Blast from the Past: News from the Year of My Birth


Recently it dawned on me that I don’t know much about what was happening in the world in the year I was born.  This news was not of particular interest to me until a short time ago.  Wading through the waters of parenting and considering the historic occurrences of the present time (things that my children will recall or read about in their history books,) has made me curious about what it was like back in the year of my birth: 1974.

Besides obviously cool fashion and great music, what else were people experiencing?  What was on the nightly news or in the daily paper?  What was inspiring and what perhaps brought concern to my parents?

So, I did some digging and took a trip down history lane. Here are a few snippets of what was happening back then.

On the World Stage

Richard Nixon resigned from his presidency in the United States due the Watergate scandal.  No other U.S. president has resigned from office.

Isabel Peron became the President of Argentina after the death of her husband Juan. Isabel Peron was the first woman president in the world.

– The first food pyramid was designed and published by Sweden.  The U.S. adopted its own pyramid in 1992.

– The Sears Tower in Chicago became the tallest building in the world.

Charles de Gaulle Airport opened in Paris, France.

In National News

– The price to mail a letter in the United States increased from 8 cents to 10 cents.

– The Universal Product Code (UPC) was first used, at a local supermarket in Troy, Ohio.

-Daylight Savings Time began four months earlier than normal, due to the energy crisis that existed at the time.

– The Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act became law, setting a new national maximum speed limit of 55mph to ensure fuel-efficiency on American roads. The law was repealed in the 1990s.

– Pocket calculators started being sold and word processors were replacing typewriters in workspaces.

Entertainment and Sports News

– A much-touted match called the “Rumble in the Jungle” took place in Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) between the great boxers Muhammad Ali and George Forman.

– “The Exorcist,” “The Way We Were” and “The Sting were among the big Oscar winning movies.

– Popular songs on the radio and on vinyl were “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder, “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John and “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson 5.

– Bestselling or popular children’s books included “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein and “Alligator Pie” by Dennis Lee.

– These well-known people were also born in 1974: Mahershala Ali, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jimmy Fallon, Derek Jeter, Kate Moss, Alanis Morrisette and Nnedi Okorafor.

For the Love of Kids

– The first living set of sextuplets recorded was born in Cape Town, South Africa.

– Tonka Toy Truck, Spirograph, Magic 8 Ball and Playschool McDonald’s Set were some of the most popular toys introduced to the market in the United States.

– Pop Rocks and Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter were introduced, while Quaker Oatmeal was a top selling breakfast food.

-Saturday morning TV was THE go-to with shows like Shazam!, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, Addams Family, Bugs Bunny and Hong Kong Phooey.

You may wonder, “What was the point of all this?”

I admit that this exercise was quite fascinating for me.  I am a history nerd, and I found myself digging deeper into some of the details of life in 1974. In so doing, I gained some more perspective on the world at large, and how events from that year have had ripple effects on our present day.  I want to glean more from my mother about life back then. Her view will be interesting because she was a foreign student studying in the U.S. when I was born.

I want to also walk through this exercise with my two children.  Their history is much easier to capture, and we can create a time capsule or almanac of sorts for each of them, preserving the fun, interesting and impactful facts from their birth years and beyond.