Last Sunday afternoon, a friend invited Bill and I to go with her to see Jamaica, Farewell, a play about a woman’s tragi-comic attempts to come to America from Jamaica. The backdrop of the play was the political unrest that took place in Jamaica after the 1980 election of socialist leader Edward Seaga. I was a newlywed during this time period, and as I watched the play, I wracked my brain trying to recall news stories about the the violence taking place in the country. I drew a blank.
When I got married on this date in 1979, my focus was on the ring Bill slipped onto my left ring finger. I couldn’t tell you much of what was happening in the world during the months leading up to the wedding. I was too busy arguing with my parents about the wedding (they wanted a nice “affair” and hired a wedding planner; I would have been happy with a potluck), trying to pay my rent, and working at an office job I loathed. It was all a fuzzy blur, because I was a 19 year-old in love, and spent my spare time and most of my work days dreaming of my new life as a young wife. I must have skipped reading the paper and watching the news most of that year.
Today I thought it would be interesting to see what I missed and remembered from the news in 1979.
According to InfoPlease, the popular books that year included Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, William Stryon’s Sophie’s Choice and Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. I read only one – The Right Stuff. And I read that one at least 6-8 times. I loved Wolfe’s wry style and insider observations about what was really happening with the “single combat warrior” astronaut heroes of my childhood.
The Academy Award that year went to The Deer Hunter. I saw it with Bill, though it wasn’t exactly what I’d call a romantic date movie.
The Grammy Album of the Year award went to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. By the time they gave the award, most of my age peers had moved on from the disco craze. Bill and I spent a lot of time that year listening to Boston, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Keith Green, and Resurrection Band. I was an All My Children soap opera addict. (I see you, Bachelor/Bachelorette watchers.) Bill and I watched Saturday Night Live and our favorite, Second City TV, every week.
Pittsburgh played Dallas in the SuperBowl XIII. I don’t remember the game, but for reasons I can’t explain, I do remember the odd halftime show that year, “A Salute To The Caribbean”. Pittsburgh had a great year in 1979, as their Pirates won the World Series, too. I’m a fair-weather Cubs fan, which means I really only pay attention to the Cubs when they are in the playoffs. They sure weren’t in 1979. They are this year, and I’ll be watching those games.
You could buy a Toyota Corolla for under $4,000, and a Sony Walkman with which you could listen to your cassettes for $200. The average cost of a new house was around $58,000. A gallon of gas cost 86 cents. Those prices, save that of the Walkman, sound pretty painless, but we were dealing with inflation rates running around 11% a year. Bill had his first job in the IT industry – computers less powerful than your iPhone filled huge, air-conditioned rooms.
The Three Mile Island (Harrisburg, PA) nuclear almost-meltdown filled the headlines that spring. I remember that, and probably hummed a few bars of “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” as I probably considered it a harbinger of the coming apocalypse. I do remember praying to ask Jesus to wait to come back until after my honeymoon, which tells you where my head and my theology were both at during those days. Shortly after the wedding, the Iran hostage crisis dominated headlines. The former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan a few weeks later.
I don’t remember the anthrax outbreak in Russia, China’s enactment of the one child per family rule, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s overthrow, the increase in tensions between Israel and Lebanon, or the fact that it snowed in the Sahara for 30 minutes on February 18th.
I wonder what’ll matter most from our headlines today when we look back 36 years from now. Any predictions?