Wednesday, May 17, 2006

You Were There
On May 17, 1973, the Senate Watergate hearings began. I was in seventh grade that spring, already a news junkie, so if anybody in my school besides the teachers knew about Watergate, it was me. Our social studies teachers, Miss Alt and Miss Odell, made us watch the hearings in class. I am not sure how many students really understood what they meant--and I don't remembver how much I understood about the hearings, either. But I knew major news events when I saw them, so I was interested.

No matter what's on the front page, above the fold, like the Watergate hearings 33 years ago, life goes on in countless other ways, with events that leave lighter footprints on time. Over at my other blog, The Hits Just Keep On Comin', we do an occasional feature called "One Day in Your Life," focusing on the events and popular music of one single day. Just for kicks, let's try something similar here, and see if we can find a theme or some significance in the juxtaposition of events.

May 17, 1973, was a Thursday. The biggest event on Richard Nixon's official calendar (apart from the hearings) was the signing of an executive order regarding the "Inspection of Income, Excess-Profits, Estate, Gift, and Excise Tax Returns" by the Senate Commerce Committee. He also talked to his lawyer, Fred Buzhardt--a conversation that would be taped on the famous White House taping system to be revealed at the Watergate hearings later that summer. The conversation was about the existence of the Huston Plan, a domestic spying operation devised in 1970 to disrupt student protest movements. (Domestic spying. Mmmm, smells like history.) Nixon was concerned that the Watergate committee knew about the plan, and was concocting a strategy to contain the political damage if the plan, which was never carried out over objections from the FBI, was revealed by the committee. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon gave a famous speech in which he declared, among other things, "The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world."

The energy crisis hadn't officially arrived yet, but government officials were trying to find energy wherever they could, and on this day, three nuclear weapons were exploded underground in Colorado. The nuking, code-named Rio Bravo, was part of something called Operation Plowshare, which was intended to release hard-to-get natural gas resources in the area. (Don't tell Bush or Cheney about this.) It worked, except that the gas became so radioactive that it was unusable. Quelle surprise. The first three astronauts were supposed to be launched on their mission to Skylab, but the launch was postponed until the 25th. Their job--fix severe damage to the orbiter that had occurred at launch on May 14.

Football player Jay Riemersma (tight end, Buffalo Bills) was born. So was actor Hill Harper (CSI: New York and Lackawanna Blues), in Iowa City. Also born on that day was 7-foot-6 inch actor Matthew McGrory (The Devil's Rejects). McGrory, who died last summer, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world's biggest feet--size 29 1/2.

David Bowie, playing a concert in Dundee, Scotland, was mobbed by fans on the way to his limo after the show. In London, the Rolling Stones wrapped up 11 days of work on their forthcoming album, Goat's Head Soup. (That's the one with "Angie" on it.) Then-unknown Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive released its first album. Los Angeles radio personality Hal Goodwin died after having a heart attack on the air. The New York Review of Books published a review of the controversial movie Last Tango in Paris.

The old Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point, Indiana, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In sports, California Angels outfielder Bobby Valentine got his leg caught in the outfield fence and broke it--his leg, not the fence--trying to keep a home run from going over the wall in the Angels' 4-0 loss to Oakland. The team I followed, the Chicago Cubs, lost to their arch-rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-4.

And that was the day. You were probably there, too, somewhere.

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