This was Thursday: 1971 – Those were the Days

the conversation hasn’t stopped

The executives at CBS must have felt that America was ready for more than  idyllic, escapist TV fare when they brought  All In The Family to the small screen in January of 1971. Based upon the BBC series Till Death Us Do Part, this ground-breaking situation comedy starring Carroll O’Connor as opinionated blue-collar worker Archie Bunker presented the real world from a new but familiar vantage point.  Series like The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan’s Heroes and McHale’s Navy, while classics in their own right, had a sugar-coated outlook on life’s little problems, nothing was so terrible that it couldn’t be solved with a happy outcome in 22 minutes. Archie and his family broke that tradition with story lines that not only ran from one week to another but broached the previously unmentionable with a gusto that left some outraged and others rolling with laughter on the floor.  The paunchy loading dock worker had a big-mouth and couldn’t care less whether his opinion on everything from ethnic minorities (like his son-in-law christened “Meathead”) to the machinations of big business and government were correct or not – it was his right as a tax-paying American to let everyone know what he thought.  Producer Norman Lear was careful to temper Archie’s often abrasive character with some sympathetic qualities and liberally seasoned the shows for comic effect with the sounds of real life like belching and toilets flushing, something that would have raised eyebrows a mere five years earlier.


One of those atheist, long-haired hippie losers archie loved to hate

All in the Family was in many respects a microcosm of American convention and deportment. Television was pushing the envelope on censorship, topics that had been taboo as entertainment were pushed to the forefront and advertising (like that of cigarettes) once commonplace was banned. Both the networks and print media embraced with open arms the changes the last decade had fought so valiantly for – it was good business to promote opposing viewpoints and socially significant themes. Whether through humour or serious exposition, it was only a matter of time before their market share increased.  Everything from the death of bad boy Jim Morrison, the Apollo 14 moon landing and Evel Knievel jumping over 19 cars on his motorcycle to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the ‘Fight of the Century’ became fair game for profit. It was no wonder that a whole segment of the population with more conservative views was finding this brave new world just a bit much to digest.

As Archie and his ever-loyal Edith sang in their duet that opened the show:

Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.

And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.

Didn’t need no welfare state,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days.

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Carroll O’Connor
Archie Bunker
Jim Morrison
1971 JukeBox

This was Thursday: 1971

life on the other side of the fab four wasn’t all that bad

1971 was the year many believe the true digital age began with the first use of the Intel 4004 microprocessor, pocket calculator, floppy disk and liquid crystal displays ( LCD ). The first email was sent between two computers and the first e-book was published – mere words and the time it takes to transmit them would never be the same again.

Technology spread to the money markets as well: countless millions were poured into the new stock index when the Nasdaq opened on February 8. Something was definitely up on Wall Street, by May the US dollar had flooded the European currency markets threatening to bring down the Deutsche mark. In a show of unity and foresight, the central banks of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland stopped the currency trading. The growing American trade deficit, due in large part to paying for the Vietnam War, began to undermine the value of the dollar and in one short, sharp economic shock President Richard Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods system.  A 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents would not go far and by December the american dollar was devalued and became, like most forms of money circulating around the globe today, fiat money unbacked by any physical asset.

Governments continued apace, countries rose and fell, coups were attempted, succeeded and failed. Ordinary people still wanted the wars to end – 12,000 were arrested in the 1971 May Day Protests in Washington. The only ones who seemed to be listening were Australia and New Zealand, they took a decisive action and removed their troops from Vietnam. Politicians knew that a greater game was afoot and the US, UK and USSR among others had the good sense to sign the Seabed Treaty which outlawed the use and testing of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor. The United States found an alternative in Operation Grommet and proceeded to detonate a 5 megaton thermonuclear warhead underground at Amchitka Island in Alaska. It was no wonder that the founders of Greenpeace were so driven – through activism, and by questioning governments management and misuse of the resources entrusted to us, they brought public attention to the threats lurking in our own backyards.

Nuclear Testing Action Amchitka - Canada - (1971)

Like all those who were taking their destinies into their own hands, and in a caper to rival the Great Train Robbery, D. B. Cooper parachuted out of a hijacked Northwest Orient airplane during a nasty storm over Washington. The mystery man and over $200,000 in ransom money were never seen again. For over forty years the case perplexed the FBI and remained unsolved until 2011 when a woman came forward with a lead claiming her “deceased” uncle was the perpetrator.  The case is still officially open.

Deep down, we all wish to believe that we can always get what we want…

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Ringo Starr
1971 JukeBox