Kennedy: Why does 1969 feel like yesterday? I blame Woodstock, Neil Armstrong, Charles Manson and John Wayne

In this image provided by NASA, astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag deployed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Television is marking the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, moon landing with a variety of specials about NASA's Apollo 11 mission. (Neil A. Armstrong/NASA via AP, File)

Here's a curious thing about getting older: Sometimes things that happened 50 years ago seem more real than things that happened yesterday.

At present, America seems to be having a collective "moment" remembering the year 1969. It is centered on the moon landing 50 years ago this week and, more specifically, Neil Armstrong placing the first human footprints on the lunar surface.

At age 61, it's a bummer for me to realize I experienced the apex of human achievement when I was just 11. Still, nothing that has happened since 1969 seems nearly as historical as Armstrong's adventure. I grieve for our kids that they don't have anything remotely as inspiring as the Apollo space shots to idolize.

Oh, I know there's talk of going to Mars, but it's hard to believe that a nation governed by political parties that can't even agree on fixing roads and bridges is suddenly going to find the common ground necessary to mount a near-term manned mission to Mars. (Oops, I mean "personed" mission.)

I remember the day Armstrong walked on the moon. I was with my family hanging out at the swimming pool at Davy Crockett State Park near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. In my 11-year-old way, I was awed by Armstrong. But I was equally awed by the teenage girls who worked as lifeguards at Davy Crockett Park and by the french fries sold at the concession stand.

Last week, the online version of the Times Free Press featured a special digital section about 1969. As I scrolled through the pages, I was stunned by how that year shaped Baby-Boomer culture. Even aside from the space program, 1969 was marked by the Manson family murders, Woodstock, Hurricane Camille and the final performance of The Beatles. (Interestingly, there's a Beatles-themed movie in theaters this week, and a Woodstock film was screened last weekend at the Tivoli.)

It was the year Maya Angelou wrote "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," and the year John Wayne stared in the original "True Grit" movie. It was the first year for the "Brady Bunch" and "Sesame Street" and the last year of "Star Trek."

Among the business "firsts" in 1969 were the openings of the first Walmart, Wendy's and Gap. The new president, Richard Nixon, was at the height of his popularity. It was the year Joe Namath's Jets won the Super Bowl and the Miracle Mets won the World Series.

As a boomer, all these things feel like part of my DNA. I suppose the children of today will have equal feelings about the momentous events of 2019, but it's harder to recognize these things in real time.

Perhaps memories of HBO's "Game of Thrones" will provoke visceral reactions in 2069. But will the HBO series be as ubiquitous as the "Star Trek" franchise remains 50 years after the end of a TV series.

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Maybe Hatchimals will live on in the minds of today's children the way G.I. Joes and Easy-Bake Ovens evoke memories in the children of 1969. Time will tell.

Or maybe in the next 50 years, things will be so horrific or euphoric - fingers crossed for euphoric - that Future People will take little notice of the piddling events of 2019.

Meanwhile, childhood plods along.

I have a 12-year-old son at home who likes to go to the swimming pool. Last night he spent two hours trying to fix a flat tire on his 24-inch bike. Only a complete cynic would argue that mankind will not visit Mars in his lifetime.

So, maybe - just maybe - things haven't changed so much after all.

Never mind.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.