The Sixties Story is in the Music

JC Eberhart By JC Eberhart, 19th Oct 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

Never have I considered myself more privileged, than to have witnessed the social movement in it's countless forms of the 1960s.

A Volatile Time in History

It was so many years ago now, that the 60s seem to be worlds away from today. I was a teen-ager during that historic decade, but have experienced a secret desire for a long time now. I've experienced a desire to share my insights about that volatile time in history. It was a time of upheaval, of previously unimagined paths forged; some that would benefit mankind, others that would take a heavy, heavy toll. All in all, it seemed an unbelievably exciting time in history to have been "coming into one's young adulthood." I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the privilege of bearing witness to a time when so much social movement took place.

Many of my best friends back from 1961 through 1966 were guys. (I'd always found guys to be easier to trust than most women and far less competitive!) I've never forgotten that hot summer day when Jim, Dave and Don told me they'd just enlisted in the Armed Forces. Yes, I was happy and excited for them, but I was also scared for them. What if there were to be a war? Would they survive? What if they didn't survive and I lost three of my dearest friends?

"Hello" is Just a Letter Away

I watched and mourned as three of my dearest friends departed for parts of the world I could only imagine. We wrote letters while they were away and thankfully, yes, they did all return unharmed. But, they returned just before the Viet Nam war began. I remember thinking to myself, "Oh Dear God, please, not a war!"

I was just entering the twelfth grade in highschool when several of the guys I'd known were being drafted. We all knew they would be sent to Viet Nam. How well I recall listening to and identifying intensely with Barry McGuire's song, “Eve of Destruction.” This song told the story so eloquently of the beginning of the end of so many young lives. Little did I know, we truly were living the eve of destruction.

Suddenly, there was this unfamiliar and monstrous thing called, "The draft lottery." Kids I'd just graduated with from high school were being drafted one right after another. (The story of the upheaval that all young people experienced is described so accurately in Bob Dylan's song, “The Times, They Are a Chang'in.”)

I've never forgotten the afternoon my brother came to me. I knew immediately, by the expression on his face, that something was terribly wrong. In a panic-stricken voice he exclaimed, "Jeanie, I've just gotten my draft papers and I'm number 4 on the lottery list! What am I going to do?" My immediate response was, "Jeff, you've got to enlist right away - BEFORE they can draft you!!" (After all, the guys I'd known who'd enlisted had fared quite well in the service all in all.)

God Bless the French, and The United States of America, too!

I'd just learned that the French had fought Viet Nam for eighty years and finally gave up and pulled-out of that godforsaken place that I'd never heard of before.) Jeff went down that same day and enlisted in the Navy. To this day, I'm so grateful that he followed my advice. He spent his four year naval career in Texas working on jet aircraft engines! (Thank you, God!)

Others weren't as fortunate as my little brother and didn't make the right decisions at the time; some were conscientious-objectors and fled to Canada. Most young men of the time were drafted and sent to Viet Nam to fight a war about which they knew very little. Many fought and died over there.

Make Love, Not War

It was the (at the time) seemingly universal reaction to the Viet Nam war that took another tremendous toll on American lives. That reaction, in my experience, was the rage experienced by youth throughout the previously peaceful country of the United States.

Combined with the rage being experienced by the youth in America was the fact that the drug scene had just begun to move into the midwest. (I lived in a small town in the state of Minnesota.) Marijuana, or "Pot" and "Grass" as we called it, caught-on like some kind of wildfire. Thus was born, the Peace Movement. Marijuana was known for "mellowing people out." A common slogan of the time became, "Make Love, Not War."

Hello Timothy Leary and Woodstock

As I recall it, the actual Peace Movement itself, began out on the West Coast in sunny California. As I was graduating from highschool, many of my classmates could hardly wait to leave Minnesota to live out by the ocean. Many of them traveled there in old, painted and beaten-up vans. (Mostly in wild-colored hand-painted Volkswagon vans, as I recall!) Young women had begun wearing flowers in their hair, long dresses and walked in bare feet. Many of them looked clearly, "stoned." (Eyes appeared glazed and sometimes their speech was slowed-down and sounded flat.) Then Woodstock took with it, it's share of young lives in the form of overdose deaths.

Added to this picture was good old Timothy Leary who was busily conjuring-up, in his college lab, what came to be known as "The Mind Expanding Drug, LSD." More commonly referred to as "Acid." Many of the people with whom I'd graduated from high school, graduated to the latest rage of the time, "Acid." For those who preferred spending their days and nights watching the elephants on their wallpaper romping around or taking drug induced, imaginary journeys down the yellow brick road, this drug caught on quickly. There, of course, were those individuals who imagined they were Superman and who fell to their deaths "flying" off of tall buildings. The other drugs like speed and heroin had also moved into the mid-western states. These drugs took their toll in the form of overdose deaths, drug-related suicides, auto accidents and so on. Much of the emotion from this time in history is conveyed in Jefferson Airplane's song, “White Rabbit.”

Shootings at a College? Unheard of!

Not long after, as I recall, were the Kent State University shootings by police during a demonstration. (Expressed so articulately in Neil Young's song recording, "Ohio.") Demonstrations were new to the country at the time, thus seemed very threatening in nature.) Around that same time was the establishment of the Symbionese Liberation Army who kidnapped Patty Hearst and who DID use violence as a means of communicating their dislike of the United States Government. They did so by robbing a bank and using guns and explosives.

My Baby Son Kept Us Safe

In the beginning of all of this turbulence, I'd longed to be a flower child in California with some of my high school friends who had pursued this dream. Not too many years later, I was to learn that some of them would never return. Buffalo Springfield's song, “For What It's Worth” conveys the tragedy and turmoil of those times.

Having gotten married and given birth to my baby son, these were not options for me. My son's life was far too important to risk exposing him to this unchartered and risky territory and I'd really wanted to make my new marriage work. Thus, I was never to fulfill my dream of being a flower child. Of course, the Manson murders occurred toward the end of the 60's and I realized that my dream hadn't been such a good idea after all. (Clearly, flower children were not all that they'd been cracked-up to be!) I chose my own poison right here in good old Minnesota and it was the legal drug of alcohol, primarily. In retrospect, I thank God that my precious son kept me from going to sunny California to wear flowers in my hair. It seems crystal clear to me that I would've been one of the drug fatalities without a doubt as alcohol and other drugs were to become my vice. Yet, upon my recent visit to San Francisco, as I toured the foggy city, the song “If You're Going to San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie from the 1960's, played over and over again inside my head. For as I toured the big city I was aware that I was viewing many of the streets on which long ago friends of mine had spent their last days - particularly as I passed through Haight Ashbury.


Some of the Viet Nam vets returned to Minnesota. Many of them missing limbs, most of them very bitter and angry individuals. Many with drug and alcohol problems. Nothing at all like the same boys who'd left us a couple of years earlier.

It's funny, I've always told my children how glad I am that I grew-up in the 1960s . . . because it was a truly exciting time in history. In my experience, the most turbulent time in history to be experienced in our beautiful country of America and I am able to say that, "I was there." But I truly wonder if those of us who were there don't all experience a deep and aching pang of sadness looking back at the times when we lost so many.

I came away from the experience of the 1960s with a firm conviction that violence never solves anything and I'm proud to say that I raised my children with that philosophy. I am patriotic and love my country. I never waver where my values are concerned. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to say that I survived the 60s, was able to learn so much and have been blest to have lost so little to those few, never to be forgotten, years in time."

(Copyright 2008 by JC Eberhart)


1960S, 1960S Road, 1960S Social Movements, Historical, History Of United States, Memories, Music

Meet the author

author avatar JC Eberhart
I am a licensed addiction clinician with a background in corrections. I reside with my husband and Staffordshire Terrier in Minnesota, the coldest, yet most lovely state in the USA!

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author avatar DuitByJames
19th Oct 2012 (#)

A very nice stroll down memory lane. I was younger but remember the same events as they took their toll on my older brother and sister. Thank You JC Eberhart

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author avatar JC Eberhart
19th Oct 2012 (#)

I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Thank you for the nice compliment! JC

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
16th Dec 2012 (#)

I really enjoyed reading this JC, but I have to tell you, as a flower child who arrived in San Francisco in the "Summer of Love" from the east coast in 1967, I survived all of it, and you would have as well.

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