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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, July 30, 2010

1966*

*Somerset, PA Daily American
August 7, 2010
as "Thinking Back About a Summer of Changes"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Most of my childhood memories have begun to dissolve into a jumble of disconnected images. If I think hard enough though, a few of those snippets will sew themselves into a mini-movie of sorts, but time has made their recollection difficult and inaccurate.

But one year seems to stand out a little more.

1966 was an integral part of that decade-long turning point we call the 60’s. Walter Cronkite was the iconic voice that brought those often turbulent stories into our homes. We got our first color TV, and the CBS Evening News was the very first color program I saw in our home. I was riveted by how different everything outside my insular little world looked, awash in colorful tints and tones.

I was eleven years old that year and at the point when I was first becoming aware of the larger world beyond. Vietnam was always the lead story on every newscast, either the war itself, or the dissident voices that were growing in protest against it. Race riots were beginning to occur in cities across America, as African-Americans reached the limits of their tolerance for unequal treatment. Dr. Martin Luther King was at the acme of his influence and prominence. The power of his words ignited those passions which had, for too long, been forced to simmer below the surface. For many southerners, the ground began to shift beneath their feet.

The Cold War was in full swing as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. played geopolitical chess with the nation states of the third world, sending proxies and clients to war against one another. All the while, the two superpowers teetered on the edge of conflict, and yet they never forgot that the power to destroy the world lay in their hands; a nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging precariously above the entire human race.

The Space Race, a product of the Cold War, was in full sprint. In the U.S., Project Gemini was launching spacecraft, seemingly every other week as NASA prepared for that historic moment in July 1969 on the moon. Probes soft-landed on the lunar surface for the first time and we watched breathlessly for the first close-ups of the distant planet.

At home, television was really coming into its own. Not that the programs were terribly hard on the intellect. Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, The Monkees, Flipper, The Fugitive, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, and The Addams Family were just a few. Madison Avenue had become adept at showing us how we ought to be living, kick-starting the age of consumerism

In sports, The NFL and the AFL had reached the penultimate moment of their war of attrition. At the end of the 1966 season, actually January 1967, that game which would eventually become the cultural institution known as “The Super Bowl” would be played for the first time.

But I was a baseball fan. Unfortunately, growing up in the Kansas City area, my team was the Athletics, or the A’s, quite possibly the worst team in baseball history. In their green and gold uniforms, they dressed colorfully, and played atrociously. But going to their games, I was still able to watch players like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva; Bill Freehan and Al Kaline; Hall of Famers in their prime. The A’s were bad, but the tickets were cheap and there were always good seats available.

There are other bits of memory, things like bright sunlight glinting off the abundant chrome decorating a brand-new Chevy Impala; the smell of burgers on the grill at the 4th of July picnic; how good the pool felt on a hot day; seeking the relief of a breeze from the seat of a bicycle; the humid summer, the cool autumn, and the excitement of the winter’s first snow. The anticipation of Christmas.

We all carry childhood memories and even though time may blur their recollection, they are nonetheless the events that formed the building blocks of our lives. These are the stories we can tell, gifting our children and grandchildren with a sense of our past and a newfound appreciation of their present. And if those memories are to have their place in the collective mind of the future, their survival is up to us.

For we are the grandparents; the custodians of the past.
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