The shadow of Watergate was ever-present during most of our years in high school, culminating in the resignation (the first in U.S. Presidential history) of President Nixon shortly after we graduated. Between that scandal, the release of the Pentagon Papers, the withdrawal of troops from the unsuccessful war in Vietnam, and a huge global recession, there was a lot of cynicism in the country. And, with a gas shortage to deal with – the U.S. highway speed limit was officially lowered to 55 mph in an effort to optimize fuel consumption – we couldn’t go far to try and escape it.
There were bright spots, though. The feminist movement helped to push progress in women’s rights, and we witnessed a few milestones: Congress passing the ERA, the signing of the Higher Education Act (which included the landmark Title IX legislation), and the Roe v. Wade decision. We also saw the The Endangered Species Act get signed into law. And, when we were seniors, the first extraterrestrial message was sent from Earth into space.
Popular movies in 1974 included The Godfather: Part II, Blazing Saddles, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Towering Inferno. Also during our senior year, Stephen King published his first novel, Carrie. The Rubik’s Cube (then called the Magic Cube) was invented. And, on the small screen, Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, and NOVA all had their debuts.