Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lost Highway to the Sixties

Songs playing from the reel to reel tape on the cabinet in the Flamingo pink living room of our house in Key West bring back those days that rank among my best from childhood. Even the built-in shelf for the tape deck was painted the festive color of ripe watermelon. Dad was quite surprised by it when he came home from the Mediterranean having served 18 months on a Naval ammunition carrier. The room took some getting used to but wasn't nearly as bright as the fire-engine red living room we once had in Virginia. That room was eye watering. Even as a child of four, the vivid color of that room rings clearly in my memory of a time before Dad learned to hide his paint brushes when he went overseas. 

Mom and Trixie and Me in the backyard
We would turn on the small window unit air conditioner when the weather finally got to the scorching hot stage, most times, only if people from church were coming to Sunday dinner. There were accordion doors that closed off the natural climate of the Florida room where we usually spent Sunday afternoons reading the newspaper sprawled across the floor on our stomachs, elbows propping us off the cool cement. It was here we learned of The Adventures of Dick Tracy and his two-way wrist radio and the latest escapades of Snoopy.

On company days, we had to wear our Sunday best to the meal and not spill or get those clothes dirty because we'd have to wear them again later for evening church. If the Wilcoxes came over with their three boys, a change of clothes was sure to be in order after dinner dishes were done.

For those special meals Mom would prepare a large pot roast with home made mashed potatoes and brown gravy, fresh snapped green beans seasoned with a ham bone kept in the freezer until needed. She would set the oven timer to come on at a certain time for us to come home from church to a delicious meal right out of the Dutch oven. Pop in the tray of dinner rolls, set the table and we were ready to pour the iced tea into the good glasses that matched, come to the table and ask the Lord for a blessing.

The adults would adjourn to the living room with its faint scent of Pine Sol and sit properly on the space age black sectional sofa with its thin metallic threads scattered through the fabric listening to country western music while the huge sand pile in the back yard called out to us kids for tunnels to be dug and little green Army men to be sacrificed in battle.

When company came whether it was for Sunday dinner or to play Monopoly or cards on Saturday night we were expected to be there too. There were no malls where we were dropped off to hang out on our own. We went with our parents, as embarrassing as that was to three school age children of the sixties. We were expected to behave, be quiet and be seen and not heard. We had many reminders from the past of why we needed to comply. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was still accepted advice for raising obedient children. 

And we were, obedient, disciplined, respectful of our elders and part of the labor force of expected duties to be done around the house. We had a list of assigned chores written out in my Dad's bold heavy pencil strokes that meant business. There was an organization to the list of course, with our names in capital letters at the top with check blocks for completion and blocks to be checked for non-compliance. You didn't want to get three of those checked off on the list. No sirree.

The House in Key West 1965
This was the house where we withstood hurricanes that bashed through the Florida Keys during the sixties, where we would spend the longest time of any of our duty posts and remodel practically every room in the house.

It was on this porch we would watch for hours into the wee night as Army troops drove their tanks and trucks down our street, driving into the city to take siege during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In Key West, we were only ninety miles from Cuba.

From this house we would travel the half mile down Flagler Avenue to the Roosevelt Causeway and see John F. Kennedy in his white Cadillac drive by with his procession. Here we would also mourn the news of his tragic death.

And from this house we would ride our bicycles to the elementary school where we said the Pledge of Allegiance and read a passage from the Bible to start off our day at school. It was on this corner I would fly the American flag and twirl sparklers on the 4th of July.

God Bless America.


  1. OK, really cool that your Momma looks just like my Momma's sister (Aunt Shirley...) hmmmmm???

    Oh, dang, are you sure we were not raised in the same household? I'll tell you what Sista, we earned our character for good reason.

    I am hooked on your style and will not rest until I have an autographed copy of "something" from you! I am ever patient. Love, Maria

    1. Dear Mcj,
      You do look a lot like my older sister with those eyes. Hahah. Just kidding, I know, we were twins born to different mothers.

      You are sweet and patient. Autographs. I wonder what I did with my autograph book from the well I'll just say the distant past?

      I remember getting an autograph from Pat Boone in Manhattan long long ago when he had a number one hit. Lost in the moves. That is food for another hub.

      Love you