We were the last of the War Babies to graduate from high school. The majority of us were born in 1944 or 1945. Little did we know that we would over a life time witness 4 more major military conflicts.
By May 1963, we had lived through the post war blockade of West Berlin beginning the Cold War, the Korean War, the Space War. We witnessed the construction of the Berlin Wall, Sputnik, and the establishment of NASA. Outside our own small community, a missile silo was constructed, and one October afternoon in Mrs. Waldrop’s Junior English class, Sharon Loftis raised her hand. With a trembling voice, she put words to our fears that the USSR Ships headed to Cuba would culminate in a nuclear war. We were the last of the War Babies unsure whether or not we would last to graduate from High School.
By May 1963 we had lived in the United States of America under the leadership of 3 or 4 presidents, depending in our birthdates. I was born on the 25th of April, 1945 during the early stages of Harry S. Truman’s Presidency. My husband, who graduated in 1963 far away in Tulsa, Oklahoma was born November 23, 1944 while Franklin Roosevelt was President. By virtue of our birthdates some of us had war ration tickets for shoes, etc. while others born shortly after the end of World War II did not.
By May 1963 we had lived through the Polio Epidemic of the early 1950’s. We witnessed the development first of the Salk Vaccine and then the Sabin Vaccine, receiving the shot and then the sugar cube that would thwart the advance of this cruel virus. We also would be among the last to receive at SCHOOL the small pox vaccination leaving our arms marked for generations to come. Mine is still visible.
But with all that, most of us would have Chicken Pox, Measles, Mumps, because there were no vaccinations for these and parents would often expose their children just to get it over with.
By May 1963 we would be swept into the world of Rock and Roll with Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley leading the charge, new Jazz concepts, and the folk music of Woody Guthrie, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Kingston Trio. Music became the vehicle that expressed who we were and where we were going. The music shaped us and we in turn shaped our worlds to the beat and lyrics.
We liked loud, fast, totally fuel inefficient cars, but gas was .25 a gallon. A dollars worth of gas meant a night of dragging main with enough to do some racing or drive into the country to park with your best gal/guy. Drag racing on country roads and on the runways left at the former Air Training Facility south of town drew a crowd of us. With hormones racing we struggled with the taboos of our upbringing and for many of us the wrath of God. No matter what happened on those back roads, not one of us was likely to announce publicly that we were taking our relationship to the next level by moving in together without benefit of marriage.
Many married their high school sweethearts, some are still married to each other today; others married only to divorce later; some divorced and remarried others; some divorced but remarried each other. Some broke up after high school marrying others. Some of those really surprised me. I married a man I met on the telephone February 29, 1964 while we were both students at OSU.
We were the children of doctors, lawyers, farmers, pharmacists, laborers, mechanics, florists. farm implement and automobile dealers, retailers, cotton gin managers and workers. Most of us started school together, but by the time we reached high school we had added some of notable classmates, and I am sure to forget some, but here are a few, David B., Jim Butler, David Grant, Alana French, Janet Jones, Jeffery Marcus, Dana Overton, Priscilla Presnall, Harold ‘Hondo’ Smith, and Karen Walls. I am sure there were others, but when I look back it seems as if we were all together the whole time.
We were mostly church goers, although for some like me it took a lot of living,some pretty poorly, to bring me to the point where my faith in Jesus Christ became a real and driving force in my life. Then my husband went to seminary and I discovered there are a lot of folks in the pews who have never made that commitment.
By May 1963 we observed with decidedly different reactions the Civil Rights Movement as the “whites only” signs disappeared, our football team integrated with Boyd High School’s football team, and two brave young women from Boyd High School started classes at Frederick High School. I sat across the aisle from both in Coach Collins’s Typing Class. For some reason I had never really considered white people different from black people, just living separate lives.
By May 1963 I was developing my own social consciousness. For a while I was a flaming liberal, but while decidedly conservative now, My Belief about race is like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. intoned, the content of one’s character matters more than the color of one’s skin. I also became acutely aware after reading Leon Uris’ book EXODUS that Nazi Germany systematically murdered 6 million Jews and 7 million other “undesirables”.
Of course, the only Jewish person in our class was Jeffery Marcus and while I do not remember one anti-Semitic word or action, I began to wonder if Jeffery felt differently. Just don’t know if I have the guts, even today, to ask him.
By May 1963 we along with others who were the last of the War Babies, ready or not, graduated from high school. Now 52 years later some of us from Frederick High School will gather to fill in the blanks, to look back, and to encourage each other.