Whenever I read someone's description of their childhood and see a phrase like "It was a much simpler time" I start shouting that it was childhood — unless yours was a remarkable hardscrabble youth or you were Oliver Twist — it's usually without the stresses and woes of adulthood.
Anxious Youngsters Begin the Chase in a Greased Pig Contest at the Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company First Annual Picnic Held at a Tennessee Valley Authority Lake near Jasper and Chattanooga, Tennessee. During the Day the Miners and Their Families Gathered to Talk, Participate in Sports, Eat Barbecue, and Hear the Company President Explain Health and Retirement Benefits 08/1974 Jack Corn
Nostalgia clouds our memories and often causes us to misremember our own pasts; as Heraclitus famously noted, one cannot step into the same river twice, so it is wading into the River of Time where every second obscures the one before it.
This bit from The Sheltering Sky easily comes to mind: "… we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
Just like the '50s cannot be pigeonholed as a bland era of conformity, the Seventies were more than disco, John Travolta, bra burning, Farah Fawcett, polyester leisure suits and avocado kitchens.
Arkansas—Fort Smith, 05/1972
In the 1970s the Environmental Protection Agency hired photographers to document the ecological zeitgeist of a post-Silent Spring America from pollution to youth culture; urban decay to poverty with the Documerica program. These photos show the more mundane and true-to-life side of the decade, more how I remember it.
See more at the National Archives's Flickr page.