The 1960s

The 1960s were a very unstable and confusing time for a child and young teenager. As a child of nine, in 1962, we endured the Cuban Missile Crisis and the very real threat of nuclear war.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey, with consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. The confrontation is often considered the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. We frequently had to complete Civil Defense drills in school and at home. My father had plans for a shelter underneath the back yard (which was never built). As a Cub Scout, I frequently had to play one of the "victims" in these drills. And at the school bus stop the older children would frequently warn the younger children (including future actor Kelsey Grammer, who lived a few doors down from the bus stop and was a year behind me in school) of impending doom.

Then, the following year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and more assassinations and attempts would follow on other politicians and civil rights leaders. And the Vietnam War had been raging since 1955.

All of this contributed to a very unstable and frightening time for a child.

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In front of our house, 1961.
The 1960s were also a very unstable time in our family. My great-grandmother Mary died in 1960. My mother Fran died in 1964. My grandfather Shackelford died in 1965. My Aunt Peggy died in 1967. My grandmother Eloise died in 1968 (and I would lose my father and grandfather in 1970). While losing seven family members within 10 years at such a young age was very difficult it ultimately had a very positive effect on the direction that my life would take as I grew older and started my career in emergency medical services as a paramedic.

Being a year younger than all my classmates was also challenging during the Kennedy administration when the President's Council on Physical Fitness was established. This program was developed to promote a curriculum to improve fitness and the council engaged in a sweeping drive to achieve widespread participation in the program for the 1961–1962 school year. During this time we had a lot of competitions in school with other members of my class, but competing against older children was a struggle for me (the program was grade-based instead of age-based). I also had very poor vision which wasn't diagnosed until high school, and while I could see a soccer ball I just couldn't see a baseball (or a classroom blackboard unless I was sitting in the front row).

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My brother Larry (bottom right in blue hood) is standing directly in front of me (black jacket) as we sing the opening song for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 28, 1963, with the cast of the Broadway musical "It's Love". National Geographic Magazine, July 1964 issue page 73.
In the 1960s, much to my delight, my father frequently involved my siblings and I in his television projects. I can remember sitting in The Peanut Gallery on The Howdy Doody Show, and it was through The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that I made my international debut in National Geographic Magazine (July 1964, page 73, directly across from Bullwinkle the Moose).

During the 60s, The Howdy Doody Show was cancelled (but was the longest running television show at the time, along with being the first show regularly broadcast in color). Dad moved on to direct The Shari Lewis Show and The Ruff and Ready Show, followed by the original Jeopardy! and G.E. College Bowl.

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The waterfront at Camp Milbrook on Lake Highland.
After Mom's death, two months of our summers were spent at Camp Milbrook in Bridgton, Maine. At camp I learned to swim, sail, canoe, water ski, ride horses, and hike mountains. Each week we would take a two- or three-day camping trip on the water or to the White Mountains that surrounded us, and the Appalachian Trail. We attended Camp Milbrook for six years and I developed a great appreciation for the outdoors (and especially for mountains). My last year at camp was also my first job, and I used the money that I had earned to buy a Gibson 12-string guitar.

In 1966 I began attending an all-boys college preparatory boarding school, Darrow School, in New Lebanon, NY. Darrow is situated in the Berkshire Mountains at the site of the former Shaker headquarters — a beautiful location rich in history since we lived and went to school in the old Shaker buildings. Not only did we have to study hard — we had to work hard, following the old Shaker tradition of "Hands to Work and Hearts to God" to keep the school maintained. I learned to tend sheep and make maple syrup. I helped build a rope-tow for our ski slope (and learned to ski on the snow). Sports were required daily, and I was on the soccer team, ski team, and lacrosse team. We had chapel every night, which was designed to give students public speaking experience. Chapel was followed by study hall. It wasn't easy but it was an invaluable experience and I learned a lot about many things. One of my teachers had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Another had sailed around the world. And another was the father of future American county music band the Dixie Chicks' Martie and Emily Erwin (now married and named Martie Maguire and Emily Robison).

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The New Lebanon First Aid Squad, where my EMS career began.
During my junior year at Darrow, in the winter of 1969, my friend Steve and I would walk down the steep road from the mountainside (difficult in the winter snow) into town two evenings a week to take an American Red Cross Standard First Aid Course held at the local rescue squad. In the spring we took the Advanced First Aid Course. Little did I know, at the time, that this was the first step that would ultimately lead me into a 50-year career in emergency medical services.

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My first stethoscope, given to me in the early 60s, had been used as a prop on the Shari Lewis Show by Lamb Chop's doctor, played by Fred Gwynne.
Between Darrow and camp I was only home for brief periods during holidays. While I regret not being able to spend more time with my family (although Larry and Jenny also attended camp with me), I must admit that these experiences were irreplaceable.

Darrow taught me many things, but perhaps my most memorable experience was when I met the famous artist Norman Rockwell (in the bathroom at Darrow, and where I asked him for an autograph so I could give it to my grandmother Eloise for Christmas). Mr. Rockwell would tell our class stories about the famous people he had painted portraits of as part of our history lessons. Before Mr. Rockwell began a portrait, he would spend a few days with that person to get to know them, and the stories he told were fascinating (and filled with history). Years later I realized that his advice was true for any piece of art — you can't take a photograph of a waterfall until you have spent the time to get to know it.

Darrow had a photographic dark room and it wasn't long before I was learning to roll my own film and then develop my film and make black-and-white prints all by myself. I really enjoyed taking photos and heading off to the darkroom to process and print them. While at Darrow my father gave me my first good camera: a 35 mm Pentax Single Lens Reflex camera.

I also started learning how to play guitar while at Darrow, and on many late afternoons or evenings, if I wasn't in the darkroom, you would find me in some acoutically-sound hallway, room (or sitting in my dorm room window) playing my guitar.

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Our family portrait, 1969.
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Every holiday we had the flag raising ceremony. Memorial Day, May 30, 1961
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I was on the varsity lacrosse team at Darrow. Back second row on right. 1968.
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In Bridgeton, Maine, October 1969.

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