The local classes of 1968 are celebrating 50 years this year. I write to share memories.
In March of 1968, I celebrated my 18th birthday by registering with the Selective Service System. Along with approximately 750 classmates, I graduated from Rock Island High School then began to completely waste away another summer. College in the fall was a distant thought.
I vividly recall the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I watched as my parents listened to LBJ announce, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party …” I could not comprehend the occurrences during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, yet I thought them kind of cool. My social conscience ignited when Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their clenched fist left arms in protest of racism. I sat spellbound and watched televised reports showing the burning of American cities, killing of innocent citizens and George Wallace telling folks he could solve the nation's woes.
I listened to Hendrix, Joplin, Cream and the Fudge on Beaker Street with Clyde Clifford on radio station KAAY. Some black students turned me on to Otis, JB, Wilson and the Four Tops. I loved soul, blues, Yvonne Daniels, the Draught House, Col Ballroom, Budweiser in bottles and cheap wine.
But the big elephant in the room was Vietnam. By year's end, a high school classmate was a war casualty. How could that be — alive in June, dead in November. It was quite a year.