Meet the players who were instrumental in the crowded soundtrack of 1968 — believe it or not, kids ... some are still alive!

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KIDS WORKING ON history projects often call the Office of the Secretary of State and end up with me. It’s one of the best parts of my job as chief historian for Legacy Washington, an oral-history program. The other day, a seventh-grader writing a report about 1968 — the subject of our new exhibit — said something disarming: “Mr. Hughes, my mother said you were actually alive in 1968.”

Actually, yes. I was a cub reporter covering politics for The Aberdeen Daily World. The bell on the AP teletype machine clacking away in one corner of the newsroom dinged five times to herald Big-Story Bulletins. “Who in the hell is Spiro T. Agnew?” exclaimed the wire editor, when Nixon picked the little-known Maryland governor as his running mate. The irony, in light of later events, is that their platform was “Law and Order.”

In my mind, the soundtrack of 1968 is a jumble of jangling dings and Jimi Hendrix’s mesmerizing version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” There was “too much confusion” and “no relief.”

<b>SPECIAL 1968 ISSUE: </b>Too much happened in tumultuous 1968, even in Seattle, for one single story to contain. So: Welcome to our special, themed, All-1968-All-The-Time issue. This still might not be enough — but it’s a start.
SPECIAL 1968 ISSUE: Too much happened in tumultuous 1968, even in Seattle, for one single story to contain. So: Welcome to our special, themed, All-1968-All-The-Time issue. This still might not be enough — but it’s a start.

My new teammate, former Seattle Times reporter Bob Young, also was actually alive in 1968, though only about the same age as the kid whose mom suggested I was a reliable source. To get our thirty-something colleagues in the groove, Bob plays YouTube deejay with a song of the day. Everyone loved Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” But somehow we skipped past “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” which sums up a year when the Pentagon quadruped the draft call to 302,000, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were murdered in the space of two months, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s cops thrashed protesters outside the Democratic National Convention.

Bob’s profile of Ralph Munro, our former five-term Secretary of State, and my piece on Pat O’Day, the legendary KJR deejay I first met in 1968, offer you some relief today. They are among the 18 individuals spotlighted in “1968: The Year that Rocked Washington,” an exhibit that opens Sept. 13 at the state Capitol.

Munro emerged from the chaos of 1968 as a pioneer in the disability-rights movement. O’Day recounts the day he welcomed Hendrix back to Garfield High after a homecoming concert at Seattle Center Arena. When it came time to talk to a bunch of teenagers at his old school, Jimi had a bad case of stage fright. As he fled the gym, he might have said, “There must be some way out of here!” — a perfect metaphor for 1968.