When the Class of 65 turns 65:
Confronting history up close and personal
I was stalking my birthday as fresh morning dew reaches out for week old cut grass. Anticipation lingered in the air. It tinkled my thought process and framed my soul. I, as one of the Class of 1965, was going to turn 65 years old. The date of this transaction of reality over my view of the world would be August 8, 2012.
Plans had to be made. I had to figure out how to steal a whole day from the demands of my life. No short order of action. E-mails that demanded attention. Telephone calls to be put on hold. Have secretary explain that I am not anywhere to be found. I worked hard at my plan for running away from everything that held me in normal space.
The early morning sunlight on the 8th greeted me and my first cup of coffee at 6:10 am on my private porch. At this hour very few people were about. Waved at Judy, the Paducah Sun paper carrier as she slowed down to pitch out on to the yard the Paducah Sun’s image of the day.
Watched an hour of Morning Joe for its take on the inside world that passes for Washington and New York and present day politics.
From 8:00 a.m. ‘till 12:00 worked in my Man Cave or what most people would define as a eccentric studio in progress. This is a 15’ by 18’ room where the walls hold just over 3,000 books, maps, and LP 45 vinyl records and artifacts from the 1950’s,1960’s,1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s. Ship models, transportation collection of Avon cars and planes compete for space with a growing collection of files that chart and analyze rare social, political, economic, and military trends or events
It is a space that has been evolving for the past 40 years. It is the portal to my past and at the same time, a bridge into trying to keep history alive long enough to chart trends into the future.
And, on this date, August 8, 2012, it was hungry for more stuff.
I was on a mission to find that stuff.
By 1:00 pm I had traveled the 48 miles to Murray, Ky. It was here that I had come of age in 1965. So, today was as much about that time as it was about turning 65.
I had attended two high schools, Hickman County High School in Clinton, KY with a graduating class of 32 in 1965. In that year, the school held some 400 students. I spent the 12th, 11th, and half of the 10th grade in these halls.
The 9th and half of the 10th grades were spent in Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Some 3,500 students attended this urban school. I was the only freshman on the school’s Chess Team.
I made it to Murray State University in August of 1965, along with a thousand more young men and women looking for the meaning of life, or, in many cases, a really good all weekend party with beer and loud music.
These were the years of Vietnam War, drugs, mini skirts, coffee houses, frat houses, people’s revolution, and very good music. Unfortunately for most of us, MSU was not at the forefront of social unrest, except for the famous panty raids of Christmas 1968.
No, for me these were the years that I feel in love with geography, books, regionalism and the art of critical thinking. MSU set me on a wild ride of over forty years working for four governors and two presidents as well as a career in newspaper publishing and online bookselling.
So flash forward some 47 years and I walk through the old MSU haunts of Wrather Hall (years of Geography) before I decide to search for more things for my Man Cave.
I immediately travel to the Five Star station where I pick up $20.00 of scratch off Kentucky lottery cards. Wow, after going through them, I've won $70.00 dollars.
Now I have some wild money to work with. On to the Antique malls.
Unlike most towns, Murray has a high degree of stores and malls that specialize in stuff from yesteryear as people and estates empty out houses and lives of artifacts. It’s now 2:00 pm and I have managed to make it into the Peddlers Mall only to its third dealer space. I find myself standing among a thousand LP vinyl 45 records. So I take a big breath and dive into the collection. About 45 minutes later, I have found about 14 jewels that I must have. Their prices are marked at $0.99 per item.
I will add Dylan, the Mamas & Papas, more Ray Conniff, Carly Simon, and the Kingston Trio to my collection.
Then, time seemed to just stop. There before me was an album, The Percy Faith Strings, that I was my very first Long Playing LP record back in 1962. My original copy was in rough condition, so this almost perfect copy will be greatly appreciated.
And, as if the roof opens up, brilliant sunlight comes streaming down onto a very rare memory in the form of “TAKE FIVE.” Bill Justis in his summary of great hits, included my most favorite jazz Take Five. This had been my first exposure to the hit song Take Five from Dave Brubeck in 1959 fame.
But then something happens to make the greatness of the day melt, as I realize that in this very few square feet of store space is the exact retail space that I, as a newly minted MSU freshman, stood when I had my first Wal Mart experience.
Again, in mid August of 1965, I had an afternoon enjoying the thrill of finding such a modern marvel as this new Wal-Mart (had been open about 6 months). This would be the source of my new record collection of the sixtys as well as clothes and other items of a young mans life. They sold BRUT, the rage of cologne for the men who read Playboy.
A thrill went through my mind when I remembered that, on my first day at Wal-Mart, buying LP Records, a tall figure walked in.
A small round of pandemonium set in as the staff all rush to him and start laughing and making happy noises. Sam Walton, in bib overalls and driving his old truck up from Arkansas had come and check on his new store.
He stayed for a while, meeting with his staff, walking around the store and visiting with the customers. He asked me what I liked in records. I showed him my pile to be purchased. He smiled and thanked me for coming in.
He was a bigger than life kind of guy who ran operations with skill, uncanny knowledge of his staff and customers’ taste and wants. Yet, when he met you, you wanted to hear what he had to say. He had big hands and they had a firm grip on his future.
Wow, what a mental connection to make after all these years.
In the entire universe there is a 10 ft square of space that is doing what it did some 47 years ago in a land called America in which often discards our recent past for what promise holds for the newly realized futures.
I must now confront the fact that most of my toys and collections are now classified as American artifacts of the 20th century.
Whatever the reality of the NOW world, I still can enjoy a wonderful collision of time and space as history is made when one more dreamer from the class of 65 turns 65 and still has the heart and capacity to seek dreams for the years to come.
May the class of 65 never leave behind its yearning for fun, music, doing the right social movement thing, and above all else enjoying the journey of life for its own sake.