Entry 18. Early 1965
Having survived the great blizzard of January 1965, I was still a 14 year old deep in the throes of adolescence and quickly approaching adulthood. I would start to learn how events and circumstances had implications that a kid doesn’t comprehend.
Economics was not a word in my vocabulary, but dollar bills, coin changers and bank bags were part of my paperboy life so I dealt with those tools all the time. In 1965 the average yearly income in the U.S. was $6450.00; A brand new house cost $13,000.00; Gas was 31 cents per gallon; a brand new car was $2650.00.
My money facts were these: every Friday I received an envelope in my paper bundle with a note that said that the newspapers I delivered last week was so many dollars. I needed to go knock on my customer’s door this week and come to the newspaper office next Saturday morning to give them that amount. Everything left over was mine.
Dad would drive me into town and drop me off at the office and I would hand over the dollars and cents. He would run errands to buy TV tubes and other things he needed for his TV/Radio repair business and pick me up at Mom’s Wurlitzer Store on Main Street. I had time to walk to Main Street and sit at the counter of the Woolworth’s that was a few blocks down from the Wurlitzer Store.
I picked Woolworth’s because they fried their hamburgers in butter and they had soda fountain Coke. I was a big shot with my own money. Also, Woolworth’s had the biggest selection of records in that part of town. I knew exactly how many 45’s I could afford. 45’s were a better bargain for me. The little record with the big hole guaranteed me at least one good song. The big records with the little hole were a gamble. If you got 2 good songs on an LP you were lucky. (Except for the Beatles, their albums were all good.) So, I was careful with my spending money.
I did take a chance on a Rolling Stones album one time. Their music was exotic and not at all like the Beatles. There was something I liked about it because it was different. I hung on to that quality for many decades into the future.
Mom and Dad were working hard on gathering the bucks needed to open the store. I was working hard to buy music. Bonnie was learning to play music. Van was being drafted then joining the army. It was the Flanders world. Events were swirling that would lead to monumental changes in our lives. In the country and the world events were on a collision course with history.
In the US, a whole portion of our population became active in realizing that they had been mistreated for almost 150 years. Even at 14 I could understand their point and knew in my heart, they were right. In 1965 we called people with melanin in their pigmentation, Negroes.
There were angrier and louder folks like a guy in New York whose last name seemed to be “X”. There was a minister from Georgia who was softer spoken and talked about non-violent demonstrations. They were on the news more and more in early 1965.
And then for some unknown reason, someone shot and killed that man named Malcolm X. Was it a religious fight? Was it a way to shut-up this type of voice? Things became troubling very fast. That preacher from Georgia made a speech at a chapel when we was told he couldn’t. Each day there was something on the news about racial unrest.
In March Martin Luther King said a large group of people would march from a town in Mississippi to the state capital to show the legislators they were serious about wanting freedom and the right as citizens of the US to vote in any election. The scenes on the TV news were horrific as police waiting on the other side of a bridge with attack dogs and baseball bats. The men, women and children peacefully walking across the bridge and were savagely beaten for being peaceful.
I didn’t understand the issues but I knew ‘this ain’t right’. My Mom and Dad were involved in raising money and finding distributors and locations for the store, so they were not overly involved in the news. But, I did notice Dad, especially, was awfully quiet when he was watching the news.
Almost lost in the chaos of domestic issues was the fact that our country was caught up in a fight in a faraway land called Southeast Asia. Vietnam was a place that had been at war with someone for decades. It was happening for years but it seemed like all of a sudden we realized that our soldiers were going and being killed in larger and larger numbers. How did this happen without us noticing.
We began to hear more and more about dominoes and strange names of leaders and generals form a faraway place. But what kept happening was more and more GIs were coming home in body bags. Finally some college professors in that strange world called California at the Berkley campus staged what they called a ‘teach-in’ and said to the rest of the country, ‘Hey, we can’t ignore or believe what our government is telling us about Vietnam.’ It was a strange new era for the country.
Culturally even our TV shows were going bonkers. A weird and goofy new science fiction show appeared for the first time in early 1965.
And then something even stranger happened. Mom and Dad announced to me…ok to the whole family, but this is about me ya know, Mom and Dad gathered us around the kitchen table and said, “We’ve found where we are going to open the store, a little town called Tecumseh.”
“Tecumseh, what the hell is a Tecumseh? Hey, wait a minute, I am from Ann Arbor, I don’t do some Podunk, jerkwater place called what was it called again?” Geez, I bet they have parades with…with…livestock, why are you raining on my parade?
And then as if to emphasize my point, in April there was the worst Tornado ‘attack’ in mid-western history. There were 47 reported tornadoes in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. It rolled up the sidewalk on the street where my grandpa and grandma lived in Ann Arbor. People were returning our underwear for weeks (grandma always did our laundry and had hung stuff up to dry on the line outside of their garage.)
I finally did succumb to the bribe of: “But, you can be in charge of the record department.” And in May of 1965 Flanders Music opened on main street, shoot, the only street, in Tecumseh Michigan.
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