49 years ago today: in the Summer of Love, Vietnam came home to Louisville; dirty skies and risky steaks, and hep cats

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

CJ front page August 9 1967 150
Aug. 9, 1967

The 1967 Summer of Love was in full sway: 100,000 visitors converged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in bell-bottoms and tie-dyed tops to drop acid, protest the Vietnam war, and listen to Scott McKenzie‘s recording of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” on transistor radios.

In Louisville 49 years ago today, The Courier-Journal captured the Zeitgeist in stories about that increasingly unpopular war on the other side of the globe; opposition to factory growth in the east end, plus air pollution and the perils of barbecuing. This was the news that Wednesday morning.

‘Bright and white’

Cmdr. Ed Lighter of Louisville, stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany off the coast of Vietnam, flew a Skyhawk in a successful bombing run on a North Vietnamese truck convoy. Lighter, 38, said the sortie used 800-lb. bombs to destroy eight trucks. “They burned bright and white,” Lighter said, “so we figured it was magnesium going up.”

Courier-Journal August 9 1967
On the CJ’s page 16.

Ford unveiled plans to spend as much as $100 million to build a new truck factory, even as a group of residents tried to raise $15,000 for a lawsuit to block it.

Non-farm July employment in the area rose to 297,000 — 200 more than in June, and 12,000 more than July 1966. The unemployment rate was 3.2%.

The Will Sales Optical shop at Fourth and Liberty and at the Bacon Shopping Center in Shively appealed to a different sort of hippies in an advertisement on page 16: “All the hep cats are talking about Will Sales Teen Scene glasses, and on credit, too!”

The weather forecast called for highs of 89 degrees as the CJ’s editorial board bemoaned the city’s polluted skies — and a new medical study about that all-American pastime: backyard grilling.

Stoking up the grill

“Just as we had finished reading about Louisville’s 16th-place finish in the air-pollution sweepstakes, came a weekend to put troubled minds at rest,” the unsigned editorial said. “The clear, azure skies and the moderate temperatures helped us forget the besmirched air, even those invisible gases and fly-ash particles floating around us. We stoked up the outdoor grill and watched in delight as the steak turned charcoal-colored. The repast that followed was a reward.

Grilling dad
Ignorance was bliss.

“But no! It wasn’t a reward at all, we learned the next morning. There in the paper was a report from a team of researchers at the University of Chicago Medical School. They chose to tell us that the flames which seared our steak in the outdoor grill also deposited dangerous hydrocarbons thereon. The dangerous hydrocarbons, these doctors — who probably live in big-city apartments and never cook outdoors — tell us, are the same kind that may cause cancer in laboratory animals. The warning was sobering. If our air is dirty and those supposedly nutritious steaks are dangerous, what is safe? We picked up a calming glass of water, but hastily put it down. Suppose water. . . . ,” the writer said, trailing off in apparent little-city horror.

Postscript

By the time Saigon fell in April 1975, more than 58,000 U.S. service members had died in the conflict that began 20 years before. The debate over the nation’s involvement there continues today.

It’s unclear what happened to Cmdr. Ed Lighter; he doesn’t turn up in the CJ’s archives except in that August 1967 edition.

His aircraft carrier Oriskany, originally launched in 1945, was turned into an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola, Fla., when the Navy used 500 lbs. of explosives to sink it on May 17, 2006.

USS_Oriskany_sinking
The Oriskany slips below the waves in just 37 minutes.

Singer Scott McKenzie died at 73 in August 2012 — 45 years after recording “San Francisco,” the hit that defined his career. Listen to it on YouTube.

Ford 2017 Super Duty truck
A 2017 Ford Super Duty.

Ford’s proposed Kentucky Truck Factory survived opposition, eventually opening in 1969 at 3001 Chamberlain Lane. It now employs 5,100 workers producing F-250 and F-550 Super Duty pickups and other vehicles. Last December, Ford announced plans to spend $1.3 billion and add 2,000 more jobs to make the new F-series trucks.

The Louisville metro area now has 665,000 non-farm jobs — more than twice as many as in 1967 — and the unemployment rate is 4.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Will Sales Optical doesn’t appear to be in business anymore.

The Courier-Journal largely abandoned writing editorials in May 2015 as its fortunes sank with the newspaper industry’s downward spiral.

And Americans still get conflicting news about health studies nearly every day.

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