a kid in the 70s? then you probably have this photo of yourself…

Posted on March 22nd, 2012

I tweeted recently about how funny it was that family photos for anyone who was a young kid in the ’70s are identical – same props, same setting, same clothes. Let’s see what I mean…

Sunday after church shot. In good "clobber" and thongs

Any of these so very random captures familiar to you?

* you and sibling(s) in a wheelbarrow

* first day of school shot. You’re in uniform; younger sibling is wearing a pirate outfit (or vice versa). Perhaps they’re holding their capgun. Or sporting a batman cape. Whatever. It’s convincingly competing with your uniform. You’re smiling. They’re looking well grumpy.

* you as a toddler holding a beer can. Better still, an over-sized beer can.

* you as a toddler with a plastic ice cream bucket on your head

* family photo, often taken after church (when you’re all in your good clobber, knees scrubbed; thongs washed; BMX tee tucked into Rugger shorts). Me, I was mostly holding the youngest (and have wonky hips to show for it now…that one on my lap above…almost 12 lb when he was born!).

* wearing corduroy overalls with a coloured skivvy. That every other sibling also wore at some point.

* in a bath. With your brothers. And your cousins. It’s Christmas time and you’re so very not happy about the arrangement.

When I tweeted the observation, stacks of tweeps chimed in and sent photos…which were EXACTLY the same as ones of me – same age, same era, same orange-y graininess.

It’s funny, hey. Back then, life looked the same for most people at the same age. Most people got married in their 20s and had kids while they were still struggling financially. They enjoyed the same kind of family social occasions. Kids did the same things. Fads came and went much more slowly. We ALL got into smelly hoolahoops at the same time. Toddlers wore the same practical clothing. And somehow we did the same things with the same props.

What impact does this have on a generation? What impact will constant change, older parents etc have on kids today? My upbringing was basic and modest and I’ve garnered much from the simplicity of this. From a simple, stable base you can pivot off and be crazy/erratic/changeable yourself.

My generation love looking back at photos from their childhood because it does signify far simpler, humbler values. The daggy sameness is comforting. (Also looking into your eyes as a kid is weirdly comforting…try it.)

Two ways with a wheelbarrow

I’m over-analysing now. I’ve shared some shots of me and my family here…it’s the 80’s for many of these but they’re the only ones I have with me. And below is a great photographic project where London-based artist Irina Werning reconstructed photos of people from when they were a kid, as adults. Love.

What were the standard “Kid in the ’70s” shots in your family?






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  • mel

    Ha ha, I l adore this. Same age as you. I had the smelly hoola hoop, in brown- chocolate of course. glow socks layered and rolled down worn with plastic shoes. BMXs were my best friends. Best t-shirt to wear to weddings etc was the one with Australia written on it for no apparent reason. I was a country kid and was a bit more out of it than the ‘townies’. A lot of big brother hand-me-downs. Fav photos are the denim or cord overalls with skivvy up the back paddock camping with my cousin, building a fire at age 7. Surrounded by the baby goat and a few random chooks. I wish this for my daughter now. Please No Facebook!!! I think I’m the only person still holding out on the Facebook. I really want different layers of friendship and privacy, am i weird?.


    Peckingbird Reply:

    I’m not on Facebook either, Mel … I despise it!

    I too yearn for intimacy anc friendship on a more “real” level.

    So if you’re weird, then we are both weird!


    tracy Reply:

    Let’s make a No-Facebook Facebook – I’m not on it either!


    Lucy Reply:

    Make that 4 of us! Facebook, twitter, linkedin – nada!


    Rachel Reply:

    I concur. I once had newish friend who wanted t limit our commutation to Facebook and texting- I am not on face book and think texting is dangerous as a primary form of communication. I still speaks my besty who lives in another state as much as we can – nothing beats REAL talking


    NatT77 Reply:

    I’m not on facebook or twitter either. Texting is easier for people, such as myself, who suffer with anxiety (I’m very nervous on the phone, even though I’ve been told I’m great at using one), but I do miss the days when one rang their mates as opposed to texting. And the Big M hula hoops! They were fantastic!


  • Oh i love this project, just had a look..fabulous.
    I love my 70’s pics, me with my sister and dog, me in the garden with a carrot..oh bless 🙂


  • The bucket on my head was red, of course. And I’ve got a variation on the oversized white glasses, as seen in one of Irina’s subjects, above. Otherwise, same same. I think my Dad even had the same hat as yours… 😉


  • Hilarious! This really bought a tear to my eye. No Sunday church shots in my house… but plenty of bath pics! Mum and Dad were barely out of their teens when they got married and started popping us out. It seems that anytime anyone with kids came round we were all shoved in the bath and subject to a photo or two – the most I have in one shot is 7 kids. What the? Plonking so many kids in a bath also means I have repressed memories of a mysterious pollywaffle floater or two. Why Mum? Why?

    The first day of school… why was it that the younger ones dressed up as Batman?

    How about the blow up pool shot – under 12 months, decked out in a crotchet bikini with Mum’s sunnies on – this doubled as my beer shot.

    As a Victorian (and breed as an AFL fan) there was also the obligatory photo’s of us fully decked out in our Richmond beanies, scarf, flag and bomber jackets.

    Loved the trip down memory lane! Thanks Sarah!


  • Michelle

    I was a kid in the early 90’s and I have a bunch of these photos of me as well! Except waaaay more bike pants!


  • Maree

    Hahaha, love this. I was nodding away as I was reading and remembering the good times.
    The home hair cuts; I have many a picture of myself and my sisters proudly showing off our crooked fringes. Photos of us in (AFL) Hawthorn beanies (nice try mum&dad, none of us ended up barracking for Hawthorn!), matching brown knitted tunics with our initials knitted into them, terry towelling very short shorts … There’s even a photo of my little sister dressed up in the plastic bags from the shopping!
    Oh and the hula hoop, I LOVED my strawberry Big M hula hoop.


  • Mia Bluegirl

    Ooooh BIKE PANTS! I remember those.

    I was a child of the mid-80s but I think my parents must had had the 70s hangover still, because I had a lot of those experiences too. Photos of all of us in the bath. And the first day of school pics, even though my little sister was a fairy instead of Batman!

    Also there are at least a million uses for those plastic ice cream buckets, including as hats, water buckets to splash the siblings, and to mix paint colours in.


  • rachel

    very cute photo, sarah!

    don’t forget the “having a bath in the kitchen sink as a baby” photo! 😀


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    YEP, many of those, too.


  • Sue

    OMG…that is so funny. I am one of 4 girls and we all had the same “economical”
    haircuts. We had a family portrait done back in the very early 80s (which was immeditately banished to the attic as soon as our teenage years hit). Mum found it a few years ago and took much delight in displaying it again. However, the first comment from the grandkids “Nana, who are our uncles”. Come winter, guess what’s going to be used as firewood!!


  • Shelley

    Hey Sarah, there are 2 photos of you smiling as a kid (I remember reading an article last year about how you never smiled in photos).

    There are photos of us sitting on Dad’s lap driving the car during the summer holidays having a great time. The truth came out years later that Dad was usually too drunk to drive so he would press the pedals and let us steer. Bit of a worry given we were all under 10 and seatbelts not mandatory then! Oh well, it was the 70s


    Bernadette Reply:

    We had an old station wagon with a bench seat in the front. We’d take it in turns to sit in the middle so we could turn the wheel and change the column shift. Cars didn’t have radios back then so it was some form of entertainment 🙂

    Sorry everyone, has nothing to do with photos but I love reminiscing!


  • Anthony

    I love photography, but I rarely share them unless I’m entering in a comp. I guess that’s because I’m a private kind of guy. I adore looking at family photos and understanding what they are saying, and often they do say a lot, and I often wonder why people forgot to write the date, place and who on the back to help a little to understand. I wrote the following poem after relative died and left a tin of photos. Cheers
    I saw no-one I knew just there again
    When I strained for another look just then:
    An old black and white photo, of mother’s
    Family of another generation.
    All their faces, dark eyes, fair complexion:
    Time when air was colder, the snow deeper.

    No names, time, date or place on the back
    To tell or give a hint, just the smell that
    Carries its age in the air when taken
    Out to try remember once again
    Who they all were, what were they doing then
    That place, date, time. The lid’s closed again

    Till when a relative comes to call:
    China cups, full teapot waiting to draw.
    The photo, it all begins sinking in
    When passed about, names mentioned
    Then a place, a date, a time; finally
    It’s all there and stories told of the tin.

    The photo’s put back away in the tin
    Another generation will look in,
    Strain their eyes and memory for names,
    For the faces, places, dates and times.
    To wonder, searching front to back for signs,
    The smell yes, but what else will they all find?


  • Sarah

    I have to admit that I grew up in the 70’s without many photos – but don’t despair my kids grew up in the 90’s with many photos. Some of my favs – the older two sitting in a bucket helping dad do some job around the house or other, first sand pit in the back of the trailer coz dad was still building it, and toddlers asleep in anything from highchair to toybox just because.

    Now smiling for the rest of the day!!


  • Meg

    Guess it depends on how old you were when you had to bath with a cast of thousands!

    I have one of those photos with 5 of us crammed in the small tub. But were were very young and looking like we were having a great time.


  • Lucy

    Definetly Abba tshirts! Not a 70s photo without someone in the family wearing one (yes, even my brother).


    Bernadette Reply:

    Same!! Sisters had ABBA, brothers had KISS. We treasured those tshirts more than life itself. And photo evidence to prove it.


  • How about all the kids in the boot of the car? We are an 80s brood but have a great pic of the 3 of us under 10 in the back of our custard yellow Corolla wagon. My sister is cradling the fourth kid- our maltese/aussie terrier pup that we got from the neighbour for free, rather than from the pet shop for $700.


    Mel Reply:

    Always free dogs.


  • Rachel

    I was the eldest of five- I was always holding someone!


  • I love the 70’s photos my dad took when I was little, he was a real hippie with the long hair and the flares. Those photos bring back so many memories. I have two little boys now and we try and keep things simple. Going to the beach, going camping, riding scooters and bikes. I really hope things can stay that way but we live in the inner city and I’m sure they will catch on to thing. This morning I saw a little boy riding a skateboard to school while carrying a takeaway coffee (or perhaps a hot chocolate)??


    Bernadette Reply:

    Oh same, Sophie. The coffee shop I call into every morning is always full of high school students sitting down to a big bacon & egg breakfast, then grabbing a take away coffee. All too sophisticated for my liking!


  • Mel

    I love the first photo. In what looks like the middle of the bush, your parents were kind enough to give you a seat to hold the 12lb baby, while your brothers standing there like alter boys! And why do boys always place their hands so strategically..my sons do the same now in every photo.


  • Stephanie

    Loved this entry and could totally relate to it. My parents were young when I was born in 1970. I have the shot with the plastic pail on my head, a few nude-on-fur-rug photos (hey – it was North America), and photos in the garden playing with my plastic watering can. I agree with the benefits of a simple, scaled-back childhood. It worked for me, anyhow, in terms of a launching pad for bigger, independent adventures.


  • Fantastic read, me in a wheel barrow with my sister and brother, another shot holding a fish and of course the family portrait, my sister and I wearing knickerbockers (that word makes me laugh) with matching jackets, which our Nana made. Precious memories and such simple times x


  • meg

    Love the pics. What about playing under the sprinkler – ALL day?
    What I remember about that time, definitely a simpler approach to life, but also none of this keeping up with the Joneses. We would go over to anyone’s house and not care what car they drove or how grand the house was.
    My mother and her friends were all well groomed but not wearing designer clothes – nor were they fat might I add. My mother never set foot in a gym, that was where boxers went to train.


  • Hehehe I like the wheelbarrows. My dad always took photos of my sister and me pushing each other around in wheelbarrows.
    He even build pretty little wheelbarrows to plant flowers in. But, before he put them in, we had to take a photo:)


  • I grew up in Ireland in the 90s & relate to this! Particularly the after church shot with the sun in our eyes.


  • Lisa Ingram

    Yes. Nostalgia, so lovely. I am 1965 vintage. Long dresses were in order when visiting relations. Pictures of us in blow up paddling pools, a bit saggy, bathers with skirts. Pink hot pants. Those icecream wafer cones that were rectangular and you unwrapped the rectangle of vanilla to put in. Save the Whales T shirt. Dungarees ( lilac!). Us with cars – Zephyr, Ford Cortina, Morris 1100. Can’t wait to come back here and read more of the comments – thanks all. Lisa


  • You always make me smile, Sarah.