|Photo of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon taken prior to their first debate at WBBM-TV in Chicago in 1960. (Source)|
My best buddy was named Bruce, he lived on a hillside with a great view of our little town. His living room window was essentially the front of the house. That's right, the front of Bruce's house was all glass, pretty fancy indeed for those times. Bruce's dad was a doctor. Made good money he did and no one begrudged him that, for as I recall he was a stellar member of the medical profession. A good doc if memory serves me correctly.
Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with politics. Well, I'm setting the stage so to speak. Like I was saying the Presidential race in 1960 pitted John F. Kennedy (D) versus Richard M. Nixon (R). In our little second grade class the day after one of the televised debates, the teacher had us talk about the debate with an eye towards having the class vote on who should be President of the United States.
Pretty heady stuff for a seven year old I can tell you. As I recall, the "discussion" over who was the better candidate was very elementary and divided the class very much along socio-economic lines. (Like I knew what that meant back then, I barely understand it now!)
The elementary part (you knew there was a pun there, didn't you?) was that the "discussion" was the sort you might expect among a group of second graders. The boys shouted (a lot), the girls tried to bring calm to the situation, which of course led to accusations of smelling bad and having cooties, whereas the teacher herself (a wonderful teacher who's name escapes me at the moment) tried to keep the boys from pelting each other with whatever projectiles were readily to hand (think books, pencils, rulers, and protractors).
The socio-economic part was that we had two groups of kids in those days. The college-bound (how they decided that was beyond me), and the trades-bound. I have no doubt that the two groups were decided by how well one did in school and probably by what your parents did for a living and where, in town, they lived. Not very equitable or fair and in reality in the long run it didn't matter anyway. I knew many a kid who went to college and wound up being a machinist in a factory. Which I did for a while back in the day. FWIW, I was a terrible machinist.
As I recall, if your Dad was in a union, the family were Democrats. If they were in management (which in my town meant you weren't in the union) then the family were Republicans. The professional class (doctors, lawyers, etc.) were not as easily categorized. Your political leanings tended to follow whatever your parents and their parents before them voted. Very traditional (one might say hide-bound) we were.
Eventually the teacher managed to reel the chaos in (I think by offering us the chance to stay after school) and we had our vote. It was close but Mr. Nixon won. Much to the chagrin of Mr. Kennedy's supporters who pointed out that he looked far better than Mr. Nixon on television. Judge for yourself...
History tells us that Mr. Nixon looked bad on TV whereas Mr. Kennedy looked great. I don't remember it that way. But what did I know, I was seven.
By now you're probably wondering what my friend Bruce has to do with all this. Well, a couple of years later, a comedy album (you remember those vinyl albums, right?) by a fellow by the name of Vaughn Meader was released and was all the rage, the album was called The First Family and poked gentle fun at the Kennedys, primarily because of their "upper class" Boston accents. Well, my family had a copy of that album, Bruce's family had a copy of that album. Bruce and I discovered that we both could do a passable "Kennedy accent" and displayed this talent one day at recess. Our teacher overheard us and found it amusing.
Therefore we would do this for our classmates, in class. It was that day that I discovered that I was a bit of an extrovert, a bit of an attention whore if I must say. Still am.
Much to my chagrin though, Bruce got to play Jack Kennedy, I was "stuck" being Bobby. It was all in good fun. Now Vaughn Meader was a favorite of mine, right up until November of 1963. Here's Mr. Meader portraying President Kennedy -
Still amusing to me these many years later. It did take a very long time before I was able to listen to Mr. Meader's impersonation of the late President. You may well imagine what happened to his career after November of 1963.
So I was exposed to politics at a rather young age, things were simpler then. What sparked this memory is remembering we seven year olds, hurling insults at each other, there may even have been a few fistfights on the playground on our little "election day." Our adult teachers tried to keep things civil and admonished us greatly for "acting like savages" instead of human beings.
Given recent events on the political scene, I don't see much difference between the folks fighting over politics in the public eye these days and we seven year olds back in 1960. There seems to be one difference though...
I think we seven year olds were better informed on the issues back then, the teachers saw to that. These days no one seems to care about the issues or the facts. No matter what age one happens to be.
Much has changed since I was seven.