fbpx

Latest Posts

Home

Facebook

Twitter

Search
About

It was fifty years ago today! – 1969

They put a man on the moon

Fifty years ago tomorrow, on July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.

An estimated 600 million people worldwide tuned into flickering black and white images as, at 9:56pm Minnesota time, Armstong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Image result for moon landing

In 1961, President Kennedy had said to Congress,

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

Now, five months before the deadline, the United States had achieved the late president’s goal. It seemed that the federal government, when it set itself a goal, could do almost anything. True, defeating the communists in Vietnam was proving difficult, but the Apollo program bade well for the War on Poverty, then still in its infancy.

“Its five three year mission…”

The moon landing came too late to save the crew of the starship Enterprise.

On June 3rd, NBC broadcast ‘Turnabout Intruder’, the last episode of Star Trek. The show had struggled in the ratings since its debut in 1966, owing its survival to letter writing campaigns by fans. The moon landing the following month set off a fad for all things science fiction which might have saved Star Trek, but the axe had already fallen.

That final season of Star Trek included, by common consent, many of the show’s lamest episodes, such as ‘Spock’s Brain’. But one episode, ‘The Way to Eden’, broadcast on February 21st, 1969, was soon to prove horribly contemporary. It told the story of Dr. Sevrin, a noted scientists turned New Age guru, and his band of followers as they hijacked the Enterprise to reach the fabled Eden. When they arrive, the planet seems beautiful at first, but it quickly emerges that the plant life secretes a deadly acid. One of Sevrin’s followers dies from eating fruit, and the rest take shelter in a shuttlecraft with their bare feet burned. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest are called upon to save them, just as the ‘squares’ of the National Guard had to airlift food into Woodstock in August that year to keep the hippies from starving.

Helter Skelter

You didn’t need to go to the 23rd century to find lunatics posing as Messiahs.

In spring 1968, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys picked up two female hitchhikers and brought them back to his Los Angeles home. Wilson said that after mentioning the Beach Boys’ involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to these women, “they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie.” In the early hours of the following morning, Wilson returned home from a recording session to be greeted on his own driveway by Charlie. When an uncomfortable Wilson asked him whether he intended to hurt him, Charlie said no and began kissing Wilson’s feet. When he went inside his house, Wilson discovered 12 strangers, mostly women. They ended up staying for months, costing Wilson approximately $100,000, including a large medical bill for treatment of their gonorrhea and $21,000 for the accidental destruction of his uninsured car. The women acted as servants for Charlie and Wilson. A lot of 1960s ‘sexual liberation’ played out that way.

Charlie was Charles Manson, a distinctly unappealing career criminal. Yet, such was the bizarre tone of the times, that he had assembled around him this cult of young, empty headed women from mostly middle-class backgrounds, and managed to wangle himself a stay at the home of a member of one the biggest bands in the world. Manson was an obvious nut who became convinced that The Beatles’ White Album was, in fact, a coded message for him predicting a coming race war in the United States which would end with his ‘Family’ in charge. Nevertheless, he was taken seriously enough as a ‘guru’ that he was introduced to some of the leading stars of the time, including actress Sharon Tate who, heavily pregnant, Manson’s ‘Family’ would butcher along with four other people on the night of August 8th.

Gimme Shelter

The coup de grâce to the hippie era was delivered at Altamont on December 6th, 1969.

Some of the biggest names in music – SantanaJefferson AirplaneThe Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Rolling Stones – gathered at a speedway track in northern California for another Woodstock. In keeping with the countercultural timbre of the times, the Hell’s Angels were brought in to provide security. One of the Angels, Bill “Sweet William” Fritsch, recalled the conversation he had with the Stones’ road manager:

We don’t police things. We’re not a security force. We go to concerts to enjoy ourselves and have fun.

Well, what about helping people out—you know, giving directions and things?

Sure, we can do that.

Looking back, it seems incredible that anyone in their right mind could have imagined the Hell’s Angels functioning as Altamont’s equivalent of Walmart greeters. But how many were in their right minds?

Over the course of the day, the mood grew ever uglier. Two people were killed in a hit and run accident. Another, high on LSD, drowned in an irrigation canal. Fights broke out. The Hell’s Angels, sat along the front of the stage drinking the $500 worth of beer the Stones had paid them with ($3,489 in 2019 $), armed themselves with sawed-off pool cues and motorcycle chains. When Jefferson Airplane guitarist Marty Balin tried to clam them down, they knocked him out.

The Stones arrived late, bassist Bill Wyman had missed the flight to the venue, and an audience member punched Mick Jagger as soon as he emerged from the helicopter. Their set was frequently interrupted by fights, pauses, and pleas for calm, all of which went unheeded. Things came to a climax when 18 year old Meredith Hunter, his second attempt to get on stage failing, was pursued into the crowd by Hell’s Angels, pulled a gun, and was stabbed to death. The whole grisly spectacle was captured on film and found its way into the concert movie.

The Age of Aquarius

Last year, in our magazine Thinking Minnesota, I wrote that

1968 did not usher in the Age of Aquarius. That is probably why it is so celebrated. Its veterans can look back on it as the Revolution Betrayed, the stirrings of a new dawn snuffed out by Tricky Dick and a couple of hundred Chicago cops.

For a year so commemorated, 1968 is misunderstood. Mayor Daley and President Nixon didn’t snuff out the revolution. They were just symptoms. Instead, a majority of Americans, silent because nobody wanted to listen to them, saw what was going on in Watts, the Palmer House hotel, and Grant Park and said, “No thanks.” And they were right. From the glimpses we got, like the Manson Family and Altamont, the Age of Aquarius would have been the ultimate bad trip.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

Comments

Subscribe

Categories

Upcoming Events

  • Morning in Minnesota: St. Cloud

    Location: St. Cloud

    Sign up HERE! Courtyard by Marriott St. Cloud 404 West Saint Germain Street St. Cloud, MN, 56301 Please join Center of the American Experiment on Tuesday, July 21 for breakfast with Center policy fellow and education expert Catrin Wigfall as she explains K-12 education in the state and its persistent disparities despite decades of increased spending. Following her presentation, Catrin will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude   Catrin Wigfall is a Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She is also the director of EducatedTeachersMN and EmployeeFreedomMN. Catrin’s…

    Register Now
  • Morning in Minnesota: Marshall

    Location: Marshall Golf Club

      Sign up for this event HERE! Please join Center of the American Experiment on Thursday, July 16 at Marshall Golf Club for a breakfast with Center economist, John Phelan, as he discusses Minnesota’s economic future. Following his presentation, John will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude John Phelan is a graduate of Birkbeck College, University of London, where he earned a BSc in Economics, and of the London School of Economics where he earned an MSc. He worked in finance for ten years before becoming a professional economist. He…

    Register Now
  • 2020 Annual Dinner Featuring Sarah Huckabee Sanders- Now in September!

    Location: Minneapolis Convention Center Ballroom 1301 2nd Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55403

    NEW SEPTEMBER DATE: We have made the difficult decision to once again move the date of this event. We will now host our Annual Dinner on Saturday, September 19th. All tickets bought for the April 4th, or June 18th dates are transferrable. We are so sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, but we look forward to seeing you on September 19! Direct any questions to Kathryn Hinderaker (kathryn.hinderaker@americanexperiment.org or 612-428-7005).   American President: The Unorthodox Approach to Politics that Changed the World. Sarah Huckabee Sanders served as White House Press Secretary for President Donald J. Trump from 2017 to…

    Register Now