Remembering the Summer of ’69

Today is the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. It’s hard to believe that it has been 40 years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and said, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” While we remember this remarkable feat that seemed impossible at the time, let’s also take a look at some of the other noteworthy items from the summer of ‘69.

I wasn’t even born yet in 1969, but I have heard so much about this summer of jaw-dropping news and events, that I almost feel as if I was there.  In fact, according to the AP, most Americans did not live through that summer, since the median age of Americans is 36.8.

To this day, many who lived through it and many who have only heard the stories and seen the pictures, will argue that this was the most historic summer in American history.

Before the flowers even started blooming, America said goodbye to Lyndon B. Johnson and hello to Richard Nixon, who was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States that January. Forty years later we said farewell to George W. Bush and hello to Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Both Obama and Nixon sailed into office as leaders of “change.”

Dr. David Reuben published Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) and it went on to be one of the decades best-selling books. It became part of the Sexual Revolution of modern America.  In 1972, Woody Allen made a movie adaptation of the book.

Then there was the Chappaquiddick incident. On July 18, Ted Kennedy drove a car off a bridge in Martha’s Vineyard and a young female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died. While Kennedy has gone on to become a well-respected leader in the Senate, some say his presidential aspirations ended that day.

In August of that summer, hundreds of thousands descended upon Woodstock for a muddy three-day music festival that highlighted 32 of the best-known acts of the day, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. It also cemented the image of a whole hippie culture.

Chicago Cubs fans will always remember that summer as the season their team went so far and then fell so fast. In what is looked at as one of the biggest collapses in the history of baseball, the Cubs managed to lose a 9 ½ game lead in just a month. The Mets won the World Series that year. In the 40 years that have passed since then, the Cubs have yet to make it to the World Series.

The Beatles also made their last public appearance before splitting up. John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono staged two “bed-ins” to protest the Vietnam War. About a week ago, Sir Paul McCartney recreated the famous 1969 rooftop moment at the Ed Sullivan Theater on the David Letterman show.

America’s favorite TV family also arrived that summer. The Brady Bunch debuted on Sept. 26 and gave families laughs for years to come. Now, we only see cast members on reality shows like My Fair Brady or Celebrity Fit Club.  And who can forget the premiere of Sesame Street, which changed the way many people thought about the educational potential of TV for kids. I watched this show growing up and my 4-year-old daughter watches it now–talk about longevity!

In addition to all of those major events, there was also the horrific Manson murders, the invention of the ATM, disclosure of the My Lai massacre, hailing of General Motors as the No. 1 corporation in the world, secret Vietnam peace talks, mass bra-burning protests in NYC, and Hurricane Camille. Michael Jackson was also a rising star at the age of 10 that summer.

There was really almost too much news to digest that summer. It was such an amazing summer, Bryan Adam’s created the Summer of ‘69 tribute song:

Standin’ on a mama’s 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

Back in summer of ’69

Check out the New York Times really dynamic timeline of 1969.