In 1961 Barry Fredrickson was my best friend. I was the pitcher and he was the catcher on the Bayshore Gardens little league baseball team, Barry's mom was our den mother in Cub Scouts and we rode our bikes together for hours at a time.
There was no question in our mind that Sharon Fazette was the most beautiful girl in the world and as active members of Troop 54 of the Boy Scouts of America we both became Eagle Scouts on the same day.
My life had no complications back in 1961. I loved growing up in Bradenton, Florida. Our house wasn't much different than a lot of the houses...our yard looked like everybody elses...and Amherst Avenue was just a street like the other streets. But, 50 years later when I look back to those times in my life I realize how special every day was back then.
Gasoline was 25 cents a gallon in 1961....50 years later it hovers around $4 a gallon. And, no one pumps your gas, checks your tires for air, washes your windshield and gives you cool glasses just for filling up your tank.
My Grandma Frain lived with us and twice a week she had me ride my bike to Publix Supermarkets for bread. 21 cents a loaf then, and now it's $2 and that's if you buy just basic white bread.
I loved crispy bacon, so crispy that you barely touch it and it breaks apart. My favorite bacon was 65 cents a pound then. Now, it's $4 a pound and I don't even like it very much anymore.
All of us loved and respected President Kennedy. He challenged us to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and we did. Now, just 50 years later,the last space shuttle has flown and there is no clear focus if there will continue to be a space program in the future.
In 1961 everyone was excited about the competition between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to break Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs. Roger Maris hit #61 on October 1st 1961. Albert Pujols will probably lead all of baseball at the end of the season with around 40 home runs.
Growing up in Florida was not quite the same as the "Deep South" in 1961 with the many problems in race relations. The "Freedom Riders" were young black and white Americans who rode racially integrated buses in the south. Some were attacked and beaten by white supremacist supporters of racial segregation.
A close look at the photo of Barry and me right before we were presented our Eagle Award will make a significant point as to how things were when I grew up. The two words, Colored Women in the building directly behind us says it all. We were a country that was racially divided.
Are we still a country that is racially divided? I believe so. Are things better now than they were 50 years ago when black men were tarred and feathered by the KKK, when separate rest rooms, separate eating areas and segregated schools were the norm? Yes, they are better but with they definitely need to improve.
Unfortunately, in 2011 we are a country that is politically divided like never before in our history. I remember watching the Richard Nixon - John Kennedy debates during the campaign of 1960. Intense? Yes. Full of hatred and animosity? No.
Did the congress in the early '60s have disagreements? They certainly did because that is the political system we use to come up with solutions to our problems.
The political animosity between the Republicans and Democrats in 2011 is totally unacceptable for most Americans. Something has to change. The members of Congress 50 years ago would be astonished and disappointed in our elected officials.
If someone had suggested in 1961 that a black man with the name of Barack Obama would ever be the President of the United States they would have been laughed out of the room. Whenever I become frustrated with where our country is going I remember the photo of Barry and me standing outside the Colored Women restroom.
Things have changed a great deal in those 50 years since Barry and I stood there to receive our Eagles Scout Medals. Some for the good and some for the bad.
Life is what you make out of it, and I have come a long way in these last 50 years. I wouldn't change a thing. My family is my rock and the foundation of my life. I have wonderful friends, a great job and I have enough outside interests to keep me busy and out of trouble.
Oh, here's a follow up to the dual interest that both Barry and I had in the most beautiful girl in the world, Sharon Fezatte. I won. She was my first real girl friend. And I have pictures to prove it.
I wish that I knew where Barry was these days. I have tried to track him down but with no success. Hopefully he is as happy with his life as I am.
If he is, he's a lucky man!