Friday, 21 June 2013

Whatever Happened To...? 23

American surrealist Philip C. Curtis
ashtrays made of checkerboard marble

banshees (gone the way of throwing salt over your shoulder)
barrel organs
birettas and flat priests’ hats
bizarre courtesy of men half-rising when introduced to someone
black towels
brushing your baby’s hair into a quiff
burning stubble
butter knives (and butter curls and butter pats)

cabbage stalks
calling girls Sorrel, Bryony and Fern (replaced by Willow and…)
chain letters
cocktail parties (not missed)
cold soup
confetti, defacing the bridal “going away” car with JUST MARRIED signs, throwing old shoes
cottage hospitals
cubbyholes (in public loos etc where functionaries made tea on gas rings)

dinner gongs (reborn as meditation aids)
Distressed Gentlefolks' Aid Association (still going as Elizabeth Finn Care)
Dvorak keyboard

electronic publishing
executive information systems that worked through touch screens because executives were too grand to use keyboards

fatalism (Perhaps we don't need it any more.)
fear of draughts
Frankenfoods - oh, they're back.
French manicures (Haven't they gone yet?)
fruit salad with kirsch

gammon steaks (especially with pineapple)
Gauloises Disque Bleu
Greek dancing (Was assimilated by “contemporary dance”, which was assimilated by ballet.)
green cars (and orange, red, blue, ochre, brown…)

HEP (hydro-electric power – still there, but people don’t go on about it like they used to)
Hirondelle wine (70s)

information technology
itinerant knife-grinders
itinerant nuns selling handmade and embroidered baby clothes
itinerant onion sellers (dressed as “Frenchmen” on bicycles in stripy Breton jersey and Basque beret. 50s.)

Kilvert’s Diary (Boring diary by a 19th century parson, inexplicably popular in the 70s.)
laundry baskets
legitimate aspirations (of a union's members)

Meltonian Shoe Cream
negative ions (given off by a water feature or indoor fountain, they were good for you)
official photographs of people talking on the telephone (holding a huge ancient handset to their ear)
old lady flower sellers

people who refused to leave messages on these newfangled answering machines
pine essence
police dogs
proper French mustard
rubber flooring

SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
scrapbooks (You bought them in Woolworths and were supposed to stick in cheese labels, beer mats, newspaper clippings etc. What fun we had.)
self-control (became attention management)
serving hatches (some people are putting them back in – allegedly)
soapbox derbies (too dangerous)
sunbathing (became St Tropez tan)

Tab cola
telegraphic addresses
telling people their hair was in “rat’s tails”
terrible written imitations of Irish accents (hould for hold etc)
that occult shop opposite the British Museum
the magical “black box” (still around, unfortunately)
the Establishment
the human potential movement (Potential for what? Where did it move to?)
toile de Jouy
TVP – texturized vegetable protein

unions with names like NUPE
vaulting horses
video links (now Skype)

When did people start serving grapes with cheese?
Where did “cava” come from?

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. I really enjoyed this. And particularly - answering machine messages! I wrote a self-consciously modern etiquette book in the early 90s and when I asked people what should be in it, that was one of the main topics mentioned... along with thank you notes (which WOULD still be in a list now) and 'How do I address a Xmas card to a couple who live together but aren't married?' Simpler times we lived in... What important problems they seemed to people then.