By Bill Barron
I was born at the Holy Cross Hospital in Oct 1949. The hospital bill, natural childbirth and several days’ stay, was an unheard of $97. I don’t remember anything about my first years but my father loaded up the family and moved us from Spring Lane in Salt Lake to Payson, where he would make his living off the boom of Geneva Steel.
What a wonderful place to be raised. Beautiful farmland, an exquisite canyon and a leisurely life environment made up the setting of this small tight knit community of working men and stay at home moms. I can remember the fun I had playing with friends, sneaking off to the vacant lot to explore the magic of a child’s imagination. It was “Cowboys and Indians” or “Superman’ with our bath towels waving in the wind. I road horses, cleaned stalls and walked horses at the racetrack to earn money to buy my daisy BB gun. The summers were so cool; we would get a season pass at the Payson City pool and waste away the lazy days of summer with no cares in the world. If we got bored it was just a quarter to go to the “Huish” theater to see some great movies. It was a time of innocence.
As I got older…8 or 9…there started to be a new theme to school and every day life. We became fearful of the communists living in another part of the world. They had an “H” bomb that could strike us with more power than a tornado. We would go to school and our teachers would teach us to “Duck and Cover” under our desks, just in case this group of bad people decided to attack us. I was so thankful that Leave it to Beaver’s family was not the least bit worried. I knew that if Ward, June, Wally and the Beav were safe for some reason my family was safe too.
Our President Kennedy had kept the “Commies” away from America and told them to take their missiles back to Russia. Yes, the Russians were the bad guys and we were the good guys. The next thing I knew we were sending a monkey…then men into space. We would walk on the moon…we were the heroes of the world. Everything was special again until my dad came home from work one day and said we are going to move away from Payson. We finished the school year and a big truck came and loaded up everything in the house and I remember being in the backseat of my dad’s Cadillac driving over the Peteetneet School hill on Highway 91 heading north to Salt Lake. It was a sad day for my whole family.
The first few weeks in Salt Lake were horrible. My sisters and I were devastated, Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking up is hard to do” and the replaying of “See you in September” seemed to be the only songs on the radio. My older sisters cried, I cried and we all knew life would never be the same. My Dad went into action and forced me to go to the “Holladay Community Church”. It was time to meet new friends. Down 4800 South I would go and wait a few minutes and return home. After two attempts my dad stood at the door and watched me go inside. That is where I met my first Salt Lake friends. Reverend Horace McMullen was the leader of this church and he stressed the importance of the world being a small place, and that we all played an important part…but not the only part. The friends I met where into folk music. They would strum their guitars and sing spiritual music and sometimes go onto music that told stories about people like “John Henry” or places like the “Erie Canal.” They talked about the Kingston Trio and a new group called Peter, Paul and Mary. I wanted to get in a folk group but my sister’s clarinet was not going to make me high on anyone’s hit list. My Dad took me to Holladay Music and traded in the clarinet for a guitar that I had to wait four months to pick up.
The music was on hold but the year of school was “Mr. New Guy on the Blocksville.” On a dare, I ran and lost, for school Student Body Secretary that is when I started to be less of a Paysonite and more of a Salt Lake kid. It was a time to see Joan Baez perform at Highland High and sing about the struggles of man. In the summer of ’63 folk music, hootenannies and happiness filled the air. People were together singing about peace and love and putting the end to hate and bigotry. The Kennedy hope march had started. Martin Luther King Jr. had a “Dream.” The talk was about ‘Civil Rights” the shout was about overcoming the shackles of slavery. This year I became politically aware. I remember sitting in the gym balcony at Olympus Jr. High. It was a Friday in late November. The intercom crackled and the school principal announced, “President Kennedy is dead.”
I grew up that year and listened to many voices trying to attach my feelings to something that made sense. The assassination, the growing turmoil in the South and the increased tension in Southeast Asia were more than I could wrap my head around.
Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’ was released in January of 1964.
Martin Luther King Jr. won a Nobel Peace Prize and his efforts along with LBJ’s push for passage gave the nation the “Civil Rights Amendment.”
Johnson faced Goldwater in the National Election and Mitch Melich was facing a democrat for governor, with a history of losing, Cal Rampton. The LBJ/JFK coat tails brought Utah it’s last Democrat Presidential Candidate to carry the state and riding that wave Utah’s new governor was “Cal.”
In high school I got new freedom. As long as my dad’s change pockets were full I could put in 5-10 gallons of gas in the car and hit the road. My interest in music evolved to include jazz. It gave me a new way to express my feelings. I found a song that to this day holds special meaning to me. “God Bless the Child” discussed how “the rich get more while the weak ones fade, and empty pockets never make the grade.” I sang this song to 3,000 students at Skyline High and another 3,000 at the Valley Music Hall. I could tell they heard it but I still wonder if they listened to the message. During my high school years Dr. King gave his wondrous speech in Selma and more boys were being sent to Vietnam.
In the fall of ’67 I entered the “U” and I paid my $160 for 15 credit hours in pursuit of a political science degree. I later acknowledged I majored in Fraternity and minored in Poli Sci. The campus was electric. We had activists like the “Students for a Democratic Society” we had teachers like Dr. J.D. Williams who made you think politics. All the young male students were doing everything they could to stay “Student Deferred” from the military. Politicians like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy were questioning “Nam” and our involvement. Dylan kept cranking out the songs. The world of psychedelic drugs, art and music, Haight-Ashbury, the “Flower Children,” and “Make love, not War” was banging louder in the nation’s conscience.
In March of ’68 President Johnson said he would not seek re-election. In April, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis. On June 5th, my dad’s birthday, he and I celebrated Bobby’s win in California. On June 6, 1968 Bobby was dead. Oh, the times, they were a changin’.
Nixon edged Humphrey for the Presidency. The war ragged on. Nixon invaded Cambodia and 4 students were shot and killed by the “Ohio National Guard” at Kent State. The war ragged on. In December of ’69 I got an early Christmas gift from the National Draft Lottery, number 138. The chance to fight for what…by then I had lost friends to the war, families and our country were being torn apart. I lost the lottery but a medical deferment saved me from joining the young and valiant of my generation and being part of the forgotten and much maligned heroes of America’s past.
In 1972, Nixon kept pledging to see the war end in victory. I left college and joined the workforce. A young politician named Wayne Owens caught my imagination. He was walking the State of Utah to hear from the people and find out what matters. Did Nixon’s wage freeze help? Do you need a voice in Washington? I went to his campaign headquarters and said maybe I could give them a list of voters who had been inactive. We could merged the registered voters with the non-registered population and attack those without a voice. Two young politicians, Ted Wilson and Randy Horiuchi said, “We’ll give it a shot.” Owens was elected and Wilson and Horiuchi would later follow giving us strong, well-respected leadership for years to come. Wayne Owens went on to help pressure Nixon from office and it cost him his first position in congress. Nixon resigned and soon after the Vietnam War ended. We had lost nearly 60,000 lives.
The next 25 years were made up of working hard, raising my son and watching Rampton being replaced by Scott Matheson, Ted Wilson become Mayor, Randy Horiuchi became a commissioner and Wayne lost to Norm Bangerter for governor but did get back to the House in 1986. Reverend McMullen’s daughter, Deedee Corradini, became Mayor in 1992, and helped lead the charge for the Olympics. The succession of the Presidency was never an electoral victory for me. Utah gave vote after vote from ’68 on to the Republicans. It was fortunate to have Carter and Clinton in the mix but overall Ford, Reagan and George H. W. Bush kept the country safe and the world in a position of mutual respect. The Berlin Wall came down and Clinton and Congress reached across the aisle and left us with a balanced budget (In Fact, a surplus) going into the new century.
A new day and new century and with the promise “to bring us together” Bush II, the only elected President with less votes than his opponent in my lifetime, became the nation’s leader. He seemed less than adequate from the get go. He had the power of Congress behind him and this man could change the success of the many more brilliant minds before him. His agenda was to control all three branches of government. He was the self-proclaimed “decider” and it appeared he was moving us back into the decades of change and was prepared to rewrite history. Then on a Tuesday in September of 2001, his Presidency changed. On a Tuesday in September of 2001 a dear friend, Mary Jo, an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, would have her dreams and life end. The citizens of New York witnessed their twin towers fall with fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers entombed inside its ashes. The citizens of Washington D.C. saw part of the Pentagon crumble and in Pennsylvania; United Flight 93 had been buried in a field meant for farming. America and the World were waiting for our President to react. We waited. While my son tasted the destruction in New York City… he waited. While my wife and I watched the news…we waited. Where was the leadership?
Oh, it came. We went after al Qaeda and the Taliban; we drove them to the mountains. We’d surely get Osama bin Laden!
We went after Saddam and his WMD. We challenged the radical Muslims and its nation as a whole. We challenged North Korea, Iran and Syria as “evil doers.”
Bush told the world, “You are either with us or against us.”
We spent our capital, we sacrificed the lives of thousands and reputation be damned…we showed the world who was boss.
At home our leadership has been just as impotent.
We ignored the people of New Orleans when “Katrina” hit.
We replaced hope with fear. Speaking out was unpatriotic. We voted for more “War Dollars” vs. giving more children insurance. Now foreclosures are happening at a record rate and my handful of change won’t even buy a gallon of gas. Enough is too much!
You don’t know me I am a Democrat from Utah. This year I’m the person calling asking you to vote. I’m the person knocking on your door. I’m the person putting signs out on the street and holding banners for my candidates. I speak of the hope and change offered by Obama, Hillary and Edwards.
You don’t know me I am a Democrat from Utah. I still share the dreams of John, Martin, Bobby, four students at Kent State and all the soldiers we have lost away from home. I weep when I think of September 11, 2001 and the fear fed leadership that followed.
I remember a better America that trusted its people, shared its wealth and was a beacon for the whole world to admire. My America is waiting to be renewed and allowed to shine brilliant once again. Our vote for “Change” will open the door to new hopes and dreams and our memories will lead us to a better future.
As a “Proud Democrat from Utah” I will do my best to make it happen.
Bill is a born and raised Utah Boy. He is a political history buff and has been a life long supporter of humanitarian causes. He works in the health care industry and is an active supporter of the “Fight against Diabetes.”