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Baby Boomer Chronicles (BBC): 1968
1968: The year all hell broke loose.
An American Family 1968- Yours Truly is the Taller Fellow Standing in the Rear
Those of us that were around and conscious remember this year as particularly tumultuous. January started out peaceful enough, I had my AM/FM squawk box, transistor radio, listening to music much of time. As the reality of my adolescence took hold, I spent considerable effort trying to find my head to replace the oozing zit that was on my shoulders. Adolescence was so unfair! My own theory of relativity developed much later said that when you are that young nothing ever happens soon enough, but when you get older the years seem to pass in the wink of an eye.
We had James Brown, talking about black pride, which brought on the new “Afro” hairdos. I had to convince my father to let me sport one instead of the old buzz cuts we always received when we went to the barber on previous occasions. There was energy of change in the air, the possibility that the convergence of all the movements, counter culture and civil rights would keep things on edge.
There was the first bomb; President Johnson had said that he would not seek re-election in the 1968 campaign. After all, the Vietnam War news was non stop and you had to be blind not to be aware of the protests going on around you. I wasn’t keen on its significance at the time; it was just odd that the president would go on TV to make such an announcement. Mom was smitten like a school girl in the presence of Robert Kennedy during the spring when he came to Denver. She was part of his election campaign and always talked about how robust and handsome he was with his sandy colored hair.
I was to be introduced to the free-enterprise system. I got my first paper route. You know how it is when you are a kid; you see the possibility of wealth beyond all dreams of avarice. I would not deny that I have always liked money. But on the other hand, who doesn’t? It turned out that I have to pay for the papers, get up at 5 am, fold them and stuff them in the cloth bag on the front of my bike. While riding, it was a fine art to balance all of those papers, throwing in them in such a way that they landed on the customer’s porch each time. I did this in all weather and figured out quickly that this was not going to be a walk in the park. I was introduced to the concept of profit and loss, and I was losing.
I had so many ‘deadbeats’ on my route, too many people with excuses as to why they could not pay the subscription each month I went to their homes to ‘collect’. In those days, it was only $1.75/a month. People either made a point not to be home or the grandmotherly types would invite me in for a piece of their cherry pie, saying that they were strapped but would pay next month. But, I got ‘chewed out’ more than once for throwing papers in flower gardens and such. The first month was a profit of $5.00 and did not seem to pay after all of the hard work, I did. But there was established a model that I could hang on to for the future.
The Unforgettable Events
On the evening NBC news broadcast with John Chancellor, I remember being informed on April 4, 1968 that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. I was in middle school, called Junior High back in those days. That was all everybody needed, the turmoil, riots and such did not touch Denver in any great degree as the minority population was relatively small.
On the evening of June 4, 1968, I heard a flash over my transistor radio. Robert Kennedy had been shot. Of course it goes without saying that Mums was heartbroken and prayed that he would pull through. On June 6th, we learned that had died of his wounds. We all, even I, during adolescence, could not think of anything more appropriate than Robert Kennedy taking up the mantle from his slain brother. His humanity was hard to conceal and he was the last real hope for someone who could speak the language and empathize with the less fortunate. I certainly was not a philosopher, but I recognized a great loss when I saw it.
The one show that stood out for me that debuted that year was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. With the turbulence all around us, it was nice to have a little fun. I never forget the episode where Richard Nixon, who at the time was running for President, said ‘sock it to me”
Of course, being just a kid, you went to the movies that your parents wanted you to see. There were three profound ones that got my attention.
2001, A Space Odyssey. I always loved the idea of space travel. This film was so realistic, and I was expecting nothing fake with wires and phony characters. It was a film that had profound implications, something not easily grasped by a middle-schooler. Seeing that film at the Cinerama the way it was meant to be seen was so stunning. I actually thought, at least my tummy felt, that I was out there with neither up nor down for orientation. This was the closest that I could get short of being there. Most important of all, that this was the near future, my future, and I was ecstatic. The fact that this vision never really came to fruition is among one of the biggest disappointments for me as a baby boomer. This is a great clip, enjoy!
2001, A Space Odyssey (1968) Docking Sequence
To watch and listen click here
Bonnie and Clyde: The family packed the car and went to the drive-in for this one. While the film was released in 1967, I did not get to see it until 1968. The film was a kaleidoscope of color and beauty. But I was a kid and loved the shooting sequences between the errant pair and the law enforcement that were after them. It was a beautiful as it was graphic. As a result of this film I became interested in the roster of roving gangsters that were engaged in these kinds of crimes during the 1930’s. I knew them all, Baby Face Nelson, Alvin Karpis, Ma Barker, and Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger. Their brief and violent careers reinforced the idea that crime did not pay. The film left you kind of sad that the pair did not deserve their fate. Of course, later, I found out that Clyde was, in reality, a sawed-off runt and Bonnie a mere gangster’s moll. Yes, they were glamorized for the film, but who in real life could keep up with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?
Wild in the Streets, a second feature sort of film, was most interesting. It told the story of a society taken over by adolescents. The prime character, Max Frost was running for president at 25 or so, challenging the ‘establishment’ idea of progress in reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 to leading a movement to bring the voting age down to 14 and putting everybody over 30 in ‘protective camps’, with their food and water laced with LSD. It was a psychedelic trip and quite the cult film, as determined later. Check it out sometime; it stars Hal Holbrook, Shelley Winters among other luminaries. This is pure 1968 and that was where we were…. Here is a promo clip for those of you that have no idea what I am talking about.
Wild in the Streets (1968) Promo Trailer
Bullitt, with Steve McQueen was among my first unsupervised and unaccompanied visit to the theatre. A crime drama that was action packed at the outset. Everybody knew that this film had some of the best auto chase sequences ever put upon film
My taste is individual and if you look at the top 100 songs of the year, I am sure that you, if you were around, will find your favorites. Here are a couple that stood out for me.
It was a personal thing, but I liked this song’s melody.
Pictures of Matchstick Men by Status Quo (1968)
I can think of no better song that defined the age and the mood we were all in....
Time Has Come Today by The Chambers Brothers (1968)
We could not bring the year to a close without mentioning the exploits of Apollo 8, the mission that took three men from the earth to an orbit just 60 miles above the lunar surface. This was the first occasion ever of men circumnavigating another world. I was following it all, with Orange Tang as the eternal sponsor. We were all treated to a televised view of what these men were looking upon just outside their spacecraft window. All this was going on during December, 1968. I was chomping at the bit for the anticipated lunar landing expected next year. But, in that December sheer poetry was recited by the astronauts here it was:
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."
Thank you all for visiting and sharing a bit of our life and times in the Baby Boomers Chronicles.