1968: october 5

On this date, the trial of the Catonsville Nine began. The Nine were Catholics, including priests, ex-priests, ex-nuns, artists, and others, who earlier in the year poured napalm on a batch of draft files and set them on fire. The trial lasted through October 9 ... they were found guilty of destroying property and interfering with the Selective Service.


1968: october 2

Forty years ago today, members of the Mexican police and military killed 200-300 people in what became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre.

As in so many places in 1968, Mexico had a strong leftwing student movement. The upcoming Summer Olympics in Mexico were a focal point of protests, with the government hoping for tourist dollars and a good impression on the rest of the world, while students wanted fundamental changes. On the night of October 2, in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City, the authorities moved in on several thousand gathered protestors and started shooting. It took almost thirty years before the Mexican government launched an investigation into the events in Tlatelolco (the name for the area of Mexico City where the massacre occurred).

1968: september 22

A new #1 on the American charts. I had an English teacher in high school ... don't remember which one it was, one of the younger ones ... one day in class, he/she did a close reading of "Hey Jude," explaining that "Jude" was British slang for penis ... listening to the song with that information in your head leads to a v.different interpretation than I'd previously considered. I'm pretty sure my teacher was fulla shit, though.

1968: september 17

In 1968, there were three television networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC (along with the precursor to PBS, NET). Television seasons started in the fall and ended as spring headed towards summer. The schedule was pretty much set in stone ... you didn't have series moving around all the time, didn't have episodes that ran 3 minutes over. Because of this, it was easy to create a schedule grid for each season, and easy for TV Guide to produce a Fall Season issue that covered pretty much everything you needed to know (not true today, when you've got the broadcast networks, the basic cable channels, the premium cable channels, the series that run 12 episodes a year, the series that always run during the summer, the series that get moved around).

As an example of how the longer seasons made a difference, consider Lancer, a Western on CBS that I can barely recall. It ran on Tuesday nights for two seasons, beginning in 1968. Like I say, we're talking a fairly obscure series. By the time Lancer finished its two-year run, there were 51 episodes. For comparison purposes, The Sopranos didn't reach Episode 51 until the next-to-last episode of Season Four.

Lancer came on at 7:30 on Tuesday nights, and was followed on CBS by The Red Skelton Hour. Skelton had been on since 1951, and had a long radio career before that. ABC countered Skelton with It Takes a Thief, which had begun as a mid-season replacement earlier in '68. NBC had a sitcom from 8:30-9:00, followed by Tuesday Night at the Movies (in those days, networks would have regularly-scheduled slots for movies ... in fact, there was a movie on one of the networks every night of the week in 1968). On September 17, 1968, the movie was the three-year-old I'll Take Sweden with Bob Hope.

The NBC sitcom on Tuesday nights that year had its premiere on September 17. Julia starred Diahann Carroll as a nurse and single mom (her husband had died in Vietnam). By 1968, Carroll, in her early 30s, had won a Tony, been nominated for an Emmy, had recorded seven albums, and made half-a-dozen movies, including Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess. She even went to high school with Billy Dee Williams (it was the "Fame" high school). She was, in short, a star, not top-level but certainly well-known and highly-regarded. But history will likely always think of her first as the lead in Julia. Why? Because Julia was ... well, there is some argument about the specific historic nature of the show, but Wikipedia comes close enough when it calls the show "one of the first weekly series to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role." Julia wasn't the first sitcom to star an African American actress ... in the early 50s, Ethel Waters had starred as a maid in Beulah, which was criticized for its "Mammy" stereotype. (Beulah, as a character and later as a series, began on radio, with Beulah played by a white male.) It took fifteen years after Beulah for another series starring a black woman: Julia.

Julia lasted three seasons and 86 episodes. Diahann Carroll won a Golden Globe award for her performance. But Carroll is said to be the reason the series was canceled ... she said she was tired of the controversy surrounding the show, which was criticized for its supposed lack of political content. Time Magazine, of all places, suggests the context under which the series operated:

Diahann Carroll, in her own series, is a black registered nurse who is trying to make it in whitey's world. Widowed Julia has a five-year-old son Cory, played by a winning little fellow named Marc Copage. They are pretty well off, judging from the nifty apartment they occupy. Still, Julia needs a job. She is turned away by America's only personnel director who is not desperate to hire Negroes. Fortunately, she finds a protector in cantankerous Dr. Chegley (Lloyd Nolan), who doesn't care what color she is as long as she knows her business. Some of Julia's problems are black, but her aspirations and life-style are white. That factor, despite NBC's laudable decision to bring Negroes more prominently into television, makes Julia hardly more than a small-screen Guess Who's Coming to TV?

1968: yes, it's still september 7

The legendary British blues-rock band The Yardbirds broke up in July of 1968. They were primarily famous as the home of the great guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, by the time of the break-up only Page remained. The band was still contracted for a few gigs, and so Page put together a group of players to fulfill those contracts, calling them the New Yardbirds, who played together for the first time on September 7 in Denmark. Page's fellow musicians: Robert Plant on vocals, John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards, and John Bonham on drums. Less than two months later, they played their first concert under their new name: Led Zeppelin.

1968: september 7

Forty years ago today, Miss America 1969 was crowned, Judith Ford, Miss Illinois, a trampolinist. What is better remembered about that pageant: the protests. Led in part by the New York Radical Women, who numbered among their members Shulamith Firestone, Robin Morgan, and Ellen Willis, the protesters released the following:

The Ten Points We Protest:

  • 1. The Degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie Symbol. The Pageant contestants epitomize the roles we are all forced to play as women. The parade down the runway blares the metaphor of the 4-H Club county fair, where the nervous animals are judged for teeth, fleece, etc., and where the best "Specimen" gets the blue ribbon. So are women in our society forced daily to compete for male approval, enslaved by ludicrous "beauty" standards we ourselves are conditioned to take seriously.
  • 2. Racism with Roses. Since its inception in 1921, the Pageant has not had one Black finalist, and this has not been for a lack of test-case contestants. There has never been a Puerto Rican, Alaskan, Hawaiian, or Mexican-American winner. Nor has there ever been a true Miss America- an American Indian.
  • 3. Miss America as Military Death Mascot. The highlight of her reign each year is a cheerleader-tour of American troops abroad- last year she went to Vietnam to pep-talk our husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends into dying and killing with a better spirit. She personifies the "unstained patriotic American womanhood our boys are fighting for." The Living Bra and the Dead Soldier. We refuse to be used as Mascots for Murder.
  • 4. The Consumer Con-Game. Miss America is a walking commercial for the Pageant's sponsors. Wind her up and she plugs your product on promotion tours and TV-all in an "honest, objective" endorsement. What a shill.
  • 5. Competition Rigged and Unrigged. We deplore the encouragement of an American myth that oppresses men as well as women: the win-or-you’re-worthless competitive disease. The "beauty contest" creates only one winner to be "used" and forty-nine losers who are "useless."
  • 6. The Woman as Pop Culture Obsolescent Theme. Spindle, mutilate, and then discard tomorrow. What is so ignored as last year's Miss America? This only reflects the gospel of our Society, according to Saint Male: women must be young, juicy, malleable-hence age discrimination and the cult of youth. And we women are brainwashed into believing this ourselves!
  • 7. The Unbeatable Madonna-Whore Combination. Miss America and Playboy's centerfold are sisters over the skin. To win approval, we must be both sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy. Deviation of any sort brings, we are told, disaster: "You won't get a man!!"
  • 8. The Irrelevant Crown on the Throne of Mediocrity. Miss America represents what women are supposed to be: inoffensive, bland, apolitical. If you are tall, short, over or under what weight The Man prescribes you should be, forget it. Personality, articulateness, intelligence, and commitment- unwise. Conformity is the key to the crown- and, by extension, to success in our Society.
  • 9. Miss America as Dream Equivalent To-? In this reputedly democratic society, where every little boy supposedly can grow up to be President, what can every little girl hope to grow to be? Miss America. That's where it's at. Real power to control our own lives is restricted to men, while women get patronizing pseudo-power, an ermine clock and a bunch of flowers; men are judged by their actions, women by appearance.
  • 10. Miss America as Big Sister Watching You. The pageant exercises Thought Control, attempts to sear the Image onto our minds, to further make women oppressed and men oppressors; to enslave us all the more in high-heeled, low-status roles; to inculcate false values in young girls; women as beasts of buying; to seduce us to our selves before our own oppression.

  • 1968: nick hornby

    Nick Hornby on the 60s, from his fine blog:

    The sixties were great, I suspect, if you were in a band, or at an Ivy League college with a draft deferment, singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ and hitch-hiking to see Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival. But if you were an African-American, a policeman, a member of the American working class eligible for Vietnam, a politician, or just about anyone else, then the 1960s were insane -  insane as in psychopathic, rather than insane as in zany. For millions of people in US cities, the decade was violent and scary, obscured by a fog of incomprehension and genuine foreboding.  Those protest songs were written because there was a great deal to protest about, but somehow it’s the songs themselves, sincere and decent and hopeful, which have come to represent the times. We remember “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”; somehow, the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll doesn’t seem quite so meaningful.