erik lundegaard

Travels: Rehoboth Beach, Del.: Tea Shirts

Read Parts I and II here and here.

What else is gone? The movie theater along Rehoboth Avenue where I saw “Grease” six times during the summer of ’78, falling more in love with Olivia Newton John each time. I was 15.

And where’s the clown face that used to grace the front of Funland? For some reason it’s been relegated to the back. The new facade announces “Funland” mutely. It makes no promises.

But Skee Ball lives. As does “The T-Shirt Factory” on Rehoboth Avenue. As do most of the T-shirt shops along the boardwalk. These first became big for me in the summer of 1977, when “Star Wars” first became big for me, and when I bought, or finagled, T-shirts with iron-on transfers like “May the Force Be With You” or “Darth Vader Lives!” or just that original magic poster of Luke and Leia lit up in the foreground and Darth Vader and the Death Star dominating the background. I remember the pleasantly acrid smell of the melted print as it was steamed onto the cotton. I remember the sometimes sticky feel of the iron-on afterwards. Options went beyond “Star Wars” to include other pop icons: rock stars (the Rolling Stones), Tiger Beat stars (Shaun Cassidy), TV stars (Starsky & Hutch), superheroes (Captain America). The last one I bought was probably a Bruce Springsteen long-sleeved tee in the summer of 1983, and since then I’ve favored blank T-shirts—I advertise for no man, man—but I was still pleasantly surprised that so many Rehoboth T-shirt shops thrived.


Then I looked closer. I’m sure we had tacky and classless transfers back then...but this tacky and classless?

  • A silhouette of a curvy woman by a stripper pole: I Support Single Moms: One dollar at a time
  • A raised middle finger with a smiley face: Have a nice day
  • Six red words: I Put Ketchup on My Ketchup

Who thinks that’s witty? Probably the same people who think the following are smart political statements:

  • A caricature of Barack Obama in a baby bjorn: Worse than a HANGOVER
  • The faces of Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden superimposed over Larry, Curly and Moe: The REAL Stooges
  • A pic of a smiling, waving George W. Bush: MISS ME YET? How's that hopey changey thing working out for ya?
  • Angry: Why the Hell Should I have to Press #1 for ENGLISH?
  • Insane: If you can’t read this you’re probably illegal or the President!

I saw these in shops all over Rehoboth, and though I got weary at the smallness of it all, and angry at the idiocy of people who didn’t remember how bad things were in September 2008, I also realized I didn’t see anyone actually wearing such a T-shirt along the boardwalk. Everyone was too busy with their Phillies or Orioles tees, or their Seussian “Drunk Thing 1” or “Sexy Thing 2” T-shirts. It's still depressing, though. I’m no longer for slapping advertisements on my chest, but at least back in the day we put the things we loved on our chests.

Tomorrow: Mourning in Rehoboth

Stay classy, America.

Posted at 08:11 AM on Wed. Sep 22, 2010 in category Travels  


Jack Bradbury wrote:

I think the ol' memory is thinking back to a bygone day that didn't really exist. I'm pretty sure the tasteless t-shirts were just as prevalent back then. I just wish I still had the tie dye tee I made with an image of a wizard I had created in the early 70's. Now nothing says "Dork" like a wizard tee shirt!
Comment posted on Wed. Sep 22, 2010 at 02:15 PM

Erik wrote:

The mind is tricky--yours and mine--but I stand by what I wrote. I'm hardly saying the '70s were idyllic. I'm saying I've never seen so much hatred being nonchalantly offered in T-shirt shops as I did this summer.
Comment posted on Wed. Sep 22, 2010 at 02:56 PM

Mister B wrote:

Are you entirely certain the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" wasn't in town?

That being said, I do recall my uncle driving a Chevelle SS with a "Nuck Fixon" button stuck to the flip-down sunshade on the driver's side.

I guess political humor never gets old -- or grows up (except for The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Bill Maher, but I'm guessing no one who would buy one of those t-shirts would watch either of those shows).
Comment posted on Thu. Sep 23, 2010 at 11:56 PM

Erik wrote:

Hatred for presidents will never go away, but the general hatred for the other, and the chest beating for one self, displayed and legitimized in these shops, is new. And ugly.
Comment posted on Fri. Sep 24, 2010 at 06:56 AM

Mister B wrote:

Yes, it does indeed seem like a larger percentage of the hatred toward the President these days is fictional -- and carried along by a lack of critical thinking.

Did the right go after Clinton, claiming that there's a lot we didn't know about the former governor of Arkansas?

Could anyone be as known to the American public as anyone who has ever run for President of the United States? It wasn't enough for the GOP that practically every acquaintance of Barack's with an interesting past was the celebrity of the week or month or year, but NOW -- 19 months into his presidency -- they're going to claim there's a lot we don't know?

Doesn't/Shouldn't that make the GOP look like idiots because it also implies they didn't have any idea what they were doing during the campaign? Guess I'm thinking/reading too much into their new angle of criticism.

Seems like only one side of the aisle is doing any questioning of sources of information these days. The other side seems content with merely throwing sh*t at the wall of public opinion and seeing (and subsequently reporting on) what sticks.

Getting back to your earlier bit about cheesy iron-ons, I miss the days when shirts showed you were a fan of something, not a hater of something.

I get the feeling that if "Mork & Mindy" were on TV now, there would be t-shirts printed going after him as an illegal immigrant -- and Mearth as an "anchor baby".

Maybe I should've saved that comment for a Facebook update.
Comment posted on Sat. Sep 25, 2010 at 01:09 AM

Erik wrote:

Mike, you can still use the comment for a FB update. I promise not to tell anyone.
Comment posted on Sat. Sep 25, 2010 at 07:51 AM

Mister B wrote:

Right -- and it's not like anyone reads your articles here, anyway.
Comment posted on Sat. Sep 25, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Erik wrote:

Tell me about it.
Comment posted on Sat. Sep 25, 2010 at 01:13 PM
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