Archives for posts with tag: 1963

My oldest grandchild turns 17 today.  Already?  It was just the other day that I was 17, wasn’t it?  About 51 years ago to tell the truth.  It doesn’t seem that long. . . except for everything that has happened since then.

Part of me is still 17 as I remember it.  I was well into my senior year in high school on my 17th birthday.  I still had braces on my teeth.  I had fallen in love with the boy who would be the older boy I married a few years later.  I was trying to figure out college and keep my grades up and was active in school activities and I played a lot.  At 17, we were the leaders of the school, the promise of the future.  Until we got to college and had to start over again.

When I was 17,  I worked a little, mainly tutoring, but most of my friends didn’t have jobs.  We studied and played.  We were the lucky ones.  We never knew what really went on in some of our classmates’  homes until many years later.  It was a time when people kept family secrets, when horrible things weren’t mentioned.  Life wasn’t as innocent as we were led to believe.

Seventeen was the end of my sheltered years, when I left home for the first time for college.  It was the end of the innocence for our country when our President was assassinated and we watched it all on television, over and over, although it wasn’t the 24 hr news cycle we have today.

When I was 17, we still used rotary dial phones and had to call the operator to make a long distance call.  We wrote letters to tell our grandmothers what was going on in our lives because long distance calls were special.  No direct dial long distance yet.  Technology was having a long cord on your phone so you could take it into a closet for privacy.  We walked a lot because not everyone had a car.  We went to the library for information because there were no computers.

Seventeen was a year of introspection for me.  I read a lot, a lot of heavy thoughts.  I was in the throes of being a new intellectual.  Mixed with being a fun-loving teenager.  How does that work – being an intellectual teenager?  Really?  And, I’m sure my parents didn’t understand me at all, because what parents ever do?

Mostly, seventeen was fun.  When I watch the movie “American Graffiti,” I see my senior year.  Move the scene from Los Angeles to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you have my high school years, accurate to the dress, the music, the dances, the kids.   All the fun and angst and watching the world from a new perspective as you move from adolescence into pre-adulthood.  Some friends were getting there faster, getting married, getting jobs, having babies.  It was a time of change.

I’m lucky to have had a life that I can remember with such affection.  Very lucky.  I can see that now, looking back all those years.

My advice for my grandkids as they turn 17 is simple.  Enjoy, take it all in.  Learn from what you see and take it all with you on this exciting journey of life.

When I was 17. . . it was a very good year.

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The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of those historic moments when I remember exactly where I was, an event that changed the world as I had known it. I was a freshman, a naive freshman, in college when it happened and our whole world changed in so many ways that day. I’m not one to obsess over the details because I lived through them, one of the first events we experienced through radio and television news, continuous news, in a time when the news only came on at five and ten and we relied on magazines and newspapers for in depth reporting, a time now over 50 years ago.

In May, 1966, some college friends and I took off for Galveston, TX for a weekend at the beach, really pretty tame, but wild for us. Going through Dallas, which was not nearly as complicated then as it is today, we stopped at Dealey Plaza, out of curiosity as much as anything. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were still alive and we were probably under the illusion that the death of our President was pretty much an aberration. Here is all there was on the Plaza in the predawn hours that day in May that we visited without crowds or fanfare.

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Although I knew there was now a museum, I hadn’t rushed to visit, so I’m still somewhat surprised that I felt the urge to go this weekend with friends. We were in town for a football bowl game and were filling our afternoon, navigating the overlapping amusement park of freeways in and around Dallas, a city of glass and flash. The end of the holiday season, the first weekend of the new year, and the lines were forming just to get tickets for the timed entry. Tickets in hand, we visited the plaza while waiting. My two friends were in junior high or high school in 1963, so we had different memories to share, because you always have to talk about where you were when you heard the news. You have to.

There are places that you visit that are instantly familiar, instantly brought to life from the images you’ve carried with you, and Dealey Plaza is one of those. The only thing that is really different is that we watched it all in black and white in 1963 and this was a bright sunny Texas day, the site coming alive with color. The trees, young in the Zapruder films, are now 50 years older and obscure some of the views. Turning to look at the former Texas School Book Depository, looking up at the window, I felt a twinge, an eerie feeling inside.


Walking across the plaza, we had someone take our picture, not because of where we were but because we wanted a photo together. Actually, you can’t even tell where we were. I took a look at the entire scene, so familiar, behind us, complete with people standing on the slope.


Someone rolled out a sign and I zoomed in. Like we didn’t know…


We spent the rest of our time before we could go in visiting the gift shops, two of them. There were books and replicas of the famous Saturday Evening Post with the cover portrait of Kennedy by Norman Rockwell, t-shirts, post cards, mugs and jewelry (I guess replicas of what Jackie wore?), and other mostly tasteful items. Having owned a gift shop, I have to wonder what I would think appropriate for remembering this place, this event. Not sure I would wear a patch on my jacket of the Book Depository.

The Sixth Floor Museum, as it is called, was well organized and nicely done. I didn’t take the audio guides, choosing to watch the crowds. Skimming the information I already knew so well, I began to watch the people, most way too young to have my experience with the event, most knowing this the way I know World War II, through my history classes and parents and grandparents. There were young couple with babies in strollers, college students, middle aged people, all kinds of people, all walking along, reading history as I had lived it. Each reaction or response was unique to that person at this time in their life, based on where they had come from, what they already knew, who they are. We were all sharing this exhibit in our own way.

I had a brief flash of my visit to Graceland this past summer, a visit that occurred at the end of Elvis Week, on the anniversary of his death, by chance. Another moment in my life I remember – hearing about Elvis’ death. The crowds that weekend in Memphis were quiet with their audio guides and walking by the grave, reverential. It was a little noisier here in this museum, not loud, but voices here and there. The contrast and similarities of my two pilgrimages was interesting, slightly amusing.

Walking quickly through the history, I came to the site of the shooting. Glassed off so you can’t stand on the actual spot, the boxes of school books stacked as they were found that day, the window slightly open with a disguised camera now watching the plaza, I had a slightly queasy feeling. It was pretty real. You can’t take pictures there, but you can stand by the next windows and look out onto the road, seeing the same thing Oswald saw with taller trees now. You realize that the car wasn’t very far away, that wasn’t a very long shot for the rifle really.

Moving along, there were the actual FBI models of the site and the gun shot trajectories, later found to be incorrect, films and displays of all the aftermath, Jack Ruby’s suit that we know so well from the photos and films, Zapruder’s camera and the film dissected and discussed, and on to the investigations, the books written, the conspiracy theories. The two film rooms were the films of the memorial service and films about the conspiracy. I didn’t watch either, all of it feeling too far back and too familiar at the same time.

I wandered up to the 7th floor, a lovely mostly empty room where you can look out on the plaza and the familiar road and take pictures or reflect. It was very quiet on this floor with few people. Looking down at the street where an X marks the spot, I realized that people were waiting for traffic to stop and then running out to pose for pictures on the X. There were individual, groups, people doing silly things. I don’t even know what I thought other that it seemed disturbing to me. I realized they didn’t live the time like I did and it wasn’t exactly disrespectful, but I had a hard time relating. The bare X was enough to make me stop, stare down from the window and reflect on what happened there, but I sure didn’t want to go stand on it.


Walking back down the stairs, I watched people having their pictures made under the original Texas School Book Depository sign. Again, a little eerie to me.

There was a display towards the end of the exhibits, a board that showed the memorials at the spot where Martin Luther King was assassinated, Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and something else, reminding us that these are important sites for us to preserve so that we can remember, we can educate and we can discuss the effect of these horrors, this violence, on society. I agree because I am ever hopeful that men and women will someday learn to live in peace. If we quit hoping and only acknowledge that there has always been violence between human beings, then how can we proceed, why are we living? We have to always hope and work towards that goal. Don’t we?

I graduated from high school 50 years ago. 50 YEARS AGO!!! That’s hard to say, hard to imagine. Really? Where did all that time go? How did it pass so quickly? I was in a great class, a class of about 650 that produced 26 National Merit semi-finalists, had excellent teachers and a whole lot of fun. This week is our reunion, which makes me think about all of our reunions…I’ve been on every committee.

The 10th reunion was in 1973. The committee had to have calling sessions to find everyone, using our high school directory to call parents’ homes, phone directories, information. We sent out newsletters, printed with a fun logo drawn by one of our artist classmates, using the name of the student paper when we were in school. We worked hard to find everyone we could. The excuses for not coming that year were mostly due to lack of funds or having babies, we were in our childbearing years. Actaully, I had just had my third child a few months before – there were many of us with new babies on the committee. We ended up with about 200 attending, including spouses. We had lost some classmates and found out that some of the people we knew really hated high school and never wanted to remember anything. Many came home to see family while they were at the reunion.


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Friday night was the night where you broke the ice, greeted everyone, met their spouses, and caught up on what was going on in their lives. We rocked out to records at the studio where we first took dance lessons. We still knew all the moves.


We had an Assembly at the school on Saturday. Some of our former teachers attended and we pretty much did a traditional assembly, as I feebly recall.

Saturday night, we dressed to impress and went to the fanciest country club in town. Hairstyles ranged from shags to intricate, high updos. The men had longer hair than when we graduated and mustaches were in. The clothes were loud, the times were fast. We gave awards for who had been married the longest, which went to a classmate who married while we were still in school, most children, most unusual profession (jockey), who traveled the farthest to get there, and best preserved male and female bodies (last time we ever gave that award). We were pretty groovy, dancing to a popular local band, dressed in the latest styles.


We published a directory after the reunion with all the updated addresses and phone numbers we had found so people could stay in touch.

By our twentieth reunion, we were kind of in a groove. We went through the same steps to find everyone, using printed labels for our mailings. The committee worked long hours, finding we had lost more classmates and couldn’t find others who had moved in the past decade. We were still using our old class directory and the phone to locate everyone. We’d lost more people along the way. The excuses for not coming were jobs, money, small children. We still got about 200 to show up.

The schedule for the 20th was about the same. We were noticing that the girls were becoming women and the guys looked like they were starting to lose their looks, or so we whispered. There were a few new spouses, divorce already beginning to take its toll. The list of deceased was growing. We had an elaborate slide show at our assembly, set to the song “Memories.” Teachers still came to the events and we realized they weren’t as old as they had seemed in high school. We were getting older, heading for middle age. There were those who timidly showed up on Friday, wondering how they’d be received, wondering if they’d know anyone, and left on Saturday feeling part of the group. We started to care less about what had happened in high school, the cliques were beginning to loosen.


We had a directory and a t-shirt to remember. This time the directory was copies of forms people had sent in with bios and pictures. We were a little more sophisticated these days. Our design was created by one of our classmates who was always an artist, now a professional one.

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By 1993, we were ready for our 30th reunion. We had lost the heart of the reunions, our inspiring leader, and others stepped up to fill his place. The committee meetings were still the most fun, catching up with each other, helping to make the calls to locate classmates. We could still find some through the old class directory, some through calling their friends. We’d lost more in the decade, our list was growing smaller. The excuses for not coming as we approached our 40s were money, children now graduating from school or in school activities, jobs. There were still about 200 there, not even the same 200. We went through the casual evening, the class assembly, the dressy dinner dance. Now people showed up on Friday hoping they’d recognize our rapidly changing faces. We had picture nametags that year. You could see how we looked in high school and look up to see how we looked right then. The women still seemed to be getting better. The men were balding, going gray, more mature, still cute!


It was fun to see if those class prophecies had come true in any way. Our beauty queens were still beautiful, our jocks were still looking pretty fit, the smartest ones were still smart. But, not everything stays the same, thank goodness. Some of those who had lived too hard were beginning to show it. The guy who got the award at our 10th reunion for cutting the most days of classes our senior year was now president of a bank. One of the smart ones who went to Rice and got an engineering degree had married, divorced, quit big business and gone to Colorado. He was Mayor of Winter Park & loving the mountain life. Never would have dreamed it, but he was happier than ever. And we’d lost more of our favorite classmates along the way. Two of our classmates met for the first time at the reunion and married a year later.

We did another t-shirt and directory, much like the last one. We were beginning to celebrate each other as much as the memories. We were an interesting bunch.

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By the time the 40th reunion rolled around, we were different, the world was much different in 2003 than in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993. We’d been through Viet Nam, The Beatles, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the changing of the century, and 9/11. We’d battled divorce, moves, heart attacks, cancer, raising children and becoming grandparents. Some of us were caring for our parents. In fact, the excuses for not coming this time were the most varied yet. There were those with young children because they’d started late or were on a second or more marriage. There were college graduations, jobs, kids, illnesses and parents. We had classmates with AIDS. We were in the Sandwich era of our lives, between our children and our parents. Would there ever be a time that was just about us? We still managed to get about 200 to attend.

Technology was changing faster than we could have imagined and we had the internet. We purchased a website and got it up and running. This would be our last time to do the hours of phone calling. Once we got the information on the site, classmates could keep updating it as we went along, adding bios and pictures, doing the work for us. We didn’t have to do a directory and we didn’t do t-shirts. We were moving with the times.

We hadn’t cut away from the tradition of the casual night, the assembly and the dressy night yet. People still came Friday night, worrying if they would recognize or remember anyone. The pictures were on the name tags again. The Assembly was replaced by a tour of the old school, walks down the halls where some of our classmates could still find their pictures celebrating their athletic achievements. People toured the city to see the changes. We had golf for those who wanted it.

On Saturday night, we were still rocking to the band. The songs were the same, oldies now. Classic oldies…just like us. We made new friends with old classmates we hadn’t known then. Two more classmates married after the reunion. We were valuing these people who had shared our youth with us, who they had been and who they had become.

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This time, we produced a DVD that incorporated all the slides and photos from the past with current interviews. We were changing with the times and shaking our heads at the things that had gone by the wayside.

We had so much fun at the 40th and realized how many people we were losing at a faster rate that we decided to have a mini-reunion – a 45th. We did one casual night, thinking it would be mostly for classmates who lived close by. The band was guys our age, playing our music. Amazingly, 75-80 came from all over the country. It was easy and fun. We were still rocking, still here and breathing! Some could still jump, we looked older and wiser.


The 50th! Good grief! We have lost so many people over the years, close to 100 that we know about, probably more. The 50th is here. We used the website, mail and email to contact people. We’ve added a Facebook page. This reunion is about celebrating us, celebrating that we are still here. We’ll have 175-200 for this one, some who have never been before. We’ll have larger type on the name tags, but no pictures. Everyone wonders if they’ll recognize anyone or remember anyone. We have two teachers who can come…one is 92 and will speak to our group. The other is not that much older than we are – we were her first pupils out of school.

The excuses this time are children and grandchildren, surgeries, illnesses, money, busy retirement schedules, work schedules and even Japanese Parliament not getting out in time. A former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia is coming in from Dubai. The President of our Student Council and our class Vice-President both have Alzheimer’s. One classmate just had back surgery, several with knee and hip surgeries. Some are hobbling to the reunion however they can. Our will is strong, our bodies starting to need replacement parts. We are distinguished, fun-loving, casual, full of life and representing everything that happens to us in a lifetime.

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This time there is nothing to impress anyone. We’re going to be in the heart of all the happening things in Tulsa right now, right in the middle of the Arts District. We’ll meet early at a bar with a patio and then everyone can do the Art Walk, watch fireworks from the baseball stadium, get a fancy meal, enjoy their special group of friends, or tuck in early. Anyway you want it. Saturday night we meet at historic Cain’s Ballroom for barbecue, wearing comfortable shoes and casual clothes. We have t-shirts again and the band is back from the 45th, classmates of ours, to bring back the oldies. Everyone is excited to see whoever comes. We laugh that we’ll have a whole new group of friends by the end of the weekend. Our Facebook page has 70 members now and is lighting up with excitement and memories. We’ll be there with our cell phones and iPads, today’s brag books of pictures of our beloved children and grandchildren. We’ll share experiences, travel stories, memories. We’ll have our cameras! Our aging Eagles are flying in to celebrate!


I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, Rock On Class of 1963!