New Year’s predictions from the past

by Brian on September 25, 2022

in In the News,Just For Fun,Politics,The Old Country

When I was a teenager growing up in the 1970s, every New Year’s Day, my father, my brother and I would gather together in our suburban San Francisco Bay Area home to make predictions about what the coming year might bring. We did this on the secular New Year. However, just prior to this year’s Rosh Hashana, I discovered, sequestered in my diary, two envelopes with predictions for 1973 and 1974.

The family today (from l to r – Donica, Jody, Brian, Mom, Dave)

As I dove deep into my formative years, I was surprised by how prescient we were (at times) and how off base we were (most of the time). 

As we look ahead to the Hebrew year 5783, I present this nostalgic blast from the past that also serves as a small window into the issues that interested me long ago. Keep in mind that this was from before I had developed a solid Zionist identity. Still, there were a couple of Israel and Jewish nuggets in there.

Vietnam. With the war still raging and with me nearly a teenager already anticipating turning 18, we were all understandably concerned about the draft. I predicted selective service would end in 1973. (Wishful thinking?) My brother, who had a few more years to go before he too hit 18, didn’t agree. The U.S. army did in fact go volunteer in June 1973, although the Vietnam War didn’t end until 1975. (And then we moved to Israel in 1994 where all three kids of ours were eventually drafted!)

Presidential troubles. We all predicted bad things for then-President Nixon. Two of us said he’d resign, while one of us added he’d be impeached before he resigned (and then would be pardoned). I guess we all got points for that one.

Not so happy days. TV occupied an inordinate amount of our thinking (we were ‘70s pre-teens, after all.) When Happy Days was announced, my brother and I both thought it would flop. It was, as we now know, a massive hit; the turning point episode where Fonzie water skis over a shark – serving as the basis for the pop culture idiom “that show jumped the shark” – wouldn’t air until 1976.

Pop culture prediction. My brother was a rabid Hobbit fan and he predicted that J.R.R. Tolkien would come out with a new book in 1973. My father said Tolkien would die. They were both right, sort of: Tolkien passed away in September that year but his book, Bilbo’s Last Song, was published posthumously in 1974. And with the new Rings of Power series on Amazon Prime, Tolkien is very much with us today.

Assassinations. Turning from the mundane to the morbid: I predicted there would be two political assassinations in 1973, but I didn’t specify where and who. Basque separatists murdered Spanish prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco that year, although I probably wasn’t worldly enough back then to have taken notice of such international intrigue. More in our wheelbarrow: 1973 was also the year that Israeli forces snuck into Beirut and killed three PFLP operatives.

Yom Kippur War. We didn’t know there would be war in the Middle East when we sat down in January 1973 to work on our list. But in our predictions for 1974, my father, brother and I all posited there would be another war. (Thankfully, this time we were wrong.)

Problems at the pump. The price of gas was soaring even before the Arab oil embargo was launched in October 1973. I predicted gas would hit a whopping 41 cents a gallon in 1973 and 75 cents a gallon in 1974. (Ah, we were so innocent back then.) In our 1974 predictions, I went out on a limb and predicted the embargo would ultimately lead to prices jumping to $5.65 a gallon. I was right…just 40 years too early!

Inflation. The cost of gas prompted further worry about rising prices, which were creeping up fast in the years before 1973, with all of us predicting inflation would continue. And continue it did, reaching 8.8% in 1973, which, coincidentally, is pretty much the same as it is in the U.S. now.

Terror in the skies. It was easy in the early 1970s to glom onto doom and gloom. My brother and I predicted a stupendous plane hijacking with many dead. (Sadly, this time we were correct: Palestinian terrorists attacked a Pan Am flight at Rome’s main airport; 30 people perished.) 

Wankel say what? We were strangely obsessed with Mazda’s Wankel Rotary Engine, an alternative to standard piston engines, and were convinced that another carmaker would adopt the technology. But only Mazda got behind the Wankel and the spunky design met a sputtering end in 2012.

Famous deaths. My father imagined that China’s Mao Zedung would die in 1973. He hung on until 1976. We were even farther off about Frank Sinatra, whose death we predicted – he lived another 25 years. 

Beatles reunion. I desperately wanted to see the Fab Four reunited and predicted at least three of the Beatles would get back together and record an album that year. It took John Lennon’s death in 1980 to propel the remaining Beatles to record and release “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” in 1996. 

Pimple popper. This prediction was about as pedestrian as you can get, although it must have been pretty important to me at the time: 1973 would be the year my acne would finally clear up, I confidently proclaimed. Unfortunately, it would take another five years for my pimples to turn into plowhshares.

Battle of the bulge. Finally, in a moment of pure preteen snark, I predicted my brother would gain five pounds that year. My brother’s terse rejoinder: “Brian is wrong.” 

I first shared my predictions at The Jerusalem Post.

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