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Comparing tattooing from the 1970's to today

I first became interested in tattoos when several of the guys came back to school for our senior year with tattoos. This was in the middle 1960's. But it wasn't until the early 1970's when I got my first two tattoos. At that time there weren't as many tattoo shops around like there are now. You also saw a tattoo artist at country fairs. I was a little scared to get a tattoo even though I knew where a shop was located in the same city I was working in and I knew of artists at two fairs. It wasn't until the Fall of 1971, at a fair about a hour and a half drive from my house that I got my first tattoo. It was two red roses one above the other with a few leaves with a ribbon in between them with the word "MOTHER" on it. It is located on my upper left arm.

Back in those days you have very little choice of colors. The colors they had were: black, red, yellow, green and blue. You can see this if you look at the "Old School" picture section on this web site. The colors of my first tattoo were: black, red, green and yellow. They also didn't use a stencil to put the flash on your skin. They had a piece of plastic the the outline of the tattoo raised on it. They would put graphite powder on it, brush of the excess and press the plastic to your moistened skin. The problem with this was that the graphite powder could easily be brushed off and the tattoo could be done wrong.

This also took place in a travel trailer with most of the one side removed so the other people at the fair could see you get tattooed. So you see the conditions weren't very sanitary either. They also reused the needles, rinsing them off in an alcohol solution between colors and people. They also dipped the needle into the same ink containers from one person to the other. They didn't use individual ink cups like they do now a days. I am not even sure if the tattooist even wore any type of gloves. I don't think that they even used any kind of ointment on the skin while tattooing. After he was done tattooing me he just wiped of the fresh tattoo, and I think he put on some ointment and then covered it up with a paper towel. The only instructions that I was given was to keep it covered for 24 hours and don't pick at the scabs that would form. It did form very thick scabs and I tried not to pick at them. Getting a tattoo this way could cause a person to pick up a disease or two.

Getting my second went the same way. I had gotten married in the early summer of the following year. That Fall I went to the same fair and the same tattoo artist. It was a red heart with a ribbon across it with my wife's name on it. This one is located on my upper right arm. Since then I got divorced and had my wife's name covered over with flowers. The same procedure was followed as my first tattoo., Each of my first tattoos took less that a hour.

So you see conditions back then weren't very sanitary or private. They weren't that expensive either. I think I paid $11.00 for my first one and $13.00 for my second one. Using new needles for each customer, individual ink cups and more sanitary conditions is well worth the higher prices. I know there are a lot more expenses now a days in running a tattoo shop which is also cause for the higher prices.

Also back then the inks didn't last as long. Before I got these original two tattoos redone in 2001, they hardly had any color left in them at all.

So as you see it is much better and safer to get a tattoo now a days than back in the 1970's. The conditions are much more sanitary and more care is taken in applying the tattoo. Care instructions are given now a days either written or verbal on how to take care of a fresh tattoo and what to expect it to look like as it heals. Most tattoo artist also provide or sell you ointment to be applied to the healing tattoo. Also the rainbow of colors you can get today is endless.

Even though conditions are much better now than back then, you still have to take care in selection a tattoo artist. There are still artists out there that still try to reuse the needles. Be sure that the shop is kept clean and that there is an auto clave in the shop to sterilize all needles and the other equipment that is used. Also see if he or she can show you pictures of some of his or her work to see what type of work he or she does.

Also be sure that the tattoo that you select to get is one that you really want. It will be with you for the rest of your life.

If you are thinking of getting a tattoo, go for it. Remember, conditions are much better now a days then they were when I got my first two tattoos.

As a foot note, between 1972 and 2001 I haven't gotten any tattoos. But since 2001 and the middle of 2005 I have been under the needle for 95 to 100 hours. There will be stories of my individual tattoos on this web sit in the future. They will be under the name of "Fensty".

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 07 Jan. 2006
in Culture

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