What a Weekend We Had 50 Years Ago [OPINION]
Like many others who were just eleven years old in the Summer of 1969, I remember with great fondness what it was like to be a kid in the pre-computerized age. No cell phones, no laptops, no cable TV; yet we managed to stay in touch through Walter Cronkite, our transistor radios, and a dial phone that was mounted on the wall or sat on a phone table in the living room.
Life was simpler then but getting more complicated by the moment, yet as kids we barely noticed. For us, the biggest concern was securing a seat in Aunt Ella's big yellow car for the near-daily excursion to Mary's Pond in Rochester. We had a blast. Every day was sunny and hot. Every evening was spent on the front porch listening to the Red Sox on the radio or playing hide-and-seek with the neighborhood kids. Or perhaps it was Batman, Lost In Space or Gilligan's Island on the black and white TV. Life was great.
For an 11-year-old, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy the summer before were monumental but we weren't exactly sure why just yet. After all, busing had begun at the Lincoln Elementary and other schools, and diversity was taking hold in our primarily all-white neighborhoods, even if it was only from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Watergate was still a few years away. We knew about Vietnam. Race riots were engulfing some of the nation's cities but it would be another year before all of that came to New Bedford with the fires and curfews and death.
This weekend 50 years ago brought the best and the worst of times. Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old woman referred to by some in the press simply as a "blonde," would die in a place called Chappaquiddick. We'd never heard of either, but we knew it was important because it involved Sen. Edward Kennedy, the brother of our heroes John and Bobby Kennedy. We watched the Kennedy funerals on TV and wondered why.
Fifty years ago tomorrow, just a day after Kennedy's "accident" at Chappaquiddick, two brave Americans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first men to walk on the moon. And we watched it live on our black and white TV at two in the morning. My parents made sure we did. It was the most incredible thing in the world.
As kids, we tracked the Apollo 11 mission and idolized the astronauts who made the impossible happen. Our standards for heroism were different back then. We hung their pictures on our bedroom walls next to the posters of Maureen McCormack, Eve Plumb, and Raquel Welch.
Fifty years seems like such a long time ago, yet it was only yesterday. In reflecting back on my "wonder years," I can't help but remember how innocent we all were, even as the times around us were changing so rapidly. The revolution was unfolding, the innocence was dying, yet as long as we went to Mary's Pond and filled those long summer days with bike rides and whiffle ball it would all be okay.
The times around us were changing. We knew it. We saw it happening. But at 11 years old we were unable to completely process what it all meant or where it was all going. It didn't take long, though, before the age of innocence had passed and we could no longer escape into our youth. We were growing up. The world was changing and we were changing right along with it.
I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.