BUTTE — In celebration of the Mining City’s 150th anniversary, the spotlight this week is on 1970 to 1979.
America was growing by leaps and bounds. By 1970, it was estimated that the population was more than 203 million. That same year, fans across the globe were stunned when The Beatles announced their break-up. The four-man band from Liverpool would never perform as a group again.
Protests were commonplace in the 1970s. In an effort to curb pollution, millions of Americans took part in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Less than one month later, a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University left four students dead.
The 1970s can be described as the “Disco Inferno” decade. Yes, rock 'n' roll was here to stay, but disco was moving in as well. Butte, too, was experiencing its own inferno, literally. Fires were prevalent throughout the decade, particularly in Uptown Butte. One of its worst fires occurred Feb. 28, 1972, when J.C. Penney’s went up in flames, along with 12 other businesses.
The following year, residents watched as another fire took out the immense Medical Arts Building, located on the corner of Park and Main.
Meanwhile, a different kind of fire was smoldering in Washington, D.C. Soon, the Watergate scandal would be front-page news, as two men were convicted for breaking into Democratic headquarters. The incident would conclude with the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon on Aug. 9, 1974.
Catholic residents would pay their last respects to two Butte churches, Sacred Heart (1970) and Holy Savior (1974). Both churches closed to pave the way for mining expansion.
Measles put a halt to the Bulldogs playing in the 1973 Class AA basketball tournament in Missoula. Just to add salt to the wound, the team was quarantined and then politely asked to pack up and get out of town.
New in the 1970s included ABC’s Monday Night Football, Walt Disney World, HBO, Sears Tower in Chicago, “People” magazine, pet rocks, Franken Berry cereal, Wheel of Fortune, pocket calculator, Microsoft, pop rocks, Laffy Taffy candy, floppy disk, compact disk, Apple computer.
Some of the decade’s top songs were Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees, 1978), Let It Be (The Beatles, 1970), Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen, 1976), Crocodile Rock (Elton John, 1973), Hotel California (Eagles, 1977), and My Sharona (The Knack, 1979).
A vote of confidence for Butte women occurred in 1973 and in 1974. On May 17, 1973, Mary Maloney became the first woman to head the Butte City Council, and on Nov. 1, 1974, Irene Humber became the first woman to head the Butte Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking of votes – Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter won over President Gerald Ford to become the new U.S. president. One of his first acts as commander-in-chief was to pardon most of the Vietnam War draft evaders.
Evel Knievel’s 1974 jump over the Snake River in Idaho was a bust, but his 1976 leap over seven buses in Seattle was a success. The following year, the Butte daredevil would star in “Viva Knievel.” Other actors appearing in the film included Gene Kelly, Leslie Nielsen and Lauren Hutton.
Star Wars, one of the top movies of all time, hit the big screen in 1977, popularizing the catch phrase, “May the force be with you.” The George Lucas film would become a worldwide phenomenon that still resonates today. In fact, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens will be released in 2015.
The younger generation, like so many before them, concocted their own lingo. If a teen said they were headed to their “crib,” you knew they were just headed home. When explaining something to another, you would conclude by saying “Hey, can you dig it?” Lastly, you did not end a conversation with see you later. Instead, it was “catch you on the flip-side.”
Spring sprung a leak on March 27, 1977, when a storm left approximately 200 vehicles stranded on Homestake Pass.
The decade ended in dramatic fashion. On Nov. 4, 1979, followers of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini stormed the American Embassy in Tehran, taking 90 hostages, including 63 Americans.
Now it’s time to come back home. Here are some more interesting Mining City occurrences:
- That’ll cost ya! Butte High students went on strike Oct. 1, 1971, with the end result of 300 student suspensions.
- For the first time in Butte’s history, policemen took to the picket line in January 1972, and residents hoped that crime would take a holiday.
- It’s a bird, it’s a plane – nope, just a meteor streaking over Butte on Aug. 10, 1972.
- More than 3,000 residents were on hand when Sen. Ted Kennedy paid a visit Oct. 13, 1972.
- The ground literally shook Sept. 15, 1973, as the Leonard Mine’s 140-foot head frame tumbled to ground.
- It was announced on July 2, 1976 that the Anaconda Co. and Arco would merge.
- Pat Schulte took a 900-mile bike trek in 1976, to raise money for muscular dystrophy. It took Schulte nine days to cycle from Butte to Las Vegas.
- It wasn’t until September 1977, that long-distance charges between Butte and Anaconda ceased to exist.
- Evel would again be in the news when, on Nov. 14, 1977, the Butte daredevil received a six-month jail sentence for beating his former press agent with a bat.
- An 11-day firemen’s strike concluded on Sept. 27, 1978, which was a good thing, because the following month another Uptown Butte fire took out the historic Inter Mountain building and the Silver Bow Block.
- The end of the decade included a sniper shooting at St. James Hospital. The man was shot and killed by Butte police officers.