The 1970's                   


It was a time of transition. The political fervor over the Vietnam war - which would forever end the age of innocence and post WWII optimism - had pretty much peaked. The long war would finally be over before the decade was even half way through.  However, the aftermath of Vietnam lingered.  Suspicion of the government and its ulterior motives were at an all time high.  Sensitivity to this new found suspicion would soon bring us our first big political scandal of the decade resulting in the fall of a sitting president.  By the end of the decade, workers in the American embassy in Iran would be taken hostage, starting an embarrassing geo-political stalemate which would last for over a year, and most likely ended the re-election hopes of yet another president, as well as giving us a strong wake-up call as to what we could expect from that region of the world in the years to come.  Amidst all the political turmoil, the country celebrated its bi-centennial in 1976, which briefly renewed a sense of pride in our country.

American pride was also renewed vicariously through the space program, which had just celebrated the lofty goal, first made public by JFK, of placing a man on the moon in July of 1969, and was furthering on that milestone with additional lunar expeditions. Then in 1973, the first orbiting space station, Skylab, was launched. The decade would end with the construction of the first reusable space shuttle, which would enjoy a nearly 30 year productive service life.

The famous "Roe vs. Wade" decision, which legalized abortion, occurred in 1973. The feminist movement was in full swing, as draft card burning gave way to bra burning.  There was an increasing demand from both women and minorities to be given the same considerations as white men in the workplace, government, and in other places in society.  The seeds of many social changes, which had been planted in the 60's, began to grow and flourish in the 70's.  Fashions reflected a new attitude of independence, and individualism.  Righteous indignation gave way to passive indifference.  Standing up for what is right was replaced with an "if it feels good, do it" attitude.  There was also a much more "open" attitude with regard to sexual relationships, at least until the first cases of AIDS surfaced at the end of the decade.  Drug use expanded to include not only the slackers and "troubled" youth, but many of the mainstream "all American" young people as well.  These new attitudes of the time would lead to the establishment of the first "entitlement" generation.  Those people who felt that they were "owed" something before actually working to earn it. 

Economically, the price of crude oil and refined petroleum products, most notably gasoline, rose sharply, not once, but twice during this decade.  We would see gasoline prices rise from less than $.30/gallon in the beginning of the decade, to over $1.00/gallon by the end. The fuel shortages, which precipitated these sharp price increases, led to long lines at the gas pump, with some states resorting to fuel rationing. The era of large cubic inch (bigger is better) displacement gas guzzling engines and behemoth cars would see their death knell rung.  Muscle cars, a staple of American culture from the 1950's on, would fade into history as higher fuel costs and increasing pollution regulations would take a bite out of their market as people sought smaller, more fuel efficient cars.  Increased fuel costs rippled through the economy and drove up the cost of most goods which then led to rising inflation along with a similar spike in interest rates. These conditions combined to reduce the buying power of many Americans, which then set the stage for the first significant period of economic recession since the end of WWII.

Popular music, always reflective of the culture of the time, slowly shifted away from making political statements, and focused on more positive and less serious notes, giving rise to the phenomenon of "bubble gum" pop music.  On the other side of the rock spectrum, while we all suffered from the loss of the Beatles, bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ-Top, and others spearheaded a trend toward "harder" rock.  It would seem that the whole music genre of what had been once known as "rock and roll" began to splinter into smaller specialized sub-genre segments. The nearly unsinkable broadcast radio juggernaut of the 1960's, the widely popular  "Boss Radio"  top 40 radio format, which began in southern California and quickly overtook the whole country, would eventually give way to specialty formats like Album Oriented Rock, Disco, Adult Contemporary and others, which would then aggressively compete against each other for ratings and advertiser dollars.  Due to its technical superiority, FM radio would overtake AM as the preferred broadcast medium for music.  In the early 70's some FM radio stations went as far as to experiment with 4 channel "Quadraphonic" sound.  But "quad" never really caught on, and most reverted back to standard 2 channel stereo.  In 1977, one of the founding influences of modern rock and roll music, Elvis Presley passed away.

Popular television shows reflected the fashions and the attitudes of the times.  Shows like the "Brady Bunch" tried to cling to the ideals of traditional family bonds, in an age of increasing individualism and social change.  Shows like "All in the Family" explored the current social issues and attempted to deal with bigotry through satire. Then there were the seemingly endless action shows like the Dukes of Hazard, The 6 Million Dollar Man, Starsky & Hutch, Charlie's Angels et al. The 70's also saw the creation of many detective shows, including Colombo, Banachek, Kojak, The Rockford Files, and others. There were also an equally endless list of cheesy sit-coms, which attempted to distract us from the realities of an ever-changing cultural arena.

Hollywood also started producing more action adventure flicks, with a corresponding ratcheting up in the violence and the leveraging of brilliant special effects to tell the story. Style was becoming increasingly favored over substance.  The Western movies, popular in the 50's and 60's, were slowly replaced by Sci-Fi and horror flicks. This trend culminated with the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977, and the much anticipated Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

The 70's were also known (maybe best known) for the list of silly social fads which seemed to come and go almost weekly. Things like Mood Rings, Lava Lamps, Beanbag Chairs, tacky hairstyles, Disco, the Pet Rock, and of course,  CB radio.  CB radio played a big role in the culture of the 70's.  During the fuel shortages, CB radio helped motorists find gas, avoid speed traps, and to organize protests.  CB radio also filled the niche when people started feeling the need to "reach out and touch someone", while exploring new avenues in which to socialize.  CB radio was the 70's version of on-line chat rooms and social media.

So this is the stage which had been set during this period of time. The combined influences of these economic, social, and technological conditions, allowed the CB radio experience to develop and flourish in the way that it did.  I doubt if things would have happened in quite the same way, had the public discovered CB 10 years on either side.