of all waste in the designated receptacles” announcement along with the “turn off your cellphones” and “don’t talk” announcements? Ours have been for years.

Really? I’ve always seen reminders to dispose of your trash ever since I was an usher, back in the mid-80s. And there were always trash receptacles just outside of the theatre doors. I remember this specifically because I was responsible for emptying them.

I stopped watching after one and a half episodes because they based their “clever revelation” in the first by dragging up an advertising slogan* that had been used for decades before the 1960s and acted as though this were a new and brilliant revelation. Sort of like having General Robert E. Lee leading the U.S. army at D-Day. They want to play without a net; that’s just sloppy writing. A good writer would have used an actual 1960s slogan to make the point.

The second episode was chock full of similar issues, as well as exaggerating life of the time to the point of parody. The producers’ idea research seemed to be to watch How to Suceed in Business Without Really Trying and assume it was a documentary.

All else I’ve seen has shown the same thing. The producers brag that they’re not really talking about the 60s; they’re talking about the present day, and thus deliberately portray everything to show how silly the people were back in those days and how much superior we are now.

Even this discription of the littering scene confirms this: People didn’t just leave garbage behind. Most were trained to pick after themselves. People littered, but not all that much more than they do today. The anti-littering campaigns were enforcing norms that already existed, not creating new ones.

*“It’s toasted!” was first used by Lucky Strike in 1917.

Shrug, I read a book about the topic recently and it made a pretty compelling argument about littering before and after the invention of plastic. I think glass bottles were reused a lot back then.

Who knew “on the way out of the auditorium” could be rationalized as an “odd and inconvenient location”? And yes, every movie I’ve ever been to in my life has had the “please dispose of waste in receptacles” announcement along with don’t talk, get rid of crying babies, tell us if it’s too cold, etc.

Look, when you are creating fictional characters, of course you are entitled to make them do whatever you wish. Given that, yes, you could say that the whole point was to show that the Drapers are the sort who leave piles of trash behind. But I still don’t buy it. We have seen repeatedly that Don’s wife is extremely into appearances and propriety. She could belch or swear or dress tacky, but she does not. She tries to be very ladylike all the time.

The real point the producers were making, IMO, was that everybody littered like crazy back then and nobody thought it was inappropriate – just like they obviously contend that everybody smoked, drank and denegrated women and nobody thought it was inappropriate. But I don’t think they are right with the littering. I think that better-bred affluent folks like Don’s wife did not litter, even if only to keep up appearances. Now, you could make an argument that Don was not quite as refined, and he would leave the trash behind; that I could buy. Or better yet, Don and his wife could argue over it a little; that makes even more sense. But Don’s wife just walking away from that huge circle of trash without batting an eye? No way.

Sounds to me like he wanted you to figure out what to do with biodegradable trash. Thus the word “think”.

If anybody littered in my hometown in the 60’s it was immediately picked up. I was taught from day one not to litter. The street we lived on was spotless and I mean down to the cigarette butt. College in the 70’s was a different story. What a bunch of spoiled brats. It seems to get worse as the college size increases.

I think a lot of it depended on the local culture. I’m used to people in big cities acting like slobs and littering without much thought. When I visited the small city in Wisconsin where my grandmother lived, it was another world. No litter, and the streets looked like they were scrubbed every night. Any tendencies I may have had towards littering were cured by a stint in the Army. Part of the daily routine was a group activity to search our assigned area for any litter and to dispose of it properly.

I originally found my way to this thread after hearing a Fresh Air interview with the author David Sedaris, which was talking about how English people still throw garbage out their car windows. It was completely shocking to me and I had to google it to find out if it was true. I found nothing about it on the first try but I did find this thread. This is a memory from my childhood that has kind of haunted me for years. It almost seems unreal like I’ve made it up but I clearly remember my parents throwing our fast food wrappers and bags out the window of the car when we were finished grubbing down the nasty crap. And the clearest memory takes place right on our own road that we lived on, less than a mile from our house! I was ten at the time that we moved there, so that mean’s that it took place sometime around 1986! It’s just incredible to me that my parents would do this and not to mention right in front of their children. It just doesn’t even compute in my mind how this was acceptable to them. And we were a middle class family living in Dayton Ohio by the way. I just can’t imagine why people would want their own streets and ditches to be lined with trash, it’s insane. So to answer the question of the thread, YES THIS WAS VERY REALISTIC! If my middle class parents, and Chiropractor father no less, was just tossing Mickey D’s bags out the car window in 1986 then YES a mother of the 1960’s could have certainly dumped her picnic trash on park grounds while her husband tossed his cheap beer can in the woods. We really ARE one step away from apes still.

My father used to take us fishing in the 60s. He was an educated, well meaning, and lover of the Earth (One of my main chores was to make sure to pick up all the litter at the end of our driveway). Despite this, while fishing he would sink his empty beer cans in the lake. In his defense, they were steal, not aluminum, so he was right to say they would rust away relatively soon and harmlessly. But still.

The Keep America Beautiful campaign started in the 60s. Plenty of people were just dumping trash. This predates the more serious environmental movement though, it was originally about the way things look, not the effect on the environment. That would come along shortly. The Crying Indian commercial was a big step in that direction merging the concepts of littering and pollution. Someone mentioned Silent Running in another thread, this is considered by some to be the first film focused on environmental issues. That was in 1972. The first Earth Day was only 1970, attitudes were just beginning to change.

In the '60s, my parents took us kids out in the car a lot, and we snarfed tons of fast food, and they always taught us not to litter. They set a good example. Then when the anti-littering announcements started being shown on TV, it showed people tossing entire bags of garbage out the car window onto the highway. It was hard for me to believe that anyone was really so crummy and lowlife. I never saw such depredations personally and it was disturbing and disgusting to learn via TV that I shared a nation with such filthy crum-bums.

I remember that Crying Indian ad, but that Tennessee Trash ad is awesome. Wish we’d had that one in Detroit. (Yes, I know the post is from five years ago.)