Get a Load of These 1977 Car Seats

Illustration for article titled Get a Load of These 1977 Car Seats
Image: Kelly Faircloth

Many millennial parents will be familiar with a slight skepticism from boomer grandparents about the strictness of current rules about car-seat installation and use. These images from 1977 explain why: Because just a generation ago, car seats were basically just fancy plastic buckets.

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While combing through J.C. Penney catalog from fall/winter 1977 for another post, I stumbled across this page that stopped me in my tracks:

Illustration for article titled Get a Load of These 1977 Car Seats
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These car seats, the matching copy promises, “All comply with Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” and fit most cars, “even” compact cars. At the time, these were the cutting edge of technology—and a vast improvement over what had been available just a decade before.

You can watch the seats evolve over the last century in a brief video from What to Expect. Apparently the first car seats designed for safety didn’t arrive until the 1960s; the federal government didn’t establish safety standards for car seats until 1971. It was apparently mandated crash testing that pushed design forward in the 1980s, when car seats began looking recognizably like their modern descendants, but even so, the LATCH system that has wreaked so much havoc on my fingernails wasn’t required by law until 2002. There weren’t even car seat laws in effect in all fifty states until 1986.

I will say, though, this guy looks pretty comfortable.

Illustration for article titled Get a Load of These 1977 Car Seats

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

Jerry-Netherland
Jerry-Netherland

As someone who was a child prior to the introduction of these seats, here’s what preceded it: babies/infants were held by an adult, but once one had achieved toddler status, you were postioned as any grown person: “Sit still!”

A parent’s arm would fly over and bolt you in the chest (across a bench seat) every time they had to stop short. If you were lucky, there wasn’t a lit cigarette in said parent’s hand.

In the event that there were two adults in the car, and thus the child or children were in the back seat, the kids were on their own or at the mercy of one another (if, like me, you had a sibling prone to motion sickness, she’d vomit on you. “Get over it!”).

Also, the squishy suspensions typical of American cars in those days meant that the sixties were only swingin’ to children in the most literal sense.

(PS: I got my driver’s license in the late 70s, and to this day, in what is clearly a reflex learned from my childhood, my arm swings over the passenger anytime I brake hard - even if the passenger is just a bag of groceries)