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.

My brother Garvis was working in Huntsville, Alabama and was involved with the space program. Uncle Claude was positive that no person would ever walk on the moon. Garvis didn’t argue, but knew that it was going to happen soon. John Glenn did orbit the earth in a spacecraft.

This was the year of my first serious girl friend. It was an up and down relationship that would last for several years.

There were parties to attend on a regular basis and the same people were always there. There really wasn’t any place to go, unless it was the drive in or the movie house in Crossett, so having a party in town was special. When these parties actually started, I would walk or ride my bicycle. I didn’t realize it then, but I wore the same two sweaters to every dance. I thought I looked great and maybe I did. Who would know?

Even though Chubby Checker had a hit with The Twist, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. After practicing alone at home, I was told that I didn’t do it correctly. The Duke of Earl made the number one list and who among us doesn’t still sing along with that song when it is played today? In fact, I find myself singing it now!

My cousin Elaine and her husband Jack purchased a boat and told mother that if I got all my shots I could go skiing with then on special holidays and weekends. I got all the shots. I hate shots.

Good at her word, Elaine invited me to join then in the water. I eventually succeeded in getting up on those skies and out of the water. I enjoyed my time on the lake. Elaine was a very thoughtful cousin. She also took time to tutor me in chemistry. I know it was a chore for her, but she learned enough to get me through the class. It wasn’t that chemistry was so hard, it was related to the amount of time that I was willing to devote to the subject on my own. Elaine was a woman ahead of her time and she had red hair.

Algebra was another class that drove me to distraction. Coach Bierbaum was just doing a job and in my opinion not a very good one. Maybe my attitude was not the best, but with a little effort he could have done a job worth bragging about.

Coach got upset with me one morning. His class was the class just before lunch. He told me to stay after everyone left. On his desk was a sixteen inch ruler and he insisted on using it on my bottom. In the process of giving me a lesson, he broke the ruler.

That nasty temper of his was getting the better of him and when I laughed at his feeble attempt at punishment. Coach ordered me out of his room. That was the only spanking that I ever received in all my days at school. It wasn’t the only one that I deserved. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Coach as a person, but his best years as a teacher had evidently passed him by.

Mr. Hall enjoyed catching students as they ran to get in line for lunch. When he caught you running, three days were required at the end of the lunch line. You got to choose the days, but he had a list and three days or three years were not enough to make him forget.

I got caught many times and would often eat off campus and return for my stand behind the line. Mother would have had a fit if she had know that I was spending twenty-five cents for a hamburger, corn nuts, and coke when I could get more for ten cents in the cafeteria.

When I would enter the lunch room and was sure that my name was checked off Mr. Hall’s list, I would direct my feet out the side door without eating. I tried to be resourceful in my thinking. I learned a lot in high school.

Weekends were often filled with camping and hunting. I know it sounds strange, but the squirrels were in a migration phase, whatever that is. We seldom saw a squirrel in the woods and Tommy Evans and I spent a lot of time looking for them. We got lost in the woods several times. The sun was our only guide out. Those were the days. I knew that several of the boys were interested in drinking beer but we didn’t know anything about other drugs. Cigarettes were available for everyone and were not considered the threat that we know they are today. Life was simple or so we thought.

Albert Kursterine was a few years younger than Miriam and was an up and coming business man in Hamburg. He hadn’t arrive yet, but he was on his way. One afternoon when billiards was slow he asked me if I wanted to go hunting. Of course I did. We traveled out east of town and split up. I eventually stopped to rest on a fallen log.

The leaves had already let go of the trees and the ground was a rich golden color mixed with all shades of brown. As I got up to resume my hunting, my eyes fell directly on the copper head snake that was as frightened of me as I was of him. My impulse took over and I shot that snake without ever bring my gun up to my shoulder. I fired from the hip, as a reflex, and killed the snake. As I moved my eyes away and then returned then in the direc- tion of the snake, it was difficult to distinguish the reptile from the flora. I also shot and killed my first squirrel that day. It was a tasty treat!

Mother had a telephone in the beauty shop, but we did not have one at home. She said that if we had one everyone would be calling and wanting her to do their hair.

I talked mother into getting a car! It was a ‘62 Ford Falcon. It didn’t have a radio, but it would produce all the heat that a person needed in the winter. Mother said that she didn’t care what else it had, but a heater was absolutely necessary. She remembered the days of the rumble seat. Heat was important to her.

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.

Miriam was still in Little Rock and lived with several other nurses. They rented the upstairs from the family that lived down stairs.

I was visiting with her when the first Presidential debates were telecast on television. I thought it was a waste of good viewing time, but the adults had a totally different view. Nixon and Kennedy were the stars.

The U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Bill and John F. Kennedy was elected President. The Laser device was being developed by U.S. scientists.

I was a member of the state runner up junior high basketball team. Fifteen ninth grade boys were on the team. I would have been the fifteenth player to enter the game, until my cousin joined the team and then I moved down to the sixteenth. Coach never went that deep into his lineup, until the last game of the regular season. We were so far ahead when he put me in. We had a few minute to play, and with our lead I could have played the rest of the game by myself and we still would have won the game.

I was determined Coach would not run me off. I went to all the practices and never was given a chance to participate in anything but the warm up drills. I pretended that the visiting fans were try- ing to figure out who the starters were and did my best to look good during warm up. I don’t know if it worked, but I stuck it out.

I started delivering the Arkansas Democrat. It was one of two state newspapers. My route had the least customers, but the most miles. Every afternoon found me waiting on the old Studebaker pickup to drive in from someplace and throw out its bundles of newspaper for us to divide and deliver. The evening paper became a morning paper on Sunday. Delivery started in the dark and finished after first light.

I won a trip as a Junior Achievement member. I am not sure how I won the trip, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Ten guys from all over the state got to go to this special camp and spend the weekend riding horses, playing games and eating delicious food.

Billy Ray Carpenter was always itching for a fight and one Saturday Bobby Chadwick was in our neighborhood. Bobby was a big strong kid in our class, but he wasn’t mean. For some reason he got into it with Billy Ray. The outcome was not what Billy Ray had wanted and he told me to go get my twenty-two so that he could shoot Bobby.

I made him mad when I told him that I couldn’t find the gun so he went home to find his. I guess he decided against committing the murder, because he never returned. I must admit, I enjoyed the event and gave Bobby my total admiration.

Miriam purchased her first car, a light blue Fiat. It was like a toy. She let me drive it back and forth in the ally behind the house. Alone!

Mr. Morrison and his family, Fay, his wife, Elaine, his daughter, and Billy, his son, moved away. What a terrible tragedy for everyone. A lawyer and his family moved in and he just didn’t take to us the way the Morrison’s had. We tried to bond with him but nothing seemed to make a difference. He was just different and we didn’t understand.

It is the same way most people feel when they lose a boss that they liked working with. The next person just doesn’t stand a chance. You should only be measured against yourself. Mr. Hamilton just had a hard time relating. He often volunteered to umpire our older boys baseball games and he often called me out on bad pitches. What could be worse than having a neighbor who is also an umpire!

The ninth grade found me trying out for a position in the trumpet section. The other, older guys, had refused to practice the material and found themselves sitting behind me. I was sure that I was placed in the first chair spot because the band director was irritated at their lack of practice.

I lost my art teacher Robert Durham in a tragic accident. He had been instructing me in the finer points of drawing for several years. It all started as a youngster when I asked my mother to talk to Mr. Durham about art classes. I took some of my drawings to the post office one day and asked him if he would consider me as a student. He told me that I was to young, but if I still wanted to take lessons at a later date, then I should try again. I am sure that he thought I would forget.

Mother talked to him after I got older and they agreed on one dollar a class. We met once a week. He was a culturally minded man and attended any event that took place in the county and surrounded area. Mr. Durham married late in life and his wife Burnice was his exact female counterpart.

On this particular occasion, they invited me to attend an event in Crossett. I decided not to attend, but did not confirm that until they stopped by the house on the evening of the concert. Mr. Terrel, a teacher at Hamburg High, was also invited. On the curve across from the drive-in, Mr. Durham and Mr. Terrel lost their lives because of a drunk driver.

Mrs. Durham spent several years in recovery. I did odd jobs for her until I left for college. Life isn’t about saving, it’s about scattering.

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.