The other day, as I was sitting in my chair here in The Herald-Dispatch newsroom, I saw something on a computer screen that got a chain of thought going, and I realized there are only four of us associated with the newspaper today who were in the newsroom in the 1970s — me, Jim Casto, Dave Peyton and Bob Withers. I have a lot of memories of that decade, but 1979 was 40 years ago. Something about that doesn’t seem right.
What’s just as bad is that next year, 1970 will be 50 years ago. That means we will be in for a bundle of 50th-anniversary stories that will bring up memories to us gray-headed readers and be history lessons to the younger ones.
Next year we will relive, for better or worse, the Kent State shootings. In the coming years we will be reminded of Watergate, the final moon landing, ping-pong diplomacy, President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation, the end of the Vietnam War, President Jimmy Carter’s election and the Panama Canal treaty.
We might relive the oil embargo, the energy crisis, stagflation and the Big Red Machine. It was the decade Elvis died and the Beatles disbanded. Maybe we’ll be reminded of the fashions of that era, of disco, of 1950s nostalgia and “Star Wars.” And the CB radio fad. Subcompact fuel-efficient cars that went, as one jokester said, from zero to rust faster than from 0 to 60.
Locally, there will be the great Marshall University basketball teams of the early 1970s, the founding of the Marshall medical school and the beginning of the decline of the city’s industrial base. The opening of the Huntington Civic Center, the creation of the Superblock, the creation of the 9th Street pedestrian plaza and the (then) new Cabell County Public Library building.
Regionally, we’ll remember the Buffalo Creek flood of 1972 and maybe the Tug Valley floods of 1977. Weather fans will remember the winters of 1977 and 1978.
The biggest of all here in Huntington will be the 50th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash, of course.
Some of us will have personal recollections of the decade. For me, those will include my father’s death, my graduation from high school and college, my first and second cars, my first paycheck, my first real camera and the births of some nephews and nieces. Wow, they’re turning 50 in the next decade. That ain’t right.
Someone said nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. That person was wrong. A lot of what happened in that decade carried over into today. We’ve learned from some mistakes. We’re making some mistakes all over again, but we’re making new ones, too.
There are a few days of that decade I would like to relive. There were events to experience and long-gone people to see.
But that’s not happening. We pack rats (or archivists, as we like to think of ourselves) will find more value in pieces of paper, metal and plastic that mean much to us but little to our heirs.
Many of the people involved in the events of the 1970s are gone, and it’s up to us “younger” ones to tell the stories. People who can’t remember the 1970s will just have to forgive us oldsters as we relive the best and the worst of the decade. For some of us, it was the time that made us who we are, for better or worse.