7 Wonders Of Raleigh: Icons of The 1970’s
Pretty much anyone who lived through the 1970’s in Raleigh remembers what a magical era it was. Times were simple. Punk rock filled the air. We ate hot pizza at Andy’s, sped sports cars over Thrill Hill, and chased WQDR events around Raleigh. The smoke and nostalgia from the 1970’s may seem hazy, but ease into some th’ Cigaretz (“This is Raleigh, baby!”), scroll through these classic images, and remember our eternal youth. Do you remember….
With its humble beginnings as Johnnie’s Pizza Palace, taking your girlfriend out for dinner at Andy’s Pizza became a first date ritual for many teens in 1970’s Raleigh. The first place I ever ate when I moved to Raleigh as a teenager was Johnnie’s, with the future owner, Andy Kanas twirling up a pizza for me. I was hooked from that day forward, with Andy’s becoming a regular hangout for me and my friends. In this era of fast cars and easy times, I spent much of my youth eating pizza, drinking beer, and hanging with friends at Andy’s right there in Quail Corners. There was just something about their pizza, and it honestly seemed as if Andy lived at the place. Sadly this icon is gone forever, but never to be forgotten. I imagine even now Andy is off twirling a pizza in the afterlife.
The Village Subway
What began as a Cold War bomb shelter grew into a live music venue that attracted some of the top bands in what some consider to be the high water mark of the Rock era. Wow… the Village Subway–clubs, shops, even an arcade! Raleigh had never seen anything quite like this, and likely never will again. On weekends most any of us could be found at the Subway, as local bands gained stardom, punk rock was born, country was still country, and beer flowed endlessly. Mike Cross, Fabulous Knobs, Arrogance, David Allan Coe. I can honestly say I thought the Subway would go on forever, along with my youth. It was loud, it was smoky, but most of all it was fun–a legendary venue that today remains locked in silence.
Long before Mini City became the densely packed strip mall mecca it is today, it existed as interconnected roads that led to one empty field after another. In those days we used to joke about the name, given that not a single building stood within its boundaries. Still it held great interest as a place to booney-stomp, with its location just beyond the Raleigh city limits making it a perfect place to party undisturbed. The wide and empty streets made for great street racing, and the trails and open fields made for great mudding. Then there was Thrill Hill. I was first introduced to Thrill Hill by a couple of local country girls who approached me and a buddy while we were enjoying a few brews in the Falls Village parking lot, another local hangout for folks in north Raleigh. When asked if we wanted to experience “Thrill Hill” with them, we quickly agreed, dumbfounded by our incredible luck and grinning with high expectations. Of course Thrill Hill was not quite what we were expecting, but I can say it was a memorable evening, running over Thrill Hill in a 1970’s station wagon at 80 miles an hour being driven by a slightly buzzed 17 year old gal.
December 26, 1972 at midnight, a legendary Rock station is born! Quadrophonic Radio and Rock–a match made in heaven! What made the 1970’s especially unique was the music, and Raleigh had the finest Rock & Roll station in the nation! But QDR was more than just a rock station. It was a life style. Turn on the radio and hear Bob the Blade, David Sousa, or Brian McFadden promoting some epic event somewhere in Raleigh or broadcasting live from a local strip mall–then we’d spend our free time seeking them out! They pulled in bands to the Subway, and promoted local music and venues. I still remember that September day in 1984, turning on the radio and hearing country. We all thought it was a joke of some kind–the ultimate QDR gag! Sadly it was not. All that is left today is fond memories and the comradely of the WQDR Facebook page.
Th’ Cigaretz holds the distinction of being one of Raleigh’s first “Punk Rock” bands, and a hometown favorite for those who partied our nights away at the Village Subway. The 1970’s buzzed with excitement as a new genre of Rock was being born: Punk. And Raleigh was right at the epicenter of it, thanks to the Village Subway and bands like th’ Cigaretz. Being part of the birth of a new musical movement, and experiencing it live first hand, is just another reason that 1970’s Raleigh was such a special time. I still remember my first time watching th’ Cigaretz perform in the Subway, the noise, the smoke, the movement itself. Sadly th’ Cigaretz relocated to New York City, as Raleigh ushered in the 1980’s.
By the time the mid 1970’s rolled around, the original set of connected buildings that made up the Catholic Orphanage complex had been reduced to a single abandoned structure, which became a hot spot for the party-minded generation of that era. What Raleigh teenager didn’t hang out at the Orphanage? It was a major party spot and a great place to explore, especially at night. My most memorable experience was packing in a couple of coolers of beer for a long night of partying. It was a moonless night, and the Orphanage was especially creepy against the dark sky. About an hour in, we all started to get an incredible case of the willies. One of the gals in our party screams out that she just saw a lady holding a baby in one of the glassless windows on the upper floor. Well that was that! We all took off running, leaving behind our coolers, which ultimately turned out to be a good thing, as the Raleigh cops were waiting outside to surprise us! Now a days all that is left of the Orphanage is the legend of Crybaby lane.
What in the world is the Raleigh Speedway doing in a list of 1970’s Raleigh icons? Sure the last race was held in the 1950’s, and yes the track was demolished in 1967, but the story didn’t end there. Most folks don’t even know that Raleigh once hosted the annual opening race of what would become the NASCAR race season, now held in Daytona each year. Yes, Raleigh was once the home of a major speedway, smack dab in the middle of what is now known as “Midtown.” Back in the 1970’s, before the explosive growth of our city, the remains of this once mighty track could be easily found, and it was a major hangout for those with four wheel drive trucks and a penchant to party. Funny thing though: None of us realized the bunker we were sitting on was actually the concrete top of pit row! Like most of the wonders in this list, the bunker and all recognizable remnants of the race track vanished as Atlantic Avenue was extended to connect with the now growing Mini City complex.
Here’s to our youth. May it last forever. What do you remember about 1970’s Raleigh?