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FLASHBACK: Back in the summer of '69 - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Back in the summer of '69

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Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 9:00 am

This weekend some revelry and remembering went on when the Odessa High Class of 1969 converged on the MCM FunDome for their 45th reunion.

While I’ve never been to any of the reunions of the Permian class of 1978, I have heard reports that everyone had a great time at all of them. It’s a great way to catch up and heck, one of my friends even met her husband at one of the soiree. You go girl.

But 1969 was a big year in the history of this country especially during the summer. While I was just a kid that summer, I remember events like the ongoing Vietnam war, protests and news about the moon landing highlighting the headlines and the nightly newscasts. It was for some as rocker Brian Adams put it “The Summer of ’69.”

Around the time of graduation, on May 22, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 10 almost reached the moon’s surface. Just a few days later, the Oscar winning film “Midnight Cowboy” starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight was released. The next day, Apollo 10 returned to earth. Meanwhile, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who had just married, held their next “bed-in” the day after the Apollo 10 success.

In June President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu met and he announced the drawdown of troops. Sadly, that same month, singer Judy Garland died of a drug overdose. Warren Burger was sworn in as chief justice of the U.S.

The very next month, in July, was a very, very busy and historical month. One more sad bit of entertainer news was reported when Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, drowned in his pool at his home in England. The Zodiac Killer struck on July 4, shooting a couple – the man survived, the woman did not. A few days later on July 8, Nixon kept his word and the first troops were withdrawn.

On July 16, Apollo 11 took off for the moon as millions watched and then four days later, they successfully landed, while 500 million people watched across the globe as Neil Armstrong took those first steps for “mankind…” While all that was going on, Teddy Kennedy was getting in deep water after the Chappaquiddick incident when he drove off a bridge and Mary Jo Kopechne died.

Things continued to heat up in August, Nixon and his buddies started secret peace negotiations in France, but alas, they could not agree, so all was for naught. Charles Mason followers killed Sharon Tate and friends Aug. 9 and continued the killing spree the next day killing Leno and Rosemary Labianca. On Aug. 17, Hurricane Camille, a category 5 and at the time the most powerful hurricane to hit stateside, devastated the coast of Mississippi, killing 248 people.

But the Summer of Love would continue when Woodstock, the music festival, was held for three days in upstate New York. Numerous acts would wow the crowd of 400,000 at the farm in the Catskills for the  Creedence Clearwater Revival, fronted by John Fogerty (who was in Odessa last week) was the first band to sign a contract to play. When they did, legend has it, lots of other big acts followed suit, like Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Janice Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane.  Believe it or not, a lot of bands declined the invite to the fest, like The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues  and I’ll be darned – Roy Rogers. They wanted him to sing “Happy Trails,” at the end of the show, but, he said nope.  

Obviously, the Summer of ’69, was pivotal in our history. And, I hope the alumni from OHS enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane. Here’s to you oh grads of ’69.

And as rocker Bryan Adams so aptly put it:

“Oh, when I look back now

That summer seemed to last forever

And if I had the choice

Yeah, I’d always wanna be there

Those were the best days of my life…

Back in the summer of ’69…”

That’s right.



Odessa, TX

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