Thursday, April 2, 2015

#TBT The Class of '68

As part of the baby boomer generation, our lives were much easier than those of our parents. We entered a safe world with Ike as president and TV up and running. We watched Miss Francis on Ding Dong School, Romper Room (remember romper, bomper, stomper do and doo-bees?) Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee. We girls played with Tiny Tears and Ginny dolls while the boys were busy with erector sets and Lincoln logs. Many of us had a ping pong table set up in the basement with Lionel trains and villages on it. Davy Crockett reigned supreme with both boys and girls caught up in the craze of coon skin caps and fringed jackets!
But, in 1955 small changes happened  that would change our world. Rosa Parks, a colored woman (and I use that phrase as that was what was used then) refused to move to the back of a bus in the Jim Crow south and it caused a stir that had a ripple effect. Things were changing around the world as well with a "Cold War" between us and the Russia. Soon we were in school and learning how to "duck and cover" in case we were hit with a bomb. I never did understand how crouching under your desk was going to protect me! I imagine it was done to make us feel safe.
  Did we even understand what a "cold war" was at that age? I thought it      was because it was cold in Russia and they started it! Do you remember
  learning to read with Dick and Jane?
   In the midst of this, we were still enjoying TV and now were graduating
   to Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, tons of cowboy shows,
    Lassie (remember ee-ok-ee) and My Three Sons.
In New York, well probably this was only shown in the city and on Long Island now that I think of it as it was on a local station, we had some talents of our own such as Sandy Becker who hosted Wonderama and the wacky Soupy Sales - some children's shows! When I look at them now, they were disguised as kid's shows, but there was a lot of adult content - especially with Soupy. Sandy was just flat our weird - watch his Hambone and tell me what you think! We also had Officer Joe Bolton, Captain Jack McCarthy, Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, Andy's Gang, our host of all things scary, Zacherly and the one and only Chuck McCann.
We had some shows that would never be shown today like  Amos and Andy and a few others that were seriously questionable by today's standards!
No one from our era could forget the Three Stooges - I watched an episode recently and was kind of shocked at how violent it seemed - every one was getting kicked, hit and stuck in the eyes, but it came off as funny.

We had some unforgettable comercials like Good and Plenty (plenty good), Bonomos (o-o-o- its bonomos!) and Ipana (brusha, brusha, brusha)/ We enjoyed bit-o-honey, Sugar Babies, Sugar Daddy's and our parents made us drink Ovaltine.  Ray Kroc opened the first McDonalds in Des Plaines, IL.

In 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, another rumbling was felt as nine black students, were integrated into an all white school. The Governor, stopped them from entering, but President Eisenhower intervened and they became part of the first integrated school in  America.

In 1958, the hula hoop was invented and the first Barbie rolled off the assembly line. We now were enjoying comic books like Superman, Archie, Richie Rich, Little Lotta and Classics Illustrated while Lik-M-Aid became the candy of choice. And a young man named Elvis of all things was taking America by storm!

In 1960 Khrushchev came to America, took off his shoe and pounded on the table in the UN to
 make a very strong point and we were shocked!
That summer, the first aluminum cans were introduced and Psycho hit the theaters scaring the bejeebers out of everyone! At Christmas all the kids wanted an Etch-A-Sketch.
In 1960, JFK was inaugurated and Camelot began. Alan Shepard became the first man in space and in May of 61 Kennedy sent 400 Green Beret's to a place called Viet Nam. That summer, more rumblings were heard in the south asthe Freedom Riders met with horrific violence in Birmingham, Alabama. In Germany, construction was started on the Berlin Wall and Communism was a real threat to the world.
On the lighter side, girls were now in love with Dr. Kildare and Dr. Ben Casey and were listening to Bobby Rydell and Bobby Vee. Bob Dylan deuted at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village and the times they were a-changing.

In 1962 the oral polio vaccine was introduced and Walmart and K-Mart opened. In February, John Glenn orbited the earth three times and the Space Age began in earnest. JFK sent 8,000 more troops to Viet Nam and the first death there was recorded. By6 the time we graduated 6th grade, prayer was banned from school. In the fall of '62, I entered Hauppauge Junior-Senior High School. The school was in the last stages of renovation and we struggled with lockers and having one class in the A wing and the next class in the C wing causing us to run across the lot from door to door as we made a shortcut over. We were introduced to gym uniforms,lunch lines and being low man on the totem pole. Girls spent hours saving gum wrappers to weave into a chain the height of the boys they were crushing on. The Jetsons premiered, we watched Twilight Zone and many of us hurried home after school to watch American Bandstand.

In 1962, the Stingray was introduced, folk music became popular and we all knew Puff the Magic Dragon. In the spring, our English teacher took us to our first Broadway show. For $5.95 we got seats in the balcony and completely enjoyed the show Oliver!. 
During the summer, on August 28, 250,000 people,both black and white, marched to the Lincoln Memorial and heard Martin Luther King give his "I Had a Dream" speech. 16,000 soldiers were now in Viet Nam as "advisors"  teaching warfare to the South Vietnamese. Patti Duke had a popular TV show and the Beach Boys had us all singing along.

On November 22, our lives took yet another turn as we sat in shock on the school bus having heard Kennedy was shot. The next day the nation mourned and LBJ was sworn in.

The Beatles came roaring in on a plane in February of '64 and stole our hearts when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The British Invasion had begun. Before long they were quickly followed by Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones. On February 25, a cocky young man named Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston and shook up the world of boxing.

Ghouls invaded our TV sets with The Addams Family and The Munsters grabbing our attention. A cute young witch named Samantha also flew in!  During the long lazy summer we listened to our favorite DJ's; Murray the Kand his swinging soiree - who kept talking about submarine race watchers -I was clueless, and our own Cousin Brucie on WABC.

In 1965 LBJ was once again sworn in and in February Martin Luther King and 2,600 black people were arrested in Selma, Alabama. A few days later, Malcom X was shot and killed in Harlem. In March there was more terror as 600 Civil Rights marchers were clubbed and beaten on Bloody Sunday in Montgomery, Alabama. We had a short respite as we all marveled at Ed White's walk in space on June 3rd, but by August 11, huge riots broke out in the Watts district of L.A.. After 6 days of rioting and looting, 34 were dead, 1,000 injured and there was 175 million in damages.

In late August, I went with some friend to see the World's Fair - what a marvel! We spent a wonderful day trying new foods, learning about technological advances and doing fun things like getting an analysis of our hair color. Later that day we hopped on the subway for a short ride to Shea Stadium and saw the Beatles. I think we hardly heard them due to the screaming, but we screamed along and had a ball! There were a lot of dance crazes in the early 60's - the twist, stomp, hitchhiker, jerk,swim, frug, chicken, mashed potatoes, and the locomotion, but none were as silly but fun as the Freddy!

 On November 9th we had a huge blackout and those of us lucky enough to have a fireplace snuggled nearby to sleep.

In 1966 things started to change faster and faster and the world seemed to sour. There was a sniper in a Texas town, the Boston Strangler escaped and Richard Speck killed a group of nurses as they slept in their dorm. In Viet Nam things escalated. This was becoming a TV war and we were shocked by the image of Nguyen Ngan Loan killing a  Vietnamese soldier.
Music however was soft and fun and we daydreamed with The Lovin Spoonful and the Mamas and the Papas. Our clothing preferences were changing with girls wearing gogo boots, hip hugging mini skirts and sporting haircuts designed by Vidal Sassoon. Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard urged us to turn on, tune in and drop out and drug use skyrocketed.

1967 was another turning point as young people started flocking to the  Haight  Ashbury section of San Francisco living communally and taking drugs as the Summer of Love commenced. On the opposite side of this Stokely Carmichael was stirring people up with his speeches and we grieved together when three astronauts, Ed White, Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo capsule during a flight simulation. On TV we watched The Monkees and a new star emerged in the film world named Dustin Hoffman as he met Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

It was 1968, and our last year of high school, and Oh! the changes. In January the crew of the US Pueblo were seized by the North Koreans. In true American style, while pressed into making propaganda photos, the crew slyly held up their middle fingers. They were treated worse after the Koreans realized what they were doing and weren't released until the winter after we graduated.
The news in the southeast didn't get any better. On January 31, we were a part of the Tet Offensive, a turning point in the Viet Nam War. On March 16, our soldiers sadly massacred the village of My Lai killing more than 350 civilians including women and children. We were horrified by the news and the photographs.
In early April Martin Luther King gave one of his greatest speeches "I've Been to the Mountain". A few days later, he was dead, the victim of an assassin's bullet.
In New York, a week later, sanitation workers went on strike and for 9 days New York City stunk to high heaven!  Luckily things were back to normal as we took our senior class trip to see The Apple Tree starring a young Alan Alda who would go on to fame in the series M.A.S.H. 
Across the street from that show Hair was opening - again, another shift in life as we knew it.As we were taking our finals, there was yet another blow as Robert Kennedy was assassinated just after winning the California primary. It seems like 1968 had only bad news, but there were things to offset the bad - Laugh In was on TV and we were introduced to a whole gallery of kooky people and no one was more kooky than Tiny Tim!

As we took our steps up to the platform to get our diplomas, some of us had flat tops and bee hives. Some had Sassoons,  some were longhairs, some had pixies and some had long straight hair to their waist, but we were united by our years together at Hauppauge High. LBJ was president with Hubert Humphrey as VP, the population of the US was 200,706,052, life expentancy was 70.2 years, the median income was $7,743 and a first class stamp was 6 cents. Unemployment was 3.81%, Green Bay creamed Oakland in the Superbowl, the Detroit Tigers beat the Cardinals in the World Series, Boston beat the LA Lakers in a close 4-2 game and the Stanley Cup was won by Montreal over St. Louis.

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