Super Bowl Then and Now
by Lynn Ashby
Visitors to Houston for the Super Bowl will find an interesting city with T-bone steaks going for less than $2 a pound, new Impalas selling for $3,695 and 1.2 million citizens.
Oh, wait ? that’s not Super Bowl XXXVIII but rather Super Bowl VIII. Yes, it was 30 years ago, 1974, when Houston hosted its first, and up until now, only contest for championship in the National Football League. Anyone who visited Houston for that ’74 game and has not returned until now might notice certain differences in the host.
For example, the nation’s sixth largest city is now the nation’s fourth largest city. If our visitors from 1974 return this year, they may find a few more people around – some 567,631 more folks in the city and 1,518,589 more in the county. It is as though in the period from 1974 to 2004, every man, woman and child in Philadelphia had moved to Harris County. Visitors will find more residents in this county than in all of Oklahoma. Also, for some weird reason even Harris County’s area has grown by 4.61 square miles, which makes no sense whatsoever.
If the out-of-towners find gridlock, it’s because today, there are 1,798,532 more vehicles on our streets than there were in ’74, but we?ve only added another 154 miles of expressways and toll roads. Back in ’74, J.C. Penney was selling washers and dryers for $138 each. New Pontiacs could be purchased for between $2,995 and $3,695. A Chevy Impala was yours for $3,695. Turkeys were 63 cents a pound (today they sell for $1.29 a pound), fryers went for 39 cents (today, $1.29), a dozen eggs cost 59 cents (about $1.30 now) and six quart-bottles of Dr Pepper sold for one dollar ($8.94 today). T-bone steaks were going for $1.95 a pound (now, $11.49) and a can of shaving cream sold for 33 cents ($2.39 today). If you had just moved to Houston, and thousands did that year, two-story Perry Homes in Sagemeadows sold for $41,500. Houses in the Briar Forest-Dairy Ashford area, two-story, four bedrooms, were $52,000. On the other hand, truck drivers were being hired for $3.36 an hour, and administrative positions garnered $700 a month. McDonald’s was looking for store managers – the annual pay: $9,300.
Turn on KPRC-TV today for the evening news and you will no longer see Ron Stone as anchor, Doug Johnson giving the weather, and “here with sports is Bill Worrell.” Speaking of television, the hot programs today are “Friends” and every form of “CSI” imaginable. Thirty years ago, Houstonians were watching “Gunsmoke,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and two families: “All in the Family” and “The Partridge Family.”
Today, the hot movies are “Master and Commander,” “Cat in the Hat” and anything with the word “Matrix” in it. Back then, “The Sting,” “The Exorcist” and “M*A*S*H” were bringing in the moviegoers. In ’74, Houston had eight city council members. Now, we have 14.
Since our last Super Bowl, Houston’s light rail system has increased by a bit more than 7 miles to a new total of a bit more than 7 miles. Hey, visitors, come back in another 30 years and we’ll be up to 14 or even 15 miles, and by then the ox carts will be air-conditioned. The Foley’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Transco Tower and Houston Intercontinental Airport are gone, replaced by newer names. In 1974, HISD had 220,000 students enrolled in 232 schools. Today, the district has 210,000 students in 307 schools, and not one student has dropped out, but note that the district has 10,000 fewer students than it did 30 years ago, which explains why our school taxes keep rising.