When September 1963 rolled around, we were ready to start our last year in High School. Most of us in our group did not really know what would be there at the end of the school year but, that was many months away. Now, it was the beginning of a senior year excursion; a time to enjoy our school, our friends, and all that would be going on during that year; the very things that the year before we had not really have the ability to enjoy.
During the summer, our group had been getting together on a regular basis, but now that the school year had started, we were including more of our American friends in these parties. These parties were, by today’s standards, relatively mellow get togethers; no hard stuff, no smokes (those who did steal a smoke once in a while would go out quietly to get their cigs) and mostly music, dancing, conversation, jokes and party food. Actually, it was not bad. Somewhere along the years with new generations and complications coming in, simplicity has given in to more complex purposes, issues and behavior. I guess we were then more naive or perhaps more innocent; on the other hand, it may have just been a simpler world in which we had a better chance to behave as "kids" and learn the survival skills needed for our adult years.
But even in that simpler world, one still had to get a passing grade to graduate from High School. I guess that has never changed; therefore, parties were only reserved for the week-ends (of course, not to interfere with the Hi-Spot on sat. nights!!!) at the house of one of the families.
That first half of the school year brought our first true Halloween celebration, with a visit from my girlfriend and her friend, all dressed up. After the surprise visit and a good laugh at the costumes, we went out for cokes and hamburgers and enjoyed every minute of it.
Perhaps for all of us, everywhere, the telling event of that semester was the death of John F. Kennedy on 11/23/1963, at 12:30 (Dallas time) or, 11:30 our time (Wash State). It is always asked of those who were old enough then, if they remember where they were at the time the news came out. I remember. It was my before lunch period and it happened to be American History. The class teacher received the news from the office and he remained silent for a moment. Then, visibly shaken, he gave us the news. It was a shocking moment for all of us. Some started to cry, others to pray that it wasn't so. But it was.
The President had visited the Tri City area some months before and the reception had been incredible. Now, that same man was lying, lifeless, in a hospital in Dallas. For us, as a group, it was a true shocker. As unbelievable as it may have been for our American classmates, for us it went beyond being just unbelievable. It was something we just could not believe as a possibility in this country where we had come to get away, precisely, from this kind of situation. It could have not happened, it could not be true; but we eventually had to accept it and learn to live with it. With the reality that negative occurrences could happen anywhere.
The holiday of Thanksgiving followed this much mourned death. This time we had a nicely done bird, with all the trimmings and where we all sat at the table on time. Somehow it seemed that life had to go on and that we had to show the world we were a strong nation; that the system would take care of the country. What we as students did not understand then, was that events had begun to evolve in an ever faster rhythm on the other side of the world; events which would shape the lives of our generation very strongly and in way we could not even yet imagine: the Viet Nam years were coming upon us. Like the proverbial Mack Truck and from the blind side…
But this was yet to fully impact us; at the time, the fact that basketball season was coming on was a very important issue. Back then, at Col-Hi, basketball was truly the king sport. With a great gang of five lead by Ray Stein (as he lead in many areas), along with a very productive bench, great things were expected from the season. We were not disappointed.
Seattle, here we come!! After an overwhelming season on the winning side, our team got ready to go to State finals in Seattle. My girlfriend Tresha had let me know that she, along with a group of her girlfriends had made plans to go to this event. At the time, I just said Great! But, under the table, I started my own campaign at home to be allowed to go (with a little bit of spending money, of course…) to the tournament. My campaigning met with success and a few days before the tournament, I informed T. that I would also be going and, wouldn’t that be great?? Well, apparently it was not. The enthusiasm with which this bit of news was met was truly underwhelming. It seems she was looking forward to a few days on her own, with the girls. To say I was not disappointed would be a lie; yet, in an effort to uphold my dignity, I said to her: -“don’t worry… we will probably not see each other while we are there” -“as a matter of fact, if you don’t look me up, I will do likewise”. Well, in us boys, maturity doesn’t start to set in until it is too late to do any good.
I had found a couple of guys (brothers) who would be going up in their car, and were looking for some company to share the cost of gas and room, so I joined this expedition. In the end, we had close to 10 people staying at the hotel room (most in through the window) and no, Tresha and I did not cross paths until the last day, despite the fact that we were all at the same hotel. On the first day at the hotel, my friends brought out a bottle of rum and proceeded to get blasted. I am not a saint, but hard drinking has never been one of my vices (my family in Cuba had been in the liquor business and I had seen many things which fully convinced me that getting blasted was not man's greatest accomplishment). So, when at the end of the drinking evening and in a not very coherent status they decided that a little cruising was called for, I had to literally invent a story in order to take the keys away. I went driving around Seattle, with nowhere to really go and having not ever been there before. By the time I found my way back (literally…)they were both out of it, and it was the end of that would be adventure.
On our return, the car’s transmission dropped out (a 1956 dodge, much abused by then) on the crest of Snoqualmie Pass… walls of snow on either side of the road. We were lucky that the car was very close to a road station and it was left there. Now, how to get back to Richland… Mike had his Bomber jacket on, bright green and white and, as we walked on the road while pondering our fate (and becoming frozen lollipops) a Richland bound car stopped and offered us a way home. They had seen the colors and that is the reason they stopped to pick us up. This had been a real good time trip… today, some 46 years later it is still in my memory banks as a significant episode.
My girl and I? We had some high level conversations after we got back home and eventually we made up and went on with our relationship and lives.
‘nuff for now… Be well.