1960s

A Passion for Cars

Matchbox collectors case

 

Like many boys, I loved playing with toy cars (which I called "car-cars" as a toddler).  I had Matchbox cars, Hot Wheels and scale models of cars that my godfather would give me (he got them from his brother who worked in an auto showroom).  One of my all-time favorite toys was the Deluxe Playmobile, which was a battery-powered dashboard of a car with a steering wheel, ignition that created a purring motor sound when the key was turned, a horn, turn signals, and moving windshield wipers.  And while I got a lot of pleasure playing with my cars, I also enjoyed destroying them, smashing them with bricks.  I'd become very excited whenever we drove past junk yards stacked with smashed autos.  However, by the time I began collecting Matchbox cars at age 11 or 12 I had aged out of that destructive phase (I still have these cars).

 

Deluxe playmobile

 

Matchbox car
This little green Mercedes was my first Matchbox Car.  Given to me as a gift in  Nov. 1968 (to reward me for a good report card), it cost 50 cents.

 

I remember every September in the 1960s being a time of high anticipation as the new model year was introduced (back then it was a big deal).

 

1965-mustang-ad

  1963 cars

 

It's ironic that despite my love of cars I've never owned one, largely because I've spent my adult life living in Manhattan (but I have a drivers license).  Later, perhaps to fill this hole I bought wonderful scale models of classic cars from the Franklin Mint, Danbury Mint and Dinky.  And the first account I worked on at my first job at an ad agency was the Volvo auto account. 

 

1949 mercury club couple
1949 Mercury Club Coupe (from the Danbury Mint collection)

 

RobFrydlewicz.NWAyer1995
Here I am in my office in 1995 with the car pictured above.

 

Scale model car red
Admiring a Pontiac GTO while shopping

World's 1st Heart Transplant Stirs a Christmas Memory

Charlie.brown.christmas.treeThe first successful transplant of a human heart took place in South Africa on Dec. 3, 1967 (the recipient was 54-year-old Louis Washkansky).  Whenever I hear mention of this medical milestone it brings back memories of a trifle of a Christmas play I appeared in when I was in the 5th grade.  I played the role of the Christmas tree and I had a monologue in which I extolled the virtues of the tree.  Rather than holding a little cardboard tree in front of me I insisted my mother create something elaborate, a tree that completely covered me.  It was made out of a shimmering green material that resembled Astroturf, and then little cut-out ornaments were attached.  While Mom was constructing it and fitting me I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  When I tried it on I felt like Charlie Brown's tree after it was transformed by his friends.

 

Thanks to my mother's creation I was the star of the play (much like the falling chandelier in the Phantom of the Opera).  After the play was over (just one performance, mostly for the benefit of the student body) my teacher gushed to my mom about the tree and confided that she was just expecting me to stand behind a small hand-held paper tree.  (Mom was flabbergasted.)  She asked if the school could have the tree, but I wouldn't hear of it - and it languished in our basement never to be worn again.  And for whatever reason no photographs were taken of me wearing it. 

 

Back to matters of the heart, Mr. Washkansky died 18 days after his historical operation, from pneumonia.  Just three days after his transplant the first pediatric heart transplant took place, in the US, on an 18-day-old infant (who lived for just six-and-a-half hours).  And a month later the first adult transplant was performed in the US.  That recipient lived for fifteen days.

 

Louis.washkansky


The Boy Who Cried "Kidnap"

PinocchioI don't know what came over me, but the words just came out of my mouth.  It was 1966 and I was in the third grade at Fenton Elementary School in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKees Rocks when my friend Diane casually told our teacher, Mrs. Shaw, that someone had tried to lure one of her brothers into his car.  For whatever reason, perhaps because I noticed the attention Diane's statement generated, I blurted out that the same thing had happened to me - and suddenly the attention shifted.  My mother was called as were the police.  I provided a name (R. Ziegler) and a license plate number.  No one thought it peculiar that a 9-year-old child was savvy enough to notice a license plate number, or that a kidnapper would reveal his last name.

 

LiarliarIn response a stakeout was organized.  For a week a police officer sat in an unmarked car parked in a driveway on my block and I was instructed to walk home from school, alone, down the alley.  I realized this was spiraling out of control but I was too scared to admit the truth.  A few months later after it appeared my lie was dead and buried, we were in church when my mother saw the name Ziegler in the church bulletin and pointed it out to me.  Thankfully, that would be the last time my fabricated story was mentioned.

 

LiedetectorMy lie went undiscovered for about a dozen years.  But then, as a sophomore at Penn State, my American History class was given an assignment to write a personal history.  In mine I decided to come clean and reveal my fabricated kidnapping attempt.  Then four years later, after I had moved to New York, my parents were going through my things as they packed them away and they came across my project.  Of course, they were stunned at what they read.  (They also discovered literature that suggested I was gay.)

 

Although my troubling fabrication didn't become a Crucible-like witch hunt, my first-hand experience made me very skeptical of accusations made by a child.    


The Smells of Childhood

Sense.of.smellIt's fascinating how smells can trigger memories from long ago - happy ones as well as bad (the same holds true with music).  The eighteen that I've listed below were part of my 1960s/70s childhood in the town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River.  They are so ingrained on my brain that just the mention of them activates my cerebral cortex and retrieves memories.

 

 

MAGIC MARKERS

The strong scent emitted from magic markers, which I was mostly exposed to at school, was highly intoxicating in small doses, but then I'd eventually develop a headache.  I suppose this was my first experience with a hangover.

 

Magic.marker

 

SERVICE WITH A SMILE

There was a time when gas stations were "full service," which meant that attendants pumped your gas and then pulled out their squeegee to clean the windshield and back window of the family car.  They used a liquid in a bucket - or was it just water - that had a distinctive oil-based odor; although not as overpowering as the intoxicating gasoline fumes, it was pleasant nonetheless.

 

Service.station.attendaant

 

METALLIC CARS

The tinny, clean scent of metal, toy-friction cars isn't quite as rich as the smell of a new car but for a child it added to the play experience.

 

Metal.friction.car

 

HAIRSPRAY

The smell of Mom's hairspray, spreading out of the bathroom like a fog, meant she and Dad were going out somewhere.  It was somewhat choking and it made sense a few years later when cans of hairspray were cited for playing a role in depleting the ozone layer.

Aqua-net

 

ARTS AND CRAFTS

The white paste used in school to make arts and crafts served the same purpose as glue but it was thicker.  There was a sweetness to its scent which is probably why so many kindergartners tried to eat it.  Many years later when I was visiting England clotted cream brought to mind this paste. 

 

School.paste

 

IN ADDITION TO ASBESTOS ...

Chalk dust invaded my nostrils whenever I was called upon to do math problems on the blackboard at school, and even more so when I was assigned eraser-cleaning duty.

 

Chalkboard.eraser

 

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT

Play-Dough had a plastic feel and it's fragrant scent and candy-like colors (not unlike Starburst chews) made it very tempting to eat (which my have been the inspiration for 'Incredible Edibles').

 

Playdough 

 

PUT A RING ON IT

Lightning bugs (aka fireflies) emitted a somewhat plant-like scent, especially strong when we kids would pull out their little lights and put them on our fingers to sport as rings. 

 

Lightning.bug

 

WET & STEAMY SIDEWALKS

The streets and sidewalks after a summer thunderstorm had a scent that was created from a mix of heat, soaked sidewalks, and the scent of earthworms that would appear, then often crushed by car tires or the feet of us marauding kids.

 

Kids.playing.in.rain

 

POLLEN-LADEN TREES

The smell of tree pollen in the morning when I delivered papers is the only scent that I still encounter forty years later and 300 miles away from my hometown.  And speaking of being a paperboy, the smell of newsprint that wafted up from my paper delivery bag had the power to make my eyes sting and water.

 

Tree.laden.pollen

 

SUBURBAN TRASH

Back in the 1960s every family burned their trash out in the open in their backyards, usually in the evening and the air would take on the smell of smoke.

 

Burning.trash.in.backyard

 

SUGAR-DUSTED PINK GUM

The stiff, pink-colored stick of gum found in a pack of baseball cards had a sugary scent that called out to you even if it was the cards that were of primary interest.

 

Pinkgum.in.baseballcards

 

BEAUTY SECRETS OF MY YOUTH

On very cold days, before I left the house to go to school, my mother would rub fragrant Ponds cold cream on my cheeks and forehead to prevent my face from becoming chapped.  As she applied it she'd refer to a place called Canada, a land where the cold air originated.

 

Ponds.coldcreame

 

THE SANDBOX

The smell of sand in my sandbox, either dry or wet, had a distinctive scent.  Since we lived far from the ocean, and didn't take beach vacations, it was my only regular contact with sand until I was an adult.

 

Sandbox.sand

 

VAPO-RUB = MOM'S LOVE

I associate Vicks VapoRub with having a sore throat and the tender loving care my mother would provide.  She'd prepare an old t-shirt used multiple times for the same purpose by smearing it with VapoRub and then waving it over the open flame on the stove to heat it and then wrap it around my neck. 

 

Vicks.vaporub

 

POLLUTED SKIES

By the 1960s and '70s the air was considerably cleaner in Pittsburgh but some factories still pumped out pollutants under cover of night.  Our neighborhood sat on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and Neville Island (below), which was home to steel mills, steel fabricating plants (my father worked at one) and chemical factories.  They regularly released smoke into the air that had a distinct chemical smell and was full of particulates.  Often we'd wake up in the morning to find fine particles of dust and slivers of metal in the bathtub and on cars. 

 

Neville.island.pittsburgh

 

COWBOYS & INDIANS

The silver metallic toy guns we had for playing 'Cowboys and Indians' had a chamber where you could put "caps", a string of tiny dots that contained something like gun powder.  Safe, mini-explosions were created by a metal mechanism that would slam against the cap when the trigger was pulled.  But you didn't need a gun to activate the caps; you could also make the dots explode by striking them with a rock.  Afterwards the air would smell of gunpowder.

 

Caps 

 


Recalling the Big Snowstorms of My Pittsburgh Childhood

Winter.1960.pittsburgh.robfrydlewiczAs an adult who is six feet tall I often think that if a foot of snow seems like a lot to me just imagine what it seems to a child who is two or three feet shorter (or to a toddler, like me in the photo during the winter of 1960).  Which brings back memories of some of the big snowstorms of my childhood in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKees Rocks, four of which were around 14 inches and are recounted below.

 

JANUARY 12-13, 1964 (First Grade)

This storm moved in on Sunday night and continued through the next evening.  I remember excitedly turning on the porch light throughout the evening to look out as the snow accumulated on the porch steps.  For the entirety of the storm temperatures never got out of the teens. 

Nearly 16 inches fell and there was no school on Monday.  Then on Tuesday we woke up to a morning low of six below zero.  Despite these frigid conditions I was looking forward to going to school because it meant spending a good amount of time to walk through the mountains of snow along the way.  (My school, Fenton Elementary, was within walking distance.) 

 

Jan1964snowstorm
Me (right) with my big brother on our way to school the day after the big snowstorm of Jan. 12-13, 1964

  

JANUARY 22-23, 1966 (Third Grade)

It was Saturday and me, my brother, sister and mother had our check-up with the dentist that morning.  Afterwards we did some grocery shopping at  Kroger just as the first flakes of snow began falling at a little past 12:00 noon.  When we got home we watched American Bandstand; the Mamas & the Papas were on and they sang Monday Monday and California Dreamin'.  Snow fell heaviest between mid-afternoon and midnight and ended shortly after daybreak on Sunday.  My brother, Darrell, was allowed to go out and help mom and dad shovel but I had to stay inside because it was too much trouble getting me put together.  In total nearly 15 inches fell. 

Although it was a Saturday event and didn't impact school, we didn't go to church or Sunday school (a consolation prize).  On Sunday morning I got to go out and help shovel out the driveway and I remember how high the snow was and what an effort it was to throw the snow up to the side.

 

MARCH 6-7, 1967 (Fourth Grade)

It was a Monday and rain in the morning changed to heavy, wet snow in the afternoon (the temperature hovered around freezing).  After dark the snow really came down heavily and high winds kicked in - there was even some thunder/lightning.  Amazingly, my parents went out shopping and my brother went to his evening trumpet lesson.  My older sister and I stayed home and watched I Dream of Jeannie and The Monkees.  14 inches piled up and school was cancelled on Tuesday.

 

Clipart_snowday

 

DECEMBER 1-2, 1974 (Senior Year)

Snow fell off and on in heavy bursts during late afternoon on Sunday through the evening and into the overnight hours.  The temperature hovered around 33 degrees throughout so it was a heavy, wet snow.  I had a morning paper route at the time and it was a challenge walking up some of the driveways that were on an incline because of a coating of freezing rain/sleet that had fallen on top of the snow. 

School had a delayed opening but there were no buses operating so most of my classmates didn't come in.  (And as he did during the other storms, my dedicated dad drove to his job as a foreman at Pittsburgh-Des Monies Steel Company on Neville Island).  Power outages were widespread because so many tree branches, weighed down by 14 inches of wet snow, snapped and brought down power lines.

 

The next bit snowstorms came in the winter of 1978 when two big ones came within a few days of each other in mid-January and dumped a total of 27 inches.  At the time I was in my junior year at Penn State in State College.  I've experienced my biggest snowfalls while living in New York City.  Between 1983 and 2011 there were seven storms that dumped 18 inches or more, the biggest being 26.9" in February 2006.

 

Blizzard.of.1996
The great blizzard of Jan. 7-8, 1996 buried New York under more than 20" of snow.

 


Memories of Pittsburgh TV & Radio Personalities from My Childhood

Clark.race.kdkaradio Ricki.wertz2Growing up in the Pittsburgh area in the 1960s and '70s meant that media personalities from KDKA TV/Radio, WTAE and KQV loomed very large in my young life.  (And with no cable channels back then their presence was even more ubiquitous.)  Here, in alphabetical order, are the names and faces from that era that I remember best.  (This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, just the people who made a lasting impression with me.)

 

LEE ARTHUR

She rocked the boat as Pittsburgh's first female TV sports announcer, first appearing on KDKA in 1973.  Not very knowledgeable about sports, she lasted just two years.  She died in 1989 at the age of 49.

 

Lee.arthur.kdka

 

JACK BOGUT

Bogut came to Pittsburgh in 1968, working for KDKA Radio.  I listened to his show as I got ready for school and still remember his creepy/comical ode to the "Slithery Dee".  He's still on the radio, now on WJAS, and I listen to his show whenever I visit my mother.  Amazingly, his voice hasn't changed.  I'm not certain about his age, but the fact that he was married in 1961 suggests he's in his early-80s.  (Update: WJAS changed to a Talk format in August 2014 and dropped Bogut.)

 

Jack.bogut.kdka

 

CHUCK BRINKMAN

The face/voice of radio station KQV during the 1960s.  He vied with KDKA's Clark Race as the city's most popular DJ.  He died in 2018 at the age of 83.

 

Chuck.brinkman.kqv

 

BILL BURNS

A legend, the Walter Cronkite of Pittsburgh.  He anchored the KDKA news for 36 years.  All business, Burns had a gruff, Lou Grant type persona and was the consummate professional.  He died in 1997 at the age of 84.  His daughter Patti also worked for KDKA and was very popular.  Sadly, she died of lung cancer in 2001 at the age of 49.

 

Bill.burns.kdka

 

BILL CARDILLE

Best known for hosting Chiller Theater and Studio Wrestling on Saturdays.  His following from Chiller Theater got "Chilly Billy" a small role in Night of the Living Dead (filmed north of Pittsburgh).  Interestingly, Cardille is the only person on my list from WIIC-Channel 11 (NBC's Pittsburgh affiliate).  Despite undergoing open-heart surgery back in the 1980s, he's still active, with a radio show on WJAS.  Amazingly, at the age of 85, his voice sounds as youthful as it was 50 years ago.  (Update: WJAS changed to a Talk format in August 2014 and dropped Cardille as well as Jack Bogut; and, sadly, Cardille passed away in the summer of 2016.)

 

Bill.cardille   

 

MYRON COPE

Cope possessed the most distinctive/abrasive voice in Pittsburgh broadcasting, if not the nation (even more so than Howard Cosell).  He was truly a motormouth, but a beloved one.  His proudest achievement was probably the creation of the "Terrible Towel" for the Steelers in the mid-1970s.  He died in 2008 at the age of 79.

 

Myron.cope

 

BILL CURRIE

Currie was the lead sports announcer for KDKA in the 1970s, coming here from North Carolina where he was known as "The Mouth of the South."  He wore garish, brightly colored sports jackets often with wild patterns.  For me he wore out his welcome rather quickly.  He died in 2008 at the age of 85.

 

Bill.currie.kdka

 

JOE DE NARDO

Probably Pittsburgh's most famous meteorologist, De Nardo began his career with KDKA, but is best known for his long career with WTAE from 1969 to 2005.  I saw him a number of times shopping at the Kmart near his home in Moon Township.  Situated close to the airport, he groused about the planes' flight patterns that brought them over his house.  Then shortly after he moved the airport closed and relocated!  He died in the summer of 2018 at the age of 87.

 

Joe.dinardo.wtae

 

BOB KUDZMA

Although Joe De Nardo may have had a higher profile, Bob Kudzma was my favorite weatherman, serving as KDKA's on-air meteorologist for 34 years (1968-2002).  He reminded me of Pat Sajak.  I wrote to him for advice about having a career as a meteorologist and he replied.  He passed way in February 2021 at the age of 81.

 

Bob.kudzma.weatherman

 

PAUL LONG

Best known for his time as anchor on WTAE from 1969 until 1994.  He was very stern looking, even more so than Bill Burns.  Reminded me of Nikita Khruschev (and my Uncle Joe).  He died in 2002 at the age of 86.

 

Paul.long.wtae

 

NICK PERRY

Most famous for a Saturday afternoon bowling show in the 1960s on WTAE (Championship Bowling) and Bowling for Dollars in the 1970s.  (It was a proud day in our neighborhood when our neighbor from across the street appeared on the show and won $500.)  Unfortunately, his reputation was tarnished by a state lottery scandal in the 1980s.  However, since I was no longer living in Pittsburgh when it happened my memory of him is still as a bowling personality.  He died in 2003 at the age of 86.

 

Nick.perry.bowling

 

BOB PRINCE & NELLIE KING

He was the larger-than-life radio/TV play-by-play announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates until 1975.  "Kiss it Good-bye!" was one of his most famous sayings.  He died in 1985 at the age of 68.  Nellie King was his mild-mannered sidekick from 1967-1975.  He died in 2010 at the age of 82.

 

Bobprince.nellieking.pittsburghpirates
Nellie King (L) & Bob Prince (R)

 

JIM QUINN

Popular KQV DJ in the late 60s thru early 70s when he was in his 20s.  In the 1990s he went to the dark side and became a conservative talk-radio host.  He's now in his late 70s (as of 2020).

 

Jimquinn.kqv

 

CLARK RACE

Clark Race was the Dick Clark of Pittsburgh.  He was probably the market's most popular DJ, on KDKA, and also hosted a popular dance show on KDKA-TV that aired on Saturday afternoon; it ran from 1963 until 1966.  His show would begin with the intro, "Hello Clark Race, hello - and welcome to the show!", which was followed by the instrumental String of Trumpets.  He died in 1999 at the age of 66.

 

Clark.race

 

ELEANOR SCHANO

Her signature blonde coif gave her a very glamorous persona.  I remember her best for doing the weather during WTAE's evening news in the late '60s, but she was a constant TV presence with various reporting roles.  Sadly, she died from COVID-19 in November 2020 at the age of 88.

 

Eleanor schano weather lady

 

Eleanor.schano.wtae

 

ED SCHAUGHENCY

Avuncular KDKA radio personality who was lovingly called "Uncle Ed".  He had already clocked many years with the station when I listened to him give the weather report in the morning while I was getting ready for school.  Often mentioned his wife Gertrude.  I also recall that he used to promote Pappin's restaurant.  He died in 1990 at the age of 77.

 

PAUL SHANNON

Host of the children's show Adventure Time which aired weekday afternoons at 4:00 on WTAE.  He sat among the kids as Dick Clark did on American Bandstand.  Famous for the characters Nosmo King and Knish.  He'd introduce cartoons and shorts by The Three Stooges with the line, "So down goes the curtain - and back up again."  He died in 1990 at the age of 80.

 

Paul.shannon

 

DICK STOCKTON

Before he went over to the "network" side Dick Stockton was KDKA TV's sports director from 1967-1971 when he was only in his his 20s.  There was something in his demeanor that suggested that bigger things were in store for him.  He's now 77 (as of 2020).

 

Dick.stockton

 

MARIE TORRE

With her New York pedigree, she was the grand dame of Pittsburgh television.  She was with KDKA from 1962 until 1977.  In my youthful mind she and Bill Burns were the First Couple of Pittsburgh.  Her claim to fame was going to jail for 10 days for refusing to reveal one her sources when she was a newspaper reporter in New York in the 1950s.  She had a charming, sophisticated laugh that brought to mind Kitty Carlyle or Arlene Francis.  She died in 1997 at the age of 73.

 

Marie.torre.kdka

 

RICKI WERTZ

I remember her best for hosting Jr. High Quiz which aired on Sunday on WTAE from 1965-1982.  I always wanted to be on that show but our school district (Sto-Rox) wasn't chosen in the years I was in high school.  Before the quiz show she was known for hosting the Ricki & Copper Show, which starred her dog Copper.  What I remember best about the show was the Hostess cupcakes she handed out to kids in the audience who were celebrating their birthdays.  (Although this show and Adventure Time had a live studio audience of kids I never had a desire to be on either.)  Still alive, she's in her mid-80s (as of 2020).

 

Ricki wertz and copper

Ricki.wertz.juniorhighquiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stonewall Riot - The Beginning of Gay Liberation (June 28, 1969)

Stonewall_uprisingWhen homosexuals and transvestites took to the streets of Greenwich Village in the wee hours of the morning on June 28, 1969 to protest constant harassment and mistreatment by the NYPD, I was 12 years old and living in Pittsburgh.  I was unaware of what was taking place - and who knows if the disturbance even received new coverage in the Steel City.  And even if it was reported, I wouldn't have understood much since at my age I didn't even know what a homosexual was.  (A few years later I'd learn a lot after sneak-reading my older sister's copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.  The author didn't provide a very positive lesson, but it was a start.)

 

Judy_garland_closeupThe only memory I have that has some connection to this seminal event was the death of Judy Garland the week before the riots.  I heard the news on the car radio as me and my family drove to church.  At the time my only association with her was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and not as a gay icon.  Legend has it that her death was a contributing factor to the riot as her funeral was held earlier that day (a stifling hot Friday) and bar patrons weren't in the mood to once again be harassed by police.  However, this this link has since been more or less dismissed.

 

Supreme_court2Not to digress too much, but 17 years later I was living in the belly of the beast, the West Village, just a few minutes' walk from Stonewall.  On July 1, 1986 I participated in a sitdown protest that blocked traffic on Seventh Ave. South for an hour or so.  It was in response to the Supreme Court's decision (Bowers v Hardwick) upholding Georgia's sodomy law.  And so I had my own opportunity to participate in some civil disobedience. 

 

Getting back to the disturbance at Stonewall, an event that ignited the gay rights movement, the account that follows was provided by Liz Solomon, a former co-worker of mine, who grew up in Greenwich Village.  She kindly volunteered to recount her memories of that night.  Take it away Liz ...

 

First off, let me say that the thoughts and language of this mini-memoir are those of 1969, not 2013.  I cringe at some of the things we said and did back in those days.  But more importantly, I'm a firm believer in historical accuracy trumping political correctness.

 

It's important to understand that the West Village of 1969 was a very different place than it is today.  For one thing, it wasn't called the West Village, but rather "Downtown", "West Side", maybe "the Village".  Furthermore, it wasn't the home of celebrities, models - and especially not the rich.  It was a regular working class/lower middle class neighborhood with dock workers, butchers (the Meat Packing District actually processed meat back then!), truck drivers along with a scattering of white collar workers and government employees.

 

Greenwich_village_map

 

Greenwich_village1960sWe always knew there gay people interspersed in the neighborhood, but it had yet to take on the "gay ghetto" vibe that came later in the 1970's.  (When I was in high school and college, guys I dated from outside the neighborhood often gave me a hard time about walking me home when they learned where I lived because it might be bad for their "image" if the were spotted there!)  Did we welcome those of different orientations with open minds?  Much as I'd like to say yes, we were kids and it was 1969.  But it wasn't a matter of thinking that homosexuals were deviant.  No, they were just different, and there was getting to be more of them in OUR neighborhood and they were beginning to take over the docks after dark, previously the urban version of "lover's lane" for a neighborhood of frisky, hormonal teenagers. 

 

No doubt some of the local boys felt a bit uncomfortable or threatened by overt displays of homosexuality (not that they would admit it), but any harassment, name calling, or even occasional fisticuffs was really more a matter of "turf", not orientation, and would have been worse had the interlopers been from, say, 17th Street.   

 

Stonewall_riotWhich brings me to that last weekend of June 1969.  I admit I missed the first night entirely.  The police raid on the Stonewall Inn happened after 1AM and at the time I had a curfew so I was long home under lock and key.  The next day was Saturday and a family obligation kept me off the stoops and out of the loop until after dinner.  The minute I could, I broke away.  The air was buzzing with incredulous and somewhat amused chatter about how the gays actually fought back, throwing stuff, shouting about their rights and turning the tables on the police - at least for a while.

 

StonewallThis animated discussion continued as more and more kids joined the "hanging out" group.  Then someone suggested we walk over to Sheridan Square (two blocks away) to witness firsthand what was going on.  It was about 9:30 and, WOW, was it ever crowded with an agitated throng shouting previously unheard messages of gay pride and solidarity.  Cops were everywhere with their billy cubs in hand, ready to swing them.  The tension was beyond anything I could remember in my young life.  Anyway, we were just onlookers since this wasn't our fight.  Except that anyone starting trouble against our tormenters from the 6th Precinct, who enforced truancy laws and chased us off street corners, was officially OK in the neighborhood kids' book.  The enemy of our enemy was our friend, thus did some dispassionate teenagers get involved in the opening act of the battle for Gay Rights.

 

Stonewall_bookThe group I was with was pushed to the other side of Sheridan Square towards West 4th St.  Fires had been lit in garbage cans and there was considerable harassment (but restraint as well) on both sides.  There was a lot of shouting, and a few outright beatings but, alas, once again my curfew loomed (plus a small grace period) and I had to make my way to the safety of home a few blocks away.  Thus, my participation in civil disobedience, albeit in the periphery, came to an end.

 

Gay_liberation_buttonThe following year, on June 28, New York held its first Gay Pride Parade.  It began with a nervous group of a few hundred, but as the parade headed north from Greenwich Village more joined, and by the time the throng entered Central Park it had grown to 2,000 participants.  Since that day a number of other key moments in LGBT history have occurred in late June: the unfurling of the first rainbow flag at San Francisco's parade in 1978; the Supreme Court's striking down of the nation's sodomy laws in 2003; the debut of MTV's gay-themed cable network, LOGO, in 2005; the legalizing of same-sex marriage in New York State in 2011; and in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned DOMA.      


Kent State Shootings: 4 Dead in Ohio (May 4, 1970)

Kentstate_shootings It was a mild but sort of hazy Tuesday afternoon.  Rather than take the bus home from school (7th grade at Sto-Rox Middle School) I walked because I stopped off for a haircut.  When I got home I saw that morning's paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on the hassock in the living room.  On the front page was a photo (now iconic) of an overwrought young woman kneeling over the body of a student shot dead at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard.  The shootings occurred the day before during an anti-war demonstration protesting the US invasion of Cambodia at the end of April.  Guardsmen opened fire on students, killing four and wounding nine.  Although it was in neighboring Ohio, I had never heard of the university. 

 

 

Kentstate_victims
The four students who were shot dead

 

Perhaps because I was just 12 at the time (and somewhat preoccupied by the onset of puberty) I don't recall there being much talk about this incident among schoolmates or teachers, and at home we usually didn't discuss news events at the dinner table.  But the constant coverage of the Vietnam War was plenty worrisome for my parents since my brother, Darrell, was nearing draft age.  (A lasting memory of the war was hearing the weekly casualty report on the radio while I was getting ready for school.)  

 

Lifemagazine_kentstate

 

However, once the anti-war song Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young became popular during the summer the shootings had more resonance with me.  The song begins with the line: "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, we're finally on our own.  This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio." (The CD Steal This Record provides a collection of some other notable protest songs from the 1960s).  By the time I turned 18 in 1975 the US was out of Vietnam (the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists occurred two weeks before my birthday) and teen boys were no longer required to register for the draft.

 

Ohio_nationalguard_kentstate

 


The "Lindsay Snowstorm" (February 9-10, 1969)

Feb_10_1969_snowstorm I was 11 years old at the time and living in Pittsburgh - and greatly annoyed that we got hardly a snowflake from this snowstorm.  Meteorology was a new interest of mine and I didn't yet understand the dynamics of weather systems, e.g., East Coast storms often don't affect Western Pennsylvania because the Appalachian Mountains act as a barrier.  (As was the case with the post-Christmas blizzard in 2010.)  The 15.3" that fell on New York beginning Sunday, Feb. 9, 1969 brought the city to a virtual standstill for a number of days.  It was front page news in the Pittsburgh papers, and I eyed the photos enviously.  (Like the one to the right showing mostly foot traffic on 2nd Ave. near 45th St.)

 

This became known as the "Lindsay snowstorm" because New York's mayor John Lindsay (below) was blamed for not getting streets plowed quickly enough, especially in the borough of Queens.  It nearly cost him re-election later that year, but he won, running as an independent.  (10 years later a series of crippling snowstorms in Chicago was largely responsible for the defeat of its mayor.)  At the time it was the City's tenth biggest snowstorm - since then ten subsequent storms have had larger accumulations (through the winter of 2021). 

 

Johnlindsay_1969snowstorm

 

This snowstorm was the inspiration for two episodes of the sitcom That Girl (starring Marlo Thomas).  In a two-part storyline Ann and boyfriend Donald were stranded at JFK by the snowstorm after accompanying her parents to the airport.  This threatened a Broadway audition Ann had later that day - which she eventually did over the phone.  Later, Donald, a writer for the fictional Newsview Magazine, wrote a story about Ann's experience.  These episodes aired on ABC on October 30 and Nov. 6, 1969. (They are from the show's fourth season which is available on Amazon.)

 

That_Girl

 

To read about other New York snowstorms, please double click here for a recap I've written on my blog New York City Weather Archive.   And below are links to posts from this blog about other New York snowstorms:

April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)

March 1993 "Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern US

Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (Jan. 1996)

New York's Biggest Snowstorm of All Time (Feb. 2006)

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The Beatles Perform on "Ed Sullivan" (February 9, 1964)

Beatles-on-edsullivanshow Anyone who had a teenage sister probably has memories similar to mine when the Beatles made their first American TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, i.e. shrieking, screaming, perhaps even sobbing.  I was in the first grade at the time and on that Sunday night (February 9, 1964) I was sitting in the living room behind my 13-year old sister, Linda, who was seated on the floor in front of the TV set.  Occasionally I'd look up from my coloring book.  Even if I wasn't interested how could I not look up to see what was creating such a commotion?

 

Even before this telecast I was aware that the Beatles were a big deal.  (I remember my mother returning from a shopping trip to downtown Pittsburgh and bringing back the Beatles' first LP, Meet the Beatles, for Linda.)  I was 6-years-old at the time and completely unaware of any same-sex inclinations, yet I remember thinking that Paul was cute.  (When I turned 13 and preparing for my Confirmation I wanted my Confirmation name to be Paul, but instead I was talked into choosing George, which had family significance.)

 

Meet_the_beatles

 

Of course, the telecast drew a huge audience.  Today, 50 years later, its 45.3 Nielsen household rating still ranks as one of the 25 highest rated telecasts of all time.  (Nowadays only the Super Bowl gets that kind of rating.)  The following week the Beatles made a second appearance on Sullivan's show and it provided another ratings bonanza. (The complete telecasts are available on Ed Sullivan: The Beatles' Telecasts.  Additionally, a documentary by Albert & David "Grey Gardens" Maysles, The Beatles 1st US Visit, is also available.)     

 

Beatles_onstage_edsullivanshow