“Over the Moon” – Fifty years ago in December

NCPR first signed on the air March 7, 1968 and we are celebrating our Golden Anniversary all year.

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 December of that year.

arthrise. Photo: NASA/Bill Anders

On “The final frontier”

Apollo 8, carrying astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, was launched, Dec. 21 on a mission around the moon and back. Among the records it set: first to leave earth’s gravitational field, fastest speed achieved by humans, first instance of space-sickness, first to see moon’s farside, and in the first broadcast from lunar orbit, on Christmas Eve, the three men took turns to read the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis.

In music and entertainment

Elvis during his 1968 Comeback Special. Photo: Mattyg85, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Elvis Presley’s “Comeback Special” was the most watched special broadcast of the 1968 holiday season in the United States. The Rolling Stones released “Beggars Banquet.” Glen Campbell’s album “Wichita Lineman” was the number 1 album in the U.S., but would be displaced by the Beatles’ “White Album” late in the month. Graham Nash left The Hollies  to team up with David Crosby and Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield , forming Crosby, Stills & Nash. Led Zeppelin made their American debut, in Denver, opening for Vanilla Fudge. Frank Sinatra recorded his signature hit “My Way” written by Paul Anka. The Miami Pop Festival drew a crowd of 100,000.

The film Oliver!, based on the hit musical, opened in the U.S. And in England, Pirate Radio Modern (259) began broadcast.

In science and technology

SRI’s first computer mouse prototype. Photo: SRI International, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Stanford’s Douglas Engelbart demonstrated a pioneering hypertext system together with the computer mouse, at what is now known as “The Mother of All Demos.” NASA ended the No X-15 rocket plane program. The U.S., Soviet Union and China all performed nuclear weapon tests; China detonated its first thermonuclear weapon.

Around the world:

The largest heist in the history of Japan, the never-solved “300 million yen robbery,” occurred in Tokyo. Spain and the Second Vatican Council rescinded the Alhambra Decree, made in 1492, that had ordered the expulsion of all practicing Jews from Spain and its territories. The British Royal Mint, which had been housed in London for more than a thousand years was moved to a small town in Wales. The UN General Assembly directed the UK to return Gibraltar to Spain. The UK declined. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church announced that Christmas would be celebrated on December 25, 26, and 27, rather than the traditional Orthodox observance on January 7. North Korea released 82 crewmembers of the USS Pueblo captured at the beginning of the year.

Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing. Photo: Patrick, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The nearly 3-mile long Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge was opened. It would become the most popular spot for suicide jumps, outpacing San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.

In the United States

Richard Dodd returned an overdue library book to the University of Cincinnati; it had been taken out by his great grandfather in 1823. High school students Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday were shot, the first confirmed victims of the Zodiac Killer. Kidnap victim Barbara Jane Mackle was rescued after 83 hours inside a ventilated buried in a ditch. Kidnapper Ruth Eisemann-Schier became the first woman to make the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

This post wraps up our year-long look back at 1968. You can find all the other posts in this series here.

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1 Comment on ““Over the Moon” – Fifty years ago in December”

  1. Peter Klein says:

    68 was a great year. My wife married me to her and she has stuck it out all these years.
    Then she gave birth to our first child.
    Family is all that matters. What happens in Washington, Albany, Europe and any place else worldwide aren’t worth the time of day.

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