Disclaimer: No technical information follows, just food for thought, a nutrition that zealots have no taste for.
Tonight I fly back to Florida, having completed a 9 day shift caring for my parents in NJ. The time spent with them affords the chance to look back on the world we came from, and take a moment to consider both its blessings and its challenges.
My mother, age 36, with the four children. ( That’s me in the stroller ). We are sitting on the tailgate of our 1961 Buick station wagon. The photo was taken by my father in front of our tiny house at 433 Woodrift lane in Pleasant Hills, PA. The negative was printed backwards, the driveway was actually on the left hand side of the house. My parents bought the house when it was brand new for $14,000 in 1958. During my fathers 33 years in the Navy, the moves were frequent enough that this was the only home my parents ever purchased.
We lived in the Pittsburgh area because dad was the project officer at Shippingport, the worlds first atomic power station. It was a joint Naval Reactors/Atomic Energy Commission project, the reactor core being identical to the ones used in Navy ships and subs. Six years was a long time to be on one assignment by Navy standards. My father had a diverse career. He went straight from Shippingport to Vietnam.
About 18 months after this picture, my father deployed to Vietnam. Before leaving, he sat with my brother, then 14, and gave him a short set of instructions; He was to follow my mother, without question or hesitation; he was to remain positive at all times, school and at home, set an example for us; and if my father did not return, he would then be the eldest man in the family. This last point required no detailed instruction, he would just faithfully follow my fathers example of conduct. With that, he departed, was gone for 14 months.
There were letters, but not a single phone call. This was the beginning of my brother’s lifetime of being absolutely loyal to a trust or an oath, without further reminder nor reward. If you find the above paragraph moving, it is actually a commentary on America today, because in 1965, that type of conduct was expected, not the exception worth noting.
While it is easy to remember the summer of 1963 as a time when we had passed the missile crisis, the space program was getting into high gear, a time when no president had been assassinated in 62 years, there were still many things wrong. One sixth of Americans were systematically denied the right to vote. J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI as a dictator, in a way that was a serious threat, not just to individual liberty, but to the lives of many Americans he personally defined as enemies. Hollywood still depicted Native Americans as savages to be treated with little remorse. People who were different, just as God made them, were afforded no place in society, far less an equal one. We were hardly beginning to understand the damage we were doing to the environment, the home we all had to live in, with rampant pollution.
I listen to the calls to “Make America Great Again” with some understanding, although my personal concept of the idea focuses on individuals returning to ethical lives and treating each other with simple decency, more than plans to make everyone rich. They are not mutually exclusive, but the former can lead to the latter, and the latter by itself is hollow and meaningless.
There are many people who claim that anyone stirred by the slogan secretly desires the return of many of the darker things I listed above. That is a pretty broad brush, one I don’t particularly appreciate being painted with. I am an individual, and it is my absolute belief that people should be treated as such, and their sole measure taken by the ‘content of their character’. I carry the fair expectation that anyone who wants to assessed as an individual, will resist painting others with broad brushes.
I say that with no malice, and a fair amount of understanding for people who don’t think anything in this countries past was better than today. I actually feel sorry for them, because it tells me they never met anyone like my brother, to understand that we once generated a very different kind of teenager, a person well prepared to take their place as an adult in America, and that is the missing keystone, the element too rarely spoken of. I have my doubts that it will be brought to the center stage, and commonly understood as the issue, but lack of public awareness is no excuse for an individual to retreat from a better path.
7 Replies to “Thought for the Day: America, 1963”
Well said. And should be said quietly but without ceasing.
Ultimately it is our work, 24/7, for all the days of our lives, to try to make our world a better place. We seem to think of our candidates and others as “heroes” who will make It all good for us.
No, they may inspire us, speak words of encouragement, even show us where we are going astray, but it is all of us doing our work, our tasks, as well and as honorably as we can.
And, helping and empowering our fellow citizens as well as we can, as we meet our commitments to our families and our nation.
No truer words spoken my friend. Bravo for wordsmithing what so many of us that shared that time in life think on a daily basis. Well said!
That part about instructions brought tears to my eyes. Would that I were so loyal.
Thank you for sharing those thoughts.
The attachment is a short Youtube clip from a local tv station that highlights what my dad is doing to keep aviation viable for the next generation. This is sent for you and Grace as proof that what you have done and are doing is helping to make a difference in many peoples lives.
appreciate very much your heartfelt important recollection. Personally very nostalgic.
Man´s best qualities are being ridiculed and replaced by lofty nonentities with no regard for consequences, a western malady?
But we shall fight them on the beaches,,,