THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong

I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.

As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.

English: Neil Armstrong descending the ladder ...

So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.

How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.

Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.

I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.

It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.

I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.

I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either. 

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.

Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.

1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.

Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will  make things change and somehow keep the change alive.


Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.

Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band,  “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.

Freedom doesn’t come for free.

41 thoughts on “THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong”

      1. What a wonderful piece of writing!

        1969 seems like a lifetime ago. It was incredible for a young newsman. Those days at ABC News seem surreal now. Working with “Murrow’s Boys” on all of the larger than life stories….to actually be assigned to cover many of those stories. Seems so very unreal because the world was spinning, threatening to fall off its axis. So many of us were dipping our toes into the future, certain we would improve the quality of lives and humanity from the previous generation. Our optimism was fervent. We had so many years ahead to change things.

        Sadly, it’s all history now. Most of those years are now behind us. So much still to do ..and the clock is ticking.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I also had a baby that year I remember being in bed, not sleeping well with a baby bump and Mr. Swiss was still watching the moon landing on TV in the early morning hours with his 8 year old son. There sre some things you never forget.

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    1. That was my unforgettable year and possibly my happiest. There were many things I didn’t yet understand and I was much happier not knowing them! I don’t remember the moon landing hour, but Owen was a couple of months old at that point — he was born in May and the landing was in July — and days and night were meaningless. I was awake nursing him almost all the time anyway. I always remind him that he watched it too … he was just a bit young to remember it.

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      1. I vividly remember holding baby Owen in my arms. Such a cute little man. Becoming Owen’s Godfather may have been my highlight of that memorable year.

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  2. “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

    Also from 1969, written by Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller. A posthumously-released version by Janis Joplin topped the U.S. singles chart in 1971.

    Yes, 1969 was quite a year.

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        1. I really don’t know. It seems to be the fight that will never end. We fight. We win. We relax and live our lives and then, suddenly, it’s back. It sneaks up on us — a bad president here, a bunch of hateful people there. Suddenly, it’s Germany in 1930. Hitler had more charm than Trump.

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    1. Strangely, Leslie, as a young newsie I thought things would only get better. I was such an optimist. Maybe naive. Hey, there HAVE been changes for the better. They are just mired in the Washington swamp. Stealing a line from “The Searchers”, we witnessed “the turnin’ of the earth” in 1969.

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  3. I remember so well all the events and beliefs we had you wrote about. You have expressed so eloquently what I feel and try to portray with my photographs and thoughts. This post hits home with me so strongly. I feel the same way down to the drugs we must take and the implants (though I only have one)! I feel such frustration and sadness sometimes about it all.

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    1. For me, the good news is that kids are waking up and doing something about it. I don’t know if they will do better than we did, but at least they are out there and giving it their best. That matters. We are too old to keep fighting forever. At some point, the youngsters need to take it on … and they have. So however bad it looks, there’s a generation working towards a better world and that’s SOMETHING.

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    2. Yes, Anstalmi, much to be sad about when you think about all we envisoned for our future, high on a shining hill. When I graduated high school in ’59, our principal told us we “were pioneers walking into a bright future with unlimited horizons”. It was hard to fathom the remark on that long ago day.

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  4. I thought 1969 was a great year for some of the same reasons, and then for others. We seemed to have time for everything and everyone. Now time is fleeting and often there just is not enough. We thought we were changing the world then. Now 45 looks a bit like Nixon, only worse.

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  5. “For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.” ❤ absolutely true.

    "Every generation sends a hero up the pop charts" oh, wait, I meant to write the changes humans make to better the world happen all the time, but not in a giant revolution and BAM new world! We have no small pox now; we have refrigeration; kids don't have to die of measles (stupid antivaxxers) — the list of what has been achieved is so long. I think of where humanity was in 1918 and now? I think that while not all the changes have been for the better, over all, except for climate change, we've made progress in so many areas that it's pretty impressive.

    I will be really happy when the baby boomers (and older) get out of politics, though. It's grotesque at this point, grotesque and scary.

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    1. I agree that we have made amazing advances in technology and medicine and that’s good. We’ve made amazing advances in a lot of scientific areas and in space, too — and THAT is also great. Politically, it’s beginning to feel a lot like 1930 in Germany and that’s NOT so great. The targets may be different, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to get the point.

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  6. Hi, Marilyn. My memories overlap with yours in a number of ways. 1969 was the year our first child was born. It was also the year I nearly went down because of the stress of my first ordained position in a civil rights/peace activist church in Decatur, IL. While John’s mother was at home with him, I stood in the middle of constant upheaval and turmoil, way too much for a 26 year old. Co-leading a controversial youth program with a former member of the Blackstone Rangers; organizing demonstrations; and a steady stream of draft counseling with high school and college students felt like pushing water up hill. I remember thinking then that it’s not about freedom. It’s about justice. It’s about inequality, race, ideology, nationalism.

    Now I’m an old man scratching my head wondering how 2018 will play out on the streets here at home, in the Korean peninsula, the Middle East, and every other hotspot around the world. Not on my darkest day in 1969 would it have occurred to me to place hope in the J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI or the CIA! Today I watch and hope that Mueller and the prosecutor from the Southern District of New York may deliver us from the nightmare that boggles my mind. It was about the Constitution way back in 1969. It is again in 2018. I try to listen. I write. I take solace in friends like you and Garry. I hold my breath. I pray and hope that the kids from Parkland open the door to a different future.

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    1. It is one huge turnaround from where we began. What worries me is NOT that we’ve dropped back into the 50s or even 40s, but closer to the 20s and 30s. There is an ugliness in the air and I don’t remember this kind of ugliness, even long ago.

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  7. I am not from that time but I can totally dig that, the importance of that time and you named some examples. It’s a time where a lot of things happened. As music lover and guitarist, I want to add my thoughts about music to your comment section. I think… 1969, the music is still listened and important today. To me the music from that time stands for handcrafted music, hypnotic music and freedom of creativity. If there ever have been talents, then they lived in that time.

    It might make me sound depressed, but the music from today is what I would call “template music”, because they featured out when you put the same three chords together again, and if you put a voice of a very young and good looking woman over it (that will be replaced when aged), it’ll sell again and again, and people don’t even realize that it’s one and the same music. There has never been more simplified music than today. I don’t say we have good music today, there is, but 1969 is a different ballpark of music.

    Music around 1969 is to me the incarnation of freedom to perform creativity and art. It was about the artists, very experimental, and what kind of sounds they wanted to create, and not about people in their studios that are mastering the song to a degree that it starts to sound very sterile. Music from 1969 and around that year did sounds dirty but good, not so sterile like most of the music today. It was mostly live. I just saw a Hendrix documentary a few days ago, it was mentioned they arrived in some kind of studio, they put any microphone they found to the amps and recorded the songs and were done. A single recording. It’s sounds raw, and that is what makes this music special. Nobody could tell Hendrix the guitar solo part is too long or what not. It was or is what it is, the resulting music that turns out when you have a talent on the guitar or his voice captures by the microphone.

    Same for Santana, Rolling Stones, CCR, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane… I stop here because you know well, the list of talents from that time is long. It goes even to the 70`s rock. The music from that time will always be known. I am from a differen time, but I absolutely love the music of that time. If we wouldn’t blow up our Earth (At this point I am sure we sadly will within the next decades), the music from that time would even be heard thousand years later.

    In short: Music happens when you put a few persons together that heck something out, when they can express their own art. Music is not for me, if you put people together because they look sexy (AutoTune), if guitar solos are barely 10 seconds long (because some people are overwhelmed by them), if music is researched on a psychological level to sell more (making use of certain short combinations), or polishing a song on a way to make it suitable for the mass. All that and more together, is when music became a share, like in the stock market. It’s not about creativity anymore, it’s about sales. It’s now big business, like with every other things that got hit by greed (Comparing PC gaming from the 90`s to today for example).

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    1. I wish I could argue the point, but I can’t. I was very very lucky to grow up when music truly came of age. There was SO much creativity. Everyone was trying new things, new sounds, new melodies, new rhythms. It was amazing. There were probably more than enough not-so-great musicians too, but there was so much great music. And when, sometime in the mid 1970s, it all faded into disco and hip hop and rap and stuff that to me wasn’t even music, it was hard to listen to it. I wasn’t OLD then, either. I was still in my 20s, so I was a kid too … but I needed music that was MUSIC. I am hoping that music will come back again. Surely there must be new creative musicians that can bring it back to something special and new!

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      1. Yes, very experimental it seems. When you don’t experiment, you can’t find new tunes. But they did back then, and this is why they shaped music. They discovered that a lot more can be done with music.

        I think there are signs that music will come back. It’s just more indy music, which is why I said there is still good music. The big labels just want to sell. I often try to find idependent musicians, and sometimes I found some gems. Just a few months ago I discovered a YouTube channel from the US, it seems they go around and try to find talents and then they show them on the channel. It was like I would living in the 60`s for a moment. Totally unplugged, lots of accoustic songs. Just artists wanting to show what they created. Lots of blues, experimental stuff and so on.

        Anyway, If I would have time machine, the woodstock festival would be still my first destination 🙂

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        1. I suspect it’s the studios who are stomping music down. They don’t like change. That was probably ALWAYS true. I think during the 60s, a whole new groups of producers came to town and that had a lot to do with letting the performers do their own thing. We need new directors, producers and OWNERS to let music grow. I think as long as the ones who do nothing but count the money run the companies, we’re not going to see much happening. But they won’t live forever. They WILL be replaced. Hopefully, soon!

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