|Is that G1-3 in your hands?|
In my early days of running and playing in home brewed adventures and dungeons, the only "save or die" anyone encountered was Giant Centipedes (and even then the save was at + 4 if I recall correctly). Our traps caused damage, sleep, paralyzation, teleporting and the like. It could kill, especially if you failed your save and the damage rolled was high enough, but outright "save or die" was few and far between - at least until we found official AD&D modules from TSR.
Those converted tournament modules seemed to have death lurking behind every lock, door, chest and intersection. Which makes sense for what it was written to do - whittle down a party of pregenerated characters to wind up with a winner. The thing is, most campaigns don't play out well like that.
So, while "save or die" was certainly part of old school play, i think it remembered more because of the official TSR modules from the early 1e days than actual play in most groups, or at least the groups I played in in two states, two schools, college and beyond. You learned to fear when an earl¥ 1e adventure was brought to the table, as death literally was around the corner..