One month in 1969

This nation needs the passion and social commitment that marked the 1960s – maybe the most volatile, certainly the most inspiring decade of my lifetime.

With a level of selflessness and dedication not seen since, Americans supported those who fought and died in Vietnam, fought against that same war, fought and died for civil rights.

Our collective heart stood still for four days as we mourned a slain president who had promised to put an American on the moon by decade’s end.

In a few years, more assassinations caught our collective conscience.

By the ‘80s we had evolved into the “Me Generation,” a self-absorbed lot with runaway consumerism and a cultural and educational dumbing-down – a “don’t give a damn” attitude toward environmental issues, workers’ rights, education and integrity in government.

There was a flicker of hope in the early 70s when hard-hitting investigative reporters uncovered the Republican “ratf*cking” of Watergate – the flicker rose to a fiery crescendo and just as rapidly faded out.

A new century, a new millennium and an undoing of the struggle, an unraveling of the nation’s soul.

Looking back on this date in 1969, possibly the last great decade of my lifetime was winding down. A month of headlines mark, in a remarkable way, that it did not go quietly:

July 20: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the moon.

July 25: Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts pleads guilty to leaving the scene of the Chappaquiddick car accident which took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne

August 9 – 10: The Tate-LaBianca murders occur in California, the culmination of Charles Manson’s “Helter Skelter.”

August 16 – 18: In a muddy field near the village of Bethel, New York, 400,000 young people celebrate drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll at “Woodstock.”

August 17 – 18: Hurricane Camille, the second category 5 hurricane to hit the U.S., wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The same old timers who didn’t believe man had walked on the moon blamed this storm on the moon landing! (After riding out 160 mph winds at Monticello, Miss., the first news I got the next morning was “The Coast is gone.”)

August 20: Camille moves into the Atlantic and regains strength after crossing Mississippi, western Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. Torrential rains and flooding claimed more lives. Total damage: $1.5 billion, total dead: 248.

One month in 1969. One American decade that never let up.


This post originally appeared on my blog, “I See My Dreams” on 20 August 2007.


Frodo, King of Anticipation said...

Powerful stuff it was, but Frodo still tries to warble with Carole, ". . .these are, the good old days. . ."

by Michael Boh said...

Thanks BJ. I must admit that 1969 was not quiet in my life as well. A matter of fact, it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I was just a kid, but still a very rough growing up in New Orleans.

The moon landing was exciting and great, but unfortunately it was followed by Camille and the loss of my grandparents' two historic Gulf Coast homes - each beautiful and over 100 years old. They were very special to me even though I was a little kid.

In November of that horrible year, my father was murdered by a man fleeing police. For me, it was a very bad year. Sorry for being depressing. I just thought I would add my memories of 1969.

B.J. said...


Never apologize for sharing your memories; we all have good ones and bad ones. It’s good to share.

As Camille was taking dead aim for the Gulf Coast, I got word that my maternal grandfather, Poppa Timmons, had died in the Mississippi Delta. Within a few hours, we had no power or telephone and roads everywhere had downed trees. None of us could get to my grandmother for days. One cousin, who had lived with them, had been on vacation in Florida and was stuck in a shelter at USM’s gym in Hattiesburg.

As with you, the 60s for me ended personally and powerfully.


Tiny said...

Thanks BJ. You always keep us up to date on current events and big historic events. The world needs more people like you in the center of the World Stage.

In a sense, the 60s were wild and wacky. Tiny was receiving insurance from first husband's death and bought a house for her four children, and enrolled herself in Valdosta State College, preparing to keep that roof over their heads.

The Watergate building has been sold now and has a new name, but not a new history. Perhaps a new owner begins to make a new future. However that will not erase the past.

It seems "Me Generation's" Karma is running over their dogma. The economy is finally getting their attention. It doesn't look like this first decade of the 21st Century is going to end on a sweet note either. Will they finally step up and take responsability and stop blaming everyone else for their woes?

Perhaps the "throw away society" will begin to take care of our natural resources and help to heal Mother Earth so her resources can once again provide for her populace. This is the dawning of a new age, The Age of Aquarius...

Frodo, Tranquility Base Here said...

Frodo is back again, in order to share something he heard last night that puts a lot of things into their historical, technological perspective. For those with one, take a close look at the cellular telephone you carry around as if it were some sort of necessity. Do you know that it represents 64 Times the computing power of all the Mission Control Computers combined in July, 1969?
The world is different, and so are we.

B.J. said...

Wow, Frodo! I love trivia!

Did you know that Walter Cronkite wanted to be America’s “journalist in space” – a project that was scrubbed after the death of Christa McAulliffe?

From newscientist.com:

“On 2 December 1990, Toyohiro Akiyama, a journalist from Tokyo Broadcasting System, the largest television company in Japan, flew with two Soviet cosmonauts to the Mir space station where he lived for a week before returning to Earth. TBS paid the Soviet Union some $12 million for the trip, and Akiyama-San was the world's first broadcaster, first commercial passenger, and first NiHonJin (Japanese person) in space - each of these 'firsts' being historically significant.”

Did you know that in the 1800s some 300,000 made the arduous trek to settle the West? Only one-tenth of 1 percent of these pioneers were killed by Indians. The number one cause of death among them was “accidental gunshot wound.” Compliments of Jame Michener’s “Centennial.”

Infidel753 said...

July 25: Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts pleads guilty to leaving the scene of the Chappaquiddick car accident which took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne

One sign of a revival of idealism would have been this POS being voted out of the Senate. Fat chance.