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60 to 60: The Seventies

Recently, a friend from my school years in Connecticut (1971-81) posted a photo of his brother, Joe. I'm continually amazed by the human mind. Here I am, counting the days til I turn sixty. I knew immediately when and where the photograph had been taken. It was at our rather bizarre, open-plan middle school perched up on a hill. It was graduation day from eighth grade, the year was 1977.

Remember the 70s?

Cigarette machines adorn every diner entrance across America. Where, if you are a delinquent-in-training or just a risk-tolerant, curious kid, you can casually walk into the entryway, dig into your cutoff jean pockets for 5 quarters*, place them into the metal box, pull the lever of your choice of tobacco products, and pop, clank, plop, you reach behind and down a well-worn plastic flap to retrieve your ‘cigs’.

As a girl, it's cool to have a Farrah Fawcett haircut and to wear bell-bottoms, peasant shirts and platform sandals. After all, maybe you sit in front of the family wooden television/secret stereo set to study every move that Marsha Brady makes–okay sometimes Jan, too. Maybe you develop crushes on celebs like David Cassidy and Christoper Reeve.** Perhaps your friends’ parents smoke and drink cocktails which is very different for you and it’s real quiet over there until, well, it isn’t.

Other neighbors might listen to Johnny Cash, watch golf and tennis on tv and make sandwiches out of Velveeta on white bread, all of which would never be allowed in your family’s house. (Mom is ‘before her time’ when it comes to organics, making her own yogurt and taking vitamins. She prefers Joni Mitchell, Masterpiece Theater and whole wheat bread and cheddar cheese in blocks, from cows in Vermont.) Maybe you really love those fake cheese sandwiches.

Later, you simply have to have a mood ring! It doesn't matter where you get it. It could be at the radical new indoor mall shop, with the velvet walls and black lights. Or, at a department store like Bradlees, Caldor or Filene’s basement, you just need a mood ring. The seventies is the beginning of the ‘me’ decade, a time when people begin to notice they have feelings! Then, they start to explore these feelings, and openly talk about them. So, it's 'the bomb' to have mood rings that reveal your true mood: blue for groovy and relaxed, violet for passionate. But a black stone symbolizes depression, stress and sorrow. It sets off the “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger” inner alarm to others around you. Uh oh!

You could probably get a bright yellow or lime green beanbag chair that squeaks your arrival and makes getting up difficult, even for flexible tweens. You start to hear disco music. You like it. Fondue restaurants and creperies and fro-yo places pop up in suburban malls to the delight of bored moms everywhere. Anti-Vietnam war campaigns rage as others rise up: the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the student movement and gay liberation movement.

Nixon resigns. Star Wars bursts onto the big screen, and forever into our lives. So does Jaws. Ba dum, ba dum. Remember “Roots”? The powerful show about African slaves throughout generations that airs for eight consecutive nights is viewed by half of the US population. This is when most of in middle America get three, possibly four channels with PBS, and are all watching the same shows at night.

Jimmy Carter is President--a kind person, with a heart and level mind. Restaurants leave out bowls of Andes mints at the cash register. The very first IVF baby is born! So is Saturday Night Live, punk, an energy crisis and New York City’s iconic Twin Towers. Three Mile Island happens.

A LOT happens in the 70s.

I’m glad I grew up in that decade. My family moved from the Bronx to Connecticut in June, 1971, seeking a safer life in the country. People did not carry guns into school. Suicide was simply not the option it is for teens now. The worst thing that happened in both the girls and boys bathrooms was bullying, not oral sex trades or drug deals. Now we have cellphones with 24/7 access to news, gossip, other people’s social media feeds. There was no hiding behind a screen. I had to learn how to talk with people of all ages, all backgrounds.

I don’t walk around believing it’s all terrible now. I'm not wired that way. There is always hope. I do find myself grateful for those years, when I could ride my yellow banana-seat bike down to Pokey’s house, and play a few rounds of Spit, Battleship or badminton. We'd overeat Pecan Chip-its and giggle over Dear Abby letters, secretly wishing we had grown-up love problems to write to an advice columnist about. I would bike back home in time for sloppy joes, or a casserole and Ovaltine powder mixed in milk that I drink with my purple silly straw. Plopping onto the upholstered couch, which clashes terribly with the wallpaper, I settle in to catch The Waltons (Goodnight, John Boy), Good Times (Dyn-O-Mite!) and later, the beginnings of the comic genius of Robin Williams in Mork & Mindy (Nanu, Nanu).

* $1.25 a pack! Today in Denver, Colorado it’s $9.00 a pack.

** I worked in the disability field for many years in the 90s. I was lucky to meet Christopher Reeve at an inspiring speech he gave in downtown Denver. He was a quadripelegic after being thrown from a horse, until his death in 2004. Reeve was a remarkable human, a powerful advocate for people with disabilities living full lives, and might I add, still damn good-looking in person.

1975, on my way to my first sock hop. At age 12, I remember how awkward I felt, and nervous.

Note the wood wall paneling of that era! On the bookshelf, vinyl albums and... do you remember sets of encyclopedias?


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