1968: The Year That Changed the World

 06/22/2018 - 00:36

The iconic magazine Life recently published a special edition that carried the headline:

“1968: The Year That Changed the World”. A quick review of that magazine provided a brief reminder of the extraordinary year 1968.

In many ways 1968 was like the Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light. It was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair.”

In 1968, the average cost of a house was $14,950. The average household income was $7,850. Average rent was $130/month. Gas cost $0.34 a gallon. The average cost of a new car was $2,822. The federal minimum wage was $1.60/hour.

You could go to a movie for $1.50 and see such films as The Graduate; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; Bonnie & Clyde; Valley Of The Dolls; The Odd Couple; The Planet of the Apes; Rosemary’s Baby; Romeo & Juliet; Night of the Living Dead; The Odd Couple; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Camelot and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

On June 26, during heavy rains, the Saline dam failed and flooded Curtiss Park, wiping out the banks in Mill Pond Park. The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Famine was widespread and people were starving to death in Nigeria, Africa. In January, the North Koreans captured and detained the ship and crew of the USS Pueblo. And while orbiting the earth, Apollo 8 took awe inspiring pictures. It was the very first time the earth was seen in its entirety.

The Class of 1968’s float “The Old Lady In The Shoe” took the top prize in the homecoming parade. And with a flair for the dramatic, the seniors presented two plays “Best Laid Plans” and “The People vs. Maxine Lowe”. There were 138 students in the Class of ‘68, 70 men and 68 women.

The Intel Corporation was founded. Air bags were introduced in automobiles. The first ATM was installed in Philadelphia. London Bridge sold for $1,000,000. Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant and McDonald’s sold its first Big Mac. The Boeing 747 made it first flight and the 911 emergency call center was established.

1968 saw the Hong Kong flu pandemic which killed an estimated one to four million people worldwide. The Redwood forest in California was named a National Park.

The Beatles released the White Album. While cruising, your car radio was tuned to 800 on your AM dial, The Big 8 – CKLW. And you would have heard such hits as: Hey Jude; Honey; Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay; Wichita Lineman, People Gotta Be Free; This Guy’s In Love with You; Mrs. Robinson; Harper Valley PTA and Archie Bell and the Drells singing Tighten Up.

If you were tuning into television you would have seen shows such as American Bandstand, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Bewitched and Bonanza. Changing channels you could see Candid Camera, Dark Shadows, Get Smart, My Three Sons and Green Acres.

Adjusting your rabbit ear antennas you could see Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, Raymond Burr as Ironside, Sally Field in The Flying Nun, Marlo Thomas in That Girl and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. And of course, there was William Shatner exploring Space- The Final Frontier in Star Trek.

1968 was also a time political upheaval and social unrest. The Democratic Convention in Chicago saw protests and a brutal confrontation between police and demonstrators. The terms hippies and yippies became commonplace. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th in Memphis and Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law.

In Grenoble, France Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in figure skating. In October in Mexico City, Tommie Smith won the gold and John Carlos the bronze in the 100-meter dash. Both raised a gloved fist in protest while the National Anthem played. George Foreman won the gold medal in the heavy weight boxing division, also in Mexico City.

The war in Vietnam was raging throughout all of ’68. The North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong launched the TET offensive which was won decisively by US and South Vietnamese soldiers but had a dramatic affect on public opinion and the US government. Casualties reached over 500 a week. Protestors took to the streets in America to violently protest the war.

On March 16, 1968 what became to be known as the My Lai Massacre occurred in a small village. There never was an official count of how many civilians were killed that day by U.S. soldiers but estimates range between 347 and 504. The majority of the victims were old men, women and children. Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson Jr., a helicopter pilot from Company B, 123rd Battalion, Americal Division played a major role in ending the killing in My Lai. He was recognized for his bravery decades later.

And 1968 also saw the Detroit Tigers win the World Series in seven games over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the first world championship for the Tigers since 1945. On route to a 103 win season for the Tigers, Denny McLain won 31 games during the regular season and was named the league MVP while Mickey Lolich won three games in the World Series and was named the series MVP. In 1968, a world series ticket at Tiger Stadium cost $8. The Lions’ record was 4-8-2; the Red Wings’ season record was 27-35-12 while the Pistons finished at 32-50.

In June 1997, the book “The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 In America” was published.

1968, the world changed and dreams died. And through it all, the Saline High School Class of 1968 have left their mark on the world, one life at a time.

In June, the Saline High School Class of 1968 will be celebrating their 50th high school reunion. They have the distinction of being the 100th class to graduate from Saline High School. The Saline Post has forwarded the graduates questions in hopes of hearing their stories and how their lives have turned out.

The Class of ’68 was asked to respond to the following questions.

  1.  Has your life turned out the way you thought it would?
  2. What was the most meaningful educational experience you had while attending SHS? What “stuck” in terms of meaningful learning with your academic studies? Do you believe that SHS prepared you to live a meaningful life in the community?
  3. What career(s) did you have during your working life?
  4. Where have you lived?
  5. What are the “highlights” of your life? What are you the proudest of?
  6. What advice do you have for the SHS graduating Class of 2018 for their lives after Saline Area Schools?

Their stories will be a feature series in the Saline Post prior to the Saline High School alumni banquet which will be held on Saturday, June 23rd at Saline High School. The alumni festivities will begin with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., with the main program starting at 6:30 p.m.


Steven Sheldon's picture
Steven Sheldon