Monday, January 18, 2016


I turned fifty-eight on my most recent birthday this past November, so if you do the math, you'll know I was born in a year when everyone liked Ike. That means my wonder years were spent in the 60's and early 70's, a time when Jello was considered a salad (if you set it on a bed of lettuce and mixed in carrot shavings,) white bread was a healthy food choice (it grew the body in 8 different ways!) and people smoked cigarettes at the dinner table because they were a great diet aid. Sometimes, I feel sad that today's young people will never have the opportunity to experience life with UHF TV, Saturday morning cartoons, and Baby Soft cologne. I know that kids today think they've got it all, but let's take them on a stroll down memory lane and show off some of the amazing items that were part of the fabric of our lives when we boomers were youngsters. Come along, young people!

Big Shot Chocolate. You are all so satisfied with your Hershey's chocolate sauce and powdered Nestle's Quik, but, I am witness to the fact that there was no better glass of chocolate milk on earth than one made with Big Shot. You placed the nozzle directly above your glass and gave it a push. The chocolate burst from the aerosol can and created a tiny whirlpool that allowed the milk to stir itself. Space-age magic! The best part was, if your parents didn't buy you many toys, you could play with the Big Shot can for weeks, until someone noticed it was attracting ants.

 Colored toilet paper! Imagine being able to color coordinate, not only bath towels and rugs, but the personal cleansing product used for visits to "the powder room"? I know millennials have a tendency to be quite smug about their "recycled TP." Well, that's because they never knew the beauty of the spring collection of Northern Quilted, or the cheer-inspiring holiday line of Charmin. Obviously, the repeated urinary tract infections caused by the dye used in the products was a nuisance, but nothing that a repeated dose of antibiotics couldn't cure!

Chun King! Never mind that it was invented by an Italian. For most people who lived between the two coasts, this was our first experience with Chinese food. Of course, we did not know that chow mein just means fried noodles (which were awesome to eat right out of the can, BTW,) or that chop suey was an American invention. We were getting culture!  And, as you can see by the ad below, Mom was happy to indoctrinate us to meals from a can that came from The Orient! Either that, or she had dipped into her stash of Mother's Little Helper a little earlier in the day.

Fotomat! You dropped your film off on your way to work and picked up the pictures on the way home. These kiosks were fraught with mystery. What sorcery was used to develop your prints without a dark room in sight? Where did the employees go during bathroom breaks? Why did we order multiple prints of all of our fairly awful photos? We will never know because Fotomats disappeared once our short-attention spans lured us to the one-hour development process offered at the drug store. 
Pen Pals! Somewhere around the 5th grade, students were given the option to participate in the Pen Pal Program. Those willing were matched up with someone of the same age from another country. We wrote to each other on paper the consistency of a Kleenex and mailed the letters in important looking envelopes that required special stamps. The point to the exercise was for all of us to learn a bit about life in countries we'd never visit to help broaden our world view. My pen pal was from Scotland, so I was surprised she did not have red hair, rarely wore plaid, and didn't like Scottish terriers. Mission accomplished. World view broadened!

Fuzzy Wuzzy! Apparently, back in the 60's, childhood hygiene was an issue. To trick us into getting ourselves reasonably clean, there were numerous bath products disguised as toys. The creepiest was Fuzzy Wuzzy. This naked bear needed hair, and could only get it if you released him from his cage, got him damp, then set him out in the air for the three days. Afterwards, we were encouraged to wash ourselves thoroughly (everywhere!) with the newly fuzz-covered bear. Little did we (or our parents) know Fuzzy's fur was actually just a form of mold. Oh well. Mold is organic, so we were ahead of our time!

Fuzzy waits in supplication for his warm fuzz.

The transformation takes place, and Fuzzy now looks like the carrot you find in the back of your fridge months after purchase.
Boots Worn Over Shoes!These were a winter nightmare. You were required, by law, to wear your shoes with these things. This meant that on snowy days, you had to carry a plastic bread bag  and a clothes pin to school with you. (More on that, later.) Then, before you could struggle out of your monstrous snow leggings, you had to free yourself from the boots WITHOUT removing the shoes. Having a shoe come off with a boot created serious problems. First of all, everyone in the hallway had just walked through snow, and the floor was now swamped with ice water. If you lost your shoe, you'd be forced to step in the puddles in your stocking feet. Also, getting the shoe out of the boot without the leverage and force of your leg was even more difficult than would be expected. The process was good practice for childbirth.  Once the boots were off, you were required to place them in the bread wrapper (to help prevent even more water from trickling along the hallway) and clip them together with the clothespin that had your name written in marker on the side. If that seems a bit much, remember that these boots came in 2 colors. Red or black. It was imperative we all find our own boots quickly after school as there were buses to catch. For the most part, these boots were worthless. But, they built character!

8. Carbon Paper! Before Xerox machines, PCs, and scanners, we still needed two copies of everything because that's the law of the land. I give you: carbon paper! You placed this between two pieces of white paper and proceeded to type your report. In the end, you ended up with one beautiful copy and one slightly ink-stained copy. But, they looked enough alike that we now use the term "carbon copy" on a regular basis to describes identicals. Of course, we're probably all doomed to die, because who knows what sort of chemicals we got on our fingers while handling the CP. Nowadays, you'd probably be required to wear a hazmat suit and sign several consent forms just to take a routine typing class. 

These Super-Cheap Toys! In my day, we received toys twice a year - the Christmas/Hanukkah season, and our birthdays. Of course, there were the odd toy-receiving opportunities when Daddy went on a business trip or Grandmother came to town. Otherwise, twice a year. So, we were not only grateful but also delighted when we received these crappy toys from the turnpike plazas. 
You could spend hours working this, which is exactly the reason it was sold at turnpike rest stops.
This required hand-eye coordination, which I didn't have. I was a flunk at Jacks. But, since there was really nothing else to do back then, I kept trying.

You could write secret messages and even dirty words on this pad, and wa-la! Erase it all so your parents never knew! Except they found out because the words etched into the cardboard backing. 
This was a free toy that grandmother's could pull out in desperation. It took awhile to cut out the dresses, and Betsy, herself. Plus, the tabs never fit right, so the dresses kept falling off. But, Betsy was amazing with her Mary Janes and bob cut. She NEEDED us to dress her in the high fashion of the 7 year-old.
Fortunately, kids today are spoiled, so there is rarely a need for these types of distractions. But, should their electronics ever fail them, just provide them with these amazing cheap toys. It will take them days to find the "start" button. Once they do, they will be desperate for the "walk-throughs" that will let them know exactly which dress Betsy McCall needs to wear to get to the next level.

Ashtrays! Before smoking was considered gauche and second-hand smoke found to be deadly, the ashtray was de rigueur accessory for the well-appointed home. They were on coffee tables, end tables, kitchen tables. You could find them in bedrooms, on patios, and they even came standard in automobiles. Whether they were made of porcelain, crystal, or plastic, one thing was certain. They always needed emptying. Besides cigarette butts and ash, they collected used gum, sucker and popsicle sticks, hair pins, and even chicken bones. Naturally, there were plenty of occasions when the family toddler or dog would decide to devour the contents of the ashtray. But, that didn't disturb us. As a rule, they lived.  

Lest you think I miss all this stuff, I don't. But, I do miss the kid I was back when all this was only an arm-reach away. That kid had no idea that the world was about to become amazing, and that there would be computers, the internet, email, social media, blogs. But, that kid would have been sad to see all of this go. As goes the stuff, so goes time. At my age, it's all about the time. 


  1. The process was good practice for childbirth. LOLOLOL!

  2. Along with the carbon paper is mimeographed copies. Nothing smelled as amazing as freshly mimeographed tests. I'm sure we all probably lost a few brain cells because of them.

  3. Ohmigosh, the memories! "Never mind that it was invented by an Italian." HA!! Lovin' yer bloggin', my cuz!

  4. I forgot about a lot of these things! Good job, Susan.

  5. They're taking away our turntables, Zsus! Now vinyl's trendy again. Little buggers don't remember stacking pennies on the stylus so the record didn't skip, though!