Telling today’s teens how it was in the ’60s
Joie McCumbee, a 1964 Berkeley Springs High School graduate, brought in 1960s memorabilia and albums to share with Berkeley Springs High School students studying the Sixties in music teacher Kathy Seager’s History of Rock & Roll class.
McCumbee played an original broadcast from 1959 when Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash. Singer-songwriter Don McLean later called it “the day the music died” in his song “American Pie.”
McCumbee also brought Life magazines about President John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald from the 1960s and one of 30 White House Christmas cards that were signed by Kennedy just before he was assassinated.
McCumbee recalled being in driver’s education class when word of the assassination came. “It’s something you don’t forget,” he said.
Despite the Vietnam War and tragic events like Kennedy’s death, the 1960s “was a great time to grow up, he said.
There was a dance every Saturday at the fire hall and they went skating at the roller rink on weekends. There used to be a drive-in restaurant with car hops across from the Rescue Squad building and a drive-in on Johnson Mill Road.
“There was tons of stuff to do at the time. We kept busy,” he said.
McCumbee also had a band in high school called “The Termites” that covered Beatles songs. They played dances at Berkeley Springs High School.
Dress of the times
McCumbee showed students hairstyles and clothing of the 1960s. Boys had to wear dress pants and usually penny loafers to school. Girls had to be in dresses or skirts.
McCumbee was surprised to see teens wearing jeans and shorts and sporting beards in school today. He was once asked to shave off a two-day goatee he had in high school.
McCumbee showed an old Berkeley Springs High School handbook and a yearbook with photos of a classmate who is now a retired Navy admiral.
How the music changed
Morgan Messenger editor John Douglas brought music to share with the class and talked about performers he saw in concert in the 1960s.
They included Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Led Zepplin, the Animals, Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell, the Kinks, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel. B.B. King, Peter, Paul & Mary, Canned Heat and Blood Sweat & Tears.
Douglas played pieces of recordings to demonstrate how electric guitar styles changed through the 1950s and 1960s. Teens heard different versions of the song “Not Fade Away” from original by Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead.
He played clips from songs like the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Revolution,” Bob Dylan’s “Talkin‘ New York” and “Tombstone Blues,” Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” and The Doors’ “Break On Through to the Other Side” to show the transformation that rock music went though during the era.
When he asked students what might have changed between early and later music by the same artists, one teen noted that it seemed like the culture had changed.
“An old friend”
Chris Bosley, a Morgan County school bus driver, was invited by a student on his bus to talk to the class. Bosley, a history buff, grew up in the 1960s in New Jersey.
He talked about dress and hairstyles, the Vietnam War, the Beatles and other music with the classes.
Bosley said his parents grew up with Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby music and didn’t like his music, especially when Jimi Hendrix came out. The teens said their parents didn’t like the music they listened to today, either.
In high school, Bosley said they always had live music at dances, mostly high school bands. TV shows like “American Bandstand” and “Soul Train” had local groups playing clean music to a roomful of kids dancing.
Bosley brought albums by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Steppenwolf, among others. A lot of the music was protest music. He said the kids enjoyed the album covers.
Bosley started playing guitar in junior high and was in a band in high school that played Beatles music.
Bosley said playing guitar “kept him out of a lot of trouble,” and he still plays. “It became an old friend,” he said.
Bosley, now 62, said he thinks back on how it was in the 1960s and how it is now and wonders how it will be in the future.
Time of turmoil, too
Rhonda Dietrich, who works at Tari’s Café, grew up in a rural area between Annapolis and Baltimore in the 1960s. She remembered playing baseball, going swimming and fishing, and “making our own fun.”
She recalled sirens being sounded and students getting underneath their desks for air raid drills. “There was always the threat of war,” she said.
During the riots after Martin Luther King’s assassination, she was working at a restaurant on the outskirts of Baltimore. They closed all of the businesses and it was scary, Dietrich said.
She said she had gone to an integrated school and a person’s color never seemed to matter. “The racial riots blew me away,” she said.
The Vietnam War was a big issue in high school. Dietrich’s fiancé was in Vietnam. There were students that protested the war and some, like her, who had loved ones stationed there.
Dietrich remembered her mom would send them to the store with a dollar and they could buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and still have change left over for a candy bar.
McDonald’s advertised a three-course meal — a burger, fries and soda — for 47-cents in the early 1960s. Sodas were a dime.
Dietrich recalled collecting soda bottles and turning them in for deposits. “Nothing was throwaway back then,” she said.
Dietrich and the teens talked a lot about music. Things never change, she said. Parents of both generations couldn’t understand why anyone would listen to that kind of music.
Dietrich said she always enjoyed hearing older people’s stories when she was young and wanted to share her firsthand experiences of the 1960s.
The students were well-prepared with questions and knowledge of the decade.
“The kids were great,” she said.