1968 A Hearty Year
Fifty years ago is being marked as a pivotal year of change in our history. Documentaries are appearing simply called “1968″ that chronicle the many newsworthy items that shaped a rather volatile time in this modern world’s history.
Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated that year. Riots connected to civil rights and the war in Vietnam were common occurences in 1968. Some guy named Richard Nixon became president as the Democratic party met at the Watergate Hotel to heal their wounds. Trudeaumania was sweeping Canada and his victory, in spite of Separatist rioting in Quebec, was headline news that year. In the international news, The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia but this got very little coverage, as most editors at newspapers could not spell Czechoslovakia. The Olympic games in France dominated the newsprint, because France is so easy to spell. 1968 was also the year Yoko Ono would start showing up at The Beatles recording sessions.
What was not captured in historical documents from 1968, was what a traumatic year that was for me. Very little was reported on the turmoil a child turning ten in Oakville Ontario, was enduring during that transformational year. Let me fill in the blanks for you.
1968 was a time before the party industry introduced something called loot bags. When people attended a child’s birthday party fifty years ago, there was never an expectation that all participants would receive gifts that would often cost more than the cheap present they bought for that child. I am not sure when this reversal of fortune began, but loot is the proper word for it, as the parent hosts would provide food, cake, ice cream, games, lobster (at the rich kids house) potato chips and candy, and then get looted for one more expense for the party. I looked up the word loot in the dictionary and “steal goods from a war or riot” seems like an accurate description of this new loot bag tradition.
Fortunately I was a typical 9 year old in1968 and felt I pretty well knew everything I needed to know to get on with my life. Approaching 10 years of age, I had become much too cool to have a birthday party. Presents were still mandatory, but forcing other cool ten year olds to congregate for candles and cake, just didn’t cut it anymore.
In 1968 I started caddying, as my first summer job at the Oakville Golf Club, just as Dutch Elm disease destroyed beautiful trees that framed the fairways. Of course the membership blamed the caddies for this devastation of nature, and tipping your caddy became optional as the expense of tree replacement was outside that year’s Oakville Golf Club’s budget.
As we got into the dog days of summer that year, The Beatles released a song called Hey Jude, that ran for an astonishing 7 minutes and 11 seconds. Because of my unhealthy obsession with that band, I would sit in my room and wait for a radio station to play that song. While the DJs left the studio for a two cigarette break, 7 minutes of music bliss occurred with every listen. The na na na part at the end became a little repetitive, however it was The Beatles so I gave them a pass for the lack of lyrics at the end. This song became a staple of school dances, as each little boy searched for a girl wearing a training bra to hold for 7 minutes. Be still my beating heart. I am convinced this song was a critical contributor to the sexual revolution that was to follow.
My aunts bought a present, The Beatles” White Album”, for my twin bother and my 10th birthday that year (the song Birthday was a nice touch on that album). It was the first album, rather double album, I ever owned, or at least partially owned. Llike the grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day with excitement. The twins would get into fights arguing who got which disc of this double album. Neither of us wanted the record side with Revolution #9 on it, because that was a hard song to dance to. I suppose my aunts felt that a double album was a perfect gift for twins, but the fights suggest that they might have overestimated the maturity of their ten year old nephews.
We listened to that album constantly. My parents discovered that some of the songs were inappropriate listening for prepubescent boys. Rules were imposed and we were not allowed to play the songs, “Why Don’t We Do it In the Road,” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. Playing road hockey in the road and understanding guns get warm after you use them were apparently a very childish interpretation of those songs.
The lyrics for “Happiness is a Warm Gun” are incomprehensible. What is more incomprehensible to me is how that song did not become the anthem for the NRA. When my parents went out, all we did was listen to those two songs, because when you tell a ten year old not to do something, they will comply, until you leave the room.
My year of turmoil continued as my school hired more nuns to teach the children. One of the nuns became the principal, and that decision stopped all slow dancing at the school dances. Sister Dorothea replaced her use of compassion with her use of the strap. Getting strapped by a nun is not a recurring nightmare one should have to relive in their 50s.
1968 was not a year I remember fondly, though 1969 was going to be worse. August 20, 1969 was the last time the fab four would be together in the recording studio. At the Grammy awards, Hey Jude was beaten out by Mrs. Robinson for Song of the Year. Clearly doo doo doo doo was a more appealing lyric than na na na in the ears of the virtuoso Grammy committee. This snub would be repeated when “Bridge Over Troubled Water” defeated “Let It Be” for Song of the Year at the 12th annual Grammy awards… Two heartaches caused by the same duo!.
So to get to the heart of the matter, 1968 was a tough year for a lot of people. As I mature I now appreciate that one can learn lessons from the past. As I mature I also have learned that I can learn things without ever having to apply the things that I learned. Learning is pretty easy, if you don’t have to demonstrate the learning in public. I still haven’t learned when to use learned or learnt in its proper context.
Below are lessons learnt from 1968.
Learnt: Revolution #9 is still a terrible song. Lesson: Great people can do terrible things.
Learnt: Parents should watch what their children do. Lesson: Parental guidance always ruins the fun.
Learnt; Na na na is an acceptable ending: Lesson: Presentations I hear in business all end with blah blah blah.
Learnt: One present for two people is nice idea. Lesson: I still don’t like to share things, except my opinion.
One final piece of news from 1968. Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant that year. Giving a heart to someone who needs one is not only a surgery, but a metaphor these days. With the increase of the reliance of machines to communicate, heart to heart conversations are becoming rare events. Perhaps we all need a little heart transplant, to help conquer the isolationism. that are causing lineups at the every school’s guidance counsellor’s office. Well needed heart to heart conversations are on decline.
“Taking a sad song and making it better” for someone else, is one of the most heart felt things we can do for each other. Unlike transplants, lifting someone’s heart requires no formal training.
Cue the Blong: That Beethoven could sure write catchy tunes, but his lyricist was a huge disappointment…Heart and Soul