Three months from now, you’ll be making a list and checking it twice.
Three months from now, you’ll take stock of finances and life, focusing on family, food, and resolutions. This year will almost be over three months from now, but as you’ll see in “100 Days: How Four Events in 1969 Shaped America” by Harlan Lebo, there’s still plenty of time for change.
Though it finally happened in 1969, America’s plan to put a man on the moon began some 28 years earlier, when Vannevar “Van” Bush went to work for Franklin Roosevelt’s Office of Scientific Research and Development. Under Bush’s leadership, America made significant strides in technology and weapons of war, and Bush himself envisioned a future with a device we’d recognize as a computer. As for long-range rocketry, though, he thought it “would not be technically feasible.”
Bush was still alive on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
A little more than two weeks later, America would have what Lebo calls “One Week of the Darkest and the Brightest.”
For years, the counter-culture had been gaining strength and society had rapidly changed, thanks to “Americans under 25 years old.” Long hair replaced crew cuts; “suits and wingtips were replaced by jeans and sandals”; and young people, unhappy with their parents’ lifestyles, adapted lifestyles of their own making.
It was a situation that Charles Manson took full advantage of, as he gathered followers who ultimately did his bidding by murdering seven people in the Los Angeles area on the nights of Aug. 8-9 and 10.
Hollywood was terrified, as were most older Americans, but the country’s youth likely noted the murders and moved on, literally: 500,000 of them were headed for a farm in upstate New York, where a three-day concert was being held Aug. 15-17, beginning with a prayer by Sri Swami Satchidananda and ending with a blurry-eyed Jimi Hendrix on guitar.
Little did those concertgoers know that, six weeks later, something would happen that’d someday allow music to be portable: a grad student at UCLA noted that his university’s computer connected with a staff member’s computer.
It was, as Lebo says, “the birth of the Internet ….”
You know how it goes: one thing leads to another. In “100 Days,” author Harlan Lebo shows that phenomenon in history, by laying out a short timeline of the summer of ’69 — starting in 1941.
Going that far back is necessary to completely understand the significance of the first event, the start of a summer that’s been the subject of a lot of books this year. What sets this apart from others, however, is that Lebo looks closer at then-major names and at the everyman players, both who had pinky-fingers on what happened. These are the people who were almost headline-makers, who had remarkable front-row seats before slipping back into the crowd.
History doesn’t always recall those bit-players; Lebo does, and that’s where readers will find the best parts of “100 Days.” There’s why you’ll want to check this book on your list.