HUNTINGTON -- Remember 1970?
In one way, the Marshall University plane crash didn't happen that long ago. But maybe it just seems so, because devastating tragedies burn themselves into our memories and anniversary observances keep them ever before us.
Actually, when crews from Warner Bros. Pictures were preparing to film local scenes for the "We Are Marshall" movie, they had to create a picture of life quite different than today's.
Bradshaw-Diehl sold ladies' knit gloves for $2. Penney's offered a 10-piece cook-and-serve set, either stainless steel or Teflon-coated aluminum, for $10. And B&B Food Market featured hams, pork roasts and spare ribs for 49 cents a pound. Today, not only are those prices missing from downtown, so are the stores.
So are Silvers, W.T. Grant Co., Anderson-Newcomb, H.L. Green, McCrory's, Huntington Dry Goods and a bunch of other department stores. And groceries such as A&P, Tradewell, Choice Model and Wagers Bros.
Arch A. Moore Jr. was West Virginia's governor. Robert C. Byrd won his third term in the U.S. Senate, and Ken Hechler won his seventh term to the House. Cabell County -- and the 54 other Mountain State counties -- were administered by county courts, not county commissions.
Huntington's city manager was Edward A. Ewing. The city's population had declined from a peak 86,353 in 1950 to 74,315 in 1970; it would further plummet to 49,891 in 2004. Sixteenth Street had yet to be transformed into Hal Greer Boulevard, and the city had three high schools. Now it has one.
"That was the year Principal Roy Straight demanded that the Huntington High cheerleaders be integrated," says Bos Johnson, news director at WSAZ Channel 3 at the time and whose daughter Carol Anne was captain of the squad. "Some of the parents and students had a problem with it, but the cheerleaders melded together beautifully."
The city's five hospitals included St. Mary's, Cabell Huntington, Guthrie, Huntington and Huntington State (the Veterans Administration Hospital was just outside city limits). We had no medical centers. And our funeral homes were still in the ambulance business.
Marshall's enrollment was 8,945, barely half the 16,585 students it has now. More than 15 structures on campus now weren't there in 1970, such as the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, the Cam Henderson Center, Harris Hall, Corbly Hall and the Drinko Library. And the Science Hall, Morrow Library and student union were a good bit smaller.
Civilization was a technological wasteland. There were no personal computers, video recorders, DVD players or iPods. No Internet, e-mail or voice mail. No fax machines, either. But you did always know where your telephone was -- not in your pocket or purse or under a pile of dirty clothes on the stairway, but tethered to the wall, always the same wall, in the same room of your home, 24/7. And many households shared a line with other families on a "party line."
Travel was slower if more diverse. People could take a train from here to Washington, D.C.; Newport News, Va.; Cincinnati; and Louisville -- and, three days a week to Columbus, Toledo and Detroit. More hardy rail travelers could ride a caboose to Parkersburg, if they didn't mind hanging onto the end of an all-night freight train.
Interstate 64 was finished only to Dunbar; motorists had to put up with city traffic in Charleston and the hairpin turns of U.S. 60 across Gauley Mountain before rejoining the interstate at the other end of the state. And the West Virginia Turnpike, connecting Charleston to points south, was still two steep, twisting lanes.
Local air travel was booming, though -- much more so than now. Piedmont, Allegheny and Eastern offered somewhere between 16 and 24 flights in and out of Tri-State Airport. The facility had welcomed its first regular jet service barely a year and half before, when Eastern introduced its 98-seat Boeing 727 "Whisperjets."
Johnson remembers that the antiwar crowd that provoked the fatal confrontation at Kent State University came down to Ohio University at Athens, Ohio, a few days later to shut it down, too.
"They gave us until the Saturday after the shutdown to pick up our kids," says Johnson, whose daughter Beth was a freshman there. "They lost the rest of the semester. We saw 18- and 19-year-old National Guardsmen patrolling with rifles and live ammunition. There were signs in the doors and first-floor windows all over campus saying 'Mail your papers to such-and-such an address to get your grade.' "
Despite the Vietnam War and its attendant antiwar violence, Huntingtonian Joyce Ey says 1970 was a simpler time.
"Our children came home for lunch most of the time, all through junior high school," she says. "All their married friends now can't believe it."
So Ey was a stay-at-home mom, but she still managed to stay busy with church work and Junior League puppet shows in the schools.
The fact that many women didn't work outside the home gave them more time to do those kinds of things.
"Women's groups are faltering today because most women have to work," she says. "In 1970, I was more confined, but that's the way I wanted it. I could keep tabs on our kids; they didn't have time to get into mischief."
Several of the 13 black members of the Thundering Herd -- Nate Ruffin, Felix Jordan, Eddie Carter, Scotty Reese, Dennis Blevins, Willie Bluford, Larry Brown, Art Harris Jr., Bobby Joe Hill, Joe Hood, Larry Sanders, Robert Van Horn and Freddy Wilson -- worshipped at First Baptist Church each Sunday after each busy week of study and football practice on Fairfield Stadium's new Astroturf. Reese was head of the young adult group. He and some of the others participated in the church's intergenerational program.
"The guys would take the older people to the grocery store, and some of them were 'adopted' so they could spend a weekend with families in the church," says Dr. Charles H. Smith of Wayne, N.J., their pastor at the time. "They also were active in the church's seafood business."
Many of them were together in church on Sunday, Nov. 8, 1970 -- for the last time.