Growing up in Utah during the 1970s was a blast! The state was full of fun things to do, and was still undeveloped enough that kids had plenty of room to roam. Here are just 16 of the very best things about being a Utah kid in the ‘70s.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1) Spending All Day Building a Fort in the Field Near Your House
Most kids growing up in Utah remember spending the day playing in the fields -- even if they lived in suburban neighborhoods. During the 1970s and 1980s, the landscape of many Utah towns changed -- fields full of alfalfa and hay turned into thousands of split-entry homes and strip malls.
2) Waiting to hear your name called at the end of “Romper Room”
Romper Room was broadcast nationally, but local affiliates produced their own versions. Utah’s Romper Room featured Miss Julie and Miss Nancy and guests-- children from around the state. At the end of the program, Miss Julie would hold up the Magic Mirror and chant, “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?" Then she would read out a few dozen first names. Viewers sent in their names in the hopes that Miss Julie would see them in her Magic Mirror.
3) Black and White License Plates
The license plates were a lot more boring back then. No skiers, no Arches...just black and white. But the boring colors made it that much easier to spot out-of-town plates when Utah kids played the License Plate Game on road trips.
4) Anticipating the Annual Wonder Bread Field Trip
Schoolchildren in the Salt Lake City area probably remember the Wonder Bread field trip. First you got a tour of the bakery. Then, your host handed out miniature loaves of Wonder Bread so you could spend the bus ride back to school rolling little pieces of it into balls and throwing it at your classmates.
5) Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park in Bell Bottoms and Keds
When you went hiking as a Utah kid in the ‘70s, you didn’t wear you REI hiking boots. You just grabbed that old metal canteen out of the garage, washed the spiders out of it and headed off to the trail.
6) Catching a Baseball Outside Derks Field
Back before Spring Mobile stadium was a thing, the Salt Lake Gulls played at Derks Field. Batters frequently hit balls over the walls. If you didn’t have a ticket to the game, you could hang out on the street outside and, if you were lucky, grab a game ball.
7) Seeing Shasta the Liger at Hogle Zoo
Shasta, Hogle’s lion/tiger, died in 1972, but some Utah kids growing up in the 1970s got to see her while she was alive. She was on display in a glass case at the zoo for many years afterward.
You might not remember Shasta, but you certainly remember posing for a photo with this guy.
8) Riding Your Horse (or go-cart) to the Dairy De-Lite
If you lived in small-town Utah in the 1970s, you could hop on your horse (or if you were really spoiled, your go-cart) and ride to get a cone at the Dairy De-Lite (or your town’s version). In fact, you could ride around just about anywhere.
9) Stargazing at Hansen Planetarium
Even if you didn’t grow up in Salt Lake, you probably visited the Hansen Planetarium in the 1970s. From 1965 to 2003, it hosted thousands of star shows and boasted the highest per capita attendance of planetariums in the entire country.
10) Lying Awake at Night, Worried that a Serial Killer Would Kidnap You
When Ted Bundy entered law school at the University of Utah in 1974, young women around the state started to disappear. The attractive teens all had shoulder-length, brown hair. Mothers in Utah were terrified as girls disappeared every several weeks. Bundy killed five Utah women and many more in neighboring states during 1974 and 1975. Utah mothers, and their pretty, brunette daughters, breathed a sigh of relief when he was finally caught.
11) Carving Your Initials into the Quaking Aspens in the Uintas
No one told you it was a bad idea, and every 10-year-old had a pocket knife back then.
12) Watching the Golden Eagles Play Hockey
Before the Grizzlies, there were the Golden Eagles. The hockey team played at the Salt Palace.
13) Camping at Utah’s National Parks in the Winnebago
If your family had a camper or trailer, part of the fun was riding in it on the way to the park.
14) Worshipping the Donny Osmond Poster in Your Bedroom
Donny Osmond was quite the teen sensation in the 1970s, and he was from Utah! If you were a ‘tween living in the state back then, you either had a poster or knew several friends who did. Donny was taped to the wall right next to David Cassidy and Leif Garrett.
15) Begging to Stop at Hole in the Rock During Your Vacation to Moab
The ultimate in roadside kitsch -- Hole in the Rock was awe-inspiring for kids. Your dad would groan, your mom would roll her eyes, but if you got lucky, they’d pull over anyway and pay the fee for a guided tour. If you missed it in the 1970s, you’re in luck! It’s still open for tours today.
16) Riding the Wooden Roller Coaster at Lagoon
Back before the Colossus, the rickety wooden coaster was the thing. The log flume was popular and Lagoon still had the Fun House. In the 1970s, you could buy individual tickets for the rides, then cry if you dropped them while riding the coaster.
Were you a Utah child in the 1970s? What’s your favorite Utah memory? Share it with us in the comments!