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Thank Goodness for Memories

Submitted by Albie Johnson - November 05, 2005

Our local donut shop has a regular contingent of "oldsters" that gather daily to swap stories. I am sure that after a few weeks of the good old days, the anecdotes wear thin. For me, I prefer Minonktalk where Dave has provided a clean blackboard for me, and you too, to write upon.

I'm a touch over 75 and I worry about my memory. I do daydream a lot and I can't remember names and important dates and I have just a nagging forgetfulness in general. So, when my wife mentioned that her group of Presbyterian Women were hosting a dinner and had invited a knowledgeable speaker whose topic was Alzheimer's disease I went. I would have gone anyway as this sounded informative. When I was young, this disease was called "loss of memory" or "dementia". The speaker gave plenty of insight and lots of information for any of us who might know of someone or relative that was afflicted. I will note just 3 things here: There is an Alzheimer's Assn., drugs might help, and the use of old photo albums does not work.

Prior to the discussion, one young woman at our table made a remark about the "Moreton Bay Fig Tree" in a park in Santa Barbara, Calif. I have seen it and it is truly huge. But, more important to my story was the flood of memories returning about the summer my family and I spent there in 1966. My wife Marilyn had received a scholarship from the National Math and Science Foundation to attend a class at U C. Santa Barbara. We left and upon arrival our family was assigned rooms in the vacant men's dorm. We had hardly arrived when we had a rude awakening, our first Earthquake! It was mild, but memorable. The key word here is "MEMORY".

The 1960's were called "The Age of Youth". About 70 million post WWII "Baby Boomers" became young adults. An estimated 850,000 youth entered Colleges and promptly spawned a new "movement" which was 180 degrees away from the conservative and patriotic 1940/50's. What this meant for parents was a confusing culture of music, theatre, fashion and education. The early 1960's were pure experimentation; the ensuing years brought political protests. Perhaps a few key words will help "nail down" this era. Barbie dolls, skateboards, slot cars, bouffant and Afro hairdos, go go dancers, mini skirts, hot pants, string ties, O'Leary and LSD, guitars and Mother Earth happenings. But, back to MY memories where even an understanding 39 year old Albie Johnson who found Girls hair pins and lipstick smudges in our Men's dorm rooms was at a loss for enlightenment! UC Santa Barbara already had a reputation as a progressive school, but the specter of "cohabitation" was beyond my imagination.

There were other families there and while Marilyn was in class, our kids and I spent time touring and visiting the campus, the beaches and the small shops around the area. Our oldest daughter had registered for an art class that she could transfer back to her Anaheim school. We used the library and visited the campus book store where I discovered some Henry Miller novels called "Tropics of..., Sexis, Nexis and Plexis that were all banned for sale in the US. I couldn't resist so bought and read them all that summer, oh yes, they were very very X-rated.

The 60's campuses started the "coffee houses". The UCSB general area had two. In one we tried lettuce and tomato on our burgers and loved the teeny shoestring French fries. The other was a real "in" spot complete with beads, lights, guitars and Joan Baez wanabe singers. I did enjoy the "experience" as the song lyrics seemed to be searching for answers to a changing world of the Red menace, the "other" Marilyn and John Kennedy.

We loved going to the beach. Unfortunately there often were small globs of tar drifting ashore. The locals said it came from the offshore oilrigs. I wondered about that, but then I remembered the excesses in NASA and Aerospace where I had just left after 7 years. Another memory of Santa Barbara was a quick introduction to golf. NOT GOOD! But, there were several art galleries and a museum. I befriended a couple of Catholic Sisters who were interested in art. They were "so" different from the ones I met as a youth! They might have been from the Carmelite order? We were introduced to modern art and especially Alexander Caulder's mobiles. Budding artists were invited to display their art on weekends in a local park. I decided to make and display a series of 12" by 12" Masonite boards covered with rough plaster and painted geometric forms using watercolors. I only needed a beret to convince myself I had arrived!! I did receive some comment but no sales. Now as I think about it, I don't believe I would have bought any either.

Soon, Marilyn finished her classes and we packed up and drove back to Anaheim. There were only a few days until we both were back in school. I think my wife was really "jazzed" and had a new respect for her Math classes. Me? It took just a week of reviewing my teaching assignments. My introduction to the "enlightened" age was over, but the memories linger on. I feel relatively confident that I might still remember other such incidents. OH YES!!! I am also reminded that Minonk's benefactor Dave (Minonktalk) Uphoff is a product of the 60's. I hope he and any other "Baby Boomers" will elucidate us with their tales.