Steve Eighinger

Was it really 50 years ago this all happened?

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 23, 2019 10:30 am

Simple math tells us that 1969 was 50 years ago, which makes 2019 the golden anniversary of some incredibly historical events.

Those who count themselves as baby boomers likely remember living through this particular year. An argument could be made that 1969 remains the most eventful 12-month period of our lives.

At the time, I was a fledgling teenager, and while most of my thoughts revolved around sports and teenage girls -- but not necessarily in that order -- I remember being glued to my family's small black-and-white TV set on numerous occasions.

Even for a fledgling teenager, the incidents that year were remarkable in the breadth of their overall impact -- and not only at that particular time, but also in the way they would eventually help shape the course of our history.

Here are the top five moments that have stayed with me since that (in)famous year:

1. Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon and gave us those immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." You talk about must-see TV, that was some sensational stuff. The live TV audience was estimated at somewhere between 500 million and 1 billion.

2. The estimates of the crowd size vary, anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000, but there were a whole of people who showed up for the famed Woodstock concert about 85 miles northwest of New York City. To this day, Woodstock is called the most famous rock concert in history. The four-day affair in mid-August featured such legendary acts as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Jefferson Airplane and the Who. Historians say this one specific event, despite being plagued by poor weather and unsanitary conditions, helped define an era.

3. Ironically, just a week before Woodstock, the nation was stunned by a two-night rampage in California that saw pregnant actress Sharon Tate and seven others killed by Charles Manson and his "family." Manson and four others were later convicted of murder and other charges. Their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment in 1972.

4. Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force's investigation into UFOs, was shut down. The investigations began in 1952, but 17 years later the government felt UFOs did not threaten national security, and no evidence of extraterrestrial life had been discovered. (Anyone else out there still thinks the government continues to investigate?)

5. Sports-wise, 1969 gave us arguably the most memorable World Series and Super Bowl in history. Ironically, the combatants in both were from New York and Baltimore. The 1969 World Series saw the "Miracle Mets" stun the highly favored Baltimore Orioles, while the Super Bowl saw flamboyant quarterback Broadway Joe Namath lead the New York Jets over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.

Honorable mention: The Beatles released "Abbey Road," the final album John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr recorded together. The album featured "Come Together," "Something," "Octopus's Garden" and "Here Comes the Sun."

In addition, 1969 gave birth to the Muppets, bell-bottom jeans and the beginning of a nationwide chain of Walmart stores. The year also linked us with the Chappaquiddick affair involving Sen. Edward Kennedy, the inauguration of Richard Nixon as president and 250,000 marching on Washington, D.C., in protest of the Vietnam War.