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The '70s: Tough, Yet Empowering

This story first aired Nov. 12, 2008

The 1970s represented a study in contrasts.

"A very tough decade," remembers Early Show weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price as the show continued its series "Five Days, Five Decades" Wednesday. Yet, he adds, "You just felt empowered, like you could do anything you set your mind to."

The early '70s were punctuated by protests against the highly unpopular Vietnam War, and tragedy at one such protest on the campus of Kent State. Watergate led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Israeli athletes were slain at the Munich Olympics.

The Supreme Court validated the right to abortion in its famous Roe vs. Wade decision, one Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez notes is polarizing to this day.

But the '70s also featured the "Rocky" movies, whose theme song, co-anchor Julie Chen says, "is so triumphant ... it is like you know you could make your dream come true as well in this country."

Muhammad Ali reigned again in the ring.

John Travolta rose to fame. "Saturday Night Fever," was red hot, more than -- "Stayin' Alive"!

"All in the Family," "M*A*S*H" and "The Brady Bunch" made their mark.

"There was escapist fare on TV, like 'Happy Days," says co-anchor Harry Smith. And, "When ABC showed 'Roots,' everybody watched."

So did disco, The Hustle, polyester, and bell bottoms, long hair, hippies and peace signs.

"Just terrible fashions that we all want to forget. ...polyester!" recalled Chen.

"I love disco," smiles Rodriguez.

"Disco -- not a fan," panned Smith.

"Streaking was big back in the 70s," Price recalled. "You had an event. All of a sudden, people would ... take off their clothes!"

"The '70s, I think, were called 'the me generation,' where everybody was concerned about themselves. Very kitschy, looking back on it," remarked news anchor Russ Mitchell.

"When I think about the '70s, I think about the Vietnam War," Rodriguez reflects. "I think about the horrible images of the war that just wouldn't end."

"You just think of our men fighting this war in this -- in the jungle," Chen says, "and just -- not being able to win this war, and just kind of being stuck there. And you just think of all the -- the bloodshed and the deaths."

At Kent State, Smith pointed out, "These kids get gunned down. At the same time, you know, there are kids behind rifles. It was -- it was just not good."

And Watergate, he added, "was the reality of our political life."

"A turning point in American history," Mitchell noted. "It was a bungled burglary that led to the downfall of a president."

"You can't talk about the '70s without talking about the heartbreak of Munich in '72," Price emphasized, "and watching Jim McKay ... take us through hour by hour while this horrific tragedy unfolded."

"Our worst fears have been realized tonight," the late ABC sportscaster, said at the time. " ... They're all gone."

The Early Show took a close look at '70s fashions, cars, toys, , and . Also, some of her big hits from the era.

Our thanks to:

  • THE '70s!

  • The TV superheroes form the '70s interviewed on the show Wendesday were:
    Lynda Carter
    Lou Ferrigno
    Erin Gray
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