Boomers Witnessed History in August of 1968
Where were you in August of 1968? Fifty years ago, it seemed like the whole world was in upheaval. There were many more plane crashes than occur today, massive floods from summer monsoons were ravaging India and at least two earthquakes occurred in Asia. Anyone who lived through that month and year will surely recall that they were witnessing history in our country, too. Here are a few of the momentous happenings that affected our lives a half century ago:
• Former Vice President Richard Nixon received the nomination for the Republican Party’s candidate for President in Miami Beach (August 6). He chose Spiro Agnew as his running mate for Vice President the next day. He went on to win the election in November of that year and became the 37th President.
• The Soviet Union agreed to begin talks about arms limitation on antiballistic missiles (August 10). Discussions did not include nuclear warheads, but paved the way for the 1972 ABM Treaty.
• Phase III of the Tet Offensive was launched by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong (August 17). The massive attacks on 27 Vietnamese cities would go on until late September.
• Mia Farrow divorced Frank Sinatra (August 17). This was big news on the entertainment front.
• Tanks and troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia (August 20).
• Photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt were featured in an essay in Life magazine (August 23). Entitled, “Blighted Great Lakes,” it raised the country’s awareness to the dangers of pollution by illustrating the extent that water pollution was having on the Great Lakes system. It eventually led to the passing of The Clean Water Act in 1972.
• Hey Jude was released by The Beatles on Apple Records, the first single on their new label (August 26). It became the best-selling single of 1968.
• Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota became the Democratic Party’s candidate for President (August 28). Edmund Muskie would be his running mate for Vice President. And, of course, we all remember the protests and police response surrounding the convention in Chicago from all the television coverage.
• William Talman died (August 30). He was the actor who portrayed the prosecuting attorney who went up against Perry Mason each week. Mister B mentions him here because he died of lung cancer. He was the first person to record a commercial for the American Cancer Society warning others of the dangers of smoking, only six weeks before his death. This spawned the “from the grave” testimonial genre that continues to be aired in cancer commercials today.
Mister Boomer was a teenager in high school in 1968. He was having trouble processing everything that was happening that year, between the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy a few months earlier, then the political conventions in August. As a result, 1968 was probably the year he became politically aware. It seemed like every day something monumental was occurring, not the least of which was the looming specter of Vietnam for Mister B and his classmates, just a couple of years shy of registering for the Draft. Mister B found that music was a great place to turn to for refuge and a little clarity. Music from that time was highly creative, reflecting both the tumultuous times and the pangs of growing up and falling in love. It’s like the Boomer Generation lost its innocence that year, because we had a front-row seat to history.
What do you remember about August of 1968, boomers?