The Way We Were

The 1970s weren’t just a different time. The United States itself was a far different place. A much stranger place. Just take a look at these ads, which, at the time, seemed entirely normal. Because we were high as a kite.

Keep in mind that these weren’t weird little ads in alternative newspapers. These were all products of mainstream advertising, and filled every magazine and billboard in the country.


The year was 1974. In many ways, this picture tells it all. These were our clothes, our drinks, and our decor.

Little knit dolls for men were optional, though.


The 1970s were a more repressed time, free of the sexual double-entendres of today’s advertising. So, this ad, urging you ladies to put some BALLS in your mouth, and to suck on some BALLS, were completely innocent. Remember, when you’re down, BALLS help you rise to the occasion!

Stop sniggering! Get your mind out of the gutter, you 21st-century pervert!

Jello Food Atrocity

Lime Jello, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, and tuna. This was called “food”. When the munchies hit you after you finished off that joint of Oaxacan ditch-weed, Lime Jello Tuna Salad would always hit the spot.

Spam Sticks

If fishy gelatin wasn’t to your liking, you could always have some Spam sticks. Mmm! 95% pure leg and shoulder ham!

Don’t ask about the other 5%.

Seriously. Just don’t.

Iced Broth

There was no better pick-me up on a blazing hot day than a refreshing glass of iced beef broth. Actually, this was a pretty good drink, especially if you added some Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, a dash of Tabasco, and vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.

Belted Sweaters

Prior to global warming, the climate was a bit chillier, so you needed a good sweater. And it wasn’t a real sweater unless it was a belted sweater.

Also, those were considered perfectly normal color schemes.


Back then, every man could dress like a space pirate—assuming they had 5 extra hours a day to lace their boots. And, yes, that is a naked woman sitting there, patiently waiting for Captain Bootfetish to give himself a lace job.


Collars. Collars were very important in 1975. Given a stiff headwind, and an Eleganza collar, some men could fly like Dumbo.

Black Fashion

Of course, even in the 1970s, there were some styles that black people could pull off, but white people couldn’t. Every R&B music act wore clothes like this from 1971 to 1979. White guys who wore this stuff just looked like an extra from Star Trek.


Of course, the classic man’s suit never went out of style. The 100% Dacron polyester suit gave unparalleled freedom of moment, wrinkle-free wear, and  a complete lack of breathability. When the temperature rose above 70 degrees, it was like wearing a personal sauna.


When you needed something to wear that was casual and comfortable, the jumpsuit was always an acceptable option.

Why, yes, I did have a few jumpsuits, now that you mention it. I had a gold one that I quite liked.

A gold one. Which no one, at the time, thought was unusual at all.


Men wore necklaces in the 70s. Sure, wearing all those necklaces were sometimes a pain, as this ad demonstrates.

But it was worth it for the style of the things.


I’m pretty sure the ad agency behind this had a huge argument over whether the model should just be naked, or pregnant in the kitchen. But, ultimately, they went for the sexy. I presume this is the same ad agency that bought us the original album cover for Spinal Tap’s “Smell the Glove”.


In the 1970s, violinists were well known to be sexually liberated, as indicated by the exposed…um…cleavage. In fact, breasts are an ongoing theme of 1970s. For example:


Barely restrained cleavage was all the rage, mainly because the women’s liberation movement had made a big deal of publicly burning their bras. Bras just weren’t very popular back then.


Indeed, even if you did wear a bra, you might want everyone to think that you weren’t.

But, by 1982, women went back to wearing bras regularly, probably because they didn’t want their breasts to look like one of those Eleganza collars by the time they were 40.


You don’t see ads like this much, anymore. But, in the 1970s, this was occasionally a problem, mainly because of the extraordinarily large expanses of pubic hair that prevailed at the time. Seriously, most people, even when they were completely nude, looked like they were still wearing board shorts made of fur. In these modern times, we’ve pretty much sculpted this problem away.


On the other hand, an excessive amount of hair was not a sexual disqualifier in the 1970s.

Nor was anything else, really. Not even this short-pants leisure suit, which would make a modern woman as dry as the Sahara.


Then, as now, weight-loss was an everyday concern. But if you wanted to lose weight, you could always get Ayds. Ayds was a highly effective appetite suppressant, but, sadly, by 1982, no one wanted Ayds. It had been replaced by another very effective weight-loss method, called AIDS. Which no one really wanted, either.


In the late 70s, everyone carried around tiny vials of powder. Just as in colonial America, it was vitally important to “keep your powder dry”, though, in this case, it was so you could snort it like a madman in the toilet stall of the Disco men’s room. With this convenient device, built-on space-age, Apollo Program technology, you could keep a vial in the soggy pockets of your moisture-trapping polyester suit for hours, and still snort perfectly dry cocaine.

It truly was an age of wonders.


This ad was everywhere in the 1970s. It’s hard to believe, now that an entire generation has passed without constant exposure to cigarette ads, but this, along with the Marlboro Man campaign, is perhaps one of the most successful ad campaigns in history. It was universally known that Tareyton smoker would rather fight than switch.

Right up until their fight with emphysema and lung cancer.


Your hyper-sensitive modern eyes might discern some slight trace of pedophilia in this ad, but, in the 1970s, this ad was perfectly normal.

But then, so was waking up naked in a strange house, in a room full of naked people that you didn’t know, and couldn’t remember meeting. Speaking of which…


And afterwards, it was unbelievably difficult to clean.


Despite what your depraved modern mind might tell you, in the 70s, there was no phallic symbolism whatever in the shape of this cologne bottle. But, on the other hand, you probably really don’t want to know to what purposes the empty bottles might have been put.


Of course, this ad for the 240Z was very tongue in cheek. Because no one actually wanted to be part of a real minority group.


Today, of course, OJ Simpson is thought of as a notorious murderer. Allegedly.

But in the 1970s, three-legged football player OJ Simpson was a national hero for gaining 2,000 yards rushing in a single season for the Buffalo Bills.

Two-legged, stabby OJ is much less popular.


You kids today, with your iPhones and Spotify, will never know the audio joy that was Quadrophonic sound. Especially when matched to a new 8-track tape.


This was Instagram, in 1976. The miracle of being able to see a photo within five minutes of taking it was a source of unending joy. And it only cost the modern equivalent of $1.50 per picture, which, I think you’ll agree, was a bargain. It was like having a camera phone and a photo printer, all in one!

Well, that’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed this trip back to the strange land that was 1970s America.

Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.

2 thoughts on “The Way We Were”

  1. I preferred the fake 1970s ads in National Lampoon. “If Ted Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen, he’d be president today.” “Lemony fresh, lemony fragrant… Lemons! With the juice of one whole lemon in every one.”

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