1971 was a year of conflict. Kevin took the year 1971 and made it in to a year of love. Winnie and Kevin went through many changes this year. Age fifteen is hard for anyone. One is not yet an adult, with driving privileges, but not a kid either. The world was also having a year of conflict. In January of 1972 two major oil spills took place in the U.S. in one week. Senator George McGovern announced that he would run for president. The Manson Trials took place.
The voting age was lowered to age 18. Amtrak started operations. The Pentagon Papers were released. Musician Jim Morrison died in Paris. In November, Vietnamzation began. More and more troops were being pulled out of Vietnam. These events, with the constant conflict and emotion brought upon Kevin by Winnie made 1971 a year of conflict.
In episode 56, Kevin runs for president of student council against Becky Slater. Similar to the Nixon campaign, Kevin thinks, "Never before in this campaign was there such an atmosphere of hatred." Kevin and Becky hate each other. Kevin, in the end, gives up the race, allowing Becky to win. In this episode Kevin learned that winning isn't the most important thing.
In episode 57, Kevin and Winnie break up. Kevin had become attracted to the new girl, Madeline. When Winnie learns of this, things between them will never be the same.
In episode 59, Kevin learns an important lesson about family and death. When Kevin's Aunt Rose dies, he is forced to deal with the issue of death. Kevin learns about family when talking to his Grandpa Arnold.
In episode 62, Kevin and his father are stuck together and must learn how to communicate. Kevin's one idol in former days was his father, but lately the two never seem to talk. The two get stuck in a dead end town, and Kevin earns some respect by changing the tire by him. Jack and Kevin finally relate to each other again by being thrown in to a situation.
In episode 63, Kevin is "cool" at school, but there are problems at home. His mother begins to look beyond her housewife and motherly duties and decides to look for a job. Unfortunately for Kevin, she finds a job at his junior high. Historically, more and more women during the seventies were leaving the home. This had a major impact on their children, as it did for Kevin. She eventually stops working at the school and things get back to normal for Kevin.
In episode 64, Kevin and Wayne fight over the room that Karen vacated when she left for college. This is a typical event in suburban America.
Episode 67 demonstrates the "self-made man" image created by Horatio Alger of Mr. Arnold. He has worked his way up the ladder at Norcom, his employer, and spends his weekend in suburban utopia: making repairs to the house. The Arnolds' visit to Karen's new house prompts an argument between Dad and Karen regarding her new boyfriend Michael. Values and ideals are at war between Karen and Jack, as the gap between these two generations in the sixties becomes increasingly obvious.
In episode 68, Kevin graduates from junior high, regrettably leaving friends behind. Paul is headed for a private school, and Winnie is transferring to a different school. This is a turning point for Kevin as his friends from childhood begin to fade away. He must enter the new realm of high school alone.
Episode 70 sees the Arnolds and the Pfeiffers going on a camping vacation. Kevin meets Cara. On the families' last night, Jack wants Kevin to stay for dinner but Kevin rebels and leaves to say goodbye to Cara.
In episode 71, Kevin attends his first day of high school, a major stepping stone in his passageway to growing up in America. Things began badly for Kevin: a pesky nerd trails him, a teacher hates him, and is humiliated by Wayne in front of the school. The trials of growing up seem to Kevin too much to bear.
In episode 72, Kevin dreams of upward mobility and looks to getting a better job than working at the hardware store. He looks into a job at the mall, where the social scene is hopping. He asks for a raise at the hardware store, looking for a good excuse to quit. He gets the raise but quits anyway. Kevin feels guilty, as the owner taught him many lessons about life and was very kind.
Episode 74 has Ricky Halsenbach, a friend of Kevin's, getting his driver's license. Kevin lies to break a date with Cindy to enjoy the freedom of "cruising" with the guys. The boys go to a takeout restaurant, looking for girls, but run into Cindy. In the end, Randy moons Kevin's parents from the car, embarrassing Kevin.
In episode 75, Wayne's girlfriend Sandy is perfect. Kevin doesn't understand why she is with such a jerk. Sandy proves to be a good influence on Wayne, as his grades improve. All the girls at school turn down Kevin, but later Sandy hits on Kevin behind Wayne's back. Sandy breaks up with Wayne, but Kevin cannot betray his brother.
In episode 77, Karen and Jack try to reconcile. It is Jack's birthday, a day he usually enjoys. Kevin can't find a good present, and decides to take the family to dinner. Karen and Michael show up, and they said all the wrong things. Fighting began as usual between Jack and Karen. Karen's present, a toolbox, gets rejected. Later, Karen returns to the house, and gives Jack a big hug-making him king for a day.
Suburban life is upended in episode 78 as Norma goes to college. The rest of the family gets frozen food. Winnie will not be around for Christmas vacation, as her family will be attending a Vietnam demonstration - precisely during the time that Vietnamization was occurring. Christmas went well anyway, as the family pulled together.
The year was full of conflict: politically, socially, and within the Arnold family. Kevin entered a new phase in American life, high school. His mother experienced dissatisfaction with the role of homemaker - a typical sentiment felt by American women at the time. The conflict between Jack and Karen escalated. The family was evolving, as was Kevin's changing life.
Pete Frankfort and Katy Pearce