It is too easy to think that our events and times represent a first or the last ever. In 1963 our Marine Corps family moved to Raytown, Missouri, near Kansas City.  For a couple of weeks, I was the tan, sun-bleached hair, California surfer. The Beach Boys were a very popular band at that time.  Shortly, everyone figured out that I was just another high school junior-class knucklehead like the rest.

Near our home was Wildwood Lakes, an abandoned amusement park from the 1930s.   There were huge swimming pools, diving platforms, waterslides, a lake, and an enormous dancehall. On December 7th, 1941 World War II interrupted its popularity and the fame and innocence were never to return. Activities continued into the 1950’s.  As Raytown teenagers, it was a fascinating place to explore.

There were posters scattered on the floor announcing big bands like Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington. Rolls of tickets hinted at prize drawings and contests. One could almost hear the parties that were there in the day, now just hollow, dusty echoes in the abandoned hall. Birds flitted about in the rafters, open to the weather as little shafts of sunlight came through holes in the ever-deteriorating roof.

For me, it was a teenager’s lesson in the great events that can seriously change the steady pace of what we consider normal. The men left for war and the dance stopped.
We also think that life has always been somewhat the same except for changes in technology.  In the spring of 1963 near Raytown, I saw former President Harry S. Truman pumping his own gas at one of the first self-serve filling stations.  He was unaccompanied as the Secret Service protection for he and his wife Bess ended with his term in office.  It would not be until John Kennedy’s assassination in November of that same year that such protection would be revitalized.  My siting of Truman was even more unusual when I learned that there had been an assassination attempt on him in 1950 just 13 years before Kennedy’s.

We should never consider our joy, or for that matter our sorrows, to be permanent. Life can change slowly or in the blink of an eye. The great gift of being a military brat has been my ability to learn to adapt. Times change, places morph, people grow up and grow down.  Only God and His Son stand the test of time. To them do we cling in gratitude for the good times and solace when it gets rough.

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