(We continue here with our summer-long project, attempting to recreate 1976 one day at a time. For other posts along this line, click here.)
July 20, 1976, is a Tuesday. The Viking I spacecraft lands on Mars. Twenty-five seconds after landing, it transmits its first picture of the Martian surface to Earth. The American Legion national convention begins tomorrow at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Today, the hotel’s air conditioner repairman comes down with a respiratory illness, but he will recover quickly. At convention’s end on Saturday, several legionnaires will be hospitalized with similar symptoms, although some will have it worse than others. Still more attendees will be sickened in days to come; it will be early August, before news outlets pick up the story. Eventually, over 180 people will get sick and 29 will die of pneumonia caused by a previously unknown bacteria. The illness is swiftly named Legionnaire’s Disease. Future TV news anchor Erica Hill is born.
The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, reports on exactly how one of the city’s controversial massage parlors works. From a court deposition, readers learn that a basic massage costs $35—$50 if the masseuse is naked—and 40 percent of the money goes to the masseuse. Local officials want tighter regulation of the parlors. Tonight, TV viewers in Madison watch the Milwaukee Brewers play the California Angels on WMTV. All-time home run leader Hank Aaron of the Brewers hits the 755th and last home run of his career. A groundskeeper retrieves the ball, but will be fired for refusing to turn it over to the team. The groundskeeper will hold onto the ball until 1999, when it will be auctioned off for $600,000. On WISC, the evening lineup includes Good Times and M*A*S*H. WKOW has the Summer Olympics, which continue in Montreal. Starting tomorrow and through the weekend, you can meet Fred the Cockatoo from the TV show Baretta at Madison’s West Towne Mall.
At WFIF in Milford, Connecticut, Cliff Kenyon fills in for Randy West on the afternoon show. Rush and Blue Oyster Cult play Chattanooga, Tennessee. In Austin, Texas, Jeff Beck and Journey play at different venues. The Eagles play Detroit, and the Sex Pistols play Manchester, England. At WABC in New York City, “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by the Manhattans tops the chart for a fourth week. “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls makes a strong move from Number 6 to Number Two. New in the Top Ten are “Got to Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles, up to 8 from 12, and “”Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck, up to 10 from 19.
Perspective From the Present: My 1976 daybook tells me very little about July 20, or this entire week. (Even though I considered myself a writer even back then, I never thought of keeping a journal with more details on how I spent the summer. Certainly not like this guy, of whom I am terribly envious.) I can surmise that I was driving a tractor on the farm by day, watching the Olympics by night, and listening to the radio whenever I wasn’t doing one or the other. Given this week’s weather in the Midwest, it’s worth noting that the mid-July weather in 1976 was benign, with highs in the low 80s. At night, it didn’t take much to make the house I grew up comfortable—a fan in the north windows of the upstairs would pull cool air in through the south windows, where my room was. I have never forgotten the sound of the fan, the feel of the breeze—and the smell of the air, for I lived on a farm, after all.
Thirty-five years ago today, my favorite song of the moment was “Moonlight Feels Right,” and I’ll have more about that later in the week.