“…Oh, when I look back now that summer seemed to last forever, And if I had the choice; Yeah, I’d always wanna be there, Those were the best days of my life…”
In 1985, Bryan Adams released a song; Summer of ’69. As a young girl of 14 during that year which ended one of the most interesting decades of the 20th century, it brings back memories of what seemed to be a simpler time, but in retrospect was anything but simple.
The 1960s boasted both a tumultuous era of civil rights riots and notable assassinations along with much opposition to the Vietnam War as well as the summer of love (’67), which began a counter-culture promoting peace, love and music. As the decade neared its end, two events that would change the culture of our country and the world happened within a month of each other.
Fifty years may have passed since that ‘Summer of 69,’ but for those of us lucky enough to have been present to witness the events that unfolded during that season, we also got to observe the changes that would usher in the beginning of a new era of technology and innovations that would be global in scale.
The landing of the first men on the moon on July 20, 1969, was the culmination of the space race that President John Kennedy began in response to Russia’s early domination of space travel.
In September of 1962, in a speech President Kennedy made to the American people, he said, “…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”
Seven years later, that goal was met.
You could sense a buzz of excitement in the atmosphere as everyone watched—from Apollo 11’s liftoff until a few days later when its lunar module began its descent on to the surface of the moon. On small TVs everywhere, families and friends sat together excited to witness history and those first steps. The fuzzy pictures streaming from 238,900 miles away and that first step by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had audiences mesmerized—and proud.
Not everyone agrees with space travel, but much advancement has been made because of what was learned to prepare man for those journeys. Without it, we would not have camera phones, MRIs, scratch resistant lenses, water purification systems, wireless headsets, artificial limbs and portable computers just to name a few.
Less than a month followed when the pop music culture event (not only of the decade, but maybe of the century), the Woodstock Music Festival, earned its hallowed place in pop culture history. The three-day celebration began on August 15, 1969. An unexpected half million people showed up for the festival that took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York.
It did not go off quite as smooth as intended however. A last-minute venue change, bad weather and the hordes of unexpected attendees caused major headaches. Despite that, because the country was deep in controversy about the Vietnam War, Woodstock was an opportunity for people to escape into the music and spread a message of unity and peace.
And if that were not enough, August of ’69 also saw the two-night rampage by Charles Manson and his ‘family’ when they killed pregnant actress Sharon Tate along with seven others.
Hurricane Camille, a Cat. 5 storm, killed more than 250 people in Mississippi and Louisiana on August 17 packing winds stronger than 200 mph. August 14 saw the New York Mets fall behind the Chicago Cubs by nine games, but came back to win the World Series and earning them the name ‘Miracle Mets.’
“…And now the times are changin,’ look at everything that’s come and gone…”
Were they really the best days of our lives? Maybe not, but they were certainly some of the most interesting times.