Chapter 19 Harold Brown Memoir – 1963

President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963 and everything seemed breakable. The darkest moments often cause the most beautiful flowers to grow.

We all waited the afternoon he was shot for word of his condition. It was impossible to believe when the word finally came to our class room that he was dead.

Surely the doctors had made a mistake or the news people misunderstood what the doctors had said. What was the point? The truth hit home as we watched the funeral take place on television.

A television was placed in the school auditorium and we were encouraged to watch and say our goodbye to our fallen leader.

Negro field hands all over Mississippi were going on strike for better wages. They wanted to be paid one dollar per hour for their labor. The white land owners said that they gave them a house to live in and that was enough.

I was familiar with some of those houses and they would have had to pay me to stay in them. It was a strange summer with an unexpected spark that kindled a very bright flame.

I worked for a small construction company in Greenville, Mississippi that summer. Mr. Gray was often my work partner. He was an old black man that was also a Baptist Preacher. On a particularly hot July day, I asked him where he was going to eat lunch.

Preacher gave me all the particulars about where he was going to eat and what he was going to have. It sounded so good that I invited myself along. You can imagine my surprise when he said that I could not go with him. I was stunned.

What could be so wrong with me? Why did the kind old Preacher man not want to enjoy my company over lunch? He assured me that neither one of us would make it out of the lunch room alive if we went in together. I still didn’t understand. Even when he said the two of us could be mistaken for Freedom Riders. It was only months later that I understood the full impact of what was going on in Mississippi at that time.

I made seventy-five cents an hour that summer and I bet that Mr. Gray made less.

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space and I could have cared less. Mini-skirted dancers in cages were the feature of America’s first discotheque called the Whiskey-A-Go-Go. It was two years later when I saw my first short skirted female. Everyone liked them so much that they are still with us. Do discotheques still exist?

Fall was a time for football and football was king in Hamburg.

The protest movement of the 1960s was well stated in the Bob Dylan classic, “Blowin’in the Wind.” Demonstrations were going on in Washington as 200,000 Freedom Marchers did their thing.

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