People often remember the 70s through the lens of groovy music and bell-bottom jeans. But it was also a decade defined by soaring inflation, political upheaval, and, apparently, a lot of shag carpets. Folks who lived through the 1970s shared what it was really like in an online forum.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: A Shagadelic Time
“It was brown, orange, green, and shaggy,” one 50-something said. “It smelled weird, and the food was bad.” Another remembered being surrounded by “cancer sticks” just about everywhere. “Grocery stores had ashtrays on the end of every aisle.”
2: Lots Going On
Off the top of one Gen Xer’s head, they recall not being able to stay up late watching TV since channels went off the air, spending most of their childhood outside, incredible rock music (if you could hear it over the disco) and America’s Bicentennial being a huge celebration.
3: Remember When
One person who lived through the 70s remembers mailing more physical letters, a chiller climate overall, a cell phone-like instrument that took up an entire briefcase, and dodging the draft by one number. “I would not return to those years unless I could be the same age I was then,” they said.
4: Listen to the Music
“Things weren’t always great,” one old-timer said. “But it was probably the happiest time in my life.” They said they bought a small house, had a used Honda Civic, took night classes at the local community college, and jammed out playing music with their friends. “I really miss those days. I mostly remember being happy.”
5: Suspicious Minds
Another 50-something said the best part about the 70s was that many people were kind to each other daily, regardless of religion or politics. “If you had a problem or a question, you could knock on any door, and they would invite you in to use their phone or help however they could. People weren’t so suspicious of one another.”
6: Teen Spirit
One person says they paid less attention to economics, Nixon, and politics and more to disco dancing, bell bottoms, and platform shoes as a teen in the 70s. “Honestly, being a teenager in the 1970s was a blast.”
7: Knowledge Is Power
“One cool thing about the 70s that hasn’t been mentioned yet: Schoolhouse Rock!” someone remembered. “Saturday morning cartoons were great,” another agrees. “And Schoolhouse Rock made them even better.”
One person who lived through the 70s lists a few reasons why it wasn’t that great: “High unemployment, ‘stagflation,’ fuel shortages, the hostages in the Iranian embassy, etc.”
9: Pinching Pennies
One commenter specifically remembers everyone in their middle-class neighborhood living frugally in the 1970s. “Most kids wore hand-me-downs. Not because it was cool, but because there was no money in the budget,” they said. “When people scream about inflation today, I think, ‘You haven’t seen anything.’ But we were happier. Life was simpler.”
10: Simpler Times
“I spent ’71 and ’72 in the Army thanks to my local draft board making me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” one veteran remembers. “But once I got out alive and well, the rest of the decade was great. It was a time when Senators were mostly articulate and smart. A far cry from today, to say the least.”
11: Behind the Wheel
Driving laws were a lot different in the 70s. “Plenty of cars didn’t have seatbelts, and no laws required you to use them,” one person said. Another old-timer chimed in, “Roadway fatalities were depressingly common; almost everyone knew someone who’d died on the road by the time they reached adulthood.”
12: Terrible Times
One person takes it from their relative who says the good old days are a myth. “Racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, corruption, far more back-breaking physical labor, etc. were part of life and kind of normalized, ignored or just swept under the carpet.”
13: Widespread Pollution
“Pollution was out of control before the early ’70s, when federal regulation came in,” someone remembered. “You can find photos online if you dig around. It was just awful,” they said. “A river in Chicago actually caught on fire.”
14: Easy To Grasp
While one person said the geopolitics of the 70s were high drama, it was at least a lot easier to understand and keep up with. “Yes, we feared nuclear war (and that’s still possible!), but by the ’70s, things had settled into a fairly stable tension.”
15: Girl Unempowered
One lady asked for people to factor in the many respects in which it “sucked significantly to be a girl.” They said, “Interested in computers? That’s a boy thing. Good at math? No, you’re not. Violent partner? Quit making him mad,” the list goes on. “My mom was legally prohibited from getting her own credit card without my Dad’s permission until the mid-70s,” another woman added.
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