Oklahomans Relive the Summer of 1969
By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Forty years ago, the world and Oklahoma was changed forever in the summer of 1969.
In the early 1960s, life in Oklahoma was simple. The focus was on family, politics, and the community. But then came the summer of 1969, the summer of music, love and unrest.
Hippies and protesters clashed with authorities over the Vietnam War and civil rights. It was the same year man first walked on the moon.
The summer of ‘69 was a revolution, one that was also happening in Oklahoma.
|Summer of 1969|
"In 1969, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma were changing," said Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma History Center.
He said it was a time of urban renewal, and a time of development and growth.
"The Crosstown Expressway had just been built for I-40. I-40 only went as far as El Reno in 1969," Blackburn said.
But it wasn't just the state that was changing. Oklahomans were changing too including a young student at the time who would grow up to become Oklahoma's 23rd governor.
"Was it 40 years ago? oh my god. What a long time," said Former Oklahoma Governor David Walters.
In 1969, Walters had just moved from his small hometown in western Oklahoma to attend the University of Oklahoma.
"There was protests and people running across the South Oval and little tear gas here and there. It was quite a time," Walters said.
Meanwhile, the future president of Oklahoma State University had just married his wife in Houston and was also attending law school at OU. He said the unrest on campus was tame compared to other schools.
"I don't ever remember seeing smoking marijuana or any of that going on, even at parties. We were all pretty square. Thank goodness," said OSU President Burns Hargis.
NEWS 9 reporter Gan Matthews was in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany.
He said OU was the focus of another big story that year.
"The one I remember and followed very closely was Steve Owens pursuit of and ultimate capture of the Heisman Trophy for 1969," Gan Matthews said.
Some said it's the music that truly defined this decade, and it can all be traced back to Woodstock.
Former Oklahoma City attorney Linda Meoli was there, and she still has the ticket stubs to prove it.
"It was a lot of fun, but it was really dirty and rainy and wet and there was a lot of people and there was no food. But it was fun," Linda Meoli said.
In 1969 Merle Haggard released his album "Okie from Muskogee" and Oklahoma native Wanda Jackson was a big headliner in Las Vegas.
"We were working one nighters," Singer Wanda Jackson said.
Many said the ‘Queen of Rockabilly' reveled in those rock-and-roll shows, that was until 1969 rolled around.
"Then came along the movement of the love child, the flower child and everybody love everybody," Jackson said.
Jackson said she wanted nothing to do with it. But others embraced the movement and the conflict, sex, drugs and rock-and-roll that came with it. For many of today's Baby Boomers, the summer of 1969 was it.
"It was a wonderful transitional period I remember very fondly," Walters said.
And it's the places and people many said they'll never forget.
"There was a girl down at OU who would bare her top at the corner of Asp and Boyd, I remember. I never saw it. I heard it," Hargis said.
Now 40 years later, the summer of ‘69 lives on in the hearts of those who were there.
"I guess some of us are dead by now. The numbers are dwindling," Meoli said.
That's why most will agree that now is the time to remember it, to share the stories, to love it, and live it all over again.
"I have a whole new generation of fans. The things that have been happening to me have been making my head swim," Jackson said.
But Matthews said while he enjoys reliving the past, his focus is on the future.
"The best of life is yet to come," Matthews said.
As for some of the other NEWS 9 team in 1969, Gary England was getting ready to enter the wild world of Oklahoma weather forecasting.
Share you stories and send your pics from the summer of 1969 to News9pics@news9.net
What else was happening in 1969?
- 'Okie From Muskogee' is an album by Merle Haggard and the Strangers.
- Richard Nixon becomes President of the United States
- The very first U.S. troop withdrawals are made from Vietnam
- Sesame Street known for its Muppet characters, makes it's debut on PBS
- The Stonewall riots in New York City mark the start of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S.
- Members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder five people
- Hurricane Camille hits the Mississippi coast killing 248 people
- Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc
- The Beatles release their album Abbey Road.
- The first GAP store opens, in San Francisco.
How Much things cost in 1969:
- Yearly Inflation Rate USA 5.46 %
- Yearly Inflation Rate UK 5.6%
- Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 800
- Average Cost of new house $15,550.00
- Average Income per year $8,550.00
- Average Monthly Rent $135.00
- Average Cost New Car $3,270.00
- Toyota Corona $1,950.00
- Gas per Gallon 35 cents