I liked high school, pretty much. As a member of the Class of 1963, I was born in 1945, a year before the official start of the Baby Boomer generation. Last night, I pulled out my senior year HS yearbook to begin trying to connect names and faces again. In June, we're having the 50th reunion for our Southern California small-town class of just 106.
As I look at the faces of my classmates, all 17 or 18 years old, I remember those hair styles and those clothes, and a little bit of information about most of the people I was looking at. Most of us went through all 12 years of school together. It's been 50 years since we left high school and went on to do whatever we went on to do. A lot has happened in those 50 years. Some of the faces are of people who have died. How many, I'm not sure, but I imagine there will be a list at the reunion and we'll all have a moment of silence for those who have gone where we're all bound to go.
1963. How much things have changed since then. How much water has passed under the bridge between my home town and the town next to it.
The Vietnam War - I remember clearly the day that there was a school assembly held for all of the guys in my class. It was near the beginning of the school year. A man in an Army uniform explained the Selective Service System and told us that we all had to register when we turned 18. Forms were passed out. Vietnam was heating up, little by little, and we'd all be facing that over the next few years. Six of my classmates died there, that I know of.
Technology - Our typing classes used old Underwood manual typewriters. IBM Selectrics were around, but not in high school typing class. Our television sets were still in black and white. I bought my first transistor radio in 1962, and had it taken away by my Junior year history teacher for listening to it in class. In 1964, I was taking FORTRAN programming classes and creating programs on IBM punch cards at college. The PC was far in the future, and wasn't even on our minds. Telephones in my little town didn't even have dials on them yet. We were the last city in California to hear a dial tone.
Politics - JFK was President during my senior year. In my junior year, I participated in a 50-mile walk at his behest. We all pretty much loved him. He was assassinated in my Freshman year at a nearby state college. We were devastated. In the meantime, the Civil Rights movement was creeping into our newspapers, little by little, and we were all worried about this Vietnam thing. We remembered the Korean War, and some of the parents of kids in my class had served there. I had listened to my father talk a little about being a B-17 pilot during WWII. We were concerned about Vietnam in 1963, but not that concerned. We were soon to become very concerned. In California, the John Birch Society was the Tea Party of the day, and Democrats seemed far better to most of us high schoolers.
Sex - We were adolescents, so this was a big deal. In 1963, there was no available birth control pill, and condoms had to be purchased at the pharmacist's counter. It didn't matter, because it was illegal for the pharmacist to sell them to anyone under the age of 21, anyhow, and each package had a label that said, "For the prevention of disease only." Abortion was highly illegal, although there was one doctor in town who was rumored to provide them in some cases. But, we were adolescents, so we were having sex anyhow. Some of us were. More than you'd think. Way more than our parents thought.
Cars - No seatbelts for us. Lousy gas mileage, but we didn't care. Gas was about a quarter a gallon, and a group of kids could always pull enough change out of their pockets to cruise around. Air pollution? That was called smog, and it was in Los Angeles. Skies were clear where I lived. Some lucky kids actually had their own cars. My parents felt that a car would interfere with my studies, so for a graduation present, I got a 1958 Harley-Davidson 165, an under-powered small motorcycle that served nicely to interfere with my studies. My parents were a little naive in that decision.
Jobs - Everyone had jobs in 1963. I delivered milk between 5 AM and 8 AM every day while in High School $1.25/hour. I was rich. I figured that if I could ever earn as much as $10,000 per year, I'd be set for life. Hah!
Dreams - We had those, but they were mostly mundane dreams. Family, education, a career. We were still modeling ourselves after our parents in 1963, and knew no other options yet.
Change - It was coming, but hadn't quite arrived yet. I had started listening to this singer named Bob Dylan in 1963, along with a female singer I had a major crush on - Joan Baez (I met her the next year, very briefly. We didn't hit it off.). They were singing about stuff that wasn't so much a part of my real life at the time, but I was hearing more and more about some of the things in their songs, and it was stuff that I thought needed thinking about. So, I thought about it and listened to more. The next year, I'd travel up to San Francisco on many weekends and hang around North Beach and meet some other people with really interesting ideas.
So, 50 years has gone by. Lots of stuff has happened, and lots of change has arrived. Some of my classmates still live in that small town, and never left. Others took off right after graduation and never came back, except for brief visits. I'm one of the latter group. My sister, a year behind me, stayed, as did my brother, who is five years younger. My parents are still alive, at 88 years of age, but are fading far more quickly than I'd like. I live in Minnesota now, and will fly back there with my wife to go to that 50th reunion. It will be interesting to see who stayed locked into a 1963 state of mind and who embraced the changes that were beginning to emerge. I don't stay in touch, so I'll be looking at my old classmates without knowing much about their past 50 years. It will be interesting.
So, I'm looking at those youthful faces, studying names, and thinking about all of the changes that have occurred. I wonder what I'll find in my old hometown when we all get together after 50 years. Like everything that has happened since then, it will be interesting, I'm certain.
Just to help you visualize: Here are side-by-side photos of me, then and now:
Profile InformationGender: Male
Hometown: Small Town, California
Home country: USA
Current location: Maple Grove, MN
Member since: Sun Nov 2, 2008, 02:18 PM
Number of posts: 145,882