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After reading through newspaper articles for the year 1968, I realized that the year was quite an eventful one. Politically, socially and economically speaking, the country endured a great deal of influential circumstances. Although the studying of vast articles from the New York Times succeeded in painting a clear, factual picture of that turbulent year, I was still eager to discover how incidents affected people growing up in that era. This fueled my motivation to begin the interviewing process, and to choose participants. In the end, I decided to interview my father, Mr. John Arthur Bartle, and a friend of my mother?s, Mrs. Linda Pacelli. Although both came from completely different backgrounds, and both have differing views, their stories and descriptions were equally fascinating.
Since I grew up with both my parents, I assumed that I knew a great deal about my father, John Bartle. I could not have been more wrong! I had heard stories about his being in the United States Airforce, but I never knew the governing factors surrounding them. It turns out that in 1968, my father, age twenty-two, was stationed in Spain. Apparently, he had enlisted in the Airforce because he was about to be drafted, and he claimed, ?There was no way in hell I was going to Vietnam.? He said he had even considered running to Canada. Much to my surprise, my father revealed that he had been part of the counterculture during that time, and also vehemently opposed the war. I could not quite picture my father that way, for today he fits the description of a hard-working, clean-cut, rigid, white-collared father of three. My father was interesting to interview since he was overseas for 1968, and learned of all American events second hand.
My interview with Linda Pacelli showed a sharp contrast with that of my father?s. Linda, nineteen years old at the time, was attending St. Lawrence University during the year of 1968. She also worked in New York City during her breaks from school for Seventeen Magazine as an editor. She was very much aware of current events, and unlike my father, did not see eye-to-eye with the counterculture or the anti-war movement. She described 1968 as very ?trying? time. She told me that people, including herself, began to see that society as an imperfect institution. Linda proved to be an interesting person to speak with and to interview, because she was so aware of what was happening around her, and truly cared about it.
During the 1960?s, the Vietnam War gripped the Nation, as well as the world. Specifically in 1968, the war continued, and many were praying for the end. Linda remembered several terrible, graphic pictures in the newspapers. She reminisced of being under the impression that the United States was getting ?clobbered,” and that we were becoming the victims of many counterattacks. My father, although reluctant to speak about the war at all, revealed the same sort of memories as did Linda. He also added information on a more personal note about friends of his that had been sent over. Both Linda and my father became upset when asked to recall events from the Vietnam War, and both claimed that everyone was looking for an end. Linda remembered specifically instances where Johnson would predict victory, but it never came. This followed closely what I learned about the war in newspaper articles. Still, it was somewhat eerie to converse with people who lived during the time the war took place, instead of just hearing about it. According to articles and popular opinion, it was, ?The war that couldn?t be won.? It was obvious that it had been a terrifying ordeal for the nation to be involved in, and that it still affects people today.
The capturing of the intelligence ship, the Pueblo, was another unfortunate event in 1968. My father said that he felt terrible for the guys, because he could ?relate to their situation.? Also, he was disturbed by how North Koreans were treating the crew. Linda knew even more about the situation, because she had read a book by Lloyd Bucher. This book told the story of the incidents onboard the Pueblo. Linda found the whole situation both tragic and engaging. She said that the crew, according the book by Bucher, had been spying. Linda said that this was something that initiated the public to take a good look at the government, and it?s intentions. She, like my father, felt terrible for the young, American men, for the whole ordeal lasted so long. Linda described the men as ?sitting ducks?, and I think she was right in her description of the crew. By reading the New York Times only, I did not have a clear grasp on what really happened involving the intelligence ship. After speaking with my father and Linda, I know see how momentous it really was.
I found that Richard Nixon?s entering into the presidential campaign in 1968 to be significant news of the year. Linda Pacelli agreed with me. She said that she was surprised that he was ?back in the thick of things.? She told me about how Nixon was not as liberal as most politicians during that time, and not so ?extreme.” Linda claimed that this pleased many people, like her father, because many were against radical themes like the anti-war movement, and the counterculture. My father had a different point of view on the whole situation. He said that at that point, he was not ?political,? and that he probably would not have been supportive of him based on the position he was taking at that time. This showed me that social issues of these times were very closely tied to political ones, and that opinions on each varied greatly.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced to the world that he would not be running for office again. He addressed the country with a speech, and reminded the nation that ?Unity is the ultimate strength of the country.? Linda recalled watching the speech, and understanding his point of view. She informed me of how Johnson was concerned about his health, and did not want to die in office. He was sorry for what had happened in Vietnam, but he could not run just the same. My father remembered being disappointed that Johnson decided not to run again, because my father believed that he would end the war. Also, my father admired his signing of the Civil Rights Act. My father was not a huge fan, but still favored many of his actions and ideas. I got the impression that at that time, my father was not a ?huge fan? of anyone in office.
Since I was young, I have been taught about the slaying of Martin Luther King in Memphis. Until I read the newspaper articles though, I had not realized what an impact it had on the nation. I read of how the nation mourned, and how the President canceled an important trip to Hawaii to meet with Mrs. King. Linda said that when she heard the news, she was in History class, and remembered how ?horrifying? it was. She said told me of how her teacher wept through the entire class. Instead of carrying on with that day?s lesson, the class discussed what had happened. I was surprised when my father revealed that he did not hear the news of Martin Luther King until a week after, and that he could not recall exactly how he felt about it. He sounded embarrassed that he did not know too much about it, but I urged him that his position physically and mentally was very interesting to me. I could not imagine being so far away from home, and so detached from events in one?s country.
The riots occurring in major cities of the United States seemed to be a very cumbersome affair in 1968 as well. They occurred in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and other major cities. Linda was aware of the riots happening, but did not recall much else about them. She said that all she knew was that many African Americans were outraged by the murder, and turned quite violent. She reminded me that Martin Luther King would not have wanted it that way since he stood for nonviolence. My father remembered hearing about the riots transpiring nationally, and also informed me that there were even riots in Syracuse, my home town. I was shocked to hear that, because I could never picture a riot happening where I come from. Actually, I found it hard to picture a riot anywhere. It really represented how influential Martin Luther King was. It must have been a horrifying experience for all that were involved or those who witnessed.
Possibly one of the most abominable events of 1968 was the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The news of his untimely death stunned and dismayed the country. Linda, remarkably, was working in New York City at the time of his Funeral at St. Patrick?s Cathedral, and she remembers being stuck in traffic while trying to get to work. She remembers that is was ?all the big news,? and that she told me that everyone was concerned for Jackie Kennedy, for she had already endured so much. My father was extremely depressed by the news, because he was lucky enough to have met Robert Kennedy before he was shot. My father proudly told me of how he even walked next to him for almost twenty minutes. He said that meeting him was one of the highlights of being in the service. I found myself saddened as well as I browsed through articles, because it seemed that Robert Kennedy was generally popular among the people, and it was such a terrible tragedy for the family that had already suffered the cruel loss of a family member a short time before.
An exciting part of 1968 was the preparation for Apollo?s anticipated voyage to the moon. During this year, NASA was repeatedly sending test flights in order to be ready for the predicted launch in 1969. The United States was in fierce competition with the USSR, and the mission to the moon was a real goal. Both Linda and my father remembered how exciting the whole thing was. My father, in general, found the entire space program a ?neat? one. I gathered that the mission in the space program was a bright, optimistic spot in a year of turmoil.
In Columbia University, students were voicing their opinions in a momentous way during this year. Students picketed and eventually took over the campus in an effort to increase their ?say? in issues involving the campus. Classes were canceled for many days, and the Situation received a great deal of coverage and attention. Linda was the only one to remember it, and she claimed that situations like that were transpiring all over college campuses- even her own. She thought that Columbia was a likely candidate for such demonstration, because it was known as a ?liberal? college. Linda said that most of the time, progress was made by these protests. This proves that college campuses genuinely were the place to make changes, and to be heard.
Again, the last episode that I found to be extremely influential in 1968, the teachers? strikes, was only recalled by Linda. Perhaps this is because She was studying to be a teacher, and this news interested her. She claimed that these strikes led to the start of unions in the education system. Newspapers showed, and Linda agreed that these strikes were initiated to bring teachers increased wages, and more job security. It seemed to me that teachers were treated somewhat unfairly during this time, and that these strikes led to better conditions for educators.
After interviewing my father and Linda Pacelli, I realized that oral history is a very effective method in research. Although reading through newspapers gave me a great deal of factual information, I truly learned how events affected society through these interviews. I found that using the differing backgrounds of my subjects allowed me to understand the diversity of public reactions and opinions of that time period. After using oral history, I could put myself in the shoes of those who experienced the memorable year of 1968. I feel that without the use of oral history in a project of this sort, one will never obtain the necessary quantitative information needed to internalize events studied. Although I was not a part of the year 1968, I am lucky enough to now comprehend the impact the year had on society as I know it today.
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