My dad narrated every step with his memories–many of which I’d never heard. Until now.
The gallery uses a literal month-by-month account, starting in January, to chronicle this watershed year. The first exhibit features one key event from each month, and my dad, who has an amazing memory, led me through: “Ah, April 4th. They killed Martin Luther King.” There was sadness and wisdom as he shook his head. “June 8th, right after midnight. Bobby was shot.” Those dates were not on the exhibit boards, mind you. Just the months. It was a sign that this year did make an indelible impression–even now, my dad recalled the exact details.
Every single American experienced change in 1968, as the exhibit aptly illustrates. Ditto for my dad. Just the year before, he graduated from college, got married to my mom, started his teaching career and began preparing to be a parent (my parents’ first-born, I was due in July 1968; born on June 25.)
If you had avocado green and gold home decor in 1968, you were “in.” My dad explained the decor of our home while we sat on the davenport and watched Walter Cronkite narrate the evening news on a console TV:
Notice the Vietnam “news” coverage. My dad said there was a “ticker” at the bottom, chronicling the day’s casualties. Sobering.
Of course much of the display centers on Vietnam.
My dad did not go to Vietnam. But he still remembers the full name of the draft board lady in St. Cloud, and related his visits there. I’d never heard the stories, and I was captivated. The final thing she said to him, “Well, you shouldn’t have signed that teaching contract. Now you can’t go. We need you here to teach.” And the U.S. military said I needed him here to parent me : ) !
The youngsters spoke up strongly in 1968, whether about the war, peace, music, style and of course human rights.
What could have been?
One of the exhibit’s several succinct but beautiful videos chronicles Martin Luther King, Jr., his impact and his too-soon death. As you look into his eyes as he gives his last speech, “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” you somehow know… that he knew.
My dad and I proudly noticed several Minnesota connections throughout the 1968 exhibit, including:
Time for some laughs
We laughed at clips from 1968 TV shows. There were some goodies!
Speaking of sports, remember the Olympians (1968 Games were in Mexico City) who were stripped of their medals for this anti-racism statement on the podium?
The sounds of sixty-eight
My musical genius dad talked us through the iconic sounds of the year!
Then there was Chicago
All this change, all this joy and horror and revolution. And it was only August. Time for the Democratic convention in my 2nd fav U.S. city. Who could’ve anticipated those events? Actually, who thought it would be “just another convention?” In the exhibit’s video, you see and hear a very young, very spirited Dan Rather being jostled around on the convention floor, just trying to do a report. Things were much rougher outside the convention walls.
Ads = barometer
Of course I was very intrigued by the advertisements of the year. How long has it been since we’ve seen tobacco in ads?
So how do you end a year like this?
Typical American style: Shoot for the moon. On Christmas Eve 1968, we launched three astronauts into space who became the very first humans to orbit the moon.
What. A. Day./Year./Dad!
At one point, I asked my dad if he realized–at the time–what monumental shifts were underway. “Not really,” he said. “You’re going along, in your life, trying to leave your mark and make the world a better place.”
You did, dad. And you do. Thanks for making my day and my world a better place.