It was 1968 and it was a very tumultuous year in our country. We had just lived through two notable assassinations; Martin Luther King on April 4th, and then Robert F. Kennedy on June 5th. Many people including I, had witnessed that assassination live on television during a campaign speech during his Presidential bid.
The whole decade was one of turmoil. The assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the escalation of the Viet Nam war with half a million troops sent and 58,500 eventual casualties. The Cuban Missile Crisis, escalation of nuclear threats, with China detonating it's first atomic bomb in 1964.
Not only was the world in a very destabilized condition, but socially things were also in turmoil. The 'Counter Culture' was in full swing when young people began to revolt against the conservative norms of the time, as well as remove themselves from mainstream liberalism, in particular the high level of materialism which was so common during this time, and against the U.S. Govt's. extensive military intervention in Viet Nam and the implementation of the Draft in 1966. College attendance soared as a result. The youth involved in the social aspects of this movement became known as 'Hippies'.
Meanwhile the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing and the Feminist Movement began when a presidential commission on 'The Status of Women,' found discrimination against women in the workplace and every other aspect of life. This created 'The Equal Pay Act of 1963' and launched two decades of prominent women-centered legal reforms and the 'National Organization for Women' in 1966, founded by Betty Freiden and other prominent feminists. By 1968, 'Women's Liberation' became a household word.
These groups created a movement toward liberation in Society, including the sexual revolution, questioning of authority and Government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women and minorities.
Psychedelic Drugs, especially LSD were widely used and encouraged. Timothy Leary was a prominent speaker at public rallies and encouraged young people with his slogan, 'Turn on, tune in, drop out' at the 'Summer of Love' in San Francisco in 1967. There was growing interest in Middle Eastern Religions and Philosophy, and many attempts were made to found communes, which varied from supporting Free Love, to religious Puritanism.
There were 'Sit-ins' and marches opposing the war with slogans like 'Make Love, not War' and participants calling themselves 'Flower Children' and putting flowers in the barrels of the National Guard Troops' Guns that surrounded the gatherings.
There were Riots and Ku Klux Kan killings. War Demonstrations and Marches for equality. The Viet Nam combat was broadcast live every evening on the nightly news. We watched as soldiers were shot, blown up by grenades, bombed. In those days, correspondents were allowed on the front lines. Young men we knew checked the draft registers weekly at the post office to see if their numbers were being drawn.
This was our world that summer of 1968 when we first met.
My first day of high school began two weeks later. In those days, girls still had to wear dresses and boys had to have buttoned up, collared shirts, tucked in, with hair no longer than their collars. No jeans were allowed.
By the end of the year, the dress code was abolished. One of our classmates brought it to court and won.
But my mind was elsewhere. I was adjusting to my first week in high school. I had made a few new girlfriends and we were eating lunch in the cafeteria, chatting and laughing. And then one of my new friends asked me if I 'knew that boy with the white belt who keeps walking by and staring at you'. As I followed her gaze, my heart skipped a beat! There was 'Blue Eyes', and he was smiling at me! And he had on a white belt! (well, it was the 60's) I returned his smile and he came over and gave me a shy 'hello' and asked if I would be going to the school dance that weekend. Of course I said, 'Yes'. And then the bell rang. He walked me to my class, shyly asking for my phone number.
Next time: Our first dance to 'Our Song'.