Vikings ’70 Chronicles #2, July 1969
By tom Bodle
July, 1969 greeted us with the 194th celebration of the independence
of the United States. On a hot, humid Friday in northeast Ohio
neighborhoods and parks were treated to parades, picnics and community
activities. Along the shoreline of Lake Erie tens of thousands gathered on
the beaches, cliffs and in their boats to view the “Festival of Freedom”
fireworks at Cleveland’s Edgewater beach, as well as fireworks displays at
Lakewood Park and other cities.
Surrounding St. Joes on the east side, the
sounds of holiday fun were heard from Utopia Beach to Neff Rd. Park. At
dusk, nature had other plans. Storms along a cold front kicked up over
Lake Erie, but the emergency broadcast system failed to send out
warnings. Tens of thousands of revelers were sent into a frenzy as they
tried to dodge the storm. Winds at times reaching 100 mph tossed boats
around which were anchored to view the fireworks, dashing many into the
rocks along the shore.
The storm cut a swath almost 200 miles wide from
Erie,Pa. to Toledo, with Cleveland in the center. In the aftermath 42 people
died, 5000 trees were felled, flooding damaged homes and fields and
almost 250,000 people lost power across northern Ohio. Fortunately, there
was minimal damage at St. Joes, although the cliffs on the lakefront took a
beating from storm damage and hundreds of Viking families dealt with
flooding and downed trees at their homes.
Several major world news items in July of 1969 featured the ongoing
troubles in Northern Ireland as the British government clashed with the IRA.
Derry in particular was the center of serious rioting. The United States
began to withdraw troops from Vietnam after years of increasing forces.
The mid-summer baseball classic, held at Washington’s RFK
Stadium, had the National League out scoring the American League 9-3.
“Sudden” Sam McDowell was the lone Cleveland Indian all-star.
What was to become a pop movie classic premiered July 14th. “Easy
Rider” featuring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson became an iconic movie
representing the counter-culture of the “60’s.
Three major music festivals created national entertainment attention
as all three approached numbers of nearly 100,000. The Newport Jazz
Festival and Pops festivals in Seattle and Atlanta, all held in July, were just
a prelude to a major August festival yet to come.
On July 11th, British rocker David Bowie released his iconic album
“Space Oddity”. Appropriately, this became a musical introduction to the
hallmark event of our lifetime, the landing of men on the moon.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a goal and a promise that the
United States would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In
spite of his assassination, the Vietnam War and civil strife in the decade,
the promise was fulfilled. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped on the
lunar surface and declared “this is one step for man and a giant leap for
The halls of the Viking Village were busy in July of ‘69. Hundreds of
students were taking a variety of honors, remedial and elective courses.
Mr. Roger Lancaster offered an elective literature class which included
Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and there was also Mr. Srp’s typing class to teach
the “hunt and peck” typists the right way.
Mr. John McMahon’s Drama Club
enacted the hit play “The Fantastiks” starring Jim Kubala which dodged the
storm to open July 5th, followed by four other performances.
As July passed in 1969 we were all imprinted by two monumental
memories, the “storm of the decade” and the “I know exactly where I was
at” memory of the lunar landing.
We were also looking ahead to create our
own imprint at St. Joes as our senior year was less than a month away.
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