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Why. I'm Stuart Roach general manager of Kiev GZ have been most Altos Hills California in the spring of 1969 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gave our station a grant to produce a series of radio programs which would explore the attitudes the feelings the values that an ordinary group of local citizens. We chose for a subject the residents of the single block. Interestingly enough called America St.. Naturally we
were intrigued. Who are the people who lived on America's streets are they a cross-section of America. They make a good sample for our opinion poll. So with portable tape recorder in hand we set out with a list of questions which we hope would elicit some honest and direct answers. Now with me is Jeff Osbourne and Rob Wheeler who did most of the legwork. Jeff what was it like being on a door to door search for what is on people's minds today. But I'm going to be candid about this and say that it got a lot of dollars in the face. Most people are paranoid today. They're scared to death that whoever is the door is either a salesman or a career. I don't know which you know rob you of at this point I don't know if they think there are murders. I think that when I was listening to one radio station they were talking about
their man for the Better Business Bureau and he said you can always tell some salesman by the pitch that using one is one of the pitches they use is the old I'm taking a survey routine and we found I think a lot of people thought we were salesmen and also I think we found people who might not have thought we were salesmen a bit distant want to talk to us I think I have to go watch every person and not a lot of people who did not want to talk like who were very hesitant and completely closed mouth and I was very discouraged at the beginning there why was this we seem to be living in an age when people are opening up speaking their mind. Well are these just a minority groups who might think him. Well I feel as I feel that he did this minority groups or people who are really concerned that are speaking up. I don't think you'll find your average American speaking up because we want to average America in many places and we didn't find people
very eager to talk. And one area I think we went to what 30 houses you know one and we get one or two out of those 30. Well here I have a list of the questions that you took with you and I'm sure and the other tapes that we've heard. There's been quite a bit of material as you get out of bed addressing ourselves to some of these topics. What kind of response did you get for instance from your subject religion. Now you ask such questions as is God. When you think about the question of contraception How do people respond to your queries on religion. Well that was one of the I think that I think a harder question on a harder maybe but it seemed like I
was walking more on eggshells with that when he was with others. Except for one family that if I would say most of them did not feel it of course I'm assuming some of this. I think you've got that a lot of people were fairly religious if not practicing it. If you know what I mean here you have an area called TV and movies and you have several items under that category. Any interesting feelings from such questions as the violence and the sex that we see in a mass medium. To me it was the most interesting most people seem to relate to TV where they didn't relate to civil rights you take a middle class or class people living in trousers and they cannot really discipline rise you cannot read relate to police harassment. But TV thinking when strong winds.
Yeah I think in some cases you did find people who were very opinionated on the race problem as far as middle class people were but. It was not as extensive as it says just where they felt that they could criticize and open up. Oh you know but of course I usually started with the TV section because it's what everybody has and what everybody can identify with. But I ran into some problems in some places where you know people didn't watch TV. I think mostly with the more affluent areas where they did not watch your also watched something like Channel 9 you know educational and in some cases all of that I think emotions were very mixed on you know whether there's too much violence in that sort of thing. So it was hard to pinpoint I don't think it can make a generalization because of that. They were all different especially in America street they're all different.
It's one thing we found I think more anything else as we said let's get Mr. average American to grow up more and I was doing it wrong and it was great it was good average Americans point out that in every house we do that's not really average American. And we found out that everybody's an individual and really it's really hard to stereotype. We thought we'd take a cross-section and we still say we really don't have a true cross-section. That's really hard to find you know just to the average person. They've all got something that makes me different in some cases you could guess what their reaction would be. For instance the white to the white Texan he was more conservative toward his views especially on the religion and he felt for example that you should know it. I asked him if the churches were doing enough as far as civil rights and birth control should that take a stronger voice and he felt that the church had no part in that that they should just preach the Bible. That was it not just preach the Bible they like to hear a good sermon from the Bible.
And so when he said that I could tell what his reaction was going to be from the TVs or the movie section TV and movies and I said Which would you rather have your child see a brutal violent fight scene or an explicit sex scene if you can't do that yeah the sex scene might be more detrimental. Whereas in the middle class of the middle class areas you'd find more people who are who are pretty convinced that the violent scenes were worth far. Far too many violent scenes were depicted on TV and that six things were not as bad for the child. One because it in understand them and two because they were not exposed to as much on TV as they were in movies. You have a couple of questions along the same lines.
Just going down some of the headings crime and police gear and guns. The army from the answers you got to these questions can you. Can you generalize about the way people feel at the moment are they seeking peace and quiet and harmony or are they are they ready to to continue a violent course. I don't think Well as far as Vietnam when I felt that I don't know I'm guessing but I would say most people were kind of tired of the Vietnam war and not all felt that it was a mistake to be there but I think a number of them were for the questioning of the morality or the or the or the you know just sort of the reason for being there.
As far as peace and quiet goes I don't know I think they do not feel that very few people felt that the United States was going to decline sort of. I asked the question do you think that the rising crime statistics indicate the United States is going downhill or result in the societal decline so to speak and I think a lot of people didn't feel this way. They didn't think that this was a index except for a few people I think to the big Think again about I think they're all in their on going to the tribunals from the day when your own world and I think very rarely in the market maybe it's a gold watch that are there and they do or not. Man has one job which he relates with people of his area in their words as if he's a draftsman or he's a lawyer where he is the only religious using the people like that
and how much to get to know with a gas station and I think someone here could relate. You know as far as neighbors in the lower class and upper class they can only relate with people they knew and therefore they were exciting and declined. Most in middle and upper class looking around the world and he says it's fine for us we're doing fine you know and I think statistics show that life is getting better for the middle and upper class every day. The lower class is getting harder every day. But I think you know in the middle of a class when you're getting your pay raises then you're you're living better than every than you did 10 years ago. Well what I had in mind was that people who are outside of this country look upon the United States and people here in light of what's happening in Iowa. Western nation our leaders are being murdered and we are gauged in a very cruel and bitter war.
And they said that you know it's days there's a violent life is lived by a violent cold. There's a judge and all that but you know yeah we asked him you know how are you. Because we hear very little about the Indian prejudices especially when we are similar. Do you feel that this was not even on the list we kind of came as we asked a question but on the order of prejudice and civil rights you know we are similar in that there's not enough being done for the Indians and things like it is in you you run into a lot of prejudice yourself and him he didn't feel especially prejudiced against being prejudiced against He had no feelings that he had been treated unfairly and I was going to surprise myself. We were expecting I guess to find. Why would your spokesman smothering hostile feeling.
And we didn't fight well if you didn't find and aggressive person and people that you interview what were their attitudes toward the aggressiveness the violence that we are faced with every morning that we open our newspaper every evening when we turn on the television set where they're ready to accept it as a normal course. But here again I think trying to make a generalization of his own opinions but I thought that not all of them were felt that there was just too much violence at Sundance and then it's really hard to say. On American street especially I think it was split some are saying well we are violent I mean that's that's life. One of the offending. Only if they were defending it was all in the context of television and the right to see
fight scenes on television. For some time now that's the only time the kind of help took the defensive side was when we said is it too much violence and they said no I don't think so it hasn't you know I I grew up playing guns and cowboys and Indians and it in effect me so my kid watches it it's all right now I think we found also that Mr. average American doesn't carry a placard and he doesn't make emotional reason for it. In general you know he shoots well like I just said I don't think we found the average American yet I think the average American we found was the one who said no my husband really tight when he gets home from work and we're just too busy thank you. And that was it would be nice to get their opinions but I don't think we'll ever get them. I was extremely depressing and I went home with as I was trying to arrange a couple of calls especially and Jeff was telling me the same thing you know we have an average American here are these people who don't want to talk to us they're the average Americans are the ones who who also
vote and and and and many times don't vote. And so I was saying oh Jafo you know I think it's going alright. You know I think we can find people and then I went and made a couple of calls and ran into the very same thing. I had a woman almost talked into letting us come into her home and then I said well let's talk it over with your husband. She talked about with her husband I called her back about 20 minutes later after spending about 10 15 minutes with her and he was saying no. I said Are you interested. And he said no I'm not I'm just too busy and I said Well could I interest your wife and he held the thing over the phone his hand over the phone and I could hear mumble some words and it came back on the phone and said Now she's not too interested. Thank you I don't make a bye and I was really kind of out there and I was just I was really ticked that I don't know why.
Why are people looking to give them. Well you sort of fear I think well I want my mother to have one opinion saying that and I can see it that people who are in the struggle of just living or just think of the existence of living many times are too busy and too concerned with their own problems. Really think about it because otherwise you know they're too busy making money. I mean you know getting by killing their kids feeding of hopefully getting their next pay raise that they don't want to be bothered. But their own struggle is just you know taking precedence and they haven't got time. Do you think they're without opinion. I frankly have opinion. Again I think it's pretty hard to say. I mean I think it would be great if I just said you got to get in there on a different level each person's education which I think if you're like educated was certainly well you know depth what you think about our civil rights are going to work. It will still be the same intensity
maybe as somebody who's really up on it but because you have less background attached to this education about the subject you're going to you're going to find they can talk we're just long as a guy in the Ph.D. program repeating themselves a lot and they'll be listed up there. Also I think they all have opinions also that they are not as open minded as someone who's you know been in contact more with other opinions other ratings wouldn't they be interested in testing their opinions. Thank you as someone else's. I don't think so I think I'm frightened. I don't think you want to be a challenge like that. I don't think you know I think also the brain the tape recorder put it down on tape you know that's kind of like a commitment. You know I said it and it's on their own like the other hand everyone seems to be drawn by a microphone Not necessarily no more no. I fact that well just when I went home for the lady said you know you're going to put this down on tape and
in some cases I mean the same thing and I guy would say oh what did I make it clear in the in the in the little brochure that we would visit radio program hopefully and we want to put it down a tape and some of them went well OK. And they decided to the fact that we were going to prevent it but they're not eager to get on tape. And Gloria being on a radio program did not growl anybody I think if anything it was I think the people that were willing to help were kind of sympathetic to us its coverage people and said well help them out you know because I was a college student once myself and I know this struggle in a way. But as far as you know wanting to be on tape and you know one fair way in. Kind of engineering. Yeah. One family in after Tim was this me I was self-employed and he was a I think a broker of some kind. He was very you know worried
what he was you know he was very concerned as to that there were no names to be used no addresses to be given and he did not want to mention at all the fact he was the first one that I really ran into a problem with you know on the tape. I would sell them of course it would not it would well be edited no names would be used. But I would sometimes use your name on the tape. I talk to them and instead of saying hey you might say for example of Mr. Rove or other what do you think of this. The source I said that to him mention his name. He went I think you're going to I think I don't think you're going to mention names. So I had to use sir and ma'am when referring to the husband wife and he wrote on the little release that we have you know that it was not going to be there's going to be completely anonymous and everything and he wanted a copy so I want to keep the original and he Xerox it and mail me the next one the next day he was very concerned about that I guess I think people with him were pristine Filip want to
lose you know for his you know kind of arrangement. Guy you know he just said What's this for because of course he's concerned with signing something. Yeah he was concerned about that everybody should be but he was not concerned with you know so much with my name you know he signed it and said you know they took our word for it. The higher you went they were more concerned. But here we're going to question it. And with tape recorder microphone you're flying in the face of it. Are you saying that you feel people are hungering after more privacy instead of wanting to speak out become more vocal and having to think again. I don't know if they want to become more private but I think it's going to expand this and say that it's also their attitude
toward our world commitment deserves a feeling of isolationism creeping back into the scene. In some cases or what is and some of us and I think it is world today it's very hard to be a private citizen with private thoughts you know there's going to be a great hue and cry about wiretapping and about. You know investigating somebody before they get a job and and you know bugging their house with devices so I think people are always you know leery of. Being recorded being constantly probed and put under a microscope as far as isolationism goes I don't know. I really can say we were making it was really a point where people were together in their attitude or are we really
a country of so many divided opinions and fractured values and attitudes. First we just had a national election not too long ago. We have almost equally divided the House Senate and legislature. I don't think there was more than a couple of hundred thousand votes separating Nixon from Humphrey I don't think there was any one point where really great I really you know some Nobody agreed on the same fact I got families together people of a husband a wife especially toward middle class families where I was getting more man and woman together you know. Think they disagree quite often in fact I started a few fights and I'm proud to say they broke they did not they did not agree one family was opposed. Very much you know to each
opinions. And so I thought that was interesting I found that as we run American street a few are housewives who are willing to engage in this discussion with a letter. The husband the man take care usually And so I found I found one housewife willing to participate. Later on when I was getting into a more middle class time family in upper class too. But it was related to education in some ways yeah. Many housewives in there feel qualified you know or not qualified to answer that question. You don't want to hear me you know. They don't want to listen to me you know. They think you're going to listen to an expert and I think that when people say you know what they're going to do will always be two different things because I asked them later on I asked them what they thought or what they thought was one of the
biggest problems in the United States was watch out what I should have asked at the beginning of this whole survey thing. And they would say you know go on for responses and I think you get mostly internal problems. You know our own problems our own domestic problems here at home. But I always feel this that people may say air pollution is bad the civil rights problem is bad. DDT is bad. They may say that but they'll never do anything about it until until there's a disaster until there is something that comes in direct contact with them. Like for instance there may be a right in their neighborhood there maybe baby boomers are going to be a smaller disaster like there was in London or something that people are not going to take action unless they're directly affected unless they can see the people dying there or the crying of people starving people are not going to do anything until they're directly affected. And that's the way they act and we see it well I think we ought to get
rid of the air pollution problem it's really bad. Say the baby project in terms of scope it was an example. Thank you people a lot of people said yeah we got to see the bay but very few people did anything no one sighted any any activity that they've engaged in that you might term altruism or charitable. One lady contacted Jeff made in on America Street was very active as far as she worked in the Pauline areas of her city as a she as a person who registers voters and she also worked for the United crusade I think a couple times and worked in her own area as a collector and things like that place friends out through a stick. Now through a stick of things you and i too many mention them and seem to be. I do if I didn't follow that up I meant that I didn't I didn't pursue that and said What were you doing when you
were a college kid or when you were my age whether you were in college or not but one of the pictures seems to be emerging here is a very depressing people are withdrawing into shells interested in their own so I think there I think a lot of people are are. I don't expect him to do a 180 degree turn and thank you very sometimes but I was depressed because people had no opinions and the first step in any order of changing things is to talk about the problem and we ran into a couple of houses where people are going. Now there's too much talk and not enough action. I got that when I get those cans on the campuses and throw them out there. Now I don't want to talk to you too much talking going on we need action. I have other leaves that said don't said the man from New York but you do the math in your craw Yeah. As I just pointed to the other side of the
river. Unfortunately we did not get it on tape as we did some of these other responses of of No thank you I don't want any. I'm going to the door and knocked on the door and said Hi I'm Jeff I was born from KABC we're conducting a public opinion survey and we'd like to get some opinions of various neighborhoods and people do you think you'd like to produce Spitzer and the guy who's looking around obviously struggling to me was looking for an excuse a way out he was really stuck looking for an excuse and finally went up and said I want you seem you know well you see I'm from New York. That was it. I'm from New York. That's an excuse entirely as it was and I talked with as I chit chatted with people after we take and they were saying now people are not going you know he's one man in one of the city said you know when you came here I was I was going to dead set against you you know giving of my evening to you. And say well I've got to do this for this kid and I'm you know I'm
missing reading a book or are looking at TV. But once we got going I was interested and it was a lot of fun. Many a number of people said this has been a lot of fun and it's been very thought provoking. And I was always heartened by that and encouraged what they were saying how you their first impression was oh gee I've got to give up my evening you know. And I think that's why a lot of people did not want to do that you know. But there were times when we were distressed you know just told me to go on a trial run you know take go a few blocks from America street and pick up a few families you know. I mean he would be that hard. And I spent a half an hour going to different houses him and I want to after another man were sitting on their duffs watching TV with the kiddies. And I come to the door and they I tell them what I was doing and they'd smile at me and say No I'm not interested or no I'm too busy and you know back in my mind to go watch your back go back watch TV or snap open a can of beers.
Yeah that's what got me to press one lady said she had no opinions. She said that she didn't think too much right. Thank you very much for joining us. I think it. Has been America Street USA one of a series of programs investigating what Americans think about America as it is today under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by Jeff Osborn at radio station in Los Altos California. Interviews were conducted by Robert Wheeler a ration and technical production by Bob Burke stresser the executive producer was Professor Stuart Rowe. This is the national educational radio network.
America Street, U.S.A.
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Our opinions on America Street
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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APA: America Street, U.S.A.; 9; Our opinions on America Street. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from