So we are by the Hilton pool at the reunion on a Saturday evening. A pleasant evening until Quentin Bryson walks up (I should rewrite that; oh well) and asks: "O.K., you know a lot of stuff, Burkhart. (You know Quentin wants something when he opens with a compliment.) Cut to the chase. Who is going to win?"
Of course I don't have a clue, and he knows that, but in fun, I said: "Bush will get 301 electoral votes. You heard it here first."
So there. Why? This year, the Republicans were far, far better at running a campaign, and that helps. Bush looks happy. Iraq is a long way off.
Montclair, NJ., Oct. 28, 2004
A friend was in China a while back and gave my name to an editor at the Chongqing Morning Post. Since then, she has asked me to write something about big events. This week, she wanted a note about the election. It's just a letter, about real people, but nobody wanted a name used, so I assigned names to keep order. Here's some of what I sent to Chongqing:
I was lucky. The first person I asked about this election, a waiter at a restaurant on Route 46, was still on the fence, part of a group that could be a key to the outcome.
"Me?" he said. "I haven't decided. I'm still trying to figure it out."
A bit dismaying: After a blizzard of press coverage of the Bush-Kerry race this year, some people still don't know whom to vote for. Seems even those who take a dim view of President Bush's leadership remain unconvinced about Senator John Kerry's own ability to lead the Iraq war.
The Morning Post asked for views of "ordinary Americans" on the election. (I didn't tell them that in America, every person is extraordinary, an exception, and all children are above average.) I
asked the first people I saw on Wednesday, Oct. 27, this question: "What do you think about the election next Tuesday?"
And here are the first few answers:
At first, I met that undecided young man named George, perhaps 22 years old, working in a well-off suburb in New Jersey called Totowa. "I'm not a good one to ask. I haven't decided yet," he replied "I just don't like either one of them very much."
I asked him, "Will you really vote?"
"Sure, and I'll decide by then."
And what issue will decide it for you?
"Iraq, that's it, really." He said he thought the United States had made a mess of things in Iraq, but it was far too important to just walk away now, so he had to decide which candidate would guide the next phase of the war: the post-election phase.
I believe that he illustrated one of the unusual phenomena in this
election: that some voters are undecided so late, perhaps because everybody is dissatisfied.
After a moment, George said: "You should ask that guy over there." He pointed to another young waiter named Raymond, who appeared to be about 21 years old.
I turned to Raymond. To my question, he replied, "I'm voting
for Kerry. That's easy."
And what's the key issue? "It's Iraq, of course." "Kerry has a plan that will bring in other countries to help stabilize things."
Both of these young men were of an age that would leave them open to the military draft, if one were instituted.
Then Raymond said, "Now ask her." He pointed to a young woman, perhaps 20 or 21, a waitress. She stunned me when said she was not going to vote, because she had not registered to do so in time. She just didn't bother.
For a moment, I reflected on the fact that when my mother was born, in 1912, not very far from here, women did not even have the right to vote. A&W Root Beer is older than women's right to vote. Women won the right in 1920, after a 50 year political struggle, and this woman did not even register.
Apathy is nothing new in the U.S. elections. In the course of the 2004 primary elections, turnout was low. Indeed, voting as a share of
registered voters in state primary elections seldom exceeded 35 percent this year. One report said the median age of voters casting ballots was nearly 60. Young people have not been energized, to say the least.
And over the last 30 years, there has been a steady decline in voting by young people. In the last presidential election, the turnout was particularly low for those 18 to 24: only 37 percent voted, compared with 64 percent for those 25 or older, according to the surveys of voters leaving the polls.
Next, I turned to two older gentlemen, one was Dewey, at 70 years old, the other was Fred, who was 72. Both live in Montclair, a leafy New Jersey suburb. For them, the choice was clear: a proud vote for President Bush. Why?
"The war. We need his leadership. In wartime, we should not break faith with our leader," said Dewey. Their friend, Caroline, a woman of 78 years, said: "But our territory wasn't threatened. We did not have to start this war now." Fred replied, "Well, then, do you think we should not have fought in World War Two? It's all the same.'' The other gentleman agreed. But Caroline protested vigorously and emotionally that Republicans must vote for Senator Kerry this year, and suggested she might not speak to her two friends again if they voted for President Bush.
Their comments reflected the high degree of partisan rancor by all Americans. In addition, voters in New Jersey, especially those just across the Hudson River from New York City, feel vulnerable to more terrorist attacks, perhaps at the time of the elections. About 700 people from the state died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
This encounter with older Americans mirrored the sharp divisions in the country between the two parties: National security and the Iraq War remain almost the only issues that people are talking about, although many people told me they feel strongly about health care, and support John Kerry's proposals to lower drug costs and expand health insurance.
Finally, a working woman from New Orleans said she supports President Bush. "He is an ordinary person, just like us, and I trust that he will represent our interests. I just don't trust John Kerry, because he comes from the elite class."
A common impression, it seems; in fact, President Bush and Senator Kerry both come from the upper social classes. (NPR reported today that they are ninth cousins.) But many voters identify President Bush with the ordinary American, in part because
of his manner of plain speaking. They trust him.
If President Bush wins, I suspect it will be a sign that voters gave more emphasis to national security than to the economic and social issues that were Senator Kerry's best hope.
Nov. 2, 2004, Montclair:
Election Day, 7:30 a.m. Had to wait in line to vote for the first time. Few parking spots within a block of Bradford School. Cookies and coffee selling out fast in the lobby, where the moms run a sale each election.
This town is Kerry country. Nobody seemed particularly cheery. Mainly, everybody seemed mildly happy this brutal campaign was behind us.
A long rain fell on New York and its suburbs throughout the
day on Thursday. It was almost as if this corner of the world was being
washed clean after the election.
The rain was so great that the thousands of cars and buses
that move each day through the Lincoln Tunnel, the long tunnel under the
Hudson River connecting New York with the suburbs in New Jersey where many
workers live, were backed up for hours. But no one complained. It was
useful to have something else to distract us.
It seems that on the streets and around the breakfast tables of
America, the content of the news had changed extremely quickly from the big
election outcome on Tuesday.
It is almost as if few people were surprised on either side, but all
One reassuring moment for Americans came with the speeches on
Wednesday by Senator John Kerry, conceding that he had lost, and by
President Bush, affirming that the political spirit of America would heal
and the two candidates would join in bipartisan efforts to solve problems.
"Bush Celebrates Victory," said the New York Times main headline
on Page 1 on Thursday. "After Concession by Kerry, President Cites a 'Duty
to Serve All Americans.'"
(Some said in partial jest that new spirit would last only as long
as the first of the expected nominations to the United States Supreme Court.)
But it was refreshing.
The radio and television programs ever since the voting have been
filled with predictions about how the government and the two parties would
respond, but everyone knew that it was nothing but speculation.
A surprising aspect of the post-voting season was the statements
by voters that "moral values" were what had determined their decision,
rather than the war in Iraq, the economy or the creation of jobs, or the
many other issues, according to the polls taken on Election Day. The
problem is, what are those "moral values"? There was little agreement on
any specific values. But it indicated a deep-seated uneasiness with the
condition of public life in America. Some observers said that John Kerry
had been seen in the small towns and rural areas of Middle America as a
member of the Eastern, urban elite in America, with values unlike their own.
The Times headline on Thursday about President Bush's future
also said, "Mandate Seen for 2nd Term With Gains in Congress." The
election was in fact very close, and if it was indeed a mandate, it was a
very thin one. As of this moment, President Bush has just enough, only 274
electoral votes, four more than the 270 votes needed to win the
presidency. He may win a few more with final counting in two states.
It remains to be seen what focus the new Bush administration will
give to its transitional weeks, and for its next year. It seemed likely
that the next round of political battles in Congress would be between
Republican moderates and those in President Bush's conservative wing.
Meanwhile, some American families were still sending e-mails across
the country voicing their divisions after a year-long bitter campaign, and
other families were, like the rest of the world, voicing either praise for
the outcome or dire warnings of a rough patch to come in international
"We'd better all move to Canada," the angry aunt of one young New
York working woman wrote, half humorously, in an e-mail on Thursday.
For the rest of us, it was just time to move on.
A Freshman's Notes:
White hair, wrinkles, bad knees are there for a reason: To remind
us to savor each year, month, day. We have only so many left.
But the memories are fairly intact. Big cars, short haircuts, 45 records,
being 13- and 14-year-old freshmen, Class of 1959's first week, 50 years
ago this fall.
So we're not kids, so we are paying more and more attention to Medicare
and Social Security.
But we are still friends, more than just classmates, proud of each other
and our class. That amazes people who haven't seen anyone from their own
high school class in decades.
What happened? Why us? Who knows. I happily remember that first week, and I hope others will share whatever they recall from 1955. It was a jolt, a
transformation, from being focused on milk shakes at the Dairy Queen on
Fourth Avenue, to thinking about the moon and art and music. And what
music! Remember walking out of "Rock Around the Clock," at the Fox? And
thinking that change was in the air. And the Midway drive-in. Bob's.
Changes kept coming, and we shared them, endured some, relished a few. I think that's what helped us bond. What a gift today to still be around
people who went from the 50's to the 60's together, who watched them
building the first walls at Catalina High.
We went through the usual stuff: Reading Dickens in freshman English,
reading it out loud in class. Going to The Hidden House on Broadway for
ice cream. Holding hands with your first girlfriend. Taking typing, and
feeling so proud of 40 words a minute, with no errors! (Maybe we weren't
so dumb after all.) Football games we lost 85 to 0. The world changed,
Tucson changed, and we grew up, in big and little ways, with our pals. A
magazine piece I read the other day reached the same conclusion: "Those
are the things that form the basis of friendships," it said.
And so we did. And so we are. So, what do the rest of you remember?
Editor's note: (From 2005) This being the 50th anniversary of the start of our high school life, Ford suggested that we all consult our journals and memories, and write about our thoughts from the beginning of this era of our lives. His are below. If anybody else would like to share, we will add a special section to our site and feature your entries. Just write something up and send it to us: email@example.com.
Editor's Note: Classmate Ford Burkhart, former International Editor of The New York Times, has kindly agreed to write a periodic column for our website. Now, he has retired and is back in Tucson, but he still likes to add his perspective to this site. Here are his welcome contributions. Thanks, Ford!
Ford writes, "In the New York Times newsroom on New Year's Eve, caught without a formal bowtie -- had to improvise one with a paper clip and the red paper wrapper from a pair of chopsticks. Also, with a colleague in the newsroom, whose bowtie was made from a piece of 35 mm film. We are just waiting for the Champagne after getting the first edition wrapped up".
For absolutely no reason at all, here is a photo that I rather liked -- taken by a pal recently at a musical event with a bishop I got to know somewhere in the misty past. It's just a photo to mark the end of 2006, 50 years after the end of our freshman year. Here's to us!
Who Were Those 4 Foxy Ladies?
Tucson, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007 At the evening concert at Reid Park, people may well have wondered, "Who are those four lovely gals with those three old guys?"
It turns out they were Pam Morris Samuels, whom you know well, and three honorary CHS '59 members whom you may not know. Here is an introduction to the other three, so next time you see them you'll know them.
Renee Montrachet was on the arm of Ray Lindstrom, our Web master, now, fortunately for us, moved back to Tucson with his font of wisdom about events and trivia from the 1950's. Renee and Ray have been together for 18 years and counting. She has a Web site of her own, http://www.topcowgal.com/, which is as stunning as she is in person. The site presents a lesson in the equine sport of "cutting," which is an "equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time." You'll see fine photos of her own cutting horses. They met in Phoenix when Ray visited an office (on foot; it's not clear whether he can handle a cutting horse) where she worked, and soon they were out for coffee and on their way. She's from Minnesota and Iowa in the distant past.
Carolyn Niethammer was with Ford Burkhart (who is now relocated back to Tucson and doing some writing and environmental work). Carri, without an e, is from Prescott, and a writer of a string of books on Western themes, and a civil celebrant as well. See http://cniethammer.com/. She's from the Chicago area. They will have been together 31 years as of November.
Heather Pritchett met Nate Foster at the UA. She was looking after his best interests Sunday night, as she has been for well over 40 years, and has been a regular at CHS '59 reunions so long that she was probably the first honorary member of our class. We know her spunk from her great news notes during Nate's battle with cancer in 2006. She and Nate, now in Fountain Hills, Az., get back to reunions of her high school class of 1963 in Ohio, where she was born. She has nurtured a career in business over the decades, and finds time for adventures with Nate. See Nate's Page or Nate's News on this website.