The 1970’s were all about staying alive.
(Staying alive. Staying alive.)
But maybe we didn’t know it then.
Lately, i’ve been noticing all the things we did on purpose in the 1970’s that we know now WILL KILL YOU.
And at the risk of sounding like grandpa mourning the loss of the good ol’ days when doctors smoked during office visits and Coca Cola had real coke in it, i made a list of just a few of the terrifying thing we did in the 1970’s BESIDES tight bell bottom pants and Reefer Madness.
1. Drinking water straight from the hose
OMG! RIGHT?? We actually did that!! i can’t tell you how many hot days we would take a break from playing Barefoot Blacktop Basketball or Who Can Jump the Back Fence Without Landing in the Stinging Nettle Bush (spoiler alert! not me!) to head to the side of the house, turn on the water and drink straight from the hose.
EVERYONE knew not to drink the first bunch of water that came out. That water was always warm. And hose-y.
No..the real experts knew that you let that sucker run for a few seconds THEN bring your lips right up to the metal rim and drink from the stream while it runs out to the ground and splashes your feet and legs. And when you’ve drunk your fill, you hand that sucker to the next one, lip germs and all.
Because it was all about quenching your thirst as fast as possible in order to get back to the game of “Smear the Queer” (a horrendously hateful and ignorantly named game we now know as “throw-that-overly-inflated-rubber-ball-as-hard-as-you-can-at-your-queer-sister-cuz-she’s-slow-and-make-her-cry-and-suffer-from-dodgeball-induced-PTSD-for-the-rest-of-her-life”).
And now, we also know, that drinking unflitered water straight from the hose WILL KILL YOU. It’s full of lead and frogs and all kinds of chemicals i can’t pronounce. Click here if you don’t believe me.
2. Riding in the back of pickups
i grew up in the country and EVERYONE had pickup trucks. And all-things-country love to ride in the back of trucks. Well, maybe not today, since now we know that RIDING IN THE BACKS OF TRUCKS CAN KILL YOU, but in the 1970’s, it was a bonus and often a reward for good behavior.
In fact, in the 1970’s, all country kids knew not only that riding in a pickup bed was a blast, but that the very BEST seats in the back of a pickup were sitting ON the wheel well so that most of your body was above the sides of the truck and you could get maximum wind blow-age. The second someone announced they were going somewhere and “taking the truck” an immediate chorus of “i got dibs on the wheel well!” could be heard from me and my two brothers, proceeded by some kicking and shoving as three kids fought it out for the only two wheel wells. The “loser” had to sit on the bed floor up against the cab of the truck, which we all know now is THE ONLY SAFE PLACE TO RIDE IN THE BACK OF A TRUCK.
But i still remember winning that prized seat then laughing hysterically everytime Dad hit a bump and my butt caught air as i scrambled to grab on to anything so i wouldn’t fall over the edge. Ahhh…immortality…those were the days……
BUT! Now we know that riding in the backs of trucks in many places is illegal. (If you want to see if your state cares whether you live a long and happy life or die via pickup-bed riding, check here) Even if it is legal, in all places, riding in pickup beds WILL KILL YOU.
3. Tanning the bejeezus out of our skin
Before self tanners with SPF one million that make your skin all sexy and dark minus the buzzkill of cancer, we had baby oil and reflective surfaces. Remember that? Can you even buy baby oil anymore? Like, who oils babies??
The ladies of the 1970’s were doing all they could to look like Farrah Fawcett. At least the white chicks were. The black chicks were all Donna Summer with their magnificent afros, glittery eyelids, and macrame tops. Us white girls were just trying to achieve that perfect, dark, sunbathed tan we saw on the tv (now in color!!) and we were doing it by pouring baby oil all over ourselves and holding something reflective in our hands so the sun would bounce off it and get our faces really good.
Because THAT’s how we rolled back then.
My girlfriends and i didn’t have any fancy dancy reflective tanning mirrors like the rich chicks did. So we made them ghetto-style out of cardboard covered with tinfoil – shiny side up. Give me one of those, a vinyl tri-fold lawn chair and a squeeze bottle of baby oil and watch me burn, baby, burn!!
i never really did achieve that level of sun-kissed glow, but i did go through dozens of nose-skin peelings and develop permanent freckles. Which, someday, will come back in fashion. Someday…
But now, of course, we know that the sun WILL KILL YOU.
4. No seatbelts = Daddy’s little helper
To be clear…we HAD seatbelts. At least the front seats in the car did. But often, the back seats did not. And this was way before “Click It or Ticket”, so if they had them or not, we weren’t wearing ’em. Cuz that’s our God-given American rights dagnabbit!
Which meant there was not a clear delineation between what was my part of the seat and which belonged to each of my two brothers’ for the duration of whatever trip we were on. With seat belts, at least our butts were firmly tied down to designated spots on the big back seat and except for a stray poke or pinch now and then (MOMMY! He’s TOUCHING me!) we more or less stayed on our sides of the imaginary lines.
But sans restrictive tie-downs, the entire back seat was fair game. Which inevitably resulted in pokes and prods that turned into freestyle wrestling for dominance that led to all-out gladiator brawls in the back seat with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And as the volume grew in the back, so did Dad’s temper in the front.
“You kids knock that off!” He would yell over his shoulder, his knuckles on the wheel turning white.
Which of course, to us, meant to try and keep our voices down while we continued to push and shove each other and fight for the biggest chunk of the back seat because there was NO WAY any of us were about to yield to the others. Inevitably, our voices would start getting loud again, as ribs were poked, legs were pinched and hair was pulled.
“I said, knock it off! Don’t make me stop this car!!” Dad’s face was now red as he divided his attention between the road ahead and the rear view mirror which he had tilted downward trying to see what his demon children were up to. This often did nothing to stop the Children of the Corn re-enactment that was happening over that back-seat prime real estate and finally, exasperated, Dad would slam on the breaks.
And this is where Dad took advantage of the No Seatbelt Thing and used it as his go-to punishment tool for Disobedient Children While Driving 55 On A Freeway.
Because, there was really no way for him to actually STOP the car on the freeway. And somehow, we kids knew the difference between being on a freeway, where stopping the car would be even more dangerous than three wild fighting wolverines in the back seat, and being on the quiet side streets and country roads, where ‘Don’t make me stop this car’ was a very real threat and one that resulted in three very red and sore butts.
But, even at the quaint, 1974 Nixononian speed limit of 55 mph, an unexpected slamming of the breaks while not wearing a seatbelt had the effect of turning three small, backseat tazmanian devils into veritable human projectiles. We were rocketed off our butts and slammed into the back of the seats in front of us, knocking the wind out of us – our three voices a multi-chord chorus of “OOF!!” Then, as Dad let off the brakes and mashed the gas pedal down again, we tumbled to the floor of the car in an awkward pile . Inevitably, one of my brothers ended up hopelessly tangled in my hair.
“Now you kids stay quiet!” Dad would bellow as he brought the car back up to speed, and we spent the next 10 miles getting ourselves up and untangled and back into our seats, where we rode rest of the trip with arms crossed, lips buttoned and pouting.
So…yeah. As the law says, the lack of seatbelts WILL KILL YOU.
5. Using Kitchen Utensils as Butt-Whackers
Wait, that might still be a thing.
You young parents out there – do you still go to the kitchen drawer and pull out the pancake turner or a wooden spoon to give your kid a spankin’? My brothers and i gave my mom so many reasons to go to that kitchen drawer that eventually, all she had to do was open it and shake it, rattling all of the utensils inside. We could be upstairs and at the far end of the house and STILL hear those spoons and spatulas clanking in that drawer. We would immediately stop our fighting and stand in silence, trembling in fear, staring at each other with wide eyes. Did we go to far? Was that the first shaking or the second? Was it just a shake? Or did she really grab a pancake turner and is on her way up here now to paddle our butts?
To this day, when our kitchen drawer gets stuck and the Man has to rattle and shake it to get it to open, i find myself breaking out into a cold sweat. When i bring this memory up to Mom, she laughs and fondly reminisces on how all she had to do was shake that drawer and we kids would straighten right up.
Ahhhh…the parenting tactics of an era long gone. What do parents do now? Count to 10? What happens at 10? i’m pretty sure smacking kids with a wooden spoon is frowned upon in this day of time outs and talking about our kiddie emotions but let me tell ya..you want instant cooperation? Start training those chilluns on the Kitchen Drawer Butt Whackers today and a month from now, all you’ll need to do is simply stroll into the kitchen and shake the drawer.
Because as kids, we just knew, that kitchen utensils COULD KILL YOU.
i can think of dozens of more of these examples, and i realize now it’s a dang miracle we all survived the seventies. But somehow we did, and now, we all have great stories to tell at holidays and long, hearty laughs to share with our families.
And years of therapy. Did i just hear something rattle?