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The Way We Were: The Seventies

January 15, 2016

Susan Marg

Illustration by: © rudall30

Illustration by: © rudall30

The scene changed in the Seventies. Did you? Why not write about it?

  1. Go your own way. The Beatles broke up in 1970, and Elvis passed away in 1977. After two years in New York City, Filmore East closed, but CBGB, the place to hear punk rock, opened in 1973 in New York City’s East Village. Yes, the Ramones played there. In their first public gig, wearing jeans, motorcycle jackets, and Converse high-tops, serving up attitude and angst, they inspired a new movement. Celebrity party-goers crowded Studio 54 in Midtown and danced to disco music. Wearing white, John Travolta lit up the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever. I love the nightlife.
  1. Put up a parking lot. Or a skyscraper. Under eminent domain, hundreds of commercial and industrial tenants, property owners, and small businesses were forced to relocate to make way for the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. When opened in April 1973, the “Twin Towers” at 1 and 2 World Trade Center stood 1,368 feet and 1,362 feet, respectively, making them the tallest buildings in the world. A month later, the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, in Chicago took away the title. The 110-story building stands at 1,454 feet. Although no longer the record holder, the Tower has the highest roof deck and longest elevator ride.
  1. Someone had to do it. When Babe Ruth, “The Sultan of Swat,” retired from baseball in 1935, he had hit 714 home runs throughout his 22 seasons as a professional baseball player. In 1973, Hank Aaron, also known as “Hammer,” was getting close to breaking Ruth’s record, but finished the season one home run short. As the nation watched with growing anticipation, he hit number 715 on April 8, 1974, nor was he done. He hit number 755 in 1976 before retiring at the end of the season. His record held until 2007 when Barry Bonds came along.
  1. Lessons learned. To honor the earth and promote peace, the first annual Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. Despite our good intentions, the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979 sprung a leak, releasing radioactive gases into the atmosphere. The partial meltdown occurred twelve days after the release of the movie The China Syndrome that depicted a news crew covering a similar situation.
  1. Got gas? When oil-producing, Arab states proclaimed an embargo in 1973, long lines of consumers waiting their turn at the pump were an everyday occurrence. By late February the following year, twenty percent of gasoline stations were out of gas. To address the crisis, the federal government introduced odd/even rationing, based on license plate numbers and imposed a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph. Year-round daylight savings time was implemented, forcing some children to travel to school before sunrise. The Advertising Council started a campaign with the tagline: Don’t Be Fuelish.
  1. Is it a bird? Is it plane? Yes, the Concorde is a plane, but one that had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound. Cutting travel time in half, it began flying jet setters between London or Paris to New York and back in 1976, As you can imagine, the flight was expensive, and the aircraft guzzled fuel. Still, it had a certain cachet among its rock stars and royalty clientele.
  1. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen. Farrah Fawcett from Charlie’s Angels had big, blond hair. The Mohawk was punk. The Afro was both political and fashionable. The shag was a dance and a hairstyle. And Hair, the movie, was released in 1979.
  1. Making news. Throughout the decade, there was a strong, if divisive, push to include the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. It didn’t happen, but women made news for a variety of achievements. Gloria Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine. Billy Jean King won the “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs. And Barbara Walters, teamed with Harry Reasoner, was the first female co-anchor on the evening news. Time magazine was so impressed with the advancements taking place that they gave their 1975 “Man of the Year” award to American women.
  1. Live from New York. We can’t forget Saturday Night Live, not with all the anniversary specials they put on every decade or so. It premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975.
  1. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way. While the last item on this list could be, and probably should be, about the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which began November 4, 1979, I decided to give myself up to the dark side and mention George Lucas’s Star Wars. First released in 1977, sequels and prequels have followed. The Force Awakens, the latest in the franchise, is still in theaters everywhere.

If you’re not ready to write your life or family history, go to the movies. And if you want to join forces with Luke Skywalker or Hans Solo, wear a costume.

© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


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  1. January 24, 2016

    Moments ago a friend shared this vimeo about NYC’s Upper West Side 1977. The hair alone brings back memories. I lived there until the year after, 1978, when I moved to the DC area.


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