1970s

A Washington Landmark: Ben’s Chili Bowl

Facade of Ben's Chili Bowl (Photo Source: Creative Commons) https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/12/15542832_25808e5769_b.jpg

According to co-founder Virginia Ali, Ben’s Chili Bowl has never been “your typical restaurant.” Unlike other diners of the 1950’s, Virginia’s husband Ben thought “Washington might be hungry for the kind of spicy dishes he had known while growing up in the Caribbean,” and so he created his own recipe for chili con carne—which remains a closely guarded family secret. A unique element of the restaurant at the beginning, was that “Ben’s spicy chili was served only atop hot dogs, half-smokes or hamburgers,” and not by the bowl as the place’s name would suggest. Ben’s invention of the chili half-smoke quickly become D.C.’s staple food item, and for the next 20 years, loyal Washingtonians overcame a slew of significant obstacles to get their fix.

A button from the march, featuring a quote from Harvey Milk, one of the earliest openly gay politicians. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Numbers Game at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights

When organizers from the National Gay Mobilizing Committee approached him in 1973 about a gay rights march in Washington, Larry Maccubbin was skeptical. A poor turnout, he feared, could undermine the hard work that he and other local activists had done to advance LGBT rights in the nation’s capital.

“We do not want to receive any setbacks at this time due to a poorly conceived, hastily planned, and shabbily supported demonstration,” he replied.

Stevie Wonder in 1973 (Source: Wikipedia)

The Human Kindness Day That Wasn't

Promote neighborly goodwill and the arts with a free concert on the National Mall? It sounded like a great idea to Stevie Wonder when he was approached by Compared to What, Inc. a non-profit D.C. arts education group in 1975. What could go wrong? As it turned out, a lot.

The Silent Majority Storm The National Mall

With Bible in hand, the Rev. Carl McIntire and his wife, Fairy McIntire, lead the "March for Victory" on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., April 6, 1970. McIntire said his parade was a demonstration for military victory in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)

The Vietnam era was marked by student anti-war protests and the counterculture movement. But in 1970 the "silent majority" organized the era's largest pro-war demonstration, simultaneously protesting against President Nixon's Vietnam War policies and "hippies and yippies everywhere."

Thawing the Cold War with Theatre

The cast of Inherit the Wind and the audience giving each other a standing ovation in Moscow (Source: Arena Stage)

In the middle of the Cold War the United States and the U.S.S.R. managed to find one thing they could agree on: culture. In 1958, the two countries reached an agreement which allowed each to send students, scientists and performers to the other country to exchange new ideas and technologies. The initial agreement, made during the space race and just a few years before the Cuban Missile Crisis, would eventually facilitate an exchange of 1,700 individuals. Arena Stage became a part of that exchange in 1973 when they traveled to Moscow and Leningrad.

The Great Folklife Festival Bull Chase of 1976

Two cowboys pictured on the right roping a bull calf that is resisting capture on the left.

On August 4, 1976 cowboys from the American Southwest section of the Smithsonian’s annual Festival of American Folklife were in the middle of demonstrating a calf roping technique when a 400-pound bull calf "made him a hole" in the corral fence and took-off from the Festival site into lunch-hour traffic.

Photograph of the Soviet Embassy (Source: Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey)

A Thwarted Protest at the Soviet Embassy

On August 24, 1973, about 20 D.C. Jewish school children gathered around the Soviet Embassy holding onto basketballs. It was around noon, and they were getting ready to bounce the balls just loud enough for Soviet officials to hear. But they weren't there to play; they were there to stage a political protest.

1980s photo of Old Ebbitt Grill interior from Historic American Buildings Survey. (Source: HABS DC-315, Library of Congress)

Old Ebbitt Grill was Saved by Its Beer Stein Collection

Washington's Old Ebbitt Grill has served presidents, royalty, Washington luminaries, movie and television stars, and military heroes, and touts itself as being "the oldest saloon in Washington." However, it almost didn't survive the 1960s when the owners racked up a huge tax bill with the IRS. When the building went up for auction, it was purchased by Stuart Davidson and John Laytham who owned Clyde's restaurant and hoped to add Old Ebbitt's collection of antique beer steins to their establishment.

Tractors in front of the Capitol

Tractorcade 1979

In February 1979, thousands of farmers from across the country — and their tractors — barreled into Washington to protest in favor of agriculture policy reform. They snarled traffic for several weeks, frustrating commuters. But public opinion began to shift when an unexpected blizzard buried the city under two feet of snow and the protesters took it upon themselves to plow city streets and ferry doctors and nurses to work.

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