At 11, the world was ending
While writing this column, the clock was ticking toward the end of another year of my existence. Yes, I turned 61 this week. Not a memorable number, for sure, but birthdays tend to not only creep up on you faster than you want, but they also prompt memories of a life lived.
I chose to write about my memories of 50 years ago because I think that at age 11 — at least for me — one is starting to get a handle on personal and worldly events. The JFK assassination in 1963 was still on my mind in 1967, but the Vietnam War and what I learned about it through the television screen scared me. Night after night. When was it going to end? What are they fighting about? Why all the killing? And worse yet — was my older brother going to be called to fight?
Fifth grade – Upper floor of the old school on School Street in Boothbay Harbor. We lived just across the street from the school so it was nice to sleep in an extra 10 minutes each day. Miss Mary Campbell was my teacher. She once hit me with a ruler after I hit a classmate on the shoulder when a hornet had landed on her shoulder. Miss Campbell didn’t believe me. Did my trust in people in authority wane a bit because of that incident? Perhaps so.
In November of ’67, sports and my athleticism were coming into focus. The Red Sox had just been in the World Series, and even though they lost, baseball was something I wanted to try (which I did in the spring). But the basketball league in the “new” YMCA was where it was at shortly after my birthday. David Parkhurst Sr. and Don Lewis were my first coaches. I think there were four junior high teams ... the Hawks, the Pistons, the Celtics and the 76ers. Someone correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, I was learning back then that my foot speed was becoming beneficial toward my success as an athlete.
Leisure time at the beginning of my second decade included riding bikes around the neighborhood, playing outside most of the time, reading and spending what little money I had at that age at the various local stores — the 5 & 10, Carbone’s, Bob’s Photo, Wheeler’s (or was it still Seider’s?) Drug Store, Zina Merry’s candy store, Rowe’s Market, Brewer’s Market, and if my travels took me all the way to West Harbor, Greenleaf’s Store.
I was living Opie’s Mayberry life, but after turning 11, the war escalated and the events which happened in 1968 made me feel that perhaps the world was going to end. By the time I graduated to sixth grade, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential hopeful and JFK’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, had been assassinated.
Talk about shaping one’s view of the world!
Yes, being 11 fifty years ago was simple in my own little world, but ever since, it seems that the world has continued to get more complicated and violent. Too bad we couldn’t go back and change it all.