By Dave Kinnamon
To Frank Baker, a 17-year-old senior to be at Enid High School during the summer of 1968, the tension which developed between he and his father over the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, were a microcosm of the tensions developing within the U.S. as a whole — mostly between the older and younger generations, but also between hawks and doves, peaceniks and patriots.
“I always refer to 1968 as the year of my political awakening, becoming part of really being aware of the greater culture,” Baker reminisced.
Baker, the director of Eagle Marketing, worked that summer hauling hay for his uncle on his farm in Cherokee. Baker lived with his parents on their family farm near Kremlin.
Baker had always had a very close relationship with his father, Corbin, but noticed a developing rift between them during the summer of 1968.
“For me the culmination of realizing things were changing was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. And my father, who was 61 at the time, and I were both political junkies. We would watch gavel to gavel coverage of politics. For us, it was just like a horse race; we loved it,” Baker recalled.
The Chicago convention, which went on from Aug. 26-29, 1968, became a divisive subject for Baker and his dad — for the first time in their lives.
“When the riots erupted outside the Democratic National Convention, and I saw Chicago police beating up kids who looked a lot like me, it was the springboard for my father and I to discover how much we disagreed. In microcosm, what we discovered that evening watching that riot and coverage was a cultural divide between the two of us which ended up being representative of the cultural divide which was starting to occur in America,” Baker said.
“I would submit a lot of that cultural divide that was established in 1968 remains with us to this day and probably won’t go completely away until some of us Baby Boomer go away ourselves” Baker said.
Corbin Baker lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2006. The disagreement between Frank and his father, which first erupted during the summer of 1968, took years for the father and son recover from, Baker said.
Though they remained close and on speaking terms, the relationship between father and son did not return to its pre-1968 normalcy until the mid-1970s, after Baker had returned from a tour with the U.S. Navy.
“The generations before us were brought up that you didn’t question authority. That’s in a way what my generation was all about: You cocked your head, and you asked ‘Why?’” Baker said.