Monday, March 31, 2008

The Sixties - Am I Wrong?

I just posted this review of Tom Brokaw’s Boom! on and I’m including it in my blog because I'd like some honest dialogue about my opinion on the Sixties phenomena. I appreciate the many societal changes came about during the turmoil of that era but I've always questioned whether they happened as natural evolution or as a result of some of the antics of the vocal mob. I suspect it was a little of each.
Here's my review.

"I read with interest many of the comments about this book before writing my review. Ordinarily I don't read reviews at all before doing my own. But I thought the overall rating of less than 4-stars was amazing because I really enjoyed the book. So I glanced at some of the negative reviews just to see what was going on. Guess what? The turmoil of the Sixties is still with us.

Some people are still proud of their behavior during that time and defend it ad nauseum. Others reject that behavior but discount "Boom!" because it's not analytical enough. Frankly I think all of you detractors either need to put a little more effort into doing your own analysis or in forgetting how it was to smell and act like a pig.

Tom Brokaw answered a lot of questions for me in "Boom!", his splendid account of the Sixties and its impact on America. Being of the generation preceding the Sixties, I've always had an uneasiness about what really happened. There's no question in my mind that many needed changes in our society came about during that time. The civil rights movement, expansion of women's rights, war issues, political behavior, and pop culture were all dramatically addressed and changed - some of us, not all, would say for the better. But who and what brought about the revisions? How did they happen? Why? I've never really had a handle on those questions.

People who get most of the credit have always seemed idiotic to me. Muddy, screaming, sign waving, bare-chested (and breasted), wild-haired potheads are the people I found to be the most obnoxious and least effective. Could it be that their tactics were effective? Were hippies, campus rebellions, riots, and sit-ins responsible for the huge turnaround in public behavior? And why did this brief period of time seem to smooth out hundreds of years of scandalous tradition? Mr. Brokaw has laid it all out for us in this brilliant study of the people and events during about ten years of American history. He doen't answer those questions for us. He lets us form our own conclusions. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw.

What I most admired about Brokaw's reporting was just that - it was reporting. There's not a lot of commentary or proselytizing on the events in the book. Rather it is a straightforward accounting of the events and direct results of the time, leaving the analysis to those who were there and participated and who were affected by the results in later years. Probably if the writing had been done in a more biased manner, I would have bailed out early. But the insightful interviews with those who prompted and experienced the sea changes are remarkable for their candor, allowing Brokaw to report on their frame of mind rather than speculate or sermonize on their behavior or effectiveness.

Tom Brokaw is very effective in matching the actions taken during the Sixties with the feelings held today by those who were there. Some famous people have very different opinions of the who, what, and why of the movement, even though they were participants and zealots at the time. And I was surprised to find that many Americans today feel the same way I do - that the changes might have been easier to institute had the change mongers not strayed into their world of drugs and irresponsibility, thereby throwing up barriers to their cause and ruining their credibility. But that's a subject for another time.

Be ready for an interesting trip back to an interesting time. Brokaw puts you right in the middle of the turmoil. The emotions you felt at the time, regardless of where you stood on the issues, will come back in a flood of remembrance. It was a classic period, and one every American should revisit. Speaking for myself, I have a new perspective on the world as we know it today, and a real appreciation of why we are here, operating as we do. It's not perfect, but it's certainly better than, and because of, the Sixties.

Schuyler T. Wallace"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I’ve strayed away from my earlier intention of leading you through the process of writing my book. I have a tendency of doing that. So let’s get back on track.

My wife and I decided to take a train trip. The best bargain we could find was the North American Rail Pass. For one price we could spend thirty days on the train in both the United States and Canada. We could get on and off any time we liked, stay in one spot for as long as we liked, get back on the train at any station we were near, and continue on our way. We had to commit to travel exactly thirty days and in both countries.

I set up a thirty-day calendar on which I charted the places we wanted to stop and for how long. The single place and time we were firm on was Easter Sunday in New York City. Visits to hot spots and relatives were all scheduled around that time. Four days here, three days there, travel days in between, and soon the trip was all planned.

We were traveling eastward across the United States, from Sacramento through Chicago to New York City. Then we were going to Washington, D.C., back through NYC to Niagara Falls and Toronto, then west across Canada to Vancouver, B.C., south through Seattle and Portland and back to our home in Bakersfield, California. We were scheduled to return home exactly 30 days after leaving, and that’s the way it turned out.

We had scheduled a total of twelve stops to visit family and friends along the way. A jaunt to our local Amtrak station with the itinerary produced a stack of tickets along with the valuable North American Rail Pass that we were cautioned against losing, because another would have to purchased, no exceptions, should that happen.

Deciding what to take in the way of clothing and accessories was the most difficult job of all because we were traveling in early spring with uncertain weather. We knew it would be cold and rainy, possibly snowy, for most of the trip. We, of course, packed too much and we shipped home some fifty pounds of extra crap from New York City because we were tired of lugging it around.

I started a journal from the beginning, not really planning on writing a book, but with the idea of memorizing the trip for enjoyment later. I also wanted to have some record of my photographs because in the past I have frequently, on later review, forgotten why a certain picture was snapped―or where―or what of. It turned out that I didn’t tie my pictures to my journal on this trip either.

The next step was to determine where we had a place to flop along the way. When there were no family or friends to sponge from, we either had to make hotel reservations or upgrade our train tickets to include a bedroom. Once that was accomplished, we were ready to go.