Klamath isn’t a place where many people came to live. Instead they came as tourists or with the military, but they mostly left. We came to Klamath with the Air Force and stayed.
Like most Baby-boomers I had what I believed to be a very uneventful life, yet I thought of adventure and excitement all the time. I grew up going to church and revering God, learning not to complain or be disrespectful, going to school and to love my country.
Even at 8-years-old I was wise enough to question, “There must be something more than this?”
We children walked through secondhand smoke, adults dropping their voices to near inaudible tones so we wouldn’t hear — we children walking through the room unheard so we could hear. It was a time when no one wore seat belts, when automobiles were big and trucks were for the lumberjack or farmer and we kids could play in the street until vapor lights overhead popped to life, buzzing and humming a breath announcing the end of day.
We swam naked in the creek, each taking turns to see who could hold their breath the longest, shivering wildly as we got out and until we found a spot in the wooded canopy that let sunlight drop on our goose-pimpled bodies. Later we’d play astronauts, lying on the redwood benches of the picnic table in our backyard, until one day the moon became visceral as Neil Armstrong proclaimed “one giant leap for mankind.”
With that every thing seemed possible.
Never having very much money, my parents struggled to make ends meet and sometimes the power or the telephone was shut-off. From time to time, we’d receive a couple of boxes of hand-me-down clothes. It was like Christmas as we’d explore what was hidden inside those boxes, hoping what we found would fit.
We didn’t complain – it was jus’ life.
By nine I knew how to separate the laundry – whites, colors and darks – and at what temperature to wash them in. I also knew how to iron – having learned on my Cub Scout uniform.
We had a television that my parents bought in Europe when they were stationed there, which eventually broke and we ended up borrowing an old set from Grandpa. My parents had a remote for both sets – me — as I often heard, “Tommy, get up and change the channel.”
And we only had three TV channels to choose from. Much of the time it was radio or the record player that entertained the family at night.
With Dad working hard and Mom ending-up returning to work, the material wealth came in the form of new carpeting, wood paneling, and new furniture. Also in magazines – ‘Readers Digest,’ ‘Life,’ ‘Look’ ‘National Geographic,’ ‘True Detective,’ True West,’ ‘Old West,’ and ‘Rosicrucian Digest,’ where I poured through each issue and which taught me the love of reading.
Then I discovered newspapers, the rough draft of history and I was hooked. The Cold War, Viet Nam, Summer of Love, Tet, Martin Luther King, university sit-ins, Civil Rights act of 1968, Bobby Kennedy, the Democratic National Convention, rioting, gun control, Richard Nixon, Chappaquiddick, Apollo 11, Woodstock, Helter-Skelter, Attica, My Lai, Kent State, 26th Amendment, China, SALT I, Watergate, Roe verse Wade, the War on Drugs, Skylab, the oil crisis, and the Bicentennial.
“See” I would tell myself, “I knew something was going on beyond this place.”
This is how I learned that the same people who wandered up and down the Haight-Asbury district in San Francisco and spit on returning G.I’s and those who had battled police in the streets of Chicago in political protest would one day be national leaders. They were also the instruments a new segregationism.
Group after group declaring society had wronged them through the excessive power of white privilege: Black power, Chicano activism, the American Indian Movement, Feminists, Gay rights, Atheism and Americanophobia. And then there was me – with my white male, Catholic, U.S. loving life – completely unrepresented.
It was a different world, a different time, a different place and yet it wasn’t all that long ago, because it was my life and my revolution.