Who Gave Us Mini Skirts?

Twiggy wearing a Quant mini skirt
Twiggy wearing a Quant mini skirt

Bettie asks: Who invented the mini skirt and when?

Hello Bettie, Hemlines are starting to creep up in the mid 60s, born from the world-wide youth culture’s longing for fresh, fun and flirty styles. Up until now, teenagers were much like their parents. They dressed and acted like their parents and for the most part started raising families when they were right out of high school. As a result, teen culture before the Vietnam war started was practically non-existent.

We are seeing drastic changes in culture, politics, tolerance during the 60s and it is leading the way for the liberation of women! The mini skirt was most widely associated with Mary Quant, a London boutique owner and fashion icon. Quant herself is hesitant about the claim that she invented the mini skirt, rather to give credit to her customers as they actually have been driving the hemlines higher through requests.

Do you know Twiggy? The fashion model rising to fame in 1965 was most likely the movement’s figurehead. Her pixie haircut, large eyes, thick lashes and childlike frame were contrary to the mature female icons of the previous decade.  What a decade of change!

Toys and Games of the 1960s

Ahh...A nice relaxing game with the boy while mom and sis clean up.
Ahh…A nice relaxing game with the boy while mom and sis clean up.

Mariah asks: Rhonda, could you remind us of what kids are playing with in the 1960s?

A: If I had a crystal ball I’d predict a large percentage of the toys introduced in this decade will surely stick around for several years. Toys and games like G.I. Joe, Twister and Operation are new. The well-known high-fashion doll, Barbie, once waned in popularity until a creative Christmas approach was dreamt up. The adding of a new family member, Skipper was recently introduced as Barbie’s little sister. Electrically powered racing cars are challenging the popularity of the electric train. And children all over the country are learning how to ride skateboards, an alternative to the current roller-skating trend. Board games like parcheesi are being played by ages anywhere from 7 to adults and canasta, a card game, is enjoyed by teens and adults. Girls are still playing jacks in the 60s, but they are becoming less popular. Additionally, model planes made from balsa wood are very popular as a craft as well as a toy. Kids are making them and flying them just like paper airplanes, but they fly so much better. (Oops! We have learned some kids are sniffing the glue used to make the planes, so I’m sure several companies will stop making them. Kids will be kids!)

At Roadrunner Lodge Motel we have a fun selection of games to keep the whole family engaged in the evenings. Come stay with us and ask us about Operation, Battleship, even the popular View-Master with a few different disc sets. We also have Lawn Bowling, and Blockbuster to be played outdoors.

Meet Rhonda

Meet Rhonda – Our energetic, vivacious, life-loving 60’s expert advice columnist! Rhonda lives in Tucumcari, NM, in the 1960s… is 34 years old and is employed at the Roadrunner Lodge Motel as CAO (Chief Advice Officer). She is a native Tucumcarian, having attended Tucumcari High School, (GO RATTLERS!) now a mother of two, and factitiously serves on the School PTA Board of Tucumcari Elementary. Her hobbies include playing bridge, bowling, and ceramics. She drives a 1962 Ford Country Squire Woody station wagon but dreams of owning a 66 Ford mustang convertible… Her favorite afternoon snack is a refreshing bottle of Tab with Kraft Pineapple Cheese spread on a Ritz cracker and she subscribes to Ladies’ Home Journal and Cosmo. Each month Rhonda will comment on Tucumcari “Life in the 1960s” and answer questions her followers may be curious about. She is looking forward to what you will “Ask Rhonda!” Post your questions or comments here or email her at Rhonda@RoadrunnerLodge.com!

A quarter can buy you a great night’s sleep…

Inserting a quarter gives 15 minutes of relaxing vibrations
Inserting a quarter gives 15 minutes of relaxing vibrations

… in one of the Roadrunner’s Snazzy 60s rooms

That’s right, for just 25 cents you can be gently vibrated to sleep with the aid of the “Magic Fingers” vibrating bed in our Snazzy 60s rooms. What a treat after a day in the car, motoring across the country.

The “Magic Fingers” vibrating device for beds was invented by John Houghtaling, (pronounced HUFF-tay-ling). Houghtaling was selling beds with a built-in vibrating mechanism when he realized during a repair job it would be much cheaper to create something that would attach to the outside of an existing bed. Tinkering in the basement of his New Jersey home, Houghtaling invented the “Magic Fingers” machine in 1958.

Mid-mod hotels and motels from the 1960s to the early 1980s commonly featured the magic fingers in rooms. In fact, in its heyday, there were about 175 Magic Fingers franchise dealers across the country, and each gadget could collect anywhere from $6,000 to $7,000 a year in quarters. The device was mounted onto beds, and that single quarter bought 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease,” according to its label. By the late 1970s, dealers complained they spent more money to repair the devices that thieves had broken open. Houghtaling developed a debit card-like system for the machines to replace the coin slots, but the idea never took off.

Houghtaling was born Nov. 14, 1916, in Kansas City, Mo. He was known to say he barely made it out of high school, and he never went to college. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and flew 20 combat missions. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 92.

The vibrating bed was, for a time, pretty famous in pop culture. It was frequently featured in 1960s–80s movies and TV shows in some fashion.

  • “Magic fingers” is a song by Frank Zappa for the film 200 Motels.
  • Songwriter Steve Goodman mentions it in “This Hotel Room”, sung by Jimmy Buffett, which included the line “Put in a quarter. Turn out the light. Magic Fingers makes you feel alright.”
  • It was mentioned in Buck Owens’s “World Famous Paradise Inn.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five referred to Magic Fingers as the character Billy Pilgrim used the vibrating bed to help him fall asleep.
  • The classic 1983 National Lampoon film Vacation, Clark and Ellen Griswold can be seen relaxing on a Magic Fingers bed that goes rampant, vibrating out of control and tosses them to the floor.
  • The vibrations triggered a beer explosion in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and
  • FBI agents Mulder and Scully relaxed to the pulsations in an episode of “The X Files.”

Photo by @klowehamilton