My Defining Decade: The 70’s

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”      Helen Keller

Time is uniquely human. Animals don’t care, don’t know. They eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired. The Earth, time means nothing. The Universe, same. But as humans, we are counting the clock since the day we are born until we die. And even though every microsecond on the clock is exactly the same for everyone, what happens to each of us in time is as different as our DNA.

We all have a Time Machine in our mind. We can travel back to any time in our life, and imagine the future going forward. Unfortunately, the Time Machine keeps many of locked in the past, or worried about the future, instead of being mindful, which is living and enjoying the present. I am as guilty, if not more so than anyone. But there is one time in the past I enjoy going to in my Time Machine, the 70’s. (That’s the 1970’s).

January 1st, 1970. The beginning of the Seventies. I was a junior in high school, wire-rim glasses and hair almost to my waist, a hot girlfriend who had moved to my hometown from California, and driving what is now and has been my favorite car, a 1970 bright blue Plymouth Road Runner with a Hearst shifter, huge rims, a racing stripe down the hood, and a horn that went beep-beep. The Seventies were starting pretty good for a small town farm boy in Northern Minnesota.

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The Vietnam War was on everyone’s mind, especially those of us boys turning 18. Yes, there was the draft, and I was the last of it. I remember listening to the radio when they drew and read the numbers for your Birthday. The lower the number, the more likely you had to go into the military, which wasn’t revered and respected like it is now. My number was 250 something, which meant I probably wouldn’t have to go, and I didn’t. The draft ended that year.

Music was everything. Even though we had to listen to it on eight tracks, bands like Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Quicksilver,  Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and a hundred other popular bands and songs filled the air. We were our music. Disco came along in the mid 70’s, and I loved it. I was living on a sailboat with a girl I met in Key West, Florida when it started. It followed me back to Minnesota, and the clubs were alive with dancing under mirrored balls and lighted floors. I wore platform shoes and flared plaid pants and even taught Disco dancing with a girl I was dating for a while.

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Classic movies like Star Wars, Jaws, Grease, The Exorcist, Superman, Saturday Night Fever, Rocky and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest made us dream and imagine. We played Pac Man in the bars, drank 50 cent drinks, gas was 25 cents a gallon (at least until the oil crisis) and a pack of smokes was also a quarter. I worked part-time in a Men’s clothing store, so of course, I had a couple of Leisure Suits too. Johnny Carson was the King of Late Night Television.

My parents were still alive. What I wouldn’t give to be able to drive up to our home and see my Mom smiling out the kitchen window. She loved to cook. Or walking next door to the farm and seeing my Dad doing what he loved. He loved being a farmer.

Eventually, I married a hometown girl after numerous girlfriends and dozens of cross-country trips. I settled into a working married life, driving truck and working with my parents on their farm. I also bought a 400-acre farm and had tractors and all that fun stuff. As the decade wore on, the economy sucked, gas got expensive, and jobs were hard to find and interest rates soared, but it taught me that none of that stuff matters. You make your own way in life.

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The 70’s either defined me, or I defined the 70’s, I’m not sure. It was a decade of change for a boy of 18 to a man of 28. Those ten years probably created more memories than the other 50 for me. It was a time of discovery and change. We often say if we could go back and do it again, this would be the time for me. Would have I changed anything, of course. I made a lot of mistakes like everyone else. Saying you have no regrets is a whole lot easier than meaning it. I think a lot about the choices I made, and how my life would have different had I chosen differently. I hope to impart some of that wisdom to my kids, not that they will listen to any of it. And in a way I agree, you learn by doing. I just hope the lesson they learn is that everything you do today, is tomorrow’s memory.

December 31st, 1979. The Seventies have ended. So has my marriage. The next decade brought a lot of change too, from moving and selling my farm, and eventually getting the occupation which I stayed with for 30 years. Nothing ever came close to the experiences I had in those carefree years of the 70’s. Well, they weren’t all carefree I agree. I had plenty of tough emotional, physical, and financial times too. They were a huge deal then, but looking back I have tempered them over the years.

Now when I hear an old song, one with a strong emotional attachment, or happen upon an old photograph of an instant frozen forever in time or talk to an old friend, I get in my Time Machine and travel back. I have had a wonderfully full life, and feel grateful for every minute of it. I feel I have lived two lifetimes, one lifetime in those ten years of the 70’s, and another the rest of the time. Sometimes I think about all that happened to me at that time and am amazed how much there was. Now ten years go by in the blink of an eye.  Maybe the best is yet to come, but I will always be connected to the 70’s.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Mark Twain

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5 Replies to “My Defining Decade: The 70’s”

  1. This is a real fun one! I never knew you were such a cool dude. OH the 70’s area of orange and brown everything, cassette tapes were all the rage, milk was delivered to the door in glass bottles, cigarette smoke was everywhere–planes and cars even had built in ashtrays. When you put it in terms of the entire decade, wow…things sure do change a lot from beginning to end. We had 360 differences in our lives; I got my driver’s license in 1971, got married and had a baby too. My first grocery list, to stock our kitchen with all the necessities, was an entire notebook page long plus a few lines on the back of the page. The cost was a little over $25. My car was a 1962 Plymouth Valiant ($100), push button transmission on the dash. It had bucket seats and I felt sporty driving it. I lived in Longmont, Colorado, graduated high school and then moved to Ouray. My husband was an underground miner (good paying job for the time, earning $3.71 per hour) and I was a stay at home hippie teenage mom. 1972–I had a muscle car, 1970 Cuda, pretty green and fast! It was a repo so we got a good price, til my hubby miscalculated the old wooden bridge that crossed the river and slipped it over the edge. It was May and the mountains were thawing so the water ran high and fast. He was lucky to live through that accident. 1973– My next car was a bright beautiful red 1967 Mustang Fastback. We lived way up in the Rockies and one day I decided to take my baby daughter on a Jeep Trail to go 4 wheeling in the Mustang. It was an exciting ride! The road was really rough and the oil pan was knocked off on the way back down the trail. I put the car in neutral and coasted back home down the Million Dollar Highway–google that one..It’s listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the US..similar to the Road to Hana, maybe! It’s an awesome drive. I used to travel up to Red Mountain to pick up pay checks every Friday. 32 avalanche areas on that road and I only had to wait for the plow to cut a trail through one avalanche. It was like driving through a tunnel of ice. The semi driver was stopped in front of me, he came back to let me know that I had to go first since the vibrations from his engine can make the avalanche run!
    Young and invincible. 1969 Ford passenger van was next car, another red one. Headed to Mexico for a few months in 1974. Camped out on the beach near a Mexican fishing village. We were on the road to who knows where and wound up in AZ. That lasted for a few months too. Then I headed back to MN in 1974. Bought a house in Two Harbors in 1977, got a job as the Welcome Wagon Lady, just in time for Mile Post 7 project. Most new people came to town for that purpose and I became good friends with most of my customers. By the end of the decade I was divorced also. Single mom, homeowner soon to be full time student. Ahh the 70’s. Still Love the music and the cars! Never liked disco or the fashions. I miss hip huggers tho!
    Thanks for the memories!

    1. I guess my favorite women’s attire was hot pants. I must say, Leanne, you have quite the memory. What a wonderful story of those times. I remember having lots of cars too. We sort of passed them around town for $50. Never transferred the titles, and when they quit working, pushed them in the woods. I paid $15 once for a 1961 Chevy something, the forward gears didn’t work, only reverse. That was a favorite drinking car backing up down country roads. My most favorite drinking vehicle was a 1950’s one-ton van that I painted zebra striped and we would take all the doors off, and have everyone sit on the roof and all over as we went through the woods shooting guns at everything we saw. I ended up driving it 450 miles to Madison WI to my sisters animal park, and it had absolutely no brakes the whole way. Pedal to the floor. Luckily it didn’t go very fast so was able to shift down at stops and roll through.
      I drove Euclid for the Mile Post 7 project for 3 years, mostly night shift at first, then days when everyone left for other jobs. I bet you wish you still had the Cuda. And we weren’t completely 360. I was a hippie for a while too. I will look up the Million Dollar Highway, and thanks so much for sharing your story.

  2. I’ve been following your blog religiously and always enjoy reading your posts, which are always great, but this one was especially great. Somehow I can envision you wearing a fancy powder blue leisure suit with an open collar shirt and a thick gold chain around your neck. And when you walked into the disco club, your swagger would’ve had some serious B.A. to it. The only thing that would’ve made this post epic would’ve been some old photos so we could see just how much a ladies man you were!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. You were “right on” until you got to the thick gold chain. Mine was thin. Sometimes my swagger would end up on the ground after a few, men aren’t used to high heels. All my old pictures are stored away back in MN, so that lets me off that embarrassing hook, but we didn’t take as many pictures back then, but that does give me an idea for my next blog. Let’s keep your image of my ladies man status. The reality might disappoint.

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