Back in the ’70s while my parents shopped for clothes and boring stuff, my younger brother and I were left to our own devices wandering the toy and record sections of the department stores that anchored the shopping malls. Invariably we would end up in the mall itself perusing the Wild West of specialty stores. One of those stores was a novelty shop which was like a siren song to kids. It was filled with joke gifts, decor for hippie crash pads and other useless and overpriced items that were pawed over a lot more than purchased. There were always Lava Lamps, the tipping bird toy that bent over for a drink and those annoying perpetual motion machines with the clicking ball bearings. There were also posters of which the really cool ones were festooned on the black painted walls of a closet-sized room in the back of the shop. This is where they hung the psychedelic posters that were illuminated by the most special and mysterious of all lights — black lights!
Black light…what a freaky idea. Light that is black! How could light be black? The mind boggled although black lights really looked purple. I guess black light sounded more trippy than purple lights. No matter! I wanted them, and one day, I would have them just as soon as I was old enough and had that really boss, Greg Brady type of attic bedroom I didn’t have to share. The walls would be covered floor to ceiling with fluorescent posters. With the flick of a switch they would glow with the eerily unnatural black light! All the kids would FREAK OUT!
The black lightbulb ad was part of a larger full-page ad half of which was dedicated to FLUORESCENT Iron-On TRANSFERS. The other half of the page was selling sew-on patches of which I’ve written about earlier. Apparently these transfers once transferred to a tee-shirt would give off the same eerie glow as the novelty store posters when exposed to black light. Far out!
Similar to the patches it seems the folks selling them threw as much crap as they could against the wall to see what would stick. Peace, love, religion, beer, Crumb, cars, sexual role-play and commercial slogans. The kids are liable to go for some of these, and they did. When I was in grade school, it seemed so very important to have either a funny or cool tee-shirt design that nobody else did. You couldn’t wear them to school — Mom wouldn’t let you out of the house wearing it, but maybe after school. Yes, after school when you put on your play clothes and met up with the other kids. Wouldn’t they be impressed?
It seems dumb now, but then I’ve seen dumber tattoos, and by law, you have to be an adult to get them.
The ad above appeared in Navy Gobs ‘n’ Gals featuring Sad Sack. Sad Sack was created by Sgt. George Baker during World War II and first appeared in Yank, The Army Weekly in 1942. It was written and drawn with GI’s in mind. Eventually Baker sold the rights to Harvey Comics which beat the character to death in the children’s market. The book tries to maintain the amateurish art of the original, but dumbs down the humor for kids. It’s pretty bad. The issue above was published in 1973.