Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Even the Garbage Was More Special

Why, yes, the 1970s were a simpler snapshot in time…for me, and probably for a few others, too. Midway through the decade, 1975, had some extra-special resonance. Gerald Ford was the president of the United States, having succeeded Richard Nixon, who had resigned the previous year amidst the Watergate scandal. I had originally written “in disgrace,” but I thought it a bit cliché to do so.

Actually, Gerald Ford was a pioneer in the annals of American history—a truly unelected president—appointed by Nixon after his elected vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned in disgrace in October of 1973. By his own admission, he was a “Ford, not a Lincoln,” but startlingly benign in contrast with his dubious predecessor. He asked Americans to wear “WIN” buttons back then, an acronym for “Whip Inflation Now,” in what were inflationary times.

But I turned thirteen that year, and inflation didn’t mean all that much to me. In fact, I don’t recall ever wanting for anything because of skyrocketing prices. Now, the government’s inflation statistics suggest that everything is hunky-dory—under control—in this pricey arena. It’s funny, but while I may have been a callow youth back in 1975, I don’t recall prices rising as fast and as frequent as they do today. And it’s not just the rising prices but also the sizes of everything that are shrinking.

While I don’t do political blogs—and this isn’t one—I can’t help but conclude that those inflationary times, in the 1970s, were better times, particularly for individuals on fixed incomes and families. They weren’t, then, buying shrinking rolls of toilet paper and half gallons of orange juice that were fifty-nine ounces. The pound of coffee from 1975 is a distant memory. The thirteen-ounce coffee is even a thing of the past.

This blog, however, is really about the 1970s in general—and 1975 in particular—when even neighbors’ garbage seemed more interesting. My father was wont to pluck from area garbage heaps unusual items. In the spring of 1975, just in time for my younger brother’s Confirmation party, he brought home a rather large wooden advertising placard for, of all things, Kentucky Fried Chicken. "Let Us Do Your Catering" it read. Where exactly he found it—and why it was there in the first place—I’ve since forgotten. Nevertheless, he propped it up in the dining room for the party and it was conversation piece. Many of us posed for pictures in front of it during the festivities. Wearing flowery dress shirts were also kind of cool, as I recall, when Gerald Ford was president and KFC was still Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Ironically, for those of us in Catholic grammar school, the 1970s color infusion, which seemed a bit over the top and even somewhat strange on occasion, supplanted some of the most ridiculous-looking, downright creepy outfits imaginable for the Holy Sacraments. (Compare with prior Communion and Confirmation attire.) A little color went a long way, I'd say. Now, if we could only Whip Inflation Now.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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