The most popular fads from decades past
Find out what was popular when your parents were kids, or take a nostalgic trip down memory lane from your own childhood:

Betty Boop
  • America's first cartoon flapper icon. The first appearance of Betty Boop was in the 6th Talkartoon starring Bimbo, entitled "Dizzy Dishes" (1930.) Grim Natwick was the first animator to draw Betty, who had not yet been officially named. He took inspiration for Betty's spit curls from a song sheet of Helen Kane, commonly called the "Boop Oop a Doop Girl". Betty started out being designed as a human-like dog, only her black button nose and floppy ears hinting at her canine nature. These ears later became her round earrings, in part due to the fact that the Fleischer animators had a tendency to change animating styles and features of characters from cartoon to cartoon, and sometimes within the same cartoon. Her high baby voice, like her spit curls, were in imitation of singer Helen Kane. Her first starring role was in "Betty Coed" (1931), which also marked the first time the name Betty was connected with the character. In "Any Rags" (1932), Betty became completely human, and her ears permanently became earrings.

Bright Red Lipstick
  • During the roaring twenties women used to wear bright red lipstick. A very vibrant red was in style.

Cloche hat
  • (deriving its name from the French word for "bell") became a necessity for daytime wear. The small hat fit snuggly over short hair and almost reached to the eyebrows. It was often decorated with a pin in the front or a ribbon.

Conk hairdo
  • Originated in the 1920's and was popularized by Cab Calloway. Started by the African American males trying to straighten their hair, the conk was the end result.

Dance Marathons
  • People loved to dance, especially the Charleston, Fox trot, and the shimmy. Dance marathons were something everyone went to every weekend. The longest dance record ever recorded was a record of 3 weeks of dancing.

Drive-in Theater
  • Started in June of 33', by Richard Hollingshed. It was an immediate success; he went on to establish a drive in movie theater franchise throughout the United States. Starting with 100 theaters to 2200 theaters all in a 12-year period.

Flagpole Sitting
  • Started by Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly who was a professional stuntman. He did it on a dare in 1924, and it soon caught on nationwide. It became a spectator sport, and he eventually set the World Record at 49 days with a crowd of 20,000 people watching. When the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression started, it brought an end to this fad.

  • They smoked, drank, danced, and voted. Flappers broke away conservative image of womanhood that prevailed at the time. They wore short hair, wore less clothing so they could move freely, used make-up, and created the concept of dating. They were giddy, unconventional, and took risks. In 1929, the stock market crashed, the great depression started, and the frivolity and recklessness of flappers came to an end.

  • America took psychoanalysis to the next level with games of personalities and ridiculous theories based on those of Sigmund Freud.

  • The big depression of the 1930's caused an increase in gambling. People unable to make a decent living looked towards any means to add to their income. In this decade alone 15 states legalized horse racing.

Hood Ornaments
  • Little metal design that were attached to the hood of your car.

Johnny on a Pony
  • A game played outdoor with multiple participants, also known as buck buck. Over the years the rules might have slightly changed but the concept is still the same.

Kilroy was here
  • The message appeared mysteriously all over Europe and the Pacific during World War II. It was scrawled on desolate beachheads, notable landmarks and the walls of buildings. Often discovered by the first American Troops entering an area that had been occupied by enemy troops. Supposedly made by an American, it delighted American troops; it added a touch of levity to a brutal war, yet intrigued. Who was Kilroy and how did he get there before everyone else?

  • China conquered the United States as millions of Americans took to the mahjongg tables to Pong and Chow their way to, well, a really big fad.

Mandatory Hats
  • Wearing a hat was a must for all well dressed men.

Miniature Golf
  • In the early 1900's, miniature golf was actually the short game of regulation golf. The name quite frequently used in the early years was "Garden Golf" and it was played with a putter on real grass. In the 1920's & 30's, "rails" or "bumpers" started to appear, confining the ball within a boundary. The playing surface was changed to hard-pressed cottonseed hulls, which created a smoother putting surface. The game of minigolf was extremely popular among movie stars and celebrities, which helped spawn new links all across the nation. During the 1930's, there were approximately 30,000 links throughout the country with over 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone. The American population was hooked on miniature golf, as not only a leisure time game, but also a sport that any gender, any age could excel without any handicap or without being a well-conditioned athlete.

  • Created in 1934 by Charles B Darrow. Although some say it was created many years earlier by Lizzie J. Magie. Her version was called The Landlords. Basically the same exact game, just Darrow added a lot to the idea and many say he improved the game. When Darrow brought the game to Parker Brothers, they later sent him a later saying they rejected the idea for having too many fundamental errors. However, Darrow was selling the game to all of his friends and decided to have a printer make him up 5,000 copies of the game. He then sold them to a store in Philadelphia… Parker Brother rethought the idea and in 1935, Parker Brothers introduced the game of Monopoly and 20 thousand sets were sold in one week.

Moving to the suburbs
  • Thanks to the expanded highways and the baby boom the suburbs became the popular place to raise a family.

Pea Shooters
  • Kids loved them and adults became very irritated over this fad. The shooters were about the size of a writing pen and used as a blowgun with dried peas.

Peter Pan Peanut butter
  • Peter Pan Peanut Butter was introduced in the 20's and the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a popular food item.

  • In 1927, Eduard Haas, an Austrian candy executive, developed a small candy mint which he called PEZ (short for pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint). The peppermint candies were stored in a small tin and sold fairly well for more than 20 years. Initially it was marketed as a tasty alternative to cigarettes for adults attempting to quit smoking. In an effort to boost sales and develop a brand identity for the PEZ mints, the first pez dispensers were introduced in 1948. The original dispensers did not have the trademark heads, which were introduced four years later. These dispensers had cartoon heads and became very popular with children who traded them back and forth. These early dispensers are now very much in demand and are valued treasures among collectors. More than 3 billion PEZ candies are consumed each year and is sold in more than 60 countries around the world but the candies have become almost a secondary item serving as an accessory for the dispensers of which more than 300 have been issued.

  • The manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the USA from 1919-1933, so people had to smuggle, store, stash alcohol wherever they could. They would also go to speakeasies, which were illegally run bars, many of which were owned by organized crime (the Mob). Prohibition also gave rise to bootleggers and gangsters such as Al Capone.

Radio Shows
  • Families used to gather around the radio to listen to such shows as Abbott & Costello, Amos & Andy, and Death Valley Days. We call it Old Time Radio now but back then it was new. The fad faded after the television was invented.

Silly Putty
  • Chemists at General Electric working with silicone stumbled across this material that can be kneaded, bounced, and stretched. In 1949, Peter Hodgson thought it would make a great toy. After an investment of $150, Hodgson sold 1-ounce bags of putty in plastic eggs. It was an instant success. Millions of eggs of Silly Putty have been sold and continue to sell to this day.

  • A toy that children played with by placing on stairs and watching it slowly climb down. When he was 26, Richard James of Philadelphia invented the Slinky. It consists of 87 feet of flat wire coiled into 3-inch-diameter circles and stands about 2 inches high when stacked. The Slinky's ability to "walk" down stairs and open and close like an accordion made it a favorite toy during the 1950s, and it is still popular today.

Smoking Cigarettes
  • Smoking became very common and an everday occurance in the 1920's. Even woman were smoking. They would smoke them with a very long cigarette holder.

Stamp Collecting
  • With the Help of President Roosevelt and less income to spend on leisure due to the depression, collecting stamps became very popular in the 30's.

  • A game similar to baseball, but played by kids in the streets.Was popular in big cities.

Stoop Ball
  • An inner city game played by throwing a ball up the stoop or starcase from the outside pavement. This game was very popular before WWII.

Swallowing Goldfish
  • This fad actually started in 1939 but carried over into the early 40's. Swallowing live goldfish became very popular among college students and drew crowds and crowds of spectators who wanted to witness this unusual sight.

Swing Dancing
  • A popular type of dance that almost everyone was doing.

The Model T (Automobile)
  • The Model T was released by Ford and people began buying automobiles. This created a fad that has never gone away.

The Zipper
  • Many people started using zippers for the first time due to the fact that it was less expensive than the previously used buttons.

Wing Tipped Shoes
  • Popular shoes during the swinging era. Shoes usually had a dark colored trim/wing tip.

Zoot Suits
  • The zoot suit was a refusal: a sub cultural gesture that refused to concede to the manners of subservience. By the late 1930s, the term "zoot" was in common circulation within urban jazz culture. Zoot meant something worn or performed in an extravagant style, and since many young blacks wore suits with outrageously padded shoulders and trousers that were fiercely tapered at the ankles, the term zoot-suit passed into everyday usage. In the sub-cultural world of Harlem's nightlife, the language of rhyming slang succinctly described the zoot-suit's unmistakable style: 'a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, real-pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic's cell.