So the year was 1976. We were singing songs like “Do the Hustle” and “Kung Fu Fighting” and K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake, Shake, Shake” in our off-key voices, and we were just becoming aware of Casey Kasem’s countdown. The country was obsessed with the bicentennial, so when we weren’t wearing something prairie-styled or bell-bottomed, we were probably wearing something with the stars and stripes on it — hats, shoes, pins, T-shirts. Ford was president. Our moms all had macrame owls of some kind. And we all carried metal or vinyl lunch boxes with something like “Land of the Lost” or “Donny and Marie” splashed across the front.
And what else were we doing?
Well, in my little corner of the world, Mrs. Cox’s 4th grade class was planning a trip to Sacramento.
Yep, that’s right. In the days long before complicated school-related law suits and permission slips that asked for detailed information in 2-point type, Mrs. Jean Cox decided her class of 23 10-year-olds should fly to Sacramento for the day and zoom around on school buses to see the state capital, the governor’s mansion, Sutter’s Fort, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, and Folsom Prison. Then fly home. All together.
It was the greatest field trip I ever had.
We spent a year planning it — we wrote to the governor, had bake sales, threw garage sales, anddesperately tried to raise enough money to go. I’m not even sure how much money we made, or how much our parents had to kick in, but we ended up ALL going to Sacramento on an airplane that day. I still can’t quite fathom taking that many 4th graders ANYWHERE, let alone on an airplane, but Mrs. Cox was determined, and she got us there.
The day was a blast. I remember that Steve got sick in the airport before we left because he was so nervous. I remember that we walked across the tarmac in a big cluster of excited chatter in what was then a tiny airport (and what is now the large John Wayne Airport). I remember that Trish and Richard got to play the piano inside the governor’s mansion, beyond the red velvet ropes. I remember that Dawn and I got enormous jaw breakers in Old Town and licked them all the way back on the bus until our tongues were raw. I remember buying a tic-tac-toe set from Folsom Prison that one of the prisoners made. I remember being really excited that Ann Marie and I were both wearing brand-new bell-bottom sets with matching poncho shirts. …
What resulted from that trip was that we learned a lot about California history, truly hands-on. And we all loved Mrs. Cox. She was a great teacher, and she really brought all lessons (and especially California history) to life. But what also resulted was that we, as a class, were all pretty close after that. Many of us went on to go to junior high together, and another handful continued to high school together. But that trip really gave us a cool thing in common (well, that and the bicentennial and K.C. and the Sunshine Band, of course).
So that’s the reunion we’re planning. It’s a reunion of Mrs. Cox’s 4th grade class, whose motto was “Sacramento or Bust” …
If we managed to organize 23 10-year-olds to fly United Air in the 1970s, I’m hoping we can organize at least a dozen or so 43-year-olds to have cocktail party in Orange County.
What are some of your memories of the ’70s? What else should we be sure to feature at our reunion?