Friday, April 04, 2008

Forty Years Ago

April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King was murdered on this date. I have been looking through my old diaries to find out what my feelings were. I was 15 and in the ninth grade. In Helena, the ninth grade was still a part of junior high. My brother Jim was a senior in high school. To be honest, I do not have a specific memory about my thoughts about this assassination.

When President Kennedy was killed, I remember being devastated and I wrote quite a bit about it as a 10 year old. This horrific piece of history was four and a half years earlier. To a teenager, it was another lifetime.

As a child in Montana, we were isolated from events taking place in the rest of the country. We only had one local TV channel that came in very clearly. Rabbit ears helped with a couple of others. The local newspaper was and still is a bit skimpy. The Civil Rights movement seemed like something on another planet. Helena had about two respected black families but I did not know these kids until high school and after MLK had been killed. I remember a new girl in my PE class in junior high when I was in the 8th grade. She was black and her name was Linda. I suppose I knew from my father, the principal, that she had a difficult life and was poor. I remember being worried that the other kids would be mean to her. But to my surprise, she was made to feel welcome. My friends and I talked to her, sat with her and were nice to her. I do not think she lived in Helena long because she was not in high school with us. Evidently, we were influenced by what was happening in other more southern parts of our nation without even realizing it.

My writings reveal that I kept track of things until March 19, 1968 in some old little notebooks. I then got a brand new blue flowered diary on May 26, 1968. So, the two month time period where MLK was murdered, I was not writing anything. I have spent quite some time reading my 14 and 15 year old self this afternoon and all I can say is, oh my gosh....Kaley is me. Many entries concern all of the boys I liked who had no idea who I was. I was absolutely certain that boys didn't like me because I was hideous, fat and ugly. Naturally, I was the only girl of all of my friends who didn't have a boyfriend. The word ICK was a major part of my vocabulary and I had a lot of terrible days. I volunteered as a candy striper at the hospital and this is where I clearly decided I did not want to be a nurse or a doctor. Everyone else had more clothes than me. I failed my driver's test and it was the end of the world. My school work and grades were of paramount importance along with my friends--who I am still friends with to this day. The news events of the time were certainly on the back burner of my brain.

Here are some entries that gave me pause:

Thursday, June 6, 1968
VERY SAD today because of RFK. I have lost part of my soul. I forgot to write yesterday that R.F. Kennedy was shot and died today. The killer--an Arab. Awards assembly today. I got honor roll and perfect attendance. Janet Duncan got the citizenship award and Mike Wong. Jim graduated tonight and Sam came over

July 12, 1968
There are three parties I must go to next weekend. It'll be fun. I really do want to be a teacher in Europe. Maybe Switzerland. Maybe France or Germany. I might teach English or something else. I got an 80 on my Driver's ed test. Grrrr. Life is wonderful. I like to stare in the dark with my radio. It's fun.

August 29, 1968
I babysat today...Humphrey and Muskee are the dem. nominations and Nixon and Agnew are the republican noms. ICK! I don't like Anderson or Babcock for governor either. I don't want Wallace either. I wish there was a 4th party or Kennedy was alive!

Monday December 9, 1968
Well! Well! It was a good day. Darn. There are no boys in that entire school that are worth liking.
[I married one of them five years later. LOL] Oh yea some but they'd never like me. None of them would for that matter. Sooo many kids drink and a few are on dope like [names deleted]. Oh Oh Oh

Tuesday, December 10, 1968
Today I decided I really wanted to go to Switzerland for a year (plus or minus) and teach English. Then when I get married, I will teach my kids french from the day they are born. I will also have them take piano, tumbling and swimming lessons. I also want to be a student exchange.

Weird. Forty years ago. Weird. Our country lost a huge part of its soul with the deaths of Martin....and Robert....and John. In my opinion, we have an opportunity...right now in 2008...to gather back some of our soul.