Tuesday, May 01, 2007


In August of 1968, Dad came home from work and announced with much gusto that we would be moving back home to Texas.
We had spent the last 5 years in Detroit Michigan. For the last two summers there had been riots in many cities across the country. They called them "Race Riots" and Detroit had not been spared.
In the summer of 1967, Dad woke me up in the middle of the night and we walked through a smoky haze that was blowing through the screened windows and up the quiet street 1 1/2 blocks to the main road that led southward to downtown Detroit, 3 miles away.
There we watched a slow moving convoy of military vehicles, headlights off, stealthily creeping towards downtown. It was the National guard and they were there to "restore order" according to Dad.
That had been summer a year ago, and now the riotous summer of '68 was past and it appeared that"order had not been very well restored."
Dad had had enough excitement.

In school we had a part of our 6th grade class called "Current Events", but looking back I cannot recall talking about the events that were occurring around us:

There had been a real nice preacher named Martin Luther King who had said someday all the different colored children's of the world would be able to play together. I thought that was a good idea and wondered why, even after the War between the States it was taking so long. One day a man shot and killed Dr. King.
I remember that my mother cried about that.
But I don't remember ever talking about that at school.

She had also cried when President Kennedy had been assassinated in '63. His little brother Bobby was now going to try to be President. All the young people liked him a lot. He had longer hair than most of the politician guys that he had to talk to all the time. With his kind looking eyes and soft smile people said he might win, but someone killed him too. I thought that he looked too nice for someone to want to do that.

There were young people that were a few years older than me that they called "Hippies".  Hippies were causing a lot of trouble, growing their hair too long, and wearing clothes that made them look like the Indians on "Daniel Boone",  and playing Music that Mom and Dad didn't like at all. They also were called "Flower Children" and they had a peace sign that they painted on their clothes and cars and stuff.

There was a country called Vietnam that was on the news always. We were helping them to fight the Communists. Communism was a worrisome thing because Russia was Communist, and China too, and they had gotten it from Germany. So it seemed like Vietnam was like fighting the Germans all over again, and if wasn’t just like it, then it must have been just as important. The Hippies didn't understand why Communism was so bad and did not see the importance of us fighting in Vietnam. So a lot of people had set about "Restoring Order"  for the hippies too.

It wasn't going too well over in Vietnam, or in Detroit for that matter, because President LBJ (who was also from Texas) said he didn't want to be President anymore.
He came on T.V. and said that he wouldn't take the job even if we wanted him to.
I thought that was odd.

So on the way home to Texas, we had lots of plans. We flew to Chicago and spent the night at a hotel called the Drake. The next day we went to the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedds Aquarium. Then we went south a little ways to a College town called Champagne to see my brother, who had just got back from Vietnam and the Army wanted him to go to School some more. I spent the night in his Dorm Room and I was supposed to be asleep, but I was too excited on account we would be on a Train the next day to go the rest of the way to Texas, and I saw him sneak a girl into the room and spread out a Blanket he called a Brownie and they were "makin' out" ... kinda like Greg and I did with Becky and Cathy.

The next morning on the news it showed the trouble they had in Chicago the night before. Seems there were a bunch of Hippies that started a Riot and were turning cars over and stuff. There were a lot of them, but there were a lot of Cops too and the Cops were pretty mad and they had Tear Gas and Nightsticks and I think I saw some Horses too. The Hippies didn't have any of that kinda stuff and “Order was Quickly Restored".

Dad said he just couldn't wait to get back to Texas.

In the next couple of years I would have a little better idea about what was going on, but there were still alot of things going to happen that no one expected.


Mother of Invention said...

Wow! You were right in the thick of it and saw this stuff first hand. It affected your family hugely. I was in about Gr.7/8 ('66/'67)when that news filtered north. I knew about Draft Dodgers. I saw Hippies in Yorkville, Toronto. I loved the clothing they wore and agreed with their peace thing. But it all seemed so distant.

I'm sure your memories are strong. What did your brother do in Vietnam and how has it affected him? I bet he's got all kinds of stories to relate.

Barbara said...

Life was scary for children in the 60s. It was the first shakeup of the American dream that had become real in the 50s. Between Castro and Vietnam and the protesters and the threat of a nuclear war and the nutcases going around assassinating people in office, we all felt pretty insecure.

GEWELS said...

Living just outside of D.C. at the time we experienced a little bit of the race riots.
Our dear friends lived in a small apartment downtown during that time. I remember my Dad driving down there to pick them up so that they could live with us for awhile. They lived in a bad neighborhood and their block became a dangerous place to be for a time.
I do remember my Mother crying when Kennedy was shot- not so much Dr. King, though.

Old Lady said...

Power to the People!

steve said...

Mom- Thats right! All the Draft Dodgers went to Canada! My brother, like a lot of the guys from "the Green" didn't talk alot about it...especially with people that weren't there. Its a whole different language I think. Don was mostly engineering and support i think and thankfully, only 1 tour.
Barbara- It wasn't just the kids that were insecure- I look at pictures of mom and Dad from back then and the look of confusion on their faces increases as the years went by between 69 and 73.
gewels-She may have cried over Kennedy as well...why king affected her so much, I ain't sure.
Ol' lady- "Right on!" I think this was one time where the people took back their Government. Some really outstanding repiorters grew out of those times.