This year marks several 40th anniversaries: some important, some only interesting but all somewhat significant in one way or another. Of course, 1969 marked the end of the “sixties,” in a numerical sense, but actually the period of history we call “the sixties” would continue for several years more. “The sixties” as a cultural changing point is really from about 1965 through 1975. 1961, for example, is much closer to the fifties in societal sensibilities, just as 1978 is closer to the eighties in that same way.
Of all the 40th anniversaries occurring this year, the anniversary that the media is totally obsessed with is Woodstock. The Los Angeles Times can’t print enough glowing articles about it. Woodstock revival outdoor rock concerts are being held all over the country this summer. Idiots are dressing up like the idiots of 1969. Public television has been airing specials and documentaries on it. The press loves this stuff. They glorify what they call “three days of peace and music.” They honor it as if the event were the 4th of July, Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled up into one. Yes, I said Christmas because the Woodstock experience, for many who hold “the sixties” so dear, was like a religious camp meeting.
Ah, yes. Peace, love, music and spiritual “oneness” with the earth. Right. What all this nostalgic glorification of Woodstock seems to forget about are little things like how the influx of hippies and wannabe hippies created a massive traffic jam that closed the New York State Thruway. And that the facilities were not equipped to provide adequate sanitation or first aid for the number of people attending. And hundreds of thousands found themselves in a struggle against bad weather, food shortages, poor sanitation, sleeping in mud, not bathing and relieving themselves wherever.
Drugs flowed as freely as the sex, mud and music. There were two recorded deaths at Woodstock: one from what was believed to be a heroin overdose, and another caused by an occupied sleeping bag accidentally being run over by a tractor in a nearby hayfield. There also were two births recorded at the event (one in a car caught in traffic, and another in a helicopter) and four miscarriages. Ain’t counterculture grand? Tens of thousands of spaced-out, smelly, ugly people in a field. Sounds like fun, eh?
And speaking of space cadets, the Apollo moon landing is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. More should be made of that. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins flying on board Apollo 11 were real American heroes. “Houston, Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed.” And The United States of America plants its flag on the moon. Stirring stuff. I can still remember all of our family excitedly gathered around the television watching it happen.
More in tune with the ugly sixties, however, is that other 40th anniversary – the Charles Manson murders. Helter Skelter. Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and six others slaughtered in their own home. But hey, man, Charlie and his followers were just doing their own thing – killing “the establishment.” Good old sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
There are a few other interesting events which have their 40th anniversaries this year. Like the following:
- Sesame Street debuts on public television.
- The conviction of Sirhan Sirhan, killer of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
- A car driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. His passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, died.
- James Earl Ray convicted of murder of Martin Luther King.
- Treasury Department stops issuing bills larger than $100 and starts taking larger bills out of circulation.
- Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas found American Zoetrope.
- The Concorde jetliner’s 1st test flight took place in Bristol, England.
- The New York Mets capped a miraculous season, winning the World Series in Game 5, a 5-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
- Boris Karloff (81), [Pratt], British actor (Frankenstein), died.
- US population reached 200 million.
- Last edition of Saturday Evening Post was published.
- The Boeing 747, the world’s largest airplane, made its 1st commercial flight.
- Mickey Mantle of the NY Yankees announced his retirement from baseball.
- Jim Morrison, lead singer for The Doors, was arrested for exposing himself at Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami before 10,000 people (yet another lovely “sixties” event).
- Levi started to sell bell-bottomed jeans.
- Golda Meir became the 4th prime minister of Israel.
- The Chicago 8 were indicted in aftermath of Chicago Democratic convention.
- John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded “Give Peace a Chance” and were married that year.
- John Lennon was offered the role of Jesus Christ in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
- First artificial heart was implanted into a human.
- First human eye transplant was performed.
- Judy Garland (47), film actress and star of “The Wizard of Oz,” died in London.
- Walt Disney World construction began in Florida.
- Muhammad Ali was convicted on appeal for refusing induction in US Army.
- Last episode of “Star Trek” aired on NBC (“Turnabout Intruder”).
- The Beatles’ last album, “Abbey Road,” was released
- First hip replacement in the U.S. was performed at the Mayo Clinic.
- Seiko marketed the first quartz watch.
- The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) claims that marijuana is harmless to both the user and society in general.
And if you’re having a 40th anniversary this year, happy anniversary to you! Go out and celebrate. (Just don’t get into a car with Ted Kennedy at the wheel).