As a small child I had wonderful dreams,
Dreams of making the world a better place.
Where those of a different race
Could put on a happy face
And mean it.
But violence was raising its head
Threatening to turn all streets red.
In 1956 the beginning of storms,
Those made by nature
And those produced by human nature
Had caught up with us.
The storms of both kinds
Were carried by winds, sudden and swift.
“Separate but equal” was the slogan
That stirred the fomenting mixture
And pushed the races toward inevitable clashes.
In the summer of 1956 grandpa died,
In a faraway magical land of fruits, nuts, and Hollywood stars.
To pay our respects we packed into cars
Travelling over vast deserts and against the heat
In three days we arrived, dusty and beat.
After the funeral life was reconsidered,
And my parents decided to live in a small town
far from the hot steamy nights
That brought our family to the San Joaquin valley
Away from the green grass and red clay
Away from arguments regarding race and moral decay,
Away from crappie and muddy catfish lakes
Over the Tehachapi mountains
To the arid desert climate of the valley.
I was amused by the bridges that stretched
Over dry stream beds that begged for water
and signs that read, “Dangerous when flooded.”,
“Avoid High Water”, or “Flash Flood Area.”
The concept of dry rivers seemed like an oxymoron.
My pronunciation of words began to change.
The southern drawl was under fire.
‘Pin’, ‘Pen’, ‘Pan” had different meanings
And I was expected to distinguish between them.
Vocabulary was slightly changed also to appease.
‘You all’ or ‘yawl’ became ‘you guys’ to please
The California trend setters.
‘Duck tails’, ‘crew cuts’, ‘flat tops’,
Hair dos and clothing fads,
Taken to the max,
Governor Faubus with his axe,
‘Hot rods’, cars with numbers or letters like GTO,
Movie stars or singers, each had a claim to fame
James Dean, Buddy Holly, Ricky Valens,
Became icons almost overnight
But when tragedies struck i finally learned their names.
Vietnam, the undeclared war,
Became a festering sore,
Splitting our country apart
There were those who said it made no sense
While some claimed, “It was a decision from the heart.”
JFK, Robert, MLK, all gunned down
Leaving holes in the fabric of society
Sports, school, moments when the country stood still
And lost its innocence and beauty,
Along with that it lost some pride
And much of the sense of duty.
‘Woodstock’, weed, hair styles, peace and rage
Marked the dawning of a new age.
The ‘baby boomers’ took front stage.
The dreams of making the world
A better place
Took a different pace.
Now we’re old and not so bold,
Asking questions about our dreams and goals.
Did my generation follow the quest
To make a difference to become the best
Or was it all just hype?
Maybe we’re not the type
To teach the world to sing
Or to bring love to each heart.
Discrimination still exists but I hope inroads
Have been made.
My dreams from youth won’t fade
I will hold the banner high
Cancerous cells will shrivel and die
And love, sweet love, will once again
Rule heavens and earth.
April 24, 2016 by Dan Roberson