I was away from the United States for two years on a mission to the Far East, beginning early in 1950. I left the United States as a teenager of 17 years, and returned as a 19-year old still almost two years short of voting age—back then the minimum age for voting was 21, not 18. I left because I was called on—commanded—to assist the US Army in its occupation of Japan, an occupation by our armed forces still in place five years after Japan’s surrender.
Shortly after arriving in Japan I was given the opportunity to assist our armed forces in the Korean War. I unwisely volunteered and spent fifteen months there at the height of the war, returning to the US early in 1952. On my return I found many changes—life in Mississippi moved much slower than in other sections of the country, perhaps because repercussions of the War Between the States—that’s our U. S. Civil War—still echoed in that area and era, and recovery through reconstruction was slow in coming.
Columbus was slow to accept change and was far behind the times in many ways. The most fascinating change for me was the addition of a drive-in theater, a place where couples, young and not-so-young, could legally park at night, to watch the movie, of course, without fear of those dreaded red lights and sirens operated by local law-enforcement personnel. I was challenged by many changes on my return to the city, but I have vivid memories of successfully adapting, with the assistance of a schoolmate’s sister, to the challenges posed by the drive-in theater—the ins and outs of the process, so to speak.
I quickly mastered actions such as moving the speaker from its post to the car’s interior and keeping my foot off the brake pedal. I learned the latter from the cacophony of horns blowing behind me because the red brake lights were obscuring the screen for others. In later years—much later—I accidentally—honest, it was an accident—drove away with the speaker still in the car. Fearing that I would be prosecuted, I hesitated to report the damage and I kept the speaker—I cleverly wired it to my radio and used it as a backseat sound source. Voila! Stereo!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.