Sept. 20, 2017
Anson Stevens-Bollen

SF in '74

A Time Capsule Different

June 24, 2014, 12:00 am

A number of new ideas were introduced to Santa Fe in the 1970s. Some, like the Reporter, have endured. Others, like shag carpeting, polyester pantsuits for women and obligatory sideburns for men, have disappeared. A random survey of life in Santa Fe in 1974 reveals which ideas are still with us and which are not.


Santa Fe ninth graders attending middle school in 1974 at the site of what is now the Santa Fe Community Convention Center complained about downtown stores limiting the number of students allowed on their premises. One merchant justified the policy by noting that although ninth graders were no more likely to be shoplifters than adults, they were shorter and therefore more difficult to surveil.

NOW: Downtown stores no longer carry items of interest to ninth graders.


Cinema was alive and well in 1974. The Yucca Drive-In offered what it called a “Women’s Lib” feature, Superchick (“A Supercharged Girl...Always Ready for Action…Any Kind!”). The Lensic played one of John Wayne’s lesser-known vehicles, McQ (“He’s a Busted Cop, His Gun is Unlicensed...and His Story is Incredible!”).

NOW: The Yucca is long gone and the Lensic now simulcasts opera performances.

Those with a taste for live entertainment could go to El Nido and watch “Dynamic New Star” Maria Benitez’s flamenco dancing or wait for John Denver’s appearance at Paolo Soleri, the Santa Fe Indian School’s outdoor venue for concerts and graduation ceremonies.

NOW: El Nido is closed, and the SFIS stopped allowing concerts at Paolo Soleri because of the flagrant pot smoking.


Approximately 46,000 people lived in Santa Fe in ’74. The population had been growing at a rate of about 2 percent per year, and many feared that sustained growth at that rate would overwhelm the city.

NOW: Fortunately, the 2-percent-per-year rate slowed. Had it not, Santa Fe’s current population would be around 100,000 rather than 80,000.

Most Santa Feans still lived within a few miles of the Plaza, but the community’s boundaries were expanding. The Tesuque Valley, which had been largely agricultural, underwent great change in the early 1970s when the Williams Chicken Ranch shut down and was partially replaced by Tommy Hicks’ Shidoni foundry. (Later arrivals who complained about the foundry were told about the mountain of chicken droppings it replaced. Most stopped complaining.) The new Eldorado development took off in 1974, with eight occupied houses.

NOW: The Tesuque Valley is now one of the priciest areas in greater Santa Fe. And, as of 2010, Eldorado had 2,887 households.

The Plaza

In June 1974, the Santa Fe City Council decided to defer action on a proposal to ban vehicular traffic from the Plaza. One councilman noted that the traffic-banning idea had been around for 100 years, ever since a caravan of Missouri wagoneers careened around the Plaza in celebration of their arrival at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.

NOW: Newly installed Mayor Javier Gonzales announced in April 2014 that he wanted to restrict Plaza traffic. After some deliberation, he also paused that plan.

A street musician named Barlow appeared before the City Council and asked permission to play live music on the Plaza. It was granted on the condition that he not openly solicit donations. Barlow was happy with the decision but regretted that only five musicians could play together at the same time.

NOW: After complaints that the Plaza was being taken over by vagrants, the city council recently issued new rules for “buskers,” as street musicians are now called.


Democratic Governor Bruce King finished the first of his three terms in 1974.

NOW: His son, Attorney General Gary King, is challenging incumbent Governor Susana Martinez in this fall’s election.


In 1974, one could buy a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, a bag of potato chips and some guacamole dip for $2.50.

NOW: The same purchases cost over $13.00.

DeVargas Center opened the year before, but in 1974 downtown merchants were still catering to locals. Walking up East San Francisco Street from Don Gaspar Avenue to Old Santa Fe Trail, one would pass by Zook’s Pharmacy, Woolworth’s, J.C. Penney, Franklin’s Women’s Clothing, Moore’s Men’s Clothing, Kahn’s Shoe Store, Capital Pharmacy and Leed’s Shoe Store.

NOW: The entire block is devoted to art galleries and other tourist-oriented businesses.

And so went the 1970s. Some things changed, some did not and Santa Fe innocently spun into the 1980s, with its shoulder pads, Santa Fe Style coffee-table books and greed-is-good real estate hustle. Maybe the 1970s weren’t so bad after all.

Cross holds a master’s degree in American history from George Mason University. He has worked for Santa Fe Public Schools, as a proofreader and editor for the New Mexico Legislature and is the author of Encyclopedia of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico, which he started compiling soon after moving to Santa Fe in 1996.



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