One of our favorite pastimes here at Cracked is collecting evidence to prove that "old fashioned" is nothing more than a synonym for "creepy, bordering on medically insane." And nowhere is this more evident than in some of the activities our not-so-distant ancestors considered entertaining. Say what you will about today's ultra-violent video games and movies, but at least we don't equate fun with something like ...
7Throwing Atom Bomb Viewing Parties
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If the government announced they were going to detonate an atomic bomb just an hour's drive away from your hometown, we're guessing that at the very least you'd put in an angry phone call to your congressman and arrange to be out of town that day. What you would probably not do is grab a lawn chair and go watch the mushroom cloud.
So when President Truman approved the repeated scorching of the very face of Mother Earth herself just 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas in late 1950, how do you think Las Vegans reacted to the news? Did they lock themselves in bunkers? Did they cash in their chips, jump into their cars, and keep on driving until they hit Delaware? Or did they stage atom bomb viewing parties and use this whole thing as an excuse to do even more drinking and gambling and sexing?
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That includes any body parts that may fall off.
Taking advantage of a massive government publicity campaign promoting their nuclear testing activities, residents and officials didn't hesitate one bit to redub the town "Atomic City." The nearby nuclear testing was hyped as just another Vegas tourist attraction. Showgirls donned mushroom cloud swimwear. Curious visitors pressed as close to the explosions as they could without fear of pistol whipping, and many hotels hosted "dawn bomb parties" where revelers drank the night away while waiting for the detonations to light up the sky in an apocalyptic fireworks display.
This is Miss Atomic Bomb 1957. And no, that's not a joke.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and when "downwinders" started complaining of ill effects from all that pesky atomic fallout, it marked the beginning of the pooping of Sin City's atomic party. Nuclear testing was forced underground in 1963, and eventually the site ceased testing altogether.
No word on whether Vegas' atomic craze just sort of quietly petered out or if they sent the era off with one final bang, but we're going to assume that they celebrated in much the same way military officials celebrated the end of the "successful" atomic pummeling of Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads back in 1946 -- with delicious mushroom-cloud-shaped cake. Never let it be said that The Man doesn't know how to celebrate mankind's ability to wreak horrifyingly godlike destruction with class.
It was iced with vanilla butter cream and filled with undiluted fear.
But at least they were just watching weapons of war being tested. It's not like people used to sit back and watch actual battles take place ...
6Having Civil War Battlefield Picnics
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Early in the Civil War, there was a pretty pervasive belief among Northerners that the war was going to be a quick one. Yep, them Southern boys were about to be pulverized beneath the weighty haversacks of the almighty Union forces ... and John and Jane Q. Public didn't just want to be there to watch it happen, they wanted to make an afternoon out of it.
There's a realistic chance that the dude in the center is looking at an oncoming cannonball.
You see, as Union troops approached what would be the First Battle of Bull Run, they were "followed by hundreds of civilians, teamsters, congressmen, and their ladies." This throng of carnage groupies came in their Sunday finery, packing picnic baskets and opera glasses, thus earning Bull Run the nickname of the "picnic battle." The atmosphere was exactly like that of a modern day tailgate party, except for the explosions and innards flying about all willy-nilly within somewhat observable distance.
If you were lucky enough to catch an arm, you got to keep it as a souvenir.
The morning went swimmingly for the North, and the crowd was totally feeling it ... until the Confederate reinforcements arrived. The spectators soon found out just how quickly the tides of war can turn when they were swiftly washed over by a wave of Union soldiers shouting, "Turn back, turn back, we're whipped!" The picnickers quickly went from visions of a flawless victory to a very real run for their lives. Many nice picnic baskets were tragically trampled that day; much fried chicken went woefully ungnawed.
We can't be the only ones who hear the Monty Python guys yelling "Run away" when we see this picture.
Amazingly, only a single civilian was killed in the battle, but in an unfortunate/hilarious set of circumstances, New York congressman Alfred Ely -- one of the most vocal proponents of pressing the Union offensive, with his cries of "On to Richmond!" -- accidentally got his ass captured by the 8th South Carolina Infantry during the fray and spent the next six months festering in a Richmond prison.