From a female "choosy mom" perspective, in the 1970's I bought organic peanuts from a food co-op to make my own peanut butter, using cold-pressed sunflower oil, raw honey and lightly toasted sunflower seeds, in the proportions to complement the protein since I was a vegetarian at the time. Time consuming, but in my mid-twenties I had more energy plus thought I knew everything. I guess you could say I was "choosy", just not in the traditional sense.
Growing up during the 1950's and 1960's, we ate whatever peanut butter my father bought on Wonder Bread. As the new kid in school when we moved to New Jersey, everyone thought I was weird for not liking jelly. I still don't like peanut butter with jelly, or jam, or bananas, or Marshmallow Fluff (as in fluffernutters). I stopped getting teased for that when I pulled out of my red plaid lunch box a boiled tongue sandwich.
A quick bit of peanut butter branding history in the USA: the top three brands were/are: Jif (ironically owned by Smucker's, as in Smucker's jelly, jam and preserves) whose pre-1980's slogan was actually "Choosy mothers choose Jif", and whose current politically correct slogan is "Choosy moms and dads choose Jif". Skippy brand peanut butter, which had started in the mid-1930's, had former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello as spokesperson, followed by Derek Jeter in the 1990's. Skippy is the only peanut butter website of the top three brands to include an Allergy Info FAQ page. Peter Pan peanut butter is hanging onto the third most popular spot despite the salmonella scare of 2006, and despite a low level of advertising.
When my sons were in elementary school, I volunteered to be a lunch aide, which required an hour long video on peanut allergies and what to do to avoid incidents or how to administer medication in the event of anaphylaxis. This was in the early 1990's when many schools and airlines were becoming sensitive to the life-threatening allergy.
As far as "we didn't really have peanut allergies in the 1980s", I beg to differ. It's similar to many issues that were either not reported or in this current instant-technology-and-information-explosion, we are aware of so much more. We can watch crimes, war, death, baby puppies, all-the-news-you-can-eat, often as events occur. Personally, I don't think it truly helps us but rather feeds into the insatiable voyeurism that rages rampant, often taking on a life of its own, whether the topic is true or not. Stories in the news don't feed us but dissipate after a few days, becoming insignificant and ultimately unsatisfying. For whatever reasons, WE WANT MORE.
Which brings me back to peanut butter, one of the all-time comfort foods. Think about it. What is it we really want more of? I think it's simplicity, comfort, a calm voice in the chaos. But now, in 2014, you can be as choosy as you want about your peanut butter in an ordinary grocery store from numerous brands in smooth, chunky, extra chunky, reduced-fat, no sugar added, natural, organic, generic, in addition to other nut butters. In my family, everyone has a different texture preference, so I purchase whatever they want, but have returned to making my own mixture for myself.
In conclusion, trivia facts from one of the many peanut butter websites: 96% of people who eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches put the peanut butter on the bread first. Apparently, we have the Aztecs to thank, as first known makers of peanut butter. As well as Canada, who had a popular brand called Squirrel, which later became Skippy. Last, check out this theory on peanut allergies about when and why they started. If you're interested, do the research, people! See if you can find out how Elvis and Hemingway preferred their peanut butter sandwiches! Which brand is most popular in China? And who among us has not eaten peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon?