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what the 1970s were really like

I believe music, just like scent, has the power to bring you back in time to specific places and feelings.  Case in point:  The other day I heard Elton John's Daniel and I was instantly transported to my 8 year old self sitting in my flower wallpapered bedroom feeling melancholy.  Are 8 years olds supposed to feel melancholy?  Was this the start of my battle with depression?  Or a sign of my alcoholism-to-come, because I was definitely feeling like I wanted an ambiguous something MORE; that my hole-in-the-soul needed to be filled.   Or maybe, perhaps more likely, I was just a sensitive kid reacting to a sensitive song.  But anyway, I took that time-traveling leap of 45 years and used it to think of even more stuff about the 70s I'd like to share with you.

Our next-door neighbor Mrs. Moore compulsively drank Fresca (one of the very first diet sodas) and served her kids Vienna Sausages which were like mini uncooked hotdogs that came in a small jar of gooey liquid.  My Mom never bought junk food but oh how I wanted those little wieners!  And when I say no junk food I am of course not referring to the regular crap that was popular at the time because no one really knew better then.  Mom fed us peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff sandwiches on Wonder bread, fried baloney, Velveeta cheese melted over Ritz crackers.  Our milk was delivered to the back door by a milk man, which in certain chi-chi neighborhoods around the US has become a trendy thing again.  What goes around comes around, but hopefully not the baloney.

The Vietnam War put a pall on things to say the least.  As a kid I had no idea what it was, what was going on, and I don't remember anyone talking about it or anyone we knew being sent over there.  Still, as we have already established, I was a sensitive kid who felt something in the air.  To this day I have an affinity for Vietnam vets - like this was my war.  And movies such as Gardens Of Stone and DogFight (you really have to see that one!) that portray what it was like at home during Vietnam totally touch a nerve with me.  I guess you could say I was peripherally aware that many people were suffering.

In 1974 the Boston public schools were legally forced to start racial desegregating by bussing white kids into predominantly African American schools and African American kids into predominantly white schools.  At the time the city's poorer populations were divided into three parts of town: the Irish-American, the Italian-American, and the African-American.  To give you an idea of how well the plan was received, on the first day of the bussing only 100 out of 1,300 students showed up for school in (Irish) South Boston.  It was a disaster and there was even some rioting and I remember hearing specifically that students were throwing stones.  I was only nine at the time and had no idea what desegregation meant but I remember the situation as being a huge deal fraught with tension and violence.  Even though we lived 20 miles away in the Boston suburbs it was scary.  I was afraid it would happen in my little town (it didn't).

The changes from the civil rights acts of the 1960s were still in their infancy and the local hometown newspaper even published a picture of my cousin (white) playing with her African American friend.  There was a small accompanying article on how wonderful and heart-warming it was, so clearly at that time it was a rare enough occurrence to be news-worthy.  These days you'll occasionally see a picture on Facebook of a young white child hugging or holding hands with an African (Muslim) child and we marvel and hope that everyone can get along without racial or religious bias.  It seems that humanity still has a ways to go.

When people think of the 1970s they almost always think of the clothes.   Oh that 70's fashion!  As a little girl my mom chose my outfits and dressed me in matching Danskin co-ordinates, pleated kilts, monogrammed crew-neck sweaters, and even *gasp* saddle shoes.  Definitely not what you think of as typical 70s fashion however we were a very preppy New England household.  But boy did I hate those clothes!  I just wanted to be like everyone else at school.  I wanted jean jackets, purple corduroy bell bottoms, and later on panty hose and platform shoes.  I would have dreams at night where I opened my dresser drawer and found it loaded with clothes like that, then was sorely disappointed to wake up in the morning to my penny loafers.  Sometimes I would rebel though.  I can remember early on huge fights and tantrums with my mom over what to wear to school.  She would never do this nowadays but at the time she remained firm on what I was to look like.  A couple times the fights were so traumatic I ended up not even going to school that day.

To give you an idea of what I wanted to look like, and what my mom was dealing with,  imagine this:  I was around 7 or 8 years old, spending the night at my uncle's house.  He pretty much never babysat but for some reason he was this night.  He put me to bed but I couldn't fall asleep so I wandered out to the living room where he was watching tv.  It was some kind of cop show where there were a cluster of women hanging out on the street corner with striped stockings, hot pants, cropped satin bomber jackets, and sky-high platform shoes.  I had never seen anything like it!  My uncle fumbled through some sort of G-rated explanation of hookers but I honestly couldn't see what was so naughty about dressing like that.  I thought it was fabulous!  All the bright colors and textures and sensuality spoke to my soul.  Just how bad could this prostituting business be, my naive young mind wondered.  Well.  Let's just say if I had been old enough I would have totally loved Studio 54.

There are a thousand more things to be said about the 70's, and to me the early seventies were quite a bit different than the later 70's, however that's possibly the difference between being a little girl and a young teen.  People idolize the 70s but as with many who grew up in a romanticized era it didn't seem all that special to me.  Hope this gave you a taste of the times though and if you want more let me know - I can always dredge up a few additional memories!


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