Things I Miss About the 1970s

THINGS I MISS ABOUT THE 1970s - You are about to feel really old!

things I miss about the 1970s 

I don’t have any idea why but lately I have been thinking about the 1970’s a lot. It was my introductory decade, the decade when I went from zero to ten. To be honest, the first five years were a blur, I don’t recall much between 1969 and 1974 because I was too young, but I remember 1975 onwards and well, things kind of seemed really great.

I started to think just how long ago it was and I was surprised that some things still seem as new today as they were back then, and I also realised that we had stuff back then that was way better than today, or at least the equivalent of what we have today. 

I now know that the 70’s was a dire decade for political stuff, but for kids it was a great time to get introduced to the world.

I’m not sure what life was like outside of the UK but when I speak too many of my friends who live overseas they remember the 70’s in the same way I do, and they miss similar things. 

I suppose the biggest thing I miss is the fact that as a child I never had bills and the letterbox was the letterbox, not a hiding place for the responsibility monster to lurk. Life wasn’t based on subscribing to everything, and what exactly were computers?

So this week I thought I would give you a taste of what I can remember during the most fabulous decade in the history of ever. If they ever invent a time machine, this is the decade I want to go back to because it was just awesome.

1970s colour schemes were fab 

MOST MISSED

OK kids, today you have it really good but us 70’s off spawn had it way better. Why? Because we only ever had 3 TV channels and kids TV was shown between noon and half-past noon, and again at 4pm until Blue Peter finished at about 5:30pm. 

Why is this great you ask, because we didn’t have the overwhelming choice that children get today. It was either watch ten minutes of Cockleshell Bay or Jamie and the Magic Torch, and about twenty-minutes of Rainbow a programme which would seem a little odd if it aired today or the other choice was to go outside and stay out of your parents way. 

There was no Disney Channel, in fact Disney was a theme park in America, they owned a mouse, and they actually made cartoons and films. 

For British youngsters, shows like Pipkins and Trumpton were cutting edge TV and the only reason that you would ever come indoors. 

I remember 1975 because that was the year we got high definition TV. Actually it wasn’t High Definition at all, my parents rented a colour TV set and upgraded the TV aerial. Coming from a small black and white TV with a rotary tuner (no buttons, no remotes, just a tuning dial and a volume dial, and no remote), to a twenty-six inch colour TV was nothing short of breath-taking. 

We had better telephones in the seventies too. They didn’t break when you dropped them and the signal was always excellent. Of course they weren’t mobile. You literally had to hook the telephone up to a socket in the hall with something called a cable and the numbers buttons, well there were no buttons apart from the two on top which ended a call when you placed the receiver down. The actual numbers were a dial because we loved dials in the seventies.

1970s British Red Telephone Box 

We did have semi-mobile phones though and you never had to pay an exorbitant cost to rent or buy them because you couldn’t rent or buy them. They were called telephone boxes and there was one at the top of every street. 

All you had to do was dial the number, insert a two-penny coin when the recipient picked up and you heard the beeps, and there you had it, the original pay as you go and you never had to worry about losing the phone. Signal quality was far better than anything we have today.

The only downside of course was that any calls you did make had to be made after 6pm because that was off-peak and the calls were so much cheaper. Forget international calls, they were the reserve of big business, but actually they were still much cheaper than a premium rate number in 2017.

If you wanted to speak to friends you would never call them, you would call for them. You would go outside and walk to their house, press the doorbell, and then their mother would answer and tell you that your friend is at the park.

The fact the park was almost a 2-mile walk didn’t put you off, you would just say ok thank you and walk the two-miles. When you got there your friends would have just left, so off you would go to the local shop where you knew they would be queuing up for penny sweets and a Slush Puppy.

First though you would have a spin on the Merry-go-round that would never pass a health and safety inspection today. This was the original white-knuckle ride and us kids loved it.

There would be many roads to cross and no CCTV along the route. Yet no one minded that you would walk to school at the age of five on your own, parental panic only kicked in if a Police officer knocked on the door and said that the child was being a pain in the neck.

Entertainment was created not by an app but by making it up as you went along. We had a premium film streaming service though and there was no buffering. We didn’t have broadband but we had the local video store in the late seventies.

You could actually visit the store and rather than trawl through a million affiliate links which tell you what you should be watching, you could actually speak to the all-knowing video rental clerk behind a counter.

The video clerk was the most respected film critic in the local community, a veritable font of all knowledge and the equivalent of IMDB, but who hadn’t got a profile on IMDB. To get a part-time job at the video store was like becoming a doctor. Your study to secure such a prestigious position would involve watching every film ever released, and even if it was rated higher than your age, you could still rent it as long as you used the phrase, ‘I am renting it for my dad’. I mean you could rent anything at all, I tried and tested it frequently. 

Just like we do now with Netflix, when it came to choosing the film you would spend hours looking at the empty cases and picking up everything that looked a little risqué. The entire local population would be in the same store at the same time, and it would be simply a case of saying to someone, have you seen this film? What did you think? When they said it was great, you immediately made sure the slip of paper with the word 'Rented' wasn't anywhere to be seen or else it could be weeks before you got to watch it. 

If you were the proud owner of a Betamax video cassette recorder you would be restricted to the smaller selection of (superior quality) tapes and movies at the far end in the corner of the store. If you had chosen VHS as the weapon of entertainment then you would be able to pretty much rent anything you wanted as long as the 'rented' slip wasn't inserted between the front cover and the plastic case; or unless it was a new release because then they would booked out for three weeks, but you could put your name on the list.

Renting a video cassette beat going to the local cinema. If you were lucky enough to be taken to the local cinema chances are that if the film was a must-see, you would need to queue outside the cinema in the rain unless it was 1976 when there was no rain. 

I remember going to see Grease and I also remember being only in the middle of the queue despite turning up almost four hours before the matinee. But not standing there wasn’t an option because it would take five years for a cut-down version to appear on TV and years before it would be available on VHS.

In-school entertainment was also a joyful experience. You would long for two days at school. One you could predict, which was the day you would break up for half-term and the second day would happen at random intervals and you never quite knew when.

That second day was when a large trolley would get wheeled into the classroom which carried a large TV and a Betamax machine. This was the day you would be able to watch a documentary style video that was not so much a documentary but a factual lesson usually about the birds and the bees.

If it wasn’t the birds and the bees it would be a public safety film. Possibly the number one reason why no one I knew ever climbed the fence to an electricity sub-station and touched anything that said live. Nor did we happily run off with a complete stranger because in the UK, a cartoon character named Charlie told us not too, and the guy who played Darth Vader (David Prowse) told us how to cross the road. 

It was an hour of laughter with a ten minute break halfway through when you got free milk and would be allowed to go and play tag in the playground.  Your only stress would be that you didn’t get picked last for the team which had been assembled because there was always one kid who managed to bring a football to school and by default he would be team captain. I was always picked last, I think my obvious athletic prowess was intimidating. 

The entertainment provided by this miracle called electricity often ceased the moment you had to switch to renewable energy which we called a candle. This happened a lot in the seventies as we struggled with power cuts. I later learned that this was due to some political stuff going on and no one was actually getting paid in the public service to actually provide the electricity, but it didn’t matter. 

The whole house was dark and it was exciting. This was the moment when you ate by candlelight and dad would take out the big torch with a battery the size of an elephant but managed to light up a small area. 

We had cars in the seventies and they were the most wonderful cars you could imagine. They were actually mechanical, so if they broke down your dad would be able to fix them on the driveway without going to a garage. 

There were no seat belt laws so if you were lucky enough to have a five-door hatchback, you would be able to cosy on up in the trunk with a blanket and put some distance between you and the parents. 

Allegedly child seats existed but these were totally pointless. You would sit on your parents lap or between your mother and your crazy aunt and you would be completely wedged in and safe. None of these responsible adults had to wear seat belts and when they did it wasn’t a seat belt, more of a lap strap. 

As children we learned that our own marketing campaigns should be started in August in readiness for Christmas.  We knew exactly what would be needed to ensure that roller skates were presented to us over the festive period. 

The roller skates that didn’t rely on you having a certain sized foot, but those with the white rubber block which you used for stopping and the metal plate which adjusted to any size foot were the best. Well any size as long as you didn’t have weird sized feet.

Not only did we get our first colour TV in the 70’s but I remember the colours of the year like they were yesterday. Actually yesterday I wore the colours of the 70’s because I had no plans to go out.

Elvis meets President Richard Nixon 1970 

I remember that everything was orange and brown and as an artist of a certain age I find that palette so appealing. It conjures up memories of that wonderful decade. 

1976 was probably the last time anyone in the UK actually swam in the British sea. It was gloriously hot weather and the tarmac was actually melting on the roads. The mercury topped 28C (82F) for a record-breaking 22 days, but I am sure the records have it wrong because every day in 1976 was just wonderful. There is no way that 41-years later I would remember only 22-consecutive days of glorious sunshine, surely it was sunny all year. 

Aviation in the seventies was so much more advanced than it is in 2017. We had the best aviation ever. Concorde began flying from Heathrow to Bahrain in 1976. We could arrive in New York a whole 90-minutes before we took off. Now we are lucky if a slower aircraft takes off 90-minutes after it should have left, or if we get through security within half a day.

When it came to fashion and hair we had it easier too. In the seventies there was no need to visit the hairdresser to get your locks cut for a Saturday night out at the local night club. The only time a man would visit a hairdresser or barber would be to get a perm because the greatest British footballer of all-time was Kevin Keegan and we wanted curly hair too, just like Kevin's. 

When it came to fashion just so long as you looked like Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha, or Frida, from super-group ABBA, everything was cool. Talking of music, we had real lyrics and not those conversations with Rain Man that kids listen to today. 

We had Elvis, well we did until 1977, and we had Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, although they sadly passed away, but they produced the best music ever. 

When it came to collecting things, we were real collectors. We had sticker albums and stamps and we also had Virtual Reality in the form of the View-Master. Pop in a disc and a 3D world would appear before your eyes. Push down the black plastic slider and wow, a new 3D world appeared. 

I’m not sure if Bazooka Bubble gum was ever a thing elsewhere, but bubble gum today is not anything like it was back in the day. You could chew a Bazooka for a whole day and it would produce the biggest and pinkest bubble ever. If you swallowed a Bazooka in 1976, it would remain inside your stomach until at least 1988. Anglo bubble gum was the only other that could compete with Bazooka.

You see the seventies were just better. We had everything we have today except today everything needs a battery, or it needs to be connected, or it’s expensive. We had no idea what would make anything better because anything better just didn’t exist.When I think back everything about the seventies seemed like it was only yesterday and when I started perusing the inter-web thingy I suddenly realised just how old I suddenly feel.

I was convinced some films were more recent than they are, and that some products must have only been around in the 21st Century, but apparently not. So I decided to compile a list of films and products available during the seventies. If you don’t feel old and nostalgic already, this list will certainly surprise you, and it will make those of us of a certain age feel suddenly very old. Of course we're not old, we are just experienced in the art of life. 

FILMS

1971

A Clockwork Orange 

The French Connection 

Dirty Harry

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Fiddler on the Roof

Diamonds are Forever

Get Carter

Shaft

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

1972

The Godfather

Deliverance

The Poseidon Adventure

Last Tango in Paris

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

The Last House on the Left

Silent Running

1973

Badlands

The Exorcist

American Graffiti

Mean Streets

Enter the Dragon

The Sting

Live and Let Die

Westworld (and still the best version)

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Magnum Force

1974

Blazing Saddles

Young Frankenstein

The Godfather Part II

The Towering Inferno

Airport 1975

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Death Wish

Earthquake

1975

Jaws

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Shampoo

Night Moves

The Return of the Pink Panther

The Stepford Wives

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

1976

Carrie

Rocky

All the Presidents Men

Taxi Driver

The Omen

King Kong

Logan’s Run

Gator (Burt Reynolds)

1977

Star Wars

Saturday Night Fever

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

A Bridge Too Far

Smokey and the Bandit

The Rescuers

The Spy who loved me

The Exorcist II

Kentucky Fried Movie

Pete’s Dragon

The Deep

1978

Animal House

Grease

Superman

Halloween

Jaws the Revenge

The Deer Hunter

Watership down

Convoy

Piranha

1979

Alien

Apocalypse Now

The Muppet Movie

Kramer vs. Kramer

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Mad Max

Moonraker

The Warriors

Rocky II

Escape from Alcatraz

So how many of these did you see at the cinema? If that list makes you feel old, look at the things that were invented in the seventies!

1970

Home VCR 

Floppy Disk 

Lead Free Petrol

The Jumbo Jet Engine 

1971

Email 

LCD (Liquid Crystal Displays) 

Pocket Calculators 

Intel Microprocessors

1972

Pong (still one of the greatest video games of all time) 

WordStar – Word Processor

Peter Powell Stunt Kite

1973

Disposable Lighter 

Bar Codes 

Xerox made the first personal computer with a graphical user interface

1974

Post-It Notes 

Rubik’s Cube

Liposuction

1975

The digital camera (Steve Sasson and it took 23-seconds to commit the picture to tape)

Cray 1 Supercomputer

Altair 8000 by Bill Gates 

1976

Ink Jet Printers 

Gor-Tex

Apple Computer

1977

MRI Scanners 

Apple II computer

Commodore Pet Computer

1978

Space Invaders

Spreadsheets appeared on the Apple II computer

1979

Cell Phones 

Sony Walkman 

So there you have it! A guide to many things 1970’s. If there is something that you miss from this historical decade or don’t miss, please do leave a comment! I would love to hear if there is anything you miss if you live outside of the UK too, maybe we should campaign to bring certain things back, or maybe we should just set up a Kickstarter campaign!

ABOUT M.A

Mark A. Taylor is a UK based artist who specialises in abstract, landscapes, and surrealist art. You can view Mark’s artwork at http://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com and in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada including Deck the Walls, The Great Frame Up, and Framing and Art Centre.

You can follow Mark on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia and on Twitter @beechhouseart

Coming Soon! Why has Cinema Declined? Find out in my upcoming special feature on the Art of Cinema!


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