Groovy assignment takes me back to ’72

Mostof the time, research is just part of the job as a journalist. It’s something I enjoy, sure, or I wouldn’t have chosen this career path. But I don’t typically revel in it.

Then again, every once in a while, I get an assignment that almost completely takes over my thought process.

Who would have thought that researching the year 1972 — a year I didn’t even experience — would be so fascinating and so much fun.

The assignment was to compile a list of items, along with their prices in 1972 and today. Pretty simple stuff.

But then, I started reading the archives and I hatched a new plan. I started finding so much information about the year and the products that I wanted to share more with our readers. The little-known facts I was finding were just too much fun.

I was supposed to turn in six to 10 price comparisons, with a little bit of information with each. I turned in 20, along with some fun and sometimes funny information, and I could have kept going because it was 10:30 p.m., but I felt like I was just getting started.

But, alas, we only have so much news hole, so they couldn’t use everything I’d compiled. Tami, our design editor, is a whiz at making things look great on the page, but making things look great doesn’t always jibe with getting all of the information in.

And, in my humble opinion, she left out the best ones. So, in honor of our Tribune press turning 40, I’m going to share the rest of the information that I found:

• Van Camp’s Pork & Beans: Van Camp’s Pork and Beans were 25 cents a can in 1972. The label has changed little over the last 40 years. Of all the items we compared, the sale price has changed the least. Cans of the side dish were recently on sale for 50 cents.

• Excedrin: Excedrin sold its headache medicine for 94 cents for a 100-count bottle. There are now several different varieties and strengths beyond the original headache medicine, but a basic bottle of 50 tablets is $6.73.

• M&M’s: M&M’s introduced the M&M brand characters in 1972. A bag of the chocolate candies “that melt in your mouth, and not in your hand” had brown, yellow, orange, green, violet and red colored candies and cost 31 cents. Today, a bag of the candies now looks different outside and in: There is blue, but no violet, and just like the Tribune, the packaging added some lively color. Also, the price has gone up to 79 cents.

• Portable music: Back in 1972, an 8-track player was considered a portable music player. It ran on eight batteries, or could be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter, and it wasn’t exactly small. A brand new one was $87.50. Today: What’s an 8-track player? Surely, in 2012, the only place you can buy such a thing is on eBay. But for $30 you can take 500 songs with you on an iPod Shuffle that weighs less than half an ounce.

• Osterizer Blender: The Osterizer Blender was and still is a popular wedding gift. A popular 10-speed model was $18.66, but today it costs $36.99.

• Ketchup: In 1972, Heinz reached the billion- dollar sales mark, no doubt helped by the sales of 20 oz. ketchup bottles — which, back then were all glass — for 36 cents apiece. Today, those iconic glass bottles are getting harder to find, now replaced by plastic squeeze bottles, which kick the ketchup out much faster. Maybe the price increase to $2.16 is paying for that extra speed.

• Cards: Before the age of computers and video game consoles, gaming consisted of the 52-card kind. And decks were about 19 cents. By today’s standards, they’re not high-tech. But they are high-priced compared to 1972 as playing cards are now $5 a deck. A little side note: The arcade version of PONG was introduced in 1972. Now, you can play that simple game on your cell phone.

• Hairspray: Aqua Net sales were in a lull in the ’70s because of simpler hairstyles, so a can was inexpensive at 19 cents. The hairspray saw its surge in popularity, along with a surge of hair in the ’80s, but it’s still around, and a can of the aerosol spray is now $2.63.

• Soup: Always perennial classics, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and Tomato Soup were 9 cents in 1972. The two popular condensed soups are now on sale for 99 cents.

See? It’s fascinating, right?

Deann Stumpe

In her weekly column that runs Mondays in the Hastings Tribune, Deann Stumpe gabs about relationships, movies and TV, and life with a baby. She is the Tribune’s special sections editor.

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