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One small step for man, one huge leap for a teen

September 12, 2009|By TONY MULIERI

Americans are good at celebrating anniversaries and this year has marked some memorable 40-year anniversaries of events that occurred in 1969.

It's hard to believe 40 years has passed, but I was 19 when man first walked on the moon.

It really takes you back.

It also has been 40 years since all of those young people came together at Woodstock for what became a generation-defining event.

Three days, man, of peace, love and music.

The paper did stories this summer looking back at those two events, but for those of us who were alive at the time, it certainly was a tumultuous time.

I graduated from high school in 1968, the same year Bobby Kennedy was gunned down in California and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain in Memphis, Tenn.

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Just a few years before, JFK was assassinated in Dallas.

It also was a time when the Vietnam War was going on and 19-year-olds didn't know what the future would bring. It was a chaotic time, to say the least.

By 1969, the country was ready for something like Woodstock.

It's funny, but a few weeks before Woodstock, I attended the Atlantic City (N.J.) Pop Festival at the Atlantic City Racetrack. Many of the same bands that were at Woodstock played at this concert in New Jersey.

We slept in tents on the racetrack and the music was great. I can remember at the end of the three-day concert, someone got on the stage and announced they were going to have a similar concert in New York in a couple of weeks.

I can remember turning to my friend and saying, "Well, it can't be as good as this."

Famous last words.

No, I didn't go to Woodstock, but I had a couple of friends who did and they always seemed to have this aura about them for years after that. "They went to Woodstock," people would say, as if that defined them.

After Woodstock and all that had happened in the '60s, we needed the 1970s just to recover.

Another thing I recall about 1969 had to do with sports. That was the year my beloved Baltimore Colts lost to the Joe Namath-led New York Jets in Super Bowl III. It was the same year the Amazin' Mets beat the Orioles in the World Series. The New York Knicks defeated the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA playoffs in the 1969-70 season.

Three New York teams beat my Baltimore teams and none of them were the hated Yankees.

Go figure.

The moon landing was the one event that really was a huge news deal as the U.S. won the race to put footprints on the moon. I can recall watching it on an old black-and-white TV in my father's office, where we stopped briefly while driving around that night. The reception wasn't very good, but you could make out what was happening.

It was one small step for man, one giant leap for 1969.

Tony Mulieri is community editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com.

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