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Put Yourself in July of 1969

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This weekend through Monday, television and the internet will be full of commemorations of the Apollo 11 moon mission, in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon's surface. If you want to relive the event, you can follow coverage in real time at the interactive site We Choose the Moon. It was 40 years ago today that the mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center. But those who weren't yet born when Apollo 11 launched don't have the context of that time period, which helps to understand how awed and inspired we were by the accomplishments of the Apollo astronauts and by mankind in general in July of 1969. What follows are some of the events that shaped the mood of the nation at the time.

The Vietnam War

The Unites States was deeply mired in another land war in Asia, and had been for about a decade. As a child, my country had always been at war in Vietnam. The news we watched on TV every night wasn't good, but it wasn't the whole story, either. By 1969, returning veterans were speaking out about how the war was mismanaged and how much worse conditions were than news outlets were telling us. More and more young men refused to serve when drafted, and thousands turned out for protests because although they could be drafted, they were too young to vote.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Civil Rights movement had breakthroughs and setbacks at a pretty steady pace for the 15 years since the Brown vs Board of Education ruling in 1954. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the unelected leader of the movement, due to his oratorical skills and his inexhaustible devotion to the cause. In the late sixties, King had expanded his crusade to include justice for poor people of all races and an end to the Vietnam War. He was not the first Civil Rights leader to be murdered, but he was the most prominent. When King was shot on April 4th, 1968, the event cast a cloud over all the gains the movement had made.

Bobby Kennedy


Former US attorney general Bobby Kennedy ran for president in 1968, but only got as far as winning the California primary when he, too was assassinated on June 5th. His death was a shock and brought up all the old feelings Americans had when president John F. Kennedy was murdered in 1963.

1968 Presidential Election


Chaos reigned at the 1968 democratic convention as police fought against hippies, Yippies, anti-war protesters, civil rights activists, and others who had invaded the streets of Chicago. People following the TV and newspaper reports were afraid the protesters would disrupt the presidential nomination process, or worse, poison the city's water supply with drugs! But we also hoped that the protests would somehow shorten the war. Anyhow, with Lyndon Johnson out of the race (due to the war) and Kennedy out of the race (due to his death), the democrats really had no chance in the '68 election against Richard Nixon.



The women's liberation movement was making progress in some areas and suffering backlash in others. Organizations were pressing for abortion rights. The first Women's Studies class for credit was held at Cornell University in 1969. Women went to office jobs wearing pantsuits inside of skirts. Attitudes lagged behind activism, as the movement was condescendingly called "women's lib" and feminist were called "bra burners", even though no bras were ever burned.

The Cold War

The space race was only one side of America's competition with Soviet Russia. The darker side was the nuclear arms race and the threat of global nuclear war. As children, my generation felt it was just a matter of time before the Russians dropped an H-bomb on us. We listened for the Emergency Broadcast System to deliver the bad news of the nuclear attack we came to expect. We learned to Duck and Cover, but we also knew that those defense tactics were useless.



Into this depressing mix of events and conditions, there was a shining beacon of hope. We were going to the moon! The Mercury and Apollo missions fed our pioneering spirit and our thirst for modern technology at the same time. Everyday men became superheroes when they put on a spacesuit and stepped into a tin can to be flung higher above the earth than anyone had flown before. And we got to follow their progress in newspapers and magazine, and best of all, on TV! When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon, they took us all with them. If mankind could take this giant step, there could surely be nothing to stop us from taking care of all those other problems.

And that's what it was like in 1969.

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Someone Bought Hitler’s Boxers for $6700
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Fox Photos/Getty Images

The public’s fascination with Adolf Hitler extends even to the underwear he wore. A pair of his monogrammed boxers was recently auctioned off for more than $6700, according to the International Business Times. The lucky new owner is an unnamed citizen who apparently does not want to be publicly associated with Hitler's drawers.

The undershorts, sold by Alexander Historical Auctions in Maryland, were reportedly left behind after the dictator stayed at the Parkhotel Graz in Austria in April 1938. They may have been sent out for cleaning and then forgotten. (Sadly, this means we don't get to laugh at Hitler's skid marks.) The family who owned the hotel kept the underpants in pristine condition for almost 80 years. According to the IBTimes, the auctioneer who sold the boxers apparently screened potential buyers for any far-right political affiliations, ensuring that they would go to someone more interested in mocking the Führer's choice of butt-covering than paying tribute to the genocidal fascist.

The striped white linen is monogrammed with Hitler’s initials. The shorts are “surprisingly large,” according to the auction catalog, and they have loops sewn onto either side of the waistband that may have attached to the pants. Hitler was a notoriously shabby dresser, and liked to wear his clothing extra loose.

The fascination with the underpants of the Third Reich goes beyond just Hitler’s intimate apparel. The lacy underwear of his longtime mistress, Eva Braun, was sold for almost $4000 at a UK auction in November 2016. Maybe stamping out fascism requires the same technique as overcoming a fear of public speaking—you just have to imagine everyone in their underwear.

[h/t International Business Times]

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Big Questions
Why Do We Sing the National Anthem at Sporting Events?
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Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In early September 1814, Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer and amateur poet, accompanied American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner to negotiate a prisoner release with several officers of the British Navy. During the negotiations, Key and Skinner learned of the British intention to attack the city of Baltimore, as well as the strength and positions of British forces. They were not permitted to leave for the duration of the battle and witnessed the bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry on September 13 and 14. Inspired by the American victory and the sight of the American flag flying high in the morning, Key wrote a poem titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry."

Key set the lyrics to the anthem of the London-based Anacreontic Society, "The Anacreontic Song." (Nine years earlier, Key had used the same tune for “When the Warrior Returns (from the Battle Afar)” to celebrate Stephen Decatur’s return from fighting the Barbary pirates, which included the line “By the light of the Star Spangled flag of our nation.”)

The poem was taken to a printer, who made broadside copies of it. A few days later, the Baltimore Patriot and The Baltimore American printed the poem with the note "Tune: Anacreon in Heaven." Later, Carrs Music Store in Baltimore published the words and music together as "The Star Spangled Banner."

The song gained popularity over the course of the 19th century and was often played at public events like parades and Independence Day celebrations (and, on occasion, sporting events). In 1889, the Secretary of the Navy ordered it the official tune to be played during the raising of the flag. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that it be played at all military ceremonies and other appropriate occasions, making it something of an unofficial national anthem.

After America's entrance into World War I, Major League Baseball games often featured patriotic rituals, such as players marching in formation during pregame military drills and bands playing patriotic songs. During the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the 1918 World Series, the band erupted into "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Cubs and Red Sox players faced the centerfield flag pole and stood at attention. The crowd, already on their feet, began to sing along and applauded at the end of the song.

Given the positive reaction, the band played the song during the next two games, and when the Series moved to Boston, the Red Sox owner brought in a band and had the song played before the start of each remaining contest. After the war (and after the song was made the national anthem in 1931), the song continued to be played at baseball games, but only on special occasions like opening day, national holidays, and World Series games.

During World War II, baseball games again became venues for large-scale displays of patriotism, and technological advances in public address systems allowed songs to be played without a band. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played before games throughout the course of the war, and by the time the war was over, the pregame singing of the national anthem had become cemented as a baseball ritual, after which it spread to other sports.

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