While it is undeniably true that the vast majority of us Americans have certainly seen the ubiquitous images of women openly baring their breasts in public while chanting various political slogans; the aforementioned journalistic and photographic moments in time failed to tell the story of the other 60s which is indeed why it is extremely important to document the untold experiences of the Americans that didn’t have access to the media and who also lived during the ensuing political storm.

And while it is certainly true that free love, and the various marches, and police brutality, and marijuana use, and political races, and the KKK, and the disturbing racial killings of African Americans during the 60s, were indeed a focal point of the tumultuous times, some African Americans also want an accurate historical record that also tells what some of their lives were like before and during the Political Assassinations and The Days of Dr. King and the Vietnam War and the Antiwar marches and the bombings and shootings that were a clear example of Bottom Up Political Violence.

The sole purpose of this 2018 news article is to paint an accurate picture of Southern California during the 1960s while highlighting the individual lives of the African Americans that lived in the other 60s that weren’t necessarily seen on the evening news while the ubiquitous episodes of political violence and police brutality, which certainly define most of the televised 60s, were being ingested by the entire world.

To fully understand what life was really like during the untelevised 60s for a good percentage of middle classed African Americans, who have since seen their once peaceful neighborhoods forever changed by gang violence, and drugs, and widespread police brutality, and illegal immigration, and the loss of good paying industrial jobs, as well as the loss off healthcare, which would have helped millions, I decided to conduct a series of interviews with the African Americans that were born and raised in Los Angeles and in the adjacent areas since the images that we often see on TV don’t exactly represent the entire African American experience as the participants pointed out during the interviews that explain their thoughts and feelings and experiences during the untelevised 60s that have been essentially lost to time.    

John W. aged 74: I was born and raised in what was previously referred to as South Central Los Angles and at the time I had white neighbors and they were some fine church going folks that would always welcome us in. And I mean the whole neighborhood would have a barbeque and one time in the mid-60s the KKK wandered into our neighborhood and you should have seen the white folks coming out of their homes with their guns. The hooded Klansmen were surrounded by more than 30 people and they were told to leave or they would be killed. The KKK quickly turned their trucks around and took off while a group of blacks and whites pointed their guns at them. The moment was extremely tense and some of the KKK members were even crying while asking the blacks not to shoot them since they had a wife and kids. Once the Klan was gone everyone went back to having fun again and me and my white friend Sally took turns pushing each other on the swings.

Now aside from what you’ve seen on TV my personal experience in LA during the 60s was cool because we would set up tents in our backyards and star gaze all night long while toasting marshmallows. And whenever Sally got a flat tire she would always bring her bike to my house so I could fix it for her since I had all of the patches and stuff. Man those were some good times back then and I sure miss the clubhouses that we used to build and the picnics in the park on Saturdays since my brothers Louis and Ellis and I would fly our kites until the sun went down.

The 60s were some of the best times of my life since we didn’t have all of this gang nonsense and widespread drug use, and since I had two jobs back then and a motorcycle and a car.          

Elisabeth P. aged 66: We used to go downtown during the 60s and we would spend all day since we knew what time the last bus was leaving or when our father was coming to pick us up. The State Theater was our favorite hangout and sometimes it would be 15 of us on a Sunday since we would have saved up our allowance by then. Plus my brother Benjamin and his friends would have earned money by mowing lawns on Saturday, so they would always cover the kids that didn’t have money. And since horror films were our favorites we couldn’t wait to get the paper after our mother and father had finished reading it. And once we knew what was playing we would take the bus trips to Downtown LA practically every weekend, so we didn’t have time for any of the marches and I certainly wasn’t going to bare my breasts in public. Plus my mother and father had already told me and my two brothers to stay away from the marches.

Alexander C. aged 70: In the 60s Saturdays were sacred since they meant that my dad and I and my grandfather would get to work on the car together while my great grandfather supervised us from the porch while he and my great grandmother sipped sun tea under the beautiful Compton California sunlight. I loved the 60s and was sad to see what followed them since we used to skip breakfast any time we managed to get up before my mother since she would insist on preparing breakfast before any work could be done which meant that we couldn’t start at 5:30am.

My neighborhood was generally busy on Saturdays and sometimes we would have up to 4 families that would be working on their cars all at the same time and we would be lending and borrowing and buying tools and parts at the auto parts store throughout the day. And if a neighbor got stuck on a car project or on a plumbing issue or on an electrical job we would stay up as a neighborhood until the job was done and it didn’t matter if it took us until 12 Midnight just as long as the job was completed before the start of church. It also didn’t matter whether or not the neighbor was a new neighbor or an old neighbor or whether he was black or white since the entire neighborhood was a family.

Doris M. aged 71: During the 60s we had slumber parties and would stay up all night playing Checkers and Hangman and Candy Land while my father read various newspaper articles and the Wall Street Journal. We also played with the Ouija board as well whenever my father went to take a bath at 9:07pm on Saturdays. He would always wonder why we were giggling when he returned to the kitchen table at 10:00pm where he would enjoy his hot chocolate until 11:00pm which meant that it was time for us girls to go to bed.  

I grew up in Watts and we used to get together with the kids in Compton and from Los Angeles and Culver City and Long Beach and we would have ourselves a ball baking cakes and cookies and playing kick ball and hand ball and tether ball and softball with the boys and volley ball against the grownups who always managed to beat us since our parents and aunts and uncles had been playing together and against each other ever since they were kids.

The 60s bring back so many fond memories for me because you see we went on blind dates back then and I still remember my very first kiss since it was delivered by a boy named Lawrence when we were rehearsing for a play. I was completely knocked off of my feet because I didn’t think that he liked me, however, the kiss confirmed it and I would have married him but the letters suddenly stopped coming a little while before we learned that he had been killed in Vietnam exactly one day after he had mailed his final letter to me which I still have all these years later since he asked me to marry him in his final letter.

I don’t mean to cry. It’s just that he was my very first love, and although I am happily married, and have kids, a piece of my heart is still in Vietnam, so let’s just end on a happier note.  

You know what? I think that we ate far too much candy during the 60s; however, we were happy with our lives since we were enjoying our lives while my brother and I were writing poetry and taking piano lessons since we already knew how to play the guitar and the harmonica.

Joseph K. aged 72: Man the 60s were happening back then because we had a lot of black surfers and black artists on the beach in 63 when my girlfriend Maria and I had our portraits painted during our fourth date. We got married about 4 months later and I love her just as much today as I did in June of 1963, and when we tell young people how long we have been married they are shocked because everyone that they know is either getting divorced or are already divorced. I think that the young people of today are watching far too much television which is why they think that all marriages end after only a few years and that they know everything that there is to know about the 60s when they simply don’t. And this is why I am glad that you’re documenting the untelevised stories of the 60s because you see we used to race our 57 Chevys on an actual race track since we were always concerned about public safety which is why we used scrape plates to prevent an explosion. We also road horses back then and went camping and skiing and fishing at the piers and on Native American lands, so I don’t understand all of the violence and marching and gang shootings and drug dealing because in the 60s the gang leaders would fight each other over gang territory and there was always a rematch at the park. Plus the gang bangers would hide their beer and their dice from grownups. They would also take off their hats whenever the old folks walked by and good morning or good evening sir or ma’am was all they said or I will be at church on Sunday mister or ma’am.

Cathleen L. aged 67: During the 60s, and after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and even into the early 80s, I had white neighbors right here in what they are now calling South LA. However, it was South Central Los Angeles when I was growing up and this is all I will ever know it as because you see my best friend Ursula was married to a kind hearted Filipino man way before the name change ever took place. Ursula’s husband was one of the nicest men that I had ever met during the 60s and no one ever treated him any different since he was one of us. Plus we had a lot in common since he was also Catholic just like us.

Now one of the interesting things that you won’t hear about the 60s has to do with our cordial relationship with the Jewish people that lived in our neighborhoods and also in the surrounding areas. You see the white Jews and the black Jews in Los Angeles used to pay us grade school and high school kids 50 cents in advance to light their stoves for them on Saturdays since they couldn’t do any work on Saturdays due to their religious beliefs.

The 60s were a lot different from what most people have seen on TV because you see Boyle Heights used to be a Jewish town back in the day and Long Beach was ruled by the KKK as well as certain parts of LA and Orange County. Plus African Americans were being lynched in Fontana California even though you might not have seen it covered by the evening news which has a long history of covering up widespread corruption and atrocious police brutality and jail beatings and killings and KKK murders in California and in other parts of The North including Bakersfield.

My cousin who wasn’t even 4 feet tall at the time would see black men hanging from lamp posts in Fontana while he was walking to his elementary school along with a number of other kids that were also witnessing the very same horrors. The terrifying sight of these innocent fathers and uncles and brothers and sons and cousins and boyfriends and employees mercilessly dangling from lamp posts just outside of his home had a profound effect on my cousin since he was still in grade school, so you tell me what race of people wouldn’t be affected by their fellow citizens being lynched in The North which was supposed to be a sanctuary for black people before it was correctly identified as just another stage of hell.

How can I feel good about the history of my country when it pertains to its treatment of African Americans, who were still going to work, and who were still inventing things while they were being lynched and murdered in the streets simply for being Africans or for hailing from Cush? Black people were also going to work and inventing things right after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 for taking a stance on the Vietnam War and for trying to help poor people, so you see we still haven’t had a break since racism against black people is still present.

Now don’t get me wrong because I love my country and am not going anywhere since my ancestors fought and died for this land and are buried all across America in mass graves. I will however criticize my country and my government since I was born here and have a right to do so since I am a US citizen as well as a voter that still votes Republican just like my grandfather Melvin. My grandfather was 12 years old when he had to flee The South shortly after his mother Rachel and aunt Dorothy were brutally lynched while leaving the local grocery store with him and his 6 year old brother Isaiah. The murders occurred on a Saturday morning while my grandfather and his brother were being held in place by a group of white women that were cheering while his mother and aunt were being murdered. The lynching took place while the police, who were also Democrats and KKK members, stood there with their hands in their pockets while two human beings were being savagely murdered.

The marching in The South hadn’t accomplished much which is why my 79 year old grandfather finally turned to me and said, “The only sanctuary for blacks is death since it is the only place that the whites don’t control.”                                

The interviews above highlight the untelevised 60s while providing the 21st Century with a very different look into the past. The interviews also deal with the common man’s thoughts and feelings as he and she experienced the other 60s that never received the proper coverage that they deserved since the newspapers and the networks seemed to be focused on telling the story of resistance.             

Nathaniel Armstrong, Jr.

Cerritos, CA –

 

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