Monday, July 4, 2016

40 Years Ago Today - America's Bicentennial

Random memories about the 1976 Bicentennial:

For my 10th birthday in June '76, I received an Intruder.  Wish I still had that bad boy.

The American Freedom Train came by for a visit. I went twice, once with family and once on a school field trip. The train was designed to take items from the National Archives and Smithsonian out among the American people. A great idea that our government (or some patriotic philanthropist) should do again.

Probably for most stops, the Freedom Train parked at downtown depots and became an additional attraction in traditional tourist areas. In the West Texas desert, however, it was staged on tracks near the airport between Midland and Odessa.

Personal photograph from the MFD Archives.
Shot on 110 film, Kodak Pocket Instamatic 10
Considering I went through the thing twice, I don't remember much about the contents other than a moon rock and Judy Garland's ruby shoes from The Wizard of Oz. After the school field trip, we had to write an essay about what we saw, but sadly, mine is slowly decomposing in a landfill.

Speaking of school, all the fourth graders at my elementary school became a member of the "Bicentennial Elementary Choir" by default and got to put on a swingin' musical about George Washington. See if you can locate your humble blogger in the picture below (hint: I'm on the front row).

Not a lot of diversity in that pic, huh? Even though Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, it took 56 years for Ector County schools to become fully desegregated. Disgraceful. But check out those swell uniforms: white shirt, blue jeans and a red vest with a 3.5" pinback attached to the front (yes, I've kept mine for 40 years, along with every other pinback I've ever come across).

Don't remember much about the musical itself, but it's still in print so somebody must be performing it somewhere.

Good news: our music teacher, Mrs. Hollingworth, must have had a great ear because I was featured in a quartet at some point during the show. Bad news: this musical was the only thing we did in our music classes that year. I imagine we were climbing the walls in that music class during the spring of 1976. We performed at PTA meetings, other schools, Rotary clubs and whatnot. And according to the local paper, we must have performed for the West Texas Teachers Convention:

I'm third from the left (the short kid with the underwhelmed "you can't tell me when to smile" expression).  I've redacted a portion of the caption to save the other three kids from embarrassment and because the newspaper would normally print the addresses of those photographed (e.g., John Doe, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Doe, 1628 Redbud). I guess they figured child predators didn't read the papers back then.

July 4, 1976 fell on a Sunday which meant that I, as a preacher's kid, attended worship services. We got up early and went to a city-wide interdenominational service held at the local football stadium. Don't remember much about it except that we sat on the visitor's side (the home side was facing the rising sun, so good call on that). Once that service ended, we traveled across town to our regular worship service at the Presbyterian church. Below is a portion of the church bulletin for that Sunday.

Enough digressions, let's get to some of the music of the time:

Here are the chart-toppers from the July 4, 1976 edition of Billboard magazine. Ironically, we celebrated our independence from Great Britain while one of Britain's greatest musicians was topping the US pop charts. But America comes on strong in the Easy Listening charts for a soft rock victory!

Top LP
Wings at the Speed of Sound
Hot 100
"Silly Love Songs"
R&B Album
George Benson
R&B Single
"Something He Can Feel"
Aretha Franklin
Country Album
Don Williams
Country Single
"All These Things"
Joe Stampley
Easy Listening Single
"Today's the Day"
Jazz Album
George Benson
Inspirational Album
Take Me Back
Andrae Crouch

Also in the July 4 issue, Billboard gives us a recap the biggest hits of past 200 years! Actually, only for the years 1956-75, but here are those chart-toppers:

Top Pop Album
My Fair Lady
Original Cast
Top Pop Single
"The Twist"
Chubby Checker
Top Pop Artist
The Beatles
Top Country Artist
Eddy Arnold
Top Soul Artist
The Temptations
Top Jazz Album
Bitches Brew
Miles Davis

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