Memories of a Lifetime: 1961-1965

1961 – Entered the 12th grade, after spending two years in the 10th grade at Pineville High School, due to going to summer school for the third straight year.

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president on January 20.

Remember listening to Chicago White Sox games on KSYL AM, out of Alexandria, Louisiana, with Bob Elson and Milo Hamilton as the announcers. This was the summer that Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were battling to break Babe Ruth’s season home run record of 60. Bob and Milo would give updates during the White Sox games, about what Roger and Mickey were doing in the home run race. Maris would hit his 61st home run on October 1, which broke the 34-year-old record of Ruth. Surprisingly only 21,000 fans were present to see the achievement of Maris.

The ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion ended two days later. It was a failed attempt to remove Fidel Castro from power. He had taken power in 1959 and is still in power today 54 years later.

1962 – K-Mart would open its first store in Garden City Michigan on March 1 and the company is now 51-years-old. July 2 would see the first Wal-Mart store opened in Rogers, Arkansas.

My senior class graduated in May, but it would be September before I received my diploma, because I had failed English IV.

I joined the Army Reserve in Alexandria, Louisiana and was sent to Fort Polk for basic training in October. We were kept so busy at Fort Polk during basic, that we had no clue of the magnitude of the Cuban missile crisis that October. The only clue we had been what we said when we marched:

I don’t know but I believe

I’ll be in Cuba by Christmas Eve

Little did we know we were on the brink of a nuclear disaster and we didn’t know about it till we finished basic training in December.

I won’t mention any names, but a soldier from Wardville thought it would be fun, to yell from the barracks upstairs at a sergeant saying “Hey nutbrain”. That was not a smart thing to do on his part. That sergeant did not waste any time, as he made his way up in the stairs in record time. The soldier was told in no uncertain terms, that calling his sergeant “nutbrain” was not acceptable behavior.

1963 – Was on leave when the year started, but would board a passenger train for Indianapolis, Indiana at the Missouri Pacific depot in January. That depot was later torn down, but assembled in a new location in downtown Alexandria.

I can remember seeing snow falling when we went through St. Louis, then after arriving in Indianapolis saw several inches of snow on the ground. I learned what a Indiana winter was like, while being stationed at the Adjustant General’s School at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Some soldiers called it “Uncle Ben’s Rest Home”. Attended the postal school there from January through April, before returning to Louisiana having finished my six months of active duty.

It took attending a few Army Reserve meetings, before I decided to join the Regular Army and joined in May of 1963. I requested to be sent to Germany or Hawaii and received orders for Hawaii. Was flown to San Francisco and took a helicopter to the Oakland Army Terminal.

Spent eight days at the terminal before boarding flight to Hawaii. We were on a slow MATS transport plane, so the trip took several hours. When I arrived at Schofield Barracks the home of the 25th Infantry Division I heard some of the soldiers talking about having just a few days left before being discharged. I figured out that I had only 1,095 days left and they got a big kick out of that.

Hawaii is a beautiful state and liked being stationed there. The Army Service Club conducted tours of the island of Oahu and would take us on a bus trip around the island. Wish I had taken some color photos of the scenery, but only took black and white photos.

One of my first memories was seeing the Beach Boys at Conroy Bowl, the arena where entertainers appeared. Remember seeing Johnny Cash and June Carter and Sue Thompson there. It was a highlight for me, when Sue Thompson shook hands with me, while singing one of her songs.

I loved going to the beach, since the Service Club took the soldiers on busses to the different beaches each weekend. I would listen to music on my radio, while looking across the ocean toward California. Surf music was at its height in 1963 and even today I Heart radio has a station, with only surf music being featured.

By far the biggest event of 1963 was when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22. The regular company postal clerk was on leave, so I was the temporary clerk while he was gone. I had my radio on in the post office, when I heard the announcement that JFK had been shot. I immediately informed the company commander, who had not heard about it yet.

Meanwhile the postal clerk on leave to New York was flying standby and his flight was rerouted from California to Texas, which landed in Dallas about the same time as the assassination. So he got caught in the middle of all the commotion, even though he wasn’t even thinking of having to go through Dallas.

Just missed by a few minutes of seeing Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down in the Dallas Police station on the TV, in the dayroom but not too disappointed since I didn’t really want to see it anyway.

A few days later we would march in a memorial observance of JFK’s death and it was a surreal experience, knowing that the president of the United States had been assassinated and marching on the parade grounds brought it home.

Went to a Christmas show in December, that really made me homesick, when they sang “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”.

1964 – Went on temporary duty to Molokai, the island on which Father Damien established his leper colony. The ride there on a boat was a rocky one and wound up getting very sick, even if was only a 20 something mile trip from Oahu.

Can remember it pouring down that week a lot and that I heard on the radio, that Lyndon B. Johnson had defeated Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

I can remember flying home to Pineville in October of 1964, my first trip home since leaving in May of 1963. I took my leave in October, so I could see the World Series while I was at home. I think it was this trip, that when flying back saw professional wrestler Sputnik Monroe aboard the plane. Coincidentally, he and his wrestling brother Rocket both lived in Alexandria and had performed at Jimmie Thompson’s Arena. That reminds me of the time when my brother, who knows sign language saw a deaf wrestler Silento Rodriguez being knocked from the ring and went over and signed to him, asking if he was OK and the wrestler signed back that he was OK.

1995 – This was the year that I was sent to the Big Island named Hilo, to work at the Camp Pohokoloa (sp) post office. I remember one payday, that we sold $28,000 worth of money orders and that I came up $107 short at the end of the day. The other postal worker working that day later was court-martialed, for stealing money from the post office, so I have always wondered if he didn’t take the missing money. Worst thing is that my wages were garnished till the $107 was paid back to the post office.

The post office was at a high altitude and I could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was cold there, even if it was Hawaii. Tsunamis hit Hilo in 1946 and 1960 killing 160 and 61 people respectively.

Saw a missionary from Pineville who was living in Hilo at this time. My mom had told me where to find her and I had a nice visit with her.






Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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