Bob Futz: In almost 30 nations around the world, the voice of Bing Crosby is instantly recognized. His songs, his easy style, entertained generations of fans. It was on a golf course in Spain on October 14th that Bing Crosby died of a heart attack.
Many knew Crosby from his movies, more than 50 of them. In a 1974 interview, we spoke about those road pictures he made with Bob Hope …
Bing Crosby: "I think working with Hope in road pictures was, you know, the most enjoyable experience of the things that I've done, 'cause it was always laughs; it was always kidding and needling, gags all the time."
Bob Futz: Perhaps comedian George Burns put it best: "Bing is gone," he said, "but his songs will always be with us."
This is Bob Futz for Recap '77.
Bob Futz: The year was filled with sad news about comedian Groucho Marx. His quick wit and off-color ad libs made him a one-of-a-kind performer. He was in and out of the hospital, finally succumbing to pneumonia at the age of 86.
During his last months, a tawdry court battle over his custody pitted his son against his female companion, Erin Fleming. The ailing comedian knew little of what was going on.
Marx started a host of madcap movies with his brothers Chico, Harpo and Zeppo. "Horse Feathers", "Monkey Business" and "Duck Soup" are considered classics.
Comedian Red Skelton put it this way …
Red Skelton: "I think he's one -- was one of the … the greatest of -- of all of the … the clowns and the musical clowns and in the tradition of -- of -- of being funny, he was a funny man, a great wit, humorous. Dear man will really be missed."
Bob Futz: Groucho became known to a whole new generation of fans through his radio and TV series, "You Bet Your Life", in which he raised eyebrows at the ladies and brought everyone his greatest gift, laughter.
This is Bob Futz for Recap '77.
Bob Futz: February 1st, 1977, residents of Marin County, California north of San Francisco begin mandatory water rationing. Over the next several months, more than 100 other California cities will join them as the entire Western United States is hit by drought. A recap after this.
Bob Futz: The Great Western Drought hit Oregon and Washington, Colorado and Utah. Every state west of the Rockies felt the effect.
In California, it was the worst drought in the state's history, hurting the farms that produce a third of the nations fruits and vegetables. After two years of drought, reservoirs stood one-third full; some were empty. State officials estimate the drought cost three-quarters of a billion dollars in farm revenue.
In cities and towns all over the state, water was rationed. People used buckets to recycle wash water, and showers are short. They learned to count every toilet flush and let their lawns go brown.
The drought contributed to brushfires and forest fires all over the region, including a devastating fire in Santa Barbara, California where more than 200 homes were burned.
Ironically, in California the drought struck much harder in the northern areas where rain usually isn't a problem than in the south where most water is imported. But for everyone, it was a sharp reminder that water is something that can no longer be taken for granted.
This is Bob Futz for Recap '77.
Chris Graham: The end of January 1977, by now much of the nation is locked in what will become the coldest winter ever recorded. A recap after this.
Chris Graham: By the time spring finally managed to thaw out much of the country, weathermen were already marking the winter of 1976-77 as the coldest they'd ever recorded. There was a 70-mile-long ice jam on the Mississippi River; the Ohio River froze solid at many points; oil and gas pipelines were taxed to their limits. The city of Dayton and others in Ohio faced an immediate crisis as fuel supplies dwindled.
Winter is usually a cycle of several days of frigid arctic air, then several of warmer air from the southwest. Recently Tom Casco, a meteorologist with the Severe Storm Center in Kansas City, took a look back through the records and said the severe winter came because that normal cycle was broken …
Tom Casco: "The type of pattern itself isn't that unusual. Normally we do get a pattern like this several times during the winter. What was unusual about it, though, was the fact that it persisted for such a long period of time without letting up."
Chris Graham: By the time the cycle was returned to normal, Chicago had undergone 43 straight days of temperatures below freezing.
This is Chris Graham for Recap '77.
Chris Graham: July 19th, 1977, it's begun raining over Johnstown, Pennsylvania, scene of two floods that are part of the history books. By the time this rain ends, there's a third flood for Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A recap after this.
Chris Graham: The rains that founded Johnstown, Pennsylvania began July 19th. By 2:00 a.m. the next morning, the steep hills surrounding the community were unable to hold the water. In some areas there was eleven inches of rain in six hours. The floodwaters shoved aside anything in the way. At one point, the one way in or out of Johnstown: Air National Guard helicopter.
It gave a chance to talk to people trapped inside Johnstown, people like plant guard Sam D'Angelo got to work that first day only because he owns a four-wheel truck …
Sam D'Angelo: "I started in about 7:00 in the morning, I got here about 11:00. I come down as far as I could by Jeep, and I put a boat in and had to row across town."
Chris Graham: "That was the only way to get across town."
Sam D'Angelo: "That was the only way to get to this end of town. It was all submerged, a lot of destruction, a lot of water everywhere."
Chris Graham: Weeks later, there's still bodies being recovered. Seventy-seven is the official count. As many as eight persons as still listed as missing. And hundreds of Johnstown residents are at this moment still not in their homes. They're housed in over 100 mobile homes set up in the suburbs on the bluffs overlooking Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Chris Graham for Recap '77.
Frank Rayfield: June 10th, the convicted killer of Martin Luther King escapes. A recap after this.
Frank Rayfield: After nearly a decade behind bars, James Earl Ray was again the focus of public attention in late spring. Congressional investigators, taking another look at the 1968 killing of Martin Luther King, had been wanting to re-question Ray when suddenly on the night of June 10th the word went out that Ray and five other inmates had escaped from the Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee. With the National Guard of Tennessee joining the search, the inmates were captured one by one, and by June 13th the authorities were right on Ray's trail.
Warden Stony Lane: "They got within hearing distance of the subject twice. Now, we didn't know who it was at that time."
Frank Rayfield: That's Prison Warden Stony Lane, who was on the scene shortly after the lawmen determined that their hunt was over …
Warden Stony Lane: "I walked up and asked him if he -- if he was all right physically and he said, yes, he was; and then we escorted him to the car and brought him in."
Frank Rayfield: The Governor of Tennessee appealed to the Federal Government to take Ray off the State's hands. When Washington said no, James Earl Ray returned to Tennessee prison life with an added sentence thrown in for escaping.
This is Frank Rayfield for Recap '77.