OK, so we’re celebrating the seventies here, man. It was bound to happen sooner or later. There’s just one question, though: Which seventies did we have in mind?
If you remember them as frivolous, fun years when couples thump, bump, thumped the night away under a spinning mirror ball to a disco dance beat, then you may have forgotten how deadly serious the decade was when it began. While U.S. troops were fighting in Vietnam, Americans back home were embroiled in their own divisive struggles over the war and other social issues. In May 1970, four college students were shot to death while protesting the war at Kent State University in Ohio by National Guardsmen. Two more were killed by police at Jackson State in Mississippi. Vietnam policy dominated the 1972 presidential campaign. In 1973, American Indians traded shots with federal agents on a South Dakota reservation.
Should you be focused on the cynicism that sprang up in the wake of the Watergate scandal that toppled a president, then you may have been hazy on the details of the American pride felt on that July day in 1976 when we saluted our 200-year anniversary of nationhood.
When the decade began the milkman was still delivering milk to your front door and Mr. Truman was still taking his morning walks. Bell bottoms and leisure suits were the in-thing – all fashions seemed to change. Teeny boppers were grooving to the cotton candy pop of the Osmondsm and by the end of the decade the Jackson 5 were slam dancing to the punk-band rage. The television network that dished out “The Brady Bunch,” “Three’s Company,” and “Charlie’s Angels” also saw fit to air the ambitious “Roots” mini-series.
And then there were the cars. The decade opened with the rise of a whole new class of American car – the subcompact. Few hot rodders may not have realized it at the time, but 1970 would be the peak of the muscle-car era. The tide was shifting. Rising insurance rates were making it harder to afford a hot car, but Detroit was turning down the flame, anyway. The same government that was duking it out with its citizens in the streets and on reservations was also taking on the auto industry over emissions and vehicle safety. Rising gas prices and government safety and fuel mandates brought us downsizing in the automotive industry and a rise of imports. American automakers countered with the AMC Hornet and the Gremlin, and let’s not forget Ford’s Pinto and Chevy’s Vega, and Chrysler’s Valiant. Is it any wonder then that customized vans became the decade’s most enthusiastic trend?
In 1970, “Patton” and “Airport” were among the top box office draws at the theaters. The Bee Gee’s “Lonely Days,” Chicago’s “Make Me Smile,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” were top 40 contenders on WHB 710 on the AM dial – “The World’s Happiest Broadcasters”. But by 1971, WHB was beginning to take a back seat as rock music began to move to the FM dial without all the static.
In 1970, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in the Super Bowl IV, and in baseball the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Cincinnati Reds four games to one in the World Series.
In 1971 the passage of the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18, but more exciting for many had to be the battery-powered lunar rover operated on the moon that summer by the Apollo 15 crew.
It was the seventies, man – right on.
Just one more question: How many times did you stand in line in 1977 to see “Star Wars”?
Reference: “Cars of the Sensational ’70s,” by James M. Flammang.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.