45 Must-Know Facts About the 1970s

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1Amos Atkinson

Amos Atkinson

In 1978, a man named Amos Atkinson held a Melbourne cafe hostage with shotgun, until his mother (a regular diner there) turned up in her nightgown and hit him over the head with her handbag while telling him to stop being stupid. He then released his captives and surrendered.

2. An underachieving junior named John Aristotle Phillips from Princeton University successfully designed a nuclear bomb for a term paper in 1977. He got an A on the paper, but the FBI took it and classified it.

3. In 1977, singer Tom Waits was arrested outside a coffee shop for trying to stop men from bullying other patrons. The men were plainclothes officers, and Waits and his friend were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. The jury found Waits not guilty; he took the police department to court and was awarded $7,500 compensation.

4. In the 1970s, Boeing fired 63,000 employees in Seattle alone and unemployment rose to 14%, the highest in the United States. Someone put up a billboard that read, “Will the last person leaving Seattle - Turn out the lights.”

5. American swimmer Mark Spitz, 9-time Olympic champion, jokingly told the Russian swim team coach in 1972 that his mustache increased his speed in the water, deflecting water away from his mouth. Next year, every single Russian swimmer was sporting a mustache.

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6Jose Campos Torres

Jose Campos Torres

In 1977, a 23-year-old Mexican-American and Vietnam veteran named Jose Campos Torres was arrested for disorderly conduct at a bar in Houston’s Mexican-American East End neighborhood and was severely beaten by six police officers. The city jail would not process him due to his injuries and ordered the officers to take him to the hospital. Instead, they took him to the Buffalo Bayou River where they pushed Torres in and he drowned.

7. David Bowie considered himself a "closet heterosexual," having declared himself gay in 1972 then bisexual in 1976, but ultimately admitted that those declarations were a mistake.

8. In 1975, a 15-year-old girl named Martha Moxley was beaten to death, with the primary suspects in the murder being Kennedy-Cousins Thomas and Michael Skakel. Although Michael Skakel was overheard in 1978 stating, "I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy", it was not until 2002 that he was convicted.

9. Chilean Sea Bass is just a fancy name that was made up in 1977 to get Americans to eat the Patagonian Toothfish.

10. In 1970, when Debbie Reynolds was the highest paid woman on television with 42% of the viewing audience, she quit her show because NBC was running cigarette commercials during its airtime.

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1110 pin bowlers

10 pin bowlers

In the 1970s, professional 10 pin bowlers made twice as much money as NFL players.

12. Hells Angels attempted to Kill Mick Jagger in 1975. They tried to drive a boat up to the Long Island Mansion where he was staying at, however, the boat sank and the Hells Angels members on the boat had to swim for their lives.

13. John Wayne, in a 1971 interview with Playboy, said: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or ten generations ago these people were slaves.”

14. A researcher in the 1970s conducted an experiment in which he blindfolded participants and told them they were going to play tug-of-war against another team. When they were told they had 3 others pulling with them, they pulled 18% less strenuously than when they were told they were alone. This effect is now known as social loafing.

15. Under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in 1970s, people in Cambodia were killed in the killing fields for being academics or even for merely wearing eyeglasses (as it suggested literacy).

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16UPC barcode

UPC barcode

In 1973, IBM offered its UPC barcode proposal to the grocery industry for free. The industry accepted a very close standard of their proposal. However, IBM also made the first technology capable of reading the bar codes and made tons of money selling the equipment to grocery stores.

17. On January the 1st, 1976, the Hollywood sign was modified to read 'Hollyweed' after some pot-head pranksters added $50 of fabric to it.

18. When the Queen band wanted to release Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, various executives suggested to them that, at 5 minutes and 55 seconds, it was too long and would never be a hit.

19. A study titled "Where Are They Now?" in 1978 followed up on 515 people who were prevented from attempting suicide using the Golden Gate Bridge from 1937 to 1971. About 90% were either alive or had died of natural causes, concluding "suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented" rather than inexorable.

20. A drunk and driving incident destroyed the Soviet spy network in the UK. After being arrested in London in 1971, a KGB agent named Oleg Lyalin panicked and offered the names of every Russian spy in UK. The UK government expelled 105 people from the country, and the Soviet spy network in Britain “never recovered.”

21USS Stein

USS Stein

In 1978, a Knox-class destroyer escort named USS Stein (FF-1065) was attacked by an unknown species of giant squid. Nearly all of the cuts found on the sonar dome contained remnants of sharp, curved claws found on suction cups of squid tentacles. The claws were much larger than those of any squid that had been discovered at that time.

22. In 1976, the mummified body of an American bank and train robber named Elmer McCurdy was found in a funhouse in California. McCurdy had died in a shootout in 1911 and his body had been used ever since as a sideshow attraction. His discoverers only realized that it was a human body when his arm broke off, revealing bone and muscle.

23. Clint Eastwood booted Philip Kaufman as director of The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and assumed the job himself. In response, the Directors Guild of America created the Eastwood Rule that prohibits an actor or producer from firing the director and then becoming the director himself.

24. When Australian driver Alan Jones won the 1977 Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix, the race organizers didn’t have a copy of the Australian national anthem to play at the podium ceremony (unaware that it was “God Save the Queen”). Instead, a drunk person played “Happy Birthday” on a trumpet.

25. Debuting in 1979 as a one-time, 13-part series, "This Old House" was one of the earliest home improvement shows. It was initially controversial among building contractors, and the cast was afraid that they were giving away secrets of the building trades.

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