Wednesday, July 20, 2016

summer of '64

It was the summer of '64 and there was nothing on TV but the Republican National Convention. Some old white-haired man with big black glasses wanted to be president. I just wanted to watch anything but that. We would get up and change the channel, click, click, it's either hiss and snow or this.

I was 10 years old and this was not the first political experience that I remember, that came 8 months earlier when JFK was shot and we (as a nation) mourned together as we watched the events of that week on our collective black and white sets. But the young fresh-faced president was gone, we will miss him. The office of president was an old man's game once again.

It was the summer of '64, normally we wouldn't care what was on TV, but there was nothing else to do as we were stuck in a small room in the Lake View Motel near Blue Ridge, Georgia. It was the first time we had ever been in a motel as a family (that I remember), usually if we traveled at all it was because we were moving, or to visit relatives. It was our first trip to the north Georgia area and the first mountain we saw out the windshield was Fort Mountain. Our big blue Chevy station wagon that took us to Panama City Beach so often was now climbing mountains. We went up and over the top of that mountain, it was like a roller coaster! My mom, the navigator, had chosen the route on a map, from the south up highway 411 to Chatsworth, then right on highway 52 to Ellijay, then north to Blue Ridge. But maps are deceptively flat as a rule.

This trip was not a vacation or even for pleasure, but really any trip is fun. We were in pursuit of LAND, that God-given right, the American Dream to own a piece of land, and a house would be nice, too.

It was the summer of '64 and my dad had decided that it was a good time to retire from his vocation in the US Army after 24 years and 2 wars, with a third one calling him, it was definitely time.

After moving over 20 times in as many years, the decision to settle down was a big one. The decision as to where was easy also, both parents being from Georgia with extended family still there, most down south of Atlanta. The other part was the mountains. The mountains were not a weekend destination like they are now but a place to live and work and raise a family, and a place that doctors had sent my mom to for years whenever she had a bad asthma attack.

It was the summer of '64 and we had driven all the way from south Alabama to north Georgia, looking for mountain land. We met up with the realtor, an hour late for our appointment because of the Fort Mountain adventure.

We saw several places that day, I remember long rides on dusty dirt roads, curves and hills and creeks, blackberry bushes hanging on the roadside banks, and lots of trees. My mother's dream (and instructions to the realtor) was to have 50 acres with a house in the middle so she could look out her window in any direction and not see another soul or house. And that is pretty much what we got. The 50 acres were beautiful - a creek running through it with bottomland, garden spot, pasture land, a couple of mountains to climb, wild huckleberries, blackberries, plum trees. An old building hung on one hillside that my dad promptly claimed as his workshop.

And there was a house. The folks living there were selling out, excited to be moving to town. The house was small. There was running water into the kitchen, running gravity from a spring up the hill. It was nice cold water and tasted good as only mountain spring water can. We would later learn that water had to be heated on the stove to pour into the clawfoot tub sitting next to the kitchen sink for bath night, and that going to the bathroom would be an adventure involving a hike up the hill.

It was the summer of '64 and the only thing on TV was the RNC and we were in search of land. Why would our parents want to live in a place where there was only one TV channel and on it was politics. We bought that land and house, and moved north from south Alabama that fall.

It was the summer of '64 when I got promoted from Army brat to mountain girl, the year I came home. It was a good year, 1964.

These distant memories that were plucked from my addled brain were triggered by the RNC on TV this week, where an old man wants to be president. The young fresh-faced president is on his way out, we will miss him. The office of president is an old man's game once again. Thankfully we get more than one channel here in the mountains now, where is the remote… click, click

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