We Have Been Through Strange Times Before

A favorite television cartoon show back in the early 1960s was the Rocky and Bullwinkle show that featured a flying squirrel and a moose fighting the cold war. One segment on that show was a brainy dog, Peabody and his eager boy, Sherman and their “way back machine” that allowed them to go back in time. It made for great entertainment in my early adolescence. Let us imagine that we had a “way back” time machine and we could set the time to go back in time fifty years to the autumn of 1973. Here we go.

The first thing that we would notice is the colorful and weird clothing styles of the day. Patterned flared pants were popular on both men and women. Blue jeans were everywhere, and men’s suits had wide lapels and wide neckties as well. The cars were radically different. Muscle cars were still popular, but their day was fading fast.

The #1 song on the charts in October 1973 was “Angie” by the Rolling Stones. Elton John had released perhaps his best album, a double album of songs titled “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Other top songs in the autumn of 1973 were Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” and Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

The most popular movies playing then were “The Way We Were” starring Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford and “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Also playing in theatres in the fall of 1973 was “The Exorcist”, still one of the best horror movies of all time. On television the most popular programs were “All in the Family” about a lovable bigot in Queens named Archie Bunker. Other favorite shows were The Waltons, Sanford and Son, M*A*S*H, Hawaii Five-0 and Happy Days.

But there were a series of events that happened in the autumn of 1973 that still have relevance fifty years later and may even be repeated. On the holiest day in the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Arab nations surrounding Israel launched an attack that caught the world by surprise. The attack was beaten back, and the war was quickly ended.

However, the Arabic nations of the Persian Gulf, disgusted for the United States support of Israel organized an embargo of oil to the United States. At the same time, a new organization, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dramatically increased the price of oil that was being exported.

The effects were quickly felt back home in the United States as gasoline prices doubled within the space of a few weeks and gas stations were ordered to close on Sundays to conserve gasoline. Then, to conserve gasoline, people with odd numbered license tags could only get gasoline on odd numbered days and the same applied to those with even numbered license tags could only get gasoline on even numbered days. If your day to get gasoline came on a Sunday, you were out of luck.

American car buying habits changed almost immediately. People stopped buying the large sedans that had been the mainstay of the auto industry and fuel economy became a primary buying motive. But American small cars were usually cheaply made cars that were junk. That is when American car buyers discovered that Japanese and European made cars were more fuel efficient and were better built than the smaller American cars. The auto industry was hard hit and never fully recovered.

Politically, the Watergate scandal still dominated the headlines despite the summer’s congressional investigation concluding. Under pressure President Nixon had appointed a special prosecutor to investigate any law breaking associated with the Watergate break in and cover up. When a low level staffer revealed during the hearings in July that the conversations in the White House were recorded, the special prosecutor wanted those tape recordings for evidence of the cover up.

President Nixon steadfastly refused to release any of those White House recordings, citing “executive privilege” as President. But the special prosecutor was now seeking a court order to force the President to release those recordings. Finally, on a Saturday night when most Americans were more concerned with the football games, President Nixon ordered his Attorney General to fire the special prosecutor. The Attorney General refused to carry out Nixon’s order and was fired. His deputy Attorney General then took over and he also refused and was fired by the President. Finally, the third in command, Solicitor General Robert Bork complied with the President’s order and fired the special prosecutor.

The ”Saturday Night Massacre” as it was being called in the media shocked the nation and created a firestorm of protest. Even congressional Republicans who had defended the President were appalled. In the House of Representatives on the following Monday, they House voted to begin an inquiry into the impeachment of President Nixon. Public opinion was strongly against the President and most Americans supported impeaching President Nixon.

Eventually the outcry forced President Nixon to appoint another special prosecutor. The struggle to obtain those tape recordings of White House conversations would dominate the news for almost another year. But it was clear in the autumn of 1973 that President Nixon’s hold on the presidency was beginning to unravel.

The oil embargo by the oil producing countries in the middle east continued well into the next year and was lifted in the spring of 1974. But that led to a full-blown recession, the most severe since the end of the Second World War. The speed limit on highways was lowered to 55 miles per hour and congress passed new fuel economy standards for cars manufactured in the United States.

Even now, fifty years later, the events from that autumn of 1973 are sill having repercussions in the present day. But there were great songs on the radio as well as great movies in the theatres and great shows on television.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

Read More on Opinion
Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 12:33 PM, 11.01.2023