Saturday, March 18, 2017

Summer, 1967

The summer after freshman year I took Algebra to 'catch up' with the other kids. Grandpa Ramer tutored me and I passed. I was the only kid in the class who hadn't flunked Algebra during the regular school year. In other words--The oddball. I had also wanted to go to summer school because I liked school. Being around other kids was fun.
Summer 1967
On the way to school one morning I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk near a park. I wanted to start a bank account. Instead, Mom took me shopping and I bought a Mod suit in a calico floral print. The money disappeared. Later, Mom and I had a fight. I wished I had started the savings account instead of spending the money. Although never talked about, in the back of my mind I wanted to go to college.

Like my 'MOD" suite but in a different print
That summer Pat invited me over to her house to swim in her built-in pool. I wore Mom's late 1950s Catalina swimsuit for lack of anything else. It had a built-in bra, boy pants, and was very modest. Soon Mom took me to buy a 'modern' one piece suit. I actually liked the 'vintage' suit but I am sure it made me look dorky. Pat would invite other girls and sometimes invited a boy she liked and his best friend to join us.
Me, summer 1967 at my Uncle Don Ramer's home
One evening Pat and I went on a bike ride and were out until 9:30 pm, making both our moms mad. I was feeling lost that summer; Pat didn't understand but then I didn't understand myself. There was something inside of me that wanted something, but I didn't know what. After I got home and got my lecture, I went into the back yard to watch the bats flying in the dusk until the stars came out.

This was the summer that Katie and Skip Marvin came from Tonawanda and Dad and Skip went to the Boundary Waters, which Dad wrote about here. Katie bought me a floppy brimmed hat to wear with my new trench coat. I stuck my brother's plastic water pistol in my pocket and pulled it out on people. I called it my 'spy guy' outfit.

When Dad and Skip returned from their fishing trip I wrote,

"You gonna go to Hurley? You ain't gonna go to Hurley? Ya gotta go to Hurley! So they went. Would you believe? 17 bars to a half block. And--er, um--prostitutes? Show girls?

"Yes, they're back. Gilford Van Marvin--Skip--and Dad. Katie and Skip leave Monday. I'll miss Katie. I remember her putting on her false eyelashes, the black hat, the shopping trips, the steak dinner. I'll miss Spooks [the Marvin dog]. Spooks jumped in the pool. Dad and Skip are all beard."

I never thought about Spooks name back then, but knowing he was a black and tan German Shepherd Now, I worry that it was a derogatory name.

My friend Lynne Martin and I went to summer dances at the ice rink near school and at the Farmer's Market in downtown Royal Oak. I was asked to dance but was too shy to even try. I'd learned the Cha Cha in elementary school, and my mom's cousins taught me the Twist when I was a kid. But I had no idea how to do these 'modern' dances and was too uptight to try. At the first dance, we saw Mogan David and the Grapes of Wrath, a local Detroit band.

At home, I listened to Mom's classical music record set. I especially liked Liszt's Les Preludes, the Eroica by Beethoven, the Mozart symphonies, and the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. I bought 45s of I've Got Rhythm, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Twelve-Thirty, and Spyder Turner's cover of Stand By Me. Stand By Me by Ben E. King remains one of my all-time favorite songs. The older I get the more I appreciate it.

I read Desiree' by Annemarie Selinko about Napoleon's first love and Up the Down Staircase.
Gochenour family outing: Tom, Mom, Dad and Me. 
My family liked to go on picnics to local parks. In the photo above you can see my guitar case in the trunk of the car. My piano lessons had been replaced by guitar lessons. I strummed chords and sang folk songs like Leatherwing Bat, St James Infirmary, and Michael Row the Boat Ashore.

It was the summer of the riots, which broke out a few days before my 15th birthday.

Monday, July 24, 1967, at 6:30 am I wrote,

"Riot. Murder. Fire. Kill. Burn. It's madness. The whole city's center--fires reaching high in smoke-filled skies. Dad's going to work--Highland Park--it, too, is part of it all. I dread what may happen today. The army moved in. 5:30 Dad and his fellow workers left [work], just left, 'cause the bosses didn't say to go home--they were scared. The riot was so near. Tonight's supposed to be worse. There's a curfew here in Royal Oak and the adjacent counties. We've been listening to WACK all day. Some people have a poor opinion. Like the man from the grocery store, mom said he wished he could kill a couple-- At school, no one spoke about it. "Black Power" was written with black chalk on the board and a "White Power" to oppose it."

The next day I wrote,

"And it goes on. Dad went to work. Troops moved in. We--me and Pat B.--watched planes and helicopters [passing overhead] last night, heading toward Detroit. A kid was caught with a gun on Main St. My parents heard a gun shot. It's sounding over the radio--gunshot along with reporter's voices, citizens, and snipers. It's started in Toledo and Pontiac. The Federal troops landed at Selfridge in Mt. Clemens, moved to the Detroit fairgrounds. They were called in at midnight. 21 dead. Hundreds wounded, more are homeless. Thousands under arrest. Radio newscast--Maryland, New York, Toledo--where does it end? 7:30 and it continues. St. John's [Episcopal Church] had a thing going--collecting food and clothing to cart to Detroit. It's amazing how so many people think. I believe we are the only ones with a good head on our shoulders. I expect to see an ark being built. Too many people are ignorant. Tomorrow is Mom's birthday."

I wrote a letter to Nancy Ensminger, never sent:

"500 fires since Sunday. Rioting, looting, gunshots, 21 known dead. Possibly more in burned houses. People, an unnumbered unknown, homeless. Firemen couldn't fight some of the fires, they were being stoned and driven out. Stores looted and or burned. Negroes and whites aren't fighting each other. They're fighting Federal Guards, State Militias. This is the third day. How long can it last? When it's done--how to rebuild our 5th largest city? How to feed and house the homeless? Where to put the people under arrest? They've put them on buses for the lack of jails. "They" want them to be killed. Johnson blames local officials for the riot not being under control. It breaks out in Grand Rapids and Pontiac.

"We have trouble trying to call people. They may have to turn off the water pressure to fight the fires. Mom's been getting the neighbors mad at her! They say, some, "Why don't they just go down and kill them all off?" No pity. Do they know what they've been through, all their life, just because they are BLACK? The frustration they've felt all along. They can't have equality. They can't get good jobs. They are limited where they can go, live, work. The hate. They learn early-- They look at the whites--they can go anywhere, can get better jobs because of their color. It's gotta break out. And now their houses are gone. Their children are hungry, steal for food. And even before--for once they can go in and get anything free. I've been through the slums. Saw them. It looked like one of Mr. Ashely's civil rights films. Even when it ends, there are problems of the homeless, the ruins, getting things back to normal. Rebuilding Detroit."

My mother's indignation at the racial hatred of our neighbors impressed me. She made no compunction about how she felt.

In August Lynne asked me to go camping with her family for a long weekend. We went to White Cloud Island in the Georgian Bay, Canada. A group of Canadian choir boys was on the island. We exchanged address with the counselor, Chris. He later wrote me a letter. He said that going home "it was crowded with seven kids and the three older people plus all the sleeping bags."

Lynne and I met some local boys who invited us to go to another island by boat. We were gone hours, getting to the island, exploring it, and coming back. Lynn's folks were horrified they'd let us go. It was a stupid thing to do; we were lucky the boys were respectful.

Lynne and her father in an abandoned house

Lynne on White Cloud Island
After graduation Lynne and I both went to Adrian College. She left after our first year of college. Many years later when I was living in Montague, MI there was a horrible car accident on the expressway near us, resulting in the death of a woman. Years later I discovered that the woman who had died was Lynne. I was shocked and sad.

My Uncle Dave Ramer and his family came from Annapolis to visit. To end the summer my family vacationed at a neighbor's cottage. The Beaupied cabin was on Douglas Lake near the top of the Lower Peninsula in Michigan, close to the Straits of Mackinac. Two of the Beaupied kids came along, too.

It was a fun summer.

Dad and Pat Beaupied

The Beaupied cabin from the lake
Every morning the Algebra classroom blackboard had new messages written in chalk:

Love thy neighbor--even if it kills him

Algebra sickness pills--25 cents; test answers $5.

FREE TICKET.
It's not good for anything. It's just free.

EXIT Free flying lessons. Inquire on ledge.

DO NOT DISTURB. STUDENTS ASLEEP.

Glix on you

Do unto others before they do it to you.

God is not dead. He's merely unemployed.

EMERGENCY EXIT (sign on window)

Ray. Please come home. I.L.Y.