Writing for the Web

I was the art director for Today’s Campus magazine. I also did writing for the Web, amongst other things. The magazine has since folded, but the Web lives on.

I wrote a Web Series named “Remember This?”—short pieces on recent history that we may have forgotten. Most of the items were from the 70s and 80s, because, hey, those times, they were groovy, man!

Odd-Even Gas Rationing of 1979

Do you remember your license plate number from 1979?

I do.  Since mine ended in an odd number (DDN-905), I could buy gasoline on Mondays and Wednesdays. As a teenage driver, I felt that filling up my 1967 VW at 75 cents a gallon was economic hardship enough.  When prices soared to more than $1.20 a gallon, I vowed never to drive again!

The Carter administration began phased decontrol of oil prices when the average price of crude oil hit $15.85 a barrel. Later in 1979, the price jumped to $39.50. This did not boost the supply of gasoline. The result was long lines, rationing and short tempers. People vowed to “never let it happen again!”

Skylab

Skylab, America’s first space station, launched in May 1973. It remained in orbit for six years then abandoned in February 1974. It was to stay in orbit until the mid 80s when the new shuttle would have come to visit.

But increased solar activity led to Skylab’s early and fiery return on July 11, 1979.  We all looked to the skies to catch a glimpse of the doomed space station as it passed by. Pieces of Skylab appeared in Western Australia and others in the Indian Ocean. The Australian town of Esperance fined the U.S. $400 for littering. They are still awaiting payment.

Remember the “Crying Indian”?

“People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It.”
So intoned William Conrad in a famous anti-pollution commercial of the 1970s.

Keep America Beautiful launched the “Crying Indian” public service TV ad on Earth Day in 1971. In the commercial, Iron Eyes Cody (the Crying Indian) sheds a tear at the sight of littering motorists.
Keep American Beautiful was founded in 1953 by members of American business, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and concerned citizens. Ironically, Iron Eyes Cody was an Italian-American, born Espera de Corti in Kaplan, Louisiana in 1904.

September: Celebrating the 7th Month of the Year

Septem means “seven” in Latin. So why is September the ninth month of the year?

September was the seventh month of the Roman calendar until its revision in 153 BC.

In other calendar news … In 1752, the British Empire adopted the current Gregorian calendar (decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582).  In 1752, throughout the British empire, September 2 was immediately followed by September 14.  September is one of four months that end on the 30th. On September 9th, you can write the date as 09-09-09.

  • September’s birthstone is the sapphire, meaning clear thinking.
  • The birthflowers for September are the forget-me-not and aster.
  • September’s moon is the Full Corn Moon, the time that corn is harvested.

September is the usual start of the academic year. Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September in the United States and Canada. September 11 is Patriot Day.

WIN Buttons

President Gerald R. Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” Program of 1974

In 1974, U.S. President Gerald Ford proposed Whip Inflation Now (WIN) as a method to rein in inflation. WIN encouraged personal savings and disciplined spending—and it came with a bright red lapel button that people were encouraged to wear to show their support for the idea. WIN buttons were quickly ridiculed and skeptics wore theirs upside-down. However, the buttons must have had some effect, as inflation fell from 12 percent to 4 percent by the end of Ford’s term.

Luke & Laura’s Wedding

It was the wedding of the century. While a student at Florida State University in 1981, I remember everyone cutting class and talking about the big wedding they (and 30 million others) were attending. It was the TV wedding of General Hospital‘s daytime soap stars, Luke and Laura Spencer of Port Charles, NY. Vows were exchanged on November 16th, and history was made. Although the wedding was fated not to last, it was still a magic moment in otherwise bleak times. Twenty-five years later, and overcoming resurrection, catatonic states and other minor obstacles, the couple wed again.

The DuMont Network

“The Forgotten Network” 1946-1956

Launched in 1946, the DuMont Television Network was the world’s first commercial TV network. It shared the airwaves with CBS, NBC and ABC and aired notable personalities such as Bishop Fulton Sheen and Jackie Gleason. DuMont can be credited with the first sitcom, Mary Kay and Johnny and the first soap opera, Faraway Hills.

Not even Flash Gordon or Tom Corbett, Space Cadet could save DuMont from its demise. The high cost of broadcasting, FCC regulations, and placement on little-watched UHF channels spurred DuMont to pull the plug in 1956.

S & H Green Stamps

Remember sitting around on the orange shag carpet and licking all those green stamps? Collecting S&H Green Stamps was a national pastime in the 60s and 70s. After the little books made a considerable pile, there were enough stamps to actually warrant a trip to the Redemption Center.

Founded in 1896, the Sperry & Hutchinson Company cranked out stamps and books for nearly 100 years before the internet caught up to it. In 2000, greenpoints.com was launched and the craze continued. In 2006, greenpoints was licked up by the biometric payment company, PayByTouch.

 

Floppy Disc

“Get a floppy disc,” was the command in college in 1981. I had no idea what that was, nor did I have the $19 to buy one. Shortly thereafter, this carefully protected gizmo became ubiquitous, like cassette tapes, calculators, and big hair. Invented at IBM in 1967 by Alan Shugart, the “floppy” was a thin, 8″ square of plastic and other mysterious stuff. “Don’t touch what’s inside or you’ll destroy it!” we were warned. By the mid-80s, the more popular 3½” (non-floppy) floppy disc became an office staple for many years. With the advent of higher-capacity Zip drives, CDs, and removable hard drives, the floppy disc receded into computing’s past.

Ditto Machine

Ah, the sweet smells of youth! Remember when being in a classroom meant inhaling the aroma of methanol and isopropanol? What’s that, you say? The chemical concoction used to make a “ditto.”  What a thrill it was to be selected by the teacher to bring the ditto master to “The Office.” The ditto machine (spirit duplicator) was invented by Wilhelm Ritzerfeld in 1923 and was an integral part of the school experience in the 20th century. By writing or typing on the master, the inscribed image appeared on the back, in reverse. The device used an alcohol-based fluid to dissolve some of the dye on the master, and transferred the image to the “copies.” The Ditto trademark was established by the now-defunct A.B.Dick Company back in 1918.  But the word “ditto” will live on for years to come.

Max Headroom

“Catch the Wave”
C-c-c-catch the wave!

Max Headroom was a “computer-generated” alter-ego for a character originated in 1985 as an announcer for a music video program on the British television channel, Channel 4.

Max became a minor celebrity as the spokespersonality for New Coke (after the return of Coke Classic), using his trademark staccato to deliver the slogan “Catch the wave!”  He generated more interest from viewers than any previous spokesman for the company.

Interestingly, the real image of Max was not computer generated. 3-D rendering and computing technology in the mid-1980s was not sufficiently advanced for a full-motion, voice-synced human head. Max’s image was actually that of actor Matt Frewer (Eureka, Orphan Black) in latex and foam prosthetic makeup with a fiberglass suit created by Coast to Coast Production in the UK. All of which was superimposed over a moving geometric background.