“Time Has Come Today” drifts in and out of my mind as I fall into a time warp…I’m listening to music that wrapped itself around my life and my heart during my high school years…Gloria…The Rapper…Wild Thing…Time Has Come Today…tunes that take me back to old times…and old memories.
I’m not sure why I am writing about the 1960’s and 1970’s…the words tumble out as I write and the memories come back fresh as new. I was an impressionable cowgirl at heart, who loved her parents, loved her horses, loved her family and loved her country, during a time in life when our world was in turmoil.
America was at war in a foreign land called Vietnam and yet also with itself in many ways. It was a time of fear, rage, war, confusion and changes that had never occurred on American soil in our lifetime…it was a crazy time in American History to grow up in, as the world was upside down…life was precarious and America was changed forever.
American youth did not know what to make of going to war, let alone a draft number. If your draft number was chosen, it was ultimately scary as you had no choice but to go…we could not vote but we were sent to fight a war in a foreign land that we did not understand. We could shoot and kill the enemy…only to be shot down ourselves with enemy fire…coming home…dead in a box…none of us understood what war hell was and we did not know what to do.
Many of us, like myself, supported my parents generation and World War II, I had heard the stories and seen the reels of American war history play out in US history classes. I had uncles who fought in Normandy as well as D Day and Pearl Harbor…and I knew friends and cousins who either enlisted to go to Vietnam or had their number called in the draft to go to war.
Growing up in a very small community…I went to a small school that included all 12 grades with the same 8-12 kids in my class…we were close as our small classes felt more like family, and some were as I had cousins in every grade when I was in school, all the way through! My class it seemed had the luck of the draw, as we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the 1960’s.
We began High School in 1967…we had hopes, dreams and plans for our future. Our biggest fear was Freshman Initiation…and that was a very scary deal! Our initiation lasted for a week…my Junior initiator, (eventually became my boyfriend, he was lucky as we did not have many boys to choose from), chose for me to be King Kong (did I say real lucky) on the first day which entailed having brown grease paint smeared on my face and on every part of my skin that showed…I had to wear a dark brown sweatshirt with dark brown tights…and they put gunk in my long red hair! It was a crazy week as each day was different…one of the days we had to roll a jelly bean across the floor during noon hour blind folded so the entire high school could watch us! The last night, which was Friday night, we were blind folded and one at a time we had a dozen eggs cracked over our heads in front of the entire student body and faculty…as the night wore on after the eggs, we had to crawl around outside on the grass and be blasted with cold water…it was part of tradition…it was part of the deal!
Life was intense back then, but we stood together as a nation, one nation under God, indivisible with justice and liberty for all. We had Vietnam and rebelling against society…I was a rebel without a clue, and I was not very good at that thing called rebelling. I did not know anything, except that life was changing. I knew there was a horrible war overseas that we had never heard of called “Vietnam”…and we could not vote in an American election until we were 21 years old. Many young men and women went to “Nam”and did not come home…and I wondered, “Why can’t we vote?”
As I walked in the door after school each day, I heard David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite reporting how many casualties we had in Vietnam today…how many young American men and women died…showing graphic images of war that was very real…and terrorizing! Our American youth were dying in a foreign country and we could not vote in America until we were 21 years old…yet we could be drafted to fight in a war we had never heard of. It scared me as I knew some of those who enlisted or were drafted…it was incomprehensible in my mind that so many young Americans were being killed. As the daily TV news reported and played the photo journalists video with their daily shots of the life and war…we saw deeply traumatizing photos of people, children and old people fleeing the war while being shot down…nightly news was war hell and it gripped your heart deeply.
I was safely locked up on a cattle ranch….(thankfully) for my own good! I listened to Wolfman Jack if I could pick him up at night…we did not have electricity or running water…we had one portable AM transistor radio that could pick up stuff at night sometimes…(we did not have FM back then or satellite)…I can still hear it crackling, fading in and out. And if I couldn’t get Wolfman that night, then Dad had Ira Blue coming in and out all night…and Mom lived between her 16-year-old daughter who now fashioned herself as a cowgirl hippie and her husband who was John Wayne and keeping an eye on his only daughter with a grrrrrr!
I did not turn against my country and I never turned against my parents or my family. Mom and Dad and I could always talk even if we were all a bit perturbed…we did not yell at each other…we would not talk until we cooled down and then we would talk and seek to resolve the problem. I am sure that the late 1960’s and 1970’s put my parents to the test at times with all my questions. I am a seeker as I want to know everything, the facts and the why, what, when and where or explore the hows and whys in order to find a solution…and ultimately understand the reasons.
America had subtle signs back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s…but no one thought America would turn on itself
We lived through President John Fitzgerald Kennedy being assassinated, I was in grade school and his public death was the first time I saw death. I worried why this happened…as America is safe right? But our President was shot in cold blood so how could America be safe? Our nation grieved deeply…we were a nation in deep mourning and shock.
We cried when we saw a young first lady with her young children mourn the loss of their husband and father…we as a nation could not make much sense of how it all happened…but we as a nation stood tightly together…we knew we were now on a new road.
Vice President Lyndon Johnson took President Kennedy’s place, as our nation was thrown into turmoil…he became our President during one of the most confusing times in history…riots, war hell, American lives taken and America itself was at war with it itself…nothing was sacred anymore!
Five years later, the shocking assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1968…I was with my boyfriend at the time and we both heard it at school as we walked to the library after school…I was working on a historical debate! We were shocked…another assassination…and why? During my debate the next week, I spoke out as we grieved another loss of life…and two months later Robert Francis Kennedy was shot dead June 6th, 1968…he had visited our small town a month earlier and enjoyed breakfast with locals that I knew. I had followed him in my government class and I was supporting him.
On June 6th I was spending the night with girl friends, school was out and we were celebrating…my freshman year was behind me, and I was about to ditch my glasses as I was getting contact lens…whoo-hoo!
It was close to midnight when we heard their Mom let out a sound that was not right…we ran to see what was wrong and stood speechless as we watched RFK being shot down and the life and hope go out of him. He was a family man with kids…this cannot be happening again…no way…is nothing sacred anymore? And Vietnam raged on as now America was at war with itself!
President Johnson tried to do right, but gave up after 5 years in office in 1968…and we elected a new president.
President Richard Nixon took office as Johnson headed home to Texas. Nixon was a family man who was respectful…he wanted to end the Vietnam war, bringing home our troops…and from the get go, he sought to do just that.
Nixon began withdrawing troops out of North and South Vietnam. America had a glimmer of hope and then…Kent State riots and shootings happened on May 4th, 1970…it was the end of my Junior year in high school. Mr. Keller who taught our government class, found a small black and white television for us to watch the riots and history, live, unfolding before our eyes. Four students lost their lives that day at Kent State, two of which were not involved in the riots…when the shooting stopped, many more students lay injured.
In 1973 Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, which basically ended US involvement in the Vietnam war and the protests in America came to a formal end. However, the memories of Vietnam and Kent State echo in American culture and U.S. society…and they yet echo in my mind and my heart.
As peace was slowly restored to our nation, something called Watergate was in the news for months…wire tapping and spying…what is that and what is happening…it sounds like a Mission Impossible episode! “What did you say? Nixon is in on it too, as well as his cabinet and top aides? Water what?” Sounds bad…and yes it was.
President Richard Nixon resigned August 8th, 1974…I was nine months pregnant at cow camp in the mountains, with Dad’s black and white TV hooked up to antennas on top of trees and up on top of mountains so we could watch the world news.
I remember holding my bulging belly watching as Nixon resigned and I thought “WHAT?!” A month later on September 8th, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon…and I delivered a son.
Life was not rosy in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but America still had dignity and respect…morals and values…with civility…honor and regard for our fellow-man. We grew up being taught to value and respect our parents and elders…even if you had to go scream in a pillow! And, yes I did that too, all of us did back then! We were taught to honor the lives of our elders and parents with value and respect for the sacrifices they made for us…and that is why young people who “could not vote” went to Vietnam to fight for our country…to fight with dignity and honor for America…to fight for us!
America as I knew it, evolved into our present America…which is nothing like it was when I grew up in the 1950’s – 1970’s. It saddens my heart as I know we can never go back to the good old days. Life has changed and the world we once knew is now American History…and those of us who are still here…well, we try to remember the good times and the bad times…with dignity and respect for the price our fellow Americans paid for us to live…and to be free…and we move on.
I hope that the United States brings back American History and American Government to our schools…we have had several young employees who have never heard of Pearl Harbor. It makes me ill and sickened that our youth today are not being taught the old ways…the ways that bring gratitude, respect and appreciation for those who went before us…those that paid the price for our lives, giving us freedom and respect. My parents taught me, if you choose it, it is your choice and you will suffer the good or the bad…you made your choice, go lie in your bed. Yep…that was how I was taught and learned from my parents and from my aunts and uncles…that is an honorable life…and we honor our history and our heritage with respect, honor, love, civility and love….
Do I support our troops….you bet….Amen! I respect those who fight for our freedom and stand firmly for America!
I will forever stand with our troops and with God for America. I am a 100% born in America American and I will fight for our lives…I will stand firmly!