Sometimes I look back at the 70’s and wish that I was born just a wee bit earlier so that I could have experienced the things that I only see in old commercials that I frequently download from YouTube. It is a riot. Sometimes painful, but always Way Too Enjoyable to realize that some of the worst concepts in the 70’s made some people a lot of money, while it made other people just amass a collection of photos that as adults they pull out now and think, “Wow, that was a really bad idea.”
Recipe Cards. You could order them from TV and they would come C.O.D. for only $9.99. In those days, everything was only $9.99. And it came with a “attractive organizing case FREE,” because it was vitally important to sort your meal ideas by category so that you could flip right to the salad section if you were only having friends over after tennis or jump right to the heavy duty steak section if you were throwing a Key Party. The front of the card has a picture of the finished meal while the back had the ingredients list, the preparation instructions and the cook time. Was it a fish or was it a fried root of some kind with homemade pickled relish on it? Who cares! The prep time was only 20 minutes according to the card, and your mom had that amount of time between feathering her hair and picking out leg warmers for her Jazzercise class.
Sun In. Incredible. Meant to give you those summer-blond highlights, It was bleach in a spray can. Ordinarily used in your laundry room, this little stroke of genius was what on-the-go teens did during beach season because the practice of foiling your hair at a salon was both expensive and unheard of. The smart alternative? Spray bleach directly on your head! If you were smart enough to comb it through and not get a blistering chemical burn, you might achieve something resembling Farrah Fawcett’s iconic do, if you had a personal set of hot rollers and 4-5 hours each day to blow it all out after shampooing with Herbal Essence Shampoo. (This was of course before the “orgasaming in the shower commercials” that are their trademark today.) But if you either didn’t own a comb or you were a brunette, watch out!! You either achieved something that resembled a leopard after a fresh kill or Oompah Loompa Orange which was the natural chemical reaction of bleach on brunette.
Saturday morning television was completely awesome. A mix of toy commercials from Kenner convincing you to buy everything from Hungry Hungry Hippos to 3-inch plastic action figured that could be swallowed by an infant, but were still so engaging that it would have kept a 2nd grader with as-yet-undiagnosed A.D.D enthralled for literally months at a time, and a multitude of shows produced by the drug-addled minds of Sid and Marty Kroft that mixed live actors like Bob Denver and Ruth Buzzy with costumed characters that would have made you run screaming if you saw them at an amusement park. A friendly sea monster, a mad scientist with a shrink ray, Diedre Hall in orange and yellow spandex fighting off evil-doers, a sort of cross between a mushroom and a dragon that was trying keep a witch from stealing a boy’s magic flute who’s only power seemed to be to never shut the hell up. What were the network executives thinking when they bought these shows?
But I wont completely indict the 70’s. Like I said, if I was a little older, I would have gotten to participate in all of this craziness.
They didn’t breathe, but polyester bell-bottom pants which were so wide that walking became an event you had to practice for seemed like a challenge I would have loved to tackle. And if you were young, they usually had a pocket sewn on them that was in the shape of a strawberry that made these sexually exciting times seem way more innocent than they actually were according to some of the movies I have seen on late-night cable.
Overalls! Overalls! And you didn’t even have to own a goat or live on a farm. This was just what people wore. Remarkable. Of course that look was hijcked in the early 90’s by gay men who would wear them with one of the shoulders unsnapped, but sorry, the 70’s introduced that look.
But I think the coolest thing of all that will never fade from my childhood memory was the onslaught of soda commercials (or “pop” depending on where you live in the country) that were basically people singing and dancing in show stopping musical numbers where they took over large open fields and parking lots outside of major metropolitan malls to sing out joyously about how happy they were to “Be a Pepper.”
The sheer level of refreshment that soda drinkers had in the 70’s have not been seen again. Maybe it is because they have replaced real sugar with aspartame that then was replaced with Nutrisweet that was then replaced by Splenda only to now have real sugar re-introduced back into them.
Maybe this summer, I will shake my hair in the sun, pull off the cap to a glass bottled soda and dance on the hood of an old Pontiac. Maybe I’ll screw off the bottle cap to find that I won a prize or I can collect the whole set or get a pair of tickets to “Corvette Summer” or whatever else the soda manufacturers promised you back in ‘78 to get you to guzzle record-breaking amounts of their caramel-colored liquid happiness and to feel like there was nothing that you couldn’t accomplish.
I wanted to “Have a Coke and a Smile.” I longed to enjoy “The Real Thing.” I thought the fact that Diet Pepsi came with a squeeze of lemon was more ground-breaking than the cure for Polio, and Lauren Hutton as their spokesperson sporting that gap between her teeth that she could stick the straw between was somehow sexy. Hell, she drank soda through a straw. How glamorous was THAT!!!
And I wanted to be 5 years old in my bell bottom pants and unable to stand up because a dozen little golden puppies were climbing all over me by a metal swing set somewhere. I wanted to grab my friends, cover a mountain top, join hands and “Teach the World to Sing!”
What happened to those days? All the recipe cards, Ginsu knife sets, and cases of Sun-In in the world couldn’t dissolve that lump in my throat that I used to get at the extended 60-second Coke commercial that showed nations and cultures and races all getting along simply because of a carbonated beverage.
Was it true? Was it really that simple? That is why I really wish I could have experienced the 70’s. I really want to know if back then you could really open up an Igloo Cooler and peace would prevail? And more importantly, is there any chance that we would be able to do that today? Can love and harmony and understanding really be achieved in 16 oz. increments?
Maybe that will be my summer resolution. Maybe that will be my entire life’s goal. It’s an ambitious one; maybe too ambitious. But at the end of the day, perhaps that is what I would like to be remembered for. Maybe that is really what I’d like to do.
In perfect harmony.
I’d like to buy the world a coke,
And keep it company……
Definitely while wearing overalls.