In 1970, I was seven years old.
“I live at 215 Bridge Street, Mazomanie, Wisconsin. 53560,” said the second-grade girl whose assignment was to memorize the address in case she got lost and needed to inform the police. There was a lot of memorization in school back then. I skipped on the sidewalk reciting, “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.” I was proud of my neat penmanship. I read books and climbed trees. I had rollerskates with metal pinchers that grabbed my tennis shoes. The key to tightening them hung around my neck.
SPRING I rode a bike with a banana seat. My brother Jeff followed behind me. We rode miles, it felt like, all the way to the end of Bridge Street when it became a hill. At the top of the lane, we turned around and faced the prospect of sailing down the hill. How fast could we go? The wind rushed past my blonde hair. Jeff had a crew cut. He could not control the turn. Wipe out! He had a huge raspberry on his knee and his elbow was a mix of blood and pebbles. He cried all the way home. I thought he was a baby for doing so. But he was a year younger and my best friend, so I helped him home feeling bad I forced him to ride down the hill.
On April 1 the U.S. Department of Commerce reports the 1970 census at 203,392,031 residents, up 14 percent from 1960. (April 2023 population: 334,565,848)
On April 10 Paul McCartney announces the break up of The Beatles
On April 17 Apollo 13 aircraft was sent to the moon. A fire extinguisher explodes. They return safely to the surface.
On May 1 President Richard Nixon orders U.S. forces into Cambodia.
On May 4 four students at Kent State University in Ohio are killed by National Guard for protesting the Vietnam War.
WINTER The snow was deep, but I dragged my new wooden red racer sled to the school yard where older kids had poured water down the hill to create an ice ramp. I used the aluminum flying saucer sled while Jeff tried out my racer. He went face-first, gripping the steering handle, and crashed into a pillow of ice. He was knocked out. I carried him back home using the racer as a stretcher. He grew a black ball on his forehead. The doctor made a house call. Jeff slept for days.
SUMMER Jeff and I played in the creek behind the house. We would follow the bank and crisscross the shallow rocky parts to another world. The roots of trees formed a bowl and little fish would get trapped. I would lay and watch them swim while listening to the leaves rustling above me. It was cool and damp.
Jeff and I made a tree fort in the big tree in the backyard. We found a stack of screen windows propped out behind the shed. We grabbed one and used it to sharpen sticks to make spears. Once we had our spears, we would go on a hunt. A few houses away the neighborhood kids wanted to play war. “Sure!” Thus began a new adventure of fort building and capturing the enemy. Escapes. Recapture. The excitement of the hunt kept us roaring and stalking the summer days away.
In 1970, my thirty-year-old mother had four children. My stepfather had a cast on his foot. He had returned from the Vietnam War physically broken. It was my job to sit at the end of the couch and rub his toes which stuck up from the top of his cast. I did not know my real father. He went to Vietnam, too, and returned mentally broken. I was told he was an addict in Chicago migrating from one halfway house to another for the rest of his life. I never met him.
I prefer to remember him in a different way. He was an adventurer and painter.
When I was older, I learned he inherited money from his father and went to Greece, and lived in a cave for a year. While he was there, he made this charcoal drawing of a fisherman which I have hanging in my living room.
|The average U.S. house cost $23,500. ||Today it’s approximately $375,000.|
|Gasoline per gallon: 36 cents||Today it’s approximately $3.46 a gallon.|
|Yearly Inflation Rate USA 5.84%|
Yearly Inflation Rate UK 5.9%
|US today 6%|
UK today 10%
My mother worked as a waitress. I did not see her much. The Department of Labor cites the hourly wage in 1970 as $1.45 an hour. Her life entailed cleaning, cooking, and working. I never saw her cry. She was not affectionate, but I knew she loved us. I was in charge of my younger three siblings. I did not like it much and avoided them as much as I could by riding away on my bike or roller skating away down Bridge Street.
What were you listening to in 1970?
The Billboard Top 100 from 1970 included the following:
|1. “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”||Simon and Garfunkel|
|2. “Close to You”||The Carpenters|
|3. “American Woman”||The Guess Who|
|4. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”||B.J. Thomas|
|5. “War”||Edwin Starr|
|6. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”||Diana Ross|
|7. “I’ll Be There”||Jackson 5|
|8. “Get Ready”||Rare Earth|
|9. “Let It Be”||The Beatles|
What did you eat? We had “commodities” which was food the government gave poor families. Eggs, flour, sugar, dry milk. Four loaves of bread cost $1.00. If you wanted vegetables, you grew a garden.
My hippy uncle came to visit. He was 15 years younger than my Mom. He was kicked out of his house and stayed briefly with us while he figured out his next plan. He took my brother and me to the local grocery store and taught us how to steal.
I was enamored with his record collection. I loved looking at the album covers. That’s when the 27 Club began. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison died in 1970.
What to watch on television?
What were the top 25 movies in 1970?
At seven, I can’t say I appreciated the films from 1970, but there are a few I remember because my Mother liked them. I would have to wait a decade before I came to appreciate them. If you want the list of 25 top films of 1970, check it out here: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls076327759/
Our lives are marked by what we saw and felt in our youth. How old were you in 1970 and what do you remember?