Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fads I Fondly Remember
"Fads are fertilizer to American culture."
- Ray B Browne, Journal of Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University

This T13 was prompted by a wonderfully nostalgic article in the NYT. Link here: Silly Fads

Maybe it's just the Baby Boomers waxing reminiscent about the past, but didn't the 50's and 60's almost invent fads? No, we only think we started it all. Bathtub gin, flappers, fringy dresses -- the 20's roared and the 30's depressed (which is why we call it a recession now).

I seem to recall being swept into many fads. So many, in fact, that I had to make up categories to get all of them on the page. Or all that my frazzled boomer brain can recall. And I didn't want to be too redundant -- didn't want to be too obvious. Then again, why the heck not? Who but a Beatle nut could type that line, eh?

Okay... in no particular order, with no particular design, here are some fads I recall from my misspent youth.

1. CANDY -- SweetTarts, firesticks, Big Hunks, cinnamon toothpicks and gum flavors: teaberry, bemans, fruit stripe, sour fruit, and my fav, Black Jack (and the ubiquitous Juicy Fruit, Double Mint and Double Bubble). The thing is... we were so NOT allowed to eat or even have candy. Complete rebellion to bring this stuff to school. So, I guess candy started it all, eh? The rebellion stuff, I mean. Go figure. Rebels without a sweet. Uh huh.

2. MAKE UP -- Twiggies! Yep, using your black eyeliner (and all you have to do is get a load of Elizabeth Taylor during the 60's to see how much we relied on black eyeliner). With Twiggies, you paint eyelashes below your eyes (see insert above).

3. HAIR -- The Beatle cut was fashionable for men and women. Then came Sassoon (who is having a boon these days with the return of The Bob). I had a Sassoon Beatle cut, just like the picture above, in the circle. Oh yeah, that was tres hip.

4. TOYS -- Wham-O ruled the fad market. The hula hoop shot Wham-O to the top of the charts, and the company just kept coming up with hits. Frisbee. Slip 'n Slide. I don' t think Slinky is a Wham-O product, but everyone had one which worked for about fifteen minutes and then kinked into oblivion. Silly Putty was a big hit -- stretched, bounced, even copied from newspaper (which turned the lovely pink into a yucky gray). Jacks, cap pistols, pick-up sticks, tether ball, hop scotch -- these games were very popular in a simpler time. Even checkers and chinese checkers -- everybody had a set. Oh, duh... Etch-a-Sketch. Too obvious?

5. DANCES -- The Twist! I remember my parents bought a new stereo. But you see, the stereo was a piece of furniture. Ours was Swedish modern, like a console table with a sliding top and inside the turn table. The first album they bought was Chubby Checker's Doin' the Twist. They had twist parties with all the neighbors on our block. For us dancing began with American Bandstand, The Bop and The Stroll, but with the explosion of British Rock and all the bands, dance shows flooded the air. My favorite dances were The Mashed Potato and The Jerk. Oh, the Pony was fun. Whatever happened to dances with cool names? Or am I just so far outta da loop that I don't know.... (duh)

6. SHOES -- Too many to recall. Shoes were inexpensive. We would check out the latest styles worn by pop stars like Cher or just the dancers on the local shows. Then we would go to Thom McCan's (cheap knock-offs) and plant our noses smack against their lovely display windows. Patent leather was big -- white and black. Stack heels. Saddle shoes came back, too. And penny loafers -- I actually had a pair in 1969. I remember because my mother bought them for me and I was really mad. But then they became "the thing" and I wore them out. I wore moccasins, even to school -- squaw boots. I loved them and have tried to find exactly the style I used to wear, but haven't had any luck.

7. DOLLS -- Besides the Barbie phenomenon (and I received an original when I broke my arm in the 4th grade, about 1959). Shirley Temple dolls (I still have mine), Tiny Tears/Betsy Wetsy, Chatty Cathy (first talking doll), Poor Pitiful Pearl (found one on eBay), Trolls (my sister LOVED these), and much later, The Cabbage Patch Doll.

8. TV SHOW ACCESSORIES -- Davy Crockett and the coonskin cap (never had one but we sang that stupid song all the time); Mickey Mouse Club and the cap with ears (had one) (also sang the silly song all the time). Gidget (Sally Field) and the kerchief (yep, had one) and the bikini (yep that's were we started). No, didn't have a shoe phone from Get Smart -- all we had to do was wait for the cellphone. Who knew?

9. ROLLER SKATING -- Have skate key, will travel. Skates to fit any shoes. And the scuffed knees to prove it. Then shoe skates. Mind you... all this without polyurethane wheels. Metal wheels. Not too smooth on the blacktop. Then we removed the wheels from our old skates, nailed 'em to a board, and tried to emulate the original skateboards. The Beach Boys lived near us and my dad even taught one of the members (don't know which guy), in elementary school before the group became famous. I suppose I should have a category for "Starting a Band in Your Garage," because that was all the rage. Every guy who didn't play sports and wasn't a science geek grabbed a guitar or a drum set and tried to catch fame (and girls) making rock music. That made the girls all.... groupies? When we weren't roller skating at the roller rink.

10. CLOTHES -- Too many fads to list here, but our saving grace was sewing. A new fad would hit every other week it seemed. We'd hustle down to the fabric store, find the pattern, and make it. Bellbottoms, culottes, empire waist, tent dresses, granny dresses, Nehru shirts, and bikinis. Paisley. Madras. Kettle cloth. My sister and I were a cottage industry. I loved the short, "A" line skirts with matching vests. I had one that was yellow with white daisies. I bought a "Poor Boy" top: wide ribbed cotton, with short sleeves and scoop neck. Gosh, I thought I was Marianne Faithful in that get-up.

I wish I could find Kettle Cloth again. Have tried and tried. Ugh. Great stuff for sewing anything.

11. TRIVIAL PURSUIT-- Remember when that swept the nation? I was finally HIP. They actually WANTED "the smart one" on their team. Nice for a change.

12. BABY ON BOARD -- Fad and backlash all in one. I still see remnants of those signs. Well, we were all driving 55 to save fuel and had plenty of time to read all those yellow squares, right?

Hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane. What fads do you recall?

13. ELEPHANT JOKES!!! I loved these. So I'm pasting a whole lot of them on the end here. These jokes were HUGE in the early sixties. They had an irreverence, style, and pattern which mirror the times.

Q: How can you tell that an elephant is in the bathtub with you?
A: By the smell of peanuts on its breath.
Q: How can you tell that an elephant has been in your refrigerator?
A: By the footprints in the butter.
Q: What's harder than getting a pregnant elephant into a Volkswagen?
A: Getting an elephant pregnant in a Volkswagen.
Q: Why is an elephant big, grey and wrinkly?
A: Because if it was small, white and hard it would be an aspirin.
Q: Why are golf balls small and white?
A: Because if they were big and grey they would be elephants.

Q: What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of elephants in the distance?

A: "Look, a herd of elephants in the distance"

Q: What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of elephants with sunglasses

A: Nothing. He doesn't recognize them.

Q: What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of giraffes in the distance?

A: "Haha! You fooled me once with those disguises, but not this time!"

Q: What is the difference between en elephant and a plum?

A: An elephant is grey.

Q: What does Jane say when she sees a herd of elephants in the distance?

A: "Look! A herd of plums in the distance" (Jane is colour blind)

Q: How do you get four elephants into a Mini?

A: Two in the front, two in the back.

Q: What game do four elephants in a mini play?

A: Squash

Q: How do you get an elephant into the fridge?

1. Open door.
2. Insert elephant.
3. Close door.
Q: How do you get a giraffe into the fridge?

1. Open door.
2. Remove elephant.
3. Insert giraffe.
4. Close door.

Q. The lion, the king of the jungle, decided to have a party. He invited all the animals in the jungle, and they all came except one. Which one?

A. The giraffe, because he was still in the fridge.

Q: How do you know there are two elephants in your fridge?

A: The door won't close.

Q: How do you know there are three elephants in your fridge?

A: There'll be one waiting outside in the Mini.

Q: How can you tell that an elephant has been in your fridge?

A: By the footprints in the butter.

Q: How do you get an elephant out of the water?

A: Wet.

Q: How do you get two elephants out of the water?

A: One by one.

Q: Why do elephants wear shoes with yellow soles?

A: So you don't see them when they float upside down in a bowl of custard.

Q: Have you ever seen an elephant floating upside down in a bowl of custard?

A: No, of course not.

Q: Why do elephants live in herds?

A: To get a wholesale reduction on the shoes with yellow soles.

Q: How do you smuggle an elephant across the border?

A: Put a slice of bread on each side, and call him "lunch".

"An elephant is a mouse with an operating system"

Q: How do you shoot a blue elephant?

A: With a blue elephant gun, of course.

Q: How do you shoot a yellow elephant?

A: Ever seen a yellow elephant?!!!

Q: Why are elephants wrinkled?

A: Have you ever tried to iron one?

Q: Why did the elephant fall out of the tree?

A: Because it was dead.

Q: Why did the second elephant fall out of the tree?

A: It was glued to the first one.

Q: Why did the third elephant fall out of the tree?

A: It thought it was a game.

Q: And why did the tree fall down?

A: It thought it was an elephant.

Q: How many legs does an elephant have?

A: Four, two in the front, two in the back.

Q: Why did the elephant cross the road?

A: Chicken's day off.

Q: What was the elephant doing on the motorway?

A: About 5 mph (8kph in the rest of the world)


Gina Ardito said...

Oh, Lord, you were busy, weren't you? I'm a wee younger than you, so for me it was the Dorothy Hamill haircut and the Hustle was the dance. But I still love Trivial Pursuit--yay for the geeks! And those are some classic elephant jokes!

Zara Penney said...

I learned about life through the Bobbsey Twins.
About Volcanoes.
Bobbsey Twins in Volcano Land.
And I learned about tapping trees.
Bobbsey Twins in Sugar Maple Hill
and I learned a foreign language from The Bobbsey Twins in Blossom Land...


I just googled Zee. I didn't have the full set but reading the list now I think you don't need it to read it ;-)

Drennan said...

Ok, I love this post--too fun. I'm afraid that I'm pretty faddy, if I can use that word, but hey, it's fun so I'm gonna go with it. Is my current haircut too faddy? I'm saying no because I had it before Posh did.

Leah said...

Lol - I love theese trips down memory lane. Fads I remember (for some bizarre reason) are the 'who shot JR?' t-shirts (yes I had one!) and 'spacedust' - a powder like sweet that crackled in your mouth when you ate it. I believe it was banned for some reason but I don't know why...