When I was in high school life was relatively idyllic for me. The summer of ’69 I was between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. I felt like I was on top of the world.
You see, the summer before(that means summer of ’68) my family had moved to a new town. I had been heartbroken because we moved right after I had just finished 8th grade~we had a lovely graduation ceremony. I was so attached to my grade school, my grade school teachers, and my friends. I had been looking forward to going on to high school with them. We had plans….you know how it is, you ALWAYS have plans!
Anyway, in the new town I made new friends. I met my friend Kathy, she is two years younger than I am. We are still in touch with upon occasion. I loved my new school and made friends there as well. I joined the debate team, the yearbook, and some other fun clubs that I have since forgotten. In January I tried out for the spring play, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. To my utter surprise, I was chosen to play the role of Becky Thatcher. I had so much fun at rehearsals and in the performances. It opened doors to a lot more friends for me~and everyone was so nice. The performances were right at the end of the school year, so we all made plans for the summer~to gather at the town pool and all that teen-age stuff.
There were so many classes that I wanted to take for my sophomore year that I decided to take Biology during the summer. Despite my lack of ‘science ability’ I really loved this class. The teacher was excellent. His best friend was the curator of the Natural History Museum at the University of MN. He came and visited our class a couple of times and brought in all kinds of things from his expeditions. One time he brought in a live tarantula and a live python. Since I have 2 brothers that were always dragging bugs and snakes home, I was fascinated, not frightened. We dissected all kinds of things during the course of the summer. I did well in the class, because I could focus ALL of my brainpower on just the one class. It was a great way for me to tackle science.
One of my treasured memories from taking summer school was that my birthday (for the only time in my life) fell on a school day. some of my classmates decorated my locker, and gave me a little bottle of bubbles and a squirt gun. I was so delighted and touched. I know, 15 years old and playing with bubbles and a squirt gun? Yep—it fit perfectly with my kazoo!!
We went on two field trips—both smelly, but only one bothered me. We went to a fish hatchery—which was very cool and kind of smelly. We also went to a sewage treatment plant. We saw the sludge rolling off of these enormous horizontal barrels that were about 10 feet in the air. The guys that worked in that section were sitting right there at tables nearby, eating lunch. Boy oh boy, it was one of those times i literally almost tossed my cookies! I got home for lunch that day—and mom had made braunshweiger sandwiches. To me it looked like the sludge, although normally those sandwiches were some of my favorites. My mom made the rare decision to let me eat something else!!
On those field trips by bus, the driver always had the radio on, and tuned to the grooviest AM radio station in town. That summer, some of the big hits were: Abraham, Martin, and John; In the Year 2525; Turn Around, Look at Me; Dream a Little Dream of Me; The Age of Aquarius; and Classical Gas. There were many other hits as well. but those particular songs were always on the radio during or field trips. Whenever I hear those songs, I am immediately transported back to that summer.
That also was the summer we landed on and walked on the moon for the first time. Those of a certain age remember what heroes and bigger than life guys the astronauts were—and how glued to our TV sets we were every time a rocket went up. Summer of ’69 was the biggest of all. We gaped at our sets as Armstrong stepped off the ladder and onto the moon (July 20, 1969 at around 10PM in MN). We were astounded. We just couldn’t take our eyes off of them. Then, my brothers and I ran out into our front yard and hollered and waved at the moon–trying so hard to see if we could see them. There we were, after 10 at night in our front yard in MN—cheering and baying at the moon. Waving at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and trying to see Michael Collins orbiting the moon. We were full of dreams, hope, idealism…..I can almost smell it when I think of those times. So when I hear a snippet of The Age of Aquarius, or of Abraham, Martin, and John, I know for a fact. I didn’t dream it, it wasn’t a movie. I dreamed, I hoped. I became involved in the process. I rejoiced at new discoveries, and new visions and change.
A few weeks later in NY was the musical event called Woodstock. I was not aware of it at the time, but the music certainly hit the radio airwaves forever after! As a country that summer, we had times of great, great joy—even in the midst of the country torn apart by protest and division. We will again. There is reason to hope and reason to rejoice….I say this despite the many societal things that I believe are to our detriment. I say it despite the phase we seem to be going through as a society where it is acceptable to bully, humiliate and marginalize. There are many who agree with me. We stand shoulder to shoulder in the fray~we will not give up. He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother is more than just a song to us.
On the other side of this arduous time is a mountaintop so glorious that it will make you weep with joy. It will make you know the climb IS worth it. So as you make your way through the summer months, may you know with all certainty: it is okay to dream a little dream. When we stand up to bullies, and don’t back down, they can no longer make us tremble and quake.
I am hoping that my students that are going to summer school will build some cherished memories of their own….and that they will have their own forever memories.