Photos: What it was like to be a kid in 1970s Sonoma County

From disco to drive-ins, check out how ‘70s youth spent their days in the county.|

Disco, bell bottoms, roller skates and Rubik's Cubes. The 1970s was a groovy time for kids.

While the decade was marked by economic and political turbulence — as civil strife surrounded the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal under then-President Richard Nixon — the youth focused on love, peace and fun.

Those who grew up in the ‘70s most likely remember playing with Stretch Armstrong, tie-dyeing clothes and watching the first “Star Wars” movie. Kids sported tube socks and long hairdos as they biked around town while teens cruised along Fourth Street listening to music on an 8-track player. And they all knew to come home when the street lights came on.

The Sonoma County Fair continued to captivate local youth in the 1970s with quirky contests for kids. Those who took up rollerskating enjoyed the pastime at the flashy Star Skate World in Santa Rosa or Cal Skate in Rohnert Park. And for lunch, they could stop at the 49er Drive-in, Copper Penny or Traverso’s Italian Market, and then get a 5-cent ice cream cone from Thrifty’s.

One Santa Rosa High School alum from the class of 1976 wrote a nostalgic newsletter for the school’s alumni foundation, reminiscing about past teachers, school sports and favored hangout spots, like the Eat & Run (jokingly nicknamed “Scarf & Barf”) on Montgomery Drive.

“We went to the movies, usually the Star-Vue Drive-in, because if you knew the secret you could get in for free. That wasn’t easy at the Village Drive-in,” the alum stated. “We went ice skating at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and we played poker until really late. We tooled Fourth Street and parked up on Parker Hill or Grace Heights where the paved roads had just been built. On warm days we went to the river, to Healdsburg or to Hacienda.”

Drive-in theaters were still trendy in ‘70s Sonoma County. Star-Vue in Santa Rosa, which also had the Village and Redwood drive-ins, opened in 1963 as the largest and most luxurious drive-in in Northern California, according to a Sept. 18, 1978, article in The Press Democrat reporting the theater’s closure that week.

In Petaluma there was Parkway Auto Movies and the Midway Drive-in. The Midway, established in 1967, became the Sonomarin Drive-In and ended its run as the county’s last operating drive-in in 1989, spending the last few years of its existence as an X-rated theater.

The 1970s’ disco craze came to the county, and some discotheques were reserved just for teenagers. There was Special Dimension Disco in Cotati, the Groovy Gazooby teen club in downtown Santa Rosa and then the Fourth Street Annex, opened in the late ‘70s on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa.

“The club is clean and free of drugs and alcohol,” said Benita Christensen, owner of Fourth Street Annex, in a Dec. 13, 1979, article in The Press Democrat. “The youths who frequent the club are well dressed and respectful. They abhor violence and waste; they come to be social and have a good time.”

Check out the gallery above for photos of the county’s youth during the 1970s.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.