Where Did the Time Go?

by | September 12, 2023 | General | 1 comment

Over the summer, I attended my (GASP!) 50th high school reunion. I’ve adjusted to the shock of how many years have passed since graduation, and it was fun trying to identify old classmates that I hadn’t seen in years. After we got past the great lie that starts with “Gee, you look good!” some of us talked about what used to be. The passage of time might make you remember things as being simpler then, and perhaps they were because we didn’t have grown-up responsibilities, but I realized that some things in the world haven’t really changed.

In 1973, we had a Republican President (Richard Nixon), who authorized a break-in of the Democratic national headquarters to ensure his re-election in ’72. Hmm, a President tampering with an election to win a second term…what a dreadful notion! Following a Congressional investigation, Nixon resigned the following year rather than face impeachment and possible jail time. At least he knew how to take a hint.

Many of us who grew up in the late 60s/early 70s took an interest in ecology and the effects of air and water pollution on the environment. I attended school in the Cleveland area, and it was during this era that the Cuyahoga River caught on fire after years of pollutants being dumped into it. Environmentalists also began using the term Greenhouse Effect in reference to the deteriorating ozone layer and global warming. Fifty years later, we’re still paying the price and fighting the same battles regarding the climate.

Speaking of paying the price, the average cost of gasoline was 38.5 cents a gallon, up from $.34 the previous year. By the Spring of ’74 it had increased to $.55, due to the Middle East oil embargo. Remember gas rationing, something that hadn’t been done since WWII? Shortages of crude oil and fluctuating gas prices still remain a fact of life. I recall some economist predicting in the late ‘70s that gas would stabilize once it reached $1.00 a gallon. Riiiiiight!

On the lighter side, we got our music fix from AM radio, vinyl records (albums and 45s), and cassettes. FM radio was still the refuge of easy listening, classical music, opera, and NPR talk shows. That year, a bouncy little folk tune called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree,” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, captured the Billboard number 1 spot.

Further down the chart, Jim Croce warned us to beware of a cat named “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” while Roberta Flack moaned about her man “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” She might have been referring to Marvin Gaye when he sang “Let’s Get It On,” Kris Kristoferson asking “Why Me,” or Paul McCartney and Wings performing the slow dance favorite “My Love.” Diana Ross extended an invitation to “Touch Me in the Morning,” while Carly Simon chastised someone with “You’re So Vain.” Rumor has it that she wrote that song about her one-time lover Warren Beatty. Listen to the lyrics and judge for yourself. For contrast, Elton John coaxed us to get down with “Crocodile Rock,” Billy Preston asked “Will It Go ‘Round in Circles,” and Vicki Lawrence told us about “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” This was also the year that Bette Midler broke out with her update of an Andrews Sisters hit from the ‘40s, “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Broadcast TV via rooftop antennas was the primary form of home-based entertainment, since we were a few years away from cable and home video. We still delighted in hearing Archie Bunker yell “Stifle!” on the number 1 show, “All in the Family,” while Redd Foxx did a Black version of the character on “Sanford and Son.” All things being equal, Bea Arthur’s “Maude” put a feminist spin on topical events. The other top shows that year were “The Waltons,” “M*A*S*H,” “Kojak,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Sonny and Cher,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “Cannon.” Compare those to what we’ve been watching over the past few decades and see how our tastes have changed.

The too-hip-to-be-square comedy show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in” finally ran out of jokes after six years. Does anyone remember presidential candidate Nixon’s appearance in ’68, when he posed the question “Sock it to me?” ‘73 was also the first year for the soap opera “The Young and the Restless,” still churning out angst and sexual hijinks after 50 years.

One thing that has remained constant is our appetite for movies, and we had some great ones to choose from. The American box office was dominated by “The Exorcist” (the #1 movie), and “The Sting,” a reteaming of Paul Newman and Robert Redford that also renewed interest in Scott Joplin’s ragtime music. “American Graffiti” (#3 on the list) struck a chord with many of us, thanks to its plot about high school grads enjoying their last night at home before leaving for college and the real world. Love the soundtrack album.

The rest of the top ten consisted of “Papillon” with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, Redford and Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were,” Clint Eastwood reprising Dirty Harry in “Magnum Force,” the Depression-era comedy “Paper Moon” (starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum), and Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond in “Live and Let Die.” The list also included two unlikely films, both rated X—the controversial “Last Tango in Paris,” which nearly tanked Marlon Brando’s reputation, and “The Devil in Miss Jones,” a holdover from the porno chic era.

Some of the other flicks that brought us to theaters and drive-ins were “Walking Tall,” “Serpico,” “The World’s Greatest Athlete,” “Enter the Dragon” (Bruce Lee’s big screen debut), “High Plains Drifter” (Eastwood on horseback this time), “Dillinger,” “Save the Tiger,” “The Seven-ups” (a sequel to “The French Connection”), “Shamus” (Burt Reynolds trying to revive the private eye genre), Woody Allen’s “Sleeper,” and one that achieved cult status, “Soylent Green.” Bet you can’t remember the last line of that movie, screamed by Charlton Heston.

The Oscar ceremony that year was noteworthy for the stunt pulled by Marlon Brando. He was the favorite to win the best actor prize for “The Godfather.” Brando decided to boycott the ceremony as a protest against Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans, and to draw attention to the standoff at Wounded Knee. Rather than communicate this by sending a letter, Brando asked a little-known actress named Sacheen Littlefeather to appear on his behalf, and explain his reasons for declining the award. Her speech was not well-received.

Did you know that year marked the debut of Spenser, Robert B. Parker’s fictional private eye? His first caper was the novel “The Godwulf Manuscript.” Mickey Spillane continued his comeback with a bestselling action thriller, “The Erection Set” (yes, that’s the real title). We also read “Breakfast of Champions” (Kurt Vonnegut), “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (Richard Bach), “Once is Not Enough” (Jacqueline Susann), and a little thing called “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman.

Speaking of debuts, although it sure didn’t look mobile, the first cell phone was invented by Motorola. The introduction of the Xerox 1200 Computer Printing System is significant as being the first commercial Xerographic printer used to create computer output. Never mind that it took up roughly a third of a standard office. The ‘73 Chevrolet Monte Carlo was crowned Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, thanks in large part to its “Euro-style ride and handling.” With nearly a quarter-million cars sold that year, the model set a new sales record for Chevrolet.

The World Trade Center opened that year, FedEx began operations, and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency was founded. In what was termed “The Battle of the Sexes,” Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a televised tennis match attended by 30,942, the largest live audience to watch a tennis match in U.S. history. It was also seen by several million TV viewers around the globe.

That was the year the BIC lighter was first sold. The company boasted that it could be lit up to 3,000 times before wearing out. I don’t know if anyone actually counted. Television commercials told potential consumers to “flick your BIC,” something that is still heard today. The sexually charged slogan was an attempt to compete with the leading lighter manufacturer at the time, Gillette.

And that’s the way it was. On to the next 50 years!

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author. His books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn't pursuing those two careers he can often be found in The Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Pina Colada.

1 Comment

  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Talk about a walk down memory lane!

    Thanks, Tim!


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