Sunday, December 4, 2011

High School Reunion

I was recently contacted by members of my high school 50th reunion committee, whereby they requested that I write a piece for the reunion booklet.


In 1962, I was a senior at Robbinsdale High School in Minnesota, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. The following events took place that year.

Jan 1 -- The University of Minnesota Gophers beat the UCLA Bruins 21-3 in the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California. The temperature at game time in Pasadena was 72 degrees. The temperature outside our house in Brooklyn Center was 13 below zero. Whatever I was going to do with the rest of my life included outdoor temperatures that would not be prefixed with a minus sign.

Jan 3 -- Pope john XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro.

Jan 10 -- A volcanic eruption in Peru destroyed 7 villages and killed 3,500 people.

Jan 23 -- Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) became the first black man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jan 26 -- The USA launched a missile (Ranger 3) to land scientific instruments on the moon. It missed the target by 22,000 miles. Apparently, the target wasn't big enough.

Feb 3 -- President Kennedy banned all trade with Cuba, except for food and medical supplies.

Feb 7 -- President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba.

Feb 10 -- The USA exchanged captured American U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for a USSR spy held by the USA.

Feb 14 -- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducted a televised tour of the White House.

Feb 18 -- Robert F. Kennedy declared that U.S. troops would stay in Vietnam until communism was defeated. Goody, goody. I would be drafted in April of 1966 to help defeat global communism and spent 8 fun-filled weeks of basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, learning how to stand at attention and clean toilets. There were 7 graduates from Robbinsdale High School in my basic training company, including Eric "Buzzard" Fermstad, David Lamey and one of Pat Digatano's brothers.

Feb 20 -- John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. The flight lasted 4 hours and 56 minutes. "I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets." John Glenn

Feb 26 -- The U.S. Supreme Court disallowed racial separation on public transportation.

Feb 28 -- The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan to "lure or provoke Castro into an overt hostile reaction against the USA." Paranoia will destroy ya.

Mar 2 -- Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 100 points against the New York Knicks. He was very tall.

Mar 2 -- President Kennedy announced the USA would continue above ground nuclear testing. No big deal. It simply makes a loud noise, vaporizes anything near it and sends a toxic cloud of radioactive debris into the atmosphere. But not to worry -- the prevailing winds blow toward Utah.

Mar 6 -- The USA promised Thailand assistance against communist aggression.

Mar 9 -- The U.S. military Advisors in South Vietnam officially joined the fight against the communists. The prevailing (incorrect) assumption, almost always when it comes to war, was that it would be over soon.

Mar 10 -- The Philadelphia Phillies moved to a motel during spring training in Clearwater, Florida, because their hotel refused to admit black players.

Mar 17 -- The USSR asked the USA to pull out of South Vietnam. Apparently, we declined.

Mar 21 -- A female black bear was ejected from a B-58 bomber over Edwards Air Force Base in California, in a special capsule with parachute, and survived. No big deal -- Doug Deeble, from the RHS Class of 1962, would have done it for free, twice.

Mar 29 -- Jack Parr hosted the NBC TV Tonight Show for the last time, to be followed later by Johnny Carson. Parr was occasionally erratic and highly emotional, much like my ex-wife during full moons. "Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle." Jack Parr

Apr 9 -- WEST SIDE STORY was named best picture at the 34th Academy Awards. Sophia Loren and Maximilian Schell won the acting awards. In the late 1970s, I studied screenwriting in Hollywood. Ernest Lehman, who wrote WEST SIDE STORY and many other prominent movies, was one of the instructors I was blessed to study under.

Apr 16 -- Walter Cronkite became the new anchorman on the CBS Evening News. "And that's the way it is." Walter Cronkite

Apr 20 -- The New Orleans Citizens Committee gave free one-way rides to blacks to move north. By the way, I write monthly articles for a magazine in the New Orleans area.

Apr 24 -- The first satellite relay transmission of a television signal.

Apr 25 -- The USA performed a nuclear test on Christmas Island. It was one of 105 nuclear test explosions the USA conducted in 1962 and 1963. The residents of Christmas Island, who had been relocated elsewhere, were not pleased.

May 9 -- A laser beam was successfully bounced off the moon for the first time. The residents of the Moon, who were not relocated, were not amused.

May 11 -- The USA sent combat troops to Thailand.

May 15 -- U.S. Marines arrived in Laos.

May 19 -- Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. "It's all make believe, isn't it?" Marilyn Monroe

May 19 -- Stan Musial broke the Nation League record for hits with 3,431.

May 31 -- Adolph Eichmann, Nazi war criminal, was hanged.

Jun 3 -- A CIA memo from a briefing with Attorney General Robert Kennedy revealed that $150,000 was offered to U.S. mobsters to assassinate Fidel Castro. They would have done it for free since Castro closed their Havana gambling casinos.

Jun 6 -- On high school graduation day, 620 highly educated souls received their Robbinsdale High School diplomas on the new football field. The more adventurous ones boarded a passenger train soon thereafter for the annual train trip to Waseca. Those in charge, laughingly referred to as responsible adults, assumed if we were all confined on a moving train it would lesson the trouble we could get into. Many of us, including me, had smuggled a flask of liquid spirits aboard to ease the tension and celebrate our escape from mandatory schooling.

Jun 11 -- Three federal prisoners escaped from Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Jul 6 -- The USA tested a 104 kiloton nuclear device in Nevada. It blew a hole 1,280 feet wide and 320 feet deep. If the world ever needs instant large holes, give the USA a call.

Jul 10 -- Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a demonstration in Georgia. "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jul 18 -- President Kennedy installed an audio taping system in the White House.

Aug 5 -- Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home. It was ruled a suicide (overdose of drugs). "Dreaming about being an actress is more exciting than being one." Marilyn Monroe

Aug 5 -- The USSR set off an atomic bomb as part of a new series of tests.

Aug 10 -- My birthday. I am now 18 years old. I had a piece of chocolate cake and later celebrated with a Lucky Strike. I would give up the cigarettes in a couple of years but still have a chunk of chocolate on birthdays.

Aug 16 -- The Beatles dropped drummer Pete Best and took on Ringo Starr. "Everything government touches turns to crap." Ringo Starr

Sep 1 -- The United Nations announced the world population had now reached 3 billion people. Today it is 7 billion. But that's okay because we're all broke anyway. Turn out the lights, the party's over.

Sep 1 -- In Iran, 10,000 people died in an earthquake.

Sep 10 -- I enter the University of Minnesota, home of the mighty gopher, as a math major, trying to decide between becoming an architect or a mining engineer. Ironically, I become neither. I would spend a couple of future decades as a computer programmer and manager, followed by another couple of decades as a professional bum (wandering adventurer, independent computer contractor, mountaintop hippie, gold prospector, novelist, desert rat, newspaper columnist, college instructor, reclusive hermit, etc.) while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Sep 11 -- The Beatles record their first single for EMI, titled "Love Me Do."

Sep 17 -- The U.S. Justice Department filed the first federal suit to end public school segregation.

Sep 24 -- The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the University of Mississippi to admit its first black student, James Meredith.

Sep 25 -- Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round of the world heavyweight boxing championship in Chicago.

Oct 4 -- Crayola Crayons changed the name of the color "Flesh" to "Peach."

Oct 16 -- The Cuban missile crisis began. The USSR was sending ships to Cuba (containing ballistic missiles). The USA set up a naval blockade. The standoff lasted 13 days. Part of the undisclosed reason it ended was a private communication between Kennedy and Khrushchev, whereby Kennedy proposed to remove USA missiles in Turkey in exchanged for the USSR removing their missiles from Cuba.

Oct 17 -- The New York Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants in 7 games to win the World Series in baseball.

Oct 20 -- The Chinese Army invaded northeast India during a border war in the Himalayan Mountain region. Some 3,000 Indian soldiers were killed. It lasted about a week.

Oct 25 -- John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in literature. "Any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming." John Steinbeck

Nov 6 -- Saudi Arabia abolished slavery.

Nov 10 -- A folksinger from Hibbing, Minnesota, named Bob Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan. "All I can do is be me, whoever that is." Bob Dylan

Nov 29 -- France and Great Britain embarked on a joint venture to build a super sonic passenger jet called the Concorde.

Dec 2 -- The first appearance of the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones) at a London nightclub.

Dec 5 -- President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor discussed plans for stockpiling nuclear weapons to deter the USSR. The USA will have oodles of them, then the USSR will have oodles of them, then the world will be at peace forever. Brilliant idea, pinheads.

Dec 26 -- Eight people from East Berlin escaped to West Berlin by breaking through the gates with an armored plated bus. Live free or die.

Dec 31 -- USA military spending rose to $55 billion in 1962.

The top 10 songs from 1962 were:

1) Stranger on the Shore -- (Acker Bilk)
2) I Can't Stop Loving You -- (Ray Charles)
3) Mashed Potato Time -- (Dee Dee Sharp)
4) Roses Are Red, My Love -- (Bobby Vinton)
5) The Stripper -- (David Rose)
6) Johnny Angel -- (Shelley Fabares)
7) The Loco-Motion -- (Little Eva)
8) Let Me In -- (The Sensations)
9) The Twist -- (Chubby Checker)
10) Soldier Boy -- (The Shirelles)

For most of the Class of 62, it was a year to start life over once again. And for many of us, it wouldn't be the last time we start life over once again either.

If you are still alive, your mission in this life is not finished.

Quote for the Day -- "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." John F. Kennedy

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee, and the ghosts of Ron Dickerson and Jerry Anderson.

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