(Pictured: Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched, from an episode aired on February 1, 1968.)
February 1, 1968, was a Thursday. Two days ago, North Vietnam began a major offensive in South Vietnam on the holiday known as Tet. In Saigon today, South Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Loc Loan executes Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem while reporters watch. Photographer Eddie Adams captures the pistol shot to the prisoner’s head; the photo will become one of the most famous ever taken. Video of the execution will be broadcast by NBC News tomorrow night. Among his public events today, President Lyndon Johnson sends his annual economic message to Congress and awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to Air Force Major Merlyn F. Dethlefsen for heroism in Vietnam.
The minimum wage in the United States goes up for many workers, from $1.40 to $1.60 an hour. Certain service workers can be paid less; their minimum wage goes from $1.00 to $1.15. In Memphis yesterday, 22 black sewer workers were sent home without pay due to inclement weather while their white supervisors were permitted to stay and get paid. Today, black sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker, aged 36 and 30, are accidentally crushed to death by the compactor mechanism in their truck. The incidents will lead sanitation workers to go on strike on February 12, a job action eventually supported by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In New Hampshire, former vice president Richard Nixon announces his candidacy for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi announces his retirement, which has been rumored since the Packers won Super Bowl II last month. He will remain as general manager. Former pro golfer Lawson Little, who won the U.S. Open in 1940, dies at age 57. Nine months to the day after her parents’ wedding, Lisa Marie Presley is born. Also born: future actor Pauly Shore and future hockey star Mark Recchi.
In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy terrorizes the boys. On TV today, Bobby Darin co-hosts The Mike Douglas Show. Guests include actress Geraldine Chaplin and jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. Shows on ABC tonight include The Flying Nun, That Girl, and Bewitched, with an episode titled “Hippie, Hippie, Hooray,” in which mistaken identity leads to big laffs when Samantha’s sister Serena becomes a hippie and gets on the front page of the local newspaper. (Elizabeth Montgomery is on the cover of TV Guide as Serena this week.) NBC’s lineup includes Daniel Boone, Ironside, and Dragnet. CBS kicks off primetime with the Western drama Cimarron Strip. Janis Joplin of Big Brother and the Holding Company signs with Columbia Records as a solo performer. The Velvet Underground, whose new album White Light/White Heat was officially released on Tuesday, play an album release party at Aardvark Cinemathique in Chicago. The Grateful Dead plays Seattle. In San Francisco, the Jimi Hendrix Experience plays two shows at the Fillmore with Albert King, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Soft Machine; the Jefferson Airplane plays the Matrix, the tiny club where they debuted in 1965; the show is recorded and will be released in 2010. Also in San Francisco, the Santana Blues Band wraps up a three-night stand at the Straight Theater. Your $1 ticket also entitles you to see the Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita.
In Cleveland, at 3:05 this afternoon, WKYC debuts a format it calls Power Radio, which is intended to better compete with local station WIXY and CKLW from Detroit. The top four songs on WKYC’s new survey are in the same positions as last week: “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat, “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces, “Spooky” by the Classics IV, and “Baby Now That I’ve Found You” by the Foundations. “Bottle of Wine” by the Fireballs blasts to #6 from #17. “Everything That Touches You” by the Association is up 15 spots, from #37 to #22. Also moving fast: “Words” by the Bee Gees, up 12 to #23 and “Tomorrow” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock,” up 10 to #30. The highest-debuting new song on the survey is listed as “Sittin’ on the Dock” by Otis Redding, ranking at #29.
Perspective From the Present: On this day, I was in a new school. In January, I had been among the students moving from the early-2oth-century monolith Lincoln School to the newly built Northside School in our town. Northside was the most modern of buildings—by 1968 standards. Today, it’s the oldest elementary school in town.
One online calculator indicates that the 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 an hour is equivalent to over $11.00 today. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 would be equivalent to a little over $1.00 in 1968.
(Editor’s note: This is our second 1968 post in the last couple of weeks. I suspect there are going to be more as this year unfolds.)