There is a school of thought among pop culture writers which holds that a new decade really doesn't begin until some time into the new decade; in other words, the old decade persists for a while. I agree with this. For instance, 1960 and 1961 were pretty much like the 1950's. The things that made the 1960's characteristically the Sixties hadn't taken place early in the decade - those things (the youth movement, drugs, Vietnam protests, Beatlemania, the generation gap, psychedelia, etc.) came around later, after the death of JFK.
I think this was also the case with 1970. Nothing about that year specifically strikes me as being characteristically Seventies. Let's see... the Dark Shadows movie came out that year. But Dark Shadows was really more of a Sixties phenomena than a Seventies thing. (The show premiered in 1966 and was canceled in early 1971; it became a hit when Barnabas the vampire was introduced in 1967.) Mungo Jerry had an enormously popular song with "In the Summertime" in 1970 - but so what? It wasn't disco. For me life was pretty much the same as it was in 1969. I was still in junior high (middle school) - no difference there. So we can safely dispense with 1970 as anything other than the chronological start of the decade.
For me, the Seventies arrived with a jolt - a physical jolt - on the morning of 7 February 1971 when the Sylmar Earthquake hit at 6 AM. I had never experienced an earthquake before in my life; this was the first. It was very memorable, and Southern Californians who remember it consider themselves "survivors" and wear wry little smiles. I've written a web page about that day. But it wasn't just getting shaken all day long with aftershocks, it was the whole feeling that something new had arrived in my life, mainly fears about what would happen with a bigger, follow-up earthquake. Would California fall into the ocean? This became a topic of interest in the Southland - from that point on, people became interested in earthquakes.
That very same evening I saw my first episode of "All in the Family," a groundbreaking Seventies television show and a media event. That episode dealt with a friend of Archie Bunker's who was gay. It was obvious to me that a line had been crossed; the Seventies had begun in earnest. But the event that had really convinced me that things were different and a new decade had started had to do with a girl in high school.
I had sixth grade in 1967-1968. It was about as bad as it could possibly be. And junior high, which is what the rest of the nation called middle school, wasn't pleasant for me at all. What's worse, in the school system I was in, one had to endure middle school a year longer: we had 7th, 8th and 9th grades in junior high and didn't start high school until 10th grade. I think eighth grade was my worst year, ever. I had a bad case of acne, I was unusually socially inept and most of the time I just wanted the world to leave me alone with whatever book I happened to be reading at the time. I was a thirteen year-old hermit. So when it became time to start high school my general feeling was, "Swell, more of the same." I was surprised and gratified when this turned out to not be the case at all.
Emotionally the Seventies began for me in my French class, which was my first class in the mornings in my first semester in Burbank High School, September 1971. I didn't know what to expect. The classroom seats were arranged weirdly, so that half of the students were facing the other half. I'm not sure why the teacher did this - something to do with the educational benefit of watching other students speak French, I guess. There was a girl who was sitting on the other side of the room directly in my line of vision; I have entirely forgotten her name. She was pretty, and I can see her now in my mind's eye. Freckles, wide open blue eyes with big false lashes, dark blond curls with a hat sitting thereupon most days. She usually wore brightly colored dresses. Looking back on it, she would have been hard to miss.
What convinced me that a new era had indeed started was that we often glanced at one another - it would have been difficult not to, really, given the classroom set up. The teacher walked up and down the aisle speaking French phrases and had us repeat them. Towards the end of the semester we began to make faces when we repeated the French phrases, and we began to entertain one another with our mugging. Well, young men of fifteen become easily enchanted, and I did. What came of it?
Nothing. I was still coming off an era in my life when I thought I looked like the Phantom of the Opera (Erik the Opera Ghost only had to deal with acid scars, not acne), and striking up conversations with members of the opposite sex was a fearsome thing. By 1971 my face had cleared, but the psychological scars remained. It would take the experience of being in the Marine Corps to develop my self-confidence later in the decade - but that was years hence. So the semester ended and so did our French class, and I lost track of the gal with the freckles without ever having had a conversation with her.
But my feeling at the time was that high school was very different than was junior high, and that my personal problems of the Sixties were over. It was a new decade and a new environment, and there were possibilities - mainly, girls - that weren't there before. A few months later I began driver's training, which ushered in a whole new sense of freedom and Independence. The Seventies had begun!
Does that answer your question, Mr. Pishko?
I came across this sad little bar chart. Records, music and stereo equipment was another feature of the Seventies for me... I'm sorry to see this industry apparently dying.
And the work week begins - the count down to a three day weekend.