I’m a Boomer. No, I am not a fox squirrel. I just happened to be born at the right time.


In 1960, I had completed the sixth grade and turned 12 years old that May. Some of you may remember the three big snows in March and going to school on Saturdays, forever.


My dad called me into the kitchen the following Sunday and gave me my first shave. Why the kitchen? Because, that’s the only place where we had running water and a kettle to heat the water. I thought I was grown.


In many ways, I was. My daddy started working me as if I were a man. After the shave, he said, “Boy, I don’t ever want to see you needing a shave again.” As soon as I got grown and finished college and got married and was into my second year in the Coast Guard and 11 years later, I started growing a mustache and have kept it for most of my adult life. I even wore a full beard for a while until just before my mother’s death when she said, “I want to see your pretty face one more time.” I couldn’t refuse my mother.


We had won the big war, WWII, middle class Americans were “moving on up” because of the G.I. Bill, strong labor unions and a strong economy. Motorized vehicles were common and most were post-war models. We still had a ’30s model coupe that mama bought in 1955. I got to drive it to church on Sundays. Most homes had electricity, TVs with three channels that signed off at midnight with the Star Spangled Banner, and telephones on party lines.


Prior to the war, most women did not work outside the home, but due to a shortage of manpower, during the war, many women were working, including my mother. After the war and to maintain an upwardly mobile middle class, many women continued to work. They were greatly restricted in their job preferences. Those with formal education were school teachers or nurses. Others were secretaries and telephone operators or worked as waitresses or in apparel shops or factories.


In the South, it was either textiles or furniture. In rural areas, the big money crops were King Cotton and tobacco was gold.


Social Security had been established before the war and older people were now able to retire. Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) provided for de-segregation of public schools; however, it was many years in the future before it would be fully implemented and then only after many protests and marches. Jim Crow laws and the Poll tax were the law of the land. Blacks and whites had separate restrooms and water fountains and many blacks were refused service at restaurants. KKK members were active enforcers of these laws.


The evening news was a 15-minute broadcast of local and state news and weather and 15 minutes of national and international news. The Cold War and nuclear proliferation with Russia were real. We were taught “Stop, Drop and Cover.”


The real killer was in 1958 when Russia launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to orbit earth in space. I actually saw it as it flew over the horizon from east to west in our northern sky. It made little red flashes of light. We were losing the race to space. We learned in 1961, and it was confirmed, that we had lost the space race when Yuri Gagarin III, the first Russian cosmonaut, was safely returned to earth from space. To add insult to injury, the Russians were able to shoot down one of our U-2 spy planes piloted by Francis Gary Powers that same year.


So … why was 1960 a turning point in my life?


That fall, John F. Kennedy was elected president and Terry Sanford was elected governor. Sanford became known as the education governor. Programs which he initiated helped to bring North Carolina out of the Dark Ages in terms of education. No longer did we have to say, “Thank God for South Carolina and Alabama for keeping us out of the cellar.”


Kennedy stated that, “We are going to put a man on the moon by the end of this decade.”


And we did. Most of the technology you use on a daily basis is a direct spin-off of those efforts.


Little did we know of our involvement in Vietnam at this time, or the many assassinations that were to take place. Hippies, weed and Woodstock were still in the future, as was the Cuban missile crisis, birth control pills, The Civil Rights Act, Roe vs. Wade and the breakup of the Soviet Union.


Today we are keenly aware of the Gulf wars, The Affordable Care Act and The Great Recession. There has been great controversy as a result of each event mentioned, but we, as a nation, and millions of Americans have survived and benefited and made America great, again and again because of the social reforms which have taken place. Let us not go backwards.


And now, here we are. We are faced with the challenges of the opioid crisis, responsible gun control and mass shootings, immigration and the “Wall,” Global Warming and climate change, fake news and the attacks on the free press, the Mueller investigation and collusion with the Russians, and the hate and animosity which separate the two political parties.


Hopefully, “We shall overcome” these as well.


America Is Great.


* Harry Daniel is a member of the 2019 The Courier-Tribune Panel of Guest Columnists. Contact: danielhv@earthlink.net.