A Day in The Life of a College Student From The 70’s

The Union just turned 70! So join us as we continue traveling in time to see what campus was like during our history. Next up is the colorful, psychedelic 1970’s!

The 70’s were quite a tumultuous time. Much of the political tension and turmoil of the late 1960’s carried over into the new decade. Women, people of color, and other marginalized identities continued their fight for equality while the ongoing war in Vietnam continued abroad. The political unrest reached boiling point when President Nixon was impeached in 1974 for obstruction of justice, misuse of federal agencies and defying authority of congress. This huge blow to our democracy exhausted many Americans politically, and as a result they turned to pop culture for escapism. Young people continued to defy the preceding generations, and lived more freely: wore what they wanted to do, grew their hair longer, loved who they wanted, etc.

It wasn’t all bad though, city skylines took new shape as the World Trade Center in New York and the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) in Chicago were built. The computing age began with the founding of Microsoft in 1975 and Apple in 1976. Pop culture exploded in this fad-heavy decade, with the opening of Disney World in 1971, Betamax VCRs were released creating the home video market, and popular film franchises began, but more on that later.

Campus Happenings

The booming campus growth of the 60s continued into the 1970s. UNT’s first ever club was dedicated in early 1972 when the construction on what then was known as “The Library” was finished. In 1978, it was renamed the A.M. Willis, Jr. Library in honor of the long time university regent. Now, it’s commonly known as Willis Library, or Club Willis more affectionately.

Architect’s drawing of Willis.

The 1970s were a very spirited decade and that was no different on campus. Many of the long standing spirit and traditions we know and use today had their humble beginnings during this decade.

The Talons exploded into the 1970 football season when they introduced a muzzleloader cannon, Boomer. It’s a scale replica of the cannon widely used in the U.S.-Mexican War, and is fired to signal Mean Green scores, kick-off, halftime, and the end of football games, as well as special occasions such as University Day.

The Mean Green Machine also made its debut shortly after in 1974 and became part of a traveling spirit caravan. The Model A was driven around the track after touchdowns. It has since been renovated and been rebuilt over the years, most recently given a “green” makeover by engineering students in 2012 who outfitted it with an electric motor.

The lighting of McConnell Tower also started during the 1970’s. Green lights shine on the McConnel Tower on the Hurley Administration Building after athletic victories and for special occasions. They were also made “green” in 2014 by being converted to bright and efficient LED fixtures.

The University Union

The second Union which was built in the 1960s was not even 10 years old when the university started to plan for the expansion of the building. Construction began to double the space which needed to grow to continue to “provide for the social, educational, and recreational life for the members of the university community,” according to then Union Director Dr. Dorothy Pijan.

Construction displaced many of the programs and services offered by the Union to Crumley Hall which became known as the TUB (Temporary Union Building). The Third Union opened their doors in 1976. Enrollment at this time was over 17,000 students. This new union brought with it many great new features, many of which are still a part of our current facility.

The Lyceum theater offered a large auditorium space to be used for large lecture classes by day, and performance space by night. The Avesta Lounge was a quiet retreat, allowing students to check out albums and listen to music on headphones, read newspapers, or take a quick nap. The Arts Center offered a place for students to engage in ceramics, metalworking, jewelry making, picture framing, and leather work. The Rock Bottom Lounge, or RBL, was an intimate lounge providing a club-like atmosphere. The RBL served lunch by day, and at night was an entertainment space with full menu and adult beverages. The Syndicate featured billiards, table tennis, pinball, and other games for students to play. The building also added a new art gallery, more food options, and a new bookstore.

Getting Ready

The looks of the early 70s were carried over from the hippie era: bell bottoms, frayed jeans, midi skirts, tie dye, chokers, headbands, corduroy, crushed velvet, platform shoes and boots. The common element throughout it all were the bright colors.

The late 70s were highlighted by Disco styles and more relaxed casual attire or sportswear. So if three piece suits with wide lapels or tube tops and flared pants weren’t your thing, you’d probably opt for tracksuits, cardigans, pantsuits or daisy dukes.

Yes – standards were changing and it was now acceptable for women to wear pants in office or school environments. In 1971 the NTSU President’s Cabinet made it official, sending out a memo approving women employees to wear pants. It’s hard to even imagine that environment, but the 1970s were a pivotal time for the women’s rights movement.

After Class

Much like our own University Program Council (UPC) does today, the program committees of the time, brought in great events and recreation opportunities. Large national acts of the time like Willie Nelson, John Denver, Helen Reddy and Lily Tomlin performed for students. Of course, there was always the opportunity to see our renowned lab bands or other student musicians in the One O Clock Lounge or the Rock Bottom Lounge.

RBL Halloween costume party? Or normal day in Denton?

Music & Movies

Music released in the 1970’s created a perfect segue from the rebelliousness of the 1960’s hippie movement to the themes of the 1980s. While rock n’ roll was still a prevalent genre, an emergence of both dance and relaxing music rose to the top of the charts. Check out this playlist to get a taste of the decade:

You might have noticed a song on that playlist from a North Texas State University student, Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, who also made his cinematic debut in 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Speaking of movies, the 1970s were an important time for cinema as both an art-form and a business. The industry saw a shift in producing films catering to younger generations. This meant more comedies, fantasies, disaster films, and horror. The “blockbuster” was essentially invented with Jaws in 1975 and the beginnings for franchises such as Rocky, Alien, and a small series you may not be familiar with, Star Wars, which are all still active and relevant today.

  1. The Godfather (1972)
  2. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  5. Chinatown (1974)
  6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  7. Star Wars (1977)
  8. Jaws (1975)
  9. Taxi Driver (1976)
  10. The Deer Hunter (1978)
    Honorable Mentions: Animal House (1978), Network (1976), Grease (1978), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Alien (1979), Rocky (1976), The Exorcist (1973), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).


To understand what your friends are talking about, here’s a list of the most popular slang of the era:

  • Skinny – the real deal or truth
  • Spaz – someone that was clumsy
  • Far Out – cool
  • The Man – corporations, authority figures, government
  • Catch you on the flip-side – see you later
  • Get down – dance
  • Keep on truckin’ – go with the flow
  • What it is, what it is – greeting, Whats up?
  • For-Sho – for sure, for real
  • Be there or be square – don’t be boring, come to the party
  • Chill, be cool – relax!

Honestly, most of those are still said today. What’s old is new again?

Join us next time as we get back in our Delorean and travel to the 1980’s! Be there, or be square!