Recently, I wrote an article about the things I was here before and remember when we first used them such as polio vaccine that literally abolished polio. TV dinners, microwave ovens and color TV ... someone brought to my attention there are a lot of things that have come and gone during my lifetime.
I remember when transistor radios first came on the market and teenagers and grown-ups alike went wild over them. They hung around for some years and we all loved them. Not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes and you could really pick up local radio stations. I doubt if you walked into all the big stores — Target, Walmart, Sam’s or any of the others — and you could not find a transistor radio.
Eight-track tapes and players, you will have to be over 40 years old to even know what I am talking about. Maybe you saw one sitting on a work table or shelf out in your daddy’s garage or workshop. Let me tell you just a little about these gadgets. In the late ’60s and early ’70s everybody wanted one in their car; they would play and play. The car radio would run out of signal range but the 8-track kept playing. They were not all that expensive; one could be bought at Radio Shack which was the hot store for these kind of things for not over $49. The tapes were built real well in a heavy plastic case at most stores but I found a deal on the latest tapes. Instead of the $6 at most stores I could sell them for $2 and some change. I built some racks, set up a player at my barbershop and as people waited on a haircut they could pick themselves out a tape. The 8-track tape player went big for 10 or more years then the cassette tape came along. The cassette was small and would hold many more songs. So there went the 8-track players and tapes. It was a good time and every now and then I will run across some of the tapes at an estate sale or yard sale.
The leisure suit, in the early 1970s I was ready. I am 6-foot-1, worked hard, weighed about 175 to 180 pounds, had a 34-inch waist and all of a sudden the leisure suit became popular. It was a light eight polyester suit, no dry cleaning, just throw it in the washing machine, hang it on the line, put it on and wear it again. There was a big, big collar shirt that came with it and you didn’t wear an undershirt. The buttons didn’t start until about halfway to your waist.
Colors like powder blue, red, yellow, white, black and on and on. I knew some people who had a sewing factory in Georgia. I went over, did some dealing and came home with one of every color. Ronnie was about 6 and I got him some too. Don’t get to close to the open fire because polyester will melt.
I had a friend who had a pair of polyester pants and while burning leafs got to close and one pants let melted to his leg.
Oh, I didn’t mention the platform shoes; they were just as popular. I couldn’t get used to those shoes so I wore cowboy boots. In the early ’80s the styles started to change to western and denim and the leisure suits rode off into the sunset. Boy, I thought I looked sharp in those leisure suits. Go back and look at some old John Travolta movies and you will see what I’m talking about. So far the things I’ve written about were serious in nature but other things would be classified as fads.
I was here and I saw them go.
The mood ring was invented by two men.
The stone was synthetic and had a chemical in them that turned colors as the ring warmed or cooled. They were first sold as a good piece of jewelry and brought about $50 a ring. After China and Japan got a hold of the idea the prices started dropping but not before the two inventors had got rich. The rings came with a card telling you about the rings and what each color in the ring meant. At the end of the popularity I was going to dealer sales and paying as little as 5 cents each for them. I would give a mood ring to each child who acted good while getting a haircut.
I never got involved with the pet rock but I’m sure millions were sold; the most expensive part was probably the box which held a regular rock in a book that told you how to raise and treat your pet rock. The only thing I didn’t like about the pet rock was I didn’t invent it, or the hula-hoop, Slinky or the Cabbage Patch doll.
I’m still trying to come up with something.
If anybody has any ideas we can work on halves.
I have seen a lot of things go.
The dimmer switch on the floorboard of a car, the woodburning stove, the mule and plow, block ice and the Ice Man but I didn’t see any of these things come in and then go.
The things in this article are things I lived long enough to see come and go.
Ronald Brantley is a Tallassee native and longtime columnist for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.