April 11, 2010

What's your earliest political memory?

Some writers answer that question here. You can answer it here.

What's my answer? Let's see. Maybe, 1960. I was in 4th grade. All the kids I knew were for Nixon. I analyzed the situation and proclaimed: "If kids could vote, Nixon would win by a landslide!"

174 comments:

Rialby said...

Reagan's inauguration. I was home sick from school - I would have been in the first grade. I remember my mother was so intent on watching it because her first cousin's wife had run off with a congressman and she wanted to see if she could find her in the inaugural parade.

Marcia said...

Nixon's resignation.

I was almost 8.

I remember my parents watching intently. My sister (age 6) and I were just tired of Watergate because the news reports kept preempting Happy Days.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The run up to John Kennedy getting elected. My mother was thrilled that a Catholic was running for President and actively campaigned for him.

This was the first time I realized that my mother, or anyone that I knew, was active in national politics. It was a huge deal for her when Kennedy won. It was an even bigger thing when he was assasinated.

Sheepman said...

Writing a letter to LBJ when I was around 9 (ca. 1965), asking for information about the Vietnam War. It didn't make sense to me because I thought wars should be a total war, like WWII, and I didn't know whether I should support it or not.

Some color pamphlets were sent to me by the White House. I was impressed by that, but it didn't answers any of my questions.

themightypuck said...

I don't remember much but I do remember Reagan getting shot.

Roman said...

Ronald Reagan's speech in 1964 for Barry Goldwater. It got me interested, the election was just after my 18th birthday, so I could not vote, but volunteered for the local GOP.

Roger J. said...

As an old fart, I recall seeing the Army-McCarthy hearings on TV and could not understand why the senator was berating the US Army. I do recall Mr Welch's magnificent take down of the Senator, (have you no shame) and all the while senator McCarthy kept on talking apparently oblivious to the fact he was skewered.

Brian Hancock said...

I was 7 and Jimmy Carter was traveling the Mississippi on a boat (I lived on the Wisconsin side) - just started reading the newspaper and I remember people talking that they should throw him in the damn river.

I think in the same year, my dad and me had to drive in the Wisconsin 4th of July parade (Shullsburg, WI) with Equal Rights Amendment sign on our car and things on top of the car.

I remember none of the women, who put this together, didn't want to have to do the parade. Thought it was odd that they believed in this thing, but didn't want to be seen with a sign.

Not sure which came first.

buster said...

The fall of 1952, shortly before the election. I was eight years old. I was walking to school one morning, thinking about Eisenhower and Stevenson, whom I had seen on television. I decided that Ike was a nicer (better) man than Stevenson, so I would vote for Ike. I've been the only Republican in my family ever since.

Solar said...

My earliest memory is of the angry bullies who lived next door to us.
The slightly older male used to get on the bus and taunt everyone. They loved Jimmy Carter. It was my earliest impression and introduction to the concept of "blind faith". What did these kids know about Jimmy Carter?


Jimmy Carter horrified my poor self-employed father. What a nightmare.

Meade said...

It was 1956. I was two. I remember my mother telling me to wait in car while she would be going into the house with an American flag in the front yard "to vote for eye sun hower." I remember standing on the front seat of our Ford wagon, focusing on the flag and holding my hand over my heart until my mother came back out.

Also, I remember hearing the name "Cruel Chef" and somehow I just knew he was a bad guy

Four years later, my mother answered my question: "What is the difference between Democrats and Republicans?" Her answer: "Democrats want to tax everyone and then spend people's money for them while Republicans think people know best how to spend their own money."

So I went with Nixon in 1960.

MamaM said...

None Dare Call it Treason. 1964

I can still picture the cover. My dad used to pass it out to people he wished to convince or convert.

It took a long time for me to realized the anger he channeled toward political figures was rooted in something other than the issue at hand.

I still find myself reacting strongly to those who use political issues as a way to vent their unresolved or unidentified anger.

barry's blog said...

Going to a neighborhood polling place in Lexington KY with my dad when he voted for Nixon, when I was 5 years old. I don't remember the Cuban missile crisis like my wife does and my next memory is the Kennedy assassination.

Issob Morocco said...

In 1968, the Nixon campaign put out a plastic, square shaped record in the daily local paper, which was meant to be played at 33 RPM in which Nixon talked of the slient majority, etc.

The cool thing was if you played the record at 45RPM it sounded like Hubert Humphrey which we all thought was a hoot, given he was Nixon's opponent. My brother was a paper delivery lad at that time and he had about 4 of them he saved. We are down to our last one, as time has swiped the other three.

Ann Althouse said...

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis: The school sent home a memo to the parents telling them to instruct their kids who took the bus on how they should walk home from school in case of nuclear war. My parents did not step up to that assigned task, nor did they explain their failure to follow the school's order. Years later, I figured it out for myself.

JAL said...

I remember pictures of a ticker tape parade (is that possible?) when the Korean War ended? (Yeah, I'm almost as old as dirt.)

I remember them adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.

I remember Eisenhower and Stevenson.

That three things.

Meade said...

And yes, many years later, my mother - one of the most gorgeous women of all time, of all time - turned into a talk radio figure named Rush Limbaugh.

Kirstin said...

I think I remember being on the playground at elementary school when someone announced that President Kennedy had been shot. But if it didn't happen on a school day, then I'm wrong.

Next, I remember the trailer where my parents volunteered when Goldwater ran for president.

JAL said...

@ Meade -- You realize that your mother would be investigated by social services these days for leaving you in the car while she voted?

Expat(ish) said...

Staying at home (faking) sick so I could hold onto our Alcoa-enhanced bunny ears and just barely get the Watergate hearings on UHF. (People under 30 will have to look a lot of stuff up in Wikipedia to understand that!)

I also remember being bitterly disappointed that the beautiful blond girl I silently followed with my eyes was "for the other guy" in the 68 election, but as I was five at the time, I don't remember which guy I was for and why I knew that she was wrong.

That was not the last time I've been confused by a woman's political opinion, mind you.

-XC

WestVirginiaRebel said...

My earliest memories are actually of the Moon landings. Nixon came later, when the Watergate hearings were on.

I think by the time I was 10 or so I was getting most of my info about current events from Mad Magazine-which was kind of like the John Stewart of its day.

Ford was boring. Carter seemed like a weird interval between the Seventies and the Eighties.

Lucius said...

Operation Frequent Wind, our abandonment of Hanoi, in 1975.

The second was Carter proudly giving away the Panama Canal, in 1977.

Ann Althouse said...

It was a school day when President Kennedy was shot. I remember walking down the stairs at school and walking up was an older student who was crying and saying that the President was shot. I thought at first that she must be talking about something that had just happened at school and that the class president was shot.

Ann Althouse said...

Also on the day JFK was shot, I remember some kid saying: "Who would do such a thing?" I confidently answered: "Republicans!"

John said...

I can remember being four years old and watching the Watergate hearings with my parents. But that is vague memory. My first serious memory is the 1976 election. I remember that perfectly. And I also remember Sadat going to Israel and interrupting the Michigan Ohio State game.

John said...

"I confidently answered: "Republicans!"

that is okay Ann. Most of your generation still thinks that is what happened. The fact that he was killed by a disgruntled communist angry over US treatment of Castro just doesn't fit the narrative.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think I remember being on the playground at elementary school when someone announced that President Kennedy had been shot. But if it didn't happen on a school day, then I'm wrong.

Oh yes. It was on a school day. We were at lunch in the cafeteria/assembly hall when the teachers came in to make the announcment. The schools was a K through 8 school and rather small so the entire school was already assembled: eating, throwing food, teasing the younger students, being normal bratty sub teens.

I remember being quite frightened by the sobbing teachers. Most of the younger kids didn't have a clue about politics, Kennedy or anything else. Just that the teachers, who were supposed to be in charge, stable adults were weeping and scaring the crap out of us.

I was 13 years old.

themightypuck said...

Oswald was all over the map but I don't think he ever alighted upon the GOP.

John said...

Kennedy was shot on a Friday afternoon. Oswald was killed the following Sunday.

themightypuck said...

Speaking of Oswald and conspiracy theories, Libra is a fun book.

Meade said...

@JAL: Ha ha. True!

In the fifties, child protective services meant hoping they'd count heads before accidently leaving you behind at the Indiana State Fair.

Mumpsimus said...

Being really, really annoyed that we couldn't watch Howdy Doody because of the Army-McCarthy hearings.

@Meade 2:39 -- I hope you mean "tuned into," not "turned into."

tim maguire said...

Nixon's resignation. I was about 8.

I knew he was a president and knew he was resigning, but I didn't know what a president was or why he had to go. I remember visiting a friend after school the preceding months and having to keep quiet because his mom was watching Watergate. I thought it was a soap opera.

Bill White said...

Watching one of the Watergate hearings on a stormy summer day in 1973. I was late 6 or early 7. Mom was resting on the couch and I snuggled up with her to watch TV.

victoria said...

Ann, we are about the same age, I turn 59 in December. I am an Irish-Italian Catholic raised on the east coast (first 12 years before California corrupted me!!) and my first memory of politics was the 1960 election. I was taught by nuns, most of whom were Irish so they were absolutely in love with "Johnny" Kennedy. I remember like, it was yesterday, watching his inauguration. Anyone in the New York, New Jersey area was home from school as we were in the midst of a blizzard to end all blizzards. Seeing him in his top had and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue still gives me shivers.

My parents were life-long Republicans, my dad was president of the Republican Club of Sacramento when we lived in Davis. From the start I was, and still am a proud Democrat. From the LBJ/HHH bumper sticker on my bicycle in '64 to walking precincts for Tom Bradley in '72 (LA's first black mayor) to campaigning for Jerry Brown for governor today, I am still proud of my choices.



Vicki from Pasadena

ET1492 said...

Reagan vs. Mondale. My first grade class held a mock election and I remember a purple and white mimeograph of the candidates' faces. I voted for Reagan because Mondale ate babies, or at least that's what my parents told me...

victoria said...

I, too, remember the day that Kennedy was assassinated. I was in school in music appreciation class, when one of the teachers came in and made the announcement. 7th grade, I was almost 12. Still breaks my heart. I remember watching all the events, including the funeral. Still brings a tear to my eye.


Vicki from Pasadena

ken in sc said...

Seeing President Truman get out of a helicopter in a newsreel at the movies. I was so impressed that I drew pencil drawings of helicopters for weeks. Later, I also remember resenting President Eisenhower preempting Disneyland on Wednesday nights—more than once.

Paul said...

I remember watching Cronkite during Watergate. As a 7 year old in early 74, I had a eureka moment that proved Nixon was innocent. Walter had mentioned Watergate was about Nixon trying to get reelected. But, Walter, Nixon has already been elected twice, he can't run for another term, why would he do these crimes? Duh - I needed to learn the timeline.

Curtiss said...

"Old Onion Head".

That's what my father called Eisenhower.

Fen said...

As kids, my younger brother and I were trying to become members of a neighborhood club [teehouse fort in backyard]. One of the questions we were asked as part of the initiation test was "What is watergate?"

Big Mike said...

My first political memory was my high school girlfriend telling me, all wide-eyed and in a low voice, that her parents were thinking of moving to another country now that John Kennedy had won.

I remember the day JFK was shot. The principal came on the high school loudspeaker and told us that he had been shot and was in a hospital. Later he came back on and told us that the President was now dead. I was supposed to play Peter that night in "The Diary of Anne Frank," and the girl who was playing Anne was in hysterics. The speech and theater teacher was asking her if she could to on, and she assured him she could. And we did -- the show must go on, you know.

Unlike Althouse, my initial assumption was that Johnson has masterminded the assassination, since Kennedy was murdered in Dallas.

I was coming downstairs from my room when my mother told me that Lee Harvey Oswald had been killed. I didn't connect the dots so I asked who he was, and my mother proceeded to beat me. She was very big on beating her children. I've never laid a hand on mine.

AJ Lynch said...

JFK's campaign motorcade on Castor Avenue in NE Philadelphia and it looked like the entire NE Philly population [400,000 people or so] turned out to see it. I was 8 years old. My neighborhood was about 90% Catholic and Jewish so I assume he had a lot of support there.

Dark Eden said...

My father had gotten an electric typewriter with one of those screens that previewed a few words and my brother and I were having fun typing 'Carter Sucks' over and over and over. It seemed SO MUCH FUN in my memory but I have no idea why on earth little kid me would even want to do that.

Dr Weevil said...

As it happens, I wrote a post on exactly this subject two years ago. Here it is, with three words added in square brackets:
"Being faced with unappetizing choices in a presidential election is nothing new. When I was seven and a half, my parents thought they were morally obligated to vote, but had great difficulty deciding which of the two major-party candidates was the lesser of two evils. (I don't believe they considered for a moment voting third party.) They had disliked and distrusted Richard Nixon since they had first heard of him many years before, and [despite being Catholic] had disliked and distrusted the entire Kennedy family since they had first heard of any of them, which must have been even longer. Eventually they flipped a coin and one voted for each. Their votes did not cancel each other out, since my father was in the Navy and they had kept their official residences in their home states, as military voters were (and I think still are) allowed to do. As it turned out, his vote, in Rhode Island, made far less difference than hers, in Illinois. When I asked them ten or so years later, they couldn't recall who had voted for which candidate, so I don't know whether my mother's vote helped to widen or to narrow Kennedy's slim margin in one of his closest states."
Verification word: polsy = of or resembling vulgar politicians.

veni vidi vici said...

The Republican National Convention in Detroit in 1980. I grew up in Windsor, so that was a pretty big deal.

There's an excellent HBO (I think) movie from aways back called "Teamster Boss" with Brian Dennehy that captures that era in Detroit quite well.

Before that, I have a few random snapshot memories of the Carter years, certainly plenty of nightly news memories of the hostage crisis following the deposition (?) of the Shah and Khomeini's ascendancy, and a lot of chatter by the grownups about how Reagan was "a warmonger". How much wronger could they have been?

The foregoing events were followed by Pierre Trudeau's fairly nonsensical "accomplishment" of "bringing home the constitution" to Canada from Britain. While this accomplished next to nothing substantively, it was played in gargantuan terms in the Canada of my youth as though it really meant something. Maybe it did to someone, but I've never known Canadians to be particularly jingoistic about their Canadian-ness. My experience is that Canucks (back then) had a strong identity with the British Commonwealth, and a stronger identity with being "Not the USA". The latter, at least, hasn't changed much.

That stuff, and Renee Levesque's perennial threats of secession by his Parti Quebecois.

Otherwise, outside the obligatory can't-miss memories (like Mondale/Ferraro; what a colossal "we don't really wanna win" that ticket was), I didn't really catch the wave until the Bush/Dukakis race in '88, which seemed like a significant potential inflection point at the time, in the way '00 and '08 did more recently.

Joe said...

When I was in the third grade, I remember Rep. Sammy Stratton visiting the school. Don't remember why or anything else.

1972. Ten years old. Sitting in a group of four desks and finding out that one of my classmates was for McGovern.

I also recall in 1976, how my tenth grade history teacher got so irritated that the vast majority of our class not only supported Ford, but openly despised and derided Carter.

AJ Lynch said...

I was 11 when Kennedy was assassinated. We were walkin from the parish church to the parish school [after altar boy practice] and a lady across the street yelled to us that the president had been shot and to tell the Mother Superior [principal]. We didn't asky why or how we just did as she asked. My 6th grade teacher, Miss Martino, was in tears when she heard the news.

On Sunday, we got bored watching TV new about the plans for JFK's funneral so went outside to play touch football.

When we returned, we learned Oswald had been shot! What a crazy world we were suddenly in.

AJ Lynch said...

Meade:

"Your mother turned into Rush Limbaugh"? :)

Dave in Tucson said...

I remember I was riding around in the car with my dad. There was a news report on the radio: President Nixon had fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

I was at just the right age where such a name was good for a laugh. My dad said I shouldn't laugh, it was a serious thing.

Somehow I realized he was right, and actually paid fairly close attention to the rest of Watergate.

gk1 said...

Eisenhower's funeral on t.v. I 8 years old, home from school with strep throat and comprehending it was not the current president but an older one. Then the realization there would be no cartoons that day. Many years later I would come to understand Ike's greatness, but not that day, I'll tell you. :-P

Joe said...

Oh, another weird memory. I was seven or eight and was at my best friend's house. His father was watching the news and there was footage from Vietnam. I distinctly remember video of a tank and soldiers going down a road and telling my friend "there's a real war on!" I wanted to stay and found out what this was all about; he insisted on leaving.

My other clear memory of the Vietnam War was being in the hospital and watching the news stories of the evacuation of Saigon. I remember seeing the footage of the helicopters landing on the aircraft carriers or next to them.

Charlie Martin said...

Nixon-Kennedy election. Watched it on the TV in my room. I was just past my 5th birthday.

Yes, I've always been a nerd.

Brad V said...

Watching Bush the elder's speech on the eve of the Gulf War on our couch when I was in first grade or so.

Randy said...

Although I'm a bit younger than Althouse, the 1960 election is also my earliest political memory. Fell asleep while my mom & dad were watching the election returns go on and on and then watching Kennedy speak in Hyannisport after Nixon conceded the next day.

WRT to Kennedy's assassination, we were eating lunch in the cafeteria. The teacher on lunch duty was standing on a chair listening to the news reports being broadcast over the PA system. She'd asked us to be quiet as the President had been shot. We thought she was referring to Lincoln, as it was common for them to pipe in a program called "Standard School Broadcasts" which featured historical reenactments. I remember three girls clapping when she announced that President Kennedy was dead.

Paddy O. said...

1984.

Also 4th grade. We had moved from eastern LA county to live in the fine town of Santa Barbara.

The local elementary schools were pretty far behind, and my parents, though strong Christians, both hated Christian schools, likely because both had attended them for parts. So, I went to what was then called the Open Alternative school, just off of Milpas Ave. Basically, it was a Montessori school without the discipline run by mostly former hippies. It was felt that kids should be encouraged to learn at their own pace and be directed towards their own interests.

There was a mock election in the school mimicking the national election of that year. I remember being one of the very, very few Reagan voters in that election, with the school going like 85% for Mondale. I remember hearing how horrible Reagan was and how he was going to get us into nuclear war. I was told there was no way he was going to be re-elected, that the country hated Reagan. I also remember being taught about peace and Buddhism.

The real campaign results came in and it turns out I was in line with the national majority. And while most of the teachers at that school were entirely earnest, they weren't quite in tune with national sentiment anymore.

We moved to a different home the next year, in a different part of the town, and I started going to a public school again. Turns out I got about a year behind or so in math during my time at the Open Alternative School.

Math never does seem to be a strong emphasis with former hippies.

michael farris said...

Mine (maybe) was overhearing another teacher telling my teacher that the president (Kennedy) had just been shot.

My brother had been learning about Lincoln and telling me so my first thought at the time that shooting presidents must be a pretty normal thing.

Of course at that age (1st or 2nd grade) I had no concept of decades, much less centuries so I thought Lincoln had been presdient just a few years before assumed my parents had seen him on tv.

Moose said...

Discussing at the dinner table that I was scared of Goldwater because he'd use nuclear bombs. I guess the adverts worked...

El Pollo Real said...

I remember being in the hospital for my tonsillectomy when I was three (1963). I count that as a political memory because such things were agenda driven by the AMA, that most political of entities. I was also forced to take a bath with a girl my age which I very much enjoyed.

Moose said...

AJ Lynch,

Please review my comment in the other post regading the pitfalls of "ironic humor".

Finn Kristiansen said...

I remember Jimmy Carter, and my dad ranting softly about Carter being sabotaged by Paul Volker and the raising of interest rates and me sitting there nodding my head somewhat bored. Also the hostage rescue attempt.

(My father also had theories about Mick Jagger being Satan's handyman, and whites being able to sing like blacks due to drug use in the 1960's. Again, I just nodded my head).

mesquito said...

Nixon resignation. We were riding around in northern Maine in a VW Mircrobus. My Dad, two uncles, and about 15 or twenty cousins. Reception was awful, so we pulled off the road and kids had to go amuse themselves in the woods for a few minutes.

Cheryl said...

I was in elementary school when Jimmy Carter was elected, so it was second or third grade. My Southern parents (Alabama and North Carolina) had moved to Minnesota and so we were practically foreigners there. Anyway, I remember one classmate of mine told me her mom voted for Jimmy Carter because she just loved the way he talked. Even at age 8 I thought that was stupid.

And then, it must have been just a couple of years later, we had a song we would sing to the "Oscar Mayer Weiner" song:
My President has a first name
It's J-I-M-M-Y
My President has a second name
It's C-A-R-T-E-R
Oh, I love to hate him every day
And if you ask me why I'll say....
'Cause Jimmy Carter has a way
Of messing up the U S A!

Out of the mouths of babes, I guess.

ironrailsironweights said...

I was five or six years old, but already knew how to read fairly well. Posters for an upcoming local election went up around town asking people to "VOTE ROW A." Somehow, my mind didn't process the gap between the W and the A and thought that the posters said "VOTE ROWA." I wondered who Mr. Rowa was.

Peter

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

When I was 4 or 5, I remember asking my mother if there was going to be a war. She said she didn't think so. I figured out later that that must have been the Cuban missile crisis.

When President Kennedy died, I was in 2nd grade. Cindy Foster sat behind me and started crying.

I had a button in 3rd grade that said, "Go, go, go, with Goldwater." My school bus driver had a son named Barry, and his wife was pregnant. Since he was a Democrat, he named his new son, "Lyndon."

Toy

edutcher said...

Like Roger J, I remember the Army-McCarthy hearings (anytime something important like that was on, my father would watch it wall to wall), but, if it can be called political, my earliest memory was at age 4 (two weeks or so until I turned 5) when the cease fire for the Korean War was announced (I somehow thought it was the end of WWII). I remember lying on the floor of the bedroom my parents used when we were up at my Aunt Claribel's house thinking about it (bright sunny day, too).

JAL said...

I remember pictures of a ticker tape parade (is that possible?) when the Korean War ended? (Yeah, I'm almost as old as dirt.)

You may be remembering the one NYC gave MacArthur after Truman sacked him. A lot of people sided against HST on that one.

traditionalguy said...

I was fascinated by the lusty ways of the delegates at the political conventions in 1952. They already knew whom they were nominating, but it was a display of the old fashioned days of poltical conventions. The incidental TV broadcast coverage of this real event, like it had been done for a 100 years, was Not a TV Broadcast designed to be watched by the voters like it has been ever since. The medium is the message, anyone?

Balfegor said...

My first distinct political memory, such as it is, is of some cartoon on the front of Time or Newsweek or some other magazine like that, of Bush I and Dukakis throwing mud at each other.

I have vague recollections of the 1992 campaign in the US -- Ross Perot's ears -- and a vague recollection of the presidential campaign in South Korea. I think Kim Young Sam may have had a bunch of watches (?) to give out to all his supporters, and I got one from my grandfather. Probably have it somewhere still.

Irene said...

March 1963: President John F. Kennedy arrived in Chicago for the official dedication of The O'Hare Airport. My Father, a resolute Republican who had fled the Soviet Union, took us to the ceremonies. Dad understood what things would build the memory bank of a child. For example, he also took us to the Chicago opening of A Hard Day's Night.

Here's Dad's photo of Kennedy speaking. Notice that the men surrounding Kennedy followed his fashion of not wearing hats.

There's also a snapshot of me from that day. It doesn't look like I appreciated the outing, even though I was wearing stylish eyeglasses.

I remember the day when Kennedy was assassinated; it was Dad's birthday. My Grandmother fell to her knees in front of the TV and started praying in Russian.

Penny said...

This is a great question. I remember pictures of President Eisenhower in my grade school. Everyone liked Ike. Right?

It was sometime later that I realized there were two sides in politics. I asked my parents which party they belonged to and one was a Republican and one was a Democrat. The ensuing discussion of "why that party" was one of the only disagreements they ever had in front of me.

John said...

I dont know if it is political, but November 1963, and my mother weeping at the sight of Jackie Kennedy in funeral crepe standing with John Jr and Caroline. Both parents had voted for Nixon, but this was beyond politics, our President had been assassinated.

Political would be a year later in 1964, and my mother's disappointment in the election results. Both parents were big fans of Goldwater and W. F. Buckley. I cannot imagine what they would think of Republicans in 2010.

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

I was in my late teens and figuring out that my civics class professor was biased against Reagan. So when he asked us to write how we felt about the Reagan / Mondale election I picked up every anti Reagan diettribe I ever heard and put it in.

I got an A- because of my poor spelling and punctuation.

EDH said...

I was four or five.

A Vote for Volpe bumper sticker had been sent unsolicited to our house.

Left alone a few minutes before bed, for no other reason than I had never seen one before and it was there, I stuck it to the edge of the mantle woodwork above the fireplace in the middle of the living room.

My parents had to peel it off. Not happy.

k*thy said...

1967 in Milwaukee - Father James Groppi led Freedom Marches as Mayor Henry Maier and Police Chief Harold Breier watched their control over the nation's most segregated city collapse in the summer of 1967.  It was the bloodiest night in Milwaukee history.  I was in the suburbs watching, on tv, the chaos, marches and burning buildings I was 7 at the time.

Also, the Vietman War.

Theo Boehm said...

I may be the old fart here. I am actually about the same age as Althouse's sister, and a year or so younger than Annie Gottlieb, aka 'amba,' who is well-known hereabouts, and is turning 64 tomorrow.

I seem to have been politically attuned from the beginning. My first memory is the election of Eisenhower. I remember seeing my first political ad—"I Like Ike"— on our new 13" TV. On that basis, I pestered my parents to vote for Ike, which, as firm Democrats, they took rather coolly.

My second memory is the death of Josef Stalin the next year. Somehow, I was intrinsically happy about this, which is hard to explain, because my parents still had a positive impression of him from WWII. My formerly Trotskyite uncle was positively ecstatic, however, first from memories of being targeted by Soviet agents in Spain, and secondly from his having since become violently anti-Communist.

Actually, as a result of having been in the Spanish Civil War, he became pretty much anti-everything, which, as a political position, I've since learned, has much going for it.

Deborah said...

The Kennedy election is the first one I remember. I was about 10. I remember the discussion in my house about him being Catholic. I was raised in the Bible Belt so Catholics were pretty suspect. However, I asked my father who he voted for and he said Kennedy.

traditionalguy said...

Special Alert: Lefty has a three stroke lead with two holes left to play. Now back to regular programing.

Meade said...

"So when he asked us to write how we felt about the Reagan / Mondale election I picked up every anti Reagan diettribe I ever heard and put it in."

Glad to see you eventually found something more nutritious and sustaining.

Methadras said...

I became political around 8 or 9 I think. Jimmy Carter will do that to you.

TMink said...

I was with mom and dad and a commercial was on for Goldwater. I asked who he was and my dad said a man running for President. I asked if we wanted him to win, and dad said yes but that he will lose. I said I wanted to change sides and vote for LBJ, the winner.

Dad gave me a funny look and said something like "You vote for the man who you think will do the best job son."

I asked him if I could change my vote back.

Trey

Penny said...

This just struck me. My first experience with politics and really caring about who won or lost was when my uncle ran for a local tax collector position, and lost. I might have been 10 at the time.

We were shocked that he ever put his name in the ring because he was just a hard working man, and extremely shy.

That was my first understanding of the concept that there would be "winners" and "losers" in politics, and that the very best of men could lose.

Leland said...

Cheryl beat me to it, but I remember the song going:

My balogna has a first name
it's J-I-M-M-Y...


We sang it around the school yard.

John Stodder said...

1960, attending a Kennedy rally in Barrington, IL with my mom and three-year-old brother. I was 4. When JFK arrived, there was a rush toward him. My mom was carrying my brother and holding my hand, but when the crowd made its move, I got separated from her and was nearly trampled. Another kid, a little older than me, poked me in the eye with one of the little American flags on sticks they had passed out. Finally, I was reunited with my Mom. Somehow, despite carrying my brother, someone lifted me up to shake JFK's hand. That much I remember. According to my mother, I said, when meeting Kennedy, "Mommy! It's Nixon!" Apparently, Kennedy laughed in his good-humored, classy way. After Kennedy left, the crowd quickly dispersed, leaving a huge mess of paper, cigarette butts and even a few flags in the town square where the rally had occurred.

From all this I learned that political passions could be dangerous, but fun. My mom just loved Kennedy. She was inconsolable when he was assassinated. I remember that weekend really well too. My crazy aunt and her family showed up uninvited in a trailer and camped in our front yard. By this time, we were in Stamford, CT. They were early health-food aficionados and seemingly spent the entire weekend making fresh carrot juice while my Mom cried in front of the TV and tried to ignore them.(It was my father's sister.) I saw Jack Ruby put a bullet into Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV. Another glimpse of what I took to be out-of-control political passions at work. Me getting crushed in a crowd full of Kennedy-lovers, Lee Harvey Oswald getting plugged by a grieving JFK fan -- basically the same thing. Is there any other explanation for why Ruby killed Oswald other than mad political love?

Anthony said...

The 1972 election. I was watching McGovern's final pre-election broadcast and I asked my father why, if McGovern is a communist, did he have the American flag behind him.

I was 5 years old.

(Yes I was a geek even then)

David said...

1952 Presidential conventions on TV.
Army-McCarthy hearings on TV.
Beginning of Korean War, if you call that politics. Clausewitz would.

Worst memory: JFK assassination. American politics has been pretty much downhill from that day.

David said...

Anthony said...
" . . . . I was watching McGovern's final pre-election broadcast and I asked my father why, if McGovern is a communist, did he have the American flag behind him."

Nice story, Anthony, but my bullshitometer went crazy.

al said...

Nixon visiting the brand new water treatment plant in Hanover Park, Il. The students from Laurel Hill stood out by Barrington Road waiting for the President. To drive by in a limo at 40mph. It was a cold rainy day and we were out there a (what seemed like) long time. Lots of kids seemed disappointed that day.

WV: finger. What some kids probably gave the President that day...

David said...

gk1 said...
"Eisenhower's funeral on t.v."

Even though i'm one of the oldest farts here, I have no memory of Ike's funeral. My father died the same day Ike did. My dad and I had talked of Ike's impending death just a day or two before.

My dad was an Army Air Force Lieutenant in World War II. He and I got to meet Ike at a political rally in Pittsburgh in the 1950's. He admired Ike. Never occurred to him they would die on the same day.

Chip Ahoy said...

I told my dad the iron curtain I heard talked about falling didn't seem like such a big deal. I had seen such a collapsing room divider that tucked into wall pockets in my kindergarten. He laughed so hard I never did get that sorted. Now I ask you, how's a boy to learn when their parents prefer they stay stupid?

Anthony said...

Davod -- you can throw the bs dedector as high as you would like but that is my earliest political memory. Maybe I heard my parents or their friends calling McGovern a communist. Or maybe it was my mother getting into an argument with her best friend (who was a dyed in the wool old style Catholic Democrat who in 2004 told me I was going to hell because I supported gay marriage, though if I voted for Kerry (I voted for Bush) God might make an exception).

And if you don't believe that, then how about this -- my mom reading the election reports in the newspaper the next day. The NY Daily News had the early results and Newsday was still an afternoon paper, so I do not remember if it was at breakfast or after school, but I clearly remember her reading them to me.

Peano said...

Ike, 1952, delivering a campaign speech from the back of a train. I was 6. I remember lots of placards and people yelling "We like Ike!"

Jimpithecus said...

My Lai massacre. The trial of William Calley, in 1968. I was six at the time but, growing up in Japan, Armed Forces Radio and Television Service was non-stop with the coverage.

kynefski said...

Likewise 1960, likewise Nixon. It was the first time I remember hearing the expression, "A leopard doesn't change its spots," from my mother. My mother was rather more conservative than my father, but she thought RMN was a bum.

Anthony said...

David --

Just a few other points.

IIRC, my father (who would have been complaining that McGovern was a communist, especially late summer weekend evenings as the BBQs were winding down) laughed and explained that McGovern was not a communist.

Back in the 1990s when I was living in DC, I found myself talking to a girl who worked with McGovern at an NGO. I told her the story. A few weeks later we ran into each other again and she said she told McGovern the story and that he found it funny.

I remember a lot of things fairly early on. I can remember Gil Hodges dying and that was in early 1972, so I do not think it all that strange I can remember things surrounding the election later that year.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

1968. The Democratic National Convention riots/protests. I was only 7.

I distinctly remember the family gathered around the TV watching Walter Cronkite report about the DNC protests/riots. My dad was totally disgusted by it and said something like "look at those goddam hippies, the country is going to hell". My mom tried to say it wasn't so bad and then he sorta flipped out and in a raised voice said something like, "how can you say that"...then he rattled off a long list of stuff like the war, the recent assassinations of MLK and RFK and all the rioting that had been happening in the cities that summer.

Until that point, my parents had never talked about the future or politics or how the stuff we heard come out of Cronkite's mouth on that box could impact us. So it freaked me out that my dad was so apprehensive and concerned about the future.

Cheryl said...

Leland--Ha! I'm glad someone else remembers that, because I told my husband about it several years ago and he thought I was making it up!

He's older than I am, and his first memory is Spiro Agnew resigning. (I think that's kind of weird, the VP being your first memory.) Anyway, they had just moved back to the U.S. from Australia and as a twelve-year-old was dropped straight into Watergate. (Right? It WAS Watergate?)

It's funny because that little span of time is the difference between what is history, from books, to me and what is part of my life.

ninefoureight said...

In 1948, when I was eight, my mother took me to hear Harry Truman at the UW Field House in Madison. It was hot and crowded, and the only memory I can drudge up is listening to some hecklers shouting "Bring out Margaret!," and Give-Em-Hell Harry finally saying, "If you don't shut up, I won't bring her out later."

Big blossom of laughter and applause, and the hecklers indeed shut up for the rest of the evening.

Kirby Olson said...

Kennedy shot.

I was 6.

I got to go home and there were no cartoons on TV all day, which seemed like a shame.

All I knew was that a communist had shot the president, and they were also threatening us with missiles so we had to practice getting under our desks twice a day.

feleron said...

Geez you guys are old.

My earliest memory is Reagan bombing Libya. I remember it being on TV and my dad trying to explain "why" to me.

The next day at school we played Smear the Libyan. Of course, the guy we beat up was polish, but close enough.

rhhardin said...

I wasn't interested in politics until I was interested in economics.

The Laffer curve did that, a WSJ editorial by I think Jude Wanniski.

A rare exposition of economics without obfuscation.

The trick is to get hold of the right things.

Mary Christine said...

I was in 2nd grade at a Catholic school during the 1960 election. It was not only the first election I remember, but I was already for someone my parents weren't - the Catholic.

When he was shot, we were marched out of our classrooms and into the church to pray. They announced his death to us as we prayed in the church.

virgil xenophon said...

Sorry, Theo, I'm a little further along in the fossilization process than you at age 66 this May. I remember Truman and the Korean War in the newspapers, but my first election was the Eisenhower-Stevenson one. Although Stevenson was the highly popular Gov. of Illinois and we lived on campus in faculty housing at Eastern Ill. Univ., all the faculty kids were for Eisenhower: "Eisenhower in the White House waiting to be elected--Stevenson in the trash-can waiting to be collected," went our little ditty. LOL!!!

David said...

Sorry, Anthony--I withdraw the comment.

Because I Said So said...

I remember Gerald Ford being president and thinking it was funny to say "Ford, Ford, the apple cord". That probably doesn't count as a political memory, but I do remember one of my good friends being upset that Reagan beat out Bush for the Republican nomination in '80 when I was 8 (his mom was active in the local Bush campaign).

Because I Said So said...

@Anthony,

In my work, I am constantly reminded about the variation in people's memory.

Your story reminded me of a local radio personality who has a keen memory (he's been diagnosed with "hyperthymesia") and was filmed over the course of a year for a documentary.

http://www.lacrossetribune.com/news/article_cc995f7c-ca4d-5393-ab18-903cb57a4831.html

http://lxtrb.mobi/articles/197229115

themightypuck said...

I was and am pretty apolitical and also have a terrible memory. This means that it takes something big or personal to register. After the Reagan assassination attempt, the next thing I remember is voting for Dole in 1996. I remember it because my girlfriend at the time was pretty hardcore Republican and I wanted Clinton to win but given that I lived in California where a Dole vote meant nothing, I cravenly voted for Dole. She was outrageously pretty, ridiculously smart, had family money and connections, and eventually broke my heart.

Pogo said...

I recall lobbying my first grade classmates to vote for Nixon because of the rumor that Humphrey would make us all wear dorky white socks to school and that he would also make us go to school on Saturdays.

I later remember my mother saying a swear word when Nixon said he was not a crook. (*Bullshit*) My Dad said Marge!.

Ralph L said...

we got bored watching TV new about the plans for JFK's funeral
I'd just turned 3. All I remember was all the talking on TV.
My dad's cousin was visiting Dallas' Parkland Hospital at the time (her husband was a surgeon) and then was overheard blaming LBJ for it in a restaurant. Later she was visiting the cemetery when Oswald was buried. The Feds investigated her.

I recall the re-capture of Quang Tri and Hue, and people talking about "Caisson," which from the WWI song ("and those caissons, go rolling, along"), I had thought were barrels.

sydney said...

My first memory was the Kent State riots. I was 8. I had a fear of hippies for a long time after that.

The riots have since been romanticized ("Four dead in Ohio" and all that), but those kids were wreaking havoc in the business area of a small town - burning buildings, breaking windows. It was not peaceful by any means.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that it was the 1960 election. There was something wrong with Kennedy - not only was he a Democrat, but he was also a Catholic. Not really understanding what either of those meant, just that they weren't our people.

Looking back, one of my father's law partners living maybe 1/4 mile east of us, had a picture of Jack Kennedy and him sitting on rocking chairs on his porch. He was Irish and the county Democratic chair at the time. Didn't hear about this for decades though, showing how little I was aware of what was going on.

Then, it was listening the a First Family record that was a parody of the Kennedy family in the White House. That record going into storage was one of my biggest memories from the assassination. We found it some 40 years later and listened to it. It was pretty weird, knowing what had happened since then.

I do have a very vague memory of my father commenting about running into the Secret Service back in the mid 1950s. It was either out fishing, or in "town" (even today, not much more than a 100+ year old general store). Eisenhower had been apparently back in Colorado fishing, and one of my grandmother's friends near my grandparents' girls camp had gone to school with Mamie. The Eisenhowers had apparently been occasional visitors there for decades, to visit, but probably mostly to fish. The fishing was still pretty good there in the 1950s, before it was pretty much fished out by the people from Denver in more recent times. (I put together these connections decades later from my grandmother and my father, which is why I don't really consider it a real memory).

roesch-voltaire said...

I remember watching the McCarathy Hearings, although the memory was further imprinted when I met Emile de Antonio and watched his "Point of Order" But actually my first sense of a greater world, and a political one, happened one day when I watched the railroad cars pass by our house hauling heavy equipment bound for the Korean War. This was also the time when we practiced hiding under our school desks to prepare for an atomic war.

Emil said...

I recall seeing Eisenhower's farewell address - in which he made famous the term "military-industrial complex". When I was about 3 weeks shy of my 4th birthday.

When you see kinescopes of it today (film which was shot of a black and white TV screen back in the day) it has this over exposed, washed out halo effect. But it remarkable matches my memory of seeing live. on a Zenith TV - probably about a 19 inch screen, blue metallic metal cabinet on a walnut wood cart. Same TV I was watching 2.5 years later when JFK was shot, and also 7 years later when Chet Huntley broke into the NBC programing to announce the assassination of MLK. Good thing we got rid of that TV!

Lem said...

Glad to see you eventually found something more nutritious and sustaining.

Oddly enough it was Reagan.. not so much the man himself but the things he stood for were pretty much in line with the things my father preached from the pulpit.

They just didn't use the same language.

Lem said...

As time passed and I started listening to Rush, Reagan has became a sort of a godlike mythic figure.

David said...

"My first memory was the Kent State riots. I was 8. I had a fear of hippies for a long time after that.

The riots have since been romanticized . . . . "

Funny, it gave me a fear of poorly trained and badly lead National Guardsmen with live ammo.

Pogo said...

The riots near my house in 1971 gave me a fear of hippies.

My dad sat on the front porch with a shotgun those nights, and we couldn't go outside.

Natl Guardsmen would have been a blessing.

gpm said...

Definitely the runup to the 60 election. I was a (very young) second grader (they changed the cutoff date sometime around then to September, but somehow my December birthday and I made it in under the wire), but it was a very big deal in our (mostly Irish) Catholic neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

Can't speak for my (non-Catholic) father, but I'm sure my (German Catholic) mother voted for Kennedy. I had one sister (out of six), about seven years older, who was for Nixon. Don't recall much other Nixon support. I have a very clear memory of walking around the neighborhood on a dreary fall day counting the Kennedy signs in the windows.

And I can never forget the extremely witty and intelligent campaign song we taunted my sister with: "Kennedy, Kennedy, he's our man/Nixon belongs in the garbage can/Kennedy's in the White House, waitin' to be elected/Nixon's in the garbage can, waitin' to be collected."

I don't actually remember the election itself, though I'm sure the nuns were beside themselves.

Someone mentioned the "First Family" (Vaughn Meader) album. I can still do a number of bits from that one ("If he's having a Vestern sandvich, then I vant an Eastern sandvich." "There's no such thing as an Eastern sandwich." "Then I'll take the Eastern half of his Vestern sandvich."/"The rubber swan is mine."/Jackie wanting Jack to order a pizza ("don't tell them it's the White House; just tell them to deliver it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"). Etc.).

At the time of the assassination, we went home for lunch between noon and one. What I remember there is coming back from lunch and having someone talk about the assassination while we were waiting in line to return to class. Hard to say how much of what I remember about the funeral is real memory and how much of it came later.

Moving on, Martin Luther King led open housing marches to Marquette Park starting two blocks from our house in the summer of 67. Lots more things in the following year, including the last time I went to confession (the day of the King assassination, before the Jesuits sent me out on my perilous way home through the edges of the South Side ghetto). Father Lawler and the (eventually ineffective) neighborhood-building block parties. The Democratic convention (and the contemporaneous CTA strike and the riots about two miles from my high schoolj.

--gpm

sierra said...

(1) looking out my 8th-floor window in New York and seeing many angry people marching down Broadway following the assassination of Martin Luther King. (2) While watching the evening news, coming under the impression that Vietnam was a suburb of Washington D.C. (3) A bit later I had a similar memory about Nixon during the '72 election; all the kids I knew were for McGovern and his loss came as a shock.

Alex said...

My first political memories are the Jan 1987 Oliver North hearings.

MadisonMan said...

I remember going with my parents when they voted, I was probably 5 or 6.

I remember reading about the 1968 election (I was 8 then) in the local paper.

Alex said...

Sorry that was July 1987 when the Oliver North hearings took place.

Steven said...

1984 election. Only one girl in my kindergarten class (Nicole) voted for Mondale. That our class's teacher was a Mrs. Reagan may have had some influence on the voting.

Mr. D said...

I remember watching the 1968 presidential election results with my dad -- I was not quite 5 yet. I also remember shaking William Proxmire's hand as about a 6-year old when he was walking down Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton, WI. My dad talked to Proxmire for about 5 minutes that day on the street and to this day I still have no idea why Proxmire was there.

DADvocate said...

I can remember my dad making the comment that people like to elect generals every once in a while. This would have been in 1956 when I was five. After that would have been JFK's election and that campaign. As a Catholic kid in a Catholic school, we were all very excited.

my15minutes said...

In first grade Nixon was running (1968) and I remember all the kids in class were pulling for him. I also remember his resignation speech on TV while we were vacationing with my Aunt Barbara in Rhode Island.

DADvocate said...

I see several mentioned the Cuban missile crisis. I remember it well. Living in Knoxville, TN, my home and school were within the thermonuclear blast range of Oak Ridge, TN. One of the top 3 targets we were told.

We were told of the flash of light from the blast, the shock wave, etc. A local grocer was selling fallout shelters in his parking lots. It was all very scary.

I had nightmares well into my early 30s. In my nightmare I would be someplace innocuous, always indoors for some reason, and there would be a blinding flash of light outside. Then I would wake up.

AMW said...

I was a four-year-old standing in a voting booth alongside my grandmother at Bartlett High School in Bartlett, TN. She said, "Well Adam, Carter or Reagan?" I said, "Reagan."

Evidently I made the right call.

ddresser said...

About 1952, when I was 5, my father said that GOP stood for Gubernatorial Opposition Party. I believed him for several years.

Seven Machos said...

Mine is a great one. It was the preschool visit to the local newspaper for a tour. We get asked who the president of the United States is. No one speaks up. Finally, I -- at four years old -- say:

Jimmy Carter. WHO I HATE!

They dragged me out of there at that point.

True story.

Synova said...

My earliest political memory is a news report on television of riots. It's just a snapshot in my brain and an impression of the world as a very frightening place. I think it might have been the riots at the Democratic convention in 1968.

I would have been four.

Irene said...

@Seven Machos: I was a college freshman in 1976, and election season was under way. My roommate *adored* Jimmy Carter. It caused a huge riff between us.

I had not seen her in thirty-two years until she visited me last summer. She brought along her college scrapbook. It was filled with Jimmy Carter campaign stuff. In an instant, it was 1976 again.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Something about Stevenson being a professor type (Ann do you identify with him?). We (my parents) would have seen this as positive. Learning that one voted for Ike and one for Stevenson. They were both gone before I thought to ask who voted for whom.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

On a quasi-political level, I remember my mother's weeping with joy upon learning that my father, a 20-year Navy man who had twice been the sole survivor of the sinking of his destroyers in World War II, would not be sent to Korea. That would have been about early 1952.

Then some months later she told me that the new President had won the last war and would stop this one, and my father probably wouldn't have to fight any more.

john marzan said...

I remember the my rich friend's dad (our landlord) telling us kids that people should support Aquino because Marcos was a crook. I also remember the line "Cory, walang alam". That was marcos' line of attack vs tita cory.

essaybee said...

I recall my father in the garage making a sign for a Goldwater rally. I think he was making a campaign stop at the airport. My dad used an actual picket from a snow fence for the sign pole and that's what I always think of when I hear "picket sign".

essaybee said...

When Nixon resigned I was at the Saint Anthony's day fair with friends. My friend's uncle picked us up. I was almost 14. We asked what happened. He told us that Nixon showed an old original copy of the constitution that proved that he hadn't done anything wrong. We believed him for a few minutes.

amba said...

First of all, I remember being carried along in arms when my parents went to vote. I might have been two and a half (1948). Much later, I think they told me they voted for the Socialist, Norman Thomas (ironic but pertinent reference). They were still in their 20s and had hearts, as well as a very liberal family tradition. But anyway, what they impressed on me was their great reverence for the act of voting and the fact that each person's vote was private. They could tell each other who they voted for if they wanted, but they didn't even have to tell each other. I think I somewhat equated the voting booth with the Ark of the Covenant, although I was not taken to synagogue with any regularity.

My first political memory with specific content is of the House Un-American Activities Committee the Army-McCarthy hearings and. It's a very vague memory, ominous and frightening, to do with black-and-white TV. The adults were disturbed and that was disturbing. I also remember thinking "Estes Kefauver" was an odd name. It reminded me of a fever. My family were devoted Adlai Stevenson voters.

amba said...

Ouch, that cut and paste left the last paragraph like a translation from another language. Sorry.

wv oucke

Drew W said...

I remember being taken to a Goldwater-Miller rally somewhere outside Chicago in 1964. We all chanted "We Want Goldwater!" which I thought was fun. (I was four.) We have pictures somewhere of Oliver, our Bedlington terrier, with a Goldwater-Miller bumper sticker stuck to his side. (I hope it didn't hurt too much when my mom pulled it off him.)

Paul Worthington said...

I remember the presidential election of 1984. Circumstance was going to prevent me from voting on Election day. I was away at college and days away from being 19. I remember telling my dad I was upset because I wanted to vote for Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale. He just gave me a slight smile and said, "I don't think you have anything to worry about." Reagan crushed Mondale in electoral votes - 525 to 13. And he did it without me.

amba said...

And now I remember that when I was taken to see the musical "Guys and Dolls" (it premiered in NYC in 1950, would have hit Chicago a year or two later), a completely mystifying experience for a 5- or 6-year-old ("the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York"? Huh?), I heard the words "Adelaide, Adelaide, ever-lovin' Adelaide is takin' a chance on me," and thought it was "Adlai, Adlai, ever-lovin' Adlai . . ."

Becky Jo said...

The summer of '52 I watched both national Conventions in the Audio-Visual room of my school which opened just for that purpose. We lived next door and were not to have our own TV for almost 2 more years, but I became a political junkie that summer. Sadly, conventions will never be as exciting as they were from'52 through '68.

wv: blityly - that sums them up today

amba said...

Thanks Meade! LOL.

Paul said...

I am about the same age as Ann and I too recall the Nixon-Kennedy election. For some reason I still remember a kid on the school bus saying that his dad thought that Kennedy was too young and inexperienced, but that he wished the Republican ticket had Lodge at the top.

Jim Howard said...

I'm about the same age as our Professor. I clearly remember the Nixon-Kennedy election, I even had a playground argument about it. I had no idea why I was for Nixon beyond the fact that my Dad had shook hands with him during a campaign stop.

Years latter I ran into my second grade political opponent in my college dorm. He was still a commie-lib.

It's fun to think back about JFK. He ran on the platform that taxes ought to be lower and that Nixon was soft on communism.

HDHouse said...
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HDHouse said...
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HDHouse said...

Down with Trumanism...I think 1952...not sure but around then. An Eisenhower campaign ad I believe....I can vividly remember the words and the speaker's voice but the origin is out of my memory...I suspect radio in Dayton Ohio as I'm not sure we had a TV at that point.

stonelight said...

November 1963

No cartoons on TV for days

Ira said...

1964... standing in line waiting to enter the kindergarten room in a public school somewhere in Philadelphia. The "big kids" - I guess 6th graders were watching us and one was for Johnson and one for Goldwater. We lined up according to choice, but ... the Goldwater big kid had Goldwater buttons to hand out. I stayed on the Johnson line anyway.

Anthony said...

David -- no worries. I just have a weird memory. It pops up every now and then as I remember stuff from when I was "too young to remember."

Throw in the fact that my parents always talked about politics, it means that I remember stuff best left forgotten.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

What strikes me as I now read through all these comments, so late in the thread is how much the Democrats changed after 1968.

The Democrat Presidents remembered by the oldest of us here -- Truman, Kennedy, Johnson -- wouldn't have had a prayer of being nominated by their once and former party any time after 1968.

Lloyd Bentsen for VP in '88 was the last gasp for pro-military generally moderate Democrats. Instead, for the last generation, that party has offered up only a steady choice of attorneys, varying between left and far-left.

Rather sad, actually. The great Democrat party that once inspired America died in the late '60s and became but an elitist parody of its former self.

rdkraus said...

Getting sent home from school (4th grade) the day JFK was shot and seeing my Dad cry for the first time that night. I don't think I ever saw that again until my Mom died.

Scott M said...

I played George Washington in a kindergarten play about Betsy Ross making the flag. I clearly remember the yellow construction-paper epaulettes and funny hat.

Scott M said...

I played George Washington in our kindergarten play about Betsy Ross making the flag. I clearly remember the yellow construction paper epaulettes and wierd hat.

TosaGuy said...

First political memory was Carter's sweater speech--I was like 6 or 7. Didn't make sense to me that the president wanted me to suffer.

My first memory where gov't had a direct impact on my life was when I was 10 or 12 and I would get a buck to go to the swimming pool. Admission was 75 cents, which left me a quarter to buy a candy bar afterward. One day when I went to get my candy bar, the clerk asked for 26 cents and I only had my quarter. MN had passed a sales tax law that changed collections to the first penny of the sale instead of the first dollar of the sale. I guess I couldn't understand why the gov't had to get that penny badly enough to keep a little kid from having a candy bar on a summer day.

J Lee said...

JFK rally in my neighborhood in Manhattan in 1960. I didn't care about the politics, but as a 3-year-old man, there was a ton of ticker tape to gather up and play with.

LarryTheOlder said...

You guys are really young!

My first memory of anything political was hearing President Roosevelt had died. April 12, 1945. I was five (almost six). I'd never seen my father cry before. All my relatives were crying. You would have had to been there to sense the sorrow. It was heavy.

LordSomber said...

I vaguely remember Watergate being on TV.
But when I was about 12 or 13 I was playing with a cassette recorder near the TV and accidently taped my father saying, "Oh, Jimmy, you look so American in your little sweater."
Think I still have the tape somewhere.

AJ Lynch said...

OT a bit but.

During the Watergate hearings, I was in college and working as a truck diver for an afternoon newspaper. Back then, papers published multiple editions every day.

It was fascinating to see the news and headlines updated and changed in almost every edition due to the latest testimony at the hearings.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I may just be the youngest person on this thread. Having been born in 1980, Reagan was the only image that I had as a president. I strongly remember, during the 1988 elections, discussing with my friends on the school bus how our lives might be different under a new president, something that we had never (with any awareness) experienced before.

Obviously, life wasn't different at all, but I think it's funny how much we thought that it might be.
- Lyssa

Kellie J. said...

Cheryl and Leland:

I remember singing the same song as a kid growing up in Maryland only we sang:

"My peanut has a first name, it's J-I-M-M-Y."

And the last part was, " 'Cause Jimmy Carter has a way of screwing up the U.S.A."

Graham Powell said...

I remember hearing about "Watergate" on television but had no idea what it was all about. In 1976 I remember attending a campaign speech by Gerald Fort at Barksdale Air Force Base. I would have been in first grade then.

The Den Mother said...
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The Den Mother said...

I was in the second and third grades during the Presidential election year of 1972. I vividly recall my mother's vocal support of George McGovern, a stance due in part to her opposition to American presence in Vietnam and in part because of her hatred of Nixon for reneging on his promise to dramatically increase federal funding for cancer research (my 5-year-old brother had died of leukemia the previous year). She had also supported Eugene McCarthy four years earlier, although I don't remember that at all. Today she is an active Republican of the most conservative sort. I enjoy reminiscing about 1972 because it absolutely irks her to think about how liberal she was.

Der Hahn said...

I know I watched some of the Watergate hearings (I would have been about 11-12) but didn't understand the significance.

My parents were pretty active in the GOP but I don't recall any particular political events that I found important.

I'd say the first time I recall thinking about something politically (since this wasn't a political event in the purest sense) was hearing about the Desert One debacle on the radio in April 1980, and remarking to my dad that Carter would never be re-elected.

c3 said...

I won't count the assassinations, I think they go beyond a "political" memory (but I clearly remember at age five hearing of Kennedy assassination and several years later with younger Kennedy and MLK)

My first purely political memory. Staying up late watching the Democratic convention in '68. I was excited by it all. And I clearly recall the significant difference to the Republican convention the same year...BORING!! (but for some reason Everett Dirkson's speech stuck with me.)

It was probably when I first realized my parents were of different parties. (And maybe that's why I tend to drift to the center.)

former law student said...

I remember my dad, an independent, supporting Nixon in 1960, while the nuns were all for JFK. (This may have been because RFK was rabidly against the Teamsters, who threw their support to Nixon in 1968.)

Later, in school we sat along the downstairs hallway, hands clasped to our heads, in a nuclear holocaust drill. (My parents had sent away for fallout shelter instructions, but the project seemed too complex to attempt.) The Kennedy assassination coverage was piped over the PA system, as had been the Mercury astronaut launches.

Living on the border, my grandfather liked Diefenbaker, but pointed out that Republican Presidents meant recessions. I remember the later heartthrob effect of Trudeau, "Canada's Kennedy."

Speaking of racial troubles in Chicago of the 60s, here's a biography of the late Msgr. Jack Egan, who worked with Saul Alinsky to stabilize changing neighborhoods in the 50s and 60s:

http://archives.nd.edu/findaids/html/etext/alleycon.htm

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

Saul Alinsky and Jack Egan sat facing each other across a table at the Erie Cafe, a favorite hangout of Saul’s, tossing out ideas like shuttlecocks, the contest electric enough for waitresses to take notice. “Egan and Alinsky beat each other up,” community organizer Tom Gaudette recalls. “The waiters and waitresses used to stand there and watch these two great minds going at each other.”

Gaudette saw Egan and Alinsky as insightful foils for each other. “Egan could see the motivation, the reason, the why we should do something.” Saul Alinsky could see the how. “So he and Saul were a great team. When they got together it was marvelous.” Gaudette struggles to capture the intense respect the two men had for each other. “Saul just loved Egan, loved him as a priest. `Now there’s a priest,’ Saul would say, and then add, `If you ever tell Egan I said that, I’ll fire you.’ Because Saul knew what a priest was! `But there’s so few of them around,’ he’d say. That’s why he admired Egan.”

Sophie said...

"Maybe, 1960. I was in 4th grade. All the kids I knew were for Nixon. I analyzed the situation and proclaimed: "If kids could vote, Nixon would win by a landslide!""

I actually answered you on twitter on this, and mine was the same. Not surprising since you are only a few years older than me.

I was 7 and I can't say I watched the debates with JFK, just that I was aware of them on our black & white TV, and that this "election" buzz was in the air. I knew I was supposed to pick one of them, so I declared myself for Nixon. (I do not remember what my reasoning was.) My Jewish liberal parents were horrified. I didn't understand why Nixon was the wrong choice, but I felt humiliated.

Maybe that's why I never uncritically bought into liberalism, even though I never became a conservative....

Jane said...

Mom upset at Grandpa's house because Carter was elected. Grandpa arguing because he thought he liked Carter.

A few years later, me picking Reagan out of the other primary candidates and saying "I like that one the best". I was 9 then.

Gin said...

It's great to see so many great memories on this blog. If you want to see more first political memories in visual form, please visit: www.firstpoliticalmemory.org. The website houses a collection of memories from people around the world, and it would be great if you could share your memory on the website to add to our database of memories.

Chris said...

It was 1960, the Kennedy-Nixon debate, I was 7. JFK seemed to be kind of classy, Nixon seemed sort of nerdy. My parents hated Kennedy and quickly dispelled my unqualified first impressions.

Anne B. said...

Fall of 1960; I was eight years old. The election campaign was going on but I wasn't paying much attention. Then one day a big kid - a sixth-grader, I think - accosted me and said, "Kennedy or Nixon?"

At first I was too startled to reply - then I said "Nixon," because that was the second name the girl had mentioned, and it came to mind more readily.

She wrinkled her nose in disgust, said "PEE-YEW!" and walked away.

I was more bewildered than anything - it was like being shouted at in a foreign language.