Category Archives: American History

REVISITING THE SEVENTIES

I’ve been working on a novel that takes place in the seventies and it has proven eye-opening in what research has uncovered,, and what it’s brought to mind. Although I am old enough to have lived through that era, I spent most of it in the U.K. , which had problems other than the ones so divisive to the United States.

Haight Ashbury, courtesy of Arjun Sarup via Wikimedia Commons

Viet Nam and Watergate marked the decade, the former possibly sowing the seed of today’s divisions in our country, the latter being compared at times to the present government. But I’m not here for political proselytizing; I did not give (thus far) politics anything more than a passing mention in my book. I’ve used the seventies as background, and in so doing, have discovered quite a few interesting things.

Birth Control: Although the contraceptive pill came on the market in 1960, it wasn’t made available to all women regardless of marital status until 1972. Meanwhile, IUDs were held responsible for the deaths of seven users and removed from the market. In most people’s minds, it was ‘the pill’ that was responsible for free love and the sexual revolution.

Abortion: Roe vs Wade was decided 22 January 1973, disallowing many state and federal restrictions on abortion. More than forty years later, the arguments continue.

DNA Testing: Although DNA Testing became available in 1960, it only had 80% accuracy and could not distinguish between close relatives. It was not until 1970 that a specific enzyme was identified to improve results.

Seat Belts: Although it became law in 1968 that all vehicles except buses had to be manufactured with seat belts, it didn’t become law that you actually had to

1978 Chevette, photo courtesy of The Paper at The English Language Wikipedia

use them until 1984—in New York. Today all states except New Hampshire have seat belt laws; eighteen states make it only a secondary offense under which the car cannot be stopped for that reason alone.

Child safety seats: Although some form of child booster seat was invented and in use as far back as 1933—allowing children to look out the window—it was not until 1971 that the government brought in safety standards, and 1979 that Tennessee was the first state to bring in laws making child safety seats compulsory.

Some Popular Children’s Toys: A stuffed Lassie dog, Peanuts character dolls, a Waltons Playhouse, Apollo Moon Rocket, Radio Flyer Wagon, Etch-a-Sketch, Charlie’s Angels dolls, Erector sets, Starship Enterprise, and the perennial favorite, Barbie dolls were popular through the decade. The Atari Home Computer system became available in 1979 at $594.95, a whopping sum at the time.

Sport: In 1973 Billie Jean King (world No. 2 female tennis player) fought fifty-five year old former champion Bobby Riggs in a match that was called ‘Battle of the Sexes.’ King won in three sets. In 1971, Muhamamed Ali won a Supreme Court decision after four years reinstating his boxing titles of which he had been stripped for refusing to be drafted on the basis of religious beliefs. He went on to win heavyweight championships in both 1974 and 1978; famous fights included the Rumble in the Jungle against George Foreman, and the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier, both of which he won. Gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold meals at the Montreal Olympics with seven perfect scores.

Fashion: Best not to go there! Polyester coordinates and leisure suits remain forgotten, please. Wet-look vinyl and fake furs also made a stand. But we had flared pants, fringe, and embroidery still in use today.

Fashion Model Twiggy, 1970

Cars: the Ford Mustang, the Mercury Bobcat and the Chevette shared the road with station wagons like the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, and ‘woodies’ were a favorite.

Travel: Concorde took off in 1976, cutting transatlantic travel time to three and a half hours—if you could afford it.

More food for thought: Taking 1975 as my example, inflation was at 9.2% in the US and at 24.2% in the UK, the Dow Jones was averaging 858, interest rates were at 7.25% in the USA and 11.25% in the UK, gas was around 44¢, the average cost of a new car was $4,250 and a new house $39, 500. While the heyday of hippies in Haight-Ashbury may have passed in the sixties, despite heavy drug use and a lack of a police presence, communes were still going, most famously the Scott Street Commune and The Red Victorian, which served as both hotel and commune after 1977.

Bomber during Operation-Linebacker, Viet Nam war

So, Viet Nam: The war had actually been going on since 1965 after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Pres. LB Johnson permission to wage war—after an attack on one of our destroyers which just happened to be out there. By 1970, Richard Nixon was president and Cambodia was in the war, Henry Kissinger was trying to negotiate a peace settlement but protests continued. Four students were killed and eight wounded by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. In 1971, Lt. William Calley Jr. was convicted of the murder of twenty-two unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the Mai Lai Massacre. He was released after three and a half years for a number of reasons, not least was the fact he was the only army officer singled out for the crime. In 1972, Nixon won re-election and Kissinger revealed peace talks were underway with Le Duc Tho. By 1973, a cease-fire was signed, the end of the draft was announced, and the last American troops left Viet Nam. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho won the Nobel Peace prize; Kissinger accepted and Le Duc Tho declined saying peace did not exist.

And finally, Watergate: In 1969, Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated as the President of the USA. In August, 1971, a list of his enemies was started by his White House aides. A group called the White House Plumbers was started to find information to discredit his enemies. On June 17, 1972, the Plumbers were arrested in the process of planting bugs at the Democratic National Committee

Richard M. Nixon during campaign, photo by Oliver F. Atkins, public domain

headquarters at The Watergate Hotel. On June 20, 1972, Mark Felt, Director of the FBI (J. Edgar Hoover had died in May)—previously known as ‘Deep Throat’—started giving tips to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. Later that month attempts were made to shut down the investigation of the FBI. In September, 1972, the first indictments were made and in November, Nixon was re-elected. Through 1973, televised hearings and indictments continued. In October 1973, VP Spiro Agnew resigned due to corruption as Governor of Maryland, and Gerald Ford took his place. In July of 1973, Nixon refused to hand over the White House tapes, and in November delivered his “I am not a crook’ speech. But by March, 1974, Nixon was named as a co-conspirator while the Watergate Seven were indicted; in May, impeachment hearings began, in June All the President’s Men was published, and in July the tapes were finally handed over. On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon (Tricky Dick) resigned from the Presidency and Gerald Ford—unelected to the vice-presidency but holding that office—became President of the United States.

And that, folks, was the Seventies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nicodemus–African American Icon of the Old West

Back in 2015, my daughter and I were on a cross-country trip from New York with a turn-around in Wyoming. One of the stops I added to our route was Nicodemus National Historic Site, one of the oldest, and last remaining of the Black towns on the western plains. We arranged to meet with fellow author Eunice Boeve, who took us to lunch with Angela Bates. While initially reluctant to make this stop in Kansas, my daughter later swore it was one of the highlights of the entire road trip due to the informative and enlightening conversations we’d had with Angela.

Photo of Angela by Kathryn Sommers

Angela O. Bates is the executive director and past president and organizer of the Nicodemus Historical Society (1988). As a Nicodemus descendant and historian, she was responsible for obtaining National Historic Site designation for the town. For nearly 25 years, she has presented educational programs and one woman shows for libraries, schools, colleges, and organizations across Kansas and the nation. After serving on the Kansas Humanities Council in the Continue reading

Struggles and Hope During WWII’s Japanese Internment

shanna-3I’m so pleased to welcome back another pal from Women Writing the West, USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield. Shanna writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

Continue reading

Following Maria’s Journey by Anne Schroeder

anne-croppedFellow member of Women Writing the West and Past-President (2015), Anne Schroeder writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West. She has won awards for her short stories published in print and on-line markets. She and her husband, along with their new Lab puppy, live in Southern Oregon where they explore old ruins and out-of-the-way places. Her new release, Maria Ines, is a novel about an Indian girl who grows up under Padre Junipero’s cross and endures life under the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquest of California.  You can learn more about Anne at http://www.anneschroederauthor.com and read her blog at http://anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com Continue reading

Because of Virginia City

Blaire EdensBlaire Edens is another fellow author from the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly.  She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She grew up on a farm that’s been in her family since 1790. Of Scottish descent, her most famous ancestor, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland, was murdered by Robert the Bruce on the altar of the Greyfriars Church at Dumfries. Continue reading

Native American Slavery

 

headFellow member of Women Writing the West, Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Continue reading

Does the West Define America?

Frederick Jackson Turner

Frederick Jackson Turner

A few months ago, Amazon came up with one of its ‘suggested reading’ promotions that actually interested me. It was a book, obviously meant for students of history, called ‘Does the Frontier Experience Make America Exceptional?’ What an interesting question, I thought: does it? Continue reading

TWO VIEWS ON THE OREGON TRAIL

When I was in school, Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail was on my reading list. At the age of thirteen, the formal writing and the lengthy, detailed descriptions of a time, scenery and people who did not in the least interest me, turned me towards another choice of book. So here I am, some fifty years later, with other interests, more tolerance, and certainly a more receptive mind.

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman was born into an aristocratic Boston family, son of a well-connected and wealthy Unitarian minister. Plagued by illness most of his childhood, he was often sent into the countryside in an attempt to make him more robust. This, combined with his own enjoyment of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, seems to have had a lasting effect on the young man whose walks in the woods always entailed carrying a rifle, just as his hero, Hawkeye, did. Continue reading

GOING FOR THE KILL: LORD DUNRAVEN AND THE LAND GRAB OF ESTES PARK

IMG_1890One of the highlights of my recent cross-country road trip was Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And how could it not be a highlight? Here is scenery that both inspires and excites in a corner of Colorado once called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ One of several wide valleys at around 8,000 feet, which include North Park, Middle Park, South Park, and Winter Park, FullSizeRender-18Estes Park itself was renowned for its beauty. Continue reading

Why Augusta?

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

Every time someone has asked us what our itinerary is for this trip, everything is fine until I mention Augusta, Missouri. ‘Why Augusta?’, or ‘What’s in Augusta?’ invariably is asked. So here, in black and white, is the truth of the matter. We considered St. Louis as being on our route but, having included Charlotte, Nashville and Memphis, I rather felt that we were getting heavy on the cities and wanted a change. I might have liked Independence for its historical significance but it didn’t quite fit into the driving, and I’d recently been to Kansas City so nixed that. In the end, when we discovered Augusta was one of the centers of Missouri wine country, also offered Daniel Boone’s Homestead, and had the bonus of the historic Katy trail for Cristal to run, it seemed like an excellent choice.

Daniel Boone Homestead

Daniel Boone Homestead

Well, choices are one thing, reality often proves another. Our little cottage is charming and we made some local antique purchases this morning as well as visiting the workshop of a local glassblower and making another purchase there. But when it came to Dan’l Boone’s Home, after a twenty minute drive, we discovered the tours went out on the hour and we would have a forty-five minute wait in stifling heat. So we hurried through their self-guide tour of the homestead and village buildings—not permitted to enter any without a proper guide—and in a rather sorry state decided to return home. Without wine.

Some days just have hiccoughs.

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead