Editorial: The stories of two March 3rds

  • The towering Saturn 5 rocket carrying the Apollo 9 spacecraft and the lunar module into an earth orbit roars skyward from the launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Fla., on March 3, 1969. AP

Friday, March 03, 2017

Since President Donald Trump’s election four months ago, the world feels as though it is moving faster than ever – and the news right along with it. Rarely has a day passed since Nov. 8 that there was not some Trump-related story that deserved front-page coverage.

These are indeed tumultuous times, perhaps in some ways not unlike the political and social upheaval of the late 1960s. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the Monday, March 3, 1969, edition of the Concord Daily Monitor – four months after the election of another controversial president, Richard Nixon.

The lead headline of the day, stripped across the top of Page 1, read, “Apollo 9 Thunders Toward Marathon Trip.” Astronauts James McDivitt, David Scott and Russell Schweickart were just beginning a 10-day mission to clear the way for “two Americans to land on the moon in June or July.” Those two Americans were, of course, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, who would make history later in the summer of 1969.

Nixon made the March 3 front page, too, having just completed a five-nation tour of Western Europe. The president’s tone upon his return was one of optimism: “I sensed there was a new trust on the part of Europeans for the United States.”

Here in Concord, talk was of a measles outbreak and, no surprise, city parking.

With 60 reported cases of measles in the city, a clinic for Concord school children was set for March 14. Normally the vaccine would be available only to pre-schoolers, but 60 cases meant the outbreak was considered an epidemic requiring drastic action.

As for city parking, the issue of the day involved state lawmakers. Mabel Richardson, a Randolph Republican, said the city should provide overnight spaces for out-of-town lawmakers. If the Legislature was going to continue in Concord, she said, “then the city should furnish places for us to park.” Richardson said she was responding to remarks made the previous week by Concord Mayor William Gove (who was also a state senator). “I have reached the point where the fuse is about to blow,” Gove said. “There is something about a legislative license plate that turns a decent, law-abiding citizen into a boob.”

We asked Mayor Jim Bouley to weigh in on the old battle, but he chose not to side with his predecessor. “Well,” he said, “I’m glad to say that 48 years later the city and state have a much better working relationship.”

The editorial for March 3, 1969, could have gone in a lot of different directions, such as the space race, Nixon’s European trip or why Vermont has so much less of a measles problem (just as this editorial could have focused on Jeff Sessions, the Sununu-Lawrence, Mass., drug flap or egged cars in Franklin), but instead focused on the arrest of a Concord movie theater manager for showing “a foreign film that apparently leaves little to the imagination in depicting a sexual act.” The editorial never mentions the film by name, but the movie guide inside the paper solves the mystery. Cinema 93 was showing the steamy (by 1969 standards anyway) Swedish film Inga. “It is a curious demonstration of the confused standards by which at least some in our society judge what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” the Monitor wrote in calling for clearer obscenity standards and better enforcement of those standards.

We didn’t know what would we would find by looking at a nearly 50-year-old issue of the Monitor, but the thing that stuck with us most was the lead story: “Apollo 9 Thunders Toward Marathon Trip.” Despite all of the problems of 1969, the space program represented shared hope and excitement, a reason to be optimistic about humankind and the days to come. That, even more than the passage of time, is what makes these two days seem so distant from one another.