I chose birth into this life under the sign of Aquarius . My mother is Carolyn J. Wermske; my father, Donald J. Wermske. It is Saturday, February 12, 1966 at 11:57am in Houston, Texas at St. Luke's Hospital. My father's parents were Barbara J. (Sayer) and Roy Sumner Livesay (formerly of 2685 PO Box, Lakeside, AZ 85929 and prior to that 704 Castile Ave,El Paso, TX 79912.
The Year is 1966
The cold war is in full swing and America is in the middle of the Space Race with the Soviet Union. The Soviets land Luna 9 on the moon and the United States respond with Gemini 8 accomplishing the first docking in space. The Soviets follow-up with the first space probe to enter lunar orbit. Everything space is hot and exciting. The first episode of Star Trek ("The Man Trap") airs on NBC.
1966 is also the year that the soon-to-be-annual, animated classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas , first debuts on CBS. And Jacqueline Susann publishes her first novel, Valley of the Dolls . Sadly, Walt Disney will pass away this year; the last production he will work on is Jungle Book .
This year, the US Department of Transportation is created and the Black Panthers are formed. And race riots continue to increase in America; National Guards are deployed to bolster law and order. At the same time, support for the war in Vietnam is falling to a desperate 37% and students across the country are beginning to protest. Charles Whitman goes on a killing spree at the University of Texas, killing 14 and injuring 31. Miranda Rights come into being after the Supreme Court overturns the conviction of a confessed rapist; they rule he had not been properly informed of his right to council and to not testify against himself.
I am a relatively good baby other than being a tad sickly. As an infant, I have a bilateral myringotomy (tubes put in my ears) to aid in recovery from chronic ear infections and high fever. Following that, at the age of 18 months, I have a tonsillectomy , after which, I quickly become a healthier and happier child.
I quickly begin to display mechanical curiosity. Something as simple and ubiquituous as a door knob fascinates me. I examine and ponder. I can turn the large knobby and the little nubby part would go in and out. I need to know the magic. So, early one morning, I disassemble all the doorknobs in the house. I remember my father is less amused and more angry at my wizardry. My mother celebrates my talent and challenges me to restore the magic of the doors... so I did just that; I put them all back better than before (because it was my magic).
I get a new "my size" bicycle for my birthday. It is a metalic green with handle-bar tassles and optional training wheels. I specifically remember sitting on the wooden floor, early one morning, with tools in hand, learning the magic of the bicycle (taking it completely apart). I removed everything that was not welded, glued, or riveted in place. And again, after the obligatory fatherly tantrum and the more pragmatic coaching from my mother, I enchant the pile of parts back into a bicycle — right as rain.
I attend Sutton Elementary and my best friend through early elementary school is Rene Rodrigez (a now long lost friend). The Rodrigez family is very good to me. They are an exceptionally loving family with strong and rational family values. They live in the corner house down the street from me. Rene's mom is the Den Mother for our group of Cub Scouts. I earn all the badges, up through the Arrow of Light, but never advance to become a Webelos Scout.
I get a chance to see Elvis (before he dies), live in concert, but secretly I want to have gone the night earlier to see Sonny and Cher. Elvis is old and fat. Sonny and Cher were are groovy. Still, the Elvis concert is memorable and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Many years later, I see Cher in concert and it is just as memorable. I enjoy the Three Stooges although I will later come to dislike slap-stick comedy. I am a great fan of the (pre-MGM) Hal Roach's Our Gang film shorts (a.k.a. Little Rascals). I deeply identify with "Spanky" and my immersion in the adventures are through his eyes. While the early series is criticized for its racial stereotypes, I watch and see normalized and equal relations between the children. All of the children in the show are stereotypes; all are different and thus all are the same.
Of course, I watch Laff In but the adult humor and undertones are beyond my understanding. A visual cornucopia of color, we now live in the new age of color television. Most of the television programming has an over-abundance of color in set design and costumes. Rainbows and flowers are everywhere. The special effects are rich with psychelelia-inspired imagery and fluid shapes. It is very much emblematic of the times.
It truly is a period of innocence. I am an only-child of the sixties — fascinated by tie-die, psychedelic art, and bean bag chairs. But all was not well with America. (Is it ever?) The Hippies have a message..."I love my country, but I fear my government." In school, we are doing nuclear "fall-out" drills (as if "Duck and Cover" is real protection). I remember the Vietnam War. I remember the daily death counts on the nightly news and the venerable Walter Cronkite. I remember the blood on a "black and white" television. And I am told it is the blood of my family and neighbors.
My uncle joined the Marine Corps and is decorated for his time "in country," but what does that really mean to a child of 4-6 years. He is what some call the "lucky ones" because he came out alive. I know the person that returned from Vietnam was not the same person that went. Uncle Paul came back broken... suffering from PTSD... ultimately harming people around him and (literally) driving himself off a cliff.
"Birth and death are not two different states, but they are different aspects of the same state. There is as little reason to deplore the one as there is to be pleased over the other."
— mohandas gandhi