I was thinking the other day about my first foray into electoral politics.
In the late fall of 1968, I joined a group of friends that went out one evening to canvas voters in our north Auburn neighborhood about the candidate they intended to vote for in the then-upcoming presidential election.
No adults set us on; this was our silly idea.
“Are you voting for Richard Nixon or Hubert Humphrey?” we asked.
Posing such a question would be a definite no-no today, but back then, seems no one looking at us sensed a threat to the integrity of the pending presidential election. As I recall, the senior in our band was 8 years old. As for me, I was a skinny 6, and so insubstantial at the time, my dad used to say, “If you turned sideways, you’d disappear.”
I imagine when the oldsters we asked our question looked at us, they calculated, “If this gets out of hand, I could take ‘em on, specially that boney wretch there. Bet if he turned sideways …”
Most people, however, seemed to look on us with amusement.
None of us was embittered by the riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that August, nor scorched by the assassinations that spring of Sen. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. We were not energized by demonstrations against the war in Vietnam that were then roiling the nation. We knew about those things, but did not yet understand or care about their implications.
We were just kids having fun.
In something of the same spirit, on a fall afternoon in 1970, a group of us went out to do an even goofier thing. I blush to confess it, but in the aftermath of a heavy rainfall, we set out through the neighborhood and beyond to find the hallowed end of the rainbow. We were firm believers in the pot-of-gold theory.
Our reward, however, would not be a pot of gold, just a lot of snickering about the howling void between our ears and warnings to get out of the wind because our heads were whistling.
“That’s stupid! Don’tcha know, there’s no end of the rainbow?” was a typical response.
Apparently, word about our adventure got around, as for weeks we were the butt of jokes at school.
I can date that excursion to a particular home movie my dad shot the evening after the members of our little rainbow coalition had returned to their homes. In the movie, my big brother Jim, decked out in his full fall football regalia, took turns at the behest of cameraman dad by hefting us one by one onto his shoulders and depositing us in a back bedroom, still giggling. The warmth of that moment still catches me in a bear hug when I watch.
In another irreplaceable home movie, many of the neighborhood kids — the Pattisons, the McCurdys, the Youngs, and the Hardens, the Muses, the Knudsons, a Fleck, an Ogden, and here and there a Smyth — are gathered in our living room in their Halloween costumes. It is virtually the entire kid population of our neighborhood, captured at one moment in time. It haunts me. So many of those kids have since passed on.
It seemed a much more innocent era, and we were innocents in it. We kids went out to trick-or-treat without our parents, and had a blast. We never thought of packs of pervies lurking in the shadows. No one insisted we wear helmets when we rode our bikes. In the summer of 1969, we watched Bill Muncie guide his hydroplane on Lake Washington and caught all the Seattle Pilots games we could, believing Tommy Harper, Tommy Davis, Wayne Comer and even Gene Brabender were genuine heroes. It was good to have heroes.
All in all, not a bad time to be a kid. I hope kids today are able to make their own golden memories.
Robert Whale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.