Growing up in the 1950’s was so different from what kids of today experience that looking back at that time period is like following Alice down the white rabbit’s hole to Wonderland. The two worlds are so different that it is difficult to make a list of all that has changed, but everyone I talk to fondly reminisces about things that the recent generations can’t begin to fathom. In my book, I Must Survive, the childhood days include many of these differences and I even use a couple, freedom and imagination, as major features in my stories. Today, people have instant information of everything that is happening in the world through television and the internet. Because this instant communication was not available in the fifties, the world of a child was focused more around what was happening in their immediate lives. It seemed to be a much less complex world.
Things such as seeing fire flies for the first time or capturing a yellow and black salamander seemed like important aspects of our lives. Today all kids are experts on video games and constantly want the next new features. All of our toys seemed to last a lifetime and, although well worn, were treasured; whereas the rooms of today’s children contain piles of discarded toys hardly used. How many of us took for granted that our moms would have a good meal available for us at every mealtime. Today’s children would rather settle for fast food items such as a pizza or a McDonalds meal. An ice cream cone from Dairy Queen was a special treat and our moms popped pop corn for us to take to the drive-in movie, the few times we went.
I am sure I am only touching the tip of the iceberg of all of the differences each of you can remember. I would love to hear about what all of you remember about the 1950’s that has been lost to today’s modern, connivance world. I sometimes wonder what impact today’s world will have on the world of the future.
The common thread throughout my book is about survival and that is why I chose the title, I Must Survive. Before I selected a title, I realized that the story I was writing could be about any one of us as we live our separate lives, striving to survive whatever life sends our way.
Focusing the main story in the Vietnam conflict seemed fitting because it is the one time in the history of our country when people forgot who we are and allowed a temporary division between our general population and those who serve in the military to preserve our way of life. Whether we agree or disagree with our involvement in Vietnam, the personnel who served in our military should have had our unrelenting respect and support. They did not! Instead, they were treated as outcasts to our society and never received the hero recognition that participants in all other military engagements have received throughout history. They did not make the decision to be in Vietnam, they simply did their duty. From birth, the men of the United States are conditioned to step forward for their country and risk their lives in whatever manner our leaders determine.
My book is based on the experience of only one of these loyal citizens; yet I hope it brings recognition to all of those who served. As an American, I support the right of our citizens to speak out and protest the action of our leaders, but I do not condone the way they spread their protest to discredit the honorable action of those that fought in Vietnam. I, for one, salute each and every one of those loyal Americans.
As I grow older I find myself thinking more and more about my childhood days and the shared experiences of our family during a wonderful time period that is now lost forever… the 1950’s. A few years ago I was restricted to lying in bed because of a blockage in my spinal column that numbed my legs. Complications arose when my legs filled up with 30 to 40 blood clots and started to shut down my kidneys and liver. I thought my life was basically over and found myself focusing more and more on the early days of my life. Although life during this time was full of hardships; to me and my siblings, it was also a life of contentment with a strong commitment to family and friends. As children we had a freedom that parents no longer are comfortable allowing. Most families could not afford lots of toys and the electronic entertainment devices of today did not exist, so we had to develop active imaginations. It was a wonderful, wonderful time!
A seed was planted!
As I started the road to recovery and the strenuous therapy of relearning how to walk, I started thinking how lucky I have been all my life to survive whatever seemed to come up, including not having to go to Vietnam. I remembered the feelings I had when I received orders three times in 1965 to go to Vietnam and the relief each time when my orders were rescinded. I also reflected on all the people from the Fifth Division who I knew that did go and the stories of the casualties they experienced. I also remembered the experience a friend told me about when he was stranded in Vietnam for 18 weeks. I decided I would attempt to blend the two concepts into a book for family and friends.
As the book started taking shape I received encouragement to publish. Although I have read all my life, I had never considered actually publishing a book. I was getting so much positive feedback I decided to give it a try and started researching the various self-publishing companies. Now, my book, I Must Survive!, is no longer just a work in progress. I look forward to sharing with you more about myself and the book here.
“I Must Survive” is a promise Brad Howard makes as he watches in horror the killing of his crewmates when Vietcong soldiers ambush and destroy their PBR. Lost in the Vietnam jungle, he is facing weeks, even months, of trying to survive. Childhood memories remind him that all of life’s experiences are about surviving and those memories become his focus to survive Vietnam. Like all people that experienced the 1950’s firsthand, he and his family endured many hardships but he also learned to use his imagination, which was his strongest tool to survive Vietnam.