Boomers Recall Events of the First Months of 1971

When TV commercials are using songs from the boomer era we would not expect to hear in that venue, it’s difficult for Baby Boomers not to have flashbacks. For example, currently Coldwell Banker is using Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound (1966); Square has Shape of Things to Come from Max Frost & the Troops (1968) in its commercial; and Geico is using Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations (1968), to advertise motorcycle insurance. All of those songs appeared more than 50 years ago. That got Mister Boomer wondering what was happening at this time of year, 50 years ago?

See if you recall these events that occurred between January and March of 1971:

  • January 1971
    Cigarette commercials were banned on TV, beginning midnight January 2, 1971. That allowed for advertising to be broadcast during the holiday football bowl games. The final cigarette commercial was broadcast at 11:59 pm on January 1st.
  • All in the Family premiered on CBS. While not highly-rated in its first season, one year later it was the most-watched show on TV.
  • Remember the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway in December of 1969? Show management hired the Hell’s Angels as security agents. Hell’s Angels member Alan Passaro was charged in the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter that day. On January 19, 1971, he was acquitted of the charges on the grounds of self-defense. Hunter was alleged to have drawn a revolver on Passaro.
  • George McGovern, then a Democratic U.S. Senator from South Dakota, was the first person to announce his candidacy for President of the United States in the 1972 election. Ultimately, McGovern won the Democratic Party’s nomination, but he lost the election by a landslide to Republican Richard Nixon, the incumbent president.
  • Speaking of U.S. Presidents, the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, located in Abilene, Kansas, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The murder trial of Charles Manson and his three “family” followers ended with guilty verdicts in the Tate-LaBianca murders in August of 1969.
  • The Comics Code Authority eased restrictions on portrayal of certain fictional characters in comics, allowing for horror character depictions of vampires, ghouls and werewolves.
  • America’s first astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, was headed back up on January 31. As part of Apollo 14, this time he would walk on the moon.

 

  • February 1971
    Alan Shepard became the oldest man to walk on the moon (at that point). He surprised TV viewers on February 5 by driving two golf balls with a makeshift golf club as an illustration of the moon’s lower gravitational field.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sh9sn3cEx8
  • James Cash Penney, founder of the Golden Rule Store, which later became J.C. Penney department stores, died at the age of 95.
  • On February 15, the country celebrated the first Presidents’ Day. National legislation had established this new federal holiday, combining the two state holidays of Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Washington’s birthday (February 22).
  • President Richard Nixon made his first recording on his secret taping system. He had installed nine microphones in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. The world remembers how that system worked against him in the events surrounding the Watergate break-in one year later.
  • President Richard Nixon, that same month, proposed a program for national health care, called the National Health Strategy. Among its provisions, the act required employers to pay up to 65 percent of their employees’ health insurance, starting in July of 1973, and increasing to 75 percent by 1976. It also allocated $100 million through the National Cancer Act of 1971 for the research and treatment of cancer. The measure was passed in a bipartisan vote.

 

  • March 1971
    Future president and former Texas Congressman, George H.W. Bush, assumed the office of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
  • The first performance of Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin, occurred in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
  • In New York City’s Madison Square Garden, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier defeated former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 15 round bout decided on points.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives approved the proposal for the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which would lower the national voting age to 18 years old. After previous unanimous approval by the U.S. Senate, the amendment went on to the states for ratification. It gained the quickest approval of any constitutional change in U.S. history, becoming effective on July 1. Boomers will recall this became an issue in 1968, when protestors of the Vietnam war pointed out, as the song said, young men were “old enough to kill, but not for voting.”
  • The Ed Sullivan Show aired its final show on March 28, after 23 seasons. It’s the TV show where boomers were introduced to The Beatles, on February 9, 1964.
  • A U.S. Army court-martial trial found Lt. William Calley guilty of 22 murders in the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968 in Vietnam, and he was sentenced to life in prison. President Nixon altered the sentence to house arrest at Fort Benning, pending appeal. Ultimately, Calley was paroled in August of 1974.
  • Starbucks opened its first coffee shop in Seattle, Washington on March 30.
  • The final day of March, 1971, the first Eisenhower dollar coins were pressed at the San Francisco branch of the U.S. Mint.

Which of these events of 50 years ago stir a memory for you, boomers? Did you go on to give your grandchildren Eisenhower dollar coins?

Boomers Watched the First Presidential TV Debates

We are well into the 2020 presidential election with more than an estimated 6 million people having already cast their ballots in early voting as of this writing. We have had one televised presidential and vice presidential debate each, already. There was to be a televised debate this week, which was to be a town hall format and was cancelled for health reasons. There is still one more planned for next week.

The situation could not be further from what transpired 60 years ago, the first year that presidential debates were televised. However, an examination of the history shows that spats between the two parties appeared from the very first of the TV debates. Mister Boomer has written about that very first debate, which aired on September 26, 1960, between then Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy (The First Televised Presidential Debate was Broadcast In Our Boomer Years).

Nixon and Kennedy had agreed to three debates. Consensus in the press put Kennedy as the victor in the first debate. Kennedy had talked to TV producers to get some pointers on what to wear. The vast majority of viewers would be tuning in on black & white TV sets, and the background was light, so they suggested he wear a navy color suit to stand out in contrast. He also asked about camera angles and lighting. In other words, he tried to prepare for his appearance in this new medium. Nixon was caught off guard in his gray suit and blended into the gray background. Worse yet, unaccustomed to studio lighting and recovering from the flu, close-up shots showed him sweating profusely on his upper lip. Nixon did not fare well in his first TV appearance.

For the second debate on Friday, October 7, 1960, Nixon’s staff got to the TV studio early and turned the thermostat down so their candidate would not be shown sweating. When Kennedy’s people arrived, the studio temperature was described as “frigid.” They went to the thermostat only to find it guarded by Nixon’s people. A discussion ensued and a more reasonable temperature was agreed upon. Most press at the time placed Nixon as the victor in round two.

The third of the debates on October 13, 1960, had the scintillating topic of whether military force should be used to prevent two islands off the coast of China from falling under Communist rule. Now, 60 years later, what is fascinating about that debate is that due to scheduling difficulties, the candidates could not appear in the same studio. Both were on the campaign trail, so Kennedy appeared in a New York studio, while Nixon was in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the debate moderator and panel of questioners were in Chicago. It was real TV history — a broadcast from three combined locations that was beamed to the TV audience on all three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC). The background was the same for each candidate, so on a split screen the two appeared as if they were in the same studio. The press called this one a draw.

Both parties were exhausted from the rigors of what the televised debates placed on them in the last weeks before the election. Nixon, especially, was said to be devastated by the experience. As a result, there were no more televised presidential debates for three election cycles. Lyndon Johnson refused to participate against Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Richard Nixon declined to participate versus Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and again versus George McGovern in 1972. The next televised debate would not appear until then President Gerald Ford debated former Governor Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Boomers had a front row seat in their living rooms for this historic series of events. Mister Boomer certainly recalls those first TV debates, and remembers having to write about them in Civics class in school. How about you, boomers? Do you remember the first televised presidential debate you watched with your family?