The 1970s Part I

Lake Macbride State Park, Nov. 27, 2020.

My experience of the 1970s is book ended on one end by graduation from high school and attending the Kickapoo Creek Rock Festival in Heyworth, Illinois on May 30, 1970. On the other is cutting up my military service identification card on Nov. 25, 1979 at a party in my apartment near Five Points in Davenport.

Life was not what I expected.

Some of my high school classmates married immediately after graduation. I expected to marry a woman, yet that would not be until later in life. Like many in my cohort I left home to attend college rather than settle down. The following ten years were a time of adventure and learning about the world beyond my home place. I sensed life would not follow a standard path.

There was an unseen momentum that led me to attend and graduate from university. Father’s death in 1969 resulted in questioning the efficacy of the life I’d been planning with him. Had I not been awarded the full scholarship through the efforts of the meat packers union, I doubt I would have attended or finished at university. My last discussion with him was about studying engineering, although he did not affirm that I should. He was busy with his own struggles attempting to turn the page from working at a slaughterhouse to passing the state medical board examination required to become a chiropractor.

Before I left home I had a conversation in the living room with Mother about whether I should stay in Davenport to help her get through the loss of Father and help with my younger siblings. She wouldn’t hear of me staying and encouraged me to leave Davenport to attend university. After working the summer at the Turn Style discount department store I left for the University of Iowa. More than any other parental guidance, this conversation set the course for who I would become.

A person does not experience life by becoming set in patterns of existence. The whole idea behind automation was the elimination of routines. By allowing standardization of products to dominate the ambitions of men, we can reach the point where society is nothing more than a group of zombie-like creatures who are willing to conform to what everybody else does. This is why European thinkers criticized the machine as a cancerous growth on humanity.

School papers, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. Fall 1970.

It seems appropriate my university coursework brought me to this conclusion about standardization. Few of us realized in 1970 what the impact of automation, branding, technology, communications, and dominance by corporate interests and other institutions would have on our lives half a century later. Part of my life has been standing up to such standardization. Even so, my 1970s were not that different from others.

I attended university, made a three-month tour of Europe, came back to Davenport for a year, then enlisted in the U.S. Army. By the time I returned to Iowa in 1979 — and collected all of my belongings from storage, shipped from Germany, and from Mother’s house — I knew I wouldn’t be long for my home town. This letter to the editor summarizes how I felt.

As a college graduate, I would like to believe that a rewarding lifestyle consists of more than a hefty paycheck with plenty of taverns in which to spend it. I would like to believe that my future in Davenport holds more than a secure family life.

Letters to the Editor, Quad-City Times, Dec. 30, 1974.

Looking back on the 1970s I see the beginnings of the same path I’m on today. While it was not a standard path it has been pretty consistent all along. I expect to continue, at least for a while.