The trivia question for this week is, Besides the Pet Rock, something else was a big fad in 1975. It was something you wore, and if it was blue it meant you were happy. The answer is in the podcast.
A few days ago I posted on Facebook that I could no longer put pen to paper about Donald Trump, that even seeing his name in print made my stomach churn in very hostile ways. A friend on Facebook said, “Dan, it’s time to give it a break and take up a hobby, like rock collecting,” and I thought that was a brilliant idea.
Remember the Pet Rock? The Pet Rock was a genius of an idea conceived in a bar in Bonny Doon. Bonny Doon is a misleading name because it’s not located in Ireland or Scotland or any place you might think would use the term Bonny and Doon in the same breath. Nope, Bonny Doon is located in Santa Cruz County, California, at an elevation of 1,476 feet. The 2010 United States census, the most recent census figure I could find, reported Bonny Doon’s population was 2,678. It was founded in the 1850s as a logging camp, and John Burns, a Scotsman living in Santa Cruz, named Bonny Doon after a line in Robert Burns’s song “The Banks O’ Doon,” which refers to the Doon River in Scotland.
I’ve had a lot of ideas conceived in bars, but none I would ever remotely consider a stroke of genius. So here is this man named Gary Dahl, sitting in a bar at 1,476 feet above sea level in a town that had fewer people than most neighborhoods around the Bonny Town of Boston. I imagine he might have been downing a pint or two while listening to his friends’ complaints about their pets, and some place between pint one and pint two—at this point I should mention that Gary Dahl may not have even been a drinking man, but I think it adds something to the story—he came up with the idea of a Pet Rock. A rock would not need to be fed, walked, bathed, or groomed and would not die, become sick, or become unruly. Dahl figured it would be the perfect pet and joked about it with his friends. But he also took his idea seriously and composed an “instruction manual” for a pet rock. The manual was full of puns, gags, and plays on words that referred to the rock as an actual pet.
The rock was a smooth stone from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach. Pet Rocks were marketed like live pets and had their own custom cardboard boxes, with straw bedding and breathing holes for the “animal.” The fad lasted about six months, ending after a short uptick in sales around the 1975 Christmas season, but by February 1976, they were discounted due to lower sales. Dahl sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks for $4 each and became a millionaire. He died on March 23, 2015, at the age of 78. Rosebud Entertainment currently holds the United States trademark rights to the Pet Rock.
I followed my Facebook friend’s advice to give myself a break from Trump and decided to take it a step further. There are a number of expressions comparing someone’s intelligence to a turnip, and most of us have come to realize that Donald Trump is not in possession of one of the most gifted intellects on this planet (all ideas expressed here are copyrighted, and I am the sole owner). But if a genius marketer or manufacturer would like to negotiate, I am available to offer a money-making idea. If you haven’t guessed—Are you ready for this? Wait for it. Here it comes!—it’s the Trump Turnip!
In the podcast, I’ll have the answer to the trivia question, maybe some political venting, and as always some rock and roll news and history. I hope you’ll join me on the bonny shores of Rambling Harbor.