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That Summer of '69

By Charles Apple The Spokesman-Review

Momentous events. Artistic or technical achievements. Cultural touchstones. Moments of pain or delight. Call them what you will, the Summer of 1969 — in fact, the whole year — was full of them.

The sixth annual Summer Stories, the Spokesman-Review’s annual short-fiction series, is themed after the Summer of '69 and features stories from many of the region’s best writers. For information, stories, and tickets, go here.

Jan. 12

The New York Jets of the upstart American Football League defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Jan. 20

President Richard Nixon is inaugurated.

Jan. 30

The Beatles play what will be their final public show on the roof of their London headquarters.

Feb. 9

The Boeing 747 “jumbo jet” is test-flown for the first time in Everett.

Feb. 24

In Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court rules that First Amendment protections also apply to students in school.

March 11

Levi’s begins selling bell-bottomed blue jeans.

March 20

John Lennon and his new wife, Yoko Ono, begin a “bed-in for peace” protest in their Amsterdam hotel room.

May 15

16-year-old “Robert R.” of St. Louis dies of a mysterious ailment. Tests conducted years later will suggest he may have been the first victim of AIDS in the US.

May 25

“Midnight Cowboy” starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman is released in theaters. It will become the first X-rated film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

June 22

The polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catches fire — not for the first time — but this incident would lead to creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tribune News Service

Movie star and singer Judy Garland dies in London of a drug overdose.

June 28

A police raid on Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and grill in New York’s Greenwich Village, leads to a riot, protests and, eventually, the birth of the modern Gay Rights movement.

Wikimedia Commons

July 8

The U.S. makes the first troop withdrawals from the Vietnam War.

July 14

“Easy Rider” starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper is released.

July 18

Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy is involved in an accident on Chappaquiddick Island that kills a female friend. He doesn’t report the crash until the next morning.

Associated Press

July 20

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to set foot on the moon. NASA will make five more manned moon landings before Project Apollo ends in December 1972.


July 25

Nixon announces a new policy of “Vietnamization”: To let allied countries take the lead in fighting their own wars.

Aug. 9

Actress Sharon Tate and four others are brutally murdered in her house in the hills north of Hollywood. A “family” of hippies are later accused and tried for the crimes.

Associated Press

Aug. 15-18

More than 400,000 people show up to a music festival held on a New York dairy farm highlighted by performances by Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jimi Hendrix.

Associated Press

Aug. 17

Category 5 Hurricane Camille makes landfall near Gulfport, Mississippi. 259 people will die as a result of the storm.

Sept. 13

The Saturday morning animated TV show “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” debuts on CBS.

Sept. 24

Activists Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and five more are put on trial for inciting riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago the previous year.

Associated Press

Sept. 26

“The Brady Bunch” sitcom debuts on ABC-TV.

The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album is released.

Oct. 5

The comedy show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” debuts in the U.K. on BBC 1

Oct. 16

In an upset victory nearly as big as the Super Bowl nine months before, the New York Mets defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Oct. 29

The first message is sent via ARPANET, which will evolve into today’s internet.

Nov. 10

The children’s show “Sesame Street” debuts on public television.

Nov. 12

Journalist Seymour Hersh breaks the story about the incident in My Lai, South Vietnam.

Associated Press

Reports had emerged over the summer that U.S. troops had killed at least 350 civilians the previous year in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Eventually, Lt. William Calley Jr. was court-martialed for the incident.

Dec. 1

The first draft lottery since World War II begins.

Dec. 6

During a show by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in California, a security guard from Hells Angels stabs to death a pistol-waving member of the audience.

Dec. 7

The animated holiday special “Frosty the Snowman” debuts on CBS-TV.

Sources: “Chronicle of America” edited by John W. Kirshon, “Days of Destiny” by James M. McPherson and Alan Brinkley, “Flashpoints in History” by Ben Hubbard, “The American President” by Kathryn Moore, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post