20 -1964 Nov. : The Election, Oliver Twist, a Rodeo, and a Fish-Camp Thanksgiving
The month of November offered so much excitement. Just look at this detailed title. A presidential election in early November occurred within a year of an unimaginable assassination. The new cars for 1965 appeared on some showroom floors. An onstage musical in the nearby larger community of Columbus captured the hearts of two 12 year olds. Another small metropolitan area hosted a rodeo with lots of Texas support. Finally, why would anyone celebrate Thanksgiving in a local fish eatery? These stories unfold from the pages written in that era.
In early November, cold weather hadn’t really settled in yet in Georgia. In my 1964 diary entries for this month, I see notes of activities that really seem more summer-like. Leave it to southwest Georgia, even the late fall of the year to hold untold weather surprises. By month’s end, (see entry below), COLD had settled in.
Fishing keeps getting the spotlight in my little girl notes on life. I had almost forgotten what a favorite activity that was and likely still is in the southern US. as well in other areas of the country. On that first Sunday of the month, after attending Sunday School and Church, my family visited an aunt and uncle who lived a few miles out of town. We so enjoyed socializing in general with them and and part of that socializing included fishing at their ponds. We were especially close to this aunt and uncle. Their home was flanked by a pond on either side and situated amongst a grove of pine trees. When one drove past this country home, one would be mesmerized with the beauty of the setting: the home sat up on a slight hill with fish ponds on either side and a white wooden fence graced the outer bounds of the property. It was a common site to see local folks from nearby Louvale or Omaha perched on the banks and enjoying an afternoon of fishing. Time with family was important, but at age 12 activities with friends trumped almost everything else.
Sleepovers between my friends and me continued to be a fairly common event on Friday nights during the school year. I mentioned that I spent the night with Laurie on November 6th and also annotated a birthday of Nan, my neighborhood friend, on the 7th. The nightly whispers of peer group news amongst junior high girls didn’t drift toward politics at this stage in our lives, but we noticed and occasionally overheard the ramblings of adults in town about the state of the country and their musings concerning typical election year concerns.
The presidential election held November 3rd resulted in a landslide win for the incumbent President Johnson (LBJ). Most neighbors and acquaintances were not big LBJ supporters. I noted that it seemed that mostly southerners had voted for Goldwater.
The everyday of school life continued. When I look at my diary entries, I’m amused that passing notes in class seemed to be fairly routine among junior high students. Perhaps, we were experiencing boring moments and felt the need to communicate amongst ourselves whether that meant sharing plans about lunchtime, inviting someone to visit after school or making a snide comment about a teacher or fellow classmate. Passing notes was possibly the prelude of what advanced technology would offer 40 years later: texting!!
A typical school day occasionally gave way to a special event. A school visit from a gentleman from Cape Kennedy, Florida presented the one big excitement on Tuesday, the 10th. He conducted some cool experiments and talked about the U. S. space program. Afterwards, the lure of being an astronaut loomed large in the after conversation among us junior high students. Perhaps, that very day a student might have been motivated to set a goal of becoming part of NASA and space program. School life during the week gave way again to leisure times with friends on weekends.
What were items of interest when it came to shopping? Laurie’s mom took Laurie and me on a shopping trip to the larger town of Columbus on November 14. Such a venture always brought surprises. Seventh grade girls’ preferences according to my annotations in my diary included shopping for a new school outfit, buying a piece of sheet music for the piano and selecting a new 45 record. The Kiddie Shop was a girl’s boutique which carried all the fashionable items for school age kids: cardigan sweaters, A-line skirts, knee socks were the rage. Of course, Kirvens or Sears or even Gaylords provided clothes and a host of other household items. Easy shopping for varieties of things under one roof! In record stores we could peruse bins of albums and 45's, but also record sections of main department stores were just as common. The popular 45 record had a single song on each side. One side had a hit of that time and the flip side usually had a not-so-popular song by the artist.
In mid-November I got the official word that I had made the Junior High basketball team. That was exciting news! I was so happy. Several of my friends also made the team which was comprised of girls from both Lumpkin and Richland. Some of the names of the players are still in my memory, not recorded in my diary, however. Laurie, Betty, Ginger, Betty Jo, Susan, Diane, Kay, Margaret, Laura, Sara and Barbara are a few that come to mind. Just as excited were the girl pals who made the cheerleading squad! Our two towns had been rivals the previous school year and now we would play as teammates.
As the weather finally began to turn cold, thoughts of delicious food to warm the palate came into focus. My father occasionally made his famous “Oyster Stew” for dinner during winter months and so it was on November 20th. I wish he had written down his recipe, but I have to rely on my memory. His stew consisted of hot milk, onions, oysters, and I think perhaps a mashed up hard-boiled egg. Small saltine type oval crackers garnished the stew. I did not particularly enjoy the kind of raw-like texture of those oysters used in the stew itself. The flavoring was awesome, but I enjoyed the fried oysters which he always included as a side dish. Oh, how I wish I had written down that recipe. All these years later, I still miss that Oyster Stew!
Another November event was especially noteworthy this particular year. I made a note on November 22nd that exactly one year earlier, President Kennedy has been shot and killed in Dallas, TX. The country was still in shock from that horrific event. Culturally, psychologically, and spiritually, the country was still mourning and trying to heal. The loss of a president in such a manner was an assault on everyone. Odd parallels of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln echoed in the conversations of the town citizens. I recall unusual coincidences being pointed out. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln; Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy. Both died in a 60's decade. Last names had same number of letters. Both had been attending very public events.
A couple of fun activities rounded out November. Two moms and two daughters (Ms Joyce, Laurie, my mom and I) ventured off to Columbus to enjoy the onstage musical Oliver Twist at the Three Arts League theatre. My first viewing of a live musical snagged me. Our seats were first-rate. We were close enough to the stage to be able to see facial expressions and detailed interactions between characters. The music was exquisite. Acoustics in the theatre couldn’t have been more perfect. The young voices coupled with the older singers gave goose-bumps. I have continued to enjoy viewing live theatre throughout my life. I am amazed at the activities our parents sought out to introduce us to a variety of cultural events.
Kay, another schoolmate, invited me to a Rodeo in nearby Americus. We went with her family on a Sunday afternoon just before Thanksgiving. I had never been to a Rodeo. Living presently in Colorado, I’m surrounded by opportunities for attending Rodeo events and we have the Rodeo Hall of Fame. I must admit that I do not frequent Rodeo events, but I seldom miss the Colorado Springs Street Breakfast held in summer to kick off the Rodeo season. Back to 1964: This weekend passed and we faced three more days of class before we’d have couple holidays.
On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the school cafeteria served turkey with all the fixings. Another delight or not on that day before Thanksgiving-we all came into school looking a little more polished than usual for school pictures. Within three to four weeks, our packets of pictures would be delivered to the school; Most students would swap photos with friends and carry acquired pictures around in their wallets. It was always important that wallets or billfolds had enough little panes to hold several pictures of friends.
Thanksgiving Day: My family joined my aunt and uncle in the small town of Omaha and feasted at the fish camp restaurant. The restaurant staff had prepared the specialties of the season to include turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole, and an ambrosia type salad made of mandarin oranges, coconut and maraschino cherries. BUT important, too, was that one could still order catfish for the main entree if desired!
That holiday Friday our backyard filled with neighbor kids who joined us in playing basketball. Jack, Laurie, Jimmy, Nan and a couple others stopped by during the afternoon.
With two more days till school started again, my family jumped in the car on Saturday afternoon and bee-lined it to Tallahassee to visit another aunt and uncle. We arrived in their small cul-de-sac of a typical neighborhood and spent that night. The next day, Sunday, cousins Bill and Stevie walked my brother and me all over town. We had tons of fun swapping stories about school life, what subjects we were taking, or any extracurricular activities we found fun. None of us were old enough yet for dating, so that wasn’t a topic of interest. Well ok, maybe there was some acknowledgement of ‘liking’ a certain person and having a ‘crush’ on someone who likely didn’t know we were alive. After returning from a two hour hike around Tallahassee, we feasted on left over turkey and watched the adults play some five card poker around the dining table. We formed our own game on a card table and used toothpicks for chips. We departed for home that Sunday evening.
Our drive home was only about three hours. Since my mom and dad worked and school started the next day, we had to be home on Sunday evening. Dozing in the backseat, I remember as we approached home the sound of turning onto West End drive. The sound of our tires along our road was very comforting. Everyone was bushed. Mom and Dad just aimed us in the general directions of our bedrooms and we promptly passed out.
I really enjoy the day-to-day musings of my 12 year old self. Ideas and feelings were captured from a time of innocence. No one can change those or re-shape them. What is so important at this point in looking back is that the small town communities of Lumpkin and Richland were so much like extended family. I don’t think one processes that at all, in the throws of a young life. If left merely to recall or to access fuzzy memories, I would have missed so much. I’m so grateful I captured so many of these moments and am especially happy to share them with so many friends, acquaintances and other guest readers, as well.