Turning 50 and fabulous

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Kym Seabolt

I still remember when 30 was old.

— Deanna Carter

I am soon to reach a half a century mark. I’m not mad about it. It beats the alternative.

I am a little disappointed not to have a flying car by now. I am pretty sure I was led to believe that technology would exist by the year 2000. Future, you owe me.

In looking back at the years that brought me where I am today, I have had a good time revisiting all the ways things were different and unique to growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Wonderful beat me to the mid-century mark because he’s super old whereas I am just regular old. We grew up in remarkably different families, yet the era alone binds our memories and those of our peers.

Fashion

If you never wore bread bags stuffed inside your snow boots as a child, did you even 1970’s? Poly blends ruled so hand-me-downs lasted forever.

Overall, I think people were slimmer then. That or the wide collars and wider bell bottoms just made them seem so?

Transportation

GPS was unheard of. Grown-ups used maps to navigate. That caused a lot of arguments, as did the struggle to refold the maps. All this exacerbated by riding in vehicles without air conditioning.

We laid low in the “way back” of the station wagon or stretched out along the rear view window ledge. If we weren’t bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck, that is.

My memory of seatbelts of that era is that we shoved them down between the seats so they weren’t uncomfortable to sit on.

Communication

We are old enough to remember when telephones were mounted to the wall. If you were lucky, you knew how to stretch the phone cord long enough to have a “private” conversation.

Without caller identification, you could risk making prank calls. “Is your refrigerator running? You better catch it!”

We remember busy signals, collect calls to mom to decline so she knew to come pick you up after rolling skating or the movies, and woe to you if you tied up the line so long that your parents had to have the operator “cut in.”

Call waiting was whoever was standing in line behind you waiting impatiently to use the phone.

Media

Cartoons on Saturday mornings only before programming switched over to golf or some other sport no child cared for. Probably where my disdain for sports started. ABC Wide World of Sports was my nemesis.

We had to get up and walk all the way across shag carpet in order to change the channel. That wasn’t as big a deal as it is now, primarily because we usually only had 3-4 channels.

There were three networks and some fuzzy UHF channels. We fiddled with “rabbit ears” or turned a rotor for a rooftop antenna if we were “fancy.” How else to know “who shot J.R.?”

There was no watching TV all day because nothing was on. TV all day was for sick days on the sofa when you were too ill to know that Joker’s Wild and soap operas really weren’t all that entertaining.

Price is Right was always good though. Don’t dis’ Bob Barker. Who didn’t want a year’s supply of Rice A Roni?

Movies were rented at a video store. “Please be kind and rewind” was the rule.

For music, we hovered over the stereo speaker with a “boom box” trying to record our favorite song. Radio DJs who talked over the music were the worst! Then there was always the very real risk of the tape player eating your tape.

We still had albums too. “The record is skipping. I need a new needle.”

Health

I see parents disinfect their kids with hand sanitizer head to toe these days. We never got disinfected in the ’70s and 80s unless we were having surgery or we scraped our knees.

We would have needed surgery had we ever swallowed a watermelon seed (remember them?) because it would grow in our stomachs. Scientific fact.

We all knew to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before swimming or you would get a cramp and drown. Also science.

We ate baloney on white bread. Snacks were ice pops, Kool-Aid with lots of sugar, Popsicles store bought or made in ice cream trays, and water straight out of the hose.

Home decor

I recently found an old slide of myself at what I believe was my fourth birthday. I’m beaming next to our trendy sofa. If you look up the 1970s they have a photo of that sofa. That sofa IS the 1970s. It was bright orange, gold and brown, kind of scratchy and never wore out. Ever.

It’s probably still in use somewhere. There is undoubtedly an afghan on it.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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