New 'Timelines' chronicles events of pop culture beginning in 1949

December 18, 1990|By Bob Swift | Bob Swift,Knight-Ridder

Most of us have trouble recollecting the exact dates of events, or when fads were in vogue, or when certain slang words or pop phrases entered our vocabulary. And it hasn't been easy to research stuff like that. Until now. A new book solves such memory problems.

It is "Timelines" (Addison-Wesley, $18.95), by Paul Dickson, a pop culture buff. He is interested in such oddities as trivia, word games, slang, etc. It's sort of a super-diary, the journal you wish you had kept but didn't, outlining major news events, fads, trends and statistics from 1945 through 1989. Yes, the Pet Rock is in there.

Dickson compares his book to a "crammer," used to cram for tests. Researching an article one day, he couldn't easily find the answers to two questions: When was the Polaroid camera introduced? When did the last man set foot on the moon?

"I needed a new kind of crammer," Dickson says, "one that covered all the major events and turning points from the end of World War II to the present." So he wrote his own, filled with such vital information as when the Hell's Angels were organized (March 17, 1948), when hot pants were hot (1971), and when the coiled-wire Slinky first walked down stairs (1948).

He organized it to leave room for your own notes. For instance, beside the first notation for 1946 (the first official baby boomer, Kathleen Casey Wilkens of Philadelphia, was born one second after midnight Jan. 1), there is room to jot down your own recollections ("I will never drink Purple Passion again.").

Here are some of 'the memory joggers in 'Timelines'':

1945 -- J. B. White's children's classic, "Stuart Little," is published. "Bop" bops upon the jazz scene. The term "bug," referring to a defect or problem, is coined by a Navy team working on the first large-scale American computer (a moth got stuck in a relay, causing a glitch).

1946 -- Timex watches hit the market. A new Crosley four-passenger convertible car costs $250 (no, that's not a typo). The term "automation" is coined.

L 1947 -- New phrases: Flying saucers, loyalty oath, cold war.

1948 -- Latex paint is marketed. Porsches come to the U.S. The discount store is born (E.J. Korvette in New York). Lapel button: Give 'Em Hell, Harry.

1949 -- The canasta craze. Howard Unruh kills 13 people in 12 minutes in Camden, N.J. Gas is 25 cents a gallon, milk is 21 cents a quart.

1950 -- First modern instant coffee (Maxwell House). The Brinks robbery ($1,500,000). Comic strip "Peanuts" appears. Antihistamines. First credit card (Diner's Club).

1953 -- The drink, Irish Coffee, is invented at a San Francisco cafe.

1955 -- The Mickey Mouse Club airs on TV (M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . . Dacron goes on the market.

1957 -- The Asian Flu. Beatniks. Brinkmanship.

1960 -- The pill. Xerox copiers. Bumper Sticker: All The Way With LBJ.

1962 -- Diet cola is introduced (as Diet-Rite Cola).

1964 -- Go-go girls. Pop-Tarts appear. Beatlemania. A head of lettuce is 25 cents.

1967 -- The first Super Bowl. Bumper sticker: Julia Child Eats TV Dinners.

1968-- "Sock it to me!" Cost of first-class stamp rises to six cents.

1969 -- Birth of the complaint: "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we . . . "

1970 -- Janis Joplin dies at 27.

1971 -- The term "junk food." Workaholic. Bumper sticker: Down With Hot Pants.

1976 -- "Yo!" (from the film "Rocky").

1979 -- The Susan B. Anthony dollar. Bumper sticker: I Don't Brake For Liberals.

1983 -- Grody to the max. The Cabbage Patch Kids. "Flashdance" inspires "ripped" clothing.

1985 -- Crack hits the streets.

1986 -- Car window signs: Baby on Board, Ex-Husband in Trunk.

1987 -- Couch potato.

1988 -- Bumper sticker: Die Yuppie Scum.

1989 -- There are two moments on June 7 when the time is 1:23:45/6/7/89. Modern Maturity (circulation 20,314,462) is nation's best-read magazine. Take that, yuppie scum.

There are 357 pages of that sort of fascinating stuff, wrapped around the more serious events of history (assassinations, elections, protests, etc.).

Oh, to answer those questions Dickson asked: The last man on the moon landed Dec. 7, 1972. The Polaroid camera came out on May 11, 1949. It cost $89.75.

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