Seeing a young man in his birthday suit, his long hair flowing, streak across the field of your favorite team’s home game, is something no one forgets, especially high school-age young adults.
It was a scenario more common than one would think. The person outruns security just long enough to pull on a pair of bell-bottom pants and platform shoes, jump into his Trans Am and take off with “American Woman” by Guess Who blaring, and the hula girl on the dash board wiggling away.
Where did that ever happen? The question is more like, “When did that happen?” The answer is, probably in the 1970s.
Maybe those aren’t exactly your memories of the 70s, but Tim Wilaby of Webster City, remembers a decade where a scenario like that could have happened. Now in his 50s, he reminisces about what it was like to be a kid back then. And like the rest of us, the things we experienced in our childhood are deeply imprinted in us. Those beliefs, behaviors and ideas will be evident long into our old age. From our hobbies and collections, to the music and heroes we still love, most of it took root in our childhood.
Wilaby appreciates just about anything related to John Wayne. And it’s little wonder. As a kid, Wilaby’s grandpa had horses and he helped out doing the chores.
“You always took care of your animals first, then everything else came secondary,” he says. “I had a pony before I had a bike. I was 3 and can remember having a pony.”
His grandpa was into westerns, and he remembers watching shows such as “Rawhide,” “Wagon Train,” “Maverick,” and some later ones like “High Chaparral,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Bat Masterson” and “Wyatt Earp.”
“Those were on in the afternoons when I was a kid,” he says.
But it was John Wayne who became Wilaby’s hero. He remembers a Friday night CBS show called “The John Wayne Theater.” He got to watch the earliest movies like “North to Alaska” and “McClintock.” The earlier movies came to TV, according to Wilaby, even as Wayne was still making his later movies. Of course, Wilaby has seen them all.
Other movies he liked were “True Grit,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Animal House” and “Caddyshack.”And he remembers the drive-in.
Westerns were big, and Wilaby and his friends used their Red Flyer wagons to play wagon train and cowboys and Indians. They also played the typical games boys did back then, he says, like football and baseball.
They went to Iowa Oaks games, which became known as the Iowa Cubs in 1982. He didn’t watch a lot of sports, because he always wanted to be outside. Wilaby says he and his friends used to go behind Variety Auto Sales in Webster City and hike the trail there. And they liked to camp out.
He remembers getting the very first edition of G.I. Joe, too.
“I was in the hospital, and my mom got it for me. It was an 8-inch soldier,” he says.
He eventually had about 35 or 40 of them, he says, along with the space capsule and other pieces. And of course he had a Batmobile.
When it came to clothing trends, he wore cowboy boots and jeans, but he did own one pair of bell-bottoms that he sometimes wore. He did so only because they were given to him by his grandma, and he admitted to wearing them reluctantly, adding he “really hated them.” Later, when he was older, he wore sideburns like John Wayne had in “The Shootist,” he says, as if trying to override the uncomfortable memory of those bell-bottoms.
He thought music in the 70s was bad.
“It was disco,” he says.
Wilaby’s wife, Lori, says she grew up with country western music.
“That’s what I listened to all the time,” she says.
She and her friends spent a lot of time outside playing kick the can and kickball, and they rode bikes, things that kids don’t do these days, she says.
When it came to TV, most families had only one.
“We watched what my dad watched — “Bonanza,” “Andy Griffith,” “Smothers Brothers,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” and “Get Smart,” she says.
The favorite Saturday morning cartoons of the time were “Tennessee Tuxedo,” “Jetsons,” and “Johnny Quest,” she recalled.
Then there was fashion.
“As far as hair and clothing, I think it was short, easier for mom to take care of. We wore dresses to school. In the winter we wore pants under our dresses to walk to school and then took them off at school, a fashion statement for sure,” says Lori. “In the summer we wore shorts or capri pants, only they were called ‘peddle pushers’ back then.”
For Lori, being in Brownies and Girl Scouts and riding bikes to a friends house and listening to the Monkees, Tommy James and the Beach Boys made for some really good childhood memories.
Dave and Dietz Card of Webster City, now both in their 50s, also shared fond memories of their youth. Dave recalls running around, playing outside until dark. He played with Tonka toys, train sets, and of course, G.I .Joes — specifically the 8- inch ones that were new.
“I remember my first sting ray bike with the banana seat,” says Card.
Dietz recalled that she had a little TV set that played a 45 rpm record on the top. A slide went in the side and you could watch pictures and hear the record at the same time.
“I can’t remember what it was called, but it was pretty awesome, and back then, to us, that was high tech. I was about 8 or 9.”
She and her friends played with Barbies, but Chatty Cathy was her favorite doll.
“My favorite TV show was ‘The Jetsons,’ ” says Dietz.
Dietz had one of the first Easy Bake Ovens that came out, she recalls, which spurred a memor of Dave’s of the Creepy Crawlers his cousins had.
“The Incredible Edibles were sort of the boys’ answer to the Easy Bake Oven. You poured in a gel to make spiders, worms and bugs to eat,” says Dietz.
“Saturday nights we watched the “Twilight Zone,” and the werewolf movies were always popular,” says Dietz. “My dad used to make us watch ‘Lawrence Welk’ as well. And we liked ‘Gunsmoke’ and the ‘Avengers.’ I remember seeing Ricky Nelson for the first time and Elvis for the first time, The Supremes. TV was just awesome. And the drive-in theater was just awesome, too.”
In some forms their tastes have changed, but in others, not so much.
“We still listen to the same music we did back then,” says Card.
Dietz recalled the progression of her hairstyles, from a pony tail to a boy cut, a mullet, and later, the full curly style made famous by Farrah Fawcett.
Stations wholly dedicated to shows like the ones the Wilabys and Cards remember watching as kids have come to TV in recent years. Stations like WeTV, GetTV and Heroes and Icons prove there is a popular demand for the shows of past decades.
It may be just a matter of time and distance before a new generation finds themselves fascinated by the likes of KISS, the Rubik’s Cube, the Pet Rock, the Walkman, Alice Cooper, Dukes of Hazard, Aerosmith and more. Sounds like a 70s sitcom. Good times. Who knows — they may even re-embrace the mullet.