Weird News of the 1970s
January 1970: The White House guards received new uniforms which featured a white, double-breasted tunic with gold shoulder trim and a stiff shako hat with peaked front. President Nixon had ordered the redesign after seeing what palace guards wore in other countries and deciding that the White House needed something as fancy. However, the uniforms got bad reviews from the public, with comments such as, "They look like extras from a Lithuanian movie." Within a month the hats had disappeared, followed soon after by the white tunics. The uniforms sat in storage for a decade, and in 1980 were sold to the Meriden-Cleghorn High School Marching Band in Iowa.
July 1970: Archie Beesley of Birmingham, England attributed his good health to eating a live frog every day. He said he had been following this dietary regimen for 46 years, estimating that he had eaten over 15,000 live frogs in his life, and had never had an upset stomach. He noted, "There are thousands of people in this country who swallow oysters whole. Oysters are live too and they do the same work in cleaning the stomach."
September 1970: Douglas P. Stewart, a 37-year-old professor of classics at Brandeis University, launched a campaign to take away the right to vote from the elderly (anyone at retirement or age 70, whichever comes first). He argued: "The old, having no future, are dangerously free from the consequences of their own political acts, and it makes no sense to allow the vote to someone who is actuarially unlikely to survive and pay the bills for (what) he may help elect." He added: "People are living longer these days and I believe their thought process is impaired because of it. I'm not saying they're insane. But many are senile. And... I just don't think we can afford senile voters."

Vibrating Brassiere

March 1971: Among the products featured at the 20th International Show of Inventions in Brussels was a "vibrating brassiere" consisting of two spiraling metal bands connected to a small electric motor worn on the back. The device, its creator claimed, strengthened and developed the bust.
July 1971: A girls' high school in Johannesburg, South Africa banned peanut butter, citing a concern that peanuts were a sexual stimulant. A subsequent investigation by local health officials, who were puzzled by the school's decision, revealed that the native tribal population believed peanuts to be an aphrodisiac and therefore considered it taboo for them to be consumed by the young and unmarried.
August 1972: Barry Goldsmith (standing 6-feet tall and weighing 118 pounds) held a press conference to issue an "emaciation proclamation," thereby launching the start of the Skinny Liberation movement. He declared, "The world has been brainwashed by muscle man propaganda... We skinny people want to be sex objects, not rejects." He noted that he was motivated to start his crusade because he had "a lot of trouble getting dates" on account of girls who equated "masculinity with muscularity."
November 1972: Election officials in Ames, Iowa reprecincted the city in order to comply with new legislative district lines drawn by the Iowa Supreme Court. Subsequent investigation revealed that the new fourth precinct contained no human voters. It was occupied entirely by the 15-acre Experimental Animal Disease Laboratory whose only full-time residents were pigs.
1973: In anticipation of moving to its modern new headquarters, the Army Materiel Command held a contest to name the building. The AMC's Contest Committee to Name the New Building received over 524 entries. After carefully reviewing them all, the committee announced, "The name of the new AMC building is the AMC BUILDING." The winner, Francis Sikorski, received a $100 prize for suggesting the name.
January 1973: State Rep. Jim Kaster introduced a bill in the Texas legislature that would have required criminals to give their victims twenty-four hours notice before they committed a crime. The notice could be either oral or in writing, but would need to state "the nature of the crime to be committed and the time and place it is to be committed." Argued Kaster, "Obviously the criminal is not going to do it, but this would be another punishment that could be added to the penalty." The bill was defeated.
July 1974: Venezuelan fisherman Ramon Rivera Rodriguez woke up, looked around himself, pulled some cotton swabs out of his nose, then realized he was in a coffin at his own funeral, and promptly had a heart attack and died. His relatives subsequently demanded action against the doctor who had incorrectly pronounced him dead the first time.
October 1974: As Erma Schuon, 61, sat in the living room of her Lansing, Michigan apartment, a massive chunk of ice suddenly crashed through her roof, missing her by about six feet. Police later determined that the ice was frozen toilet waste that had fallen from an airplane. Two months later Schuon had a heart attack, which she attributed to the falling waste. "It was like an atom bomb," she said, "I kept thinking of that terrible, terrible noise. It's something you never forget."
December 1974: A mouse made a home for himself in a box of marijuana stored in the evidence room of the San Jose, CA police station. Police tried to lure him out with bacon, peanut butter, cheese, and a female mouse called Mata Hairy — but all failed. Finally a trap baited with marijuana seeds did the trick, and so he became known as Marty the Marijuana Mouse. Instead of killing him, he was sent to UCLA to aid in studies of marijuana. Then he was returned to San Jose where he became a police mascot. When he died in Nov 1975, the nation mourned.
December 1974: A court awarded 53-year-old Olive Russell $23,000 in damages for a bingo accident that she said had ruined her sex life. Russell sued the bingo hall after her chair collapsed during a game, causing her to fall to the ground and hurt her back and head. On account of these injuries, she said, she lost sexual interest in her husband. The court awarded her husband $115.
March 1975: Dr. Richard Cimbalo of Rosary Hill College held an exhibition of art created by rats. Proceeds from the show went to the school's psychology department. He explained that the rats painted by using their front paws to grab a brush extended into their cages. Each rat, he said, had its own distinctive artistic style.
June 1975: The post office in Rutland, Vermont, having received numerous complaints about mail not being delivered, investigated and through "patient observation" eventually discovered the cause to be a trash basket recently donated to the city by the local Kiwanis Club and placed outside the post office. People were mistaking the trash basket for a mail box and depositing their letters into it. Although one resident noted, "I can't understand it. It doesn't even look like a mail box, except it's blue."
July 1976: After Aunt Iola Walker received a message from God informing her that the Second Coming was at hand, the Nance family of Grannis, Arkansas stopped paying their bills, including their mortgage, sure that the end of the world would soon arrive. They began their end-of-times vigil in September, 1975. Ten months later, U.S. Marshals evicted them from their home, and the family members were forced to, once again, get jobs to support themselves.
January 1977: Marshall G. Cummings, Jr., charged with snatching a purse from a woman, pleaded not guilty. At his trial, he elected to serve as his own attorney. However, while cross-examining witnesses, he made what the state later described as an "unfortunate error." He asked the victim, "Did you get a good look at my face when I took your purse?" The jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison. Cummings later appealed his sentence, arguing that he had not been competent enough to knowingly and intelligently waive his right to a defense by an attorney — as evidenced by his incompetent self-defense. In consideration of this, the appellate court reduced his sentence from ten years to five.
August 1977: After leading police on a chase for several miles through the streets of Los Angeles, at speeds of over 70 mph, Mary Jane Williams finally came to a stop and explained to officers that she hadn't pulled over immediately when she heard their sirens because she had mistaken the sound for the screams of her boyfriend who was clinging to the roof. He had leapt up there after she had driven away without him following an argument. He was uninjured.
June 1978: In White Plains, New York, a large man walked into a bank, approached a teller, and demanded money. The teller, assuming a robbery, handed him a bundle of notes, and then another when he demanded again. At which point the man jumped in the air, yelled "Wheee," danced a bit, exclaimed, "When I need a little money I know where to come," and exited the bank without the money. The man was later picked up and held for psychiatric observation.
July 1979: As 30-year-old Paulette Fabre was sunbathing on a beach at Roquebrunesur-Argens on the French Riviera, she was suddenly stabbed through the chest by a beach umbrella that plummeted out of the sky, killing her instantly. The umbrella had been lifted into the air by a sudden gust of wind.

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.