American sports and hobbies of the 1960s were greatly influenced by the interests of youth and the establishment of television as a medium for communication. The country's baby-boomers -- children born in the years immediately following World War II -- reached an age where they were earning money to fund their hobbies and were capable of pursuing activities independently. Television introduced people of all ages to a variety of sports, particularly through the Olympic games. The 1960s was a time when old-time favorites in sports and hobbies were joined by new pursuits.
Building scale-models of planes, ships and cars was a popular hobby among young boys and some adults. The hobby came to include model rockets and spaceships during the decade's space race. The early to mid-1960s are considered the "golden age" of slot-car racing. Families built tracks together, and college students formed slot-car racing teams. President John F. Kennedy and renowned newsman, Walter Cronkite, were also fans of the hobby. Baseball card collecting was also very popular among young boys and teens who enjoyed buying, trading and playing games with the cards. This is also the decade that made Troll dolls, with their wildly colored hair, popular with girls in the mid-1960s. In addition, coin and stamp collecting became popular among both adults and children.
Many outdoor hobbies of the 1960s involved physical activity but were not, at the time, considered sports. Chief among these was surfing, a beach activity that inspired a music genre and particular line of fashion known as the "surfer look." Skateboarding, a cross between roller skating and surfing, evolved from roller skating, but its similarity to surfing helped its rise in popularity. While surfing and skateboarding primarily appealed to teens and young adults, bike riding and fishing were enjoyed by people of all ages. Both outdoor and indoor photography increased in popularity with the development of simpler cameras with built-in flash bulbs and cartridge film.
Games People Played
The sport of baseball remained America's favorite pastime in the 1960's. Americans took their families out to the ball game, and children played on town fields as part of their local Little League or the Senior League, which was created for teens in 1961. The sport of bowling was enjoyed by men, women and teens who played with friends or in organized leagues. The formation of the North American Soccer League ignited an interest in soccer in the mid-1960s that led to the formation of teams at the elementary and high school levels.
Prior to the introduction of television, a person's exposure to sports was gained through attending live events or listening to coverage of an event on the radio. In the 1960s, television allowed people to watch, from the comfort of their living rooms, not only familiar sports such as baseball but also Olympic sports such as alpine skiing, figure skating, high diving and pole vaulting. Television gave home viewers front row seats at the Indianapolis 500, heavyweight boxing championships and even the Little League World Series. Professional football's first Super Bowl, televised in 1967, drew 27 million viewers to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Laura Leddy Turner began her writing career in 1976. She has worked in the newspaper industry as an illustrator, columnist, staff writer and copy editor, including with Gannett and the Asbury Park Press. Turner holds a B.A. in literature and English from Ramapo College of New Jersey, with postgraduate coursework in business law.