By Connie Hocking | Sept. 10, 2018
Where were you in September of 1968? I was getting ready for my freshman year of high school back in the day when we had driver’s ed and home ec. The staff of the Salina Public Library was preparing to move from the building at Eighth and Iron to a sleek, new structure at 301 W. Elm. The job of boxing up and then unloading all those volumes must have seemed overwhelming. It was 20 years ago when the departments were moved within this building, and it was a massive project involving hydraulic stack movers, person-to-person book chains and lots of snacks!
In 1968 the average price of a new house was less than $15,000 and a new car went for $2,800. Gas was just 34¢ a gallon, bread was 22¢ a loaf, and it cost 6¢ to mail a letter. Sounds great, but the average wage was less than $5,600, and that’s the yearly wage!
What were we reading? “Airport” by Arthur Hailey was the best-seller. It later became a movie with several sequels. Also on the New York Times list were “Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron, “Couples” by John Updike and “The Salzburg Connection” by Helen MacInnes.
What were we listening to? The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was the top song, but others I sang or hummed along to included Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay,” “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkle and “Sunshine of your Love” by Cream. Aretha Franklin was rocking us with “Think” and “Chain of Fools.” Johnny Cash recorded his Folsom Prison album, Tammy Wynette sang about her D-I-V-O-R-C-E and Glen Campbell became our Wichita Lineman. And Elvis had his ’68 Comeback Special putting the King back on top!
What were we watching? “60 Minutes” debuted on CBS, and we’re still watching it 50 years later. “Hair” took to the stage in London bringing in the “Age of Aquarius.” A movie ticket was $1.50, and it was a great year for movies! “2001 A Space Odyssey,” “Funny Girl,” “The Odd Couple,” “The Graduate,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” And who could forget that chase scene with the iconic Mustang in “Bullitt”?! Steve McQueen was the definition of cool!
The Winter Olympic games were held in Grenoble, France; Summer games were in Mexico City. The Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, Lee Trevino won the U.S. Open (golf), and Bobby Unser crossed the line first at the Indianapolis 500. UCLA’s Bruins were the top college basketball team before all the March Madness business began. Ohio State Buckeyes took the college football title, and O.J. Simpson won the Heisman. Arthur Ashe won the U.S. Open (tennis), and Billie Jean King won the Wimbledon title. She was apparently the only woman in sports in 1968.
1968 was a year of headlines — some good, some tragic. The first successful heart transplant in the U.S. was performed, Boeing’s 747 took flight and Apollo 8 orbited the moon. Richard Nixon won the U.S. presidential election; Pierre Trudeau was elected as Canada’s prime minister. Shirley Chisholm was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first black woman to hold that office.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in April after Dr. King’s death. The war in Vietnam continued. Protesters took to the streets in cities around the world in opposition, including a violent conflict with police in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention.
Much has changed since 1968, and much has stayed the same. While we may not have 34¢ gas, we can still save you a lot of cash by providing the books, the music, the films, the history to you for free! Whether in book form, on disc or by streaming to your favorite device, Salina Public Library continues to evolve to bring you today’s music, films and books and preserving the “oldies.”