My Testimony

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Max Thomas
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Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 2:01 am
Location: Bath, UK

My Testimony

Post by Max Thomas » Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:34 pm

Dear All,

I'm very sorry not to have contributed anything to Forum Maximum for so long, but I've been a bit busy, and, as I've said before, sometimes I don't have regular access to the internet - this is one of those times.

Laurelie suggested to me a few weeks ago that I should post my testimony on the Forum, so that's what I'm going to do today...

What do I mean by a testimony? Well, in Christian terms, it's a brief summary of one's life up until the time that one gives one's life to Christ. Every Christian has a testimony, and many that I have heard or read have been very moving. I wrote this several years ago, prior to the breakdown of my marriage, and, though I've been tempted to revamp it to bring it all up to date (OK, and also tempted to change a few bits here and there) I've decided to leave it as it is.

Please, any of you who read it, keep in mind that I am just a human being like all of you - don't think I am blowing my trumpet about anything. I was a member of City Boy, yes, and I regard myself as a pretty good composer, yes, but in the eyes of God, in whose image we are made, I am a sinner saved by grace, whose hope is to fulfil all that which God intended me to do in this life and to qualify, somehow, to go on to the eternal life promised to those who believe in Him (meaning Jesus Christ) rather than to fail and to miss out....I won't go into the detail of that now.

We are promised a new existence, literally, free of the pain and strife and trouble of the life that we know now, one in which we will live on and on in the presence of He who created the Universe and the human species for whom He created the Earth. There will be joy and peace and fellowship and love in the presence of God, the Father of all, His Son Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to open up the way for those of us who believe in Him, and the Holy Spirit, who, even now, is amongst us and there for us as we struggle to cope with this mad, mad world.

I am posting this perhaps mainly because I regard all of you as my close friends - for goodness sake, you have all loved the music of City Boy, so that makes you all...intimate, in a way...precious and special because of the honour that you have bestowed upon us through your enthusiasm and love of that music. And because of the fact that I see you all in this light, it is incumbent upon me - I simply MUST try - to tell you of this Truth, try to turn you to open your hearts to it, because I would not want any of you to be lost. I know that many of you WILL turn, not because of what I write here, not because I pray that you will, but because God will look at the hearts of those of you who will read this, and for the sake of His Glory, He will have mercy on you, and draw you to Him. I am weeping as I write this, let me tell you, I am weeping...

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of my testimony is that I should be the only one in my family of atheists who came to know of the Truth. No wonder the enemy (and by this I mean satan, who is present upon the Earth and seeking in every way possible to turn people away from the Truth - before we even begin to talk about the violence and poverty and oppression and disease and evil in this world for which he is responsible) should seek to bring me to an early death - he has hated with a PASSION that I came to know the Lord! I am the only one, who, when the time comes, will visit each member of my family - and there are many nephews and nieces, and grand-nephews and grand-nieces, apart from my own brothers and sisters - and give my testimony to them. It may be that none of them will listen, but at least they will have heard - if they allow me across their doorsteps - at least they will have had the Word spoken to them. After that, it will be up to them. After that, they will decide their own fate.

Enough! I have given such an intro to this...but perhaps the intro is actually the main act!


I was born on Sunday March 5th. 1950 at around 8:30 in the evening
at 42 Woodfield Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham. My full name is
Laurence Maxwell Thomas, and I was the sixth and last child of my
parents Kitty and Melville Thomas. My elder siblings were, in order of age, Valerie, Raymond, Shirley, Colin, and Christine. Shirley committed suicide in 1969.

The most significant aspects of my arrival in this world were:
1. I was an accident (this was never hidden from me).
2. Kitty had only ever wanted one child, and with my arrival (she was 46), she really couldn’t cope. She effectively passed on the responsibility of my upbringing to my father. It was to be some years until she could love me as her own son.

Now, Melville tried hard, but he was very proud of me as his last-born, and the nature of his personality was such that the only way he could express his love to me (or anyone else, for that matter) was to buy things for me. Many of my siblings were around for the first six or seven years of my life, and they loved me very much as this new and very late arrival – as I was. And so I was very spoiled, but not given enough love and affection of the type that all young children need and crave for from both of their parents (though as a young child, I didn’t know this at the time).

There were a couple called Ronald and Vera Wills, who were very close friends of my parents throughout my early years. They were humanists, and my parents also referred to themselves as humanists. Their influence on my upbringing was highly significant. Because of them, I was circumcised (God knows why); tested for my intelligence; taken out of state school and sent to private school; and eventually sent to boarding school. It wasn’t that I was brighter than any of my siblings. It was just that I had arrived shortly before my father’s business began making rather a lot of money. And the Wills felt, very strongly, that I ought to go to a boarding school in order to avoid the risk that I might continue to be spoiled. In 1957, we moved from rather-down-market Kings Heath to a very nice house in Kings Norton, with a huge garden and a lake at the bottom of it. My parents became middle-class, virtually overnight, and they were enabled to afford to do all these things. The most ironic thing about these humanists (my parents) sending their last-born to a private school was that it was here that I was exposed, for the first time in my life, to Christianity. And given the circumstances of my upbringing thus far, it was not surprising that I should, for a few years at least, find some solace in prayer and some sort of faith in someone who loved me, even though I couldn’t see them.

However, by my early teens, Melville had done a good job in inculcating me with his politics and his views on religion. (He had been a member of the “League of Militant Atheists” during the 40’s. They used to produce monthly pamphlets trashing the Bible) So by the time I went to Bromsgrove School at the age of 13/14, I was proud to be the only atheist in my year group, and the only boy in my year group who refused to be confirmed. Despite the irritation of some teachers about my stance, I still became Head of my House and Deputy Head of School. And I was the first in the school’s history, as far as I know, who refused to cane younger boys (as would normally have been my duty).

Melville’s world view was closely intertwined with his politics. The planet and all that is in it and on it was an “accident of nature,” and the only hope for the human race in terms of putting an end to war and poverty and disease and oppression was for the working classes to rise up and take hold of what is theirs by right. This is basically Marxism, and I embraced this philosophy for most of my teenage years, and on into my early 20’s.

I left Bromsgrove in 1968, at the age of 18, having been persuaded to stay on for a third year in the 6th. form to attempt entry to Cambridge to study Mathematics. Although I performed very well in two of the entrance exams for Cambridge, my results in the other two were appalling, so I ended up going to Sussex University – described by the author John Braine as a “communist hotbed” at the time (what could have been better?!) to study Physics and Mathematics.

So here I was, straight out of public school, living in an old dilapidated hotel on the seafront in Brighton: a dope dealer in the room next to mine; Hendrix and the Doors playing at all hours; beautiful young women in my face all the time (no girls at Bromsgrove!); Pink Floyd, the Who, Jethro Tull, the Nice and many others regularly playing at the University (or in Brighton); and this was perhaps one of the most active periods in student politics of the whole era.

Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, and politics! What more could an inexperienced, rather immature teenager want? It still amazes me that I managed to scrape a degree, but I know it was only because of my final year dissertation – “The Development of Science and Technology since the Greeks,” which was actually a pure delight to write – that they awarded me my 3rd. Class Honours Degree in Physics (with Mathematics) in 1971.

But one major event that took place at Sussex was to change the course of my life. I fell in love. (Well, maybe it was infatuation, but it felt very serious at the time). I took me 6 months to woo her (her name was Jenny); we went out for about 6 months; and then she went back to her former boyfriend during the summer holidays that followed my last term at University. I was devastated.

By August 1971, I was back at home, without a job (or any idea of what I was going to do), and becoming seriously depressed as a consequence of my complete inability to cope with the loss of someone that I had assumed, naively, that I would spend the rest of my life with. I was emotionally very immature, and my heart had been broken for the first time in my life. By October I was in a state of clinical depression, and, following an attempt to kill myself in the same fashion that Shirley, my middle sister, had just two years before, I was persuaded by Mary Rayner – our family doctor at the time – to get myself admitted to Ward North 5A, the psychiatric unit, in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Now, the times and dates of events that took place over the next two years are quite fuzzy in my mind, but the sequence is approximately right. I was obviously put onto some regime of anti-depressants, and when this didn’t have any significant effect, I was made to undergo Electro Convulsive Therapy (Yes, OK, I signed a piece of paper to authorise them to do it. Things were desperate). Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. You would know the moment you woke up from the anaesthetic (it was definitely the ECT that messed up my memory over these two years).

Let me, just briefly, try to describe the feelings that I had at this time that were at the heart of my depression. Because of my subsumed philosophy on life (as given to me by Melville), I perceived that the whole purpose and existence of the human species – and that included me – was random and uncontrolled. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I felt worthless. Finding oneself worthless in a random and uncontrolled world is not an easy condition in which to live. I felt pointless, even ashamed of my very existence. The only way out was to kill myself, and if there happened to be anything at all after human death, well, it had to be better than human life. I really wanted to do this. Neither of my suicide attempts were cries for help. (The other is yet to come!)

But, I recovered. (Maybe one day I’ll write about the psychiatrists that I saw, one of whom I felt at the time should never, ever, have any contact with any member of the human race again!) And within a relatively short time, I got my first teaching job at a school in Tipton, in the heart of the “Black Country” in the West Midlands. I was still very heavily into politics at the time – a member of the International Socialists – and also still into taking quite a lot of drugs (mainly cannabis and occasionally LSD). I was in my first proper job, very active in local politics – and I don’t just mean teachers’ union stuff – and enjoying a very busy social life between Tipton and Birmingham. In my often frenetic activity, I finally went over the top, quite possibly because of this one, large dosage of hallucinogens one weekend, and over a period of a few weeks, I became hyperactive, manic, paranoid….and, eventually, completely exhausted and quite mad.

I didn’t complete my second term in Tipton, but found myself back on the psychiatric ward taking very different medication from the last time. This was a different type of mental illness, though I suspect that the staff at the hospital had diagnosed my condition as one exhibiting all the standard symptoms of manic depression. After a few months, I got so fed up with the side-effects of the medication that I decided to get out of the hospital, and because one of the staff nurses – a Christian who I really disliked – kept telling me that they only needed two signatures to get me “sectioned” (legally detained), I decided to get out of the country as well. So, I emptied my bank account and took a train to Milan (The previous year I’d met a certain Francesca while hitch-hiking back from North Africa, following the final, cataclysmic split with Jenny in Algiers, where her father was the British Ambassador). I stayed for three or four months doing a bit of part-time work, whilst making my first attempts at song-writing. I had a good time there. I was probably as “normal” as any of the people I met there (some of them were quite strange), but eventually I came back, only to find myself in almost the same situation as at the end of my time at University. No job, no idea what to do, nowhere to live except the family home (the new house by now, built at the top of the garden adjacent to the original house, and backing onto the same lake), and soon, no self-esteem AGAIN. So… another suicide attempt, and my third admission to North 5A. More medication, more ECT.

But during this period I began to get involved with Lol, whom I had known since we were 14, and the other founder members of what was to become City Boy. Looking back, this outlet for my potential creativity was the beginnings of my healing.

So, again, I recovered, got my second teaching job at the Maypole School, Druids’ Heath, and after four terms, at the end of 1975, along with the other members of the now expanded City Boy, I gave in my notice, and signed on in the hope that our newly found manager would get us a record deal, which he did, before the end of 1976. I swore that I would never teach again. And then after a brief period of being on the dole, which came to an end around the beginning of 1977, I swore that I would never sign on again.

The next four years were fantastic. It was such a privilege to be able to make one’s living from writing, recording and performing music, and each one of us was very aware of how lucky we were. In July 1978, our first hit “5705” reached the Top Ten, and with an imminent four month tour of the States, we were ready to “conquer the world” (management hope).

Sheryl and I had met in 1977, and when in late 1978 our management told us that we should prepare for a tax-free year out of the country from March 1979, we decided that we were not going to be able to live without each other for such a long period, and so we got married. Kitty had spotted that we were very close, and she had questioned us about how we would bring up a child, should we ever decide to have one. As soon as we got married – perhaps even before – we said: “yes, let’s do it!” Sheryl fell pregnant within the first week of our marriage, and Simon James was born, five weeks premature, in New York State in late August 1979. Unknown to us at that time, we were just a few months away from a split in the band that would lead ultimately to its end two and a half years later.

City Boy got to the top of division one, but never quite made the Premier league (I’m not into football, but most people can understand this analogy perfectly!). We made seven albums during the period 1976-1982, toured all over the USA, Canada, Scandinavia and parts of Europe, and each of us contributed towards a catalogue of material of which we remain proud.

I won’t go into the demise of the band – a variety of significant events took place over the last two years which resulted in the inevitable taking place in August 1982. The contracts ran out, and then the money ran out. My career in music was over. I was a broken man – again. (But, this time, a bit tougher). I think I did become rather depressed, but…. needs must, and with a family (Robin Mark was born in late September that same year) and a mortgage, I couldn’t hang around feeling sorry for myself. I had also grown up somewhat over the previous ten years. On a day in June 1983, I registered my availability to do supply teaching with Birmingham Education Authority, and the very next day I was back doing what I had resolved, at the end of 1974, never to do again.
(In the intervening period between the band’s demise and my return to teaching, I’d also had to sign on again! Never say never – you’ll probably live to regret it!)

The next major thing that was to happen in my life would be more dramatic than all the rest put together.

In September 1984, having spent 12 years pursuing…let’s call it “The Truth,” my simple childhood faith was re-discovered, and, with much joy, I turned my back on all the weird things that I had been researching for the previous ten years or so, bought into the Christian Faith, gave my heart to Jesus Christ, and became “born-again.”

Now, it is at this point that I must try to explain how I view all that I have written so far from the perspective of the self-awareness and maturity that I now have at the age of 51. Doubtless, any psychologist, psychiatrist or even amateur counsellor could easily dismiss my “discovery of Christ” as predictable, in terms of my upbringing, and my obvious need, as the individual Laurence Maxwell Thomas, to have some reason to live, as well as some purpose in my life. So be it, but I have a rather different perspective.

The personality of my father, which, as I said earlier, I effectively subsumed during my teens and early 20’s was simply NOT me. The only way that I could break that yoke was for my personality to disintegrate. This is what I believe “nervous breakdown” is all about: when someone’s outer personality (persona) is at variance with their inner psyche, something has to change. My mental illness(es) enabled me to dispense with that mantle of materialism that my father had put on me during all those years earlier. As I developed my creative skills in song-writing, I found a purpose for my life (and therefore self-esteem), but, further to that, having “owned up” to myself that I was actually a fairly spiritual person (or spiritually needy person), I found myself, during the City Boy years, embarking upon a journey of discovery about: astrology, Taoism, Buddhism, palmistry, Tarot and so on, never being convinced that any of them contained the WHOLE truth, but for many years, certain that some pick-and-mix of all or some of them would ultimately lead me closer to the “The Truth.”

Until 1984…when I gave my heart to Christ. It was no “road-to-Damascus” type conversion. A 19-year old drummer, whom I had known for a couple of years – and who had gone through an extraordinary transformation since I had known him – merely suggested, in short, that there could surely be only ONE Truth, and that Jesus Christ was it – the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And I have never looked back, save only to gain, as each year goes past, a greater insight into my own and others’ past behaviour in and around my life.

My faith has grown significantly since 1984, and especially over the last two years.

[I heard a tape of a highly-esteemed preacher some years ago. He was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, and who would be there. He said that there would be two big surprises for most people who found themselves there. The first would be the presence of many people that they would not have expected to see. The second would be the absence of many that they would have expected to see.

He went on to illustrate this by telling the story of the American Baptist Minister who was sent, somewhat reluctantly, to Germany at the end of the last war to spend time with the remainder of Hitler’s Chiefs of Staff, until their executions at the conclusion of the Nuremberg trials. Out of something like 20 men, many of whom had been directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds and thousands of people, all but four repented of their sins, and gave their hearts to Christ, prior to their executions. This Baptist Minister, whom the speaker on the tape had met, asserted confidently that the majority of these men had attained forgiveness through Christ, and would go on to live in eternal life.]

That which is written above represents a brief account of my coming to know Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. This will doubtless be expanded on in the future, as I know that personal testimonies of this nature can be extremely effective in leading others to know the Lord.

May God bless you who have read this document the whole way through.
Love in Him ( I hope some of you who have found this "signing off" rather irritating will understand why I do it!)
I say again - Love in Him,

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Post by Jonas » Sun Jul 01, 2007 11:38 am

It take a lot of courage and selfawareness to write about your life in such an honest way. thanks for letting us share it.

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Post by Laurelei » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:14 pm

Hi Max,

I can’t tell you how moved I am by your testimony, and by how burdened your heart is for all of us here on this site. Thank you for being willing to share such an intimate and honest glimpse into your life. Where you wrote, “With much joy, I turned my back on all the weird things that I had been researching for the previous ten years or so, bought into the Christian Faith, gave my heart to Jesus Christ, and became ‘born-again.’” I just felt like crying. “With much joy”; that’s it, isn’t it? I can ‘hear’ your relief and peace in that simple statement.

It’s always amazing and wonderful for me to hear about the journey other Christians have taken to bring them to faith. Hearing about the twists and turns in a lifetime, the high points and the lows, that seemed so random and unexplainable come to have new meaning and significance when we realize that they were meant as guideposts.

I don’t know how to say all the things I want to say about the guideposts God used to show me the way. I think of some of the things that happened before I was saved that brought me to where I was ready to give up my resistance and embrace Jesus as Lord. A sister who never stopped praying for my salvation; my being made to attend church youth group even thought my parents never attended church themselves; a disastrous and abusive first marriage (which actually toughened me up and gave me strength and focus I had never had before); a daughter miraculously born against all odds (I was told I had miscarried, but God gave me total assurance she was still there and alive and to keep fighting for her. She went 10 weeks with me not producing any progesterone and it’s medically impossible, except for God having sustained her, that she ever could have survived the pregnancy.)

Those, and other things all led up to the day I cried out to Him that I needed a sign and He, within hours, miraculously provided the exact sign I has so boldly suggested. It all is clear in retrospect that He was calling me, like He calls out to all of us to come to Him.

Max, thanks again for your willingness to share your testimony with us all.

In Him,
Jo Ann
Last edited by Laurelei on Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Too damn hard...

man who ate his car
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Post by man who ate his car » Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:10 am

Greetings Max,

Thanks for sharing your testimony with us, it is interesting to read your life story. Thanks also for taking time to talk with us on the CB board. It's always nice to hear from one of the lads from the band.

I've also been going through a difficult period in my life. My mother passed away recently from pancreatic cancer, she was 81. Along with grieving over losing her, it's frustrating because there apparently wasn't much the doctors could do to save her. From the time I was born, my mother always wanted to do things for me that made me happy and made life a little easier. So when her time of need came, I wanted so much to be able to help her and have her get well, but the disease had progressed to the point where it was fatal. It's been hard to come to terms with it, hard to accept it, I just wish something could have been done to cure her and make her well again.

My mom had been in declining health over the last couple years, she was also being treated for diabetes. For reasons which I'll never really know, my mom chose to keep her health issues mainly to herself, she didn't like to discuss it much. She was always reluctant to visit the doctor, choosing to remain home and have medication prescribed for whatever was troubling her. So all these things didn't make the situation any easier. I don't even know for sure if she was aware her condition was as serious as it was. She had been complaining of pain and general weakness, but always tried to sound upbeat and positive whenever I spoke with her. The last good day we spent together was Easter Sunday, my girlfriend and I made Easter dinner and the three of us celebrated the holiday together. Around the middle of April, Mom's condition deteriorated to the point where we had to admit her to the hospital. A few days later, the diagnosis was given and the decision was made to administer comfort care treatment and medication for pain. When the doctors informed me of the bad news, I made the decision not to tell my mom she had a terminal condition unless she asked me specifically what was wrong. I didn't want to upset her further and risk making her feel more uncomfortable than she already was. She never asked me, and I'll always wonder if I did the right thing by sparing her the bad news. She probably knew something was seriously wrong, I just tried to do what I thought was best and made sure the proper care measures were given. After mom was in the hospital a few days, her condition weakened and it became increasingly difficult for her to speak and communicate properly. Mom passed away on April 28, about 10 days after she was first admitted to the hospital. It was an agonizing experience, but I'm glad her suffering in the hospital didn't last too long as she was bedridden with her condition and no longer had the quality of life she wanted to have. I miss my mother a lot, but I'm trying to keep strong and carry on. I keep her in my heart and there are a lot of good memories of the times we shared.

Sorry to ramble on like this, I guess I want to end this by saying- Always be kind to your loved ones and never take them for granted because you never know when the good lord will decide it's time to call them home and welcome them into his arms. Enjoy and cherish every minute, look forward and don't look back, try not to have any regrets and always remember the good times.

Last edited by man who ate his car on Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Munched his way to a million hearts as he ate the tires and the spare parts.

Max Thomas
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Post by Max Thomas » Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:37 pm

Dear All,

Finally I am getting round to reply to those of you who have posted responses to my testimony. Let me take them in order…
Thank you for your comments, Jonas.
Right on, Jo Ann – even the little you wrote tells a very big story…
While I remember: “Exit the Heavyweight” Yes, good song – if I say so myself! – and excellent lyrics. I don’t think Lol wrote it about anyone in particular….
Back in the early 70’s – which were sort of effectively the 60’s, if you know what I mean – there were so many people around who were really into getting wasted most of the time. Dope, hallucinogens and alcohol were constituents of their daily diet. You could almost see them deteriorating in front of your very eyes, getting old before their time, but proud of their getting stoned, and proud of their “resilience” to the damage that they were unable to see that they were doing to themselves. Some of them would talk of getting a place together in Wales, for example, where they would become self-sufficient, growing their own food and, of course, their own dope. Nothing would ever become of such ambitions, as it would all be put off till tomorrow, as long as there was plenty of stuff around to make them lethargic and completely unproductive….and then one might bump into someone, years later, dressed slightly smartly in order to hold down the awful boring job that they ended up having to get in order to survive. But however hard they tried, you could always tell how sad they were. And gone were those days of endless parties…you get the picture? A tearaway? Yeah, someone who just does everything to the extreme, as described above.

Yes, Jo Ann, I did some of the Pharisees’ vocals. I’m sure if you listen hard enough, you can hear my voice – it’s quite piercing!

Lee, your contribution to the “Testimony” topic was very moving, and I feel privileged that you should share that information with us. I’m sure you miss your mother very much, and it must have been hard to think about her last few months, but I just want to thank you for writing what you did. You were really a most loving and dutiful son, and you should be proud of yourself for the way that you looked after her at the end of her life. When I think of how so many people treat their parents nowadays, and treat older people generally, well….may God bless you for what you did for her.

City Boy was originally called “Back-in-the-Band” (I’m sure I’ve written this somewhere before) Yes, the record company was not impressed, so we “brainstormed” for a few days, and I recall that Steve came up with “City Boy” as we all came from Birmingham anyway!

Will post this now, as it’s well overdue.
Come on, you guys, let’s have some lively discussion from those of you who haven’t posted here yet. As I say, you can say what you want….bring it on!!!!

Love to you all, and in Jesus Christ,

man who ate his car
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Post by man who ate his car » Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:04 am

Hello Max,

Thanks for your response, knowing that you are a spiritual person I thought I'd share with you what happened with my mom. Your kind words are a source of comfort for me, I miss my mom and think of her every day. I just wish something could have been done to save her. It's been a tough time. I know each life has a beginning and an end, I'm grateful that I was able to be there for my mom up until the end. I feel bad for people who lose a loved one suddenly due to a tragedy or other circumstance. It's hard for those people to accept it and have any sense of closure, a situation like that is worse than what I've gone through.

I agree with you that the early 70's (1970 & 71) were basically a continuance of the mid/late 60's. It wasn't until 1972 when things began to change and the 70's started to take shape of the decade it would eventually become. Disco came along and tarnished the image of the decade, but overall it was a great time with lots of fond memories.

Always a pleasure, it's great to have you on the CB board.

Last edited by man who ate his car on Thu Aug 16, 2007 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
Munched his way to a million hearts as he ate the tires and the spare parts.

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