“Take a sad song and make it better” – 50 years ago in August

NCPR first signed on the air March 7, 1968 and we will be celebrating our Golden Anniversary all year with a lot of special events, such as our big 50th anniversary festival of regional music, beer, food, and art at Asgaard Farm in Ausable Forks coming up on Saturday, August 11.

1968 was what you might call a happening time, and not always in a good way. Here are some of the things that happened in August of that year. We’ll start off easy…

In arts and entertainment

The newly-formed Apple Records made their first release, the Beatles single, “Hey Jude.” It would become their best-selling single ever and remains, fifty years later, in the top 10 selling recording of all time. “Hello, I Love You” by the Doors, topped the Billboard charts early in the month, to be replaced by “People Got To Be Free” by The Young Rascals on August 31. It was a month for summer genre movies, with the release of the Western “Hang ‘Em High,” the romantic comedy “With Six You Get Egg Roll,” and the Japanese monster offering featuring (who else?) Godzilla, “Destroy All Monsters.” The covers of TV Guide in August featured network anchormen, and the casts of “Gunsmoke,” “Gentle Ben” and “Star Trek.”

In politics and protest

The GOP Convention in Miami Beach chose Richard Nixon as its standard bearer and Spiro Agnew as VP candidate. The Democrats in Chicago chose Hubert Humphrey, but the real news was out in the streets, where Chicago police and National Guard troops attacked antiwar protesters with billy clubs and tear gas outside the convention site. Coverage of Humphrey’s nomination was overshadowed by the violence outside and protesters chanting, “The whole world is watching.” Protest leaders would later be tried for incitement to riot in the “Chicago Seven” trials.

In war and peace

The “Prague Spring” reforms of Czechoslovakia’s Communist leader Alexander Dubcek came to an end as 500,000 Warsaw Pact troops, 6,300 tanks, 550 combat aircraft and 250 transport planes carried out biggest military operation in Europe since World War II, invading the nation to suppress the liberalization effort. In Vietnam a third wave of Tet Offensive attacks was launched by North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong against 27 South Vietnamese cities and towns. Milton L. Olive III became the first African American soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for service in the Vietnam War. France became the fifth member of the thermonuclear club, exploding a hydrogen bomb in French Polynesia. And the U.S. tested its first multiple warhead missile systems. A Soviet approach on missile limitations that would eventually lead to the 1972 ABM Treaty was derailed by the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

In other news

In Britain, the last steam locomotive in regular passenger service, the “Fifteen Guinea Special,” was retired. Pope John Paul VI landed in Bogota Columbia, making the first-ever papal visit to South America. And after years of deferments, a federal judge ordered the integration of the last racially-segregated school system in the U.S., Caswell County, North Carolina.

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