New York panorama
1969 through the eyes of an Englishman

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The BEV Retrospective - 1969.

Topics this year are:
  • Vietnam war,
  • Politics and happenings in the US,
  • Politics and happenings in the UK,
  • Other world events.

Vietnam War.

This year started more quietly than 1968. The first notable action was at the Battle of Dong Ap Bia, also known as Hamburger Hill. This was an action in the best traditions of WW1. A steep hill, of no strategic value was held by well fortified PAVN troops. The US command in Vietnam ordered that it be taken. The 101st Airborne Division committed five infantry battalions and ten batteries of artillery to the assault, losing 56 men dead and 421 wounded. The US Air Force dropped more than 450 tons of bombs and 69 tons of napalm on the hill top, and some on their own troops.

The hill was defended by two Battalions of the 29th PAVN Regiment. 630 of their dead discovered after the Americans finally took the hill. The number of wounded was probably most of the remainder of the two units.

My Lai massacre picture.
In June, President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu met at Midway Island, where Nixon announced that 25,000 US troops would be withdrawn by September. The first troop withdrawals commenced in July. Later that month Nixon announced a policy of "Vietnamization" of the war. In August in an apartment in Paris, US representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy began secret peace negotiations. These were a failure, the two sides could not agree to any terms.

On 2 September, North Vietnam's leader - Ho Chi Minh - died at his home of heart failure, aged 79. The rest of the war was conducted by a committee of his ministers. The news was withheld from the people for 48 hours because it was not considered appropriate to announce it on a national anniversary.

In October, hundreds of thousands of people took part in National Moratorium antiwar demonstrations across the US. In response to this, on November 3, Nixon addressed the nation on television and radio, asking the "silent majority" to join him in solidarity with the Vietnam War effort, and to support his policies.

Any possibility that this might happen was scuppered when an investigative journalist - Seymour Hersh - broke the My Lai story. A few days later, a Cleveland newspaper published explicit photographs of dead villagers from the massacre. Protest continued unabated.

Hurricane Camille.

Anti-trial poster.
A Presidential Honeymoon?

On January 20, Richard Milhous Nixon succeeded LBJ as the 37th President of the USA. In comparison with the previous year, his first year in office, except of course for the continuing war, was pretty quiet. The glory of the year was mostly attributed to President 35 as Kennedy's promise was fulfilled.

There was some closure on the assassinations of the previous year. In March, in court in Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan admitted that he had killed Robert F. Kennedy. A few days later, in Memphis, James Earl Ray plead guilty to the killing of Martin Luther King Jr, though he would later retract his confession.

In August, a category 5 Hurricane - Camille - became the most powerful one in recorded history, as it hit the Mississippi coast. It killed 248 people and causing $1.5 billion in damage.

October saw four days of rioting in Chicago. The National Guard was called in to control demonstrations involving the radical Weathermen, in connection with the "Chicago Eight" Trial. Student discontent was still alive and well.

October also saw the birth of a retail colossus, when Wal-Mart incorporate as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The following month, a guy called Dave Thomas opened a restaurant in in downtown Columbus, Ohio. He named it Wendy's after his 8-year-old daughter.

A few days later, negotiators from the Soviet Union and the US would meet in Helsinki to begin the SALT 1 negotiations intended to limit the number of strategic weapons held by each side

In December, Chicago's bad rap continued when two Black Panther Party members - Fred Hampton and Mark Clark - were shot dead in their sleep during a raid by Chicago police officers - ironic or what!

Mural depicting the Bogside battle.
Politics and Happenings in the UK.

With the exception of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland, it was a light news year in the UK also. The troubles proceeded in January, when there were clashes between officers of the RUC and residents in the Bogside in Derry, in which residents were injured, and property damaged. In response, the residents erected barricades and established an area they described as "Free Derry". As a consequence, in April, British troops were sent to Northern Ireland to reinforce the RUC.

Then in August, provoked by the annual loyalist Apprentice Boys march, which passed right by the "Free Derry" area, there was three days of rioting when it was estimated that 1000 civilians and 350 RUC officers were injured. British troops began to appear on the streets of towns and cities in Northern Ireland.

Aside from Northern Ireland, as I said, there's not much. On the first of January, Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch bought the largest selling British Sunday newspaper - The News of the World - defeating rival publisher Robert Maxwell, and establishing a foothold on the media industry outside Australia.

In March, the 385m TV-mast at Emley Moor near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, collapsed because of icing and strong winds - not unusual phenomena at its altitude and location. ITV and BBC2 colour broadcasts were disabled over a large area. A temporary mast was purchased from Sweden, and erected within about a month to provide a somewhat degraded service. Its current replacement is a 330m concrete tower.

On April 22, Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail around the world solo without stopping. He had set off from Falmouth the previous June. His achievement made him the second winner of the Jules Verne Trophy.

In June, as a consequence of the continuing row over white supremacist rule, The United Kingdom severed diplomatic relations with Rhodesia.
Other World Events.

In January, in Prague, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Several other followed suite.

For years, the Soviet Union and China had been bickering about details of their 4000km border. The number of troops on both sides of the border increased dramatically after 1964. Things came to a head in March of this year, when Chinese troops ambushed Soviet border guards on an Island in the separating Ussuri river that was supposed to have been ceded to China in 1964. The Soviets suffered casualties and retaliated by bombarding Chinese troop concentrations on the Chinese bank of the Ussuri and by storming the island.

There were further clashes in August, and for a time there seemed to be a real prospect of war between the two nuclear powers. To calm things down, on September 11, Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin, on his way back from the funeral of the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, stopped over in Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai.

On April 28, quite probably to the relief of the British government, to which De Gaulle had always been a bit of a thorn in the side, the French President stepped down having been defeated in a referendum the day before. Georges Pompidou was elected as President to replace him on 20 June.

In September, there was also a shake up in German politics. The Social Democrats and the Free Democrats receive a majority of votes in the German parliamentary elections, and decide to form a common government. In October, the Social Democrat leader Willy Brandt, formerly the mayor of West Berlin, became Chancellor of West Germany.

This was the year for the fulfillment of JFK's ambitious promise made in 1961 -"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth."

In March, NASA launched Apollo 9, which tested the Command/Service Module and the Lunar Module in low earth orbit. This was followed by Apollo 10 in May, which carried out a full dress rehearsal, coming within 16,000m of the Moon's surface, and returning successfully to Earth after testing all of the Moon landing components. This in itself was an enormous achievement.

Then on July 16 it was the day of the great attempt.- Apollo 11, manned by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, lifted off toward the first landing on the Moon. The following day, The New York Times formally retracted the ridicule of the rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard that it had published in 1920 to the effect that that space flight was impossible.

Buzz Aldrin outside the Lunar Module.
Four days later, the lunar module Eagle landed on the lunar surface. The whole world watched on TV in stunned silence as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the Moon.

It was a technological miracle to have achieved the landing, and now the worldwide tension was palpable. They had got there, could they get back. On the 21st, the Lunar Module took off from the Moon's surface, and successfully rendezvoused with the Command Module Columbia, and by the 24th the crew were safely back on Earth. Everyone breathed a great sigh of relief. Apparently it was a close thing, Aldrin said later in a book "We discovered during a long checklist recitation that the ascent engine's arming circuit breaker was broken off on the panel. The little plastic pin simply wasn't there. This circuit would send electrical power to the engine that would lift us off the moon. We looked around for something to punch in this circuit breaker. Luckily, a felt-tipped pen fit into the slot."

Just to show that the moon landing had not been a fluke, Apollo 12 repeated the performance. Charles Conrad and Alan Bean walked on the Moon again on November 19th with Richard Gordon in the Command Module, and the three were safely returned. The whole enormous effort was quite mind blowing.
In January, the USSR had launched Venera 5 and 6 toward Venus. Both reached their targets with varying degrees of success. Soyuz 5 was also launched, which docked with Soyuz 4 and transferred personel. To be honest, this seemed like very small beer compared to the NASA achievement.

Closer to Earth, in February, the Boeing 747 makes its maiden flight - its debut would be in December. In March, in Toulouse, the first Concorde test flight was conducted, and in April, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier enters service with the Royal Air Force.

In September, the first ATM in the United States is installed in Rockville Centre, New York. This marked the beginning of a very significant change in the way people accessed their money. In those days, you had to go to a bank counter with a cheque made out to 'Self'.
Another significant first happened in October, when the first message was sent over ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet. ARPANET allowed multiplexing of messages - sending a number of messages at the same time - over a single circuit. The following month the first working ARPANET link was established.

Elaine, Rachel, and Richard.

By now, Elaine was well on in her pregnancy, and not much inclined to go out. She didn't have a problem with me popping out in the evening as long as I did my share of the cooking, washing up, etc. So I became more of a regular at The Commercial Inn in Esholt. Elaine would go with me Sunday lunchtimes. It was a busy place, and I began to talk to people there, and slowly made friends, the protracted process of becoming a regular at an English village pub.

Our third child, and second daughter, Rachel Emma Teale, was born on April 1st - all was well. Elaine went to stay at her parents house for a couple of months, so her mother could help, and so as to be close, I went back to my old bedroom at 32 Ash Grove, and my old haunt at the Fisherman Inn. So I was commuting to Leeds from Bingley, and I discovered that the drive wasn't bad.

At work, I continued on the new management services track.In the latter direction it soon became clear that in practical terms, the solution of the mixed integer programs we were interested in was not feasible within any length of computer time that might be available to us.
However, we'd noticed a few things along the way that would have made further analysis useless, not least of which was that we actually had very little idea of what research projects were costing in terms of manpower. This meant that any cost/benefit analysis wasn't really worth the paper it was written on.

There was a time recording system of sorts, but it wasn't taken very seriously. The main problem was that a good proportion of the research staff were regularly interrupted in their project work by requests from power stations for short-term work on operating problems. This was known briefly as "Service Work". Such work was just written on the time sheets by description, if at all, and two people working on the same job might use different descriptions. Consequently when the time sheets were eventually sent to the accountancy department at Regional Headquarters, all that could be done with such entries was to shovel them into some meaningless bucket labelled 'miscellaneous'. I had pointed out this defect to my bosses a few times, and eventually I was given the authority to set up a more sophisticated system to collect information about allocation of time to jobs. This wasn't particularly popular with the research staff, but I could make a strong case for it, so it was difficult to veto.

Promotion in the SSD was governed by a review system, and was supposed to be largely driven by the academic merit of the research work you had done over the last couple of years. However, the work I was doing had little to do with academia, so I had something of a problem. The boss - Leslie Young - came to my aid. He rustled up a suitably sympathetic (rigged even) review panel, including If I remember correctly another Scientific Services Controller who was sympathetic to the management services cause. Having gone through the formalities, he was able to give me a couple of grades of promotion. I got a pretty decent salary increase, and an office of my own in the administration section of the building.

Schematic of knee cartilage with a bucket handle tear.

A 60mm incision.
I revamped the time sheet system, and instituted a register whereby service work jobs were logged any time someone needed to mention a new one on his time sheet. That wasn't particularly popular either, but as it became clear that in the long run it made the time sheet less tedious to fill in, it gained acceptance. The good thing was that once a job was in the book, you could just refer to it by its number, like 69/122 - no description necessary.

Of course, this generated a lot of extra information, which I had to deal with by writing programs in FORTRAN on the time-sharing computer system that I had learned to use the year before. It also meant that the information had to be presented to the managers. Leslie Young used to hold a managers meeting once a month, often at a pub called the "Hark To Rover", which was somewhere out towards the Leeds ring road on Spen Lane. He started to drag me along to these meetings, which included lunch, which in those days included drinks, so it was a bit of a perk. The Division Heads who used to attend the meeting weren't necessarily all that pleased, but there you go, it was progress for me.

Sometime during the year, I was at a wood yard in the Guiseley getting a piece of timber to do some job in the house. as I bent to pick it up, my left knee made an ominous clicking noise, and when I went to straighten it out, it wouldn't. Someone drove me to the casualty department at the Bradford Royal Infirmary. They sent me to X-ray, then lent me a crutch and told me to come back in a couple of days to see a specialist. The orthopaedic surgeon took a look at the X-ray, and told me I had a bucket-handle tear in my cartilage. This is a tear close to the edge of the cartilage pad between the bones in the knee. The thin bit that's torn pops out of the joint and locks your knee. It would need surgery - the old fashioned sort, there were no arthroscopic procedures in those days. A couple of days later, I woke up from a general anaesthetic in BRI with my leg in a half cast and bandaged. A physiotherapist came to my bed and told me that I should start lifting the leg up to an angle of about 30 degrees, holding it there for a few seconds, and then lowering it again. This would strengthen my quads and help the healing process.

I tried it, and it hurt, so I was not particularly diligent in doing this exercise. The result of this inactivity was that it took about six weeks before I was walking again properly.

We were no longer content with the house in Guiseley. It didn't hold very happy memories. By the end of the year, I'd also got a rise at work as a result of threatened industrial action by our trade union, the EPEA. So we started to think seriously about a move in the direction of our parents, and were considering the possibility of getting a better car.

This could be another year when we never went to the cinema. It was quite a long way from Guiseley to a decent one. The US top grossing movies I'd mention were: Midnight Cowboy was the award winner. Both it and Butch/Sundance are classic movies in my book. If we saw an American movie it would probably have been Butch/Sundance.

The best of the British bunch are completely unrelated:

The getaway in the Italian Job.

This years number ones in the UK, no exceptions this time, since there was nothing that particularly inspired me at two or three, were:

ArtistTitleMonth Comment
Amen Corner(If Paradise Is) Half As NiceJan
Peter SarstedtWhere Do You Go To My LovelyFeb
Marvin GayeI Heard It Through The GrapevineFeb
Desmond Dekker & AcesIsraelitesMar
Tommy RoeDizzyAprThis must have been weak - can't even remember the tune!
Beatles with Billy PrestonGet BackApr
BeatlesBallad Of John And YokoJun
Thunderclap NewmanSomething In The AirJunOne hit wonder
Rolling StonesHonky Tonk WomenJul
Zager & EvansIn The Year 2525 (Exordium And Terminus)Aug
Creedence Clearwater RevivalBad Moon RisingAugFor Lynn
Bobbie GentryI'll Never Fall In Love AgainAug
Jane Birkin & Serge GainsbourgJe T'Aime... Moi Non PlusOct
ArchiesSugar SugarOctYuk
Rolf HarrisTwo Little BoysNovOh dear! And it must have been the Christmas hit.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono bed-in recording.

The Monty Python crew as they were in 1969.

In January, the first Led Zeppelin album - Led Zeppelin I - was released

May allowed us to view John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. They recorded the single "Give Peace a Chance" while they were there. This song was the first single recorded solo by a Beatle, and was released under the name Plastic Ono Band, is still a strong anthem for peace.

In August, the first Woodstock Festival was held in upstate New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era. The Altamont Free Concert was held later in the year at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, hosted by the Rolling Stones, it dissolved into violence, and has been labelled "the end of the sixties". September saw the release of the Beatles "Abbey Road" album, which got rave reviews and sold lots of copies.

This was a landmark year for British TV, with the showing of the first 'episode' of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" - something completely different.

It would become a TV programming slot that I and many, many, other Brits became glued to until it ended in 1974, and I think it significantly influenced British language and humour.

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