Memories from 50 years ago in Bonifay, Florida and the U.S.


As a part of the 50th Year Celebration for the HCHS Classes of 1970 and 1971, the following information is provided for the enjoyment of all who may be of a certain age or who may have been around 50 years ago. 

Of course, the information below may also be of interest to those younger folks who can hardly believe the ancient, aged ones around them have lived this long. 

The information presented comes from a variety of sources including historical documents, newspaper articles, HCHS annuals, statistical data from the years 1970 and 1971 and memories of a few folks who are still mostly in control of their faculties. Hope you all enjoy the memories and recollections shared.  The information shared is in no particular order but has been roughly categorized into several different areas or topics.

Economic Data

• The minimum wage was $1.60 per hour with over time pay if earned at $2.40 per hour. For an 8 hour day at regular time pay, this would earn the worker $12,80 before taxes. 

• The average cost of a gallon of regular gas was 36 cents. The attendants at many service stations located would pump your gas, check your oil, and clean your windshield. 

• You could purchase a soft drink for 10 cents and a candy bar for 5 cents.

• The price for a first-class letter was 6 cents. The price went up to 8 cents in May, 1971. 

• The average price of a family car was about $3,600.

• The average price of a new home was between $24,000 and $26,000.  

• The population of the United States was 203,392,031 according to the 1970 census. As a comparison, the 2020 census showed a population of 331,449,281. This is an increase of over 128 million people in 50 years. 

• The Dow-Jones stock market had a high for the year in 1971 of 950. The closing price for the stock market on August 13, 2021 was 32,627. 

Grocery Prices

• Whole chicken fryers on sale for 19 cents a pound. Regular price 27 cents per pound.

• Potatoes – 10-pound bag for 89 cents.

• Sirloin steak - $1.27 per pound 

• Bacon – 89 cents per pound

• Bread - $1.19 per loaf

• Sugar – 39 cents for 5 pounds 

• Eggs – 59 cents per dozen

• Milk – 62 cents per gallon 

Television and Radio Choices 

For entertainment choices, there were 2 television channels – WTVY Channel 4 – Dothan and WJHG Channel 7 - Panama City. Popular radio stations for your listening  pleasure included WDLP AM – 590 Panama City and The Big Bam in Montgomery, Alabama  - 740 on your AM dial.

At night, we listened to WLS AM 89 out of Chicago, Illinois if the weather was right. There were no FM stations available.

For local news, weather, information and music, our local station was WBGC AM located in Chipley. Each morning, Mr. Harvey Etheridge would start the day with an hour-long broadcast with news of the day, birthday greetings to boys and girls, and many advertisements. Among these were Howell Chevrolet (Chevys for less! Chevys for less! Chevys for Less!), Evans Department Store, (See Mr. Maston Barden for all of your clothing needs.), the Bank of Bonifay (Your friendly hometown bank.) and many other local businesses. 

Sampling of Local Businesses from 50 years Ago 

Bank of Bonifay – It was the only bank in town for many years.

Bowen Hardware – Still here and an important business for our community.

Tri- County Telephone – Changed names many times since then.

Bush Auto Company – The local Ford dealer for many years owed by the Bush Family.

Howell Chevrolet – The local Chevrolet dealer owned by Mr. George Howell

Padgett Drugs (Brooks and Leslie Padgett, Ronnie Cook) and Bonifay Drugs (Hilton Barton)

Bush Appliance – Owned and operated by Mr. Drexel Howell 

Manring IGA – Store was located at the present site of Cloud Auto Parts

Piggly Wiggly – This grocery was located at the present site of Johnsons Pharmacy

Schienberg’s – Clothing and shoe store owned and operated by Mr. Joe Schienberg.

Parker’s Standard Oil – Owned by Mr. Bob Parker on corner of Highways 90 and 79

North Bonifay Union 76 – Operated by Mr. Wallace Donaldson 

Ham Wells Drive-In Restaurant – Located east of town at the site of the Agriculture Center. (This was the local teen hangout for burgers, fries, hot dogs, and drinks along with a little pool playing after ball games and on weekends.)

Brown’s Tasty Freeze – Owned by Mr. J.D. Brown – Ice cream shop 

School Life and Events 

• Typing classes were on manual typewriters except for a couple of IBM Electric which were assigned only to those who were the best typist in a particular class.

• Term papers for Mrs. Harris senior English class had to be typed on these manual typewriters, no mistakes, complete with foot notes and bibliography. 

• The Blue Pride Band was a major part of student life for many students. Participation in the band included marching in the rodeo parades (uniforms on Friday, western wear on Saturday), the annual Peanut Festival Parade in Dothan and leading the celebrations at football games after touchdowns with playing of “Drums and Bugles” as the fight song that is still played at games today.

• The 1970 and 1971 athletic teams enjoyed great success on the football field and basketball courts. The football teams posted records of 8 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie in the 1969-70 school year and 9 wins and 2 losses in the 1970-71 school year and winning the district championship this year. In basketball, the records for the 2 years were 23-3 in 1969-70 and 17-7 in the 1970-71 year and winning the Panhandle Conference championship in both years. 

Many students were active in school clubs and organizations including Field and Stream Club, Alpha Tri-Hi-Y Girls Service Club, Key Club, FFA, and FHA.

The journalism class produced the Devils Tales annual as well as Devils Chatter, the school newspaper. 

Many great HCHS teachers influenced the lives of students. Several that deserve recognition include Ms. Vann (social studies), Mrs. Harris (English), Mr. Brownell (math), Mrs. Gavin (life sciences), Coach Eitson (athletics) and Mrs. Curry (English and journalism) As a side note, Ms. Vann held a special place among this group as the one teacher in whose room you did not misbehave unless you were an idiot. 

Entertainment and Social Life 

The following movies were playing in the local theaters and at the famous Al’s Drive-In.

• Dirty Harry – You’ve got to ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya…..PUNK?  

• Fiddler on the Roof – Great musical

• The Andromeda Strain – An interesting movie to see if we weren’t in a real pandemic.

• Billy Jack – Indian on the war path for those fool enough to mess with him.

• Patton – Don’t mess with the General.

• MASH (the movie) – Don’t mess with the Army but do mess with the doctors and nurses.

• Tora, Tora, Tora – Movie about Pearl Harbor and the blunders that led to it.

• Two Mules for Sister Sara – Western with Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine

The songs listed below were at the top of the charts in 10970 and 1971 – Listed are the top 5 songs on the Billboard Charts for each year. 

• 1970 #1 - Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

• 1971 #1 - Joy to the World – Three Dog Night

• #2 - Close to You – The Carpenters

• #2 -Indian Reservation – Paul Revere and the Raiders

• #3 - American Woman – The Guess Who

• #3- Maggie May – Rod Stewart

• #4 – Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head – B.J. Thomas

• #4 – Go Away Little Girl – Donnie Osmond

• #5 – War – Edwin Starr

• #5 – One Bad Apple – Donnie Osmond 

The memories and information shared above about the events and life from 50 years ago in Bonifay and our nation is certainly not an exhaustive list but only a short sampling of information about aspects of life in the early 1970s. 


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