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Looking Back: 1972

Looking Back: 1972

"Cornett family, Kentucky, 1972. Family in car, baby looking back." Our daily dose of the Cornetts and their cars. Print from 35mm negative by William Gedney. Gedney Photographs and Writings Collection, Duke University. View full size.

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Today’s Top 5

Almost 4?

Ah reckon the li'l tyke's jest about old enuff to be larnin' to drive a stick.


I am 40 and would be around the same age as this baby. In the early 1970's I too rode standing up in the front seat. My dad actually cut off the seat belts because they got in the way.

Penny for your thoughts

I'll bet he wants one of those beers!

I remember that!

Ah yes, the ol' motherly-arm-across-the-midsection when coming to a quick stop.

Child seats

If this kid is four, as he appears to be, then he and I are the same age. Somewhere, there are pictures of me in a child seat, but we had newer cars. My parents had a '66 Olds Cutlass two-door. When my brother was born, they traded it in on a four-door '70 Ford LTD. Undoubtedly, they got tired of hoisting tots in and out of a two-door back seat.

Child seats, of course, are totally useless in any car that lacks seat belts.

And while seat belts were not standard equipment until '66, many cars had seat belts as an option after 1960. If they were an option, then the car came with anchors that made it easy to install them as an aftermarket item. My wife recalls her father installing seat belts in the back seat of their car, sometime in the late '60s. She thinks the car had them in the front already. She doesn't know the year and make of the car, but she remembers that it was a big deal.

Remember that the Chrysler Airflow had seat belts in 1934, and Lee Iacocca attempted to introduce them during his tenure at Ford, in 1956. In both instances, the public took the attitude that if a car needed seat belts, it must be unsafe.

Lucky Tyke

That car at least had a padded dash and seat belts. When I was his age our 1952 Bel Air had no seat belts, a steel dash, and I rode in the front seat standing up. However I was in no danger because Mom would throw her right arm across my chest whenever there was a sudden stop. I'm not sure what that was supposed to do, but I guess it was her version of a motherly air bag.

[Pretty sure this car, a 1963 Chevrolet, did not have seat belts. - Dave]

And Traveling Forward.

I wonder how the future has unfolded for this child. He seems to have his eyes wide-open and focused. He would be approaching 40 today. It would be interesting to know where his life has taken him. He has his daddy's ears.

I Can Hear

the smacking sound of damp babyskin as it bounces back and forth on those vinyl seats.

When bulletproof was expected

Ah, yes, they were the days when unbelted babies could not possibly rocket through a windshield in a crash. We all did that and thought nothing of it, mostly because the laws of physics had not been written yet. Right.

Belts had been required by the Feds since 1966, but that doesn't mean their presence made drivers (and parents) any smarter.

Funny how things change without notice. Back in the 1940s when you were eating, say, a candy bar in the car, the wrapper might just casually be tossed out the window, because "litter" had not been invented.

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