Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

The biggest change in 1963 for me revolved around that math test I’d taken at the end of summer after my third-grade teacher outed me for my poor performance with multiplication tables. I’d spent the entire summer studying and when the dreaded test arrived, I was prepared (Barely). I squeaked by with enough correct answers. Not as many as my parents were hoping, but I was just happy to have at least passed. I scored so poorly that the only item/activity I was able to keep was one of the four mentioned. I was really bad at math, and still am but these days I know how to use a calculator and a computer to figure out the tough math problems. And yes, I do know my times tables but at the age of ten I couldn’t see the need other than to satisfy the adults in my life. Now I had to choose between Little League, Cub Scouts, my bicycle, or my radio. The final results always have people scratching their head when I relate the story.

I liked playing baseball, but I could do that whenever. Cub Scouts was okay, but they made us sell candy/cookies to strangers and I wasn’t really a Boy Scout type of guy—nor was I a salesman, way too shy. My bicycle was a bike but nothing special (it wasn’t until a few years later when I got my Sting-ray. That’s a bike in case you didn’t know. A super cool bike.), and I not only listened to my radio but saw it as a job I could get behind when I became an adult. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve always loved music and listening to the DJ’s. It seemed like they weren’t working, just having fun and playing music.

I, drumroll, chose the radio. When I tell this story most people look at me like I was crazy. So yes, I chose a radio over playing baseball, becoming a Boy Scout, and riding a bicycle. That love of my radio gave me the incentive to become a radio DJ as an adult. There’s the story of how math got me a career that had absolutely nothing to do with math.

The second half of 1963 saw major changes in the world and my life. Okay the changes in my life weren’t that earth shattering. Sure, I found out that as a “big boned” kid when it came time to play football (American football in case you’re wondering. It’s the 60s in the US after all) I was always chosen to play the center or one of those other positions on the front line never the quarterback or running back. Though I will say I made the Junior High football coach mad after he saw me diving over people in the “gymnastic” portion of gym class and he approached me as to why I was not on his football team. Yuck. Organized sports weren’t my thing at all. Granted I played sports as a kid, but I wasn’t interested in the hoopla of school sports. Too many BMOC’s for my taste. My non-committal blowing-him-off answer didn’t endear me to him. Which came into play later in the school year when I got into an altercation with one of his BMOC sports bullies. Junior High sports were filled with bullies who thought they were all that and a bag of chips.

But in November 1963 the assignation of John F Kennedy brought those life changes into perspective. When the inevitable question of “Where were you when…” is a memory of my confusion over what had actually happened. I don’t remember if they announced the assassination at some point but during lunch while shoveling grub into my nine-year-old mouth I noticed some of the older girls crying. I had no clue until I got home from school and then learned of the death. Because the world revolved around my favorite TV shows—in my defense I was nine—that night my biggest concern was the fact that TV was taken over by the continuous news coverage of the assassination and then the subsequent news coverages surrounding the associated killing of the assassin by another. In December of that same year, I turned ten and life went on.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

Between 1963 and 1973 of my life on Planet AL I witnessed death on almost a daily basis. Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Robert F Kennedy Jr were all assassinated in the 60s. In 1968 I watched TV news while Chicago was awash in riots during the Democratic National Convention. Along with the Viet Nam war happening in the background, death was a daily reminder of how humans treat each other.

On a happier note(at least for me) was the moon landing in the summer of 1969. I was glued to the TV during the coverage. Then in 1970 Apollo 13 made the news when the space craft encountered trouble. The world watched as NASA brought the crew home safe and sound after a stressful and potentially deadly accident halfway through the flight.

In 1970 the best thing that had ever happened to me occurred. I got my driver’s license. School never really worked for me (in later years I was diagnosed with ADHD so yeah that made school fun) but I’ve always said the only thing I ever got from going to school was a driver’s license. Well, that and I learned my times tables.

I graduated from high school in January of 1972. I only needed a number of points to graduate, allowing me to leave school early instead of having to wait until June like the rest of my class. I hadn’t planned to graduate early, it just happened. I got lucky. And it made me laugh when I found out that was the last year, they allowed seniors to graduate early. There was still the possibility, but you had to jump through more hoops than before. A lot more.

In those ten years (1963-1973) of assassinations, political riots, Viet Nam, and moon landings, I became an American consumer of goods. With two separate paper routes (not at the same time. I’m not that crazy) providing me with available cash to not only buy more comicbooks but also to purchase a cool bicycle. I asked for a bike and my dad said sure, but you have to put up half. That was the first time the idea of having my own money came up. Quite the eye-opener to a twelve year old. Having to get up at four o’clock in the morning set me up for an adult life where I hated getting up early to go to work. Oh, that first paper route was delivering the morning newspaper, the Post Intelligencer or the PI as it’s referred to in Seattle. A year later after having quit the first paper route (I really hated getting up early) I started delivering the afternoon newspaper, The Seattle Times. I disliked that job—but no more than the previous paper route job—but had discovered the lack of “fun” money wasn’t fun at all. Hard to buy comics when you don’t have any money. This paper route was the one where I really got into buying comics. My route ended across the street from the corner grocery where I had bought comics in the past. So…

Entering into my sixteen and seventeenth years had me not only discovering girls but also cars. I admit I was a dreamer (no job to buy a car of my own) but I read every hot rod magazine I could and knew more than most of my friends about cars and how they worked. Probably a pre-internet lurker. It was the 60s-70s, so no car computers to make working on your car any harder than it needed to be. I would change my own oil and spark plugs until the day I got mad (scrapped a knuckle changing a spark plug a common occurrence) and in a fit of anger threw the wrench I needed to continue the repair. I never did find that wrench. After that I started paying someone else to do those type of repairs. Girls didn’t cause any anguish, at least not yet, but they were as mystifying if not as frustrating as repairing cars.

In the second ten years of my life on Planet AL, Meet the Beatles was released in 1964. That was the beginning of many new bands, of which I followed with my radio. My favorite radio station was KOL-AM. The DJ’s played all the best music and told the best jokes. Sadly, that station call sign no longer exists. In the late 60s, before FM took over the airwaves, management switched formats to a country format. Hey I liked Johnny Cash and other country stars who walked the rock/pop music line, but I wasn’t a country music kinda guy. Led Zepplin and Alice Cooper were way more my style. That love of rock-n-roll follows me to this day. Once I discovered FM, I migrated my radio station listening to another Seattle radio powerhouse, KISW. It may still be a powerhouse but in it’s heyday(70s/80s) it rocked Seattle hard.

The average new home cost $12,650 in 1963, gasoline was 29 cents a gallon, and a loaf of bread cost 22 cents. Zip codes were used for the first time in the US. The Lava Lamp was invented. In 1963 Robert Frost passed away. Valium was developed. And we know how that worked out. The Flintstones, along with Jonny Quest, and The Avengers (Steed and Mrs Peel version) were the best of TV times. And who can forget Mr. Ed, a horse of course.

We have now gotten to the latter part of my second decade on Planet AL. The next decade spans the 70s and very early 80s. And as you might guess it was a spectacular mess.

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