SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Fifty years ago, the world held its breath as American astronauts became the first humans to walk on the moon. While the Apollo 11 mission made history, in 1969, there were other significant historic events that took place around the Bay Area.
KPIX took a look into its news vault and found some real gems. Some of our biggest stories involved campus unrest, teacher strikes, and minority student demands.
One story reported by Mike Lee at San Francisco State University shows riot police storming onto the campus, using their billy clubs on student protesters.
Another report filed by Ed Arnow shows National Guard vehicles lining the streets along the eastern side of the University of California, Berkeley. Gov. Ronald Reagan sent 2,200 guardsmen into Berkeley, and the scene captured by KPIX News photographers is unsettling: young guardsmen – some of them students – holding bayonets against the crowds.
“I am proclaiming a state of extreme emergency on the campus and around the surrounding area around the University of California at Berkeley,” proclaimed Reagan, as he announced his order to shut the campus unrest down.
“The City of Berkeley continues to resemble an armed camp no one know really knowing when or where the next confrontation will take place but as the speakers at the rally indicated they believe they can be in the streets longer than the National Guard can,” reported Arnow.
In 1969, there was a lot of social unrest. KPIX News reported on the revolutionary Black Panther Party, which was a powerful force around the area, particularly in Oakland.
Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale defended the rights of Party members to arm themselves. “The gun is a proper, a very proper, liberation tool,” explained Seale to reporter Ed Arnow.
Also in ’69, an American President met with the leader of South Korea on Bay Area soil. KPIX 5 film captured the extraordinary day of events.
President Richard Nixon and his family flew on Air Force One from San Clemente to Hamilton Field in Novato. They then boarded the presidential helicopter which brought the party to Crissy Field in San Francisco where they were met by a friendly crowd before climbing into the official limousines for a quick trip to the Main Post. Crissy Field was a U.S. Army airfield in 1969.
10 minutes later by design, a second helicopter brought South Korean President Park Chung Hee and his wife to the same airfield. They then boarded their limos and traveled to meet Mr. Nixon. The two leaders discussed the threat posed by communist China, North Korea, and North Vietnam.
The footage contains some fascinating panoramic views of downtown San Francisco before the Transamerica pyramid was built and before the final touches on BART. The last section of the Transbay Tube was lowered into Bay waters on April 3, 1969; passenger service wouldn’t begin for another three years.
It’s fascinating to view all the topless and bottomless nightclubs that clogged up the streets of Broadway in San Francisco. Mayor Joe Alioto was livid and wanted to shut them all down. “If the Board of Supervisors sent me an ordinance banning topless, I would sign it,” said Alioto during a press conference in 1969.
Some things never change: A significant housing battle in the Bay Area was underway 50 years ago.
In San Francisco, a group of elderly Filipino men lived in an residential hotel called International Hotel. Called “I-Hotel” for short, the single room occupancy residential hotel was the heart of California’s Manilatown.
Real estate corporations and developers wanted to demolish I-Hotel, and replace it with a more profitable structure. The battle began in earnest in the late 60s. Tenants and housing advocates pushed back. The late former Mayor Ed Lee at the time was an attorney for the Asian Legal Caucus and volunteered his services. Eventually, the tenants were successfully evicted by San Francisco riot police. 197 tenants lost their homes.
During our search, we uncovered a musical treasure: early footage of the Fillmore West Dance Club run by the legendary Bill Graham and located on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. The headliners that night were Creedence Clearwater. But one of the warmup bands was a very early version of Fleetwood Mac.
The year ended in historic tragedy: a free rock concert on the West Coast turned violent. The Rolling Stones were ending a national tour, and at the last minute, they became the headliners for a West Coast-styled “Woodstock.”
Famed concert promotor Michael Lang showed up in the offices of then famed local attorney Melvin Belli. Along with representatives of the Rolling Stones, they announced what turned out to be hastily drawn up plans to the assembled media. The organizers had finally gotten a location: the Altamont Speedway in Tracy.
“At 7 a.m., the gates will open,” proclaimed Belli.
KPIX Reporter Dave Monsees visited the sight and filed a report. “The Highway Patrol is worried about the last mile a small two lane road that’s the only access between the freeway and the speedway.”
An estimated 300,000 people showed up to a concert that increasingly turned violent. Four people died; three were accidental but one death was horrifying. A man who rushed the stage during the Rolling Stones performance brandished a gun. He was stabbed and stomped by a group of Hells Angels, and was pronounced dead on the scene.