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1968 | Baby Boomers and America's Crisis Year

1968 Memories.jpgIt's been 50 years. 1968 was an extraordinary year - unlike any other for most Baby Boomers. So, I'll go back to my own memories of the year and trace some of its changes.

  • January. I graduate from high school a semester early. A friend and I tour the state in my 60s-era muscle car. I get my first look at Tijuana. We fly from LA to Las Vegas to see the Bill Cosby show. Cosby is heckled about the Vietnam War and harshly responds to the heckler. The North Vietnamese orchestrate the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War.
  • February. I turn 18.
  • March. I start at Santa Clara University. It's my first quarter. All my classmates are in their third quarter. It's the first time in my life that I smell marijuana. In 1968 possession of marijuana is a California felony and carries an automatic one to ten-year prison sentence. ROTC is required for all male students. I'm required to march in a Saturday-morning military parade. I don't know how to march. I've been in high school when all of my classmates were learning to march. I run into the student soldiers ahead, to the side and behind me. I hear a lot of swearing -it is directed at me. I feel like Gomer Pyle. March 31. LBJ announces he will not seek another term as President.
  • April. Martin Luther King is assassinated.
  • May. The Rolling Stones release "Jumping Jack Flash." I play it so much that the dorm resident has to tell me to stop it. I attend a Doors concert at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Jim Morrison spends a good deal of time sitting on stage next to a bottle of whiskey.
  • June. Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles. I return home to Sacramento.
  • July. I get ready to go to basic and advanced Air National Guard training at an Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
  • August. A number of recruits, including me, are transported from McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento to San Antonio, Texas. We arrive in the middle of a sweltering night. We're greeted by drill instructors yelling at the top of their lungs. I laugh at a drill instructor. Not a good idea. He forces me to laugh, laugh and laugh. My Air Force friends still fondly remember that I was the first recruit to get in trouble. Vietnam War protesters riot during the Democratic National Convention.
  • September. We get a Sunday off from basic training and attend the 1968 World's Fair in San Antonio. I see Texas Governor John Connally. Connally had been riding in the middle jump seat of JFK's limousine and was shot the same time that JFK was assassinated.
  • October. I graduate from basic training. Long bus ride to Biloxi, Mississippi. Remnants from segregation still exist.
  • November. Plane ride home. Land in San Francisco. Same day that Japan Airlines Flight 2 lands in San Francisco Bay, two and a half miles short of the runway. I drive for the first time in 4 months. I want to return to normal life.
  • December. North Korea releases 82 members of a US intelligence ship that it previously had seized. The Beatles' White Album goes on sale.

Now this is just the memory of one Baby Boomer for one eventful year. Other boomers will have different memories, but most will remember the year for its tumult.

We're now 50 years later. We now face different issues and different tumult, and the country is more divided than ever. I can't offer any grand wisdom for a chaotic time. The main thing I've learned is to be grateful for friendship, cherish your loved ones, and be good to your neighbor.

Sometimes, when events seem so overpowering, that's all each one of us can do.

1968 | Baby Boomers and America's Crisis Year from Hackard Law on Vimeo.

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