You know who you are. We were the tweens and teenagers of the 70s & 80s. A time when mood rings and pet rocks were ‘in’ and 8-tracks ‘thunked’ into the player in a satisfying way right before Led Zeppelin blasted out of the speakers. Speakers that were oversized (pretty sure they were meant for the house) and wedged between the back window and the top of the back seat. Nothing like an unbolted 10-lb speaker waiting to rocket through the front seat if the brake was suddenly hit, decapitating everyone along the way.
Smoking – an activity for the whole family
And, in the 70s and 80s, everyone smoked in their cars, lots of times with the windows up and ‘hot-boxed’ their kids in the back seat. I still feel like a recovering 2-pack-a-day smoker even though I never really smoked.
If you complained that you were choking on cigarette smoke or that you were cold from the blast of wind from the open front windows, you got the cursory, “Shut up!” from older siblings who had to drive you somewhere against their will.
(Note: like any good teen of the 80s, I did sneak several cigarettes from my parents so my best friend and I could smoke in the alley. Remember Menthol cigs? Blech, why did we think that favour would make this gross habit any better?)
Driving in fast (or maybe not even so fast) cars
Recently I was reminiscing with friends about a few car moments that I remember from my childhood. One was sitting in the back seat (not wearing a seat belt, of course), leaning against the door while one of my brothers was driving down the alley by our house. I think I was about 9 or 10. The door suddenly opened and I was hanging onto the handle watching the gravel spin by underneath and knowing there was a telephone pole on a direct collision path with my door.
Being a scrawny kid, I did not have any upper body strength to pull the door shut. I started to screech and scream – okay, I’ll admit it, I was a screechy kid, but in my defense I grew up with four older brothers and sometimes you had to ESTROGEN-up to get heard – anyway, I got the usual, “Pull the fucking door closed and shut up!” The concern for my well-being was clearly secondary to being able to hear Led Zeppelin on the 8-track free from screechy baby sister noises. At the last second, before we arrived at the pole I managed to pull the door shut.
Then when I was about 15, one of my older brothers bought a TR6. Like all our cars, it was second hand and didn’t always work as expected. One hot summer day he says to me, “Wanna go for a ride in my new car?”
We’d only just backed out of the parking spot and moved about two feet forward when the loose wires that were dangling below the glove box on the passenger side connected, sparked and started to catch fire. Now, mind you it, it was probably only a small fire, maybe nothing more than the flame on a candle, but in my mind it was HUGE and everyone knows that fire + car = explosion.
If copious amounts of Magnum PI, Starsky & Hutch, CHiPS and TJ Hooker taught me nothing else it was that cars always explode …. unless the lead character is in it, that is.
So, I promptly jumped out of the car. Luckily the roof was down so I could make a clean Dukes of Hazzard exit. My brother is still laughing about that.
And by playing outside, I don’t me virtually outside or Pokémon Go-ing outside but outside as in touching nature and stuff. And by playing, I mean unsupervised-play-until-someone-breaks-the-thing-we’re-playing-on-or breaks-a-bone-clear-off playing. If it’s only mostly broken, then you can keep going.
And, I also mean playing a game of hide-and-seek that traversed various parts of the neighbourhood. From peoples’ back yards, to parking lots, to quietly through unsuspecting neighbours’ basements to dark, creepy trails (more like suggestions of openings in bushes) in forests to the edge of the ocean (literally).
If you came home at night — usually in the dark after your Irish mother had been calling for you for ½ an hour and then threatened to ‘kill you’ for not answering her sooner – without sand in your shoes, blood on your elbows and knees, gum in your hair, part of someone’s tooth stuck in the back of your hand, well, you just weren’t doing it right.
What did you survive growing up in the 70s & 80s?