By Chris Gay
Though I was only seven and change when the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Day 1980, I still have a few fond memories of the Disco Decade. And* while it’s tempting to write a piece on long gas lines, awful hair, absurd fashions, or the Bee Gees, I’ll instead discuss an often overlooked reality of the 1970’s; namely that it was America’s last ten years of naivety. Some may argue that I’m a decade late; that that ship sailed in the 1960’s. That using three that’s in a single sentence such as I did in the one prior is lazy writing. Not so fast. (Well, on the former points at least. The latter may have some merit.)
If all of the technological advancements created for use by the common man were combined, from the time we crawled out of the oceans up until slightly past the final out of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 We Are Family World Series Championship, they’d pale laughably by comparison to the thirty-five years that have followed.
This made much of the 1970’s similar in that respect to the eras preceding it. The difference though was that by the time they’d ended, our world had taken its first steps toward an irreversible course regarding technology and the societal changes it brought. At any rate, you may wonder what made a time period from our very recent past so vastly different from today. Since you’re still reading this, I assume you do. So I’ll proceed.
Consider that in the 1970’s:
- Grocery stores had no register scanners. Consequently, you were stuck waiting for uninspired cashiers to type your order into a machine roughly equivalent to what Rutherford B. Hayes used to compose his inaugural address on.
- The closest thing to microwave popcorn was Jiffy Pop. Though to be fair it was much cooler to make.
- There were three television networks for 227,000,000 people. So if a variety of TV programming was the spice of your life, the technical term for you was “SOL.”
- Almost everything was closed on Sundays. I can only guess that that was so everyone could feel like they lived in Connecticut from the comfort of virtually any other state.
- If your idea of tasteful interior design included a significant amount of the colors Garish Yellow, Avocado Green, and Something Kind of Like Orange, you had hit the jackpot.
- You weren’t stuck watching a cheesy TV series like That ’70’s Show, which was a 1990’s sitcom set in 1970’s Wisconsin. Instead, you could watch a quality TV series like Happy Days; a 1970’s sitcom set in 1950’s Wisconsin.
- Each December, in the spirit of good will, the secular and religious alike greeted each other with a festive “Merry Christmas,” and yet somehow managed to go on with their daily lives without media backlash or interference from agenda-driven protest groups.
- Birthdays were celebrated using cakes decorated with real frosting; not a whipped cream concoction tasting like it was made by someone’s aunt giving a magazine recipe for diet desserts “the old college try.”
- What’s known today as a Tamagotchi, was known then as a “Pet Rock.” The Pet Rock was great for apathetic people because it was impossible to neglect. And with its personality and intellect, there was also the possibility that it might get elected to some public office or another.
- When you called someone who was already on the telephone, you received what was termed a busy signal. To combat that, as part of your unlimited monthly plan, Bell Atlantic offered you a popular feature they referred to as “Hang up & Call Back Later.”
- Approximately no one had a home computer. It wasn’t that big a deal though, as you could easily snag a pocket calculator for around $150.00.
- Although few people had VCR’s and DVDs were science fiction, if you’d managed to stay awake till 3a.m. you still might catch a re-run of The Six Million Dollar Man.
- There was no X-Box, but there was Pong; a graphics-laden video game in which the difference between hockey and tennis was a few more vertical hyphens and the speed of what was, inexplicably, a square ball.
To be fair however, before we go on let’s look at a few things that were better in the 1970’s:
- Even stupid people used decent grammar.
- Most people had a sense of humor.
- The music was WAY better.
- Lots more food was made with real butter.
- Quality TV shows were given more than 45 seconds to prove themselves.
- 95% fewer ordinary, everyday events ended up in some sort of litigation.
- Nosy busybodies had to work much, much harder to acquire gossip on their friends.
- More often than not, people disagreed with each other using their “inside voices.”
- One could pump gas or patronize a urinal without being subjected to a product advertisement that there was no possible way to avoid.
- Elton John somehow had less hair than he does now.
- No one thought that either The Captain & Tennille’s Daryl Dragon or Cap’n Crunch were authentic Naval officers.
- Instead of a magical, portable telephone possessing nearly all the world’s collective knowledge, people carried around a Library Card. And somehow still seemed more informed than we are today. Not you though. You’re a smart one, you are.
So, what does any of this have to do with Jaws? Fair enough. Jaws is regarded as the first summer “blockbuster,” and it forever changed the way that movies were marketed and conceptualized.
It was also among the last non-period movies to perfectly capture the very essence of its own time period. There, preserved for all time, are scenes depicting the remnants of the old days we knew, yet would soon know no more. That it almost certainly did so unknowingly is inconsequential and, indeed, adds to its allure.
Here are some examples of scenes you would not have seen had Jaws been filmed just a scant few years later:
- Beach-goers listening to music and ballgames on transistor radios similar to what MacGyver might have constructed out of a coat hanger and dental floss.
- Quint ripping the pull tab off his beer. Pull tabs were the brilliantly-conceived, curled-up pieces of razor-sharp metal left over from carbonated beverage cans. They were typically dropped into the cans and forgotten. That is, until the consumer finished the contents only to discover he’d just given himself an involuntary tonsillectomy.
- Any municipality actually thinking it could get away with hiring a shark hunter without nationwide press vilification and a public protest from PETA claiming that Jaws itself was the real victim.
- Hooper crushing a Styrofoam cup and casually tossing it on the deck. Today, he’d be hauled in by the Green Police and heavily reprimanded for utilizing Environmentally un-friendly beverage containers, and then fined three figures for littering. Afterward, they’d go back for Quint to scold him about the waste associated with using the standard light bulb he dared to install in the lamp over the Orca’s dining table.
- A mayor voluntarily wearing a suit publicly and on television that looked like it was stolen from Popeye’s closet.
- Communications accomplished only through land-line phones, CB radios, or walkie-talkies similar to what I once bought at Radio Shack after saving up two-weeks’ allowance.
- Amity’s beaches were re-opened after a confirmed shark attack for the sole purpose of maintaining profit; yet not a single lawyer endeavored to cash in at the expense of either the town or the bereaved.
Now, here are some scenes you might not expect to see regardless of the decade:
- Any kid asking for coffee ice cream.
- After spending hours in the ocean, a 20-foot wooden boat still remaining afloat with a head-sized hole in the hull a foot below the waterline.
- A large group of people simultaneously deciding to throw caution to the wind and swim in great white shark-infested waters, simply because four cops and an oceanographer are cruising around the Atlantic Ocean on a couple of modified dinghies.
- Quint seriously thinking the town council would even consider paying him $3,000 to “find” the shark. And then what; ask it nicely to stay put? Hell, Chrissie Watkins found it for free.
- A newspaper publisher actually believing that the “grocery ads” are the least relevant section of the paper to its subscribers.
- Quint attempting to catch a 25-foot great white shark on the open ocean using such sophisticated equipment as a rod-and-reel fishing pole, and in a boat that I wouldn’t trust to get me across the Connecticut River during a mid-summer drought.
Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for taking a trip down Seventies Lane with me. Oh, and as if you didn’t see this coming: Have a nice day 🙂
* Though you may think it’s grammatically incorrect to begin a sentence with the conjunction “And,” in actuality there are different schools of thought on that. If you’re still drawn back to it however, there’s really not much I can do. Take heart that, at some point, you’ll most likely get past this.
What if a late 20th Century Jack the Ripper tearing apart a small Connecticut town was the result of a pancake shop bet between God and the devil? Imagine if Satan’s impact on the world in the new millennium hinged entirely on one police officer’s skill in hunting down a ruthless killer…hiding in plain sight. Detective Danny Seabrook is an unwitting pawn in a divine chess match with immeasurable consequences for all mankind. Set primarily in 1995, this action-packed suspense thriller features clever dialogue, humor and romance-with an ending you will never forget.
* * * *
As the end draws near for long-retired Sherlock Holmes in Sussex Downs, he calls one last time for the company of his best friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson. What was meant to be four last days of camaraderie and reminiscing instead leads to the most shocking, explosive revelation both of the great detective’s career, and his life.
Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal is a Holmes tale like none other ever conceived. Fans of Baker Street’s legendary detective will be left with the insatiable need to contemplate its extraordinary conclusion forevermore.
* * * *
Chris Gay is an author, freelance writer, voice-over artist, broadcaster and actor. For 7 years he wrote and broadcast a daily, minute radio humor spot in Hartford, Connecticut. He’s been published nationally in Writer’s Digest and has written the paranormal, theological thriller novel Ghost of a Chance, Sherlock Holmes and the Final Reveal, (an original, extraordinary short story on the great detective with a spectacular twist) and four humor books: And That’s the Way It Was…Give or Take: A Daily Dose of My Radio Writings, Shouldn’t Ice Cold Beer Be Frozen? My 365 Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota, and The Bachelor Cookbook: Edible Meals with a Side of Sarcasm & Another Round of Ice Cold Beer: My 365 More Random Thoughts to Improve Your Life Not One Iota. He’s written and voiced radio commercials, authored both comedic and non-comedic freelance articles, scripts, press releases, website, media and technical content, done occasional radio color commentary for local sports, and acted in a couple of movies and plays. His website is chrisjgay.com, and his humor blog can be found at chrisgay.wordpress.com.
Hope Springs (Barfly)