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Remember When: 1970

by Rick Blane

It was 9:56 PM on October 1, 1969. If you were starting your senior year, you might have been watching “Waiting for Bronson” on television. Santa Rosa would be rocked by a 5.6 earthquake, the strongest in Santa Rosa since 1906. There was a second tremor, 5.5 at 11:20. Remember where you were and what you did?

Downtown, the brick wall on the Miramar collapsed. The old Fremont School and the Roxy Theater would later be torn down. That was the way our senior year started. The next day, the Press Democrat reported that Mr. Frederick F. Duey would retire at th end of the school year. Some people joked that it was his decision to retire that actually caused the earthquake. 1970 may not seem so long ago, but it has been thirty years since we graduated.

1970 was a year of continued change. Looking back, it’s difficult to remember everything that took place. The folk music of the 1960s was gone. We listened to the Beatles, the Fifth Dimension and the Supremes. The Fifth Dimension won a Grammy that year. But 1970 was when Diana Ross last appeared with the Supremes. And who would believe that Paul McCartney would leave the Beatles? But he did.

There were major stories in 1970. Charles Manson and his followers were arrested for multiple murders. Vietnamese women and children died in a village called My Lai. Four students died at Kent State. Apollo 13 almost ended in disaster. Alcatraz was occupied. Chet Huntley retired.

There was a changing of the guard in school administration and faculty. After twenty-two years, Mr. Duey announced his retirement as principal and would be succeeded by Jack O’Sullivan and Harry Arbious the new Dean of Boys. Mr. Donald Crockett died suddenly. We dedicated the Echo to him. Mr. George Vine had a serious heart attack. Popular teachers left: it was the last year for Mr. Arnold Solkov (16 years, English) and Mr. Anthony Bonaccorso (17 years, speech and drama). 1970 was not your typical school year.

We had a dress code, but we wanted it changed. Why could girls wear pants? Why couldn’t boys wear shorts school year round instead of just four months a year? And why not “more hair such a sideburns and beards?” I guess we thought some of us could actually do that. But in spite of the dress code, we were very stylish: the girls wore short skirts and long hair. Some boys did wear sideburns and some wore plaid bellbottoms ($15 at Roos-Atkins). Groovy.

John Wayne won his only Oscar for his performance in “True Grit” and “Midnight Cowboy” took the honors for Best Picture. Katherine Ross co-starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Someone said she attended SRJC in the early 1960s. Not only did we go to the movies, but we could see Liberace and Glenn Yarbrough in live performance at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena. On TV, we watched “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Adam 12” and “The Andy Williams Show.

It was election year and there were new faces. A forestry official named Don Striepke wanted to be Sonoma County Sheriff and Ronald Reagan was running for Governor of California. Not to be outdone, we held an election convention, complete with delegations and delegates in order to elect the next year’s Student Body President and Vice-President. Was that the first year we held conventions?

We beat both Piner High and Montgomery High in football. As a matter of fact, we beat everybody. SRHS had its first undefeated football team since 1946! Montgomery was dead last. The SRHS-Montgomery rivalry intensified. Monty students stole the Panther Bell and painted it red and gray. After some school buildings were spray-painted, we got the bell back and repainted it orange and black. We rang it 37 times to celebrate the 37-6 win over the Vikings. The wrestling team came in first, and the varsity track team beat Vallejo and won the league championship.

Attendance at football and basketball games declined and some said school spirit was down. But did we have less school spirit or did we have more diversified interests? We changed as society changed. There was talk about the “establishment” and the “straights” and the “hips,” about different classes of people. It was okay to feel “groovy,” but we avoided those who were “hung up,” “uptight,” those who gave off “bad vibrations” or who were on a “bad trip.” Senior boys thought about the draft and the war in Vietnam. We talked differently because everybody talked differently. Our world was different.

School participation changed. The VICA Club (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) won first place in the car caravan. New clubs included the American Indian Club, the Health Careers Club, the Mexican-American Youth Organization and the Outdoors Club. Some of us took Ethnic Studies as an alternative to second semester government. We participated in the second annual “Walk for Mankind,” a 22 mile marathon walk. We talked about Earth Day but still left litter on the floor by our lockers.

There was talk about abolishing the “daylight rule.” Anybody remember what that was all about?

The Independent Study Program allowed ninety students to conduct independent research in areas such as anthropology, ethnic studies or ecology. The Teachers’ Assistant Program was also established with forty-one students participating. We had activity periods where you could listen to an impromptu band or maybe a conscientious objector. Remember that?

Even our prom was different. It wasn’t held at the Veterans’ Memorial. It was at the Villa Chanticleer in Healdsburg. Was that the first time SRHS had its prom outside of Santa Rosa? Maybe so, I don’t know.

Does this mean we didn’t have a “good” year? Hardly. You see, this is the way it was in 1970. We, as students, changed. Other students throughout California changed. Other students experienced similar changes. But for us, it was our senior year at SRHS. And for me, it made a difference then. It makes a difference now.

Class of 1970 Yearbook

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