Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The 1970's, Orange Carpet, and Letter People

The 1970's represent the dawn of my conscious memory.  Instead of entering a world of baby pastels and soft lighting, I arrived on the planet dab smack in the middle of the ugliest aesthetic period of the 20th century.  My parents owned a purple, red, and green couch. We had orange shag carpeting in every room with the matching orange curtains.

Everything was dark back then, and the only light allotted in each room usually came from some flickering stained glass lamp that I firmly blame for my mother's current cataracts. I mean, really? How did people see anything?  I was a kid with perfect vision and I was always bumping into stuff.  Even our dog was black and blended right into our inscrutable existence. We of course named her Smokey.

And to think my parents didn't even do drugs.

The wallpaper in our bathroom had naked cartoon people in all stages of undress.  I got caught once drawing clothes on them with my Crayola. My inner Puritan was evident even back then.

Sorry for getting cut out of the picture, sis, but this was a pre-digital era and Dad wasn't that good at centering.  Plus, it's the only photo I have that shows the glory of the orange carpet and curtains.

My favorite program was The Donny & Marie Show. The only time I was ever sent to my room as a young kid was when I morphed into a 4-year-old demon in need of an exorcism. I thrashed, cried, and even threw things.  The root cause of such an unwieldy display by an otherwise sedate child? I had somehow convinced myself that my parents were lying when they said Donny and Marie weren't on television that night. I was a junkie in need of her bad variety-show fix, and no amount of reason could calm me. Upstairs to my orange and purple prison went I.

I have another very strong memory from the 1970's that I'm not entirely sure my brain processed correctly:  Letter People.  I mean, what educator would have rubber stamped this motley crew of crass and horribly colored letters?  Mr. B with his "beautiful buttons." Or Mr. X who was "all mixed up." As my 1st grade teacher played the Jackson 5 on vinyl, she would introduce us to a new letter each week. We were also handed a red sticker to plop in the middle of our new letter friend. It felt a little dirty. Was this whole psychedelic introduction to the alphabet really how I fell in love with words and writing? Or was this a false memory brought on by the era's strange colors, peculiar smells, and second-hand-happy-smoke?

Somewhere deep down I feel that the 1970's impacted me more than I even know. In an age of hippies, roller derby, and KISS, I liked Donny & Marie. The nice Mormon kids appealed to me while the rest of the world and Letter People scared me to bits. In some way, I was a lot like Miss I ("Itchy Itch") who was just not comfortable in her own skin.

Yet despite it all, I chose orange for my blog. Shag orange.  What was I forgetting here that left such an indelible mark? The innocence of childhood? The early, happy years of my parents' marriage?  The window of time before I had my self-esteem crushed and I really believed nothing too bad could ever really happen?

What was it about the 1970's I'm missing?  They were gone so quickly.  Replaced by an era of shoulder pads and excess. Hurried off the stage before I could appreciate the nuances of their role.

Oh, Donny, I hardly knew ye.


  1. You should consider getting tickets for the Donny & Marie show at Flamingo while you are in Vegas! They both showed up last week while we were there to sign autographs in the hotel lobby!

  2. OK...First off, perhaps I was a gifted genius, or really advanced, but I was introduced to the letter people in kindergarten. I'm sorry you had to wait all the way until first grade. LOL Secondly, I not only loved the Donny and Marie show, but I was addicted to the Sonny and Cher show AND the Mandrell Sisters (Barbara, Urlene and the other one). Third, when are you going to Vegas? I'm going next month with my girlfriends!

  3. Shel - you're right! It WAS kindergarten! I don't remember watching Sonny & Cher, but I LOVED the Mandrell sisters. We're heading to Vegas in August for Joe's 40th and for my sanity. Want to be a guest blogger? I don't think I'll be able to do this while we're away.

  4. I'll guest blog. And I'll start it off with the fact that you were always jealous my pigtails where higher than yours, my collars a little longer and the fact that you had to wear your hair up like a fourty year old woman at my pre-school graduation. And *that's* why you picked the picture with me cut off...never mind that I was probably picking my nose.


  5. Megan - I was more jealous of your ability to make a perfect sock drawer. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia....

  6. Oh my, Letter People......I am having flashbacks to the kindergarten performance of the Letter People. I was Mr. H! Mr. Horrible Hair. My costume was a pillowcase with holes cut out for my head and arms, and my mom used blue electrical tape to make a giant H on the front, and glued yarn all over it to I guess look like messy hair. Oh wait don't forget my 'messy' wig.

    Almost 32 years later and I am now singing my lines in my head....'I'm Mr. H, hello hello. How do you do? Do you know that I am so happy and so horrible, my messy hair is everywhere....'

    Thank you Marianne for the walk down memory lane. Now to go listen to something else to get that song out of my head!!!!


  7. They made you Mr. H???? Horrible Horrible Horrible. No wonder you can remember the song still. I am so sorry. Miss A was really the only letter person I wanted to be. Allergies and all...Thanks for reading!!