The 10 Most Terrifying Public Service Announcements from the 1970s

Back in the 1970s, most Americans only had a few TV channels. In the pre-DVR era, there was no fast-forwarding through the commercials, so when the networks ran public service announcements, everyone watched. Apparently, someone in a position of influence thought that fear was a great motivator, especially for small children and their parents. That’s why so many of the TV spots were downright terrifying. Is it any wonder that the kids who grew up watching these PSAs became the parents who overprotected and coddled their millennial children and raised a generation of pajama boys?

Watching a few of these PSAs may help to explain why so many parents are so afraid of… basically everything.

1. Anyone can share VD with someone nice as you!

“VD is for everybody. Not just for the few.  Anyone can share VD with someone nice as you!”

The takeaway from this PSA is that venereal diseases were lurking around every corner, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting individuals who were just minding their own business. The nice-looking boy who plays the violin, the friendly local grocer, your third-grade teacher, the school librarian — any one of them could be surreptitiously carrying “the clap” or chlamydia and could at whim pass it on to an innocent bystander.

2. Children should never be left alone in a fire.

“For hundreds of children, this year life will be cut short by fire and by thoughtlessness…. In a fire, children are helpless. They need you.”

Oddly enough, there is no mention of the other death traps featured in the PSA: the merry-go-round, the pull toy with the cord that is a strangulation risk, the cage crib with bars spaced far enough apart for a child to stick his head through. It’s the stuff of nightmares for today’s parents.

3. Beware of magicians peddling drugs to kids!

“Hey, kiddies, gather ’round! The man with the goodies is here!”

The magic man has glue to sniff, “amphetamines, bennies, dexies, meth…” Downers and grass, too. Thank goodness for the know-it-all blonde kid who knows the side-effects of each and every drug:

Magician: “Grass…anything wrong with pot?”

Blonde kid: “They’re not sure yet. They just started studying about it.”

Magician: “Dig, everybody! L.S.D.”

Blonde kid: “Bad trips and a chance for chromosome damage.”

Magician: “How do you know you got chromosomes?”

Blonde kid: “Everything you’ve got there can hurt you, can’t it?”

Magician: “Sure kid, why do you think they call it dope?”

Kids in the 1970s grew up believing that there really were “dope pushers” who actually handed out drugs like they were candy.  Nobody I knew ever met one of these mythical creatures, but we were warned constantly to avoid them and run away if they approached us in the park.

4. The “blunt” truth about grass.

In an effort to communicate a hip-sounding anti-drug message that teens could relate to, this PSA probably achieved the opposite of its intended effect. It made drugs seem fun and cool and glamorized drug use more than demonized it.

Here are some gems from this hilarious PSA:

I know what you’re thinking. What is marijuana? What makes it so dangerous? Where can I get some marijuana? Well, brother, I’m not going to nickle and dime you. I’m not like “the man” all you kids are rebelling against. I’m hip. I know what young people are dealing with these days.

Yes, he actually said “nickle and dime you.”

Rolled in Zig Zags or puffed from 7th period wood shop projects, the smoke from this plant causes a brief state of euphoria, immediately followed by permanent insanity. Users are prone to unpredictable behavior including junk food binges, joy rides, and a sudden urge to wear sunglasses at night.

At long last, I now know why my brother was so interested in wood shop in junior high.

Long term use of marijuana can lead to a psychological dependency. Soon you’ll be taking all sorts of measures to get your fix. People will start calling you names like “pothead” or “Smokie McBongwater.” Losing all motivation, it’s likely that you will drop out of school take a sudden liking to sitar music and maybe even get felt up by a cop or two.

This explains basically everything about the ’70s.

Is marijuana really where it’s at? Is it really as righteous as you think? There is more to life than grass. There are fulfilling careers and grrrr000vy beach parties. The closer you look the more seeds you find in your stash. Follow your hopes and dreams. Be someone. Do yourself and your country a favor. Don’t let this happen to you.

Raise your hand if you’re convinced.

5. Can we solve our energy problem in time?

“We are exhausting our irreplaceable energy resources. Do we have time? What then? Think about it.”

In the 1970s the Department of Energy warned of an energy crisis:

6. Let’s Hold It Down, America!

“It’s your problem, but he’s the one who suffers most. A little consideration could make his world so much happier. A public service message from the Institute for Soundproof Doors.”

This is a rather horrifying PSA featuring a tearful little boy sitting on his bed listening as his parents have a knock-down, drag-out fight in another room. These parents need more than a soundproof door. I’d suggest some respect for one another and perhaps marital counseling.

7. National PTA warns about the “No Breakfast Droop”

“This nutrition message is brought to you by the National PTA.”

Bacon, a fried egg, a muffin, a bowl of cereal with bananas and milk, a poached egg, a cantaloupe, a grapefruit, butterscotch pudding, waffles, and toast with butter.

Don’t you miss the ’70s?

8. Save Free TV!

Before there was talk of a Comcast/Time Warner monopoly and a national debate about net neutrality, Americans fought to keep TV free — all three of the stations we enjoyed back then!

“Monsters do have their place: in the zoo, in your nightmares, in the deep, in your favorite horror movies…but not in your living room on your TV. Don’t let pay-TV be the monster in your living room. Pay-TV and cable companies are seeking the right to charge you for the very programs you now get free. If you want to stop pay-TV and save free television, sign the petition in the lobby of this theater.”

9. The deadliest animals in the forest — humans.

“Each year nine out of every ten forest fires are started by these animals — the deadly ones. The ones with the brains.”

10. Batgirl lectures Batman about equal pay.

“It’s already too late. I’ve worked for you a long time and I’m paid less than Robin. Same job, same employer means equal pay for men and women.”

Will Batgirl save Batman and Robin from the ticking time bomb that’s ready to explode? Yes, but not until after she delivers a lecture about equal pay for women.

Now can you please untie us, Batgirl — or is it Batwoman now?