For many people, the 1970s were a time when things began to fall apart—the era of Jimmy Carter, earth tones, the oil embargo, drugs. Yet as a new book reveals, “the Me Decade” was also, at least in certain safe American enclaves, a pre-digital world of fun, happiness, and strong families.
Sting-Ray Afternoons, the new memoir by Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin, is about growing up in the American Midwest in the 1970s. It is filled with memories of 1970s things: ugly sports stadiums, Shakey’s pizza parlors, Adidas tennis shoes, remote-less televisions, tacky furniture, cheap toys, and processed fast food. Yet for all its time-stamped cultural detritus, the book could be describing 1950s, or even 1920s, America. The reason: Rushin is the middle child (of five) of an intact family, which is a template for love, creativity, and diversity. Rushin’s father Don was a traveling magnetic tape salesman in Bloomington, Minnesota for 3M, and his mother Jane a stay-at-home mom.