Sydney M. Williams
April 20, 2015
A Note from Old Lyme
“Without memory, there is no culture.
Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”
Elie Wiesel (1928 - )
Several years ago, while selecting a telephone number for our home in Old Lyme, my wife was unable to obtain 1964, the year we were married. She was also not able to get 1966, 1968 or 1971, the years our children were born. So she settled on 1965 – the first full year of our marriage…and our last without children.
Our first wedding anniversary (April 11, 1965) was spent in
. We had dinner that evening at
Griechenbeisl, Vienna ’s
oldest restaurant, dating back to the 15th Century. About ten days ago,
we had another Viennese weekend of sorts. Saturday we saw the movie, “The Woman
in Gold,” a story of a woman living in Vienna Pasadena
who, defying all odds, sues and wins back a portrait of her aunt (a painting considered
the Mona Lisa of ).
It had been stolen by the Nazis in 1939. The next day we saw Mona Golabek in
her one-woman show, “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” in Austria . Both the movie and the show are
based on actual events; both worth seeing. The latter tells the story of Mona’s
mother, Lisa Jura, a musical prodigy, who, at age fourteen in December 1938,
was sent from Hartford Vienna to . Her mother, whom she would never
again see, said to her, as she put her on the train: “hold on to your music.”
She traveled on the Kindertransport,
by which 10,000 Jewish children were saved over a nine month period from almost
certain death in Nazi prison camps. Lisa did, however, hang onto her music…and
so has her daughter. London
1965 began with us living in a small apartment in
with a bedroom so tiny that in order to get to the bathroom, one had to crawl
across the bed. The year ended with us moving into a five-room cape in Durham, New Hampshire .
My new job paid $6,500, about the median for a household that year. The house
cost $19,000, about $5,400 above the national average, according to the U.S.
Department of Commerce. Accounting for some of the inequality we read about, median
household income has increased eight fold to $54,000, while home prices have
risen eleven fold to $220,000. Adding fuel to the argument, stock prices, as measured
by the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, are up twenty times, while GDP is higher
by twenty-three times. Glastonbury, Connecticut
It was a year of protests that, while violent, had not reached the deadliness of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Civil Rights and
were the primary causes.
While President Lyndon Johnson had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the
previous July that declared segregation illegal, Jim Crow laws remained in
effect throughout much of the south. Voting rights were the reason for Martin
Luther King’s January speech at Brown Chapel in Vietnam ,
a speech given in defiance of an anti-meeting injunction. Two months later, 600
protesters marched east over the Selma, Alabama .
Their goal: a peaceful protest at Edward
Pettus Bridge Alabama’s
capital in .
However, on the far side of the bridge, the marchers were attacked by state and
local police, with nightsticks and tear gas. That same year race riots broke
out in other cities, notably in Montgomery Watts.
On the other side of the globe, the
was becoming embroiled in what would become a twelve-year war in the jungles of
The Vietnam U.S. had been involved
in Vietnam in a minor way
since the defeat of the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu
by Ho Chi Minh. But it was the White House-approved assassination of ’s
president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 that caused the dye to be cast. It was not
until February 1965, though, that Vietnam ’s participation in the war
intensified, when Lyndon Johnson approved Operation Rolling Thunder. This was an
aerial attack on America Hanoi and Haiphong,
which began in June and had the objectives of destroying the North’s industrial
and transportation base, halting the flow of men and material into the south,
and raising the morale of the people in Saigon.
It failed on all accounts. In November, the Battle of La Drang Valley in South
Vietnam’s central highlands was the first major conflict involving U.S. troops,
a battle that saw American soldiers facing an enemy as committed and as
idealistic as were they. It is a story movingly told by Lieutenant General
Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway in “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.” The
outcome was unclear, but by the end of the year, there were 125,000 U.S. troops in . Anti-war protests
Those of us who lived through it will never forget the Northeast blackout, which occurred on November 9 and affected 30 million people. Oil was discovered in the
U.K. portion of the North Sea. Rhodesia
declared independence from Great Britain
and became .
Malcolm X was shot and killed in Zimbabwe . In an act whose ramifications are being
felt today, the Higher Education Act of 1965, which provided low-interest loans
for students, was enacted into law. Warren Buffett gained control of
Berkshire-Hathaway at $18.00 a share. (Today’s price of $212,982 represents a
compounded annual return of 20.6%!) The Beatle’s, who had first appeared on the
Ed Sullivan Show the year before, were, with the Rolling Stones, the year’s
most popular musicians. Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead played their inaugural
concert in New
York City .
The “Sound of Music” and “Goldfinger” were two of the top films. The Los
Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, beating the Minnesota Twins in seven
games. “Lucky Debonair” won the Kentucky Derby. And, hard to believe, Charles
de Gaulle was then President of France. San Francisco
As for my wife and me – I finished college in February. After lining up a job with Eastman Kodak, my wife and I, with $2,000, took off for eleven weeks in
Europe. We had no plans other than a rented VW bug, and
hotel rooms in
for the night we arrived and the evening before we were to return home. With Arthur
Frommer’s book, “Europe on $5 a Day” and sleeping bags, we drove the VW
throughout Paris Europe. It was a delightful,
belated honeymoon that neither of us will ever forget. Back home, following a
four-week-long training session with Kodak’s Recordak Division I was assigned
to the World’s Fair for two months. We lived at my in-law’s apartment in New York, until I was transferred to an office in . There, we rented a room in an old-fashioned
boarding house for about a month, until we moved into our cape. I was still in
the U.S. Army reserves, but with traveling and moving, they didn’t catch up
with me until the next year. Hartford
Thinking of those days half a century ago brings to mind Tennessee Williams’ observation: “Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going.” It is a message that resonates: when we allow each day to slip by unappreciated, we have no one to blame, but ourselves.