1963 Spring Break and a Brush with History | Eastern North Carolina Now

Sometimes events create memories that mark time on a calendar even if you were not part of the history.

    Sometimes events create memories that mark time on a calendar even if you were not part of the history. However, upon reflection you can remember the tenner of the times marked by those events.

    In 1963, just two months before my high school graduation, a classmate and I decided to hitchhike to Daytona Beach, Florida for spring break. This was not a well thought out plan but it was a necessity since neither of us had planned for it and as a result did not have enough money for gas or bus fare. I think it might also be a safe assumption that we looked upon the trip as just another adventure in our young life.
Typical beer party during spring break

    In 1963, the interstate highway system had not been completed so the trip to Daytona would be mostly on two lane highways. The route followed Hwy 41 south to Macon, Georgia and on to Lake City Florida. Then we headed east on Hwy 90 to Jacksonville. The last leg of the trip was down the famous Hwy A1A down the beach to Daytona. That was a benefit because the chances of getting a ride on an interstate then and now were few. We were fortunate to be picked up by a traveling salesman just south of Atlanta, and he was heading to south Georgia and gave us a ride almost to the Florida line.

    Here is where the history link comes into my story.

    Part I The USS Thresher (SSN-593) sinks:

    On 9 April 1963 Thresher, now commanded by Lieutenant Commander John Wesley Harvey, got underway from Portsmouth at 8 am and rendezvoused with the submarine rescue ship Skylark at 11 am to begin its initial post-overhaul dive trials, in an area some 190 nmi (220 mi; 350 km) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. That afternoon Thresher conducted an initial trim dive test, surfaced and then performed a second dive to half test depth. It remained submerged overnight and re-established underwater communications with Skylark at 6:30 am on 10 April to commence deep-dive trials. Following standard practice, Thresher slowly dived deeper as it traveled in circles under Skylark - to remain within communications distance - pausing every additional 100 feet (30 m) of depth to check the integrity of all systems. As Thresher neared her test depth, Skylark received garbled communications over underwater telephone indicating "... minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow", and then a final even more garbled message that included the number "900".(1-Wiki)

    I have a distinct memory of seeing a newspaper front page during that trip telling the story of the sinking. News distribution . In those days information, was limited to broadcast TV and newspapers. There were no Cable News Networks. Later the Kingston Trio performed a song about the Thresher. As an avid fan of the Trio, I felt an a connection to history.


The Thresher

    Part II

    April 12, Martin Luther King arrested in Birmingham during civil rights

    The campaign used a variety of nonviolent methods of confrontation, including sit-ins, kneel-ins at local churches, and a march to the county building to mark the beginning of a drive to register voters. The city, however, obtained an injunction barring all such protests. Convinced that the order was unconstitutional, the campaign defied it and prepared for mass arrests of its supporters. King elected to be among those arrested on April 12, 1963.

    While in jail, King wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on the margins of a newspaper, since he had not been allowed any writing paper while held in solitary confinement. Supporters appealed to the Kennedy administration, which intervened to obtain King's release. King was allowed to call his wife, who was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child, and was released early on April 19. (2 - Wiki)

    The civil rights movement was in full swing and tensions were high all around the south. Undaunted, and most likely unaware of the unrest in Birmingham, we walked right through the city of Jacksonville and St Augustine during the demonstrations that were held in conjunction with Dr. Kings activities.

    We finally made it to Daytona and enjoyed the weekend. We never got a motel room but did find sleeping quarters in a room or two thanks to the benevolence of a few more well financed students there for the festivities.

    My memories of that spring break have been hermetically sealed and stored in a secure server along with the pictures regarding the time spent in Daytona because nothing eventful happened that weekend that I can disclose in this public forum. Even 53 years later somethings are best left to the imagination of the reader and the memory of the writer.

    It does point up a few things though:

  • Being alive in that time and having the innocence to strike out on foot for a city 450 miles away shows that youth has no conception of the 'Law of Unintended Consequences'.
  • You do not have to be a participant in history for it to affect your memory of life and have a significance you did not understand at the time.
  • Just because you are partying and trying to get laid does not mean that the world revolves around you. Others are dying and trying to correct injustice. It took a few more years for me to learn that lesson.

   Did I mention that the above is TOP SECRET?? Do not attach or forward this in any unsecured email ot across any unsecured server. It has been marked TOP SECRET.

Grandpa's Diary Chapter 13

1 - WIKI
2 - WIKI
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( May 26th, 2016 @ 2:39 pm )
Major engineering disasters are usually the result of a combination of multiple things going wrong. The Thresher is no different. Here is the story of it's ill-fated dive and possible causes based on the Navy's reconstruction and duplication of the event. Like the Titanic, Hindenburg, Apollo and Challenger incidents, the stretching of technology to its limits is not for the faint of heart. Mankind has always strived to overcome barriers in the mechanics and physics of machines. It often comes at the cost of life but progress is not a benign endeavor.


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