Friday, February 15, 2008

Looking back at 1968

In 1968, millions of baby boomers were turning 18 and after four years of high school were being thrust into an unknown void called life. We were too young to drink and vote, but just the right age to register for the draft, if we were male.

Some of us were looking forward to the freedom of college, some to a trip to Southeast Asia and others were about to enter the workforce for a lifetime of labor. On TV, we watched the escalation of the Vietnam War, which essentially drove President Johnson out of office, and bloody civil rights demonstrations and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., which left Detroit, Newark and other major cities in flames. These were some of the upheavals that tried to steal our innocence before we were ready.

At Hull-Daisetta High School in Southeast Texas, where 51 of us were getting ready to be kicked out of the nest, we were caught up with football and basketball games, school dances, plays and other stuff. We started off the school year without a clue that before we graduated in May, the world would begin splintering around us.

The first I became aware of the Vietnam War was in the spring when had a lesson on why we were there. We would read a chapter and take test, read another chapter that contained scant new information and take a test where a lot of the questions were repeated. We repeated this process several times before we were duly indoctrinated by the U.S. government. This was the first time I was ever aware of being brainwashed.

But if that was the dark side, the bright side was the music, movies and radio and the awakening of the youth culture after the Summer of Love swept through San Francisco through the rest of the nation in 1967.

Life magazine put me in touch with what was going on in the rest of the country. In Houston, KILT still ruled the AM airways. When the conditions were right, I could tune into KFMK-FM, the little upstart station in the attic of a Medical Center building, to hear the latest psychedelic music from the coasts. I was lucky that my dad gave me the keys to the car and pointed me to Houston, some 70 miles to the west, so I could see my first rock concert here -- Cream at the Music Hall. We watched Larry Kane on Channel 13 to see who was performing at the Catacombs on Saturday so we could decide if it was worth a trip into the city. I was stunned that the night jock at KFMK had been my preacher's son when I was about 5. It was amazing to me that a guy could leave my town behind to grow up to be on the cutting edge of a new form of music. Ironically, it was a couple of guys from the boondocks to introduced him to the Love Street Light Circus.

Beginning to awaken politically and intellectually, my friends and I sometimes would meet on an oil-field road or in a vacant lot to talk about our dreams and our latest discoveries. Some of us were more aligned with Abbie Hoffman and others with William F. Buckley Jr., but it didn't matter at the time. We were hungry to learn and we felt like we weren't doing it at school.

A lot of years have gone by since then -- about 40 to be accurate. It's time to revisit those days through the perspective of someone that's knocking on 60. I'm hoping that by looking back, it will help me better understand where I am today, metaphysically, so to speak. This blog is not intended to be a nostalgia trip, although from time to time we might seem to get stuck in that swamp. It's also not intended to be a revisionist history or propaganda from the right or left. It will focus on Southeast Texas, Houston and the world at large.

Our focus here will be to remember the things that had an impact on our lives -- the good and bad, the happy and sad -- beginning in our senior year of high school so we won't forget them.

If you're a baby boomer and were in high school or college in 1968, this place is for you. Come along for the ride. We'll try to keep in interesting. And even if you're younger or older, you're welcome here, too. You've probably lived through a lot of this, too.


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