Child of the 70s

Montgomery Wards was a staple in my childhood and every time I drove down 7th street in my home town (Fort Worth, TX) I would see this beautiful building that brought back so many memories, namely the toy department. I know I am dating myself, but when I was little the idea of the “mall” was in its infancy. We shopped at department stores where, like Vegas, there were no clocks, no windows, but always loads of smiling salespeople to help you part with your money. My little brother and I would dash between racks of clothes and dive into the “core” where we could have our own “clubhouse”….well, until my mother had enough our antics and yanked us out, swatted our butts, then swiftly detoured to Housewares—UGH! The Floor of Death. There were few things that could suck harder for a six-year-old than being banished to the World of Kitchen Appliances and Yard Tools. My mother could spend an entire day—I kid you not—looking at refrigerators. The only thing worse was FABRIC STORES.

Ah, and then there was the waiting room for the Sears Catalogue Department. Take a number please! I remember sitting for hours in horrible burnt orange chairs playing with the sand in the ashtrays (until Mom caught me). I would peruse the catalogues, making lists of all the crap I wanted for Christmas (Lite Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie Cosmetics Set, Hungry Hungry Hippos Game, Twister {I linked to all the old commercials if you want a flashback :D}). Meanwhile, my parents waited in line for the clothes they’d ordered for us–turtleneck shirts and orange corduroy pants with reinforced elbow and knees. Über-fashionable. My father would stand outside chain-smoking while my brother and I took turns checking the candy machines for loose change and petrified pink Chicklets left in the metal dispenser (Hey! I was a kid!). And then they had those “treasures” that came in a plastic bubble. We could buy JEWELRY for a mere .25?! I knew my mother was bad with money in that she could not see the value. She never once gave me two measly quarters to try my luck at landing the gold princess necklace….or a tattoo.

Christmastime was especially magical. This was back in the age when store-front windows were all the rage. All us kids would have our faces pressed against the cold glass and watch the mechanized puppets and the toy train that wound its way through cotton batting that was supposed to be snow. Every time we went in a store, we’d have to strip off 600 layers of clothes to keep from cooking to death, only to have to put them back on 20 minutes later. And, by the end of the night we would, of course, be missing a glove. Thus, we would have to wear old socks on our hands until mom ordered a new pair….from the JC Penny’s catalogue. It was a vicious cycle.

Of course every year all the department stores would have a cameo appearance from the Big Guy, himself—Santa. I must have been one of the most annoying children ever in that I never fully bought the whole one guy bringing toys to all the children of the world in 24 hours just out of the goodness of his heart thing.

Me: How old is Santa?

My Dad: No one knows.

Me: How can he visit all the children in the world in 24 hours?

My Dad: Santa is the only thing capable of traveling at light speed.

Me: What’s light speed?

My Dad: The speed Santa travels to give toys to all the children in the world in 24 hours.

Me: How can there be a Santa at Sears, Monkey Wards, and JC Penny’s?

My Dad: They’re clones.

And we wonder why I am warped?

Department stores like Montgomery Wards held so many fine memories, but their age passed and it was time to say good-bye.

There are other businesses like this. Arcades are still around, but not like the old days when we could spend 11 minutes and 43 seconds blowing through our allowance playing Ms. Pac Man or Space Invaders. There were no complex story-lines in these games like today. No, these games accurately reflected life—they got faster and faster and harder and harder until you DIED.

Drive-in movie theaters are pretty much extinct as well. I remember falling in love with Burt Reynolds while lying on a quilt spread over the hood of my father’s orange Chevy Ford pick-up (Why was everything orange in the 70s?). Anyway, I knew Burt and I would marry, despite the age difference. I was four and he was older than I could count at the moment using all fingers and toes, but love knew no bounds. There was the dancing hot dogs and soda. How can you not love dancing food? There was also a swing set where we could play when we got bored with the movie. You had to walk a half a mile to go pee…but the drive-in was pure magic.

Not a lot of roller rinks anymore, either. Who among you over the age of thirty DIDN’T fall in love at least once while gliding across polished wood under the light of the disco-ball? Stop skate, change directions, and maybe the hokey-pokey, is, in the end, what it’s all about. I still get chills when I hear Summer of ’69 or anything by Journey or Toto. There was also this Skating Rink Hierarchy. The low guys on the totem pole (me) wore those horrid clunky brown rental skates with orange wheels. And you had to get back in line at least six times to get a pair that fit AND worked AND had shoelaces that were still in tact…well, until your mom had to cut them off you at the end of the night. Oh, but to one day be cool and have white skates with pink wheels and glittery laces like all the high school girls. That would be when I knew I had finally made it.

It was a world where feathered hair ruled and a Trans-Am was the pinnacle of coolness. We all dreamed of one day growing up and owning Firebird, never suspecting that it too, would go extinct, left in the Age of the Department Stores. I am glad I got the chance to grow up in a world still so innocent, where walking to a snow cone stand was the only way to pass time on a summer night. It was quieter, slower, and I miss it dearly.

What are some things you guys miss? I don’t care how young or old, what is some piece of yesteryear that you want to share? Maybe you’ll jog our memories!

I want to hear your comments, and to prove it…

Leave a comment and I will put your name in for a drawing, and you can win an autographed copy of my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I’m going to gather all comments until Halloween and then the winner will be announced November 1st. Trackbacks count as an entry, so you can double your chances to win by leaving a comment and then linking to any of my blogs.

Happy writing!

Until next time…


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  1. Thank you for your blog post! You’re an excellent writer! You definitely brought back some fond memories from my childhood. I remember some of the toys and TV shows that were popular when I was a kid, namely, Jem and the Holograms, Kermit the Frog, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, He Man and the good ol’ Slinky!!

    1. And Play-Doh, Connect Four, She-Rah, Smurf, Green Acres….ah memories, :D. Thanks for the compliment and for sharing. I knew there were so many things even I had forgotten, which was why I was hoping you guys would comment, 😀

    • Kate Tate on October 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm
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    I remember all of the things you mentioned, though my younger childhood was more in the 60s. I remember riding my bike anywhere – miles from home – and it was SAFE. I remember a place in my hometown of Livonia, Michigan called the Han-D-Dip Dairy Barn, where much of my allowance was spent (it’s still there but with its side patio, umbrellas and smoothies it’s just not the same). I miss The Good Humor Man jingling his ice cream truck through my neighborhood (see a theme here? And I wasn’t even the class fat kid!). But mostly, if you want to talk about the 70s, I miss platform shoes on guys because I am close to 6 feet tall and towered over almost all the cutest guys in my high school (including the guy I eventually married).


    1. Oh, I hear you! I think of all the things we did as kids and there is no way that would happen today. Wew would be out the door after cartoons and home when the street lights came on :D.

    • CMStewart on October 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm
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    It’s been a while since I last thought about roller skating rinks! As a kid I was very shy, so I always dreaded going, but I always ended up having a blast. Same with school dances and swimming pools.

    My fav 70s memory is the music. I was obsessed with the band Air Supply. They had their biggest hits crossing over into the 1980s, but in the early 80s I was still firmly in the 70s.

    I already have your Social Media book- loving it!

    1. I love Air Supply! They are another band that just brings tears to my eyes missing being a kid during that time. Thanks for that and I am glad you are liking my book, 😀

    • jasonamyers on October 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm
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    I used to to love that Montgomery Wards on 7th street when I was a kid too.
    A few things I miss: The Fox photo, which you already know about.
    The TV Test Patterns that could come on after the stations would go off the air. (TV stations don’t go off the air any more.)
    Our kids will never have to wait to get their photos developed. They will never see a test pattern, and they will never get to get excited about window settings.
    Oh, and let us not forget Motts 5 and dime. I loved that place as a kid.
    No cell phones. It was nice, when you were away from a phone, you were out of contact…on your own. it was GREAT!.
    I liked going to the Tandy Center during the Holidays. Was cool when they had the candles on at night as you drove through downtown.

    1. I miss the “subway” at the Tandy Center. Motts was the best. My allowance seemed to go so much farther. I also miss B. Dalton book stores. I spent hours there and every penny of my babysitting money on DragonLance books.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I miss the live, unproduced disc jockeys. Radio was real radio back then. The local stations all had their own stars, and they were people you met on the street or even saw in your classes at high school. My friends and I would have slumber parties and take turns calling up the station as fast as we could to request the same David Cassidy or Beach Boys song over and over. The dj had to keep answering the calls because there was no caller id to tell him it was us. Poor guy. Lol. But I’d do it again. I also miss Perry Mason, The Carol Burnett Show, and Bob Hope. Thanks for the memories, Kristen.

  3. Nice stoll down memory lane. I remember the taffy we used to buy at the fire station on our way home from school. You could smack it on the counter top and it would break (inside the package) into many pieces. My faves were banana and chocolate. I’d ride my bike from elementary school, to the community center for my drama class, or on alternate days the “snakes alive” class my mom signed me up for (because of my fear of them) – the class that was a resounding failure as the first day the slightly weird teacher let the garter snake eat a whole, and live cute little pink-nosed mouse! And I cried for two days after that, and sat in the corner for the rest of the sessions.But I loved the drama class, especially the costume room chock full of every winged and wondrous thing, guarded by a wardrobe mistress barely able to move between the rows.
    My piano teacher lived a few blocks away, and once a week this older woman with the bent arthritic fingers over mine, showrf me how it was supposed to be done. We could make the most wonderful sounds with that piano like magic, and I felt like maybe I could do this afterall. I liked the way she pitched her letters as she wrote my homework assignments in my workbook, and the way her No. 2 pencil scratched over the page.
    Bonanza was a big thing in color, but we had to travel to my grandfather’s house to see it, as we only had one small black and white TV. I think Ed Sullivan was in color too-remember the blue glittery back curtain?
    Summer swimming lessons were great, especially when I got Dave the hunky lifeguard teacher with the 6-pack who used to glide through the water and make it look so easy. I wanted breasts in a hurry, but didn’t get them until we moved away. Darn. He lived across the street, and I used to spy on him and his girlfriends, pretending.
    We’d go into San Francisco and walk around Union Square, looking in the windows my family would never shop in: Gumps, Macys, have hot chocolate at the St. Francis, looking at the lobby with probably a dozen decorated trees.
    I remember the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show-we stopped choir practice to see it. Remember when Elvis went into the Army? My neighborhood friend’s mom had a flesh-colored Cadillac with one of those green moon roofs, and she would play Elvis so loud it would shake the sidewalk, making us both slide down so none of our friends would see us as she bombed around town in curlers, a cigarette immortally hanging from her red painted lips. That summer I learned to play football with one of my tomboy friends so I could hang around the guys. I was horrible, but they liked that I was a good sport. I could go on and on. Guess I need my own blog. Thanks, Kristin.

    1. LOL…I remember the days when I loved going to my grandparents because they had….color TV. And Technicolor was just so beautiful! And if you missed anything on TV, too bad. Missed Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Tough. Gotta wait until NEXT Christmas. HA! And Disney movies came out seriously like once a decade because they were all hand-drawn. Ahhhh. Thanks for the comment and the memories. Thanks Sharon.

  4. Oh, to have lived in America in the Seventies! I grew up in the North East of England, when the shipyards still worked. Our big entertainment was going swimming, and back then the Pool was called “The Public Baths” and it was just a big rectangle that was (or so it seemed) filled with Chlorine. There was the same joy and anticipation over Christmas, though. Our local park (Roker Park, still around today) used to put on amazing light shows each year – hundreds of coloured light bulbs making shapes of fairy tale characters. Some of them even moved – waving an arm back and forth! The highlight of the Christmas Season was catching a train down to London, leaving at five in the morning and getting there in time for lunch, visiting Oxford street to see the lights and the big storefront displays (Colourful animatronics, at least one of which would be Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney style). We would get to go into Hamleys, the Greatest Toy Shop in The World and look at toys we had never dreamed existed. We would then buy a tube of plastic bubble mixture, the cheapest thing available, and go back to the station for the ride home, dreaming of the Beach Buggy toy car that really drove!
    For us the late Seventies were all about how America was the coolest place on Earth – Star Wars and Grease? Give me a lightsabre and a baseball jacket and I’d be a happy man to this day.

    1. OMG…I totally forgot about the plastic bubble mix. Did you ever get it to work? And yes, Grease was the word. I wanted to grow up to be Sandra Dee and wear shiny black satin pants.

  5. I lived at the roller rink. I had the white skates with pink wheeels and glitter covered laces. I took skating lessons every Saturday morning, then skated all afternoon. I fell in love every weekend with some guy with feathered hair, tight jeans, and a gorgeous smile.

    At 19 I had a Firebird. I thought that piece of junk was the coolest car around. I miss those simple, simple days when going to the roller rink or the drive-in was all it took to make you so thrilled with life.

    • Caroline Clemmons on October 22, 2010 at 5:40 pm
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    Krixsten, what a great bit of nostalgia. One thing you left out was a dime store. I miss those, although some of the dollar stores try to fill that void (unsuccessfully). I’m so glad they saved the old Montgomery Wards building. I know an elderly lady who used to work there in the catalog warehouse. She said they wore roller skates so they could get the packages to the chute fast. Then, at the end of the day, sometimes she’d slide down the chute (if she thought she wouldn’t get caught).

    You’re younger than I am, but we must live near one another. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh my heavens!!! So many memories! So many laughs. I still remember my bright white rollerskates with the pink wheels, though I never remember being cool. I just grew up in a house full of boys and skateboards and I guess my Mom wanted me to have the best chance at being a girl. Um..sorry Mom. Nice try. I blew so much allowance on Pacman, but I also remember playing Smurfs on the Atari (was that early 80’s? It all kind of blends together). Smurfs were soooooooo cool. I still have my stickers. I lived near the drive in, so when we weren’t watching Star Wars in our pajamas (or sliding over the swingset), I would sit on the wall outside my house and use binoculars to watch the movies and read the lips of the actors. What fun!!! Wonderful blog posting. Thanks for the memories.

  7. I too remember (and miss) Saturday morning cartoons that featured creatures (Yogi-Bear, Flintstones, Bugs Bunny) and the movies that used to run on cable featuring them on Saturday afternoons and evenings. I also used to love eating and shopping at Woolworth’s; they had the best cheeseburgers and milkshakes I ever had growing up.

    I only did the roller rink thing a couple times. I remember very well those brown skates with the orange wheels!

    • glenda Finnegan on October 23, 2010 at 2:39 am
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    “Memories,of the way we were,” to qoute Barbara Striesand. I’d forgotten how much I loved the 70’s. Not the color orange, or avacodo green, or mustard, but the way Window displays at Christmas were HUGE, and the whole mall thing was so NEW!
    There were (gasp) NO COMPUTERS in the 70’s. The stores all had old fashioned cash registers, and the salespeople actually counted back your change by hand. AMAZING! And Santas were cloned. (I love your cynical, chain smoking Dad) Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end… whoops another song. And so along with you, I salute the 70’s.

    • coyhanson on October 23, 2010 at 2:41 am
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    Wow, this takes me back. How about Scooby Doo, Schoolhouse Rock and the crying indian from the don’t litter commercial? I remember orange pants and ugly pioneer furniture. Memories of shag carpet and Dad’s green leisure suit are now a mix of horror, humor and great memories of the good ole days. As a boy I bounced between wanting to be Roger Staubach, Evel Knievel and Hutch from ‘Starsky & Hutch’. I have just recently written a little piece on my blog about 1973. I now have to revisit that time a little more.

    Thanks for taking us back in time Kristen!

  8. The songs. The majority of the songs are cleaner back then. Now, the majority of the songs have cuss words, sexual reference, etc.

  9. Loved this Kristen!!! I also perused the catalogs, “making lists of all the crap I wanted for Christmas.” I never did get the Barbie Dream House that I circled every year, but I digress. I started singing the Lite Brite and Hungry Hungry Hippo songs as soon as I read that section…funny what memory can store. I miss the rule of the singer/songwriters of the ’70s where, before MTV, you could have quality music and songs from people who didn’t all look alike. I LOVE disco music, so I miss hearing that on the radio. Never thought I’d say this growing up, but at times I miss the slower pace. You had to take time to work on projects, research information and talk to people (no instant access with cell phones, texting or e-mail). I miss impartial news where the line wasn’t blurred between opinion segments and reporting the facts of events. Quincy, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island. Full-serve gas stations where they would pump the gas, wash your windshield and check the oil all in one swoop. Girl Scouts could safely go door-to-door selling cookies. I could go on and on. Thanks for the flashback!

  10. HA HA AH! I remember running through the department stores clothes rails with my sister. Oh my god, it drove my mum to near breaking point. Fun times. I also remember those god awful clothes we had to wear. Every t-shirt brought had a picture of the Bay City Rollers on it. And the rust coloured, knitted loop to loop cardigans we were forced to wear! What were my parents thinking? If it wasn’t for the comfort of Charlies Angels I think I could quite possibly have lost my mind…..although some would argue this and insist I did 😀 Excellent post as always Kristen. Brought back some fun, if not disturbing, memories.

    • Chris Redding on October 24, 2010 at 12:48 am
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    My childhood department store was Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia.
    They had a light show and animatronic displays leading to Santa.
    a bargain basement, too.
    and elevator operators.

    • Terrell Mims on October 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm
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    Child of the 90s here.

  11. Lovely post, Kristin. We used to shop at Leonard Brothers for everything. Fort Worth is a nice place, but it used to be a great big playground. Thanks for the memories.

  12. Oh how I loved the laid-back attitude of parents of the 70’s. We rode bikes all over town and roamed the neighborhoods, all the time, and without a thought. I loved especially the miniature Julie dolls. (Quite a fortune in those if you managed to hold on to them. I didn’t.) Also, miss the united caretaking that went on – the “rules” were the roughly the same for just about anyone under the age of 18 so you could get yelled at from a neighbor, business owner, school teacher, or parent. You knew that if you strayed beyond the “boundaries” that a neighbor would tattle, or ate a Reese’s cup before paying for it the owner would lecture you, or if you mouthed off at school there’d be a reckoning in the principal’s office as well as one at home. The adults were united in their efforts to make good little citizens and no one I ever knew got a pass. Also miss playing neighborhood games which always included a “ghost man” (never ghost woman) to run the base in order to get enough batters.

    Great memory visit, Kristin!

  13. Oh my gosh, all of this brings back memories (although I was in my teen years in the 70’s)! Let’s see, I remember roller skating (and ice skating in the winter) we went every weekend and the song I remember them playing ALL THE TIME was Dizzy (can’t remember who sang it). Platforms and elephant leg jeans (you know the HUGE bell bottomed pants), halter tops, hip huggers and yes, feathered hair, which I had. Charley’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett style. LOL

    Christmas DID seem so much more magical back then! It snowed a lot more, too, it seems (Commenter #2-Kate, I’m also from Michigan. Hazel Park, to be exact. Not far from Livonia).

    My mother’s favorite place to shop was Sears. And Woolworth’s and Kresgees dime store. In fact my very first job was at Kresgee’s (I believe it’s spelled with 2 e’s?).

    Drive-Ins. Oh my, should I even go there? I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Last House in the Left together in 1973 or 1974? I just watched the remake of Last House on the Left a few days ago. 🙂 And I do remember the dancing food! *snicker, snicker*

    How about Laugh-in? Anyone remember that show? Goldie Hawn, The Smothers Brothers, Baretta and the bald Greek guy who always sucked on a lollipop, Telle Savalas. I can’t remember the name of the show but I know it was a Detective show. Lot’s of Detective shows in the 70’s.

    David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman and Donny Osmond! OMG, this is tooo funny!

    I can go on and on, but I’ll give it a rest. 🙂

    Thanks for taking us back, Kristen!

  1. […] a good belly laugh and some great memories check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog, Child of the […]

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