Looking back at 1977

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(Host) Twenty-five years ago, when Vermont Public Radio went on the air, Vermonters lives were very different than they are today. Some of those differences are significant, others are simply small reminders of another time.

VPR’s Steve Zind looks back.

(Scene from Annie Hall)
“You play very well.”
“Oh yeah? So do you.”
“Oh God, what a dumb thing to say, right? I mean, you say You play well’ and right away I have to say, You play well’. Oh, God, Annie. Oh well, la-di-dah, la-di-dah.”

(Zind) Like everywhere else, Annie Hall was one of the big films in Vermont in 1977. Woody Allen’s story of a doomed relationship managed to be poignant and sad, but also hilarious. People were ready for a good laugh. An Associated Press poll in 1977 concluded that Americans were happier than they’d been in some time. The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal were behind them. The year had started with the inauguration of a new president:

(President Carter inaugural address) “Let our recent mistakes bring a resurgent commitment to the basic principles of our nation. For we know that if we despise our own government, we have no future.”

(Zind) The beginning of Jimmy Carter’s presidency is one of the events that come to mind when people recall the year.

“I remember that Jimmy Carter was President and Elvis died.”

(David Brinkley) “Good evening. Elvis Presley died today. He was forty-two.”

(Zind) In 1997, Elvis was no longer turning out hits. The charts belonged to younger stars.

(Scene from Saturday Night Fever) “You’re so beautiful, man. I like that new haircut. I like that polyester look. Turn yourself in, baby!” (Music, “Stayin’ Alive”)

“I remember Shaun Cassidy and the Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever. I wasn’t allowed to go to it, though.”

(Zind) John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever worked at a Brooklyn hardware store, where he made $4 an hour. That’s as much as many Vermonters were earning. In 1977, the average annual wage in Vermont was $9,200. A pair of Levis cost less $6. A First class stamp was thirteen cents. Gasoline was sixty-two cents a gallon.

Newspapers were crowded with real estate ads for houses in the $30,000-$40,000 range. In 1977, Vermont state workers went from a 37.5 hour work week to a full 40 hours.

(Sound of typewriter keys clacking.) Offices were filled with the clatter of typewriters in 1977. Computers were the stuff of the space program and national defense. That year, the president of Digital Equipment, one of Vermont’s largest employers said, There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Today it’s hard to think of anything that’s changed our daily lives more significantly in the last quarter century.

“The computer, I guess, would be the first thing I’d say. And because of the computer inventions, there are a lot of other inventions. Video games, I think that’s changed a lot of people’s lives, a lot of younger people’s lives.”

(Zind) In 1977, job creation was a given. Vermont’s Secretary of Development promised to bring 10,000 new jobs to the state. Some said he was setting the bar too low. Vermont was growing.

” I think it’s a lot busier. If you got to Williston, you can see the changes there.”

(Zind) Twenty-five years ago, plans were unveiled for a huge new shopping mall in Williston. Burlington officials, fearing a loss of business, opposed the mall. Even the Williston Selectboard voted against the proposed Pyramid Mall. Now more malls have appeared and many farms have disappeared.

“Family farms are no longer. There’s open meadow or for sale signs or auction signs up. That part I’m not to crazy about.”

(Zind) 1977 was a year of continued change, rather than one of historic events. Much of the new and novel in 1977 is now everyday. Many people got their first touch tone phone that year. Remember 1977 every time you turn right at a red light – Governor Richard Snelling’s signature made it the law that year. It may seem innocuous now, but some safety conscious Vermonters were concerned that turning right on red might be the end of us all.

(Scene from Annie Hall)
“You’re driving a tad rapidly.”
“Don’t worry, I’m a very good driver.”,/i>

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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