(Post by George Cheyne, of Glasgow – February 2021)
Another glance at my watch, an anxious look around to see if the coast was clear, wipe my clammy hands on my school trousers, take a deep breath…it’s time to make that call.
Phoning a girl for the first time from your house was a nerve-wracking experience in the Seventies. You had to get an alignment-of-the-planets moment for things to go smoothly.
Sure, you may have arranged to call her at 7pm, but that didn’t mean everything would go as planned. There were too many imponderables for that.
First, from your end, you had to secure the rights to the phone. This usually meant pacing around the area where it was situated in the minutes before the agreed time. In my case our phone was in the hall, presumably put there for maximum embarrassment as the rest of the family walked past when you were trying to hold one of those deep, meaningful conversations that teenage boys have.
Also, you had to rely on not being gazumped by your mum or dad choosing that particular moment to make a call. Even worse, because you had no control over it, you had to hope no-one picked that exact time to call your house because that would make you well late for your big phone date.
Then, of course, there was the other end. You were making that all-important first call with no real intel to go on.
Where was the phone in her house? Would there be an older brother hovering over her? What was her dad like? How big was he? All important questions which, sadly, you wouldn’t find answers to before you made the call.
So you took that deep breath, dialled that number and tried to ignore the stomach churns. It was a lottery, of course, because you didn’t know who would answer. It could be the angry 6ft 5in dad, the sneering older brother, the sympathetic mum or the girl you were calling.
Even the most confident, cocky kids could crumble when faced with such a pure beamer. But you had to grapple with your innermost fears otherwise you didn’t get the girl. Simple as.
You had to front up whether you were getting the girl or splitting up with her. Teenagers in the Seventies didn’t have the luxury of being able to swipe right or ghost someone from the safety of a bedroom bunker.
It had to be done face to face and could be pretty brutal. I remember walking in the playground with a pal one day when his long-term girlfriend – well, they had been going out for at least a month – approached with a grim expression on her face.
She ignored my presence, looked my pal straight in the eye and blurted: “I don’t want to go out any more.”
“What do you mean,” he mumbled, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else than in such a public place.
“You’re chucked!” she replied with barely a glimmer of emotion.
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. I felt his pain…and still do if I can remember it so clearly after all these years.
That humiliation wouldn’t have happened to my pal if he was a Generation Z teenager instead of a Baby Boomer. A simple unfriending on Facebook and he would be history. No real harm done.
Today’s teens may think they have first dibs on all the gadgetry that helps shape relationships these days – but they’d be wrong. The Seventies kids were pioneers when it came to things like:
Not exactly mobile, of course, but everyone back then knew where the nearest working phone box was in their neighbourhood. Could be used to make and receive calls and so avoid the pure beamer scenario as described above. Texting was still in its infancy, however, and was restricted to cards, graffiti and messages left in the phone box
This was covered off by two platforms – encyclopedias and the Yellow Pages. If you wanted to help your girlfriend/boyfriend with their homework you would bone up on any subject by scouring the myriad of sections in Encyclopedia Brittanica. If you wanted to check out the latest music, shops, bars or restaurants, all you had to was let your fingers do the walking – and look them up in Yellow Pages, a streamlined version of the old phone book.
No need to punch in postcodes in the Seventies. If you didn’t know where you were going on that first date all you had to do was dig out the A to Z, memorise the route and drive.
The Super 8mm cine cameras of the day were perfect to capture all those carefully-rehearsed zany dances and songs. Just point the camera at family and friends and watch them perform. Ideal for those with short attention span because the film only lasted about two minutes.
This was when scribbled notes were passed about the classroom covering such in-depth subjects like who fancies who, playtime football games, help with homework or what was for school dinners. If the teacher turned round, those bits of paper soon disappeared.
Seventies kids could amass loads of music to listen to – without having to pay any fees. All you did was get together with other music lovers catering for all tastes and swap over albums for listening and recording purposes. This was probably the first What’s App group of its time.
Mix tapes were put together with loving care and attention to detail. Specific song choices – usually singles or individual album tracks – were recorded on cassettes and handed over to girlfriends/boyfriends.
The Seventies version of this was a Polaroid Instamatic camera. You lined up your picture, clicked the button and out popped an instant photo. Ideal for teenage parties and, just like its modern-day equivalent, the compromising evidence soon vanished. Nothing to do with any algorithm, the prints just faded in time.
All of which goes to show that us Seventies kids were pretty tech savvy and way ahead of our time…we just didn’t know it!