Standin on your mamas porch
You told me it would last forever
Oh the way you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life
Bryan Adams — “Back in the Summer of 69″
When I finally find the time to write my book, I’m going to frequent the wireless cabana aside the beach sunny day after sunny day and muse about 1969.
What a year! 1969. The crowning point of the Sixties, of peace, love and happiness….and war, riots and assassinations.
On May, 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of Congress and put out a bold challenge to the American public.
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
A little more than eight years later, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, mission commander of Apollo 11, became the first man to set foot on the moon. The images of the lunar landing flickered across American television screens from coast to coast that hot summer Sunday.
“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind ” Armstrong proclaimed as he stepped off the landing module and onto the lunar surface
It happened. In 1969. Man on the moon.
Early on a Saturday morning that same weekend, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, the youngest of nine in the Kennedy family, was driving a car with Mary Jo Kopechne when he drove off a bridge near Chappaquiddick Island off Martha’s Vineyard. The Senator swam to safety, but Kopechne died in the car.
It happened. In 1969. Chappaquiddick On the same weekend that Armstrong set foot on the moon.
Ted Kennedy’s brother, President Kennedy, a man of vision, was assassinated in 1963, five years before his brother, Robert Kennedy met a similar fate.
Certainly, those were turbulent times. Malcolm X was killed in 1965; and then, in 1968, Martin Luther King was shot to death.
It was a time of racial disharmony, with riots in New York and Detroit and Los Angeles and hundreds of cities and towns across America.
In the third week of April, 1969, militant black students at Cornell University used force to take over a school building demanding a black studies program.
And later that year, in October, the Weathermen, a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, orchestrated the “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago.
Also in October, college students across the country marched as part of a protest against the Vietnam War. Some met with resistance.
It happened. In 1969. Radical times. Racial unrest. Riots. Peace marches.
And in New York that same October, the Mets completed their miracle season by beating the heavily-favored Orioles to win the World Series. After years of futility, baseball’s worst team throughout the Sixties was a totally unexpected champion.
It happened. In 1969. The Miracle Mets.
Earlier in the Sixties, February of 1964 to be exact, the Beatles arrived. The four young mopheads from England made their first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The British invasion had begun.
The next year, the Beatles toured the USA and played Shea Stadium.
Some five years later, in 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous Bed-in in Montreal.
And in the summer of 69, a tiny little town in upstate New York named Bethel hosted the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. Or just Woodstock. Three days of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music. A defining moment for rock and roll and the counter culture.
It happened. In 1969. Rock and roll. The counter culture. Woodstock.
In 1960, the American Football League kicked off it inaugural season, an alternative to the established NFL. Ridiculed at first, the AFL soon posed a financial challenge to the NFL, and the leagues eventually merged.
The first Super Bowl was played in 1967, and the Green Bay Packers throttled the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers won again the next season, and the Baltimore Colts were huge favorites over the New York Jets in Super Bowl III in Miami.
Yet the Jets, led by quarterback Joe Namath, upset the Colts and took one giant step for the AFL.
It happened. In 1969. Joe Namath. Woodstock. The Miracle Mets. The Weathermen. Chappaquiddick. Man on the moon.
Richard Nixon. Charles Manson. The My Lai massacre.
And so much more…..in 1969.