Time for some quirky news from yesteryear. Let’s see what’s in the PSN archives of 40 years ago.

* A solar pool heater for $18.95? Yes, that was the price tag for the Solerator, invented by two Michigan college professors. Its basic component, black vinyl developed by B.F. Goodrich based on the profs’ specs, resembled an air mattress, through which water from the pool’s existing filter pump would pass, be heated by the sun’s rays and returned to the water. The vinyl was attached to a 4-by-8-foot plywood panel, tilted to capture sunshine. The inventors were serious about this, applying for a patent, forming a company to promote it and making arrangements with a textile manufacturer to produce the Solerator. They had distributed 4,000 units for sale in the USA and abroad when the news broke in PSN in 1973. A single Solerator reportedly could produce nearly 5,800 BTU per hour on a typical June day anywhere in the country, or place several together to generate even more heat. It could be used with above- and inground pools, and came in a 12-by-15-by-2.5-inch package. No word on how successful the venture was before eventually dropping out of sight.

* Laos lowdown: The U.S. embassy in Laos apparently was livin’ large in ‘73, but trying to keep it on the down low. According to The Boston Globe, top embassy officials concealed the 1971-72 construction of a swimming pool on embassy grounds. They insisted that the vessel be referred to as a “water storage tank” in any communications. Once word leaked out, however, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Governmental Operations investigated charges of diversion of U.S. money and property in Laos.

* Cool new pools: Forget radio and newspaper ads. … Fantastic Pools took to the mall introduce its new pool lines to the public each year, erecting an 18-by-30-foot aboveground pool in the Yorktown Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the Chicago suburbs. Placed in the center of the enclosed mall, the pool was augmented by outdoor furniture, plants and grills provided by neighboring stores. The retailers then held fashion shows in that space, plus there were scuba diving and water ballet exhibitions, and synchronized swimming performances. Crowds averaged 25,000 to 30,000 per weekend day. The pool company typically received 50 to 150 return-reply cards from people wanting more info, with 10 percent of those inquiries turning out to be productive leads. As an incentive, anyone buying a pool during the Yorktown show received a free pool heater.