My Top 10 Classic 1970’s Commercials

As I grow ever nearer to my 40th birthday (less than a month away!) I decided it’s time to start taking a little trip down memory road and bring back some things I remember from my childhood.

To start, I have assembled my Top 10 most memorable 1970’s commercials.  Growing up as a child of the 1970’s, I was glued to the TV more often than not.  So many of these commercials are just as memorable to me today as they were then.

Here we go!

10. Chiffon Margarine – “It’s Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature”

Oh how I loved this one.  Something about it just stuck with me for years afterward.  Maybe it was the way she said the commercial’s tagline, or maybe it was the thunder and lightning.  Either way, I once in a while will still use this line.  This is the only one I can find on YouTube— but I know many others were made.

9. Trix – Trix Ahoy!

I used to always feel so sorry for the Trix Rabbit.  Why were Trix just for kids anyway?  After all, grown-ups could eat Trix if they wanted to– why couldn’t the rabbit?  Anyway, his misadventures with trying to access Trix cereal were best in the 1970’s– when there were only three flavors: Raspberry Red, Lemon Yellow and Orange Orange.  Of course, they always tasted the same to me.

8. Slinky – “It’s Slinky!”

I think I went through at least 5 Slinkies in my lifetime.  I always tried to get them to go down stairs but for some reason I never could do it successfully.  That never stopped me from trying, obviously.  I went through so many of them because I’d eventually get them all tangled and bent out of shape so they didn’t work anymore.  I never got one of those plastic ones– I always wanted a shiny new metal one.  Oddly enough, I STILL have the last Slinky I ever bought.  It’s got to be over 25 years old by now, and it’s still in perfect condition.

7. Life Cereal – “He Likes It!  Hey Mikey!”

This one had major lasting power, running well into the 1980’s and possibly even the early 1990’s.  It even had a resurgence when they found the original Mikey (who did not die from a mixture of pop rocks and Coke, as was greatly rumored) and brought him back for an update of the commercial in the 1980’s.

6. Oscar Mayer – “My Bologna Has A First Name”

I was just singing this to myself at the grocery store at the other day, when I was standing in a VERY long line waiting to be checked out.  Next to me was the lunch meat, and a ton of Oscar Mayer Bologna.  I haven’t eaten the stuff in years (the though sickens me– I ate enough of it as a kid, and frankly I never liked it then!), but the song has never left my brain.  If it has left yours, see how quickly you’ll recall it by clicking below.

5. Toys R Us – “Christmas Commercial”

This one makes me warm and fuzzy inside every single time I hear the song.  I remember KNOWING that Christmas was coming as soon as I heard this song play.  I don’t know why, but it really affected me as a kid– and still does today.

4. Tootsie Roll – “How Many Licks?

Another one that ran for YEARS, this one probably was viewed by me and my sister more times than any other.  To this day, when I count to three, I say “One… Two-WHOOOO! Three!”  As a bonus, I’m including the FULL version, where the boy asks a cow and a fox in addition to the turtle and the owl.  The classic, long-running version just includes the turtle and the owl.

Original, extended version

Classic, shortened version

3. Coca Cola – “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing

What classic 1970’s list would be complete without this commercial?  Even as a kid, I knew what a great commercial it was– if only for the song itself.  I remember singing the complete, revised song in grade school around 4th grade or so.  Of course, that was in the 1980’s, but that just goes to show the lasting power the commercial had.  This one also ran for many years– and still makes reappearances now and then.  It’s considered one of the greatest TV commercials of all-time.

2. Calgon Water Softener – “Ancient Chinese Secret

OK, I know that by today’s standards this commercial is TOTALLY un-PC.  But any kid in the 1970’s knew the line “Ancient Chinese Secret, HUH?”  Regardless of the message it portrays, it is a classic 1970’s commercial which ran for YEARS (well into the 1980’s, in fact).  So it definitely belongs here!

Interesting to note: There were two different versions of the commercial.  The original version had Mrs. Lee calling Calgon “New Improved Calgon,” while the subsequent versions just said, “Calgon.”

1. Tootsie Roll – “Whatever It Is I Think I See Becomes A Tootsie Roll To Me”

Chicago-based Tootsie Roll gets two entries in my Top 10 list.  Both commercials had enormous lasting power (running well over 10 years each), and both were extremely effective because their messages were clear, clever and simple.  This song is one of those that hurtles me back 35 years or so and plants me in front of the TV watching “Bozo’s Circus” or “Ray Rayner” on WGN Channel 9.  I love this one.

Halloween 1984

You may have seen a link making its way around Facebook titled, “My Son is Gay,” by a mother whose 5-year-old son wanted to dress as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” for his school Halloween party.  It’s a wonderful, inspirational story about a mother’s understanding of her son’s own gender identity and the repercussions of society on her allowing him to express himself freely.

I just read that post, and was suddenly reminded of my own experience with a similar situation.

I was in 8th grade.  It was around Halloween and my school– a very conservative Catholic school— was holding its Halloween Party for the school kids.  Keep in mind that at that time, 8th grade was considered part of the elementary school, so this party would be for grades 1-8.

The year was 1984– Michael Jackson and Madonna were hot costume ideas.  But I decided that I wanted to something a little different, albeit a bit less current.  I put on one of my mom’s old wigs, an old dress (or it might have been a caftan, I don’t remember exactly), and then put on makeup.  I was no artist, but I did the best I could.  I found a pair of nylons and a pair of her shoes.  Then I found some of her “costume” jewelry and completed the look.  I wanted to go as “Tootsie,” the 1981 Dustin Hoffman character.

I showed my mom what I had done.  And do you know what she did?

She said, “I think it’d be fun!”  I asked her, “Do you think the kids would make fun of me?”  She replied, “It’s Halloween.  You can go as whatever you want.  It doesn’t mean anything… it’s just for fun.”

So then we showed my dad.

That didn’t go so well.  Aside from his surprised reaction, and maybe a little bit of yelling, he didn’t have a massive tantrum (as I expected).  He was definitely shocked by my appearance, but he was more gravely concerned about what would happen if I went to the party dressed this way.  You see, only a few years prior, I had left my original grade school because of incessant teasing from the other kids.  I don’t think the teasing was ever about my being gay (or the possibility thereof, as I certainly hadn’t come out yet); but because I had such a rough time at the first school, I think he was worried that this would set off a lot of problems for me at this school.  Granted, I was in 8th grade and we were going to be graduating soon anyway– but I understood why he was so concerned.

He didn’t say that I COULDN’T dress as “Tootsie,” but he encouraged me to reconsider my choice– for my own sake.

So after some long talks about it, we decided that I would change courses and go as a greaser.  (“The Outsiders” was also a popular movie and book at the time– so instead of going as a woman, I pretended I was Rob Lowe.  Or Tom Cruise.  Or Tommy Howell.  Because I had a crush on each one of them.

In any case, I nearly became that kid in the recent blog post.  I just didn’t have the guts to follow through with it.  My choice had nothing to do with my sexuality, or even my gender identity.  I have never considered myself feminine, and to this day I think I make one hell of an ugly drag queen! (Which is why I’ve only done it once.)  I just was playing around with my mom’s stuff, came up with a funny costume, and thought it’d be fun to go as that character.

What touches me most, as I recall that day, is how bravely my parents dealt with it.  There were no knock-down, drag-out fights like I expected.  Just some serious discussions about whether or not it was best for me to do it.  And I especially love my mom for encouraging me to do whatever I wanted.  She never said no.  And she still doesn’t to this day.