Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One Year Later - Remembering President Kennedy

November 25, 1964

Jocie Brooke reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's been a sad week here in Hollyhill as everybody was remembering the assassination this time last year. Dad put this picture on the front page of the Hollyhill Banner. There was regular news, but it didn't seem to matter than much this week. Or even that basketball season is about to start at school. Oh, the guys still practiced and the cheerleaders were smiling and jumping around like always. Especially that Vanessa who thinks she is sooo cute. Well, she is so cute, but she doesn't have to think she is. Aunt Love would put her in her place quick as anything. Aunt Love says pretty is more than skin deep. I sure hope so since I've got a ways to go to be pretty. Wes says I'm pretty enough, that sometimes girls my age put on blinders when they look in the mirror. I tell him I need his Jupiter mirror that makes everybody look good. 

But none of that kept us from remembering when we first heard the terrible news last year that President Kennedy had been shot in Texas. I was at school, coming down the stairway from history class to health class. Somebody, Jacob Renner, I think, was going up the steps and telling everybody that the president had been assassinated. I didn't want to believe it. I didn't believe it. Jacob's one of those boys who likes to be the center of attention and I thought he was just acting stupid. Maybe. But saying the president had been shot wasn't anything to be acting stupid about. So I didn't know if he was lying or not. I went in health class and asked the teacher. Mr. Kincaid got a funny look on his face and said, yes, it was true. I don't know how he knew. Maybe he has a radio he listens to between classes. Maybe the principal had heard it on the radio in the office and passed along the news. 

However we found out the news, it was something none of us wanted to believe. Not President Kennedy who always seemed so full of life. Who wouldn't even wear a winter coat no matter how cold it was. Who had two kids. Little kids. They were going to feel deserted. I know about that. My mother didn't get shot, but she left. She deserted me a long time ago. Maybe that's even worse since she did it because she wanted to, not because somebody shot her and didn't give her a choice.

But I'm thinking about President Kennedy now and not my mother. It seemed impossible that he would be gone. Even now a whole year later, nobody really knows why it happened. They don't know if it could have been prevented. They don't know if Oswald had help. They don't know so much, but in the years to come, surely answers will be found. 

President Kennedy made some great speeches. Everybody remembers him telling us to ask not what our country could do for us but what we could do for our country. I don't want to forget that. Then Dad put this quote in the article he wrote about the anniversary of President Kennedy's death. "Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

Here's another one he said. "Our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our society." I'm going to remember that, both of them, and try to ride my bicycle more and be thankful this Thanksgiving for the earth air I breathe.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Election Time - All the Way with LBJ

November 18, 2013
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. About two weeks ago we had the presidential election. It was hard thinking about elections and presidents after President Kennedy was shot last November, but there has to be an election every four years for president. It's necessary like getting booster tetanus shots. 

This year Lyndon B. Johnson won in a landslide. Dad said he'd never seen such a lopsided vote. Barry Goldwater, the Republican running, just didn't appeal to voters or so Dad explained. Since I'm not but thirteen, I'm not old enough to vote for several more years, but if you want to write news the way I do, then you have to pay attention to what's going on in the world around you. The campaign slogan for LBJ was something easy to remember. "All the way with LBJ." Short, rhyming words that stick in your head. I did think Goldwater had the best name. Goldwater. That's kind of a neat name, don't you think? But a president needs more than a neat name. He needs votes and President Johnson got over sixty percent of those. A landslide in an election, Dad says. 
As a newspaper man, Dad likes elections and politics. For one thing, candidates running for office buy lots of advertisement space. If a person doesn't know about you, he can't very well vote for you. So the Banner gets plenty of ad money in the months and weeks before an election. But then as a preacher, Dad likes to concentrate more on the elect or God's people. He won't talk about elections in church except to say that voters should pray about how to vote and then pray for our leaders no matter whether the one who won was someone you voted for or not. 

Dad preaches about prayer a lot. He says being a Christian and not praying is like having electrical outlets and never plugging anything into them.The power's there, but not being used.

Wes says they don't have elections up on Jupiter the way we do down here. He says Mr. Jupiter just runs everything. I told Wes that sounded like living in the Soviet Union. But Wes says not. He says Mr. Jupiter is more like Yogi Bear and always promising more. That keeps the Jupiter people happy. He also says Earth people are a lot harder to keep happy and that he doesn't think even Yogi Bear could do it even if he had a picnic basket for everybody. But you do have to admit, Yogi Bear's campaign button is cute.

Do you remember any great campaign slogans? We studied one in history. Tippecanoe and Tyler too. I guess rhyming matters in catchy sayings.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day in Hollyhill

November 11, 1964
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It's Veterans Day. We had to go to school anyway, but Dad did a special issue of the Banner with stories from some of the veterans. Mr. Haskins who served in World War I was more than ready to share his stories about serving in France. Of course, I'd heard most of them already. When the sun's shining, Mr. Haskins likes to sit on the bench out on the Courthouse yard where he can see the WW I monument, and whenever I'd get tired of hanging around the newspaper office, I'd go down there to sit on the ground and listen to his stories. 

Sometimes he'd tell them to me and sometimes another old soldier would be there talking to him. Those were the best times because they'd forget I was listening and tell it straight without softening the stories for my young ears. They'd talk about going "over the top" into "no man's land" and how the mud in the trenches was so bad it could swallow a soldier's boots. A soldier without his boots was as good as dead, they'd say and shake their heads. Sometimes they'd start rubbing the toes of their work shoes as though to make sure they still had on good shoes.    

Dad's a veteran too. He served in World War II. He was in a submarine, but I told you that already a few months ago. That's where he got the call to be a preacher. All that happened before I was born, but I like to hear about that too even though I've heard that story a zillion times. But some stories never get old.

That's how it must be to Mr. Haskins and Mr. Brown. It's like they need to have the words of their stories out in the air now that they're getting old. Mr. Haskins says he doesn't want everybody to forget that first World War. He said that was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. He'd felt real good going to fight for that. Figured even if he got killed, it would be worth it to never have any other wars. But then World War II came along and it started all over again. And then Korea right on the heels of it.

I went down to see if Mr. Haskins was on his bench today after school. He was, but Mr. Brown wasn't. So Mr. Haskins was sitting all alone staring at the stone memorial with the names on it of the Holly County men who didn't make it home from that first World War. I just sat there beside him for a while. It was a nice day for November, sunny and in the sixties. But Mr. Haskins looked like he might be shivering even though he had on a thick wool sweater. 

After a while he looked at me and nodded like I'd asked him a question when I hadn't said a word. Then he said, "Don't you never forget to remember Armistice Day."

"I thought it was Veterans Day," I said. 

"Started out Armistice Day. President Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day after the other wars." He shook his head and his eyes got shiny like he might cry. "Don't matter what they call it. Not so long as you remember." 

And I guess he's right. I surprised him and gave his hand a quick squeeze. "I won't forget what you and Mr. Brown and all the others did," I told him. Then I went back to the newspaper office and gave Dad a hug too. Maybe someday Dad will be ready to tell me about his war when he's older and I am too. Because Mr. Haskins is right. I need to remember.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Trick or Treat Time in Holly County

November 4, 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Things have been sort of crazy in Holly County this week, but then things are supposed to be sort of crazy on Halloween, aren't they?

I'm way too old for trick-or-treating. I never did that anyway. Dad didn't think it was all that good to go around knocking on doors and pretending you were some kind of monster or witch. Better to want to be an angel, he said. That's what he told the church people too. But they've had a party on Halloween since forever. Way before Dad was the preacher there. When Dad said he wasn't sure about celebrating Halloween, Mr. Majors stood up and said they weren't celebrating anything. They were just getting together for some chili and fun for the kids. It was hard to argue with that and after some heated discussions in the church yard and lots of phone calls to Dad, everybody decided it would be okay to have a Fall party with chili and costumes as long as the costumes were something you wouldn't mind having on if Jesus were to come back to get us all that night. 

The most surprising thing about the church party was that Aunt Love said she didn't see the first thing wrong with church people getting together on Halloween. Lots better than them being out playing tricks on people. I guess she remembered some of the things the boys did when she was young. I overhead some of the older members talking about the tricks they used to pull and I could hardly believe they weren't just making it all up. 

But one man said that when he was a boy, they had an old farmer in the neighborhood who was always cranky and never had a good word for anybody. Well, naturally the boys decided to do something really crazy to him and so they took his wagon apart, piece by piece and hauled it up on top of his barn and put it back together up there on the roof. Don't ask me how, but they said they did it. And should have heard how they laughed when they talked about remembering the look on the old farmer's face the next morning when he went out to milk and there was his wagon up on the roof. When I asked how he got it down, they said they helped him without letting him know it was them who did the trick. Did you ever hear of a trick that was so much work? 

There was that year when we got to school the day after Halloween and some tricksters had put poor Mr. Whitaker's gate across the school door. So Dad said maybe it would be good to try to keep those tricksters at church eating chili instead of taking gates off and letting cows out on the road. He told Aunt Love he was going to have to figure out some new sermons to make those older guys not think their tricks back when they were kids were so funny. But I noticed he was smiling too. And Aunt Love said kids just didn't play tricks the way they used to on Halloween. Now all they did was hold out their hand for candy. But what about that old ad that Dad found in the newspaper? I don't know anybody who would ever give out cereal for treats on Halloween. That would be some trick I wouldn't like.