The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 13, 2008

Enid area residents, former residents wax reminiscent about their 1968 experiences

Couple had easy wedding date to remember

Jim and I will always remember that summer, because we got married on June 6, 1968 ... making our anniversary — 6/8/68!

Betsy Mabry,


Lady Wildcats basketball team were champions

The Covington-Douglas Wildcat girls basketball team won the state class C championship on March 9, 1968. (Back then, all students regardless of gender were Wildcats.)

The team was coached by Jim Hurd. He coached for 29 years — four at Lahoma and 25 at Covington-Douglas. With a record of 787 wins and 475 losses, he we inducted into the Oklahoma High School Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988. Coach Hurd had five All-Staters.

The road to victory started with the district tournament — winning three games. The regional tournament also brought three wins. And then to the state tournament. At that time, there was no area tournament and no losers bracket. If there was a loss, you were out.

At that time, there were 211 class C basketball teams. Advancing to the state tournament was quite an accomplishment itself. The Wildcats opened with a 57-49 win over Southside of Elmer, who held a 27-0 record before the loss. Then they defeated Alex, who boasted a 26-2 record at the time. The championship game was played against LeFlore (30-1 record) and won by a score of 50-47.

The team was so well balanced that the opposition could not afford to double team any player. The forwards were all in double digits on scoring. The guards played the whole and none fouled out.

Forwards were: Rhonda Rucker (Hanyka), Harla Boepple (Eslick), Linda Schweer (Pattrick), Debbie Inselman, Janie Fincher (Roland), Berlene Dillingham (Sharp) and Becky Snyder (Kruger). Guards were: Melody Hise (Smith), Barbara Snyder (Bryant), Nancy Gragert (Nelson), Claudia Miller (Finnegan) and Jennifer Henderson (Hart).

Not sure of these notes. I think this was the first state championship for Covington-Douglas and the last year there was class C.

Joy Schweer


Immigrant from England saw police brutality

In 1964, I sailed to America from England with a permanent residential green card visa in my alien pocket, a legal immigrant. In the summer of 1968, I moved back to Chicago from New York City for my second period residency.

I was hired by an import company and worked on the 31st floor of the Equitable Building on Michigan Ave., located near the bridge over the Chicago River, beside the Tribune Tower and across from the Wrigley Building.

When the Democratic Conventional came to town, I was living on the north side, about 30 minutes by city transportation (train or bus) and about two hours by foot. Not having much money, I decided to walk home one evening and my way of choice was through Lincoln Park, which is long and narrow, situated between Broadway and Outer Dr.

On one particular memorable evening, I was walking home in Lincoln Park when I suddenly came face to face with a demonstration that was quelled by a violent force that I can only describe as police brutality.

I witnessed protesters against the war in Vietnam savagely clubbed and sprayed with tear gas by uniformed Chicago police. I later learned some of these pockets of tear gas drifted across the Outer Dr. causing several perilous moments for motorists traveling at 60 mph.

Hugh Hairs


Man walked rice paddies during his summer of ‘68

My summer of 1968 was spent in the rice paddies of Vietnam. I was drafted into the Army Nov. 1, 1967, and spent five months at Fort Polk, La., doing my jungle training at Tiger Land.

On April 15, 1968, I went to Vietnam, landing at Bien Hoa Air Base.

We were trucked to Chu Chi, where our 25th Infantry Division was based. We had five more days of training, and then I was assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry (Golden Dragons), of the 25th Infantry Division.

I was sent out to the field — northwest of Chu Chi — and I enjoyed the helicopter ride because it was cooler up there and helped to lighten the load we carried. I was immediately assigned to carry the radio — I became the Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) — so I was always the fourth man back from the point on a “hump” (a G.I. expression for an overland patrol with lots of equipment carried on one’s back).

I went daily to search for “Charlie.” I won’t go into detail about the firefights I was in, but I lost a lot of good friends.

I spent eight months in the field and then was transferred to a security guard unit at Long Binh, where we guarded the generals who ran Vietnam, U.S. Army-Vietnam Headquarters and the Women’s Army Corps unit.

After two months of guard duty, I was assigned as the driver for posting the guards and then checking on them with the Sgt. of the Guard. One night we took coffee and fresh bread from the bakery to the guards; the bakery smell reminded of back in Enid when Bond Bakery was in business and the great smell of fresh bread.

I served my 365 days in Vietnam, except for a five-day R&R; (rest and recuperation) in Hawaii, and came home April 15, 1969. I went back to work for ONG (Oklahoma Natural Gas) in Enid, which, after 42 years, I’m still working for today, or at least till Sept. 1 — then I am retiring.

Larry Stephens


Waukomis man views ’68 as historically important

With a humble apology to Charles Dickens, 1968 literally was the best of times, the worst of times. Historically speaking, no year in history, aside from 1776, 1861 and 1941, had greater impact on American society.

The year 1968 was electric. It was Khe Sonh, the Tet Offensive, draft cards and the My Lai massacre.

It was the assassination of Martin Luther King and riots across American cities; Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, the peace movement and student protests from one end of the country to the other.

It was Apollo 7 and the first TV from space.

It was The Who, Moody Blues, the Band, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, and the Beatles White Album.

It was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Mony Mony, White Rabbit, Born to Be Wild, Mrs. Robinson and Judy in Disguise (With Glasses). It was rock and roll’s finest hour.

More importantly, it literally ended the way many perceived the 1940s and 1950s.

In my case, having graduated Waukomis High School in the spring of ’68, I headed off to the University of Oklahoma to study history and journalism with a completely different twist. It was a time of tremendous upheaval and social unrest. Suddenly, you felt the trust of government you had pre-1968 was diminished. Government had lost control over events. Heroes from American history class faded and weren’t as sharply defined. Dropping out was “in.”

It seemed at the time every event, from space exploration to the assassination of Robert Kennedy, was bigger than life. And it must have been, for we still talk about these events today amidst our iPods, lattes and Wi-Fi.

For me, 1968 could never be described in 300 words. No year before or since has been more alive, more relevant, more rewarding.

The Summer of ’68 was something else.

David Christy


U.S. could land man on moon but not find peace?

I was in the Marine Corps stationed in the central highlands of Vietnam during 1968, I remember hearing about the assassinations of MLK Jr and RFK but the memory that sticks in my mind was when the astronauts landed on the moon (1969).

I was in reconnaissance and on a patrol in the jungle and we paused to listen to the Eagle land on the moon and we looked at each other and wondered out loud that if mankind could do that, why were we there trying to keep from getting killed?

Dennis Morse


Racing and beer drinking made for fun times

I graduated in 1968 from high school. I had bought a brand new Pontiac Firebird ( 320 horse power ) from the Pontiac dealer in Billings, Oklahoma. We used to drive up and down Van Buren from the A&W; to Sandy’s ( Carl’s Junior now ).

I remember going to teen hops at Medford which would draw a thousand people. The legal age to drink beer was 18 in Kansas, so any Friday or Saturday night you would see a lot of kids from the Enid area there buying beer by the car load to take home. A speeding ticket, which I got for doing 110 mph, only cost $40 and gas was 35 cents a gallon.

Toward the end of 1968 there were reports two nights in a row of strange lights over Billings. The third night they were talking about it on the radio and said a jet from Vance had been dispatched. A car load of us raced over there to see what we could, but it was over before we got there.

Where the Sage room is now was Zeppies Pizza Parlor, and they had a guy in a clown suit out by the road. He was nothing more then an object of harassment by the kids.

The remote control race track on South Van Buren was the Trade Mart shopping center, the forerunner of Wal-Mart.

We would go to Ringwood on Sunday afternoons where they had a quarter mile race track, and funny cars from all over the nation came in to race.

In the summer of 1969 I had completed Marine Corps boot camp and infantry training and was stationed at schools battalion in Ocean Side, Calif. A fantastic thing happened while I was there — America sent two men to the moon. There were 70 of us crowded into a laundry room, which was 14’ by 14’. We were in front of a television set (a 19-inch black & white ) in disbelief. I was on top of a washing machine it was so crowded in the room.

No one said a word. The pictures that kept us glued to the tube were not that great (We had no big screen or plasma TV, it was 1969 we were still playing 8 tracks), But that wasn’t unexpected. After all the pictures were being beamed from some 239,000 miles away from the surface of the moon. The moon was being visited by two Americans. And now, here it was, July 20, 1969, and the impossible had come true.

Click on the address below to see photos of the old Ringwood drag strip. The one funny car is Big Daddy Don Garrlet’s.

Clarence Wallace


Slice of OK seemed far removed from civil rights

I had just graduated from Wakita High School the summer of ’68. I had plans to go to college in the fall, so the summer was spent driving a tractor for a local farmer as I had done for the past four years.

The civil rights movement was very removed from my world in rural northern Oklahoma, but I admired him and felt Martin Luther King was making history. It was a very sad day when he was assassinated, and I felt like his cause was not going to proceed in the peaceful way that he promoted.

I was very interested in politics, and I had registered as an Independent mainly to show my individualism. I had spent the summer campaigning for Eugene McCarthy and gathering signatures to do away with the Electoral College system.

I was watching Robert Kennedy speak the night he was assassinated. I had a lot of admiration for him, just as I had for President Kennedy. I always knew in my heart he would win the presidential race, but I had decided to support the underdog. I still had the TV on when Robert Kennedy was leaving the hotel and heard all the commotion. Without looking, I knew he had been shot. It felt the same as when President Kennedy was killed, like someone had taken all the hope, energy, and enthusiasm from the country.

Eugene McCarthy and I never completed the campaign. He lost all his will to run just as I lost the will to campaign anymore. The summer was an unsettled start to my college years, which were also filled with turmoil and unrest. The Vietnam War, the civil rights protests, the war protests, drugs, etc. seemed to be the focus of our generation, and it was a restless era.

Peggy (Gibbons) Feist


Enid in 1968 was great place to be a teenager

Wow. Enid in the summer of 1968. What a wonderful time to be a teenager. That also meant if you were a teen, you grew up in the 50s. No one had to lock their doors. Kids actually went outside and played till after dark and your neighbors were very well your best friends.

The 60s brought freedom, free spirit and the love. The music told a story you could actually understand. Vietnam was developing into something no one understood.

You watched the unrest and racism on TV and were so very thankful and proud to live in small town Enid, America.

The summer of ’68 was my graduation year summer, and I enjoyed every minute of the summer with friends, drive-in picture shows, rides up and down Van Buren to A&W; and preparing for the future with my childhood sweetheart.

David sold his l958 Chevy to buy my engagement ring that summer. That is probably what I remember most about my graduation. What a present.! We chose to stay in Enid and be married in l969. The 4th of July was 39 years and we are blessed with friends, family and many happy memories of the summer of l968 in Enid, OK.

We love our home town and are so proud to call her home.

This July will be the class of 1968’s 40th reunion. While on the committee for the reunion I have reconnected with many old friends that have only good things to say about the graduation of 1968. The summer of decisions and anticipation of what is ahead for our futures and the pride we take from being from Enid.

Connie Ballard Duffy


Summer of ’68 turned into job helping mother

I was in love with a boy I met during my freshman year at Northwestern, and I was not excited to return to Enid. Going home meant trading an active social life for gainful summer employment.

The employment angle didn’t pan out. Boys harvested wheat, mowed grass or had paper routes and still had time for swimming at Champlin pool. My choices were babysitting, car hopping at A&W; or waitressing. The babysitting job paid fifty cents an hour and involved caring for three children under the ages of seven — for ten hours a day, Monday through Friday with ironing and laundry thrown in as a bonus.

I had actually done that job the previous summer and decided surrogate motherhood was not my gig. I was willing to try carhopping or waitressing, but managers questioned whether an inexperienced girl weighing 98 pounds was a good fit for transporting heavy platters of food and drink. My mother ended the dilemma by saying, “She’s worth more than $1.50 an hour helping me at home.”

Plan B was to enroll in summer school at Phillips and help Mom. I took U.S. Government, a requirement, general psychology with Dr. Jordan, and Biblical religion with Dr. Simpson. I had no interest in politics. Dr. King was murdered in Memphis, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in California, and the news was all about Vietnam. Those events saddened me, but it was as if they happened in a parallel universe leaving me uninvolved.

Class started at 7 a.m. Sipping coffee, I watched the sky lighten as I drove east on Broadway with the windows rolled down. I listened to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” on WKY and looked forward to watching Dark Shadows.

Lana Chester Hendershott

Hendersonville, N.C.

Navy wife saw riots after King’s death in Memphis

At 6 a.m., on April 4, 1968, I was driving to work in Memphis from our home in Munford, Tenn. I was thinking to myself how much my life had changed since we had moved to Tennessee

John was going to pharmacy school in Millington (at Naval Support Activity Mid-South), and I was working in Memphis at St. Joseph East Hospital as a nurse’s aide.

I hired a woman who came over at 5:30 every morning and took care of my baby son, Jeff, while I was at work. When I would get home in the evening, she would have the house clean and dinner on. All for $5 a day.

Living in Munford was definitely a culture shock. When I would go grocery shopping at the little store or to the bank, the African-American customers would fall out of line if I got in line in back of them. It embarrassed me, but that was how it was back then.

At 6 a.m., on April 5, 1968, I drove to the hospital. Everything had changed. When I arrived, I learned Martin Luther King Jr. had died at the hospital the previous evening. He had been shot. Some of the women I worked with were crying. It was a very sad day. I was scared. The first time in my life, I felt afraid for my own safety.

I locked my car doors as I made my way out of the city. It was chaos, buildings burning, rioting and looting. They had brought the National Guard in. There was a 7 o’clock curfew. I was scared.

Driving back home to Munford, I made up my mind I wasn’t going back (to Memphis). After I got home, I called the hospital and told them I was quitting my job.

Janice Hamilton