July 30, 1970 – AKA: White Flight – Empty Cities, Jammed Suburbs – The Festival That Never Was.
July 30, 1970 – Huntley-Brinkley Report – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
July 30, 1970 – A sobering day, glancing back at 1970. The latest census report came out and it confirmed what many had suspected; that most cities were now vacant and decaying hulks, while the suburbs which surrounded them were exploding. Population in most urban areas dropped considerably since the previous census was taken – it was a condition known to many as “white flight”, since the cities were now being populated to some extent by people of color, primarily from the South moving North. Great swaths of urban neighborhoods were now empty, with stores closing and crime on the rise. The City was becoming abandoned and left up to its own devices. The news came as a shock to the census takers, over the sheer numbers of people leaving and heading elsewhere. They knew there was a migration, but no one knew just how big it was. It gave credence to the historic notion that cities were centers of dirt, disease, crime, licentiousness and vice, and that everyone who could, ought to live among grass and trees. And for the first time in the nations history there were more people living outside the cities than in them. Naturally, cities were contesting the figures, saying not everyone had been counted and that rumors of Urban demise were greatly exaggerated.
There was other news – for reasons they’ve never fully explained, the U.S. Army, for years, has busily piled up huge stocks of poison gases, nerve gases and various noxious chemicals. President Nixon finally ordered companies to stop making the stuff because it was virtually useless, even in a war. The next step was the Army had to dispose of it and on this day it announced three thousand tons of nerve gas was to be hauled by freight train from Alabama and Kentucky to North Carolina – then loaded into an old ship; hauled down 280 miles off the coast of Florida and dumped at sea. The chemical were in containers, and eventually they might leak. Florida Governor Kirk said the government’s decision to dump the chemicals off the coast of Florida was “incredible” and he was expected to lodge a protest.
And the Rock Festival as an art form and commercial enterprise was having its troubles. It was hard to get the customers to pay to get in – they were prone to crash gates and tear down fences. Local communities no longer wanted them for fear of traffic jams, drugs and free love. One such situation was facing the town of Littlefield Connecticut, where a festival was slated to be held. A police roadblock was set up just outside the town; the result of a Court Order barring the festival from taking place for fear a public nuisance was threatening to take place. But still, people came despite the fact that the Festival was not going to take place, and even the scheduled musicians weren’t expected to arrive. But it didn’t seem to bother some 10,000 people who had already arrived for the festival taking place on Powder Ridge, just outside Littlefield. It was turned into a “festival of life” and those 10,000 people gathered in the 90+ degree heat to stage their own festival of sorts.
And that’s just a little of what went on, this July 30, 1970 as reported by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.