Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Monday, March 25, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Early in 1970, well before my birthday, my sister held a surprise party for me. It had as a theme Magic Carpet Ride and she invited my few friends -- the four kids in Sunday School class, and a couple of guys from Boy Scouts. There was also an outgoing girl named Donna, who kissed me. That's as far as my contact with Donna went, but some time after the kiss I was told she had mononucleosis, and some time after that my doctor told me that I also had mononucleosis. Donna had given me the best gift of all, time off from high school. I stayed home and listened to the underground radio station, WMUM, and read about Vietnam in Time/Life magazines, and about Christian anarchism and pacifism in Tolstoy. That spring, less than two months after my actual 16th birthday, Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia and big anti-war demonstrations erupted all over the country. WMUM participated by playing the appropriate songs -- Volunteers, Street Fighting Man, Peace Frog, Someday (August 29, 1968), etc. In Palm Beach County, the revolution was mainly on the air and not the streets, but there was Something In The Air, and in Ohio National Guardsmen fired directly into a crowd of unarmed students and killed four of them. It took days or weeks for the implications to sink in, and when they did I was very pissed off. The main thing was the realization that I had been conditioned for sixteen years to believe that the most honorable and courageous thing a young man could do was to become a soldier and obey orders to kill and die, and in another two years I would be required to register for the Selective Service.
That summer our family vacation included a trip to Toronto. I had brought along The Strawberry Statement, James Simon Kunen's account of the 1968 Columbia student uprising, which I read and re-read, and the Woodstock album, in which Jimi Hendrix radicalized the national anthem.
I took this picture of my father in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood because I was amused by the Canadian flag across the street, but you can't really see that it is not a maple leaf, even in this blow-up.
The Draft Resistance had a heavy presence in that bohemian neighborhood. We were exploring the possibility of my future exile, if it came to that. The idea, or fantasy, appealed to me a lot. Yorkville was my first real exposure to the counter-culture. I bought copies of the local underground papers that I still have. When I got home I contacted the American Friends, which I learned about on WMUM and in Hieronymous, Palm Beach County's own attempt at an underground paper, and made an appointment to talk to a draft counsellor. He explained the conscientious objector status to me. Dad said the church would support me, if I declared myself a CO.
In May of 1972, two months after I registered for the draft, my sister, my cousin Eraca and I, and some others, organized a peace march in West Palm Beach to oppose the insane war. Over a hundred showed up, according to the Miami Herald.
Ten years ago today, on my 49th birthday, the US invaded Iraq. As Vonnegut said, "So it goes."
Monday, March 18, 2013
Here are my sister and I at some sort of celebration involving a decorated tree and gifts. This picture was taken some years ago and, as you can see, she was bigger than me.
I was still in high school when my sister appeared in local newspaper articles because she was organizing protests concerning a variety of causes, including the war. The old papers crumble as I turn the pages.
"Betty Luckey: The Making of a 'Kook'" was on the front page (above the fold) of the May 18-24, 1972 WeekDay. The paper quotes her story of how she became an activist:
"I think I was about 13. There was quite a drought in Okeechobee. I asked neighbors and friends for clothes and food for the Seminole Indians. Our church helped out. We collected stuff at the city hall in Lake Park, and my father made several trips with carloads to the Indian Reservation."
"Gary, coincidentally, was doing the same thing I was doing, at the same time, at Palm Beach High. He was collecting, too. We both loved the Seminoles. He was a church member, and we made the trips together with my father."
"There I was, 13, and I told people I was going to marry Gary Luckey. They laughed and said, Oh, no, you won't. You'll meet so many boys, just you wait. But when I was 17, I married Gary Luckey!"
Betty and Gary celebrated their 50th anniversary a couple of years ago. Now she works in the office at the Seminole's Baptist church on Brighton Reservation. Since they built a casino the tribe has been wealthy enough to share their wealth with tribes that are in need, like the Lakota at Pine Ridge, site of Wounded Knee. Betty and Gary took a load of clothes and gifts donated by the Seminoles on Christmas, 2007.
Also in May '72 she told the Palm Beach Post how she became a "placard-carrying demonstrator:"
"For Betty, the metamorphosis began when she and others tried to open a coffee house -- a gathering place for youth -- in their church, First Baptist of Palm Beach Gardens. Betty's father, the Rev. S. W. Swan, is the minister there.
However, some members of the congregation opposed the idea. So, instead, Betty and her parents each opened their homes to young people who needed a place to rap. They offered food and listening ears and the kids came."
Last week I reconnected with some of these kids on Facebook, after I posted a photo of them:
Here we are with Mom. I'm the sweet-face longhair with the guitar and long sleeves. Tim, Dave, Terry, and Scotty look like they have just been to the beach. Mom and I had probably just been to church, and Dad took the photo. Scotty and Dave were in a band that practiced at the church, and then at our house, after the coffeehouse was moved. Tim Staffell is an artist, singer/songwriter, and was a sort of refugee from the British music scene, whose influence we didn't really know at the time, and I don't think he did either. He had told us a little about the band he'd been in, called "Smile," and played some songs he wrote. He stayed with us until he made enough money for the trip back home. Scotty is in Nashville, where he worked in the music industry until he retired. Dave went into psychology and counseling in West Palm Beach. I haven't tracked down Terry. I'd like to know what he's up to.
Scotty wrote, "It has just been wild how your pictures have blown my memory open. I had all but forgotten a lot of my activities from that time. Tim and I spent some time reviewing that era last night. We both fondly remember the kindness and respect your family showed us all while we wandered through our respective spiritual journeys. The tolerance and love found by us in your home was a rare treat in those days."
Tim: "This little episode has stirred up my mind - short though that episode was, it had a seminal effect on me...like I say, when I got back to England I was a very different person than the one who had left four months before."
Dave: "It's amazing just to think back to those days when we all were together and trying to change the world."
Sunday, March 17, 2013
In the Thirties my father was in a trumpet trio based in their hometown Jamestown, New York. They were on Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show in 1939, a forerunner of American Idol, and got enough votes from Jamestown to win.
When the war started, he enlisted in the Army Air Force. "as the WWII was closing down, playing trumpet in the Army Air Force Band at Chanute Field, 'Taps' and 'Retreat' were my signature."
Some time in the late Sixties or early Seventies he started composing songs on the autoharp. He also began collecting and playing ram's horns, usually with a trumpet mouthpiece attached. Most of his songs are based on Scripture, especially Psalms. He was always trying to get me to draw something for his print outs, which he pasted up himself. My drawing of him playing a ram's horn was re-copied into many generations, as were all of the drawings I did for him.
He wrote a lot of songs.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Journey to the West
In this picture I was 15 and my mother was 50 and this is a store at a Mexican border town. I was quite a nerd.
1969 was the year my mother had to have a mastectomy. I wasn't sure what was going on. I knew she found a lump and it was malignant, but exactly what happened in the surgery wasn't said out loud and I had to guess. That summer we drove out West in our Plymouth Barracuda, staying at motels in New Orleans and Houston, and in a tent in national parks in Big Bend and in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma. It was a healing journey for all of us. On the long drive through mythical southwest landscape we listened to the car radio. At the beginning of the trip my favorite band was the Baja Marimba Band, and I got a couple of sombreros and ponchos in a border town. Outfitting myself for an imaginary album cover, maybe. We were on the road when Strawberry Fields Forever, which had been released two years earlier, and which I'd heard, finally reached my brain, and a switch was flipped. Dylan also reached me on this trip. Creedence Clearwater Revival was big that year and we heard Bad Moon Rising over and over. Mom said she never heard anything like that before. They liked BST's Spinning Wheel, because of the horns. We explored Anasazi and Aztec ruins, and living Pueblo, Navajo, and Hopi culture. A wholly Other America. Mom always recalled the climb up a ladder in Mesa Verde cave dwellings as a moment of regaining courage.
Friday, March 15, 2013
For the next few days I will be posting family photos. Tomorrow is my sister's birthday and Sunday is my father's. Mine is Tuesday. A few years ago my father, sister, and I toyed around with the idea of naming the 18th as my mother's celebration day, but we never came up with a good name for it. If we brought all the birthdays together in a row, I could cover them in one trip to Florida, but that might not have been the primary reason.