No crow stories this week and next. Instead, I am going to tell my story of 1963 and JFK’s assassination. Let me start today by setting the stage for you.
I was 10 years old and in 5th grade. A shy awkward girl who was dyslexic before they knew what that was but worked hard to overcome it because I loved to read and do math. I fell down on the play ground regularly and wore glasses. Do you get the picture? Today I would be a nerd and was certainly not part of the “in crowd”.
Life wasn’t all that bad though. I had good friends and teachers. Growing up in the 60s was free of fear and childhood was never scheduled. We went outside to play all day and ran through the neighborhoods like wild creatures till our mothers called our names out the back door for dinner. I walked to school rain or shine from the time I went to kindergarten until my girlfriend in High School got a car. That is right, at 5 years old I walked to school by myself or with a friend. We used to make up games of the ghost lights from cars in the dark foggy mornings as we walked to Elementary School.
The 60s are a distant place from life now. We were a middle class family and moved into a new rambler house in 1960. It had three bedrooms, one bath and a family room. Small by today’s standards and rather plain. We played in the septic tank drainage ditches for a couple of month in the back yard. Downtown Seattle was where we went shopping (no malls) and to get there we drove on city streets. No freeway existed and I actually rode my bicycle on I-5 (Southcenter Hill area) before it was opened. We had a rotary telephone on the kitchen wall with a 20 foot cord. That way you could cook and talk but couldn’t get much further than down the hallway. Our Dad caved and finally bought us a color television. It was in a blond wood cabinet and was hooked up to the antenna on the roof. I think we got about 7 channels. But I got to see “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights in full color at last. The old black and white was put into my bedroom with rabbit ears. I got a fairly good picture in my little room.
On a bookcase in the hall was a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I always had a curious mind and read several books a week. That encyclopedia got worn out looking up things for school papers (hand written even in High School) and a few forbidden things like sex. We went to the local library every Saturday and I usually was found reading through the National Geographic Magazines. Facinated by far away places but also seeing things that in the 60s were taboo to talk about. I spent a lot of time at my maternal grandparents. I have a fond memory of laying on my bed reading. Grandma came in and said “turn the light on or you will go blind reading in the dark”. Here I was engrossed in reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris. Remember I was a nerdy child and my mom used to joke about how I would rather be reading than babysit. My fiends loved holding babies, I was not interested in them at all.
At school we were lined up for vaccinations that were required and given to us for free. There would be an uproar now if the school touched children now. We had civil defense drills so we would be prepared for the nuclear bomb attack from Russia or Cuba. This was where we all trooped into the gymnasium and laid down on the floor like cord wood. We put our arms over our heads. The cafeteria lady said she had a good lamb leg in the freezer to feed us all. Not sure how that would have worked since there were over a hundred of us little urchins. The gymnasium was also the place of Christmas plays and fitness tests. In the fourth grade I played the moderator who was suppose to be a space person visiting earth. The fitness tests had us showing how many push-ups we could do and how far up a rope we could climb. I always climbed to the top of the rope since I was a tom boy.
Not only was I a Girl Scout and we went camping and learned all the wonder of the Pacific Northwest forests but I also marched in the Seattlettes Baton Corp. I was part of the Junior division and we won several contests plus marched in parades from the Daffodil Parade to the Junior Seafair Parade. We won the Seattle Worlds Fair Baton contest in the Junior Division. I remember a Saturday practice where the coach asked me to be the leader. I froze and shook my head no. I was too shy and so unsure of myself. Funny how she knew I was a future leader.
The Space program was super special when I was growing up. The world stopped when a spaceship was launched. They rolled out the black and white televisions into the classrooms and we watched them. I saw John Glenn do his first orbit this way in 1962. And jumping ahead beyond 1963, I have a vivid memory of sitting with my boyfriend’s family watching Armstrong land on the Moon in July of 1969. We were glued to the TV and so proud of our country and it’s accomplishments. We were fulfilling the dream that Kennedy had set us on.
So, life was simple and it was a time of innocence for us kids. Next week I will tell you how my life changed forever on November 22, 1963. Those days of Camelot ended and we were shook to our core how this could happen to our President.