One Day in Your Life: May 17, 1973


(Pictured: Tony Orlando and Dawn. It was this or Nixon.)

Here’s a post from 2005 I found while digging in the archives of my first blog, The Daily Aneurysm. It’s been edited a bit. 

On May 17, 1973, the Senate Watergate hearings began. I was in seventh grade that spring, already a news junkie, so if anybody in my school besides the teachers knew about Watergate, it was me. Our social studies teachers, Miss Alt and Miss Odell, made us watch the hearings in class. I am not sure how many students really understood what they meant—and I don’t remember how much I understood about the hearings, either. But I knew major news events when I saw them, so I was interested.

No matter what’s on the front page, above the fold, like the Watergate hearings, life goes on in countless other ways, with events that leave lighter footprints on time. . . .

May 17, 1973, was a Thursday. The biggest event on Richard Nixon’s official calendar (apart from the heaings) was the signing of an executive order regarding the “Inspection of Income, Excess-Profits, Estate, Gift, and Excise Tax Returns” by the Senate Commerce Committee. He also talked to his lawyer, Fred Buzhardt—a conversation that would be taped on the famous White House taping system to be revealed at the Watergate hearings later that summer. The conversation was about the existence of the Huston Plan, a domestic spying operation devised in 1970 to disrupt student protest movements. . . . Nixon was concerned that the Watergate committee knew about the plan, and he was concocting a strategy to contain the political damage if the plan, which was never carried out over objections from the FBI, was revealed by the committee. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon gave a famous speech in which he declared, among other things, “The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world.”

The energy crisis hadn’t officially arrived yet, but government officials were trying to find energy wherever they could, and on this day, three nuclear weapons were exploded underground in Colorado. The nuking, code-named Rio Bravo, was part of something called Operation Plowshare, which was intended to release hard-to-get natural gas resources in the area. . . . It worked, except that the gas became so radioactive that it was unusable. Quelle surprise. The first three astronauts were supposed to be launched on their mission to Skylab, but the launch was postponed until the 25th. Their job—fix severe damage to the orbiter that had occurred at launch on May 14. . . .

David Bowie, playing a concert in Dundee, Scotland, was mobbed by fans on the way to his limo after the show. In London, the Rolling Stones wrapped up 11 days of work on their forthcoming album, Goat’s Head Soup. Then-unknown Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive released its first album. Los Angeles radio personality Hal Goodwin died after having a heart attack on the air. The New York Review of Books published a review of the controversial movie Last Tango in Paris. . . .

Perspective From the Present: At WCFL in Chicago, the top of the survey dated May 12, 1973, comprised a strange brew of rock and cheese: “Sing” by the Carpenters (at #1), “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence,  Donny Osmond’s “The Twelfth of Never,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” alongside Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.” For more about the music of May 1973 as heard on a WCFL survey from a couple of weeks later, click here.

2 responses

  1. I have stood in the Sedan crater. I can’t tell you any more or I’d have to kill you.

  2. WestBerkeleyFlats | Reply

    Wasn’t Operation Plowshare a program to generally find “productive” uses for nuclear weapons? Using them to create harbors, for example. Now we just do fracking.

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