Tuesday, February 12, 2008

1968... as I recall it.

Raise your hands if YOU remember 1968.

If you raised your hand, you’re showing you age. It means you’re probably a baby boomer like me, or even maybe a little older.

I remember 1968. Sort of. I was in my early teens, so I was at an age when I wasn’t really absorbing anything much.

We’ll hear a lot about 1968 this year, as it marks the 40th anniversary of a number of events that shaped history. Probably the most vividly recalled dates were the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. That was also the year LBJ announced he would not run for president, and Tricky Dick Nixon announced he would. After a Democratic Convention marred by violent clashes between protesters and the Chicago police, Hubert Humphrey faced Nixon and American Independent candidate George Wallace. The year opened with the Tet offensive of the Vietnam War, and closed with three American astronauts orbiting the Moon for the first time ever. There were hippies and yippies and protests and sit-ins and even the first bra-burnings. The times, they were a-changing.

These are the things I sort of remember from the news of the year. But the things I most recall from 40 years ago weren’t in the newspapers.

I was in the eighth grade. That was the year the eighth grade at Lexington moved into a brand new building at the high school. We were above junior high school, but not quite in high school. We were in the twilight zone. By the time the year was over, I would actually BE in high school. It was a year of transition. The times, they were a-changing.

It was the last year I would be riding my trusty bicycle. To a twelve or thirteen or fourteen year boy, your bicycle is your most trusted companion… not unlike Silver to the Lone Ranger. But, I was counting down the days until I could get my learner’s permit, and then my restricted license… and then I would be able to DRIVE until sundown every day. Yes, the times were definitely a-changing.

A few years earlier, The Beatles had exploded onto the scene, and ushered in a new era of music and pop culture, what with their long hair and all. But all of a sudden – I must have slept through a few years – because in 1968 the Fab Four from Liverpool were off in the Far East meditating with Maharishi Yogi, and their music completely changed. They went from “She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah!” – which I understood -- to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Revolution 9”, which I didn’t have a clue about. And their famous mop-tops had turned really long and shaggy. All of which I blamed on this Yogi fellow, who I didn’t know. (I did, however, know two other Yogi’s… Berra of the Yankees, and Bear of Jellystone Park!)

And it wasn’t just The Beatles. The other music started changing, too. So did the movies and TV shows.

TV couldn’t get any better than it was at the beginning of 1968. The Beverly Hillbillies. Green Acres. Gomer Pyle. Bonanza. Andy Griffith. Bewitched. Petticoat Junction. Lucy, Red Skelton, and Jackie Gleason. And, of course, every Sunday night… Walt Disney!

But, by the end of the year, the networks had started fixing something that wasn’t broken. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In was funny, but it was different. And, most of the time, I really didn’t understand what I was laughing at. Andy had become Mayberry RFD. Batman and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. went away, both of which were tragedies in the eyes of a fourteen year old. And 60 Minutes took over Sunday nights. YUCK!

I was accustomed to going to the Drive-In to see movies like Tarzan and 007… with maybe an occasional Elvis or John Wayne flick thrown in. All of a sudden, I was confronted with The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, and Cool Hand Luke… movies which I didn’t understand.
The times, they were a-changing.

I really don’t know if the whole world was a-changing a lot in 1968, or whether it was just my world a-changing. But, forty years ago, things were suddenly very different.

Now, here it is, four decades later. And, of course, I now know change is inevitable. It’s a part of life. The world turns, and times are different.

But, somehow, to me, I’m suddenly feeling a lot like it’s 1968 again. The times, they are a-changing.

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