In 1960, we experienced the white knuckle, trembling upper lip release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, when we checked into the Bates Motel for a sleepless night. Women stopped showering for months after that movie premiered. We watched the first televised presidential debates which showed us Richard Nixon suffered from a perspiration problem. The year 1960 also gave us the invention of lasers, the birth control pill approved by the FDA, and a sit-in protest against racial segregation at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.
The year of our Lord 1961 brought the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, or Cuber if you talked like JFK, and the building of the Berlin Wall. Jack Kennedy gave The Man on the Moon This Decade speech, and the Soviets launched the first man into outer space, which started the space race. The Peace Corps came into being. The Soviet Body Politic finally removed Stalin’s body from Lenin’s tomb, and 900 American military advisors arrived in Vietnam.
In 1962, things picked up a little bit of steam when we were terrified by the Cuban Missile Crisis and ordinary folks started building bomb shelters in their back yards so they could survive the radioactive fallout from a thermonuclear war and Mutually Assured Destruction, giving us the appropriately insane acronym MAD, the net result of same being complete and utter annihilation of the planet earth as we know it. We also met a man named Bond, James Bond, suavely drinking martinis, “shaken not stirred.” The first Wal-Mart opened, and Johnny Carson replaced Jack Paar on The Tonight Show. Marilyn Monroe overdosed on booze and barbiturates, as yet another new and deadly acronym entered our lexicon, OD.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his I Have A Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and on November 22, 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald, maybe. John Connally, the Texas Governor, was seriously wounded while riding in the same car with JFK. Two days later, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, the former Jacob Leon Rubenstein, shot and killed Oswald, tidy at the very least. For a while, Ruby ran around with an exotic dancer girlfriend with the best stage name ever for a stripper, Candy Barr, the former Juanita Dale Slusher from Edna, Texas. Jack Ruby and Candy Barr roll off the tongue a whole lot better than Jacob Leon Rubenstein and Juanita Dale Slusher, although Rubenstein and Slusher sure would have made a perfect name for a Tricky Dick Nixon era Washington, DC law firm. Candy Barr served three years for marijuana possession at the Goree State Prison Farm for women near Huntsville, Texas, working in the garment factory sewing linens for the Texas prison system and taking rehabilitation classes in shorthand and typing. Good behavior at Goree meant you watched movies or played softball on Sunday, while the bad girls found themselves in solitary confinement, or enduring corporal punishment with a two foot long leather strap known as the Red Heifer. Candy Barr received her parole, but no mint on the pillow, from the Great State of Texas on April Fools’ Day in 1963.
In 1964, The Beatles launched the British musical invasion of America and drove teenage girls absolutely crazy. The Louisville Lip, Cassius Clay, knocked out Sonny Liston to become Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali, a conscientious objector. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and South Africa sentenced Nelson Mandela to life in prison. Hasbro sold the first GI Joe action figure, and the Warren Commission released their report on Jack Kennedy’s assassination naming Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman. We were also making the transition from advisors to soldiers over those years in Southeast Asia as American troop levels in Vietnam increased to 23,300 by 1964.
In 1965, race riots erupted in LA. Los Angeles translates from Spanish as The Angels, who must have been vacationing in Cabo San Lucas at the time of the riots because they sure as shit weren’t watching over LA. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 in New York City. The Rolling Stones sang, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Men were delighted at the first appearance of the miniskirt. LBJ increased troop levels in Vietnam to 125,000, and draft calls from 17,000 a month to 35,000 a month.
In 1966, angry young men of color established the Black Panther Party, and some pissed off we don’t want to be stay at home moms anymore founded the National Organization of Women. Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones and the Star Trek crew beamed aboard the TV sets in our living rooms. An unknown all black starting five from Texas Western College in El Paso, also known by the knowledge seekers enrolled there as Teeny Weeny College and Harvard on the Border, defeated all white perennial powerhouse Kentucky for college basketball’s national championship, changing sports, and the race conversation, forever. Reluctant military draftees set their draft cards on fire. After the court overturned Jack Ruby’s conviction for murdering Lee Harvey Oswald in late 1966, and prepared to grant him a new trial in 1967, Ruby died of cancer in a Dallas Hospital on January 3, 1967.
In 1967, we survived the first heart transplant, the first Super Bowl, and a Six Day War between Israel and Egypt that didn’t really last that long. Three astronauts were killed on Apollo I, and the Senate confirmed Thurgood Marshall as the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Texas Governor John Connally pardoned Candy Barr in late 1967 for her prior conviction on charges of marijuana possession, so Candy finally received her mint on the pillow. By 1967 we’d deployed 475,000 American soldiers to Vietnam. Muhammad Ali lost his heavyweight championship belt to the draft board in a 15 round TKO. Race riots exploded in Detroit requiring 7,000 National Guard troops to calm the waters.
The DOW hovered patiently at 905 in 1967, and a new house cost $14,250. Amana introduced the first microwave oven to grateful, but still harried housewives everywhere. McDonald’s debuted the Big Mac at 45 cents a burger. The average American earned $7,300, and a McDonald’s Team Member made $1.40 an hour minimum wage. A first class stamp and a Hershey bar both cost a nickel, and in south Texas a Frito Pie went for fifteen cents. Okay, if you’re not from around here, you rip open a small bag of Fritos, pour in some five alarm chili, and eat it with a spork. The national debt ratcheted up to $344 Billion and change, which seemed like a lot of money at the time. Gasoline sold for 33 cents a gallon, a movie ticket cost $1.25, and a 45 RPM single phonograph record retailed at 54 cents. Tuition to Harvard University amounted to a daunting $1,855 per year.
In 1967, The Monkees gave a concert in New York City with Jimi Hendrix as their opening act. Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason published the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco, California with a circulation of 6,000 copies. We heard top selling records like “To Sir with Love,” “Light My Fire,” by The Doors, “Ode To Billie Joe,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Groovin’,” “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield, and oh by the way, The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Blockbuster movies we watched in 1967 included The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Valley of the Dolls, To Sir with Love, In the Heat of the Night, Cool Hand Luke, In Cold Blood, and The Trip with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. The favorite TV shows broadcast in 1967 on just three television networks — yes, you heard that right, the alphabet soup of TV included only ABC, NBC, and CBS — consisted of The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, Gomer Pyle, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, Lawrence Welk, and The Smothers Brothers, which wasn’t even remotely like the other top shows that year.
American troop levels in Vietnam peaked in 1968 at 534,100 soldiers. Assassins gunned down Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Vietnam got crazier by the day with the My Lai Massacre and the Tet Offensive. A nerve gas leak in Utah killed 6,000 sheep, and on Tuesday, November 5, 1968, we elected a Quaker from California named Richard Milhous Nixon as the 37th President of the United States of America.
In 1969, Senator Edward Kennedy walked away from the scene of a fatal auto accident out on Chappaquiddick Island off of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts when Teddy drove his Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a dark narrow bridge with no guardrails, and overturned the car into Poucha Pond. Mary Jo Kopechne did not walk away. We recoiled in horror at the Manson Family Murders. ARPANET arrived as the precursor to the Internet, and Sesame Street first aired on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, which truly was, “a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind.” Some entrepreneurial hippies threw a peace, love, and music festival in Woodstock, New York, producing yet another singing dancing free loving mind blowing giant leap for mankind.
The 1960s were brought to you in their mind bending, heart rending, and soul mending totality by the Baby Boomers who lived through them, and by those who did not.