Decades it would have been cool to have been a teenager in.

A TV show about the '70s made in the '90s and '00s... starring the guy that played the villain in Spider-Man 3 and his father played by the guy who played the villain in Robocop. Okay I'm a geek.. but if you're reading my blog, you probably like that kind of stuff.

My days of unemployment are soon to end, but I did a lot of TV and movie watching in the 6 weeks or so that I have been unemployed.  I watched almost the entire run of that ’70s show.  It was a show that ran from 1998 to 2006, but took place between 1976-1979.  (That averages to 1 year every two seasons, but I suspect that time was running faster in the earlier seasons than it was in the later ones, as the characters go to see Star Wars towards the end of season 1, indicating that season 1 itself spans 1976 and 1977.)

Anyhow, watching this series got me to thinking about a lot of things.

First… I am starting to think that 70’s fashion wasn’t really all that bad.  When I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, it seemed like everyone was making fun of the poor kids who were coming to school in bell-bottoms because they had either inherited the clothes from their much older siblings or from thrift stores.  I had a few pieces of inherited clothing that I’m not really sure where my mother got them from… but I remember that I avoided wearing those clothes and hoped that I would grow out of them soon.  In retrospect, I should have worn those instead of what I had actually chosen for myself.

What do you mean?

I found this pic on the internet... but this looks like what I was proud to be wearing to elementary school, forsaking the cool '70s clothes that I dreaded wearing. '80s fashion looks stupid.

Bell-bottom pants and a nice pointy collar button up shirt would have been a lot better than jams and that ugly net tank top that I chose for myself.  My acid washed jeans with deliberate holes in them were kind of stupid as well.  When I look back at pictures of myself as a pre-teen, I cringe.  Now, keep in mind I was following fashion trends of the time, so I was actually fashionable for a kid at the time.  But 80’s fashion in general was terrible.  I don’t know what the people who cooked up ’80s fashion were smoking, but ’80s hair, ’80s clothes, and ’80s makeup is all terrible.  The only thing good that came out of the ’80s is lots of good music, and some really good movies (The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, ET, to name a few).  Oh yea, the Nintendo Entertainment System is also another ’80s thing I really really like.  Let’s not forget the Transformers… and Spider-man in his black costume…  Wow, there’s a lot I like about this decade….

But a long with that there was lots of BAD music and terrible TV shows and movies.  I’m so glad that I wasn’t a teenager in the ’80s because I wouldn’t want my peak years of childhood to have been in such a ridiculous time fashion wise.

Then again the time I was in Junior High and High School (1991-1996) was pretty ridiculous also.  Things like the brand of your shoes mattered more than the look of the shoes themselves.  Starter jackets seemed to be all the rage, along with Nike Air shoes, Champion brand sportswear and stuff like that.

This shows the fashion of the '90s. It's also a rare occasion where I am posting a picture of myself. I'm not in full grunge gear because it's summer, but you can see what we were wearing back then.

Then suddenly grunge style came around, and it was more fashionable to wear button up flannel shirts and old jeans, and those cheap Chuck Taylor converse shoes.  I’m sure my parents were relieved that our fashion tastes were now no longer as expensive as they had been.  At the same time, I think I totally missed the point of the grunge era, because most of the clothes that I wore to fit this mold were actually new.  It sounds silly, I know.

Sometime towards the end of high school,  I stopped really caring about the clothes I was wearing, and developed my own kind of fashion, where I kind of mixed and matched clothes to my taste without following any particular trend.  And then I was free!  I now never wear shorts, a habit I picked up in college.

Well now, I didn’t mean to go off on a fashion tangent, but what I wanted this article to be about was which decades it would have been cool to be a teenager during.  Keep in mind, my perception of those decades comes not from experience of having lived through them (mostly), it comes from TV and movies.

We already know that I think it would have been great to have been a teen in the ’70s, and that it wouldn’t have been great to be a teen in the ’80s.

Let’s start with the bad.

I bet I remember more of the '60s than some of the people who actually lived through them, what with their rampant drug use.

1.  The ’60s… (Sorry, Mom…)  The ’60s did have a lot of cool things… the Beatles, the civil rights movement, free love, cool hairstyles and clothes, and lots of music that remind me of MY OWN childhood.

How can ’60s music remind you of your own childhood?

When I was a kid, I had a fisher price record player that played 45s and 33s.  I didn’t have a huge collection of either (I’m proud to say that my first Album of popular music was Thriller… I’m not counting the Sesame Street records or anything else made specifically for young children that I had.)  Beyond those, my mother had a large collection of 33s that I wasn’t really allowed to touch because I might scratch them, and a whole potato chip box of 45s that she had assembled between her teen years and college.  So, as a kid, I was listening to the Beatles, the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, a lot of Motown girl groups, some weird record about a guy who goes to a mental institution because his girlfriend (or dog) left him, and the same song backwards on the b side…

Most of my accumulated CDs are from the 1990s, so I imagine that if I have a kid, he’ll listen to that before he becomes computer saavy. Oh who am I kidding? I don’t even own a CD player at the moment (not including game consoles and computers…).

So what’s wrong with the 60’s? You seem to like the music and the fashion enough.
Well, I think it would have been okay to have been an adolescent at that time. One thing is keeping me from pronouncing this as a decade I would have liked to have been a teen in… and that is the Vietnam War. No matter how cool that decade was, I wouldn’t want to have been drafted and sent to Vietnam.
So I guess that means you’re scratching off the ’30s and ’40s too, you hippie pacifist?
Well yes, but for different reasons.

2. The 30s would not have been fun because of the depression and prohibition, but I actually think the war part (in this case WWII) might not have been so terrible because it at least was a war that I believe was necessary.

3. Being a teen in the late ’40s would mean that I might be drafted to fight in the Korean War, but if I survived that, I’d be able to come home and work in the ’50s, which were an excellent time economically for the U.S. So I have to judge the ’40s as a good decade.
So what about the ’50s then?

The 50's were just cool...

4. I think being a teen in the ’50s would have been awesome. Like Grease and Happy Days and Back to the Future! It was all malt shops and sock hops and twisting… the entire decade! And hoop skirts.. who could be unhappy? Maybe I could find a swell girl to go steady with… (which I guess means that it was okay to date lots of different women if you weren’t going steady with anyone… When I was dating, if you went on one date with someone, then went on another date with someone else, already you’re cheating… that sucks.) I can’t really think of anything in this decade that was bad other than miles per gallon that cars from the era got. But at least they looked cool and didn’t fall apart as easily as their modern counterparts!

5. The ’20s…. look like they were fun, but I don’t know if I would have liked having no TV, air conditioning, and having to watch silent movies.

so there you have it..

Good decades
’70s, ’50s, ’40s

Bad decades
’60s, ’30s, ’80s

Neutral decades
’20s, ’90s, ’00s

Wait.. why are those Neutral?
Well, I don’t have enough info on the ’20s, and I lived through the ’90s and ’00s through my teens and 20’s, so I’m not looking at these decades through TV shows and movies. I know what was good and what was bad about them, and I don’t think that they were particularly good or bad… just like my mother must feel about the ’60s I think.

8 Responses to “Decades it would have been cool to have been a teenager in.”

  1. […] Decades it would have been cool to have been a teenager in … […]

  2. My first memory of gas prices for those gas guzzlers of the ’50’s was at an Esso (now Exxon) station. It was 19.9¢ a gallon.
    There’s more free love now, than there ever was in the ’60’s. That decade started it, but it was more talked about than practiced; much more prevalent in the the ’70’s and beyond.
    You forgot the other cool thing in the ’60’s, namely the space program and moon landing. Shuttles and space stations are nowhere near as exciting.

    • A poem by Kathi Edwards speaks about two of these decades:

      The Whole World Changed in the 60’s.

      The whole world changed in the 60’s.
      Politically, it was the difference
      Between Eisenhower and Kennedy.
      Between “duck and cover” drills at school,
      And real bombs over the Mekong.
      Between battlefield glory
      Depicted in World War II movies,
      And Viet Nam,
      Splattered uncensored on the nightly news.
      Between conformity and protest.
      Between colored people “knowing their place,”
      And blacks “having a dream.”
      Between housewives in house dresses,
      And feminists burning their bras.
      Between “the man in the moon,”
      And Neil Armstrong actually walking on the moon.
      Between starting the school day with the Lord’s prayer
      And Madeline Murray O’hare.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      It was also the difference
      Between leaving your key in the ignition,
      And having to lock your car.
      Between throwing coins
      On top of the stack of newspapers
      After choosing your copy,
      And buying a paper from a locked vending box.
      Between taking the the number 8 bus
      To the big department stores downtown,
      And driving to and hanging out at the new suburban shopping center.
      Between one car per family,
      And “crazy women drivers.”
      Between milk,
      Delivered to your doorstep
      In glass bottles,
      And buying milk in cartons
      At the grocery store.
      Between paying a deposit on soda bottles,
      Then having to return them
      To get your money back,
      And “no deposit, no return” throw-away bottles.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      Between Annette as a Mouseketeer,
      And Annette playing “Beach Party Bingo.”
      Between “Around the World in Eighty Days,”
      And “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
      Between Elvis and the Beatles.
      (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)
      Crewcuts to long hair.
      Peddle pushers to bell bottoms.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      Between a little place called Hamburger Junction,
      Where a model train carrying your plate
      Stopped in front of your seat
      At the lunch counter,
      And driving in to McDonald’s
      And eating In your car.
      Trademarks went from round and ornate
      To square and simple.
      Script Coca-Cola to block letter Coke.
      Esso to Exxon.
      The fancy engraved bell of the phone company
      To a simple blue-line hint of a bell.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      On TV, it was the difference
      Between black and white, and the NBC peacock.
      Between “I Love Lucy” and Mary Tyler Moore.
      “Father Knows Best” and “Bewitched.”
      “The Lone Ranger” and “Bonanza.”
      Mickey Mouse and Fred Flintstone.
      “The $64,000 Question” and “The Match Game.”
      Lassie and Mr. Ed.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      Clothing kept us ironing everything in the 50’s,
      But the 60’s had “drip-dry” dresses
      And “no-iron” shirts.
      Guys went from boxer shorts to briefs.
      (We’ve come full circle on that one.)
      I tenderly mothered my “Tiny Tears” doll in the 50’s,
      While my 60’s little sisters dressed Barbie for the prom.
      I used real potatoes on my Mr. Potato Head.
      The 60’s version came with a plastic potato shaped head.
      The whole world changed in the 60’s.

      We also discontinued arithmetic
      And started taking math.
      I went from ankle socks to stockings.
      (Not bobbie socks like the song says.)
      Saddle shoes to penny loafers.
      Pony tail to teased hair.
      My book bag and a lunch box,
      carried to elementary school,
      Were replaced in junior high and high school
      By a brown paper lunch bag.
      And books carried just so
      In the crook of my left arm,
      And a 50’s child emerged as a 60’s adolescent.
      My whole world changed in the 60’s.

      • When did you write that?

        • In 2007, but it had been going around in my head (and some of the contrasts mentioned in conversation) for years

          • Don’t you think maybe the 80s to 90s jump was a little more jarring?

          • I don’t see a lot of difference between the 80’s and 90’s. People your age sometimes read my poem and say they don’t quite get it. It’s just all old stuff that they don’t distinguish much. Could it be that it’s more of childhood vs. adolescence vantage points thing.
            Make a list of your contrasts. Let’s see I can only think of computers only at work and school vs. home computers;Reagan vs. Clinton; when does rap music start?

          • No, I definitely see the contrasts in your poem…

            But I think that going from a home phone as your primary resource for outside contact and a computer with no internet in the 1980s to actual internet, e-mail, texting, cell phones, and web pages is much more jarring.

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