What the hell happened in 1968? (The How to Get a Standing Ovation Edition)

“[The] American Independent Party candidate for president … urged Veterans of Foreign Wars Thursday not to be misled by what he called ‘liberal left-wingers, guideline writers and newspaper editors.” The first line of the Associate Press story states the news in faded shades of cream and grey.

wallaceI consider whether to find this opening funny or disconcerting. “What were they thinking in 1968?” I ask, as I take a closer look at the faded old newspaper, crumbled decades ago around the dishes that I am unpacking. It turns out to be an article about George Wallace, a former Alabama Governor most known for his zealous support of racial segregation, not for his failed run for the presidency in 1968. As I read on, forty-seven years melt away and I am Sherri Roth, thirteen-year-old news freak and hopeful Lois Lane-style journalist, skimming the news as I search for answers to the burning questions about life that keep me awake at night as I try to understand the universe.

“George C. Wallace” I read “devoted much of his speech … to attacks on communism.” I have to smile. Attacks on communism seem quaint and harmless today, although thirteen-year-old Sherri Roth was under the firm impression that both Lenin and Marx specifically advocated tyranny, massacres, and cruelty. It will be a few more years before she is surprised to learn that Communism is merely an economic philosophy and not a mandate to do evil.

panty girdlesIn his speech, captured in a copy of The Wichita Eagle from a Friday August 23 of long ago, Wallace took potshots at newspapers for being soft on Fidel Castro. He also decried anarchists, saying both they and communists “imperil this country internally and externally.” Young Sherri Roth isn’t sure exactly what an anarchist is, but the older Sherrie Cronin is pretty sure that Wallace was referring to hippies. The VFW of 1968 was not particularly fond of this group, and her suspicions are strengthened when she reads that “He was interrupted 25 times by applause, [and] given a standing ovation as he finished.”

Okay. This is starting to sound more like the news of today. Except for those poor guideline writers, that is. Even Rush Limbaugh doesn’t rail against guideline writers, at least as far as I know. What did they do back then to piss off George Wallace?

infinite times1“Guideline writers in Washington are trying to … cover every aspect of life, even to the point of telling a person when he should get up and when he should go to bed,” Wallace complained. Oh. Some government study must have recommended getting eight hours of sleep each night. Looks like that constituted government overreach in Wallace’s opinion.

I sigh as I remember some of the Tea Party complaints that have made the news recently. In 1968 you might have been able to buy a men’s pullover for $2.66 and a woman’s panty girdle for only a dollar, but other things haven’t changed all that much in forty seven years. Would George Wallace have a shot at the presidency today? You have to wonder.

For more notes from 47 years ago, where 13 year old Sherri Roth reports the news from the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle, see my other blogs posts for the Vietnam Edition, the Women’s Edition, the Won’t You Please Come to Chicago Edition, and the Race Relations Edition.

[From page 15A of the Friday August 23, 1968 Wichita Eagle from the Associated Press News Service]