Archive for Sunday, May 2, 1999


May 2, 1999


A while back I offered a column about 1949, suggesting that people headed for 50-year class reunions might find it interesting. And here's another, but this is about 1974. Maybe '74 was your graduation year. Maybe you remember that Richard Nixon resigned the presidency the summer after your commencement.

Resigned, of course, after two years of turmoil, after all those hearings. I'm doing a column next week on Watergate so I won't bother you with detail here. You probably remember all this yourself, though I gathered that some people, during the recent impeachment hassle, seemed to have forgotten all about Watergate.

So, 1974. John Denver was back home again, seeing sunshine on his shoulder. Someone sang of the "wildwood weed." There was a vampire song called "Daybreak." "Rock me gently, rock me slowly." Chicago died one night. Somebody shot the sheriff. "Midnight at the oasis, take your camel to bed." Jim Croce put time in a bottle and had to say he loved us with a song. We were urged to come to Boston. Billy was advised not to be a hero and get all shot up. And Paul Anka was happy someone was havin' his baby.

The kids were streaking in '74. I have some pictures from the Kansan back then, and we had two streakers at commencement. The only streaker I saw close up was a red-haired boy on a bicycle, looking quite embarrassed. Ray Stevens sang of the streaker, and every woman named Ethel wished he'd just shut up. "Don't look, Ethel!"

Watergate. Gerald Ford became president, and he was a good man, and, who knows, maybe he was wise to pardon Nixon. The Ford family rapidly entered the news, and our School of Journalism had Susan as a student for a few days, with her Secret Service agent. The Democrats, not surprisingly, swamped the Republicans in the election. We had a recession, and an energy crisis, and Ford urged us to wear "WIN" buttons.

A lot of folks were incensed when Yasser Arafat came to the United Nations. There was space news: Skylab, Soyuz, Mariner 10 photographing Mercury. Aldrin and Dieldrin were taken off the market. A little rich girl, Patty Hearst, was kidnapped out of her Berkeley apartment, and Patty was briefly in a bank holdup. There were governmental turnovers in Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Greece and Turkey. The CIA was involved in Chile. The Soviet Union expelled Alexander Solzhenitsyn. We were hearing a new word, "detente." Babies were starving in many foreign lands.

Famous people died, Jack Benny, Duke Ellington, Charles A. Lindbergh, Juan Peron, Earl Warren, U Thant, Walter Lippmann, Ed Sullivan, Cass Elliott, Dizzy Dean, Phog Allen, Katharine Cornell, Sam Goldwyn. Rep. Wilbur Mills was fooling around with a gal who called herself Fanne Foxe.

The book "All the President's Men" came out, and there were a lot of biographies, and a book that said Thomas Jefferson had black descendants. And "Jaws," "Centennial" and "The Glory and the Dream," a book I used in class for several years. Broadway had revivals, plus "Equus," "God's Favorite" and a musical, "Over Here." Television gave us "Upstairs, Downstairs," "Miss Jane Pittman," "Happy Days," "Little House on the Prairie," "Police Woman," "The Rockford Files" and "The Six Million Dollar Man."

You'll remember some of the movies, that demon-possessed child in "The Exorcist," "Serpico," "Blazing Saddles," "Lenny," "The Longest Yard," "Death Wish," "The Great Gatsby," "Chinatown," "Murder on the Orient Express," a new "Godfather," "The Three Musketeers" and that splendid compilation, "That's Entertainment."

North Carolina State was king in basketball. Lou Brock, Frank Robinson, Title 9, Hank Aaron and his 715th, Jimmy Connors. The cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, looked at the year and drew a disaster movie, "1974," rather like "The Poseidon Adventure." And in 1974 half the old buildings in America were being turned into trendy, nostalgia-seeking restaurants.

-- Calder Pickett is a professor emeritus in journalism at Kansas University. His columns appear on Sundays in the Journal-World.

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