May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

(Pictured: Paul McCartney and Wings, 1974.)

(This post, like others in the category An Entirely New Day, is brand-new and has never appeared anywhere else.)

May 26, 1974, is a Sunday. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. President Nixon is spending a second consecutive weekend at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. A wire service story observes that six months ago, aides would have discouraged him from taking back-to-back weekends off, fearing bad press, but Nixon has reportedly adopted a “let it happen” attitude, given the impeachment hearings now taking place in Congress. Investigators in California have intensified their search for a man they believe can lead them to Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army cohorts, who have been on the run since six SLA members were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17th. At a funeral home in New York City, mourners have been filing past the casket of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, who died on Friday. His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Treasury Department and U.S. Mint say 32 million pennies are “missing.” The director of the Mint says the shortage is because people keep pennies “in dresser drawers, pickle jars, piggy banks,” although a Treasury official blames simple neglect of the unpopular coin. The shortage of pennies has prompted some stores to round prices to the nearest nickel and others to make change with one-cent postage stamps. Still others are rewarding customers who pay with pennies. Osco Drug Stores in the Chicago area have a weekend special on Schlitz beer, at $1.15 for a six-pack. Fifths of selected brands of bourbon, vodka, rum, and gin are $2.98 each. JC Penney Auto Centers have a closeout special on a FM stereo/8-track tape deck for your car, originally $119.95, now $79.88. Automobile air conditioning units are also on sale, starting at $159.88 plus installation.

The best-selling fiction book this week is Watership Down by Richard Adams; Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, an oral history-style biography of Harry S Truman, is the nonfiction best-seller. In her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Joyce Brothers writes about sexuality among older adults. “The young think sex is their prerogative and therefore resist the notion that their grandparents can not only have but enjoy sex.” In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, dueling for the top of the American League East, continue a weekend series. The Brewers won yesterday, 9-2, to reclaim first, which the Sox had taken with a win on Friday night. A. J. Foyt has the pole position for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. New safety measures are in place after the fiery 1973 crash involving driver Swede Savage, who died about a month later; activities leading up to the race were curtailed in response to the ongoing gasoline shortage.

On TV tonight, ABC has its traditional tape-delayed broadcast of the Indy 500, which is won by Johnny Rutherford. The CBS lineup includes Apple’s Way (a family drama from the creator of The Waltons), Mannix, and Barnaby Jones; on NBC it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Columbo, and a news special on cancer. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs are unchanged from the week before: “The Streak,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Band on the Run.” Three new songs move into the Top 10: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient, and “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. They replace Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, and Mike Oldfield’s Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells.” The biggest mover on the station’s chart is “Be Thankful for What You Got” by William DeVaughn, up eight spots to #18.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere about the smoky fire we had in our house sometime in the spring of 1974, possibly in May, and maybe even on Sunday the 26th, although I no longer remember precisely when. It was and was not a remarkable disruption in our lives; my brother and I were displaced from our bedrooms for the whole summer amidst the repainting of the house upstairs and down, but I merely moved my hanging-out space to our furnished basement. With a radio, a TV, and a couch, I had everything I needed.

Many of “the young” Dr. Joyce Brothers wrote about in 1974 are grandparents now, and another generation of grandchildren is skeeved out at the idea of Nana and Papa getting it on. But they are, kids. They are. Possibly even as you’re reading this.