speaking of the 70s…

December 15, 2009 |  Category:   family growing up half nyc remembering


I found these old photos recently. You know how sometimes you pull out an old photo of you at the same age that your kid is, to see how much of a resemblance there is? I actually never did that till now. Obviously Mia is all Mark and there is little resemblance between us (she still is and will remain the whitest half-Asian kid I know, though she identifies herself as Korean specifically because she loves the food so much), but there might be a bit of Claudine in these photos of me.

Anyway, enough of that because I need to point your attention to that piece of furniture in the middle of the room. Yeah, the one with the red velvet speakers on either side of the fake faux marble fireplace (yup, it did have a plastic light up log, duh). SO awesome. Not that I’d ever be caught dead with something like that in my house, but I have fond memories of that thing. It’s an all entertainment/family center/bar in one. Yeah, you heard that right because one of those top doors opened down to reveal a record player and the other housed a bar on a lazy susan that swiveled around to store glasses on one side and liquor on the other. Didn’t I say it was awesome? I also like that black and white photograph of my mom on the wall on the left side. There is so much awesomeness and detail in this photo – a mishmash of Korean objects brought along from the “homeland”, mixed with vintage 70s furnishings and knick knacks.

Oh, but there’s more, come see:


Never mind the pink Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit, look at the New York City skyline!! Maybe this was 1974? There were no tall buildings back then!! The photo on the left is me and my dad at (I think) the Central Park Zoo.


I am so curious about those white boots I’m wearing. Oh, and there’s nothing that saids “family photo” than the thumb mistakenly photographed in the lower corner of the picture. I like my mom’s hair here, because soon after my brother was born…


…she conformed and got herself the KoFro hairdo that most Korean women exiting their 20s got back then. It meant serious business and told the world that you weren’t a kid no more, that you were a mom with a career and that you shouldn’t be messed with.

I look sort of pissed, don’t I? But that car, which I believe was a Lincoln Towncar, is a boat! That was one solid piece of metal – there’s no denting that thing.

These photos remind me of some of the family albums that are archived at the Smithsonian Museums. When I was working on the Smithsonian Photography Initiative website in the mid-2000s, we were taken on a 2 day guided tour by the curators to view some of the photography collections housed throughout the Smithsonian museums. But among some of the first cyanotypes, photos of scientific specimens, portraits of Native American Indians and so forth were albums of American families. These were of great interest to me. There was so much history and story telling in those photos – an anthropological look at how we lived, what we wore, what we drove, how we decorated our homes, how we related to each other. I look at these pictures above and feel the same way. They plot my own personal history growing up in NYC, but they are, in fact, a piece of the larger American story.

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  • amy December 15, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    love these photos -ace!

  • megan December 15, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    the photos are great! your mom dressed you so well…just as you dress your girls. adorable!

  • Lecia/A Day That is Dessert December 15, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    These are amazing in so many ways!!! And I was thinking just what you said at the end before I even read it.

  • Nina December 15, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I love your brown fur coat! You were such a stylish kid!

  • Kim December 16, 2009 at 12:39 am

    My mum and your mum circa the 70s could be fashion twins! She also had the perm and the groovy bell bottoms. She’s Chinese and so I’m half, but don’t look it at all. Kinda annoys me when I tell people and they don’t believe me!

  • Shilo December 16, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Claudine definitely got her mothers cheeks!
    Awesome photos! Love your purple pants with white shoes, and the one of your mother with longer hair is stunning! Such a beautiful woman.

  • Marie Hansen December 16, 2009 at 3:15 am

    The girls together look just like you. They sure get their good looks from you!! Aloha,Marie 🙂

  • quyen huynh December 16, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Classic! Thanks for sharing.

  • kribss December 16, 2009 at 6:54 am

    oh my- you took me back to my days of having a kofro and that was back in the 80’s and i was in jr. high. (yes, i think my white mom was playing a joke ON me!)

    i do love your grandma’s outfit in the last pic. with dark pants, its something i would wear today.

  • Lauren December 16, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I found Mia in there! Your “pissed” look is Mia’s business look.

  • chris December 16, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Awsome! I love the pics…even the one with the finger in the way of the lens. Polyester, perms, and a poncho (the red one you are wearing)….great memories

  • unha December 16, 2009 at 9:54 am

    you know, i do see both kids in your face. hehe. kofro. oh yeah.

  • Nina December 16, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I love the photo of your mom by the way. Such a hippie she was 🙂 Reminds me of penny lane

  • kate December 16, 2009 at 10:33 am

    These are so awesome! My mom also cut all of her hair off when my brother was born, bratty boys must have that effect on moms…

  • Aimee December 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Love the old photos! Love seeing the city from back then, and your clothes. And your mom’s hair. So awesome. This makes me want to go home and look through old family albums myself.

  • Kim December 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    You were a very well dressed girl! These pictures are amazing =)

  • Christie December 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I love your pics, Jenna. Makes me want to go through my mom’s stash to find some of us in the 70s, early 80s, too, Instead of NYC, we were in SF; instead of a Lincoln Towncar, we had a Caddy and my mom’s hairstyle resembled Farrah Fawcett’s wellll into the 90s. What great memories. Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

  • Deepa December 16, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Wow o Wow! You are all lookers in your family aren’t youll.
    Your mum is stunning, very “model” like but I must say I fell for your Dad. He’s dishy! Somehow in that photo he looks like a very brooding, handsome man:-)

  • Kristen December 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    awesome post! That entertainment center/bar cracked me up!

  • mixette December 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    You are awesome for sharing these. New York does look so…low! And the purple pants with the faux fur coat are killing me. So incredibly groovy. I’m going to take another look at the family slides (slides!) when I’m at home over the holidays.

  • sooki December 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    whoa, your 70s living room just gave me a flashback of my living room back then. so many similarities, especially the korean fan dancer and other figurines on your tv. kofro… i never really understood why this style was so appealing to the korean moms, but now i do! i like your interpretation!

  • ninja December 17, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing, Janna.

    Those pictures would stop me in my tracks even if i had not the slightest clue who’d be pictured in them. Most of my friends and myself included didn’t actually grow up in New York City, so the detailed storytelling is all the more captivating to me.
    Great style runs in your family and both your mom and dad look stunning in those pictures.

    Have you ever looked at this lovely collection of images? http://myparentswereawesome.tumblr.com
    The concept of the site is great. As parents of small children we sure have a new found appreciation for our own parents’ struggles…

  • ChantaleP December 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    What a cutie pie! Oh wait, that’s you. heehee. Jaysus, looks like my own family pics. I did a double take. Same funky furniture complete with tinsel strewn fake mini xmas tree and wait! Same little porcelain dogs! haha. Hilarious! Lucky for me, only my sister got the whole outfit thing except she looked like a miniature communist in her outfit. What up with those cars? My dad had a humungous Chevy Impala & my mom STILL sports the kofro. She’s in her late 70’s btw. Holy freak man, parallel worlds… Just missing me and my sis in your pics in matching psychedelic flowery jammies. :s
    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane! It was fun..

  • Araceli December 21, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Jenna, these are great photos…I so glad you were brave enough to post them!lol. My parents had the most gaudy furniture too. I believe they had a HUGE Zenith with the fabric covered speakrs on the side and the control panel door on their as well. I’m sure that crap was awsome then.

  • LimeCake November 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    lovely post! i think old photos are the best, however embarrassing they may be. they always have real ‘heart’