Dusting off the old ones: A look back at Jan. 11, 1968

The American Historical Association (AHA) hosted its 132nd annual meeting in Washington D.C last week. The conference brought more than a thousand historians and students from all across the world to discuss new avenues of historical research. 

In recognition of its semi-centennial, the historians turned a special gaze to the year of 1968. The year alone invites memories of confusion and chaos. As years pass, historians continue to unscramble the events of ‘68. They try to discern which events weighed most heavily on the ensuing half century. The list is formidable: Tet Offensive, My Lai Massacre, convention riots in Chicago, Nixon’s election, the assassinations of RFK and MLK — all marching to the rhythm of public protest, and, above all, the ongoing specter of nuclear war. 

In the spirit of last week’s AHA gathering, I sifted through the Pioneer archives to see what news the residents of Sweet Grass County awoke to on Jan. 11, 1968 — 50 years ago to the day. Here is a synopsis of what I found:

Saturday, Jan. 6 — The Herder boys dropped to 4-1 after falling 77-58 to an especially tall Bulldogs team from Bozeman Holy Rosary. The Herders shot a cold 30 percent from the field, as temperatures outside the arena dipped well below zero. The boys looked to bounce back at home against the Harlowton Engineers, also 4-1.

Wage-earners saved their pennies for $1 admission while yearly Pioneer subscriptions jumped from $4 to $5 in light of rising publishing costs. (No sweat for those drawing Social Security, as President Lyndon Johnson sweetened monthly checks by 13 percent earlier that week.)

Headlining the funny pages were classmates Kim Sell and Carlene Jenkins, who showed once again why walls don’t make good finish lines. 

Sell and Jenkins were in gym class running a foot race. Neck-and-neck, the girls refused to slow down as they approached the finish line — in this case, the gymnasium wall. With outstretched arms, they braced for impact. 

Four wrist injuries (three sprained and one broken) were reported. 

Finally, Pioneer editor Lamont Beck had his own pages to dust off, finding this delightful story from Jan. 11, 1951. 

Allow me to quote at length:

“Jan. 11 — Senator Leo Cremer introduced a measure to move the state capitol to Big Timber. Montana voters would be asked to transfer the state capitol from Helena’s ‘politically polluted chambers, corridors and halls’ to the ‘rural permeating freshness and fragrance’ of Big Timber on the ‘beautiful banks of the mighty Boulder River’ under a bill submitted in the senate today by Senator Leo J. Cremer (1-Sweet Grass) and six of his southern Montana colleagues.” 

The bill listed the possible advantages of a Big Timber capitol, including, “Fine beef and board at reasonable rate,” free weekly rodeos during the legislative session, daily western parades and, of course, “adequate timber for log-rolling purposes.”

To the relief of Sweet Grass County residents, the bill was tabled and has not been revisited since. 

Chris Aiken, Pioneer reporter



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