My High School class graduated in a leap year, 1964; a year that was pack-full of surprises shocks far beyond just being the first official bunch of Baby-Boomers out the door of good old Calistoga High School.
We didn’t know we were first wave Baby Boomers when we started kindergarten in 1951; and we certainly did not know that our first friendships forged that year would take us through some amazing changes in our country. Those changes seemed to bind us all together in a way we still shake our heads in wonder over. We feel as siblings, perhaps even closer than siblings.
And we are the class who had to change the way we pledged our Allegiance to the Flag! Miss Grauss got upset with me when I added “Amen” because I through we were now praying, like in church, but of course Church & State and all that is still under debate. We have bigger prunes to pick than this.
We boomers teethed on Duck & Cover, because those Reds were after us: Pinko Commies all of them; and we watched cowboy movies calling each other lilly-livered-yellow-bellies and things like that. It was a colorful time in our nation’s history! Complete with what seemed an endless threat of annihilation. The best thing, though was we never had to do without playmates! Ever!
The parents were taking care of that for us even in Calistoga of the 1950s! These were post wars times and everyone was finally living and breeding a much better life: living the American Dream at last!
In 1950 we were schooled at the old and very rickety grammar school, corner of Cedar and Berry. We meekly followed in the footsteps of older siblings and practiced Duck & Cover which sounded like a game, but wasn’t. We were not clear on why we had to, and certainly we had no sense that annihilation was possible. And after school we tugged at our parent’s pockets begging for bikes and skates; Davy Crocket’s coon-skin hats and rifles.
Thanks to the G I Bill soldiers were “entitled” (yes, because they earned it) to go back to school and/or get trained for a small business. Their little women no longer “had” to work for a living: “Barefoot and pregnant!” (again & again & again) was the joke of the day. At least for the fathers, those valiant young soldiers who busted historical breeding records creating a proper Sonic Boom. The mothers may have had something else to say, but didn’t.
Realtors, contractors banks and commerce saw the wave coming, high demand plus decent finances: We are in the Money, Honey!
Nationwide, former orchards and vineyards (like my Calistoga grandparents’) were quickly subdivided and offered as inexpensive homes , 3BR/ 2 BA to be filled up with Babies and all the necessities. We babies saved the world! Commerce and Disney went wild with making product and venues that the young families needed to need for their children, beginning with diapers, cribs, prams, movies, wagons and tricycles, oh yes and Disneyland!
As we aged stores were ready with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Shoes”, circle pins, even strange and tiny clothes pins we girls wore on our blouse collars. No more bobbysoxers, we wore flats or little heels to school in VERY short dresses. As we got older and most parents continued to “grow their wealth” and some kids were provided with hot cars, like the unforgettable and undeniable 64 l/2 Mustang!
From the commercial point of view we Boomers were targets because we overwhelmed the Little Woman chasing her herd: she really needed help to get us out of the house and out of her hair! Mother’s Little Helpers weren’t yet prescribed. That would come when we were a bit older, and some of us would gain an unusual interest in small and pretty pills.
Most of our class was barely fourteen when we started high school, and pushing sixteen when a young man by the name of Robert Fryckman along with other unforgettable young teachers like Mr. Stagnero and Mr. Peters, and a delightful freckled young woman from Tennessee who taught us Spanish with a decidedly “Sutthen” accent .
Mr. Fryckman arrived just before Kennedy was assassinated. We were Juniors. He was teaching us second period US History when the assassination was announced over the loudspeaker. Little did we know then that we would identify our lives with each event as the world gave way to an endless stream of assassinations, murders, riots and shocks. Everything was changing.
My recollection in those last two years of school is that our class grew closer and closer together through all the shocks and changes. We banded tighter together, and the teacher that many of us turned to when we were confused and/or frightened was him: “Fryckman” as he was commonly and affectionately known by our class.
A true teacher, he may have been in another life, Aristotle sitting beneath the olive tree, teaching us how to think, predict, and plan. He was not old enough to be a “parent” to us, rather a bigger brother, one who had once gone to divinity school, but for fortune’s sake, he decided to show up at the end of Napa Valley when the class of 1964 needed him desperately.
Although Fryckman left Calistoga after that one year spent with us, his imprint was unforgettable; his talent for making history make sense, and his always ready sense of humor drew us closer to him than any other teacher, and we did have some mighty fine teachers. I followed him to Napa Junior College and repeated U.S. History! I actually learned to love history and research, thanks to Bob Fryckman.
Today our class knows that Bob Fryckman was an insightful seer. He warned our class that if we continued to bow to commerce, to trash our planet, there would be consequences!! The time would come when water, food, even clean air would be scarce.
Last summer, wandering around at our 50th reunion we spotted an old faded yellow paper pinned to the wall, with fade and rumpled note: “WHAT FRYCKMAN SAID” !
The anonymous list was of his warnings that the world we once reveled in post war, may well be ruined, for it simply could not tolerate much more abuse. In 1964 Fryckman spoke of water shortages, food shortages, even clean air shortages, and the effect this would have on our quality of life. But a half-century ago we were teen-agers and couldn’t see that far, just like the rest of America.