Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison and I was a senior in high school. My friend Tommy moved to Alexandria, Virginia.
Hamburg was a place that forced you to find your own form of entertainment. We did have a drive-inn theater and on occasion a traveling skating rink would settle around the square.
Beatle Mania was sweeping across America and they reached the number one spot on the music charts with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Their long hair was a disgrace and lots of teenage boys started copying their style by spending lots of extra time in front of a mirror trying to make their hair look like Paul McCarney’s.
“She Loves You” was their second number one song. When they made a special appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, I was invited over to LaFran’s house, with Carol, Suzanne, James Mack, and Roy, to watch the event.
I ran track my senior year, mostly to prove to Coach Crews that I could put up with his attitude. I ran the mile, because there wasn’t anything longer for him to make me run. He knew what he was doing, but I always felt that his short coming was failing to let the runners know what he was trying to do with all those laps.
When track was over, Coach Herrod asked me to be the catcher for the school baseball team. I think that team was the first to compete for the school. We had some very good athletes in our class, but none of them chose to play on that team. My senior year seems like a blur. We all wanted to catch the wind, explore the dawn, and discover.
“Lord of the Flies” was a popular film, but I found it less exciting than the book. Bud Wilkinson resigned from the University of Oklahoma. He was their head football coach. Only the truest O.U. fan would care or remember.
When fall came around, I had decided to attend Arkansas Tech College in Russellville, Arkansas. Elaine, Sue, and Mother took me to Russellville early because the band started their thing early. It was exciting being a part of such an impressive group of musicians. The best from all over the state were there and most of them had chosen to major in music. I just enjoyed playing and getting a free ride to all the away games. Tech always had excellent football teams.
Jimmy Daniels was my first roommate and he played the bass drum. He took a lot of crap from students that knew nothing about the instrument. He was good natured and nothing seemed to bother him. We lived in the smallest dorm on campus. It had room for about eighty students. We did not have an air-conditioner and very little heat on some of those cold winter nights. Life was good!
I did not go back home until Thanksgiving and then I only left because they closed to dorm. I took a large duffel bag full of dirty cloths home for Mother to wash. I honestly thought that was what I was suppose to do. She saw that bag of clothes and asked me if they had washers and dryers in the dorm? I told her that they did and she told me that I should take them back and wash them myself. What she said was understandable. Her washer was an old wringer type machine and those in the dorm were new and easy to use.
When I left for home, someone took me and those clothes to the bus station, but when I returned on the bus I had to walk back to the campus with that heavy bag over my shoulder. Lesson learned.
I tried to listen to the fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, but my radio would not keep the station. In between fadeouts, Clay won. It took seven rounds. Liston never recovered from the rejection that he felt from home town fans.
Most of my trips home were made during holidays. I didn’t ride the bus very often. I tried to catch a ride with some of the other students. There were occasions when I could only catch a partial ride and I had to depend on my thumb for the rest of the journey. I would never consider using that process today.
One such adventure took me outside Pine Bluff and my first ride was with two men in a pickup truck. They said that they had come from Oklahoma and I could tell that both of them had been drinking. Even then three in the cab of a pick up truck was a crowd. A yellow school bus was in front of us and as the law states, you have to stop for the bus. Little black children were its load. The driver, the man I thought had been so gracious in picking me up, was giving me a different impression as he suggested that he was going to run down the next group of “n!@@&£$” that got off the bus.
I began to think about my exit strategy. My bag was in the back of his truck and contained most of what I owned in the way of clothes. I decide that when he pushed the gas peddle and attempted to become his own judge and jury, as it related to the lives of those children, I would push the door open and jump to my fate. I did not want to be a part of his plot. As I awaited my opening, he slowed down and said that he was going to turn onto a side road. I was never so glad to get out of a vehicle.
It took about an hour to find another safer ride. I completed my journey home without being part of a mass murder or having to share their whiskey. Finding peace within yourself allows you to live at peace with others.