Sunday, June 15, 2008

***I Hear My Father's Voice....I hear an early morning front door slam

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Guadalcanal Campaign, a campaign my father participated in, during World War II.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This was originally posted in June 2008.

In honor of Preston Johnson, 1920-1985, PFC United States Marine Corps, World War II, and, perhaps, other North Quincy fathers.

Some of you, I am sure, are warm-heartedly preparing to put some little gift together for the 'greatest dad in the world'. Others of you are preparing to do that same task for dear old dad, although with your teeth grinding. In this writer's family we never even got that far and so today the subject is a little cyberspace message in honor of a man who, as it turns out, deeply formed who I am- for the better. We had been estranged for many years. I do not want to go into the details of that fact, just call them ugly, as this is not about my trials and tribulations in the world, but his.

He was a man who came out of the foothills of Kentucky- Hazard, Harlan County, coal mining country famous in story and song- the poorest of the poor of white Appalachia-the 'hillbillies'. At the start of World War II he joined the Marines, fought his fair share of battles and by the vagaries of fate eventually was stationed in Hingham. While stationed there he met my mother (NQHS Class of 1943), married, had three sons and the rest is history. Well, not quite. He was also a man who never drew a break, not at work, not through his sons, not in anything.

My father was a good man, he was a hard working man when he had work, and he was a devoted family man. But go back to that last paragraph about where he was from. He was also an uneducated man with no skills for the Boston labor market. There was no call for a coal miner's skills in Boston after World War II so he was reduced to unskilled, last hired, first fired jobs. This is not a pretty fate for a man with hungry mouths to feed. And stuck in the old Germantown housing project, to boot. To get out from under my mother also worked, scraped a few pennies together to buy an old, small rundown house, on the wrong side of the tracks, on Walnut Street and we thus came back to the North Quincy of her youth. But who knows what toll that inability to be the sole breadwinner (no big deal now- but important for a man of his generation) took on the man's pride.

And it never really got better from there as his three boys grew to manhood and caused him more than his fair share of heartache. He never said much about it though. Why? Damn, they were his boys and although they broke his heart they were his boys. That is all that mattered to him and so that, in the end, is how I know he must have forgiven us.

To go on in this vain would be rather maudlin. The old Marine Corps slogan held true in his case though- Semper Fi- "always faithful". Yes, that is a good way to end. Except to say something that should have been shouted from the rooftops long ago- thanks Dad, you did the best you could.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

***A Coming Of Age Story- For the Snug Harbor Elementary School Class Of 1958

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bill Haley and the Comets performing Rock Around The Clock.

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Originally posted June 2008.

I have my history hat on again today. For those who can stand to know this information the members of the Class of 1964 this year are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our graduation from elementary school. What better way to celebrate that milestone on the rocky road to surviving childhood than to take a trip down memory lane. Those days were filled with memorable incidents, good and bad, but I have one that I have not forgotten to this day. I note that I graduated from Snug Harbor Elementary School in Quincy and am a product of the Germantown housing project.

At some point in elementary school a boy is inevitably suppose to learn to do two intertwined socially-oriented tasks- the basics of some kind of dancing and to be paired off with, dare I say it, a girl in that activity. I can already hear your gasps, dear reader, as I present this scenario. In my case the dancing part turned out to be the basics of square dancing (go figure, for a city boy, right?). Not only did this clumsy ten-year-old boy have to do the basic 'swing your partner' but I also had to do it while I was paired, for this occasion, with a girl that I had a 'crush' on. That girl, moreover, was not from 'the projects' but from one of the new single-family homes that the up and coming middle class were moving into up the road. I will not describe her here; although I could do so even today, but let us leave it that her name was Rosalind. Enchanting name, right? Nothing special about the story so far, though. Just your average one of the stages of coming of age story. I wish.

Well, the long and short of it was that we were practicing this square dancing to demonstrate our prowess before our parents in the school gym. Nothing unusual there either. After all there is no sense in doing this type of activity unless one can impress one's parents. I forget all the details of the setup of the space for demonstration day and things like that but it was a big deal. To honor the occasion, as this was my big moment to impress Rosalind, I had, earlier in the day, cut up my dungarees to give myself an authentic square dancer look.

I thought I looked pretty good. That is until my mother saw what I had done to the pants. In a second she got up from her seat, marched over to me and started yelling about my disrespect for my father's and her efforts to clothe me and about the fact that since I only had a couple of pairs of pants how could I do such a thing. In short, airing the family troubles in public for all to hear. That went on for what seemed like an eternity. Thereafter I was unceremoniously taken home and placed on restriction for a week. Needless to say my father heard about it when he got home, and I heard about it for weeks afterward. Needless to say I also blew my 'chances' with dear, sweet Rosalind.

Now is this a tale of the hard lessons of the nature of class society that I am always more than willing to put in a word about? Surely, not. Is this a sad tale of young love thwarted by the vagaries of fate? A little. Is this a tale about respect for the little we had in my family? Perhaps. Was my mother, despite her rage, right? Well, yes. Did I learn something about being poor in the world? Damn right. That is the point. .......But, oh, Rosalind.

Rock Around The Clock Song Lyrics from Bill Haley

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock,
Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock, rock,
Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock, rock,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight.

Put your glad rags on and join me, hon,
We'll have some fun when the clock strikes one,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes two, three and four,
If the band slows down we'll yell for more,
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the chimes ring five, six and seven,
We'll be right in seventh heaven.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When it's eight, nine, ten, eleven too,
I'll be goin' strong and so will you.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

When the clock strikes twelve, we'll cool off then,
Start a rockin' round the clock again.
We're gonna rock around the clock tonight,
We're gonna rock, rock, rock, 'til broad daylight.
We're gonna rock, gonna rock, around the clock tonight.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

***A Class Website Of One's Own, For The Class Of 1964

Click on headline to link to Class of 1965 and THEIR Website as referred to in this entry.

Markin, Class Of 1964, comment:
I was surfing the Classmate site looking at the class message boards of the classes at North just before and after us and found that Richard Goldstein had made an announcement that the Class of 1965 has its own website hosted by its own webmaster. Correct me if I am wrong but didn't the Class of 1964 have several members who went to MIT or other scientific or technically- oriented schools who could take on such a task?

Actually, these days doesn't someone have an eight-year-old grandchild who could serve in that Webmaster capacity? In either case, isn't there someone who can take on this chore so that we get to see all the photos of children and grandchildren, the family dogs and cats, the aging children of the Class of 1964, and whatever else cyberspace will accept. I am on a crusade, fellow classmates.

Now I have not always been a technie fan. In fact in the past I have been something of a technological Luddite (if you do not know who a Luddite is go to "Wikipedia"). During most of my life I have consciously kept a few too many steps behind the latest technology, at times from a political prospective and at others from a desire not to get too much clutter in my space. Now, however, although cyberspace does not necessarily bring us the golden age of the global community that I have long hankered for, it does permit those of us from the Class of 1964 to take a stroll down memory lane.

I know there is someone out there who, with evil intent in his or her heart, says " Well, why doesn't old Johnson take on this task?" Fair enough. However, as this is a confessional age, I must come clean here. While I appreciate and can certainly use the Internet when the deal goes down and I get into technological trouble or have to upgrade, etc. I must call in my "significant other" to rescues me. When I say, Cindy, the #*& computer just went kaput she comes to the rescue. Moreover, if the truth were known I also still use a CD player when I go for my walks. In the age of the iPod how yesterday, right? I, however, would be more than happy to write a little something for our website. But we need a Webmaster extraordinaire to get us up and running. So, as this is also an age that is addicted to sports metaphors- who will step up to the plate?