Talkin' 'bout my Generation

In last week's story - about the party Sadako and I went to recently - I mentioned something about the dances at our high school. As I was born in 1951, I was in high school from 1966 through 1969 - the top years of the '60s', that decade during which the social order seemed to turn upside down, and the 'young' were setting the agendas, in everything from pop to fashion to politics. These were the years of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, of long hair, and of the protests that would eventually bring an end to the Vietnam war. 'My generation' was standing up, and not just making noise, not just making waves, but changing the world.

Now my parents are following these stories every week, and when they read that previous paragraph they will probably have something to say about it! "What's David talking about when he says 'my generation'? The only 'protesting' he did during those years was when his mother told him to wash his face properly!"

And yes, it's true. I missed all those things. The Beatles? Never heard of them ... Pop music? No thanks ... I spent my evenings practicing Ravel orchestral excerpts for the flute. And as for such a thing as smoking 'pot', this was utterly inconceivable. Only a crazed drug addict would ever try such a thing, not me!

In only one area did the '60s' even come close to impinging on my life. The Canadian high school I attended was in a small town located very near the US border. Sports teams from schools across the border frequently visited our school, and sometimes our school band played in contests or concerts with bands from US schools. And in 1969, life for a teenage high school boy was very different for Canadians and Americans. America was deeply involved in the Vietnam war, and all young men were forced to enter a draft lottery. Boys my own age carried 'draft cards' which showed their eligibility for the draft, and once each year, the government held a drawing (based on birthdates) that determined which boys would be called into the military and then sent to Vietnam to fight.

It was a very difficult situation for them; I myself had nothing at all to worry about, but boys from high schools just a few miles south of me faced the very real prospect of being sent to war. And as we know, many of those young men were indeed killed over there.

(As an interesting aside, the draft lottery results are a matter of public record, and looking at them now, I see that in the first year of eligibility for my age group the number selected for my birthdate was fairly high in the ranking, and I would almost certainly have been inducted into the military - if I had been American.)

I wonder how these things affected my personality; if I had been under threat of being drafted, would I too have become rebellious, marched in the streets, listened to rock music, and taken drugs? As it was, the only 'rebellion' I was involved in was refusing to cut my hair once I had left school, and it became a scraggly mess hanging over my eyes and shoulders. Perhaps my parents were thinking that a stint in the army would be good for me!

So these days, whenever there is a conversation about the 'fabulous sixties', I have to be careful what I say. It's better really, if I don't say too much, just let people look at my (still) scruffy hair, my jeans, and my beard, and think to themselves, "Ah, he must have been one of the real hippies back then. Weren't those the days!"

And I will just nod sagely ...


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Steve

this story made me laugh out loud at one point. thanks, Bull-san.

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