1969-2009: Events That Changed Our Lives 40 Years Ago

1969-The-Year-That-Changed-AmericaIt seems like the older we get the more we reflect back on our lives up to the present. We think about our accomplishments, where we are situated at today and what we are still looking forward to in the future. Everyone goes through it eventually, but it doesn’t really sink in until maybe 40 or 50 years of age, give or take a little. During this thought process, the media has been blitzing us with the anniversaries of some major milestones in our society. This week, August 15th through 18th, celebrates the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the epic four-day rock festival that drew more than 30 bands and 300,000 plus fans to a farmer’s field in Bethel, N.Y. And, of course, back on July 20th we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s successful lunar landing as well as the first human(s) to ever set foot on the moon, which led to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s, historic walks on the lunar surface. The famous quote being “That’s One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

But why should those two events garner all the attention?

There were plenty of other significant ’69 happenings that are worthy of praise and recognition as well as a few that led to substantial controversy. 1969 had it’s share of disasters, strife and  violence which impacted us in various ways. We progressed forward in some respects and suffered setbacks as well with other issues.

Overall….. 1969 was a year of enormous cultural innovation and change. The music, movies and events that seemed to sum up the chaos, creativity, violence and hopefulness of the decade.

For those of us that are old enough to remember, let’s reflect back to these times and see just how many of them you actually remember when they made headlines or the front pages of our newspapers and television sets. For the younger ones, try to understand what we were dealing and coping with forty years ago.

  • 250,000 anti-war protesters marched on Washington DC in opposition to the war in Vietnam.
  • The very first United States troop withdrawals are made from the Vietnam War beginning on July 8.
  • The US institutes the draft lottery to determine draft into US Armed Forces for the Vietnam War.
  • The invention of the ATM. The first automated teller machine was installed at a branch of Chemical Bank in Rockville Centre on Long Island in New York.
  • The Microprocessor ( a miniature set of integrated circuits ) is invented opening the way for the computer revolution that followed
  • Creation of ARPANET – the predecessor of the Internet
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • The Gap opened its first store. Taking its name from the newly discovered “generation gap,” the San Francisco-based shop sold record albums and blue jeans, eventually sprouting all over the country and making denim the defining uniform of generations of Americans.
  • Forty years ago this month (August 9, 1969), four of Charles Manson’s followers murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and four others who were visiting her (husband Roman Polanski was in Europe for work). The following night, Manson’s followers killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home. This was part of Manson’s plan to create “helter skelter”, the term that became the title of a bestselling book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry about Manson and the murders.
  • The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. Organized as well as hosted by the Rolling Stones, it is an attempt at a “Woodstock West” and is best known for the uproar of violence that occurred. Hells Angels motorcycle club members were used as bouncers resulting in a number of deaths. It is viewed by many as the “end of the sixties.”
  • The gay-rights movement was born. Homosexuals and drag queens fought back after police raided New York’s Stonewall Inn (a gay club). Gay people worldwide suddenly discovered they were a community, one that, from then on, would forcibly resist discrimination.
  • Reported as being the year the first strain of the AIDS (HIV) virus migrated to the United States via the island nation of Haiti.
  • The US Supreme Court rules on Stanley v. Georgia declaring “The State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene materials for personal use”.
  • David Reuben published “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).” The psychiatrist’s plainspoken ‘Q & A-style’ explanation of human sexuality became one of the decade’s most popular books and essential covert bathroom reading for millions of teenagers.
  • On January 30, The Beatles give their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records. The impromptu concert was broken up by the police.
  • “The Brady Bunch” debuted on ABC. America’s favorite family moved into our living rooms on Sept. 26 and refused to leave – four decades later, Brady children still pop up, only now they’re on reality shows.
  • The Boeing 747 jumbo jet makes its debut on December 2, 1969. It carried 191 people, most of them reporters and photographers, from it’s birthplace, Seattle to New York City.
  • The first test flight of the super fast, supersonic Concorde is conducted in Toulouse, France in March – The last one took place in 2003.
  • The Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 Mars probes are launched and completed as the first dual mission to Mars flying over the equator and south polar regions while analysing atmosphere and surface with remote sensors as well as recording and relaying hundreds of pictures. The mission’s goals were to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars.
  • Robin Knox-Johnston becomes the first person to sail around the world solo without stopping.
  • 1969 was the year Edward (Ted) Kennedy’s chances of moving into the White House took a nosedive, along with the car he was driving on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. The accident resulted in the death of passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign aide to his brother, Robert. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was given a suspended sentence.
  • A group of American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seized Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay for 19 long months, inspiring a wave of renewed Indian pride and government reform.
  • The EC-121 shoot down incident occurred on April 15 when a US Navy Lockheed EC-121-M Warning Star on a reconnaissance mission was shot down by a North Korean MIG-17 aircraft over the Sea of Japan. The plane crashed 90 nautical miles off the North Korean coast killing all 31 Americans on board.
  • On January 20, Richard Nixon succeeds Lyndon Johnson as the 37th President of the United States of America.
  • Golda Meir of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, becomes the first female prime minister of Israel.
  • In Cairo, Egypt, Yasser Arafat is elected Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader at the Palestinian National Congress.
  • Charles de Gaulle resigns as French President.
  • Former United States General and President Dwight David Eisenhower dies after a long illness in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC on March 28, 1969.
  • Other zeitgeist-changing 1969 debuts included “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and, perhaps most revolutionary, “Sesame Street,” which used TV techniques to actually teach, rather than merely distract children throughout America.
  • The “Public Broadcasting Service” (PBS) is established.
  • The classic novel, “The Godfatheris published by Mario Puzo.
  • After 147 years, the final issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” is published and hits magazine stands.
  • 2 New York sports franchises have miraculous, upset wins over Baltimore in two different championship games. First in (football) Super Bowl III, the New York Jets, of the old AFL, defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts of the NFL 16-7 on Januray 12. Then (in baseball) on October 16, the New York Mets (NL) beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles (AL) in a near-sweep of the World Series, defeating them 4 games to 1.
  • Bell Bottom Jeans and tie-dye shirts become part of the teenage fashion scene.
  • The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the epitome of the American muscle car, is introduced.
  • Dr. Denton Cooley implants the first temporary artificial heart.
  • The 1st transplant of the human eye take place.
  • The battery powered smoke detector is introduced in the USA.
  • Rising Inflation becomes a worldwide problem.
  • Hurricane Camille, the most powerful tropical cyclonic system at landfall in history, hits the Mississippi coast (August 17th) killing 248 people and causing US $1.5 billion in damage. (figure in 1969 US dollars)
  • Former Hollywood child star, Judy Garland is found dead of a questionable drug overdose.
  • Brian Jones Former Rolling Stones Guitarist drowns after a drinking and drugs binge.


Celebrities & Well-Known Figures Who Died In 1969…..

  • February 2 – Boris Karloff – British actor (Frankenstein) (born in 1887)
  • February 9 – Gabby Hayes – American actor (cowboy/western movie sidekick)  (born in 1885)
  • March 28 – Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th President of the USA and General (born 1890)
  • June 22 – Judy Garland – American actress and singer (born 1922)
  • July 3 – Brian Jones – British rock musician (guitarist/Rolling Stones) (born 1942)
  • August 9 – Sharon Tate – American actress and model (born 1943)
  • August 31 – Rocky Marciano – American boxer (undefeated heavyweight champ) (born 1923)
  • September 2 – Ho Chi Minh – President of Vietnam (born 1890)
  • October 12 – Sonja Henie – Norwegian figure skater (Olympic & World Champion skater & Movie Star) (born 1912)
  • November 18 – Joseph P Kennedy, Sr. – American politician (patriarch of the Kennedy family) (born 1888)


How Much Things Cost In 1969…..

Average cost of new house: $15,550

Average income per year: $8,550

Average monthly rent: $135

Average cost of a new car: $3,270

Average price of a gallon of gas: 35 cents

Year-end close Dow Jones Industrial Average: 800


Popular Films of 1969

  • The Love Bug
  • Funny Girl
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • True Grit
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Easy Rider
  • Where Eagles Dare