Eighth grade seems to be a forgotten year. Maybe this is the pattern for all teenagers. Why do I remember so little about 1959?
I believe this was the summer that I went with Miriam and her roommate to California. I spent a week in Waco, Texas and started the week off with one hideous sunburn. I didn’t get to go to the pool very often and when Miriam suggested that we go to the officers pool at the air base, I voted yes. I spent several days in agony and my underwear.
The ride to Half Moon Bay, California was eventful. I got to spend the day at Disney Land, and as often happened to me, I got lost. In Las Vegas, I attended a concert that featured Pearl Bailey. She was a huge black woman that had a voice to match. I attended a Catholic wedding and was served champaign, but refused coffee.
The trolleys of San Francisco took me for a ride. China town was an adventure that left me spell bound. The Golden Gate Bridge is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Standing on the shore and looking at Alcatraz reminded me that a life of crime wasn’t the way to go.
When Alaska became the 49th state and the stars on our flag changed, everyone was confused! Then, to make matters worse, Hawaii joined the union and 50 became the magic number. President Eisenhower was the first United States President that I remember. Uncle Robert could have been his twin, because both had sparking and mischevious eyes with light colored hair that made them look ball headed. The Korean War ended while he was still President, but the Cold War was just picking up speed.
When we returned to Texas I spent another week with Miriam before she was able to take me home. During that week, I experimented with a razor that belonged to one of the girls. Until I put that razor to my face, I didn’t realize how fuzzy my face was. After that I had to shave at least once a month.
My adventures that summer left me with memories that I will never forget, but I was certainly glad to get back home.
The white citizens in Little Rock were fighting a battle of their own. Racial desegregation had been ordered at Central High and Eisenhower sent federal troops to force the integration that most of those parents did not want.
Central students missed a year of school and because of that I was able to attend college with at least one of those students. Tommy Maddox was a one hundred yard specialist at Tech and had been caught up in the parental fear of 1959. Hamburg High would be integrated two years after I graduated. When one candle lights another, its light isn’t diminished.
I told you about a school that was suppose to be for the negro children in town, but the older students had to travel to Crossett for their education. The school in Hamburg looked like a mess after several years and when I asked someone about it I was told that they just didn’t know how to take care of what they had. Life is understood backwards, but lived forward.
When we had our fair parade in September, the negro band from Crossett would come over and march along with the other local white bands. They always played Night Train and marched with a dance step that we only wished that we could imitate. Things that matter the most should not be placed at the mercy of things that matter the least.
Classes started a few days before the fair, but school was called off on that Monday. If you were part of the parade, you got special passes for the rides. As I grew older, I just gave my passes to others. What had started out as such a special event had turned old hat for me. Gone were the days of getting lost on the fair grounds and spending the day looking for my mother.