I was a child of the 60s, born right at the beginning in 1960. I was born in southeastern North Carolina, about as southern as you can get.
The 60s were a turbulent time in our nation with all the racial tension and civil rights. I never knew life in the 60s without coming home and seeing the Vietnam War on TV in my living room. In the middle of the decade I saw the horrible conditions that were put on the black race and then saw the transition of turmoil as things begin to change. I saw the young people of the early 60s, who still had poodle skirts and bobby socks and rockin’ to Elvis Presley transition into the hippie age with drugs, psychedelic music and totally different dress. I watched as women, who have always, at least in my area, had no choice but to be subservient to their husbands no matter what their husbands did (which was usually anything they wanted) transition into the women’s movement which ultimately opened a whole new world for women. They didn’t have to stay in a relationship that was bad anymore. They could find a job and make it on their own if they wanted. (This is a double edged sword to me as eventually women had to be supermom, superwoman, and super worker all in one and that is hard). I barely remember the funeral of President Kennedy, but I remember it as the horses brought his casket down that road on TV. I remember my mother crying. I remember when Bobby Kennedy and then Martin Luther King were assassinated. My awareness became keener at the end of that decade when the race to the moon was on and ultimately we got there. That experience would affect my view of the world and our universe from then on to this day.
But for me, the early part of my childhood and a bit beyond, these things did not worry me because I did not recognize their significance at that time. I was in my own world, the world of a child.
When I was 5 years old, I discovered to my delight a couple moved just about .25 of a mile down the road from me they had a daughter that was 4 years old. Her name was Myra. From the moment we met we became best friends and one of the happiest times of my life began.
(below: Left to right, my sister Sherry, me and Myra)
Myra was a tomboy. I don’t remember whether I was one before I met her, but I was definitely one after I met her. She had two older brothers so I guess she had to be tough.
Oh the fun we used to have! My father farmed tobacco and strawberries until I was 9 and he sold the farm, but before he sold it, the many acres that he had and beyond were our wonderland.
Those were the days that mothers did not worry about their children being abducted if they stepped foot out of doors alone, or worry about pedophiles or anything else. After school I played outside until it was supper time and in the summer I did not come home except for meals and night time.
What a magical world we lived in. My father had a pack house and two barns with a shelter that connected them and that would be a great place to play. We would dig holes and try to get to China. We would build elaborate stick houses out of tobacco sticks. We would play on the drags (a wooden trailer that cropped (picked) tobacco would be transferred from the field to the barn in). We would take the control box out of the charred remains of a tobacco barn that burned with tobacco in it (these barns burned very often). We would clean them off and since they looked so very much like a treasure chest, we would buy gold spray paint and paint them to really make them look like a treasure chest, put things in it and bury them. To this day there is no telling how many are still buried there or what they have in them.
We would take off down the road on our bicycles. We both had Stingray bicycles that had high rise handle bars and a banana seat. Mine was a color of orange that had different shades of orange in it and hers was a lighter colored version of the exact same bike. We would ride and ride all day for miles. The only place we were not allowed to go is the “main road” which was a very busy road, Hwy 701. My momma would have killed me to ride on that.
(below is not the color of our bikes but was the best I could find on the internet)
We would build tree houses. We would climb trees. We would play in the freshly plowed fields and get so happily dirty. We wore cut off shorts that the more you wore them, the more unraveled the ends would become. We had skinned knees.
We would go to the creek on my daddy’s property and try to catch minnows. We would go to her daddy’s store that he owned and buy drinks that were actually in real bottles (drinks never tasted the same after they quit putting them in real bottles many years later). We would take 25 cents and buy candy that was a penny a piece and it would seem to fill up a whole small brown paper bag. We would take this bag and go deep into the woods at a clearing and proceed to eat the whole bag of candy.
We would meet halfway between my house and her house and then we would go somewhere and plan our adventures for the day. It was so exciting. We would go to the hardware store near her house and buy nails and find any kind of board we could around different places and make things with the boards. Once we tried to make a little car but it didn’t turn out so good, but it was fun dreaming of it.
We would work picking strawberries in my daddy’s strawberry field to make a little money. Once we picked a quart of berries, the person that came around and picked up the full one you had just filled would give you a “check” which looked a little like a movie ticked used to. Once the day’s picking was over, you would turn in your checks and you would be paid a certain amount for each check. I think we ate more strawberries than we put in the containers.
We would look in the ditches next to the roads for briar berries which was such a treat. We’d look in the woods for wild plum trees. We would buy a Pepsi and put a pack of roasted peanuts in them. We would buy cans of Vienna Sausages and see how fast we could eat them we loved them so much.
We would walk barefoot from the time school let out in the summer until school started back again. Sometimes we would cut our feet on glass. More often than not, at least once a day, we would step on a sandspur and they would be imbedded so deeply in our feet it was a scary prospect to pull them out ourselves. We were fortunate when my sister Gail was home from college because she was the only one that could pull them out for us with the minimal amount of pain.
We would pick sour weeds that grew wild and chew on them. We would stop during our travels on our bicycle and eat people’s pears and plums (sometimes with permission).
We would talk about what we would do when we grew up. Would we get married and have children? What would they be like?
When we got a little older I had to start school (I had to start first since I was older and I missed her when I did) Once in a while once she did start school, we would get in a fight on the school bus with each other. It would be a fist, fingernail (only she used fingernails because I chewed mine off all the time) and hair pulling event. This was a time when school bus drivers merely looked at you and continued driving and no law enforcement was ever called. Not even the principal was told. By next day we were sitting together talking like nothing had happened. Once I chased her all the way from my house to her house because she had called me a name, a name we would call each other often and was some silly thing, but that day I decided to chase her. I chased her all the way to her room but once there I didn’t know what to do. All was well by the end of the day.
Getting a little older, maybe 10 and 11, she started riding (driving) her brothers’ motorcycles and I would hop on the back and we would ride the multiple long trails on the side of the roads. We did this probably until one of us was old enough to get their license.
She was my best friend in the whole world and while the world around us was in turmoil, we made our own world full of fantasy and adventure. It was a wonderful world. I could always be myself around her.
Eventually, once we reached our mid teenaged years, we drifted apart as our interests begin to change. She in her world, me in my own weird little world. Though never close again, we have remained friends all these years. Not friends that take the time to call each other or write each other, or even message each other on Facebook or ever get together. But when we do happen to see each other again during all these years, it’s as if we both go back in time and we fill our conversations with “Remember when we did………” The tenderness in my heart for her and the memory of her being my best friend for many years has never left me.
In all the rest of the years of my life, though I have had friends, I never had the kind of friendship I had with her. The unconditional friendship of a person I had so much in common with. In my life I have never been able to find that again. Not much digging holes or climbing trees when you get older you know. And though I don’t do those things anymore, I yearn for the time when I totally connected with another person, another female that was near my age. A relationship that could never be duplicated.
Thank you Myra, for giving me something that is rare if we find it once in our lives. I will always remember those days.
Sometimes even now I can see us playing around the pack house with all the workers working and the radio playing “Sugar Pie Honeybunch” and my mind goes back……..to the fields, the holes, the creek, the trees, the woods and then I am there.