Here in the office, we have a lot of reading material — every issue of Climbing ever printed, for example. I’m psyched, cause I never have to experience the agony of a boring bowel movement. Plus, it’s handy when you’re writing an article about, say, the history of climbing World Cups in America, to be able to flip open to Jim Thornburg’s feature on the first and only such event, the Berkeley World Cup, back in 1990.
One of my favorite things to do with the unabridged set of back issues on our shelves is hunt for old Matt Samet articles. Since Matt sits about 20 feet from me, five days a week, I like to know what kind of wacky stuff he’s written over the years. I’m always amazed at how long the guy’s been cranking out cranky, hilarious prose on the topic of climbing (have you seen his intro to the original sport climbing guide to Rifle, Colorado?!)
My other favorite back-issue rainy day game is ad-hunting. For some reason, ads give you a direct, unfiltered view into the cultural milieu from which they came. Maybe cause so many ads are cheesy by nature (think car dealership TV spots). Some stuff I came across recently stopped me in my tracks.
“Oh, sweet! Is this for real?!” I exclaimed giddily when I flipped open to this page, touting the benefits of one Enduro Master, a machine that apparently uses a fan to offer resistance and is best operated standing up. But the machine is not as far-fetched as the topless, tights-clad Mullet Master at the helm. Then I realized something even cooler: I know this guy. (I’m not going to name names, but it’s totally Al Diamond.) I climbed with Al a few time in the Gunks. He’s a great guy, and tons of fun, but imagine how much fun he must have been when he had the mullet.
Then, in another issue from the late 80s I came across these harness ads. They made me so happy. There was once a time when it was not only acceptable but desirable to Saran-wrap your lower half in shiny, day-glow fabric. It must have been the European influence seeping into the American climbing culture. Who can blame us for aping them, though? They were pretty much kicking our asses on the (sport and comp) climbing front at the time. (They were likewise far ahead in the art of drilling, chipping, bolting, hangdogging, and the like — let’s give credit where credit’s due.)
The thing that baffles me is the fact that I started climbing only a few years after these ads ran. Did I look ever like this? I went digging through old photos and found one shot in which I had horizontal stripes shaved into the side of my head, and another where I sported brightly-colored ¾-length stretchy pants (you will never see these photos), but nothing like this, thank God.
I hope to continue bringing you fine examples of vintage advertisements from the pages of early mags, so stay tuned for another Blast from the Past Blog, courtesy of me, the Real Justin Roth.