The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 15, 2008

Crisis? What Crisis?

Filed under: History — Brian Lutz @ 9:27 am

(Note: This post is crossposted from, with some slight modifications.)

To be honest, the whole future thing seems just a tad overrated these days. Gone are the days when we were told that we could expect a future of rocket-propelled cars, push-button bubble ovens and fashionable evening gowns as far as the eye could see. Mostly these days we’re getting told that we’re either going to drown like all those cute little polar bears up in the Arctic, or we’re going to end up paying twelve bucks for a tablespoon of gas and subsisting on cruelty-free organic fair trade turnips and eating grass as a snack between meals.

Of course, we were being told a lot of the same things back in the Seventies, and most of those things never happened. A lot of the research that I have been doing on the local malls has me digging through a bunch of local newspapers from the Seventies, which seem to be remembered these days as a decade of all sorts of unpleasantness. For example, in early 1977 (where I was doing some searching last night) Carter was in office, OPEC and the Soviets were up to their usual tricks, and things just seemed to be headed for you-know-where in a handbasket. So what was the big scary story on the front pages of the papers? A coffee shortage.

A significant portion of the coffee crop in Brazil had been killed off by an early frost, and as a result coffee prices spiked dramatically. There was talk of a coffee boycott in the air. People were being forced to pay a whole fifty cents for a cup of coffee (and yes, Starbucks was already around at this point, but only as a small-time purveyor of coffee beans and coffee making equipment. It would be another decade before they would start selling coffee drinks or open any stores outside of Seattle.) The local newspaper here ran an editorial (included after the jump) telling people to get used to paying big bucks for their morning fix, and expressing hope that the high price of coffee would get people to reconsider their habits. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we even have a slightly boring clip from a contemporary CBC news program featuring some talking head from a consumer organization scolding people for guzzling coffee in the first place. Does any of this stuff sound familiar?

Of course, now people pay $3.50 or more for a cup of coffee without even blinking for entirely different reasons, and it’s the price of gas that’s headed for the proverbial stratosphere. Around here at least, I suspect that there are some people who would have an easier time living without gasoline than they would living without coffee, but then again this is Seattle I’m talking about here. Given the choice between no gas and no coffee, which one would you choose? For me it would be an easy choice since I already don’t drink coffee (for religious reasons, although I have found that even if that weren’t the case me and caffeine just don’t get along anyway.) In the meantime, for those of you who long for the rocket car and glass bubble ovens of the future that never was, enjoy the clip below.


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