1955 predicts 1965

Paleofuture features "If Today Were 1965!" -- a 1955 publication of the Reading Automobile Club Magazine, published a year before the Federal Freeway Highway Act. It's an interesting mix of humility and hubris, prescience and silliness, and is as sobering a memento mori for anyone thinking of getting into the prediction game as you could want.

Motorists now have a choice of fabulous stopping places. The newest accommodations have been built in two general types of locations: at service areas along the superhighways (which have grown up into attractive and complete communities) and at the outskirts of major cities. Certain of the urban centers, which had been thought to be doomed, have scored a surprising comeback as a result of striking new traffic developments such as depressed roadways and vast underground parking spaces. As a result, tourists are not repelled as once they were, but instead enjoy city sight-seeing.

The new overnight lodgings, built by large corporations at great expense, have combined features of the motel and hotel. The Sheraton chain, as you may recall, was one of the first major firms to enter this field, starting in 1955 with a $2,500,000 “highway inn” at Tarrytown, N.Y., followed by others at Binghamton, N.Y., Portland, Ore., and New Orleans, until it had completed a network of nearly 15 suburban hotels across the country.

1955 Imagines Travel in 1965


  1. Sounds like they called it, more or less. The national highway system is still a (deteriorating) infrastructural Wonder of the World, and is studded with sights to see and well-ordered amenities for the well-to-do.

    Now, for those of us who are other than well-to-do, we might as well paint ourselves yellow and lay in the street, hoping that our municipality will find us useful as speed bumps, but ah well…

  2. Their description of the car was pretty accurate, if only 50  instead of 10 years later. But it doesn’t mention that cars would be built largely of plastic.

    When one compares the 1965 American cars to their 1955 brethren, the only noticeable difference is the lower beltlines and wide, flat decks. The internals were nearly identical. We had alternators and more A/C units.

  3. Negroes voting! A pill that makes purple taste like music! Another exciting land war in Asia against the commies! My Three Sons, except now it’s in color! Richard Nixon retired from politics forever! Outer space colonized by the Russians! Shea Stadium (an exciting new concert venue for British skiffle bands)!

  4. What really depresses me is that I’ve got a feeling that the major advances of the next 20 years are going to be things getting even thinner, lighter and shinier… and I just couldn’t give a shit.

    Bring back the days of moon landings, Concorde, SR-71 Blackbird, microwaves, the Internet and mapping the human genome.

    (Though I do have some hope for Graphene as well as something like a cure for cancer or more artificial organs)

    1. I think artificial organs are a pretty good bet, if not in 10 years then in 30.

      I’m 25 right now, and I’d be willing to bet that by the time I’m 60 the only organs we can’t regrow will be the central nervous system.

      I’m less hopeful about space travel, AI and the continued growth of computing power.

  5. They fail to mention that the car companies would conspire to destroy public transit, valuable farm land would be paved over to build low-density suburbs, and huge swaths of perfectly good cities would be “redeveloped” into an infrastructure that could support a car-based society.

    Gas stations, parking lots, auto shops, car dealers, freeways, highways, mini malls… all built to support cars and nothing but.  And guess who benefited? Certainly wasn’t the average person.

      1. The average person would have no need for a car if suburban sprawl hadn’t been invented.

        (Not unless they’re a pizza delivery driver or something.)

  6. For a ten-years-out prediction, they were a lot more accurate than Ray Kurzweil was a decade ago when he predicted we’d be well on our way to the Singularity by now.

  7. The Ford “car of the future” they show in that 1955 article looks like it was modeled on the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car (google it). And indeed ten years later that Futura was a staple part of the culture – the ten year old Futura prototype had been converted into the Batmobile in the ’60s TV version of Batman.

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