The Pet Rock, Goldfish Swallowing and the Silliness of Fads


I did an interview this Saturday for NPR Weekend Edition with Linda Wertheimer.  The piece, entitled "Pondering the Popularity of the Pet Rock – And Other Fads," was a follow up to the passing of Gary Ross Dahl who was the creator of one of the most famous / infamous (take your pick) fads of the 20th century. If you want to hear the interview, click here).  

For those who were not around for the Pet Rock, it occurred in the mid-1970's.  Dahl packaged rocks (yes rocks) in a box with holes punched in it so the rock could breathe and raked in a great deal of money doing so.  As with all fads, historians have fruitlessly pondered the why of it all.


I was there for the Pet Rock moment and my memory is that is was a time of economic uncertainty, social upheaval, bad mustaches and leisure suits.  Yes, leisure suits, those polyester wonders whose bad taste, displayed in yellowing polaroid photographs, still haunts a generation of Baby Boomer males. 


Fads are not uniquely American but certainly mostly American.  Swallowing goldfish in the 1920's; stuffing phone booths in the 1950's or the Bucket Challenge of recent times are just examples of young adults (never children) being swept up in something bigger than they were, a national wave of silliness, that pushed them to to publicly achieve the heroically absurd.

Were you swept away by a fad?  If so, let us know.

2 thoughts

  1. I have gone through your post, and it is fascinating and informative to read. I love to see videos and read articles regarding swallowing goldfishes and after doing some research, I found a website where I can see more stuff like this.

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