"And There'll Be No Mo' Wo' Anymo'!"

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When it comes right down to it, even though I had no immediate family members involved, my childhood was all about the Vietnam War. What was the defining current event of your childhood?

-- Kymm Zuckert (hedgehog@hedgehog.net), August 18, 2000


My childhood seems so sheltered; I don't look back on it seen against a backdrop of the world beyond my hometown, much less my backyard.

I was born one month before Kennedy was assasinated. Mother remembers holding me in her arms when Mrs. Goux came over to tell her that November day.

What I remember of the Vietnam War is Walter Cronkite with maps behind him. My cousin Albert was over there, and he got kinda messed up emotionally and chemically.

Watergate figures, too. That happened when I was around 9 or 10. I paid more attention since I'd actually written President Nixon a letter a year before and gotten a photo back from the White House, but what bothered me most about Watergate was that the hearings pre- empted after-school reruns of "The Beverly Hillbillies."


-- Robert (rbdimmick@earthlink.net), August 18, 2000.

Watergate. Vietnam was there, sure, but because my father and my brother had both been to Vietnam, we just didn't talk about it much. So Watergate, the distrust of government, the general aftermath of the sixties. Two of my sisters were heavily into the hippy thing -- still are, in fact -- and one of them had left the country altogether. My dad retired from the military right at the end of the 60's, so he was coming out of that at the same time the country was coming out of the tradition of trusting its own leaders. My dad went from redneck conservative to libertarian to cynical bleeding heart over the next ten years; in my mind, that transition is tied into what happened to the country after Watergate.

-- Beth (beth@xeney.com), August 18, 2000.

vietnam was very big in my childhood. i have an older brother, and my mother was terrified that he would be drafted and killed, so she threw herself very heavily into the anti-war scene. i remember protests and demonstrations, and once in first grade, stopped saying the pledge to the flag because of the way flag-waving counter-demonstrators had insulted my family at a demonstration the night before. (no one noticed,however, and eventually i went back to saying it) from anti-war protesting, my mother got into other political activity, such as volenteering for democratic candidates. one of my creepiest childhood memories was the night that, my parents being away and my brother being in charge, paid thugs vandalized our house and shot out our picture window. this was done by the republican machine in the county. (nassau, on long island) several other houses were vandalized that same night, all of democratic supporters. we were also at other times subjected to anti-semetic graffitti (ironic since we aren't jewish) and other vandalizism and harrassment. obviously all this left its marks on me...

-- nicole (nicolemrw@go.com), August 18, 2000.

I also grew up during the Vietnam War, but I don't remember it being part of my life. I don't even remember seeing it on the news.

The first major news event that I remember was the first walk on the moon. I still think of myself as being from the generation when space exploration was a brand new thing and we were the ones doing the exploring. I still have the first-walk-on-the-moon medallion my dad bought for me.

I also remember the Watergate hearings and how boring I thought they were and how surprised I was when people would talk about watching them as if they were really interested. I thought it was just a law that they had to show them on TV. I was very disappointed in Nixon, however, as I had voted for him in my grade-school election. I still remember watching his resignation speech. After that, I never again voted with the same optimism as I had in grade school.

-- Catherine (catcoicrit@earthlink.net), August 18, 2000.

Geez... thanks guys for making me feel young... I'm older than anyone in my peer group by a lot but I don't remember the Watergate hearings. I do remember being woken up at some seemingly absurd hour of the night to watch Gerald Ford be sworn in. I guess the tension around Watergate, especially living in the DC area where so much is fed. government focused, had to impact my early years. But I honestly don't remember it.

What I do remember is the Iran hostage crisis. It was very real to me because I was brought up in a very multi-cultural university environment, knew lots of Iranians who wound up in the US as political asylum-seekers that year. It made this far away place as close as my mother's classrooms, where she taught Iranian adults, students learning English, while they somehow held their lives together as the world they knew was falling apart.

-- Tynan (ty@power-lines.com), August 18, 2000.

The summer before I began Kindergarden, we moved from a little town east of Sacramento called Auberry to a medium-sized town just over the Berkeley Hills called Orinda. I had two older brothers who were going into 9th and 10th grades; this was in 1966. We were a very My Three Sons kind of family (except we had four sons, and a mom, and no Uncle Ernie). Anyway. By the end of the next year, both of my oldest brothers had dropped out of high school, moved out and were living with several other guys in a house in Berkely, going to Dead concerts and protest rallies and washing dishes at restaurants around Berkely to make money.

That my two older brothers would leave school, leave home, and completely abandon the home and culture and society they knew to embrace the counterculture of Berkeley in the 60's had a profound effect on my family, my life, and my views of the world. They would move back home from time to time and they were like these strangers from another country. It wasn't until much later that I found out that kids really weren't supposed to be doing the things they were doing. I just grew up in a house were people wandered in and out and sometimes just vanished for months at a time. One summer my father found out that when my brother moved back in, he brought a friend of his who was so quiet that he lived with us for a month before my father even noticed.

The War figures in there, too. Since they didn't graduate from high school, in theory they weren't on the lists of boys eligible for the draft. One of them went ahead and registered anyway (and wasn't drafted); the other didn't register, and they both lived in fear for ten years.

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, a friend of ours who was 18 or so was amazed at the amount of responsibility involved. She wanted to know how we were preparing for the kinds of things that could come along. She once asked me, "What will you say if the kid drops out of high school?", to which I replied, "I'd tell him to go talk to one of his uncles and find out what it's really like." (One uncle is a caterer and owns about 5 restaurants (that early dishwashing experience paid off), and the other has a PhD in Ground Water Resources (that early concern for the environment stuck with him, I guess).

-- Colin (ethilrist@prodigy.net), August 18, 2000.

Wow: fascinating stories, everyone.

Kymm, the picture you mentioned of the Vietnamese girl running down the road, screaming, coated in napalm and burning, was taken by Nick Ut in 1972, and the little girl's name is Kim Phuc. Twenty-three years later, _Life_ ran her photograph again -- this time as a new mother, holding her infant son. The flesh of her shoulder, back, and arm is exposed, a topographic map of horror, the skin scorched to ripples and whorls from the flames. Her baby's face, nestled against her scars, is smooth and unmarred and brand-new, and his eyes are closed in sleep. There is so much happening in this picture that I want to cry every time I see it: the little boy, not knowing what war is yet, having no idea that his mother is disfigured, completely at peace; that out of the body of what was once a symbol of atrocity can come a creature innocent of such knowledge. Every generation has a fresh chance.

Today is my thirty-first birthday. When I was a toddler I watched the Watergate hearings every night while sitting on my father's lap. I have no memory of the event but I like to think it has something to do with my "What the fuck is everyone getting so upset about?" reaction to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I had no experience that would lead me to suspect better of anyone in the Oval Office.

The energy crisis made a pretty big impression on me. My elementary school pushed its hours back one winter so that they wouldn't have to light the building in the mornings, and thermostats were set at sixty. I spent months sitting in classrooms where it seemed so cold that only the dimness of the extinguished lights prevented me from seeing my breath. I hated when we had to write because I would have to take my mittens off. My parents bought a new car that year and my father wanted to take it out for a spin with us and some of the neighborhood kids, but my mother would let him because Jimmy Carter had asked the public to drive only when absolutely necessary. I am still a total crackpot when it comes to wasting energy, unable to shake the feeling that it's all running out. I get upset by things like the blow-dry cycle on dishwashers (just open the damn door, roll out the racks, and let the dishes dry overnight) and the like.

I also had nightmares about being an Iranian hostage. For some reason I imagined that the hostages were kept all day in tall metal lockers, like the ones at the Y where I had swim practice, and I would dream about being trapped in one of those upright coffins.

-- Kim Rollins (kimrollins@yahoo.com), August 18, 2000.

Kim Rollins, Edward Norton, and Christian Slater were all born on the same day. Please don't ask me why I knew Norton and Slater were 31 today.

Anyway, I'm sure this means something. Carry on.

-- Beth (beth@xeney.com), August 18, 2000.

I was born two days before you, Kymm, (Happy Birthday soon, btw!) so we somewhat share a perspective. Vietnam and Watergate were huge influences on my life and my beliefs. My musician parents and I lived in Cambridge (MA) at the time -- which was a hotbed of protests and general hippie activity -- and my Dad was also a photographer, so we have many photographs of marches and even a few riots. My parents were very politically opinionated and told me as much as they could about the war and (eventually) about Watergate. I hated Nixon with the white-hot passion that only little kids can muster. (Well, little kids and college students)

Oh yeah, and I remember the moon walk really well because our one television (tiny black and white) broke just before (seconds before) they actually stepped onto the moon. My parents were REALLY upset!

And relating to the whole looming birthday thing: My mother tells me that I was conceived the night that Kennedy was assassinated (her quote: "In times of tragedy people get together!"). Nine months later the maternity wards were overflowing. Kymm, your mother might have a similar story...are you a "Kennedy baby" too?

-- Lee (thensheappeared@yahoo.com), August 18, 2000.

The Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal didn't touch me as a child (I'm 34), though my dad, as a Navy man, came *this close* to being sent over there. (There's actually a long story behind that, but I don't know the details right now, I'm gonna have to ask Dad.)

I remember the Iranian hostage crisis very well, though. One of the hostages, Richard Moorehead (I think), was the father of one of my class-mates. I didn't know the boy very well, but I remember feeling bad for him. When the hostages were released the schools in the area were shut down for part of the day and we held a parade on the main street in the area. Yellow ribbons were everywhere and everyone lined the streets and wore tags that said "Welcome Home!" with the yellow ribbons attached. I think we all cried.

-- Carol (webgal@ordinarygoddess.com), August 18, 2000.

I remember noticing, a few years ago, that I no longer expected the world to end in a nuclear war. We all kind of believed it, and slowly it just faded away. I don't mean that I think it couldn't happen now, but that I don't *assume* it will.

It's kind of neat to read SF from the eighties and realize how defining that belief was. Post-apocolyptic fiction looks completely different now. (One woman I knew called all those books "post-toasties". Ain't that a great image?)

-- Jessie (blue@avocation.org), August 18, 2000.

I can remember several events from my childhood. The Iran hostage crisis, of course. I can remember being sad and scared and not quite understanding what was going on. All I thought was that if the Iranians could take grown men hostage, they could take anybody hostage, including 6-7 year old girls. I remember the yellow ribbons and hearing "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" over and over and over.

I remember Jamestown. I can remember watching the news, although I couldn't have been more than 7 or so then too. I mostly remember some aerial shots of the compound, and all the bodies. I didn't quite understand that one either, just that something very very bad had happened.

The assassination attempt on President Reagan. I was in fifth grade, and we heard about it at school. I didn't believe it until I got home and saw it on the news. I remember being very worried.

And I don't know if it counts exactly as childhood, but the Challenger explosion in '86 had a pretty big effect on me too. I was a freshman in high school and I remember hearing about it when my dad picked me up from play practice that night. I cried over some of the tributes, and was infuriated when the tasteless jokes started going around the school. Years later, I read a transcript that I'm still not certain was real of what happened after the explosion. Apparently the crew was supposedly still alive. It was absolutely chilling. I think I cried again reading it.

Just an odd thing I noticed... isn't it interesting how everyone's main memories are of disasters or wars or other 'bad' things? I can't decide if it's just human nature, or if it's because the 'bad' things get so much more press.

-- Lisa (lisa@selkie.net), August 18, 2000.

Oh. After about five minutes poking around on the web, I came up with this site: The Challenger's "Final Minutes", which has both the supposed transcript and evidence for and against it's validity. Just in case anyone was interested.

-- Lisa (lisa@selkie.net), August 18, 2000.

Events during my childhood

* the gas crisis. * the challenger explosion * The Gulf War * The death of Princess Diana (well, maybe I was 22 then, but I still feel like a kid)

-- windy (windmistress@sprintmail.com), August 20, 2000.

No other young'uns have answered this, so I will. :)

I'm 18... so let's see. What current events do I remember from my chilhood (are the teenage years still considered "childhood"?)...

The Gulf War.

Rodney King.

Clarence Thomas sexual harrassment investigation.

O.J. Simpson.

Oklahoma City bombing.


Princess Di's death.

Monica Lewinsky.

Elian Gonzalez.

-- Katie Trame (ktrame@digink.net), August 20, 2000.

The Challenger Explosion,-we watched it happen in school. It was horrifying. I was in 8th grade in 86. Reagan's assasination- really frightened me, I was driving to dance class with my mom and she just pulled over and cried. The fall of the Berlin Wall- just seeing the east and west dancing and celebrating on top of the wall. Watching the Impeachment trial of Clinton, and the OJ verdict.

-- tango (tango@stratos.net), August 21, 2000.

Being a Canadian, and approaching old fart status, and living overseas as a child, the things that stick out in my mind was the moon landing in 69, when it seemed to my 9 year old mind that technology can do anything, the furor in 1965 over the adoption of the new Canadian flag over the old red British Ensign ( alot of fuss over nothing ), 'Trudeaumania' and Expo 67 in Montreal, when it seemed that Canada actually did have alot to crow about, and everyone in the world came to see.

-- Don (delson@mdsintl.com), August 21, 2000.

The Cold War. And specifically its domestic manifestations:

I was seven years old when, in 1949 at Peekskill, NY, a racist mob attacked concertgoers who had come to hear Paul Robeson; the cops stood by and smiled approvingly. Many of my friends, and their parents, were there. For my generation of "Red Diaper" babies, that was a defining event, because it taught us that all our parents' efforts to "mainstream" the American Left had come to nothing, and we were an isolated, marginalized, vulnerable group.

Not quite four years later Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed. Recent evidence suggests that Julius R. may actually have transmitted some secret information to the USSR--which was a US ally at the time, remember; Ethel's only possible guilt lay in knowing about this. But after a corrupt, unfair trial, and in spite of worldwide pleas, they were electrocuted, orphaning their two small sons (my near-contemporaries.) I think that completed the process of alienating me--and others--from "America" and its chest-thumping patriots.

-- john burke (john.burke@mindspring.com), August 21, 2000.

I was born in '67. Too young to have lived through or to remember the assassinations of the sixties or the moon landing, I'm afraid. Even though I'm of an age to remember Watergate, at the time we lived in South America and it was essentially meaningless. Likewise, the horror that was Vietnam was played out to our relatives in the states (I had two uncles and three cousins who served tours, all came home, though one cousin has been mentally ill since) but didn't touch us.

Jonestown I remember, because there were ramifications toward US missionaries in Africa, which is where we were at the time, but what exactly happened there was unknown to me until I went to college. (Bless my parents for shielding me from that horror.)

I was more affected by what went on in my immediate recollection. Civil unrest in Sudan marked most of my core childhood memories. The image of body after body going over a short waterfall in a river that was running red with blood will stay with me forever. The image of the grave that held an entire village decimated by some kind of virus, a precursor, perhaps of Ebola, will also be with me.

Some things are too dreadful for children to have to be exposed to, and I think we've all hit on some of the main culprits of childhood theft.

-- Dreama (dreama@bluesilver.org), August 24, 2000.

Let's seee..... being older I do remember the McCarthy hearings, issues about the Cold War--most especially as a child of a military family living in West Berlin from '52-55--those, and and issues over Civil Rights are things which had a major impact. Then later, of course, there was Viet Nam. Civil Rights issues and free speech issues will always be of major concern for me as a result of my exposure to those issues as a young person..

-- jo (jo@interaccess.com), September 02, 2000.

Well to make you all feel young and me very old, the most vivid memory I have of childhood was nothing bad, but a crowning point for mankind. I was four years old when my parents dragged me out of bed one July 20th, 1969, my granmother's 77th birthday, to see my grandma in tears and to hear the immortal words "Houston, this is Tranquility Base. The Eagle has landed"

-- Jeff (jaw1701@yahoo.com), January 11, 2002.

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