It Was The 60s, A Decade of Change

Steve at Rockford College

“The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful.
The 60s were just around the corner.
What possibly could change?”
(‘It Was the 50s…I Was a Kid’ blog)

It was a proud moment, being selected to my elementary school’s boys choir to sing ‘I Am The Captain of The Pinafore’ at our 8th grade graduation. But, alas, we were a disaster, while the girls’ choir sailed away on a high note. A terrible way to start the new decade, the 60s, but a harmless lesson in life’s disappointments.

Up next, high school, and that meant the bottom rung for my friends and me, lowly freshmen, looking up at everyone. Upperclassmen garnered all the attention, naturally, even from the sisterhood of  freshman girls. The deck was stacked against us.

We were awkward, shorter than most girls and cursed with pimples from cheek to chin to cheek. Hiding them daily with creams and ointments was further evidence of our adolescent immaturity. But, it was the 60s, we’d grow up fast and our acne phobia would be small bumps compared to what lay ahead.

I ‘owned’ my parents, now that my sister was at college, out-of-state, never to return home, at least permanently. School and marriage were in her immediate future, a pattern I would later follow. But that was light years away in my universe as a young teen.  For now, I was too busy learning to dance to impress a girl I favored. Sounds crazy, but she liked the cha-cha, so why not learn it.  Unfortunately, she liked uniforms better, quit school and waltzed off with some young military officer in a new era of ‘Free Love’, the 60s. I quickly forgot her, but remembered the cha-cha.

The 60s saw a world seemingly unraveling. A Russian president pounded his desk with his shoe at the U.N. and threatened the free world, a Cuban dictator built missile sites aimed at our homeland and an unpopular war erupted in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia, a war that would scar our nation for years. It was a period of turmoil, uncertainty and drama, on a variety of fronts.

Assassinations took the lives of a young president, a civil rights leader and other prominent leaders.  Communities burned and mourned. Soldiers returned home in body bags and colleges were theatres of protest, often violent. Our country was being tested. Me, I was a college student in a midwestern city, away from home for the first time. And I was falling in love with a girl who still shares my life.

It was the 60s and the new norm was anything but normal. Within the decade, I’d gone from clueless to married, got a degree and a teaching job and let my hair grow longer, becoming a nonconformist…like everyone else.  Life was good, so it seemed. Then, one day, I got a letter from my ‘Uncle Sam’. My plans were going to change….

It was the 60s and the music told the story..,

‘Don’t stand in the doorway,
“Don’t block up the hall
“For the times, they are a-changin’”

The Bar Chronicles: #4, Love Unrequited (How I Met My Wife)

Bar Night 2

‘Tale as old as time…’ 

(Beauty & The Beast)

‘On Friday nights, the boys sat on a bridge over our river, waiting for the girls to come across, hoping to catch the eye of the one we thought was special.  And, I did.’

More than 60 years ago that was a perfect scheme for the young men of a small coal mining town in eastern Pennsylvania. My friend told the story with a twinkle in his eye and a smile, as though it was yesterday.

Here we were, again, three ‘seniors’, in a bar, reminiscing how we met our future wives. It was a moment of sincere reflection as we opened our hearts and shared memories that were a long time put aside.…but not forgotten.

These weren’t ordinary stories and this wasn’t an ordinary ‘bar’, this was the Lock 32 Brewing Company on the historic Erie Canal at the Port of Pittsford, NY. The canal and its towns come to life when the ‘ditch’ regains its waters after the long western NY winter. Working barges, canoes, rowers and yachts commingle east and west from Albany to Buffalo, meandering 400 miles through the Empire State. And, tonight, we witnessed some of it from inside this perfect venue in the tiny Pittsford village.

We found a table facing the canal, where the back wall is a floor to ceiling window that slides open onto the canal’s northside boardwalk, allowing us an unfettered vista of the late evening light settling on the local village. The lovers in front were scooted low enough in their seats that our view was uninterrupted.

 ‘I was a late bloomer in the dating game so I advertised in the newspaper for someone who was sophisticated, fun-loving and liked to dance. She answered.’

A quarter century later my friend and his wife are still dancing. The power of the marketplace.

Cabin cruisers docked on the south side, its occupants enjoying evening cocktails on the aft deck. Ducks collected near us, waiting for handouts, and couples sat on benches, leaning head to head, watching the setting sun lay its fingers across the silent waters, except when an occasional catfish surfaced to snatch an unsuspecting bug.

My eyes locked onto the boats and for a fleeting moment my imagination carried me out to sea, far away from the murky canal waters. Oh, to be an adventurer!

But, fantasies aside, we came here for a purpose, beer and brotherhood. The former started with the house ‘summer’ and ‘scotch’ ales, and the latter with an informal clinking of our glasses and a ‘here, here’, three neighbors relaxing and reminiscing over a beer.

‘I’d like to see number 7, again.’

Being a class officer on campus had its perks, judging cheerleader tryout was a major one. It allowed me to see a freshman girl whom I found attractive. She didn’t need my vote to make the squad and nearly 50 years later, we’re still ‘cheering’ for each other.

A quiet mood settled onto the pub as the evening waned. We emptied our mugs with a toast to marriages and longevity, then went into the night. The boats were dark, the boardwalk was empty, the fish were still active.

We headed home, content, knowing all is well…

 Steve Bottcher

My Mother was Catholic, My Father was Handsome…a Love Story

Mother & Dad

My mother was Catholic, my father was…handsome. The daughter of poor immigrants, and poorly educated, herself, this young girl of Irish/Italian heritage was looking for a better future. My father, too, was of immigrant parents, hard working, middle class, and Protestant. 

She wanted the love that an abusive father never showed her, and he, this dashing young tradesman, would give her that, and more. Still, she was Catholic and, well, he was a pool shooter.  Living in a flat above the pool hall he frequented, evenings would often find her purposefully loitering on the building steps, easy prey for his roving eyes.  Love finds a way…

Barely 19 and in a ‘family way’, she married him, probably to the chagrin of the family patriarch, and the local priest. After all, she was a Catholic girl and he…well, he was careless and cavalier.  In all likelihood, he was careless more than once, as six more children were added to the family tree in rapid succession. She was very Catholic.

Life was challenging for a young wife with five small children and an ‘old school’ husband who set the rules and expectations in a firm manner. Yet, for all the hardships endured, she worshipped him, depended on him for her well-being and her place in a middle class America. Besides, what were her options?

Their marriage endured, and only strengthened with time. My mother loved my father dearly and he relished his role as a strong family provider and leader. He was doing what was expected of him, then.

It was joyful, watching their love grow, an affair lasting 50 years. Life’s tough challenges were met and now behind them, and they basked in the comfort of their companionship, each one knowing the other’s pleasures.

And then, it ended. One morning, he kissed her goodbye, twice, went to work and didn’t come home. To the end, the handsome pool player fulfilled his vow to love and cherish, protect and provide.

The Catholic girl survived another twenty years, still in love with the same man but now adding God in her daily thoughts. After all, she was Catholic, and He…well, He was her Savior.


Dedicated to my wonderful parents

“Love In a Parking Lot”

It was a moment in time, in the open for all to see.  I saw it, love in a parking lot.  Others may have missed it, not me. And there was no mistaking what it was, love, pure and simple.

In an act of old-fashioned chivalry, a tall, sophisticated looking man tenderly draped his arm around the shoulders of his attractive companion, gently moving her closer to him. His comforting smile exuded confidence.  Her upward glance signaled approval, as though she, herself, had encouraged him.

They walked deliberately, amid a swarm of busy shoppers rushing to buy supplies before the storm, too consumed with Mother Nature, perhaps, to see it. But I saw it, the wonderful and rare public display of affection, love in a parking lot.

People are hurrying and scurrying, so focused on where they’re going or where they’ve been, that they often miss where they are.  Not me.  I’m always looking!  Life is full of wonderful moments, if we avail ourselves of the opportunity to see them.  Too often, in our haste, we miss the ‘theatre’ around us.

Not me. I enjoy watching people. My wife calls it ‘staring’, I call it ‘observing’.  I see the remarkable and unremarkable, the pleasant and unpleasant, the ordinary and not so ordinary.  I multitask with my eyes and ears, not passing the time so singularly focused that I miss life’s sometimes ‘bigger moments’, like love in a parking lot.

As for the ‘lovers’, I was not surprised to learn they were married 45 years. And this one moment of him protecting her from the icy wind by drawing her closer to his warmth, affirmed to me their mutual and enduring love.

I hope more people saw it, too, their love for each other, on display in a parking lot, because in a brief but poignant moment between two people, two lovers, I was uplifted.  It made me smile.

From time to time, if you’re looking, ‘observing’, you may be fortunate to witness true love, too, or some other special moment.  I’m always looking!


Dedicated to those of us who are ‘always looking’ and for people in love, everywhere