Television was My Lifeline to the Events of 1968

In 1968 I was in college completing my junior year and beginning my senior year at an Arizona university. My main line of information for all the events happening that year was the television. We had one color TV in the lobby of the dormitory I lived in, so there was often a crowd gathered around it for the evening news and other events. I don’t remember any big demonstrations or riots on my campus but there was a lot of talk among students and in classes about the Vietnam War issues.

Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings 1968

I worked that summer at Grand Canyon National Park and had a black-and-white television with an outdoor antenna hooked to the front porch that you had to change direction depending on what station you wanted to watch. There were three national stations and a couple local stations. Names of news anchors like Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings and David Brinkley were as familiar to us as names of friends—indeed they almost seemed like friends. The race riots, Vietnam War demonstrations and peace marches seemed rather remote to me as I watched them on TV—something happening in another world. I was dismayed at the draft dodgers and antiwar demonstrations but shocked and saddened at the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Rowan and Martin Laugh-In photo

Publicity photo of Dan Rowan (left) and Dick Martin (right) from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

I loved watching “Laugh-In”—it was so funny, fast-paced and different than the variety shows we were used to. From that show a whole new vocabulary was heard on campus—“Sock it to me” and “Veddy interesting, but dumb,” to name a few. I felt united with the whole nation on Christmas Eve as we saw photos of the Moon and Earth taken from Apollo 8 and listened to astronauts Anders, Lovell and Borman read from the first chapter of Genesis. We all learned NASA-talk from the media coverage of the Apollo missions and felt right at home in Mission Control in Houston. Television brought us firsthand Vietnam battlefield scenes, video of assassinations and riots, comedy and a trip to the Moon. Television was my lifeline to the events of 1968.