Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reflecting on the Half-Century Mark-Part 1

In 5 days I turn 50. I really never thought I'd make it this far....had I known, I would have noticed more of the things around me and ignored the stressful days.

In looking back, there are things I've seen that my own children never experienced. It's nothing like the generation before me, but the world has changed before my eyes....

To quote one of my favorite artists...Jackson Browne...from his song "These Days".....

"These days I sit on corner stones, count the time in quarter tones 'til friend....please don't confront me with my failures....I'm aware of them."

Now on to the list......or the things I've seen.

My first true memory of childhood, other than play time, was the killing of President John F. Kennedy. I was 5-years old but I can still remember the announcement over the PA system at Wadsworth Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia. "Teachers please excuse this interruption.....President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas. We will update you as we learn more." I later learned at home that the President had died. While I watched the news that week, I was scared. And then I watched his accused assassin shot on live TV. Welcome to childhood....and the TRUE beginning of what we now refer to as "The 60s". All hell broke loose!

The next year was more of a year of mourning......and then The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show...on a Sunday night! Now what was I doing home on a Sunday night instead of at Woodlawn Baptist Church? I suspect my parents knew there was something new and exciting.....and we stayed home to see it. Now you couldn't hear the music for all the screaming girls, but right there my life changed. Music would always be with me....and today that feeling is still there. I don't believe (or know) if my parents ever really liked The Beatles or appreciated what they did for music, but I can assure you I was never told "No" when I asked for their latest album or 45 (if you know what a 45 is, you're part of "My Generation").

The years passed on....Johnson was now President, the war in Viet Nam (so far away) was escalating. I can remember each night watching Walter Cronkite close out his news broadcast by citing the number of dead Americans, South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese. Of course, the enemy's count was always higher.....of course.

And 1967 entered the picture. We moved from the suburbs of Atlanta to the country...Lithonia, Georgia. Ok, it was only 20 miles away, but we had trees, woods and lots of land. On my first day of school, at Stoneview Elementary, I met a black guy named Ellis. Integration had taken place in Lithonia and this was my first experience with having blacks in my class (sheltered life, huh?). Now please don't criticize me for calling African Americans "blacks"....this was acceptable in 1967. Ellis and I became friends, as did his mother and mine through PTA....and remained so througout our school years. It was a difficult year for me because I missed all my friends from Decatur, Georgia but that passed quickly with Saturday morning baseball games in my front yard, treks in the woods to the creek...and the discovery of the old graveyard!

Enter 1968. Rock n' Roll music had taken over the airways. "Quixie in Dixie" was THE radio station (AM of course) and the hot tunes were always played. WSB, my parent's station, always played at home, but we were allowed to listen to OUR music when we were in the car. And then....April 4, 1968.

Dr. Martin Luther King was shot down in Memphis, Tennessee. I have to admit that I was only slightly familiar with Dr. King's activities, but I learned a great deal about the man that year. And to this day, I will always admire his stand and character. He remains today one of my heros...and idols.

May 1968 past quickly and we were heading into June and summer vacation. And then the news struck hard. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot in a Los Angeles Hotel after winning the Democratic Primary in that state. Bobby, as our generation referred to him, was to be the next JFK and the hopes of ending the war in Viet Nam rode on his shoulders. If a 10-year old can be depressed, I was that year. Two of the people I most admire today were gone.

Later that summer, a war was waged against the youth of America. We (ok, we being those older than me, but I was supporting them) had turned on the older generation, the war in Viet Nam and the government. There was a divide between us and thus the term "Generation Gap" became the norm. And the war took to the streets. Complete and utter chaos.

I guess my bitterness that I hold today came from the events of 1968.

To be continued........