Two 1970s Birthday Parties: An Analysis

happy birthdayIt was the social event of the season. My friend Steve’s birthday is January 30, and when we were kids he always had a few folks over for plastic tumblers of RC Cola and a Kroger sheet cake, etc. There was usually a burping contest and a few well-placed farts, followed by cigars in the library and a sober discussion of world events.

Below are photos taken at two of those galas. They’re similar, but from different years. I thought I’d take a few moments today to analyze ’em. How’s that sound?

A little background: I grew up in the second house here. We moved in when I was in fifth grade, and I left when I was 22. Steve lived about fifty yards away, directly across the railroad tracks. And now, a million years later, we live near each other again in Northeastern PA. How weird is that?

Anyway, let’s break down these hideous pictures…

BD1That’s me, at the end of the table, wearing a flannel shirt LONG before Kurt Cobain got credit for making it fashionable. You can see my Jiffy-Pop hair in full-flower. It grew up & out, never down. I knew it was time to get a trim whenever my dad started saying things like, “Good god, Jeff. A bushel basket wouldn’t fit over your head.”

To my left is Jeff H. He ran track and cross country with Steve, and graduated with us. I didn’t hang out with him much, but always liked him. He was a funny dude, and could bust balls with the best of ’em. You didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that shit.

Jeff is a doctor now, and so was his dad. I had a little encounter with his father when I was in high school. One night I came home a bit, you know, tipsy, and my mother was giving me the third degree.

She kept asking, “Why do you feel the need to do this??” Over and over. I knew she wouldn’t be satisfied with the truth: it’s a great deal of fun. So, I told her it was because I thought I might have cancer.

It was a smart-ass reply, as well as slightly bizarre. And so… she made me pay for it.

I was forced to go see Jeff’s dad, and am almost certain he’d been instructed to make it as unpleasant as possible. I don’t even want to go into it… But there was some heightened humiliation. I was in my tighty-whities for an extended period, people were coming in and out, and there was a THOROUGH examination. I was near-tears.

To Jeff’s left is my good friend Tim. We’re still in constant contact, and email each other a half-dozen times per day.

When I was in the running for a job with the FBI, Tim was in the army, stationed in Colorado. One day he was summoned to the office of a bigwig, and the guy began asking Tim questions about me.

He said he just sat there for a few seconds, blinking real fast, trying to process what was happening. He was in the military, halfway across the continent, getting grilled about his dumbass friend from high school. At first he thought I might’ve caused an international incident somehow. Heh.

It looks like someone spilled a little RC in the middle of the table, and nobody was lifting a finger to clean it up. I bet Steve’s mom wasn’t happy about that. And I have no doubt she blamed me for it.

Behind me is a dishwasher that to my knowledge was never used. Not once. I was mildly obsessed with it. Why not use it?? It’s right there! But, no. It was reportedly functional, but never in operation. It bothered me.

Around the corner from that neglected appliance was the utility room. There was a wall phone in there, with one of those long-ass cords that allowed you to wander out onto the lawn, and maybe down to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk, and still carry on a conversation. It was always tragically tangled. The phone number: 768-3883. Crazy. How is this information still in my brain?

I’m not sure whose nose and lips are on the left edge of the photo. Steve’s? It’s hard to know. But whoever it is… he’s wearing one stylin’ shirt.

BD2This one almost causes me physical pain. It must’ve been taken a year or two earlier, and what the hell?! I look like a goddamn idiot. Why am I smiling like I’m brain-damaged? Wotta goober. And those glasses! It looks like the kind that changed from regular lenses to sunglasses, depending on the amount of light. It’s a wonder I was ever able to convince ANYONE to have sex with me.

I have a bad history with glasses. I think I look reasonably normal when I’m wearing contact lenses… but sweet sainted mother of Trevor Horn! When I’ve got the glasses on!! Check out this photo of me and Iggy Pop, taken in Atlanta. Iggy is usually the scariest person in every photo. Usually.

Anyway, back to Steve’s kitchen… To my right is Richard H. He was (and presumably is) a math genius, and worked as a meteorologist, and later an air traffic controller. He’s the same age as me, and is retired with two government pensions. Retired!

You know when I’ll retire? The day they haul my bloated carcass out of the building where I’ll be working as a grouchy old bastard security guard… My retirement will last for however much time passes between the coronary and the flatline. Oh, it’ll be glorious.

To Richard’s right is my brother Tim. Based on the shirt he’s wearing, I presume he auditioned for The Porter Wagoner Show, earlier in the day. Can I blame our mother for some of this stuff? Or is it the ’70s fault? I mean, seriously. What was going on??

I think that’s Steve’s back, with the number 7 on it. And at the other end of the table is Danny B. He lived next door to Steve, and was a year older than us. Along with Mike, who I wrote about yesterday, Danny was one of the best baseball players in town. When he was in Biddy League they made him pitch from second base, because he threw too hard. He was scary good. Literally.

And that’s going to do it for today, boys and girls.

I’ll see you again next time!

Want to help support the cause? Buy Jeff a beer! Nothing says ‘I care’ like beer.


  1. I promise not to say, “First!”

  2. Looked more like Iggy pop and Al Franken……..

  3. Emperor Hirohito specs in the Iggy photo. Your Porter Waggoner reference almost made me spit take.
    Back in “our day”, we didn’t have destination birthday parties. We sat at the kitchen table and liked it.

  4. Swami Bologna says

    That was effin’ funny.

  5. Nice, the Iggy pop photo and comment takes the cake! You have definitely aged well.

  6. madz1962 says

    Harvest Gold and Avocado appliances. NICE! I wonder how many years it’ll be when people start groaning about stainless appliances.

    Jeff, in the wvsr archives, the comments seemed to have disappeared. Thought you’d like to know. When you click on DAILY they appear but if you just click a random archive – they aren’t there.

    • I hope stainless has staying power, I just spent a fuck-ton on a new kitchen.

    • Also, I think we had the same Corelle pattern back in the day also.

      • Everybody had that Corelle Ware. I still have one plate from the set, and it just won’t break.

        • Yeah, we had that Corelle, too. Then, when they started making new patterns, my mother (who HATED that gold pattern) told my dad they needed new dishes. So, Pop went out and got – the very same freaking gold pattern!

  7. Jerry in WV says

    Where the hell was Bill during these shindigs?

    • Bill in WV says

      Several of the guys in these pics were buddies of Steve’s who were fellow cross country runners, not the convicted felons I hung around.

  8. You look like you might be on acid in the photo with Iggy, but I have to give you credit for posting it, that took balls.

  9. I’ve always wondered if that is a class ring you are wearing in the first photo. I may have asked that the last time – I can’t recall.

  10. Porter Wagoner was a wise ass.

  11. It may disturb you to know that I also have a functional dishwasher that I have no idea the last time I put it to work. I just don’t generate enough dishes to bother with it. I think its an overrated appliance anyway.

  12. I met my first group of best friends at my brother’s 1st birthday party in 1982 and my real best friend 2 years later at one of the other guy’s parties.
    I’ve been friends with Ben since 1984 and still talk about once a month, in spurts. He got expelled from school in 10th grade. We grew apart but never too far apart.
    Good times.

  13. If I remember correctly, the only colors available for any appliance in the 70’s was white, black, beige and avocado green.
    We had the avocado green stove and dishwasher.
    I believe our game room had the avocado green DuPont 501 shag carpeting.

    • Some Guy on the Innernets says

      Harvest Gold! You could even get a harvest gold Family Truckster. For some reason, they didn’t come with shag carpeting. Unfortunately.

      • My dad had not one, but two Ramblers in harvest gold. A ’64 American and a ’66 Classic wagon. Sequentially, not simultaneously.

  14. Vacation sucks.
    I just took a week off of work to watch TV for six straight days three states away from my house.
    My wife’s brother is having his second kid (but his wife’s first kid), so we had to go be there for the birth. Now, I could have bypassed this trip but then I would be stuck in going to see all the family over Christmas. I’d rather be tied to the back of a train and dragged from here to there than spend holiday time with family.

    So there I sit, for 6 days at the in-laws’ house waiting for this girl to shit out a human. (Which doesn’t happen while I’m there.) Spotty internet and local news for six days. Oh the misery.

  15. I like how my little blue diamond looks like he’s about to barf.

  16. My mother in law has a nice fully functioning dish washer that she has not used not even once. Omg that iggy pop picture has me in tears right now! Lmao!

    • It probably has Mr. Pop in tears too.

      (Ack, I’m just jealous. I’ve met many famous musicians, some much more famous than Iggy Pop, *but* I listen to Iggy’s music more often) .

  17. bikerchick says

    Are your eyes closed in the second photo? Ahhh…the dreaded “I’m at a taffy pull” smile WITH the eyes closed! That’s a painful one. Funny as hell though! However, I feel your pain. I have taken several photo’s in my yout looking the same way……just add in buck teef and a Carol Brady shag ‘do.

  18. your paragraph about retirement made me laugh so hard. I guess that’s an indicator that I really relate. The entire post is a gem.

  19. “……..and what the hell?! I look like a goddamn idiot. Why am I smiling like I’m brain-damaged?”

    I found this especially hilarious for some reason.

  20. Wisey in Ttown says

    “My retirement will last for however much time passes between the coronary and the flatline.” That almost made me choke on my Fig Newton. Funny as hell!