Monday, April 20, 2009

Things We Did in Middle Class Suburbia in the 70s

We threw everything out. Everything. There was no recycling. We threw out plastic, aluminium, steel, glass and paper & cardboard. If paper and cardboard didn't fit in the 'one size fits all' bins, we burned it in the incinerator. Sometimes even plastic bags would be burned. That can't be good. Clouds of smoke would belch into the atmosphere all across the suburbs on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon. Large items that wouldn't fit into bins or the incinerator, would be taken to the tip. Who goes to the tip now? We used to dump car batteries at the tip. Fridges, TVs.

Diet was interesting. Lots of white bread. Plenty of meat. Sweets freely available at 2 lollies a cent. Everything was high fat, sugar or salt. Tab was the first diet soft drink but hardly took the market by storm. I also remember a low sugar version of Solo called Rhondo. Not a huge hit in those days. Low fat milk? I don't think so. My mum used to cook roasts in deep pools of fat. Not oil. Certainly not olive oil. Not even canola. It was lard. Lard that would be re-used over and over again. It would sit in the fridge, a hard, white, greasy lump waiting for next Saturday night's roast. It would last months, perhaps years. Who knew.

My lunch orders at school would consist of a super sausage roll, a jam donut and half a litre of chocolate milk. The bikini-clad Big M girls worked their magic on me in those days. The milk running down their chins and dripping onto their firm, luscious breasts. I wasn't yet 10 but there was something so erotic in this that it didn't matter that I hadn't reached puberty. That scourge, light beer, was introduced. Carlton light. Fosters light. Piss in a can it was. Piss in a can.

I was allowed to roam free. There was bushland a kilometre down the road from our house and I would go there with my brother and friend (coincidentally a contributor to this blog) and we wouldn't return home until tea time, sometimes after dark. We would talk to strangers, ride our bikes without helmets and, when in the back of the car eating weston's wagon wheels, refuse to wear seatbelts because we didn't have to.

There were more fights at the footy both on and off the field. There was a final 4, then 5. There were several easybeat teams (Footscray, St Kilda, Fitzroy, Melbourne) who would win 4 or 5 games between them for the year, and that was only when they played each other. Now it's a socialist game, where the difference between 3 and 14 is almost indiscernible. Socialism has its place but, goddamn it, not in football!

People smoked at home, at work, in the car. In front of their kids, next to their babies, at restaurants. People watered their gardens freely. They even hosed down their concrete driveways. They took 10 minute showers and continuously filled their Clark Rubber pools from the backyard tap.

Men proudly wore moustaches and dodgy sideburns. Yeah they're cool now, but they were real then. Real men drove big, petrol guzzling cars with bench seats and 3 on the tree. Men had hairy chests.

I miss the 70s.


WitchOne said...

Me too, that was early 80's as well, which was just dandy with me, I'd not remember it otherwise.

Mum tells me in the 70's when she had me, she had an ashtray beside her bed in the hospital. My grandmother told me smoking while walking was not ladylike, but I was 12 and had attitude, she'd sit down and smoke while I stood sullenly beside her and smoked.

You could sit with the train driver, you could drive a bus while over .05 and if you were my dad, pop me on his lap so I could have a steer down Nepean Highway (I was about 5).

Life was good. No worries mate, she'll be right and the cops were the ones telling you that this was the last warning, for the 10th time. But really, a little bit over wasn't much at all.

patchouligirl said...

I was born in '66 so I remember the '70's. Everyone smoked. Mum would spray our rooms at night for mozzies with an old fashioned pump filled with a mixture so toxic we hid under the blankets to avoid it. We built cubby houses in the bush and rode billy carts down the street.

As for the lack of seat belts - one of my fondest memories is when we used to go on holidays. We would pack up the kingswood so that the luggage filled the floor of the back seat and it became a bed my brother and I could sleep in all the way to Qld. Watching the preparation for this event, trying to sleep the night before and climbing drowsily into the car at 5am to go was always terribly exciting.

Puss In Boots said...

Some men still have hairy chests. I've asked mine to wax his to no avail.

I was too late for the 70s, but most of what you've said could go for the 80s as well. Although my 80s were spent in PNG, so perhaps it was just they were a decade behind.

wari lasi said...

Wow. How nostalgic.

I'm a 64 baby, and that's what it was like for us in suburban Sydney (Mosman, but it wasn't snooty yet). Mum used to kick us out of the house most of the day and we roamed the neighbourhood. We knew everyone who lived in our street.

It was great.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I have a hairy chest and dodgy Neil Young style sideburns.

I remember my dad and his friends, sitting in the kitchen, drinking beer, smoking and talking politics.

You took your real friends into the kitchen to talk. The lounge room was for the la-de-da relatives.

Mr E Discharge said...

I was twenty in 1975. Dope was $30 an ounce, a ticket to see a major overseas band was $20 and sex was something you had when the band took a break or there was a lull in the conversation.

Life was great in the "Pre-Dismissal" world.

Most of all I miss the tits.

Anonymous said...

You took your real friends into the kitchen to talk. The lounge room was for the la-de-da relatives.Yes, but arguably that was because they didn't have Playstations and big screen LCD tvs back then. Just plastic on the couches and an old wooden radiogram.

Mr E Discharge said...


Melba said...

All the kitchens were brown and orange, with small tiles. Women wore clogs with cork heels, men wore safari suits, or slacks and pelaco shirts. Collars were big. At school, yo-yo experts would come to do a demonstration, and you could buy a Coke or Fanta yo yo from the milk bar, and pack of refill strings. You could actually do "walk-the-dog" properly because the strings spun properly. The only runners kids wore were volleys: there was no such thing as a kid in Nikes. Holidays were either camping or in el cheapo houses with bunks and floral linen. We were free-range, you could play on building sites, in creeks, tunnels. You could open the doors and windows on the trains, and one game was "swapping carriages." Beds were made with blankets and in winter, those thick sheets. Bedspreads were made from chenille and op-shops would have been a treasure-trove of '60s goodies, at bargain prices. The best ice creams were a golden gaytime or a drumstick (fancy) or choc wedge or eskimo pie (for the fussier eater) and the best lollies were musk sticks and snakes. You didn't eat Kettle Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Chips, it was Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. The only type of dip was french onion, and that was exotic. You only ate out at Chinese, there was no Thai or Mongolian Beef BBQ. Fish was always, ALWAYS cooked. You could buy firecrackers at the milkbar and Guy Fawke's Night was the best. We'd play on the roof - of the house, the garage. We'd climb trees, eat fruit from the trees. Run through sprinklers. Make mud pies. You wouldn't talk about having sex, it would be "fingering", "pashing on" and "getting a root."

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

You could buy firecrackers at the milkbar

Oohm yeah, that was ace.

So a few kids lost fingers and the occasional eye.


Bring back firecrackers

Louche said...

Holidays were either camping or in el cheapo houses with bunks and floral linen. Yup, and Bubble O' bill ice creams.

Personally, I don't miss long car trips in shitbox cars that overheated every 2 hours, while listening to Bob Dylan and inhaling dad's cigarette smoke.

TAB Cola was cool, as was playing on the street with all the neighbourhood kids until being called in for dinner.

wari lasi said...

Jesus Melba, what a memory you have! You are clearly not drinking enough. Shame on you.

Isn't it funny how just about everybody smoked? Everywhere. It's probably a good thing that it's far less prevalent now. But did we throw out the baby with the dishwater?

Anonymous said...

Back then, you could buy a packet of boiled lollies for tuppence, or a new bike for a few shilling.

We used to play down at the old used railway yard while father was away at the war battling the Jerries, and go off down to the old woods with a picnic basket full of scones and lashings of ginger beer, and have grand old adventures tracking down smugglers and fairies.

Whoops - too far back?

wari lasi said...

Time to adjust the dial on your time machine boogey.

If you had a dollar back in the early seventies as a kid though you were loaded. I think a meat pie was 20 cents.

Melba said...

You could get 5 Donald Duck icy poles for 20 cents (they were just orange water icy poles.) I know because I used to get 20 cents a week pocket money at one stage and bought 5 of the things and put them in the fridge.

The memory's good Wari for those days of yore, I just can't remember what I did yesterday. This is typical I believe with turning into an old codger.

Lewd Bob said...

I particularly like Melba's memories of her romantic interludes including "fingering", "pashing on" and "getting a root."

squib said...

You could eat sliced white bread covered in margarine and white sugar. You could make slingshots and use them. You could play in storm drains and collect stray dogs. You could play with asbestos. You could eat toadstools. You could walk to the corner shop by yourself to buy milk age 6 and spend the change on lollies and get hit by the wooden spoon for spending the change. You could play cricket in the middle of the road. You could use a can opener and light a match. You could wear your socks up to your knees and buy cheesies and spearmint milk from the canteen.

Your mum wasn't your own personal chauffer. Catching a bus wasn't child abuse and your parents didn't turn up to every goddam fucking school assembly and school excursion. You also didn't have to learn four different musical instruments, play three sports, do ballet and tap, and speak five different languages before breakfast.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Your mum wasn't your own personal chauffer

I'm sensing some personal issues there, Squib.

Lewd Bob said...

Fish 'n' chips were wrapped in newspaper and they would always throw in an extra potato cake or fried dimmy. That's when business wasn't just about this quarter's bottom line but, instead, and surely more admirably, long term goodwill.

squib said...

Ramon, my teenage daughter uses the public transport system. This is almost unheard of

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Good for you, Squib.

Perseus said...

Small pack of Twisties was 5c. Musk sticks were three for a cent.

The smell of the phone booth was for some reason awesome, and so was the asbestos on the red trains. On hot days, as Melba mentioned, you could open the train door and stand in the doorway on the express Richmond to Box Hill.

Lewd Bob and his brother Fanta had billie carts. They would ride them down a steep hill, and I would stand with one foot on each billie cart, hoping to hell they'd keep pace. My party trick was to jump from one moving billie cart to another. Our parents didn't seem to mind.

We all rode our bikes at full pace on the footpath because back then it was considered safer.
Never mind cars reversing out of driveways.

We had chops every Monday.

As young as 9 or 10, we left in the morning to the bushlands, and came back when it got dark.

I was allowed to buy Dad's cigarettes at the milkbar.

We played with hoses.

We went to back doors. Only strangers knocked at the front door.

Dogs, unchained, untrained, chased us and bit us. We all knew which houses to take a wide berth around.

And as Ramon said, the kitchen table is the only place where important things were said. Never, ever in the loungeroom or the good room.

I wasn't even allowed in the good room.

squib said...

When I was 7, my friend and I got a reward for finding a lost dog. I think it was $5 which is like $5K now. So we went around the neighbourhood collecting stray dogs and we tied them up and fed them good-o-rings, thinking we would make a fortune

It went really well until mum found out

RandomGit said...

$2 chips was an adequate lunch for 4 kids every day of the week. You could go fishing anywhere, anytime and keep whatever you got, even for the cat, and it was no one elses damn business.

Pepsi said...

This is funny, you guys almost make me feel sad for missing it.

patchouligirl said...

Going to Kentucky Fried Chicken (I deliberately avoided the acronym as it didn't exist then) or McDonalds was a once or twice a year treat.

I lived in Mosman until age 5 - maybe we went to the same pre-school Wari?

You are old Mr E! If you want to reminisce about the tits, don't miss underbelly.

wari lasi said...

Patch, we moved from Berowra to Mosman when I was four. I went to Sacred Heart Primary school until grade 4 then across the road (Cardinal St?) to Marist Brothers primary. Then to Marist Brothers High at North Sydney. I did the School Certificate in 1979. The most famous family in Mosman were the Clancys, 16 kids.

We lived down near Mosman Wharf, we could hear the zoo animals really early in the morning. I think the main difference (and it seems apparent in this thread) was the incredible freedom of movement we had. From dawn 'til dusk all over the place.

Lewd Bob said...

We had Maccas every Friday night PG. Every Sunday night was 'get your own' which inevitably meant waffles in the Breville electric waffle maker. We just called it the Breville.

Vulcan wall furnaces were big in the 70s. So was cabana and cheese squares, shandies and Ti Maria. And fondue of course. And creamy soda.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The big fuck-off lamb roast for Sunday lunch, after church.

With the left-overs going through the mincer for Sheppards' Pie for Monday.

wari lasi said...

And vacuuming the floor was "hoovering", regardless of what brand you actually had. I remember the old man bringing home our first colour TV. Can't remember the year but Hey, Hey was on (that was when it was still on in the morning) and I saw Ozzie Ostrich in pink for the first time.

Perseus said...

"The big fuck-off lamb roast for Sunday lunch, after church."

Us heathens would never have a hot Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch was rolls. Same as Saturdays. Same as weekdays. But lamb roast was the most magnificent meal to have - usually a midweek thing.

Dad got the shank, but I got to spoon the marrow out.

Other meals were less enjoyable.

Mum made chop suey with too much cabbage, and it went soggy.

The beans were steamed to pulp.

The chops had more fat than actual meat.

The beetroot at the bottom of the roll made it soggy in the schoolbag.

Mr E Discharge said...

You are old Mr E! Thank you very much for the reminder.

Strangely enough, despite my advanced years, I have fond memories of so many of the things mentioned here, the only difference being most of my actual memories seem to be in black and white and the sound is shit.

Lewd Bob said...

Your house used to smell of cabbagey chop suey, Perseus. Mixed with moth balls.

Perseus said...

Curry powder and cabbage. We weren't so hoity toity that we had an exhaust fan!

Your house Bob smelled of veal, and the farts you used to record on the cassette deck using 99c Teac blank tapes and rank each one out of 10.

Perseus said...

Oh, and the smell of the Vulcan electric heater when it was turned on - swoon. You had to sit on the fucking thing to get warm though, and invariably ended up with burnt calves.

Lewd Bob said...

Thank you, Perseus, for bringing that to the world's attention.

Turns out it never was veal, it was thin beef.

A comedy skit written by Perseus and Lewd Bob in the 1980s:

(Loud, prolonged fart)

3 seconds of silence
Distinguished voice: Oh Rosemary!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Why aren't Perseus and Bob doing something for the Comedy Festival, I wonder.

Becuase that fart joke shits all over Wil Anderson.

wari lasi said...

Weren't you guys really too old for fart jokes in the 80s?

And good to see that weird thing with the italics is still happening.

Lewd Bob said...

Funnily enough, Ramon, Perseus and Lewd Bob did have a Comedy Festival show in 1996 and there was, I'm pretty certain, a fart joke. You're never too old.

Yes Wari, the italics. First time it's happened to me and I'm PISSED!

Pissed off that is, not drunk. That's always confusing.

patchouligirl said...

We still call them 'brevilles' Bob. And don't forget the smoked oysters on jatz or the cheese and gherkin.

We lived in Pretoria Ave Wari with the grandparents while Mum and Dad saved for their first house in French's Forest. We moved to Church Pt when I was 14, so I went to both Forest High and Pittwater High.

Mr E, I am actually jealous of anyone who got to have their teens or 20's in the '70's. Particularly those who got to see Led Zeppelin play live in their heyday. If I could time travel that would probably be my first stop. Theres probably a post in that though.

Anonymous said...

I grew up around farms, so most of my memories are of shearing sheds, milking sheds, chook sheds, long boring hours spent fencing and the occasional thrill of killing our own meat. We had to drink out of water bags and weren't allowed to open the fridge because "all the cold would get out". In summer, all the beds were dragged out onto the veranda. Everything, EVERYTHING was covered in a thick layer of dust that would destroy a vacuum in minutes. Floors had to be swept, and then the wind would come and everything would be covered in dust again. Our telephone had a hand crank. Dogs and cats were expected to earn their keep and were promptly put down if they didn't. Snakes were shot on sight. People talked about aborigines as though they were some kind of animal.

Also, neither of my parents smoked.

Anonymous said...

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Mr E Discharge said...

Mr E, I am actually jealous of anyone who got to have their teens or 20's in the '70's. Particularly those who got to see Led Zeppelin play live in their heyday.
Kooyong Tennis Centre, third row centre. I was there! (I'm told)

I had a lightshow business in the seventies and spent a long time touring with these Mad bastards.
Happy times. (I'm reliably informed.)

catlick said...

As kids we sat on a platform in the lemon tree with a bag of sugar and sucked sugary lemons 'til our teeth ached. We had "gings" not slingshots, made of coathanger wire. They were lethal. We made bows and arrows from the willow tree.
My uncle had a black Humber and took me and my brother on sly grog runs on Sunday. I remember sitting in the car with a rasberry lemonade whilst the grown ups drank in hotels. My uncle was the refrigeration mechanic at St Moritz and ran a card game on Sunday afternoon round the corner from the rink. If the ice started to melt they sent a kid for him and my brother got to play his hand. I couldn't because I was a girl.

Melba said...

OK, I've been busy all day. A few more things:

1. I was never fingered or had a root in the '70s. I did, however, pash some boys, including my cousin.

2. Ramon, we had the mincer too, for left-over roast lamb. It screwed onto the edge of the table, and mum would feed bread through it at the end to clean it out. We kids would take turns for the lamb bone - there would be a list inside one of the cupboard doors.



5. SPIDERS! (the drink)

I could go on, but I won't. Oh, ok. V-knee jeans, tank tops, slats (thongs with woven cane soles and velvet-covered thongy bit), playing elastics at school, Miller shirts with the pearly buttons, Crystal Cylinder "windcheaters" (no hoods). Skateboards. Dolly cuts (hair), also sharpies - connie jackets, tight jeans and moccasins.

Oh, the glory days. The '80s haven't a patch on the '70s.

wari lasi said...

The '80s haven't a patch on the '70s.

Ain't that the truth!

Sloppy Joes, Grandpa shirts, Ugh Boots.

And AIDS hadn't been invented yet.

Neither had melanomas, we used to burn the crap out of ourselves at Balmoral Beach and nobody gave a rats arse. Except for pricks who'd slap you on the back at school on Monday.

No internet, no computers at home!

Lewd Bob said...

Sloppy Joes, Grandpa shirts, Ugh BootsOh God. And those hideous, multi-coloured jumpers and acid wash jeans, mullets and basketball boots.

Sadly, I had all of the above.

the projectivist said...

oh my!
it's all just so hilarious.
my memory is absolutely terrible, so i'm reliant on people like Melba and Mme Squib with her talk of Good-O's!

great post!

Aesophia said...

While I too am jealous of those who got to do some 'growing up' in the 70's, in the 80's we still played elastics at school, we had an incinerator out the back yard and when we'd gathered enough detritus worth burning all at once it was an epic afternoon of heat and fun - also, that back corner of the yard had a really low fence, so you could see what the neighbours were up to and they couldn't see us. There was no such thing as a wheelie bin and we'd have to lug out those proper 'bins' every week - it was hell when the handles broke.

We played outside all the time, because we weren't allowed to play inside, and got yelled at if we didn't come inside for dinner on time - it was even worse if we managed to sneak outside after dinner when we were in our pj's. But that only happened when daylight savings came back on - which was THE best time of year.

We still knew half the kids in the street - and they ALL went to the local public primary school. Bubblegum was the biggest treat EVER. Except the gelati van was the greatest - when you could get every flavour of gelati and try and eat them all separately.

Our kitchen was dark brown and cream, the wallpaper was embossed and the curtains had a funky bamboo pattern on them. I got rollerskates for Christmas one year and it was raining so I had to skate in the car port.

We used to play down beside the 'creek' which was a green, slippery trickle in Summer that you could jump across and in Winter you couldn't run through the storm water drains cos the water thundered through them too quickly.

We only had one car, which Dad took to work, so if wanted to go anywhere, we walked. If it was a bit far away, mum came with us.

Ahh, the memories. Recently I've been hit with the realisation that I really am getting older (yes, I can hear you all scoffing from here). I can't stand anyone under the age of about 24 and the world is going to heck in a hand basket - a fact which I have been aware of since we started doing 'Issues' in English in high school (ooh, that's another good one - who here actually went to High School - none of the Secondary College American influenced wank), but never have I been quite so aware of it *sigh*

Thanks guys :) you made me feel young again!

Aesophia said...

And I completely forgot! Playing under the sprinkler on a hot day was THE best entertainment for ANY kid during Summer. Unless you had access to one of the only 2 swimming pools on the street, a privilege I was able to enjoy maybe half a dozen times in my entire life.

eat my shorts said...

Christ. You guys are so old. So, so, so oooooolllllllddddd.

WitchOne said...


And no one said, OMIGOD, nor did they ever say "like" unless they actually liked something.

Sherbert straws.

catlick said...

My friend was involved in a museum acquisition many years ago. Her task was to purchase the range of brand new packaged sprinklers for the museum's collection (Melbourne). They were judged to be items of future historical/cultural interest/curiosity.