Can ya dig? I know you can.
March 28, 2013 5:58 PM   Subscribe

 
I was there in 1972. We didn't all live in proximity to toxic silos. They weren't immediately visible anyway. Although there was that abandoned sewage plant in the ravine that ran behind the houses across the street. And mimes and such doing impromptu street performances. There was that.
posted by philip-random at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


well, acting on my impulse to click "no" whenever the internet asks me a question, being that it's the option closest to "fuck off," before allowing me to view content, I've apparently let the Boston Globe know that I do not think that amnesty is an acceptable solution to illegal immigration.

what that has to do with photos from the DOCUMERICA project is anybody's guess.

great photos though.
posted by One Thousand and One at 6:09 PM on March 28, 2013


The 2000s felt pretty much like the 70s in all the wrong ways.
posted by Muddler at 6:09 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


These people look amazing.

That is all.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:21 PM on March 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


That Dallas highway sure looks empty.
posted by dobi at 6:23 PM on March 28, 2013


I have spent most of my adult life being cynical and disillusioned because I graduated from high school in 1981, so after the horror of Vietnam ended I was sold a future in which there would be political transparency, we would end poverty and colonize space and legalize drugs and end stupid sexual taboos and what I got instead was Ronald Reagan's America.
posted by localroger at 6:35 PM on March 28, 2013 [14 favorites]



God, the smog. And the pollution - one of the things I recall most from my childhood was the places I couldn't swim because of pollution.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:36 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you told me #6 was a photo from 2013 I wouldn't have had any idea otherwise. The guy on the left especially.

#29 looks like NYC today except for the vehicles. The font on the bus advertising feels dated to me for some reason too, though I don't know why. Maybe it's just a false memory but I think they still have a few buses like that in Toronto, diagonal windows and all.
posted by pravit at 6:48 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


A memory of driving the Pulaski Skyway (northeast New Jersey) on a smoggy day (look up temperature inversion), around 1971,

Each factory belched its own color smog: pastel yellow, pink, blue, orange, and even a very pale green. And 'white'.
posted by hexatron at 6:48 PM on March 28, 2013


Alan Taylor's curated photos from the same archive (Flickr). It's kind of an amazing thing that this project ever happened at all.

During the same period, political events in Washington deriving from the Watergate incident were building toward the resignation of President Nixon in August 1974. In response to resignations by high-ranking officials, Nixon appointed EPA head William Ruckelshaus to be deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. Six months later, in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot Richardson chose resignation rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

With Documerica’s champion at EPA gone and its budget in tatters, Hampshire was forced to retrench. “Gradually, the guys that resented my doing it in the first place came out of the woodwork, as always happens in government,” he told Ken Light. “One of them wound up being my boss.” Photography assignments slowed to a trickle. “As far as photographers were concerned, it ended in 1976.” Budget constraints even prevented the final 6,000 images selected for the collection from ever being properly catalogued.


From here.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:51 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Damn, #24 is astounding.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:05 PM on March 28, 2013


So proud that my home town of Ogden, Utah made it.

With an acidic pond filled with abandoned cars and debris.

Yes, so proud.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:08 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I lived through all this, and I'm old enough to remember it. However, I was on military bases so I was completely oblivious. The Stars & Stripes apparently didn't report on this side of America. More and more I realize how idyllic growing up an Air Force brat in the 70s really was.
posted by COD at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2013


It's surprising that these photos evoke such great feelings of nostalgia for me. They were really dirty and gritty times, but CULTURALLY, like for a very stretched out minute...there was a sense of reaching for a better future. A feeling that social, cultural and economic achievement was just on the horizon...Sesame Street and Mr Rogers virtually PROMISED that there were good people on the job and that good things would happen.

Then came Reagan...and disappointment.
posted by snsranch at 7:20 PM on March 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


This one, #29 from oneirodynia's link, is some serious Gernsback continuum shit. An little leak from an alternate world where our actually-existing world is the grim meathook future.
posted by enn at 7:27 PM on March 28, 2013


I lived in Tacoma in the 60's as a kid and the stench from the nearby pulp paper mills was one of the reasons we moved away.
posted by telstar at 7:33 PM on March 28, 2013


I'm just astonished that there are places where it was (is?) normal to drive your car down the beach.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:35 PM on March 28, 2013


Also oh man that bride looks like she's 12. Must be an effect of the Official Early 70s Haircut.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:36 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember having to hold my breath when we drove over either the Passaic or the Raritan rivers in NJ back then. The stench was amazing.
posted by octothorpe at 7:38 PM on March 28, 2013


I was there in 1972. We didn't all live in proximity to toxic silos.

...that we knew of.

Seriously, the environmental pollution was visibly worse in many ways. We were 40 years closer in time to the depredations of the industrial revolution. The remnants of heavy industry were still located quite close to, if not right in, residential areas. My childhood home had a woods area with a little stream where we used to wade and play, until it became clear that it was contaminated with industrial solvents including carbon tetrachloride. I swam off the Jersey Shore every summer and witnessed myself the floating trash and piles of debris from poorly controlled ocean dumping. And there were just many more totally unremediated defunct industrial sites, and much less inspection and EIS requirements and so forth. One of my friends worked for Superfund for many years in the 90s-00s and it's no joke, things were much worse, and it took a hell of a lot of work to clean up to the degree we've reached now.

I'm no apologist for conditions now, but I remember. Iron Eyes Cody? Woody the Owl? We needed them.
posted by Miko at 7:50 PM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


octothorpe, there was a New Yorker cartoon of a car on the NJ Turnpike passing a sign saying, "LEAVING ELIZABETH - RESUME BREATHING". We used to put the car's ventilation on the interior air setting for an exit or two.
posted by Philofacts at 7:54 PM on March 28, 2013


The dad in #22 is fantastic.

"I know bullshit when I see it, and son, that is some bullshit."
posted by Turkey Glue at 7:58 PM on March 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


So...what happened to all the pollution (which I vaguely remember--horror stories of Lake Erie etc.)? Did we fix it or just move it elsewhere?
posted by sourwookie at 8:00 PM on March 28, 2013


Both.
posted by rtha at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow COD, I was also an AF brat in the '70's. We however, never lived on base housing and got to see all of this mess. A consequence of the old man's poor choices and drinking I think. Though, oddly I do remember that we seemed to have a brighter idea of the future then. Perhaps because things were so messed up.
posted by evilDoug at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2013


Lovely photos. Transparencies, I guess. RIP Kodachrome.
posted by carter at 8:04 PM on March 28, 2013


I've said for decades that Reagan derailed America... Even more than Nixon
posted by edgeways at 8:18 PM on March 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow. The graffiti was atrocious, the highways were clear, the pollution was frightening, and everyone looked so thin. What a world it must have been.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:22 PM on March 28, 2013


So...what happened to all the pollution (which I vaguely remember--horror stories of Lake Erie etc.)? Did we fix it or just move it elsewhere?

Both.


And neither.
posted by trip and a half at 11:29 PM on March 28, 2013


Also oh man that bride looks like she's 12. Must be an effect of the Official Early 70s Haircut.

It's just the one surviving photo of an Aimee Mann impersonator supergroup that never got off the ground.

So...what happened to all the pollution (which I vaguely remember--horror stories of Lake Erie etc.)? Did we fix it or just move it elsewhere?

The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts really did have salutary effects. There was a period in the 1980s when chimneys belching black smoke as the norm became chimneys belching white smoke (largely steam) being the norm, as particulate emissions were restricted and technology was implemented/upgraded. Pollution would be even lower today except that industrial production (yes, even domestically) has continued to rise with population and GDP.

Acid rain remains a problem, and progress on emissions that aren't immediately visible choking, gasping smoke plumes has become glacially slow.

#30, I'm quite certain, is Don Draper some years after turning on and dropping out.

That Dallas highway sure looks empty.

The Interstate Highway System was completed bit by bit, and in the 1970s there were still some major bits that were only partially complete. Look at the surrounding roads and you'll see local traffic, so probably there were, outside of the frame, interchanges yet to be wholly built and feeder highways that didn't exist yet.

In the mid-70s Interstates were, in fact, being built before they were needed, rather than expanded years after that was needed.

Damn, #24 is astounding.

Then as now, people generally seemed to assume those cooling towers were pumping out radioactive smoke, but it's just steam. The radioactivity in a properly working nuclear reactor (and they all should be) is a closed system. The big nuclear power disasters (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima) have been when that closed system broke down and radioactivity was released directly into the atmosphere or there was a meltdown/partial meltdown/meltdown risk event.
posted by dhartung at 11:32 PM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


That is not like 1972 looked in Grimsby.
posted by Decani at 3:34 AM on March 29, 2013


I heard about this last summer. The photos that I was looking at were all b/w. I found one street view of a small town in my state and by googling the name of the movie theatre (long since closed) I was able to track down the actual street in Google Earth and get the exact same view today.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:22 AM on March 29, 2013


Those really are amazing photos. It would've been interested to have been alive in such wild and primitive days.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:48 AM on March 29, 2013


I thought the woman in the first photo was looking at her iPhone and I got scared for a second.
posted by orme at 4:49 AM on March 29, 2013


To put that environmental cleanup in context, we got rid of a heck of a lot ofpollution since then while adding 50% more people. Pretty astounding, and believe it or not, we have Richard Nixon to thank.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:31 AM on March 29, 2013


Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water that comes from her well, and she has filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company. She has to transport water from a well many miles away although the coal company owns all the land around her, and many roads are closed, she refuses to sell. Near Steubenville, Ohio, October 1973. (Eric Calonius/National Archives/Records of the Environmental Protection Agency)
Well, I sure am glad we worked out all those problems. Yep.
posted by odinsdream at 6:38 AM on March 29, 2013


dhartung: The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts really did have salutary effects...


Indeed they did...and then came the fracking lobby (& the 2001-2009 reign of GW Bush)

"...For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has set standards to control emissions of toxic and greenhouse gases from the drilling process and is considering new rules for polluted wastewater. But in 2005, Congress exempted the fracturing process itself — a process in which huge quantities of water, sand and toxic chemicals are injected into tight shale rock, to force open the rock and capture the gas trapped within — from federal regulation..." (NY Times Op ed, July 2012)

How can anyone in the energy industry look at those quaint pix of everyday pollution from pre-regulation days & promise that this time it'll be different?

(Fantastic post.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:31 AM on March 29, 2013


How can anyone in the energy industry look at those quaint pix of everyday pollution from pre-regulation days & promise that this time it'll be different?

They don't look at them. Or if they do, they know how short sighted and callous all those people were. They have COMPASSION now.

PS: You'd better show some earnings growth this quarter. Shareholders are really tired of wasting money on this enterprise.
posted by DigDoug at 8:07 AM on March 29, 2013


Can someone identify the wheeled toy the child is sitting in in this picture? Thanks.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:11 PM on March 29, 2013


Purposeful, it's a Krazy Kar.
posted by localroger at 4:29 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Danke, localroger. I need an adult-sized version of that. And a helmet. Possibly crash pads. Because that and a steep hill sounds like a good time.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2013


I have quite taken by #27.
I mean: encyclopedias.
They were everywhere, man.

(I cannot be the only person who heard PWEI while looking at these?)
posted by Mezentian at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2013


Then as now, people generally seemed to assume those cooling towers were pumping out radioactive smoke, but it's just steam.

Then as now, people assume those iconic looking towers mean it's a nuclear plant. That's a coal-fired plant. Cooling towers are used to cool and condense the steam in power plants regardless of the heat source. The tall stack in between the cooling towers is for the coal combustion gases, Nuclear plants don't have those.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2013


« Older What can you do when the tanker's on fire?   |   How a Live Nation Deal Cornered Justin Timberlake Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments