Susan R.

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Title

Susan R.

Description

While drawing roots back to World War II, the family really lived through the 60s and the youth culture that flourished then.

Creator

Susan R.

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Sue *
History is not only a study of the past; history influences and shapes our present and our future.
I was born in the years following the end of World War II; my life and the lives of my parents, my
ex-husband, my former mother-in-law, and my step-son have been impacted by world events.
World War II greatly influenced my father and my mother. My father enlisted in the army at
the age of 18, after his first year in college. He never spoke of the war and yet I read his thoughts in a
scrapbook my grandmother gave me. It is not the anti-war father that I know now. His letters were
filled with the hope of conquering the Germans and preventing further racist actions by the Nazis.
Because of an injury in basic training, he was not sent overseas with the rest of his group, and they
all perished in combat the first week there. I feel that the war and the emphasis on human rights
impacted my father greatly. He was the first in the family to vote for a member of the Democratic
party-for John F. Kennedy. He was always an advocate for those less fortunate and believed in being
“his brother’s keeper”.
My mother met my father in college and remained faithful to him during the 5 years he was
gone. She told me that it did not seem fair that she would date someone else when he was so far
away. She went to Bates College, in Maine. Because of the war she could not travel to France for the
semester abroad and had to stay on campus. There she met Bobby Kennedy, as many of the navy
boys were housed there. She married my father soon after he returned from France. She and my
father expressed recently how they feel they lived during the “best of times”. Life after the war was a
period of marriage, raising children, buying a home and living the “American Dream”. They are still
together after 60 years of marriage and still live by the values of the time period in which they grew
up. Marriage is about companionship, friendship and working together for a common goal; it is not
about self-actualization and individual freedom.

My ex-husband and I grew up during the 50s and 60s; our lives were impacted by the
“Generation Gap”, the Vietnam War, and the “Summer of Love”. As a member of the 60’s
generation, we experienced the trauma of four assassinations, a war overseas which we witnessed on
TV in front of our eyes, the drafting and deaths of our classmates for a war we did not believe in, and
the invasion of the Beatles. We questioned everything and we fiercely wanted our independence. I
grew up in Ohio and was buying my prom dress when the students at Kent State were shot and killed
and I watched the rioting on TV after the assassination of Martin Luther King. The advent of PBS
led to me being able to experience the lives of other cultures, as I grew up in an all-white
community. Both Joe, who is a musician and I, a teacher, have remained the “hippie-like” kids from
the 60s, advocating for social justice, respecting all cultures and lifestyles, and questioning
everything the government does.
Joe’s mother is a well-known playwright; she has written such plays as Funnyhouse of a Negro
and A Movie Star has to Star in Black and White. When she attended Ohio State University in the
early 1950s, as an African-American, she was not allowed to major in English but had to major in
education. Later, she wrote a play called Ohio State Murders, starring Ruby Dee and taught theater
classes at Berkeley and Harvard Universities. My mother-in-law was severely impacted by the
racism of her day and it is reflected in her one act surrealistic plays where black female characters
pull out their hair and commit suicide. Her stays in Africa introduced characters like Patrice
Lumumba into her works. When she left Africa for a stay in London, she collaborated on a one act
play with John Lennon. Later this event became a theater piece, My Life With the Beatles. The
racism in America made it impossible for my mother-in- law to truly ever accept me or what she
called my “white confidence”. In one of her plays, I was drowned and in another, the character
Beowulf killed me.

My step-son was born in the post-Civil Rights era and did not experience the same America as
his grandmother. He remarked to me once that if he had lived during the period of segregation, he
would not have been able to go to school with his friend, Jeremy, who is black. I then had to tell him
that indeed, he would have been going to school with Jeremy and that most would still call him
Black, even though his mother was white. His heritage enabled him to get a lot of scholarship money
and he was pursued by many colleges looking to increase their minority population. He was born on
September 11th. I can still remember trying to find a restaurant which was open on the evening
following the horrific events of that day.
Each of the members of my family has been impacted by the history of our lives. Our parents
lived in the period of the “Greatest-Generation”, yet a generation embroiled in the midst of
segregation and racial hatred. Joe and I lived in the period of the “Generation- Gap”, a period of
individual freedom, a struggle for civil rights, a war which divided a nation, and a period of new
music- which seemed to change everything. Eitra was born into a different world, a world of
accepted multiculturalism, a world of globalization, and yet, a world where the threat of terrorism
prevails.

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Citation

Susan R., “Susan R.,” Historical Memory:, accessed April 17, 2021, https://memory.ctevans.net/items/show/13.

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