Monday, April 16, 2018

Summer of '69: Moon Landing, Chappaquiddick and the Cubs


 The recent opening of the movie Chappaquiddick brought moviegoers back to a glorious time -- the summer of 1969. Although just a young guy at the time, I remember that summer being very memorable -- especially July.

During summers, it was a family tradition of sorts for me or one or more of my siblings to spend a week or a few weeks at our grandmother's house in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was a great place to burn some summer weeks. Lake Michigan was a short walk away, there was a creek right outside the yard, and all sort of fun critters like snakes and chipmunks were about.


That particular summer, thundering36 and I were staying out at Grandma 36's place. One of the most exciting events that summer was the upcoming moon landing. I remember being at Joey Jackson's house on July 20, 1969 and watching the Apollo 11 astronauts make those first steps on the moon. President Kennedy's dream had been fulfilled: we got to the moon by the end of the 1060's:

 "We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too."


However, right before the moon landing, there was another national story that was all over the news: the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick accident that happened the night of July 18. It would be difficult to imagine the burden placed upon Ted Kennedy, having his three older brothers all dead and being the last realistic hope for a Kennedy presidency. But even more difficult to fathom would be Kennedy's actions that fateful night -- leaving a young woman in his car to die while he escaped and failed to notify officials immediately, sealing his chances to become president.

Of course, there was rampant news speculation that Kennedy was heading somewhere with this young hottie and things went wrong. Alcohol just had to be involved at the party they left. I don't remember the exact circumstances that prompted this remark -- maybe thundering36 does -- , but there was talk that there was no alcohol in Kennedy's system. Of course, if any check was made, it was made many hours after his drinking stopped. My grandmothers famous quote (including incorrect grammar): "Well, by that time it might evaporated." This quote became one of several "grandmaisms" that still live on among the lightning36 clan today.


As for the Cubs ... well, the Cubbies were clearly the most exciting story of that summer. They had the best team in baseball, including the "Million Dollar Infield" Of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley. The outfielders included Billy Williams and Jim Hickman. The pitching staff included Ferguson Jenkins, Ken Holtzman and Bill Hands. After Willie Smith began the season with a walk off extra innings home run, the Cubs sialed through the first part of the schedule and built a nice lead going into the end of summer. However, the really memorable game in July was actually one the Cubs lost to the New York Mets. On  July 9 in Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver had a perfect game going into the ninth inning. Cubs extra Jim Qualls got a single with one out in the ninth, ending Seaver's bid for a perfect game. Even when the Cubs lost, they seemed to win. As the summer of '69 was nearing completion, it was pretty evident that the Cubs would be in their first World Series since 1945. The only thing between them and the World Series would likely be the dastardly St. Louis Cardinals.

Epilogue

There were several more moonwalks after Apollo 11. They went on through the end of 1972. We have not been back to the moon since.

Ted Kennedy bid for the presidency in 1980 fell short. He had a long, distinguished run as a senator from Massachusetts until his death in 2009.

The Chicago Cubs quest for the World Series was halted by the Amazin' Mets of 1969, who went on to win the division, the National League pennant and the World Series. The Cubs did not go back to the World Series until their appearance and win in 2016.

Grandma36 passed away in the 1970's. She is fondly remembered by her grandchildren for the many funky things she said.

thundering36 left the United States to teach in Australia in 1975, returned in 2000, and moved back to Australia in 2017. He currently resides there.

lightning36 made it through his teen and adult years, spent his professional years in higher education,  and hopes to retire in May 2020. He resides in central Illinois and occasionally posts to this blog which is now in its 12th year.

2 Comments:

Blogger seattleirish said...

Good movie - saw it this weekend. Brought back a lof of stuff I forgot from that period. s.i.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

When they first walked on the moon, I was in the army stationed in Korea. This post brings back memories, for sure.

10:53 PM  

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