Tag Archives: 1960’s

Making America Great Again – Circa 2050

duck and cover

I’ve wondered at times what it was about the 1950s and 1960s that allowed those two decades to dominate the nostalgia market during almost all the late 20th Century. In a lot of ways it just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, we had a better music, rhythm and blues, wailing ballads of quality country ad western, and all that new frontier of rock and roll at its birth. Songs we knew well enough to sing along, or alone as we rode down those roads before super-highways on used tires.

Old cars with personality, greasy hair, dandruff, acne and bad teeth. Parents and grandparents who went through the Great Depression and worked hard to assure we wouldn’t experience those kinds of difficult times.

Mostly at the time it was in the world around us and I don’t recall being all that happy about all the other crap that came with it. Constant brink of war sf a sort that it’s better not to remember. Knowing when you turned 18 you’d have the draft hanging over your head. And a lot of bullying everywhere you turned.

If you worked doing farm work the farmers and ranchers who hired you felt a moral obligation to shout and verbally abuse the workers anytime they got within earshot. Construction jobs? You’ve never seen bullying and abuse that could compete with a construction foreman. It was there on the school playgrounds, on the streets, anywhere people happened to be.

And mostly nobody much said a word. It just went with being alive.

Our little farm was just across the railroad tracks on the ‘Mexican’ side of town. When I was in the first and second grade I walked home from school the same way several ‘Mexican’ kids walked. I was smaller than them, anglo, and outnumbered. They started just by yelling insults, but gradually it worked up they’d chase me with sticks or throwing rocks at me.

There came a day I was running home just in front of them, arrived with my mother on the front porch. They gathered on the dirt road in front of the house, still shouting and throwing rocks.

“Get out of here you little Mescin bastards!” She ran down off the porch waving the broom. “I’ll twist your heads off and shove them up your butts!” She never got close to catching them, but they were off.

Then she came back where I was waiting on the porch and smacked me upside the head with the broom so hard it broke the handle. Grabbed me by the collar and proceeded to beat my backside with the handle fragment. “If I ever see you running away from a fight again you’d better not set foot in this house!”

When my step-dad got home she told him, and it was off to the back porch with his belt. But at least he followed that up a bit later by teaching me to fight.

I don’t know what these kids today are going to have to feel nostalgia about. Maybe some of them will have similar memories or they’ll just remember all the computer games and hum rap music to themselves and smile.

But you can almost bet when they reach 50 or so they’ll be rallying around the flag and trying to elect candidates who promise to make America great again. The way it is today.

Old Jules

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The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

Maybe the reason I lured myself into allowing my hopes to include that 1977 C60 school bus was just a time warp slipped in briefly.  Fond memories have a way of coming back to haunt folks as they approach the jumping off place, I reckons.

A million years ago, Back Just Before Hippies Were Invented, summer, 1964, when KoolAid was just KoolAid and acid was still just something to excite a strip of litmus paper, I had my first experience driving a school bus.

As described in the post linked above, I’d gotten out of jail in Rochester, NY, walked halfway down Ohio, been picked up by a taxicab going deadhead back to Terre Haute, Indiana, after taking a drunken businessman to Columbus, OH, to see his estranged wife and kids.  He left me on a street corner in Terre Haute, where I dodged beer bottles thrown by kids the rest of the night.

Mid-morning a yellow school bus pulled across the intersection where I was standing, a car pulling a trailer pulling in behind it.  Loma Linda Academy painted on the side.  The door popped open and the driver yelled, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

I had a middling amount of experience driving dump trucks and such when I was younger, and I was hungry enough for a ride to lie through my teeth.  “Sure thing.  Nothing to it!”  He vacated the driver seat, I took it, and we said goodbye to Terre Haute.

Turned out he was a Baptist minister moving his family to Las Vegas, New Mexico.  He’d contracted with the manufacturer to take the bus to Loma Linda, California, figuring he’d stack the seats in back, load up his belongings in the empty space, and get the hauling expenses paid for by delivering the bus.

Rick Riehardt was his name.  Young, 30ish man with a nice family.  One of several Baptist ministers I’ve met in my life I came to respect and was able to enjoy their company.  But a menace behind the steering wheel of a school bus.

The rear of the bus was loaded with his belongings, forward of that, loose seats stacked, with about half the seats still bolted to the floor, up front.  Rick had a five-gallon jug of KoolAid and a cooler loaded with Bologna sandwiches behind the driver seat.  He was “a loaf of bread and a pound of red” sort of man when it came to eating on the road.

We struck up a salubrious acquaintance as we motored along in that bus, picking up other hitch-hikers as we came to them.  Enough, at times, to fill the intact seats in the bus.  College kids, soldiers on leave or in transit, bums, beatniks, people who didn’t care to admit where they’d been, where they were going. 

One kid who’d just been down south working with SNCC and marching with emerging civil rights movement, marching, getting beat-hell-out-of by redneck sheriffs, getting treated like a stinking step-child by a lot of the blacks he was supporting.

The hitchers rotated on and off the bus as we drove southwest, Rick and my ownself being the only constants, me being the only driver.  We hadn’t gone far before Rick began cajoling me to drive the bus on to California after he’d unloaded it in Las Vegas, re-installed the seats, and he’d leave the family behind.  But I was headed for Portales, New Mexico.  Figured on getting off and heading south at Santa Rosa, well east of Las Vegas.

Eventually I agreed to it because I didn’t think there was a chance in hell he’d get the bus to California in one piece driving it himself.  That, and I was probably hallucinating on KoolAid and bologna sandwiches by that time.

We parted as friends, him offering to buy me a bus ticket back to Portales, me insisting I’d ride my thumb.  Caught a ride in Needles, CA, with four drunken US Marines in a new Mercury Station Wagon on 72 hour pass.  Headed for Colorado Springs.  All they wanted from me was for me to stay sober and awake watching for Arizona Highway Patrol airplanes.  Every time I dozed they’d catch me at it and threaten to put me back afoot.

We made it from Needles, CA, to Albuquerque alive, about 1100 miles in 12 hours.  I was ready for a rest.  Crawled into a culvert and slept until I had my head back on straight enough to stick out my thumb again.

Rick and I used to exchange post cards for a decade or so, but I lost track of him somewhere back there.  Never lost track of the KoolAid and bologna, though.  I still keep it around in my head in case I ever need it.

Old Jules

Riding the Rap

One of the the ways youngsters in Portales, New Mexico, used to entertain themselves summer days was hopping a freight train for a ride to Clovis, twenty miles away.  We’d hang around a while doing nothing, then hop another back to Portales.

Bums hanging around the Clovis yard would tell us which trains not to catch.  A kid wouldn’t want to be on a mile-a-minute diesel locomotive as it went through Portales and end up in Roswell, 90 miles west, wondering how to get home without the war department discovering what he’d been doing.

It wasn’t quite a decade later, summer, 1964, I was in NYC hanging around Greenwich Village thinking I was a beatnik.  I decided to head back to the desert Southwest.  The easiest way of getting out of the city appeared to be to hop a freight.  Seemed logical that any train I caught ought to be going South, or West, or Southwest.

Sometime after dark the train stopped at Rochester and and two cops had their pistols pointed at me.  Handcuffs, fingerprints, paperwork, and off to the slammer.  Rochester, New York, awaiting an arraignment so’s they could decide whether to charge me with the NY felony of riding freight trains and send me off to the pen two-to-five years.

That Rochester jail was the first place I ever heard the phrase, ‘riding the rap’.  Prisoners used it to describe what happens when you’re caught (the rap) and sentenced (serving your time – riding it).

Considering how frequently we humans are wrong about almost everything, and how seldom we’re right, it’s a mystery.  We go to sooo much trouble convincing ourselves we’re right.  Once we adopt an opinion about how things are, we hang onto it with hair,  teeth, and toenails and ride it.

At the beginning of the 20th Century a consortium of top-scientists announced to that all the major discoveries science would ever make had already been made.  Human beings all over the world believed them.  They’ve continued patting themselves on the back from then until now.  The airplane, the atomic bombs, moon landings, plastic, computers, tubeless tires, television,  and quantum physics were just tying up loose ends.

In our personal lives this brave new century is a time to pick something safe, something that will stay on the rails.  Something that won’t provide us with any growth experiences.  Safety nets.  Insurance policies.  Spectator sports.  World news.

We might be bored to tears, but by damn we know who the Bulgarians ought to elect for their president, and by damn, we know who killed John Kennedy and what’s the best ball team.

The only rap we have to ride is knowing our lives are slipping away without our having done anything but a little flag-waving.  Whoopteedoo, watched the Super Bowl.  Whoopteedoo, went to a concert.  Whoopteedoo, got a car.  Whoopteedoo, died of cancer.

But by God, I was right.  Knew, by damn, who the Bulgarians should have elected for their prez.  Knew which ball club was best, win or lose.

Life flashing before the eyes during the last minute of life, I wonder if a person gets to thrill again to the 1999 Super Bowl.

Or whether he might wish he’d chosen some other rap to ride.  Chosen a life with more risk, more flair, so they wouldn’t write his epitaph, “He knew everything already and played it safe.  Sixty times around the sun and he never fixed a flat tire.”

Old Jules

Creedence Clearwater Revival- Midnight Special
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksGi7B5BdM&feature=related