Friday, October 27, 2006


Okay, so I'm sitting here listening to Clarke Davis on The Big Show on Rock-it Radio, and he's playing the Cash Box Top 100 from 1963, the week of January 5 to be precise. Listening to Little Esther Phillips belt out "Release Me," I started thinking about what I must have been doing then and went into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia (to quote a comedian who was popular in those days).

I was a senior in college, and it was near the end of the Christmas break, so I was about to go back to Austin from my final semester. Later that semester, I'd be going in for job interviews. I had only a couple, and when I was offered a teaching job in Corsicana, Texas, I jumped at it. Corsicana was only 30 miles from my hometown, and only 50 miles from the town where Judy Stutts lived. It was the second figure that was more important.

A couple of years earlier I had a history teacher named (I'm not making this up) John Quincy Adams. I'm not sure if he was rich or just a clothes horse, but he wore a different sport coat to every class meeting of the semester. He was a wild-eyed liberal, so far out that he'd created a sensation one semester when the John Birch Society had students take tape recorders into his class and secretly record him to prove to the world that he was a commie. The thing he said that I'll always remember was this: "The government is lying to you about a place called Viet Nam. There are already more American troops there than they're telling you, and this is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to this country." He said this around 1961, and in 1963 I still couldn't have located Viet Nam on a map.

One thing I remember about that final semester is moving my roommate to the Presbyterian seminary where he was going to continue his education. Some big hit by the Crystals (probably "Da Do Ron Ron") was playing on the radio when we drove over there. He's a retired minister now, living in West Virginia. He calls now and then, and we still like to talk.

I remember moving my stuff out of the dorm for the last time that May. I put everything I owned in to my 1953 Ford Tudor and drove out of town. I never thought I'd be back. Little did I know I would later return to work on my Ph.D.

John F. Kennedy was president. Little did I know how that would end, either.

Brook Benton's singing now. "Hotel Happiness." I remember all these songs all too well. Sometimes I think I'm still living in January, 1963. Sometimes I think it wouldn't be so bad if I were.


Vince said...

Beautiful stuff, Bill. Thanks.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

The second half of the school year--10th grade--I went to Henry Hudson High, which beat the pants off of Peekskill High by a country mile.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Bill, that was great. Face it, we're geezers.

I was a sophomore in high school like the Cap'n in January 1963.

Anonymous said...

Lovely reminiscences, Bill. I was in kindergarten (in Montreal) and didn't listen to the radio, but my friend's sister was crazy about The Beatles. She had their pictures all over her walls and big buttons with their pictures on her coat.

My kindergarten teacher, Miss Stamford, was English. One of her favourite expression was, "Are you daft?" She wasn't necessarily speaking to me.--Karin

Bill said...

You young whippersnappers keep off my lawn, dagnabbit!

Todd Mason said...

Ah, January 1963. Avram Davidson was editing F&SF, Cele Goldsmith was editing FANTASTIC and AMAZING, Frederik Pohl was editing the GALAXY group...was Richard Decker editing HITCHCOCK'S? Think he was the publisher. EVERGREEN REVIEW was hassling with the mail censors, Lenny Bruce really starting to lose against the police and court censors. The New Left was coalescing, the Civil Rights movement was gaining more than it was losing (though the losses were dear), the Friedan-sparked wave of self-conscious feminism was arising, HELP! magazine was putting a few bucks into the pockets of all sorts of interesting people. Third Stream Music was flourishing and sticking up for its little sibling, Free Jazz, while nearly all the other forms of music were visibly exploring new pathways in an unusually accessible way...even some of the wallpaper music was getting amusing weirder (if also more prevalent). And my lucky spermatazoid hadn't been formed yet, and my ovum was still on deck in the ovary, for probably another year.

Go to bed, old man! If you can make it that far!

Bill said...

It was an interesting time, and the beginning of an even more interesting one for me (and a lot of others). I can make it to the bed, but I worry about those damn kids on my lawn too much to sleep well.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Good stuff, Bill. I'm listening now to "Love Came to Me" by Dion.

Jeff Meyerson said...

"Wiggle Wobble" by Les Cooper!

Haven't heard that in years!!!