by Kathy Wolfe

Fifty years? Really? If you’re like other Tidbits readers, maybe you just can’t believe that 1972 was 50 years ago. This week, we take a look at some milestones that occurred during that eventful year.

In the world of sports, Super Bowl VI was held on January 16 at New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. At kickoff, the temperature was 39 degrees F (4 degrees C), the coldest Super Bowl ever played. The contest between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins resulted in a Cowboys win, 24-3, the team’s first Super Bowl win. The halftime show was a salute to New Orleans native and jazz legend, Louis Armstrong, who had died six months earlier. It featured jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, singer Carol Channing, and trumpeter Al Hirt.

In September 1972, Roberto Clemente, the 18-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Pirates, recorded the 3,000th hit of his career. It was also the final hit of his career. Clemente retired to continue the charitable work he had engaged in during most of his life. On December 23, a massive 6.2 earthquake hit Nicaragua, killing up to an estimated 11,000 and leaving 300,000 homeless. On New Year’s Eve, Clemente chartered a plane to deliver aid to earthquake victims. Sadly, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the baseball great and his crew perished.

Baseball’s World Series was a match between the Oakland Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds. The A’s captured the title, four games to three, their first championship since 1930, when the team was located in Philadelphia. Notable players in this Series included Catfish Hunter, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. The A’s were forced to play without their star outfielder Reggie Jackson, who had been injured in the final game of the playoffs.

At the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, American swimmer Mark Spitz became the first athlete to win seven gold medals in a single Olympics. The day after Spitz’s achievement, tragedy struck the Olympics when eight members of the terrorist group Black September, a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, scaled the fence surrounding the Village carrying grenades and assault rifles. Entering the Israeli athletes’ dorm, the group killed two immediately, and took nine others hostage, citing their demands of the release of 234 Palestinians jailed in Israel. Rescue efforts failed drastically, and by the end of September 6, all of the athletes, along with a German policeman and five of the terrorists, were dead.

For over 40 years, the Ford Model T held the record for the most automobiles produced. In production from 1908 to 1927, more than 15 million Model T’s had rolled off the assembly line by the time production ceased in May 1927. In February 1972, the Volkswagen Beetle broke the record when the 15,007,034th Beetle, painted Marathon Blue, was completed, making the little bug the best-selling car of all time.

    San Francisco residents had a new innovative method of transportation when the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, began passenger service in September 1972.

The big story in Washington in 1972 was the Watergate scandal, which involved five White House operatives burglarizing and illegally telephone wiretapping the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office/hotel/apartment complex in Washington. When witnesses testified that President Richard Nixon had a voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office, Nixon attempted to cover up the activities and persuaded other federal officials to deflect the investigation, all of which led to Nixon’s resignation. He remains the only president to resign from office. All in all, of the 69 people indicted in the scandal, 48 were convicted.

On March 15, 1972, the first of three Godfather movies premiered in New York City, a film based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel, chronicling the fictional Corleone Mafia family. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Picture and Best Actor, Marlon Brando. Considered one of the greatest films of all time, it was 1972’s highest-grossing movie, earning about $290 million at the box office. Director Francis Ford Coppola was just 31 years old when he was hired for the job.

    Today, if you need a calculator, you whip out your phone. But in 1972, consumers were introduced to the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35. Hewlett-Packard debuted their 35-key calculator with its four basic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to replace the slide rule that had been used for generations. The price was a spendy $395, which translates to over $2,500 today. The company estimated first year sales of 10,000 calculators, which would be their break-even number. Instead, they sold 100,000. By the time the HP-35 was discontinued in 1975, upwards of 300,000 had been sold.

    The year 1972 was a monumental one for women. The Equal Rights Amendment, providing for the legal equality of the sexes and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex was passed by the U.S. Senate in March. In April, women were officially allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon for the first time in the race’s 75-year history. The first woman winner was 33-year-old Nina Kuscsik, who was also the winner of the New York City Marathon. Women were allowed into Dartmouth College for the first time in the Fall of 1972, the last Ivy League college to break the gender barrier. Also that Fall, the first female FBI agents were hired, one a 31-year-old former nun. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was adamant in his ruling that only men could be special agents, but following his death four months earlier, the ban was lifted. J. Edgar Hoover had been the FBI Director for 48 years at the time of his death at age 77.

    Opening day for the restaurant chain Popeye’s was June 12, 1972. Intended to compete with Kentucky Fried Chicken, it was in the New Orleans suburb of Arabi, Louisiana, operating under the name of “Chicken on the Run.” It was renamed Popeye’s Famous Fried Chicken in 1975. Although it seems logical to think that the chain was named after everyone’s favorite cartoon sailor, the founder Al Copeland claimed he named the restaurant after a fictional detective in the 1971 movie “The French Connection,” Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle. Today, there are nearly 3,500 Popeye’s restaurants, located in 46 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 30 countries.