The year every male in Hamburg High School longed for was Driver’s Education with Mr. Hall. I knew that it was the only way I would ever get a drivers license. I spent years knowing that I would never be able to drive. We didn’t have a car and there was absolutely no hope of me ever having access to one. I had resolved in my heart that a bicycle rider I was and a bicycle rider I would remain. For some reason, that attitude changed in the tenth grade.
Some of the boys had been driving to school for a long time and parking their car off campus. Not me. I rode my bicycle to school and parked it on the north side of the band building.The old band building was separated from the main school building by the length of a football field.
The Russians made Yuri Gagarin the first man in space, but I still didn’t have a car.
There was a traveling skating rink that spent some time in Hamburg, over by the feed store. It was always busy on weekends. I learned how to skate one weekend while visiting Miriam. She was going on a retreat with her college group and I was allowed to skate in the gym while they had meetings.
Renting skates and circling three poles was different, but I eventually got the hang of it. It was fun to skate with a female partner and the skating rink always had dance time. I often though about people who were brought together at those times. It was an occasion that could not have been duplicated anywhere else. It as a minor form of integration. It wasn’t a matter of race, but of social differences. I remember Ila Sue Murphy skating with Bobby Slaughter and thinking, “If her mother was to witness that, she would not be allowed to skate here anymore.”
Bobby Slaughter, it was whispered, was the person you used if you wanted to burn something down. Roy Rogers often said, “Bobby Slaughter is back in town.” I just assumed that he meant something bad is going to happen.
The Peace Corps was established by President Kennedy. Did it work?
I guess if you are going to hang out at the skating rink, it is just a given that the pool hall is next. Harville’s Pool Hall was a dark room at the back of a restaurant that didn’t get any of the better clientele. I spent more time watching than playing. I was never any good, but I did manage to win from time to time. Mickey Welch was one of the better young players around. He just had a good eye.
The Berlin Wall was constructed and divided the West Germans from the East Germans. I had no idea that the structure of DNA molecule was discovered. We were still learning that everyone had a different finger print.
Mr. Hall was the high school principal and his tolerance level was painfully low, but his driving class was fun. Looking for the best in someone else will often bring out the best in you. We did all sorts of things. When that special day came, we traveled down to the court house to take the written test. Everyone was nervous.
It only occurs to me now, but for some reason girls did not take this class. So far as I know, they never questioned the exclusion.
I passed the written and the driving test. I waited late into the summer before I rode my bicycle down to the weight station and purchased my hard earned license. Mother eventually purchase a car.
The Bay of Pigs invasion was a concern for several of my class mates. Their mothers were sure that as National Guard members, they would be called into action. Adolf Eichmann was guilty of Nazi war crimes and I watched in amazement as he went through the trial for those crimes. He was an evil man that seemed to enjoy his part in sending thousands of Jews to their death.
Bobby Thompson, Tommy and I had talked for months about making a bicycle ride to Little Rock and back. As the time drew near, Bobby’s parents decided that he could not go. Maybe we should have included them in the plans from the first.
Tommy’s parents would not let him go unless Bobby was going. I knew that it was just an easy way for them to back out. I told Mother that I was going to go anyway. Mother seldom told me that I couldn’t do something, so I was shocked when she refused to give me her permission. I informed her that the decision was made and I was going to make the trip alone.
As I think back on it now, I know that I had made absolutely no plans beyond riding my bike. I did have some money, but I know that I didn’t have enough to purchase all the meals that I would need. I got up early, after packing a backpack the night before, and started my journey before the sun was up. I wanted to be a long way from home when Mother woke up.
I got about four miles down the road when I decided that I would take a break and get a drink from the fruit jar that housed my water. I rested for about thirty minutes and my better judgement got the best of me. I turned myself around and started home.
I was in the house and on the couch about ten minutes before Mother got up. She never believed that I had started the trip but returned. It was important for me to feel that I made my own decisions. In order to change directions we must first stop.