So, at 19 or so and after my walk across the country, I had to go back to California and wound up with my girlfriend (at that time) living in San Francisco in The Castro. We had no idea where we were or what we were doing, so there we were.
I was heading down the street to one of the corner markets (because that's all you had in the city, corner markets) for some reason or another and I spotted a bar with lots of big terrifying looking motorcycles outside on the sidewalk. Those were soon joined by a group of burly looking men in leather outfits - nice caps too - and I thought it better that I move over to the other side of the street not knowing who or what they were.
As I was passing by I heard one say to another, "Oh, Mary!" in such a way that it all started to fall together.
Something snapped that moment and I still can't say what it was exactly, but I knew I had to face up to who and what I was at that point in my life. There was no other choice.
My girlfriend and I soon moved back to Des Moines and I soon moved out of her house And so a new journey began.....
Times have changed...some. In the late 1950s Denver, Colorado had approximately three gay bars. The law involving liquor establishments required the customers to be seated when drinking. I do not recall ever seeing it enforced in straight bars. On occasion the police would target the gay bars to enforce the law . When a gay bar was targeted they would telephone the others to advise them that the police were there and would be on their way. An announcement would be made so the customers could locate seating or dispose of their drinks. If caught, the customer would be taken to jail. Needless to say, dancing was not allowed at this time either.
On another occasion,
I had an acquaintance who was riding in the back seat of a car with a male friend. The driver stopped at a red light and about that time the fellow in the back gave his friend a peck on the cheek. There happened to be a police car behind them and it was noticed by the officer. They were pulled over and jailed. He called me to provide his bail as he felt he could not call his family since he did not want them to know the circumstances and be labeled "a queer" as was the most referred to designation at the time. There was also the fear his employer would find out and he would lose his job, which fortunately did not happen.
CHILDREN OF A TOUGH GENERATION
Born in the 1930s and 40s, we exist as a very special age group.We are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900s. We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.
We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren't available.
We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch. We are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the War. We saw the 'boys' home from the war, build their little houses.
We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio. As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood "playing outside”. There was no little league. There was no city playground for kids. The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.
On Saturday afternoons, the movies, gave us newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons. Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party Lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy). Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon.
The 'INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist. Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Gabriel Heatter and later Paul Harvey.
As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled with new Installment payment plans opened many factories for work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility. The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics. The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands. Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.
We weren't neglected, but we weren't today's all-consuming family focus.They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on.They were busy discovering the post war world. We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where we were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in our future. Although depression poverty was deeply remembered.Polio was still a crippler.
We came of age in the 50s and 60s.The Korean War was a dark passage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking under desks for Air-Raid training. Russia built the “Iron Curtain” and China became Red China. Eisenhower sent the first 'Army Advisers' to Vietnam.Castro took over in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power.
We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland. The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, “global warming”, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.Only our generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty. lived through both.
We grew up at a time when the world was getting better. not worse. We are "The Last Ones". More than 99 % of us are either retired or deceased, and we feel privileged to have lived in the best of times which will probably never be repeated.
I was in Detroit (Grosse Pointe) and with a friend sending out an invitation to our ONE meeting in a few days. We had been listening to a radio report on Stonewall. We met on a monthly basis as gay men in a local Detroit Unitarian Church. So One actually proceeded gays at Stonewall.
(Larry, tell us more about ONE)
I was a senior in high school in New Jersey. This is John Swiencicki
In 1969 I was getting married.
I was a freshman at an all boys Catholic high school. More on that later....
Mark: That summer was full of activity for me. I was "into" target archery big time, as well as my erstwhile companion of the moment. We travelled together to every big competition both here in Arizona and in the midwest in my little VW bug. At about the time of the Stonewall riot, I was likely in Indiana at the Brown County Invitational tournament. Later that summer (in fact during the week of Woodstock) I was nearby at the World Target Archery Championship in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, after which I took my mother and grandmother to Europe on a three-week holiday. I was back in my Michigan classroom teaching by mid-September. Buried away in my garage are all the particulars and souvenirs. Your question motivates me to go out and dig them up. I still have all my bows and archery paraphernalia.