Abilene High School Class of 1961

Abilene Book Project: Editor Mike Grant’s memo 5/03/06 re parameters AND requested information

Mike Grant e-mail:  michaelgrant2@cox.net  

This project is an account of a place unique in time, as told by the people who were there.

The place is Abilene, and the time is just before the growth of communications and travel started, around 1956, to seriously shrink the planet and pull kids inside from their natural neighborhoods into the global neighborhood of television and now the Web.

I have no idea what it must be like, to be in the third or fourth grade in Abilene in 2006, but I know it is a completely foreign experience to that which we remember.  In a very real way, we come from a different planet: Abilene, Texas, early 1950s.  I get the feeling that we would all agree it was a superior planet, filled with original adventure, fear, pleasure, pain and friendship, and not the contemporary, scripted kind.

Our experience was unique in two ways. First, it was before the invasion, into
Abilene from the world outside, of the scripted life.  Secondly, in the absence of that diversion, we knew mainly our neighborhoods as our real world, into which we were pulled, the screen door slapping shut behind us, by curiosity, a need for play, and a craving for independence. We hated to go inside, until it was too dark to see, and even then they had to call us more than once.

As I see it, that is the heart of the project.  In 1955, we started the migration from our sovereign neighborhoods into the larger communities of junior high and high school. In this project, though we all know each other, and in many cases we know each other very well, we will read stories told by close friends that we never heard before, from a time in Abilene before we knew each other. I have already been fascinated by two stories, from Bob Cluck and Eddie Krieger, of their lives in the “Alta Vista neighborhood,” going over to Johnny Gerhart’s house.  Their neighborhood was directly next to mine, but I never knew Bob and Eddie until we started South.

That is the scope I recommend:  stories from our sovereign neighborhoods, before, in seventh grade, we started to leave.  As we tell these stories, the neighborhoods will naturally emerge, but also will the town.  Among my stories will always be the sounds of the trains going through, as they sounded from the 400 block of Poplar, and the Christmas decorations stretched across Pine St., as they illuminated the Christmas Parade.

Keep in mind that many of our stories may involve playmates, friends, enemies, etc., who were not in the Class of ’61, in my case, Don Button, for example, who lived out near Pioneer somewhere but who during the days stayed with his grandparents who lived two houses up from me.

I recommend the Ken Burns “Civil War” format.  A short story is told, and then accredited to the teller.  Our pages will be a progression of these stories, accredited at the end in italics.  My main job as editor will be to find a natural grouping or sequence for the stories.  What finally emerges, I am positive, will be an original portrait of our town.

Obviously, each of your stories is a piece of the Abilene story.  If you didn’t grow up in
Abilene, send vignettes from your own sovereign childhood neighborhood, wherever it was.  There may be a place for them that I don’t see yet.

Don’t worry about “good writing;” stories in your own words will bring a vivacity that could not otherwise be achieved.  I will edit for spelling and punctuation, but not for grammar.

From all of you, I would like: your name (Abilene and present), your Abilene address in grade school; your grade school with location and mascot, your parents’ names and occupations, and the make and model of the family cars.

Please submit the following to michaelgrant2@cox.net 

1953 information 

When you submit stories for the collection, please attach the following;

Childhood name

Childhood address

Elementary school attended, address (street intersection) and mascot

Parents’ names

Parent’s occupations and work addresses

Cars, year and model

Limits and description of neighborhood

Stores in area (grocery, soda fountain)

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