Photo by Bornil Amin on Unsplash

Life on Planet AL: The year I turned 10

As a kid in the late 50s early 60s a lot happened. Not only in my personal life (we moved from Iowa to Washington state—on a parental whim—but also in the world around me.

At the age of seven, in 1960, there was a presidential election that I believe changed our planet for the better. Keep in mind that the “adult” stuff that was part of that time never entered my seven-year-old orbit. Later memories of that time did give me a “glimpse” into politics and how politics can affect those who were at odds over the candidates.

But in 1960 at the age of seven, politics was the last thing my seven-year-old brain was interested in. Comicbooks and playing outside with my toy Winchester Rifleman rifle (and not falling into an outhouse hole) were my major concerns. I have a memory of my parents “disagreeing” over which candidate was best as our new president. It seemed my dad may have voted for Nixon—was this a precursor to my first presidential election vote?—and my mom voted for JFK.

Spoilers. I voted for Nixon in the 1972 presidential election. More on that decision in my second decade.

Back to the 1960 Presidential election. John F Kennedy became our thirty-fifth president. A lot of stuff happened in the next couple of years including but not limited to me starting a new school, twice in the same year as we moved from the two-bedroom apartment in Seattle to the “sleepy” community of Bryn Mawr. Bryn Mawr is a suburb of Seattle and sat on the hill overlooking Boeing field where many a 707’s, 727’s, and other planes with a 7 in their name were built, and Renton a small town south of the “big” city.

I would live in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. The elementary school I attended was a block away from my house so I had a huge playground and during the summer I could carouse among the school buildings. I’ve got a story of police and a dirt clod fight in my second decade that influenced my future self.

Keeping to my first decade we’ve made it to 1963. It’s my tenth birthday year and wow did stuff happen!

Lawerance of Arabia won Best Picture

April 10, 1963, U.S. nuclear submarine sank killing all aboard and then on April 12, a Soviet nuclear submarine crashed into a fishing vessel. No deaths but what was up with nuclear subs crashing and sinking? Nuclear was still a scary thing at that time. We still practiced the “duck and cover” method of protecting ourselves from the possible nuke strike. Keep in mind the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was less than 20 years ago at that time.

For you diet soda drinkers you can thank(?) Coca-Cola. TaB was introduced in May and that led to sugar free/diet soda. I’m not a fan of diet soda. I don’t like the taste and are misleading in their claims of being good for you. I do drink soda just not diet.

Also, in May NASA launched the last manned Mercury mission.

For all you Canadians in the audience June saw the first National Hockey League Entry Draft held in Montreal.

In June JFK signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963 which tried to bring equal pay to all. Did it? There is still disagreement over this.

One of the most horrific images to dominate the Viet Nam War was the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc. This was a gruesome reminder of the oppression the Buddhist monks in Nam experienced. As a young person who lived in the freedom of the U.S. it was very confusing. As it is still today.

The Soviet Union in June of ’63 launched the first woman into space. It wasn’t until 1983 that the U.S. sent a woman, Sally Ride, into space.

1963 was the year the “red telephone” established a hotline between Moscow and Washington. As a kid deep in the Cold War I was aware of this hotline. A year later the movie Dr Stranglove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb would feature a hotline conversation between the President and the leader of the Soviet Union.

The Great Escape premiered in June of that year.

And to round out the first half of my tenth year on the planet President Kennedy went to West Berlin and gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

By the end of the school year (grade 3) I was champing at the bit for summer vacation. Unfortunately those plans were derailed by the note that accompanied my report card, from my third grade teacher (sorry I’m not one of those people who remember every one of their teachers names. I mean it was almost sixty years ago). Turns out I hadn’t been impressing anyone with my math skills. The note explained that Allen (that’s me before I became an adult) didn’t know his times tables. I know shocking right.

That little note turned my summer plans into summer school. My parents doubled down and made me study the entire summer. Okay I probably still got to go out and play but the times table flashcards were always handy. They laid out the rules. I was graded on how many questions I got right and the rewards were the following:

  1. I played Little League baseball so I could continue depending on my score.
  2. I was a Cub Scout (rookie version of a Boy Scout) also depending on my score.
  3. My bicycle (see 1&2)
  4. My radio.(see above)

Quick back story on the radio. It was a Christmas gift from my grandmother. It was a large picture of a cowboy (1960s remember) but stuck in behind the picture was an AM radio (again 1960s) and to be honest I loved that radio. Many a night after going to bed I’d listen to the radio until a parent stuck their head in my bedroom and told me to turn it off. My love of that radio was a dream that became a reality as I moved into my adult life.

So, there you have it. My incentive to do well on the math test. I’ll leave the results until next time as we continue the second half of my tenth year on Planet AL.

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