Fifty Years and Counting

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

Many of you are too young to remember 1971, but it might still be interesting to reflect on the state of the American culture 50 years ago and also explore that era through the lens of what our church was experiencing. So, step into the UU Time Machine and rocket back to October 1971.

A reorganized Sunday School was opened at Salem Acres Community Church (our congregation), supervised by Muriel Steelman. At its September 12th opening, one child attended. By late October, five children were in attendance as well as an infant in the nursery.

In October, the #1 song on the Billboard Top 40 was “Maggie May,” by Rod Stewart. The #1 Country hit was “Easy Loving,” by Freddie Hart.

On October 11th, a dinner meeting of the church’s Clara Barton Guild was held with Hermine MacLaughlin, Muriel Steelman and Meredith Vickers serving as hostesses.

Representative Chalmers Wylie of Ohio introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to make prayer in public meetings and schools legal. The bill was introduced as a constitutional amendment to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling declaring prayer in schools unconstitutional. Wylie represented the northern suburbs of Columbus and lived in Worthington, Ohio.

Miss Georgia Green, a long-time member of the congregation, died in 1970 and left her house at 3430 Stettinius Avenue, Hyde Park, to the church. At the October 1971 Board of Trustees meeting, the sale of the house was approved for $22,500. The 2019 tax assessment value of that property was $686,000.

During this month, a federal judge in Sacramento, California, ruled that a public school could keep long-haired children out of their schools. Five- and eight-year-old brothers were sent home from a Sacramento school because of the ruling.

Salem Acres Church reported a budget ending the fiscal year on September 30, 1971, with total expenses of $8,099.44. The projected budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1st was $13,000.

The median family income for 1971 in the United States was $10,290.

The two best-selling fiction books of October 1971 were The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, and Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth.

In its review of the year’s activities, the congregation’s Service Circle mentioned their work with Longview Hospital, where they made wash cloths for each patient and donated 60 pairs of socks to be distributed at Christmas. Bob and Mabel Holland also crafted home-made ornaments for the hospital Christmas tree. The group also made monthly visits to the hospital to socialize with the patients.

Time magazine named Richard Nixon “Man of the Year.” He also earned the award in 1972, sharing it with Henry Kissinger. Time’s “Man of the Year” for 1973 was Judge John Sirica, who became famous for his role in the trials stemming from the Watergate scandal.

In 1971, Beacon Press in Boston initiated publishing a complete transcript of the Pentagon Papers. The federal government sued to block the publication as well as subpoenaing the financial records and other records of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the owner of Beacon Press. President Nixon made a phone call to the Director of Beacon Press, Gobin Stair, and threatened retaliation if Beacon published the Pentagon Papers. A Federal appeals court eventually quashed the suit as well as the subpoena of records and the Watergate scandal ended the harassment of Beacon by the Nixon administration. Thirty-five different publishing houses had been offered the Pentagon Papers and all had turned down the opportunity.

The top-rated TV shows in the fall of 1971 were “All in the Family,” “The Flip Wilson Show,” and “Marcus Welby, MD.”

While the nation was headed towards a crisis of leadership, the October 1971 Board of Trustees meeting was taken up with a lengthy discussion of whether to hire a part-time or full-time minister or continue with guest speakers and lay leadership. The major points offered by the trustees were summarized as: 1) We should hire someone of our own faith; 2) We do not need a full-time minister; 3) Our congregation is too small for a full-time minister; 4) It would really be a full-time job to build up the church; 5) The whole situation should be flexible if we find a good person willing to work at building up the church; 6) A part-time minister could be given the chance to prove his worth; 7) The national organization could supply the wrong kind of minister and it might be better to work on our own than to use the U.U.A. The board eventually approved that $6,000 be used to hire a part-time minister for the church. The President of the Board of Trustees was William Lewis.

As a possible indication of the state of American culture, the most popular movie of the month was The Stewardesses. The number 1 best-selling non-fiction book was The Sensuous Man, by M.

For all of 1971, Salem Acres relied on lay members and guest speakers to highlight their Sunday services.

At a press conference in Washington D.C., Jacques Cousteau predicted the death of our oceans and seas within 50 years if the abuse of our waters was not curtailed. He blamed unabated competition for the water’s resources by business and industry as the cause of the oceanic demise.

Image: Left to Right: Bob Holland, Salem Acres UU member; Rev. Dale Guckenbert, guest minister and chaplain at Christ Hospital; William O. Lewis, President of the Board of Trustees.

For larger picture, click here.

Archive image provided by Mike Roberts.