How much the world has changed in fifty years. And how little.
Fifty years ago this month, I was just beginning to figure out where I was going to head after high school. To be honest, the choices were not very open. I had spent a lot of time pursuing anything but my academic career. Music, hanging out with my crew, girls, and almost anything else were my main focuses.
I did the obligatory application for colleges and Navy ROTC scholarships and got the obligatory responses back. No one was interested in a “C” student with very little displayed aptitude. So as each letter came back with a “thanks but no thanks”, I began to face the prospects that I might have to go to work. In those days, that really meant going to work in one of the area mills as a laborer. My Grandfather Mac had been a mill worker then superintendent. I also knew that my dad got his carpenter papers at the mill when he came home from the war. So it wasn’t like I wouldn’t be heading into a job that no one in my family had ever done before.
That month, the war in Vietnam was starting to wind down a bit. Secret talks between Kissinger and the North Vietnamese were revealed in the press. The war had stretched on for many years and the toll on America had been great both in the cost as well as the sacrifice of so many of her young men. Nixon had pledged to end the war with honor, and he was about to run for reelection again that summer. So, there was definitely movement.
College Bound? Hardly
In the back of my mind, I also looked at the military as an option. Even though I was not going to be eligible to go to NROTC, I knew that I could probably get into the Navy with no troubles. In 1972, it wasn’t as if they were breaking down the doors. Plus, the draft was still going strong. No matter whether I wanted to join or not, if I didn’t get a college deferment, there was a reasonable shot I would get picked up in the draft. A lifetime with my Navy family convinced me that I did not want to be in the Army.
Add to the mix that I had a steady girlfriend. Life was much faster in 1972 than in previous generations. Courtship was compressed and we were living in an age that was just past Aquarius. She and I spent a lot of time together and had a few close calls. But I made a pledge that once I went into the Navy and got settled, we would get married and set up house. I had absolutely no idea how all that was going to work since I did not know the Navy regulations on marriage and did not have a clue what financial barriers would exist. That realization would come later.
Energy Costs were starting to rise
The world was changing in so many ways in the winter of 1972. Oil prices were just starting to creep up. An organization called OPEC was coming into its own. Six oil exporting countries conclude meetings with Western oil companies; an agreement is reached to raise the price of crude oil by 8.49 percent, to $2.49 per barrel, the first of many sharp increases that would follow. We were still driving cars with huge eight-cylinder engines and burning gas like there was no tomorrow. The average price per gallon was around 36 cents per gallon. It would double in a few years and by 1980 reach $1.19. The Arab oil embargo was still over a year away.
Cars were not that expensive if you had a job. A 1972 Mustang Fastback would set you back about $2,996. A little more for a convertible. Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $18,064 today. But of course, you still had to roll down the windows and it probably came with an AM radio. The engine in the 72 was also a disappointment for the true muscle car guys. The environmental monsters were already applying pressure to cut back emissions and that meant a smaller and weaker engine.
Law and Order
One thing that seems to have come full circle is the violence in our cities.
Fifty years ago, today on January 27th, Police Officers Gregory Philip Foster and Rocco W. Laurie of the New York City Police Department were shot in the back and killed while walking their patrol beat by members of the Black Liberation Army. Foster and Laurie had served together as United States Marines in the Vietnam War and had requested assignment to the same NYPD precinct. A television film, Foster and Laurie, about the two slain officers would be broadcast in 1975.