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Thursday, January 24, 2008

40 Years Ago

With this week’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, the presidential primaries and the continuing war, and since I’m reading David Halberstam’s Powers That Be, especially the parts about the Washington Post and the Vietnam war, I’ve been thinking about 1968.

It was, of course, a pivotal year in American history, as Tom Brokaw’s recent book and documentary, and another that came out a few years back, showed us.

It was the year I began my adult life. It was 40 years ago.

In the beginning of 1968 I was 22. I had graduated, from Marymount College, with a major in political science and a junior year spent at the London School of Economics, the previous June. Over the past few months I’d picked grapes near my home in upstate NY to make some money, and decided to move to Washington DC.

My cousin and I moved in with a friend of hers near Calvert and Columbia, and we started looking for jobs and an apartment. She found a job as an art school receptionist first, and we got a basement apartment in the Mt.Pleasant area, on Lamont Street. It was a slightly dicey neighborhood but with some touches of gentrification. At night we could hear the animals in the National Zoo.

I answered several ads for various types of office work, nothing I looked at was interesting nor were they interested in me. Finally I went to the Washington Post where they were offering jobs taking classified ads at a rate of $135/week, higher than anything else I’d seen. The personnel counselor said I was overeducated, and sent me to the Promotions department where they had a temporary opening. For 6 weeks or so I would visit the newsroom library, looking for clips of stories that were to be submitted to various journalism prizes, including the Pulitzers. I clipped copies of the stories and pasted them in booklets. I had a job, of sorts, in Washington.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam war, after 5 years or so, was escalating, and more and more American soldiers were being sent there, and dying. Marines were surrounded at Khe Sanh. The Tet new year was coming. Eugene McCarthy’s youth campaign was surging and it seemed this reluctant scholar might challenge Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Bobby Kennedy – and George Wallace -- were considering starting campaigns, too. The growing cost of the war was threatening to erode LBJ’s Great Society. War and draft protesters were being prosecuted. The Beatles had released Magical Mystery Tour and were visiting India, and drugs were changing the culture. North Korea seized a U.S. Navy ship, the Pueblo, and the second –second! Super Bowl was played (Lombardi’s Packers beat Oakland).

It seems it was a time very much like this one.

And it would be an eventful year.

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2 Comments:

  • Putting a personal time line on historical events is difficult for some of us out here that are not historians. Knowing that I'm your age makes my perspective easier to negotiate. It also reminds me how much I've forgotten or repressed. Nice piece. Would enjoy seeing more of this from you.
    thnx, L

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 PM  

  • Liz,
    And the rest is history, you amazing woman, you. I really enjoyed this, especially since I'm new to D.C. Great to hear about your first encounter with the city.
    Cheers,
    Kitty Bennett

    By Blogger Equinox, at 4:06 PM  

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