1969 was one of the most memorable years of my life, because of the New York Mets.
I was three-years-old, it was the World Series, and all the Mets fans in the family (which was everybody) gathered at my grandmother’s house. (Full disclosure: this is my memory of when I was three – some might dispute one or two little details). Everyone, except my grandmother, gathered around the biggest TV in the house to watch the game. At some point, Cleon Jones hit a home run. Everybody jumped up, my dad included, and when he threw his arms out wide in celebration, he knocked my Aunt Nene out cold.
You’d think a room full of adults would be concerned first with the young lady on the floor. No, instead, they all turned to me and told me that, under no circumstances, was I tell my grandmother what happened. Of course, that’s the first thing I did (three-year-old’s memory, remember). I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination what happened next.
Aside from the TKO during the Mets game, 1969 was remarkable for the sheer number of intriguing historical events that occurred during those twelve months. I used many of those events in Death and the Informant. Here are some of those, and some that didn’t make the cut:
1. American astronauts landed on the Moon! The real-life town of Huntsville, Alabama, erupted in celebration after Neil Armstrong and crew landed safely in the Pacific. This photo is of Huntsville locals carrying Otto Von Braun on shoulders during an impromptu parade. The photo was the inspiration for the night of reverie in Hunts Landing, the night when Rosalie DuFrayne met her end. Get the Nasa Overview here.
2. The Mets won the series! ‘Nough said. Besides Cleon Jones, Dad also loved Jerry Koosman and Ed Kranepool. For long suffering Mets fans such as myself, the Octobers of glory have been few and far between, and this one was very special. See Time’s photos.
3. The Zodiac Killer hunted in California. The killer, never identified, sent tantalizing ciphers to the police and local media, taunting the authorities. The case remains open to this day. The story of this serial killer was made into a major motion picture in 2007.
4. Helter Skelter. Charles Manson and his Family slaughtered seven in the hills outside of Los Angelos, including Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski. The Tate-LaBianca murders became the subject of the movie Helter Skelter, named after the Beatles’ song Manson used as justification for the crimes. That movie still haunts me. Manson and most of his accomplices remain in prison – one of the most famous, Susan Atkins, died in 2009, forty years after the murders.
5. Woodstock. Four hundred thousand people descended on the small town of Wallkill, New York, for the biggest and most notorious outdoor concert to date. My apologies for not getting everyone, but the list of performers included The Who, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s no coincidence that many of these artists were featured at the river party in Death and the Informant.
6. A week before the fictitious DuFrayne murder, Senator Ted Kennedy was involved in the accidental drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne in the waters off Chappaquiddick Island. The inquest judge found probable cause to have Kennedy arrested for manslaughter, but the senator was never charged. A lot of people thought Kennedy got away with murder. See the LA Times Photo Gallery.
7. Sesame Street debuted. I wanted to work this one into the story, I really did.
Question: What are your memories of 1969?