Vintage record player on top of flower wallpaper
DutchScenery/istockphoto

Everyday Things Only People Who Came of Age in the ’70s Would Remember

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Vintage record player on top of flower wallpaper
DutchScenery/istockphoto

Disco Era Redux

Everybody remembers the big things of the ’70s: Disco balls, bell-bottoms, inflation (which is back in fashion). But it’s the random items of everyday life that are memory touchstones, bringing us back into that daisy-patterned wallpaper kitchen with the brown refrigerator. Explore your past with everyday items from the ’70s that are now cultural artifacts.


Related: Far-Out '70s Fads That Have Made a Comeback

Rotary dial telephone
shayes17/istockphoto

Wall Telephones

Only the super-posh kids had phones in their rooms. Most of us had to stand in the kitchen, talking on a phone screwed into the wall. If you were really lucky, it had a long spiral cord that you could drag into the hallway while you whispered to your friends. Remember also: Mom yelling at you, then picking up the kitchen phone with a cheery “Hello!”


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Truck Driving Radio Chat
welcomia/istockphoto

CB Radio

The CB radio was the communication device preferred by truckers, and CB lingo entered the mainstream, partly due to the radios' commercial availability, but also boosted immensely by the 1975 song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, which spawned a Kris Kristofferson movie of the same name in 1978. Next time your friend suggests what to do Saturday night, be sure to respond with, “10-4, Good Buddy.”


Related: Legendary Vehicles From '70s and '80s TV Shows

Tiger Beat Magazine
eBay

Tiger Beat

Before Instagram and its influencers, teen magazines gave kids someone to worship. Torn-out pinups of Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb, and Scott Baio filled locker doors and bedroom walls. As the magazine’s founder, Chuck Laufer, said, the magazine featured “guys in their 20s singing 'La La' songs to 13-year-old girls.”

Macrame and Other Souvenirs for Sale in a Local Bazaar in Ubud, Bali
GCShutter/istockphoto

Macrame

The ’70s were a simpler, uglier time for crafts. Brown, beige, and olive drab were the colors of choice, and knotted rope could do anything. The textile practice has existed since antiquity, but in the ’70s, you could find anything made out of it, from planters to very itchy bedspreads.

cropped image of female designer ironing t-shirt with print in clothing design studio
LightFieldStudios/istockphoto

Iron-On T-shirts

Iron-on T-shirts were the mass-market way of saying you were an individual. You could buy the transfers and iron them on at home, but they’d start to peel and crack after about a month. Or go to the mall store, where a giant press heated them for you. What better way to tell the world you were too hot to trot?


Related: Crimes Against Fashion: The 1970s 

Tab
Tab by Jerry Woody (CC BY-SA)

Tab

Tab wasn’t the first diet soda (that questionable honor goes to Diet Rite), but it was the most ubiquitous. Marketed almost entirely to women, Tab was introduced by Coca-Cola in 1963. It was revered for its saccharine, unrelated-to-anything-in-nature flavor.


Related: Which Iconic Food Was Launched the Year You Were Born?

Card in bike spoke
Card in bike spoke by Derek Bradley (CC BY-NC-ND)

Cards in Bike Spokes

In the ’70s, it was all about emulating motorcycles, whether you had a Big Wheel, a Green Machine, or just stuck playing cards in the spokes of your bike wheels. The faster you went, the more of a “vroom vroom” sound they made. Blame it on Evel Knievel.

Old holland classic banana seat bicycle vintage bicycle in public
guruXOOX/istockphoto
Wacky Packs
eBay

Wacky Packs

The ’60s had the counterculture. Ten years later, rebellion was a little sillier. Sold like baseball cards, Wacky Packs applied gross-out humor to parodies of consumer products, as in Gulp Oil and Crust toothpaste. Parents hated them; if only they’d known that Wacky Packs writer Art Spiegelman would go on as the only graphic novel creator to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Portable Vintage Turntable with Vinyl Records
Alberto Gagliardi/istockphoto

Portable Record Players

They were a little bigger than MP3 players, and your records (don’t forget that adapter for the 45s) would inevitably get scratched. A suitcase record player brought the party wherever you were — the perfect way to blast (well, whisper — the speakers were unimpressive) a little Earth, Wind & Fire.


Related: Groovy Gifts for People Who Just Love the '70s

comb in pocket of jean
jamroen/istockphoto

Pocket Combs

A direct descendant of the afro pick, pocket combs came with big, shiny handles that protruded from the back pocket, showing how cool you were during ladies’ choice at the roller rink. Deployed with panache on feathered hair, they were mostly a fashion accessory to match to your clothes.

Flip Flash
Amazon

Flip Flash

No more clunky flash cubes for you! The Flip Flash clicked into your Kodak Instamatic, allowing you to take multiple pictures in the dark, then wait a week to get them back from the developer and find out just how out of focus they were.

Latch Hook Rugs
Amazon

Latch Hook Rugs

If your shag rug didn’t give you enough ways to feel scratchy and collect dirt, hook rugs were the home craft kit of the ’70s. A simple hook, a bundle of 2-inch pieces of earth-toned yarn, and the pattern of a disturbing-looking turtle resulted in an item that said, “We didn’t buy much for our living room.”

Cassette Player Stereo in Retro Style
RyanJLane/istockphoto

Cassette Recorders

Introduced in the ’60s, the compact cassette came into its prime in the ’70s, an advancement on the reel-to-reel that was affordable and portable. Cassette recorders let you sit next to the TV and record the audio from your favorite TV show, or sing off-key to the radio while using your curling iron as a microphone.


Related: Products You Never Thought Would be Obsolete

Young woman lying on grass
ChristopherBernard/istockphoto

Tube Tops

Girls lived out their discotheque fantasies with the tube top, an elasticized, sleeveless top worn without a bra. Farrah Fawcett, Cher, and Suzanne Somers made them fashionable; pre-teen girls tried to keep them from falling down.

tube socks
Etsy

Tube Socks

With no heel or reinforced toe, tube socks were the uniform of choice for every wannabe Kareem, Pelé, or Bjorn. They often had red and blue stripes at the top, and covered every inch of the foot and calf. Following ’70s style dictates, they, too, were itchy. Even Smithsonian magazine wrote a history of this fashion item.

Rock Family
Nora Cole/istockphoto

Pet Rocks

Precursor of Pokemon cards and L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, Pet Rocks were the original fad gift. It’s a rock! In a box! Ad exec Gary Dahl developed them in 1975 after hearing friends complain about their pets. Selling at $4 each, they were a huge hit — for about six months. By 1976, they were a national punchline and production was discontinued.

Green Stamps
Green Stamps by Larryzap (CC BY-SA)

Green Stamps

Green stamps survived almost a century, distributed by supermarkets, gas stations, and other stores with purchases. The most popular were produced by S&H. They were collected in a little book, and when you had enough — about once every two years — you could drive in the station wagon to a distribution center, where you picked out something you didn’t really need that would break a month later.


Related: These Catalogs Defined Shopping for Generations — and Now They're Mostly Gone

Retro CRT Television
JakeOlimb/istockphoto

TV Dials

If your mom yelled at you not to sit so close to the TV, she didn’t realize how unreasonable it was to expect you to walk across the room to change the channel. Clicking through the round dial, you could go past all six channels — both VHF and UHF — until you realized that it was past midnight and your broadcast day had concluded.

Weebles
Amazon

Weebles

These plastic toys with rounded bottoms were beloved as much for their TV commercial as for their actual fun factor. Every kid knew it: Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.


Related: Toy Fads That Drove Grown-Ups Crazy

Concept pattern colorful tissue toilet paper on background
Mumemories/istockphoto

Matching Toilet Paper

It wasn’t enough to have gold-flocked wallpaper in the company bathroom; you needed toilet paper to match it. In the ’70s, everything matched, including the rainbow of toilet paper colors available.

K-Tel Records
eBay

K-Tel Records

Who needed to buy an album when you could order a compilation record from K-Tel Records? Packed full of the hits of the day and advertised endlessly on television, the commercials ensured that even if you didn’t buy the record, you could memorize one line of every hit song.

Stack of paper letters with stamps isolated on white background.
Bet_Noire/istockphoto

Airmail Letters

It’s good to stay in touch with loved ones overseas, but at a time when international phone calls cost as much as $12 for the first three minutes, letters were the way to go. But even they were expensive, charging by weight, so the flimsy blue piece of paper, folded into thirds and addressed, was the cheapest way to say you cared.

Waterbed
Amazon

Waterbeds

A mattress filled with water? What could go wrong? Somehow these became the hallmarks of a sexy lifestyle. They also induced seasickness and tended to spring a leak if you gave them a sharp look.

Zoom Tv Show
Amazon

Ubbi Dubbi

This gibberish language would never have hit it so big if it hadn’t been for the previously mentioned wall phone. It originated in the 1600s, but was made part of every kid’s vernacular by the TV show “Zoom” (“Boston, Mass. 02134 – Send it to Zoom!”). The inserted “ub” after the first letter of every syllable meant your parents could never translate — or could they?