Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 1964

The warmth of the October Indian Summer gave way to the dreary damp and gray skies of November. Lyndon Johnson was elected our new president. There seems to be a lot of people who don't like Lyndon Johnson. During the campaign it was claimed that he was a corrupt politician who was guilty of fixing elections in Texas, and now some people are saying he knows something about the murder of President Kennedy. What do I know of it? I'm only twelve years old and I'm trying to deal with pimples and becoming a teenager and all that.
I am kinda glad that Barry Goldwater wasn't elected. He scares me. He's got a stern look about him and he seems unconcerned about dropping bombs on the Communists. During the election campaign Mr. Goldwater said a lot of things about using force in order to defend freedom, so he seems pretty much like a warmonger.
Our new president, Lyndon Johnson, sounds like he wants to make our country better. He talks about ending poverty and giving medical care to senior citizens when they retire, and he seems like he wants to try and put a stop to racism. His opponents call him a "socialist" and a "communist", but in my mind it seems like he's trying to help all Americans. President Johnson has also said that he will continue to support the government of South Vietnam against the Communists. A lot of people are angry about that. I don't know if it's right or wrong, but I've been taught to be a true-blue American, so I guess it's the right thing to do. More and more people in our country and around the world are starting to say that we should get out of Vietnam; that it's none of our business, but shouldn't we be fighting the communists? It's all so complicated.
I'm watching the TV and there's lots of stuff about the Kennedy assassination. It's been a year since the president was shot, and just like then it seems that's all that's on TV right now. I think I've had enough of it. It doesn't seem real, you know? There's a lot of talk about Lee Harvey Oswald and that maybe he was part of a plot to kill President Kennedy; that maybe it was Castro or the Mafia or even the CIA that plotted to kill him. All it does is confuse me. I don't want to hear about death right now. It's time to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I've got to get through my thirteenth birthday and becoming a teenager and all.
Christmas! What do I ask for now that I'm going to be thirteen? Do I stop asking for toys now? I'd like to get that G.I. Joe soldier, but it feels like I'd be asking for a doll. I will ask for some Airfix toy soldiers to reinforce my Afika Korps army for my battles with Steve Kay down in his basement. I guess I'll ask for that Monopoly game too. That seems like what an older kid would ask for. My brother wants spy stuff. The James Bond briefcase or the Man From UNCLE one. I hope he gets them - then I can play with them too.
I guess we'll be going to Aunt Bette's farm for Thanksgiving again. Almost all of my Mom's side of the family gathers there every year for a great big dinner. We'll fill up the kitchen and spill out into the dining room, and all of us cousins will play hide and seek in the barns. But....

It's the day before Thanksgiving and the phone rings. My Mom is talking on the phone and she sounds worried and serious.
Something's wrong.
It's something about Nanny, my grandmother, Mom's mother.
I think she's very sick or something, and Mom says she's got to go to Woodbury and see what's wrong. Mrs. Olsen and Mrs. Avis will keep an eye on us until she gets back or until Dad gets home from work.
Nanny - sick?
No, not Nanny, she can't be sick. I know she's very old and all, but she's the center of our family, nothing can happen to her, can it?
I don't like this feeling I'm having.
No nothing bad can happen, can it?
I'm standing in my hallway, looking out through the picture window in the living room. Mom is driving away looking really worried.
No, I don't like this feeling.
I don't like it at all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Awkward in Autumn-1964

It's weird, this autumn of 1964. I'm trying to cope with going to this new school, this Gateway Regional High School. My body is going crazy, with pimples bursting through my skin, and my scalp flaking off, and now I'm going to be thirteen in a few months. Thirteen! Me, a teenager? Today I am a man and all that crap? I don't feel ready. I mean, I'd like to get one of those G.I. Joe action toys for Christmas, but if I'm going to be a teenager should I be asking for a doll for Christmas? I tell myself that it's not a doll, it's a large toy soldier that you can change uniforms and equipment on, but hey that IS a DOLL, isn't it? I'm gonna want one and I know some people will feel it's stupid and I'll feel it's stupid, but I'll probably ask for one anyway.

It's October and like most Octobers the Yankees are in the World Series again. This year I'm more interested in baseball than ever before. I understand the game more and I can play it better, and this summer was pretty exciting watching the Phillies almost win the pennant. It's a shame they blew it, but it's pretty much what people have come to expect from them. Still it would have been pretty cool watching the Phils play the Yankees. Dad probably would have gotten tickets to some of the games. I could have seen Mickey Mantle play ball in person, right across the Delaware River. Instead I rush home at the end of the school day to catch the last innings. The St. Louis Cardinals are making things tough for the Yanks. The series goes to seven games and I'm disappointed when the Cardinals win. What's really weird is after the Series is over the Yankees fire their manager, Yogi Berra and hire Johnny Keane, the guy who managed the Cardinals! A strange way to end things, that's for sure.

It's a strange feeling I have this autumn in 1964, like I'm living in two different worlds. I live in Woodbury Heights, and my friends are my neighbors from Woodbury Heights, but when I go to school my friends are mostly from Wenonah and Westville and National Park. But they're only my friends at school, we hardly ever see each other outside the walls of Gateway.

The world is strange too in this autumn of 1964. The presidential election is between two scary looking men, Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. A lot of people say Lyndon Johnson is a crooked politician who fixed elections in Texas, and Barry Goldwater seems to be someone who's determined to start a nuclear war with Russia. Even if I could vote I don't think I'd pick either one.

This October more East Germans tunneled their way under the Berlin Wall to get to West Germany and freedom. I still can't understand it all. I can't imagine what it's like to be a kid in East Germany, wondering if I'd ever be able to be free again. What do those kids ask for at Christmas?

I decide I'm not going out for Halloween this year. That's one thing I think I'm too old for now. I'm gonna stay home and hand out the candy and try and guess who is under those costumes. Mom can take little Cheryl out trick-or-treating, I'll stay home and hold down the fort.

My grades are good and I make the honor roll. I have to study harder and it seems like there's no end to the homework our teachers hand out, but somehow I get through it all.

Soon the election will be over and we'll have a new president. A big Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Bette's farm,and then thoughts of Christmas. And yeah, I'm going to ask for a G.I. Joe, doll or no doll.

I don't want to think about my thirteenth birthday too much.
I don't need another pimple.