Baby Boomers Chronicles (BBC): 1971
Ah, 1971, a banner year. It was the year of the coming of age. Each of us old enough has had that time, a point crossed, where the previous manner of life will never be again. It was my last full year as a high school student. It was time to seriously prepare for the future; you are not a kid anymore. We have all, or most of us reading, been there at some point.
As a historian, I still consider this year part of what it was to live in the 1960’s. In my mind everything associated with the ‘sixties’ began on November 22, 1963 and ended in early 1973 at the point that the draft was eliminated, still 2 years into the future. At that time, the focal point of the protests was eliminated and America was ready to move on.
As for me, I got my first job, first checking account, first car and everything was happening so fast. I basked in the relative independence that earning my own money provided. I worked part time after school as the custodian at Denver Stapleton Airport for a couple of Jewish concession stand owners. They had a two of gift shops in the airport at the time. I am grateful for the experience of working at an airport, immersed in the hustle/bustle of the world outside of my own backyard. I got a good lesson from my employers on how capitalism worked. I watched them get cheap costume jewelry by the truckload and charge $5.00 for a single pair of earrings. People were willing to pay 0.15c for a candy bar! We always knew that merchandize at airports was overpriced; now I could see why and how. They were probably gathering stones from the street and selling them as “pet rocks”, a craze at the time. Then, we had a run on all those corny ‘smiley face’ souvenir coffee mugs. I wasn’t in a position to understand then, but man, those guys must have been making a ‘killing’.
I met many celebrities and was always on the lookout for opportunities to get autographs. I still have many of these to this day, in shrink wrap, of course. I immediately met Charlie Pride and Colonel Harlan Sanders. Colonel Sanders was in his iconic white suit and very hard of hearing. He reached into his coat to get a pen, and I thought for sure that he was going to pull out a bucket of chicken as he was so good at the part of promoting his brand. I met and shook hands with a relatively young and svelte Edward Kennedy. I said that I would never wash my hands again, but, of course, I did.
So what was going on in the background? January 1, 1971 was the date that cigarette advertising could no longer be shown on television. I missed the imaginative ads and memorable jingles that you find yourself humming under your breath. We also had the debut of a relatively controversial sit-com at the time, “All in the Family”. The producer, Norman Lear, went way out on a limb here, with the country generally pretty touchy on issues of race and class. It was great when Sammy Davis Jr. dropped by with Archie Bunker constantly mispronouncing words and calling his ‘liberal’ son-in-law a “meathead”. We were all more than comfortable with Richard Nixon as president. As a teen, I did not dwell on politics, but I do remember the acronym WIN, Whip Inflation Now. All of this was well before Watergate and the troubles to come. I do remember that my mom never liked Spiro Agnew, Vice President, and always called him ‘Assnew’ at a slip of the tongue. I religiously followed the lunar landings of Apollo 14 and 15 during that year.
Pall Mall Cigarette TV Commercial (1970)
All in the Family- Opening Theme (1971)
To watch and listen, click here
I was driving a 1962 Chrysler Newport with push button automatic transmission, was that a classic or what? The ‘tank’ only got about 9 miles to the gallon, but no worry, gas was only 0.36 cents a gallon. With my minimum wage salary of $1.60/hour, all that money was burning a hole in my pocket. Combine this with a change of wardrobe, and a flashy attaché case, I was hot s***. With mini skirts the rage at school, it was all a teen could do to control that raging libido. The pressure was unimaginable; I never want to go through that again
1962 Chrysler Newport
On the movie scene, I went to the theatre that year to see the “The Andromeda Strain” and “Diamonds are Forever”, the most recent of the James Bond films. How many of us wanted to imitate Sean Connery as James Bond? He showed of us young guys that when a girl said “no”, she really meant ‘yes’. This guy was so cool that when he tossed his hat it never missed the hat rack. The film had all the space, lasers and adventure that I craved. To this date, in my opinion, no one really played of the part of James Bond better than Sean Connery. Who could forget that unforgettable music score, that made the music pop charts with the same title as the film, by Shirley Bassey. I just had to sneak in to the theatre to see Stanley Kubrick’s sublime masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange”. I was technically underage, but I needed to find out what the ‘hubbub’ was all about.
I this had this song’s melody stuck in my brain all summer of 1971. There was this track from the “Rolling Stones” “Sticky Fingers” album. I liked the first 4 minutes of the song, the rest was primarily instrumental. Mom always said that Mick Jagger was the ugliest guy in the music business. I told her, while that may be true, it cannot be argued that he was also the damned richest, and that covered a multitude of sins. Those guys were so prolific and kept banging out the hits. So enjoy!
Can't you hear me knocking-Rolling Stones (1971)
This song was a reflection of the mood that I and many others had at the time. It was one of resentment toward a hard-hearted unmoving establishment. As the theme song for the film “Billy Jack”, “One Tin Soldier” was “our mood”. I saw “Billy Jack” and loved to watch the title character ‘kick ass’ using all his Vietnam Vet judo and karate moves. We chafed at the idea that all those beautiful wild ponies were being hunted down and sold by the bad guys for dog food. Billy Jack, just like Harry Callahan in “Dirty Harry”, also from 1971, allowed audiences to live out their frustrations with society and leave the theatre relieved that, at least for a moment, justice had been done. Absolute catharsis is what we wanted.
One Tin Soldier by Coven (1971)
So there is 1971 in a nutshell, if you were here, what was happening for you? The list of the top popular music hits in 1971 is linked below, which were your favorites? Thanks for visiting; I look forward to seeing you again!