1968-1970: A Remembrance of Things Past

At age 11 years old in late 1968 to late 1969, I was a hippie-hater. My parents of course encouraged this pro-Establishment nonsense, being Greatest Generation squares and all.

Around this time, we started playing a game called, “Boy or a Girl?” every time we saw a boy with long hair, who were starting to get more common at that time. I’m not sure who started the game, my parents or my brothers and I (they were 8 and 5), but our parents sure egged us and on and played along with relish. Little did I realize that in a few short years I would be growing my hair out like a girl myself and a year later turning into a bit of a hippie myself.

My father was a good Cold War liberal of the Bernie Sanders type except that he despised the counterculture, especially “Chaar-lie Manson” and “Aaay-bie Hoffman,” the latter of whose disrespectful performance in the courtroom outraged my staid father. That was the hippie movement for my father. Charles Manson and Abbie Hoffman. That was it.

Yes, I grew up with the Manson Murders, the Watts riots, the RFK assassination, the Chicago Convention in 1968, the whole nine yards. In 1968, I walked the streets for “Clean Gene” McCarthy, the antiwar candidate, with my father, who had turned against the war after the Tet Offensive.

I was a bit of a Vietnam War fan, and every day, they would list the battles that took place the day before and how many were killed and wounded in them. American soldiers were getting killed and wounded every single day in significant numbers. I had a really cool map of Vietnam, and I would go look up the battles on my map.

And of course I remember the Mi Lai Massacre. A lot of people were defending Calley and the rest because they said US troops had taken many casualties in that area recently, and even the women and the kids were serving as guerrillas, setting up booby-traps for instance. I’m not sure how true that was, but I doubt if it justifies slaughtering civilians like that.

One week Time Magazine printed the photos and biographies of all the men who had died in Nam that previous week. We were losing ~200 men a week in one of those years, I forget which. There were maybe 200 of them! I remember that really brought the war home.

People heard the numbers of killed and wounded every week or so, but it never really sunk in. When they saw the 200 faces of those very young men in that magazine who had been in only a single week, it really hit home in Middle America in a personal way.

I watched Walter Cronkite all the time, and I remember when he, to everyone’s shock, turned against the war. The turning point for him as for everyone else was the Tet Offensive.

I was a wild LA Dodgers fan, and we went to a lot of games. Don Drysdale was a great pitcher who set some records back then. Sandy Koufax was another great Dodgers pitcher. Willie Mays of the San Fransisco A’s was at the peak of his game. Mickey Mantle was still around.

We also went to LA Rams and even USC Trojans games. We got to meet some of the Rams at some signature gathering meeting at a local Sears outlet. I met OJ Simpson at a game in Candlestick Park in San Francisco once and got his autograph. He had a permanent smile a yard wide. The charm radiated off of him in waves. There was no way to not like him if you still had a real beating warm-blooded heart.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street, and the old days were always better than today. If we’ve lived a decent and relatively happy life, one thing we can all say is that we all had a once upon a time.

Elton John, Curtains, from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Yes, I bought that album in 1975. One of the greatest rock albums ever made.

I used to know this old scarecrow
He was my song
My joy and sorrow
Cast alone between the furrows
Of a field
No longer sown by anyone

I held a dandelion
That said the time had come
To leave upon the wind
Not to return
When summer burned the earth again

Oh
Oh
Cultivate the freshest flower
This garden ever grew
Beneath these branches I once wrote
Such childish words for you
But that’s okay
There’s treasure children always seek to find
And just like us
You must have had
A once a upon a time
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)
Oh (lovely-lovely)

3 thoughts on “1968-1970: A Remembrance of Things Past”

  1. I remember these years very well, too. I was little, but I remember Walter Kronkite on TV every day, with this map behind him of a place called Vietnam. I didn’t really understand what was going on there, but I knew it had to be important. Walter Kronkite would say these other names, like “Laos.” And “Cambodia.” And “Phnom Penh.”

    Later I heard that my uncle was in this place called Vietnam. I heard my aunt talking about it to someone, and she mentioned something called the Mekong Delta. My grandmother would mention Vietnam every now and then, too, but never by name. She could only tell us that my uncle was “across that water.” That’s how far away he was, in her mind.

    During this same period, my future husband was also in Vietnam, with the 3rd Marines. 🙂

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