ELKTON — The grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Historical Society of Cecil County’s new exhibit, “Historic Threads: 150 Years of Clothing, Accessories, and the Stories That Bind Them”, will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, April 6. One of the decades that will be featured in the exhibit is the 1970s.
The ‘70s were a time of historic events in the United States and in Cecil County. The decade saw the ratification of the 26th amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, in 1971. Two years later we saw a sitting vice president resign as part of a plea bargain for the first time when former Maryland governor, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned and was replaced by the Speaker of the House Gerald R. Ford. The country watched as Richard Nixon resigned as president on Aug. 9, 1974, while facing charges for impeachment for the Watergate scandal.
Evenings at home were spent watching TV shows such as “All in the Family,” “Sandford and Son,” “Happy Days,” “The Waltons,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and “The Brady Bunch.” While watching those shows, snacks were taken from the harvest gold or avocado green refrigerator. On weekends, moviegoers, dressed in their leisure suits and bell bottoms, flocked to see movies such as “Jaws,” “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Animal House,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather,” and “Rocky.” On the way to the movie theater (perhaps to the Elk Theater or the Elkton Drive-In), the latest songs could be heard on the car radio or on the 8-track tape player.
Cecil Countians in the 1970s saw Union Hospital double in size. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes wreaked havoc on the towns of Port Deposit and Perryville. The county experienced the same gas shortages and long lines as the rest of the country in 1973 and 1974. The Cecil Whig featured pictures of long lines at local gas stations.
In 1976, the United States celebrated its 200th birthday and Cecil County created a Bicentennial Committee, headed by Howard Henry, to plan events for the year. Each town had its own committee as well. Towns throughout the county held their own events, such as the Eighteenth Century Public Fair held in Charlestown. The Elk Creeks Bicentennial Committee organized a bus tour that highlighted historic properties in the Fair Hill area. A huge celebration for the entire county was held on Fourth of July that year. A special service was held at Rock Presbyterian Church, followed by the celebration at the Fair Hill Racetrack. The program featured speakers and music by the Elkton High School band, and appearances by county commissioners Walton Mason, Mary Maloney and Joseph Biggs, Delegate Richard “Tucker” Mackie, and Cecil County’s Junior Miss and Bicentennial Queen Jane Clewer. The evening ended with a “spectacular fireworks show at dusk”, according to the July 7, 1976, Cecil Whig.
Perhaps the biggest celebration was when Cecil County celebrated its tricentennial in 1974. The Cecil County 300 Years committee was formed to plan the activities that would take place during the yearlong celebration. Samuel Johnson and Edward D.E. Rollins were named as co-chairmen of the group.
County residents purchased colonial and pioneer costumes for the many planned activities of the year. Female residents could join groups such as the Celebration Belles and men could join the “Brothers of the Brush.” These two groups held an unusual event one evening. A mock funeral and funeral procession was held in Elkton for “Ray Zor,” a play on words for razor as beards were in vogue for the celebration, on the lawn of the Cecil County Courthouse. Funeral and burial of Ray Zor followed a cortege down Main Street made up of “Brothers” and
“Belles.” Cecil County men who wished to shave were urged to purchase shaving permits, which were pins worn by the clean-shaved men.
Other anniversary activities of 1974 included collecting wooden nickles from county businesses. The towns of Cecilton and Charlestown held daylong old-fashioned fairs. The Cecilton fair included an archery demonstration, a Kangaroo Kourt, square dancing, antiques cars, and a day long crab feast. In Charlestown, fair attendees were treated to demonstrations by blacksmiths and gunsmiths, horse shoeing, net making, butter making, decoy making, a pie eating contest, and music and dancing.
The county held a large parade in Elkton that featured many local groups. Each town had their own chapter of the Celebration Belles and the Brothers of the Brush. The Northeast River Belles paraded through Elkton dressed in their finest old-fashioned bathing suits.
The Historic Threads exhibit gives the historical society a chance to show off their fine textiles collection of clothing and accessories. The ribbon cutting is at 5 p.m. at the historical society, 135 E. Main St.
Please note that Main Street will be closed from 6:20 to 7:10 p.m. for the Little League parade, but there is plenty of parking behind the courthouse. If you are in town for the parade stop by the historical society. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. Show up in your favorite historic threads!