New Bedford Kids Blew Bubble Gum as Vietnam Percolated
On August 7, 1964, by a unanimous (416-0) vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and an 88-2 vote in the Senate, the United States Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, endorsing President Lyndon B. Johnson's broad use of war powers to escalate America's involvement in Vietnam.
The following day, boys and girls from throughout New Bedford gathered at Common Park for the City Recreation Commission's Annual Bubble Gum Blowing Contest.
Most likely, many of the boys who participated in the contest had never heard of Vietnam when they signed up to blow bubbles. It is possible that some of them served and perhaps died there not long after.
New Bedford was worlds away from the conflict in Southeast Asia in the early '60s. That would change as more and more young men from throughout the region marched off to war.
More than two dozen New Bedford men died in Vietnam. All of the cities and towns in the SouthCoast region and Massachusetts gave up their sons to Vietnam.
On the home front, however, kids chewed bubble gum for prizes or participated in the Fast Draw Contest at the Common.
Meanwhile, the Selective Service Office in New Bedford continued to draft their older brothers, cousins and neighbors and send them off to war.
By the way, the winners of the City Recreation Commission's Annual Bubble Gum Blowing Contest that August day in 1964, according to the New Bedford Sunday Standard-Times, were Peter Scieszka of Peckham Street, who represented the Knowlton Playground and won first prize; Marie Miguel of Potomska Street, Groveland Playground, second prize; and Gwendolyn Andrade of Cedar Street, Common Playground, third prize.
Belated congratulations to all.