What were you doing 40 years ago?


This month  is the fortieth anniversary of the landing on the moon. I remember that event well. Come on in and we’ll talk.

That year I had finished college mid-semester. The only class I had was nine weeks of student teaching which ended at the middle of March. I had signed a contract to begin teaching in September so I had almost  five months of time to fill.

A friend of mine had moved to Washington, DC and gotten a job at the Library of Congress nine months prior. When I talked with her, she invited me to come out to DC to live with her during that time. I found a rider who would ride with me as far as West Virginia. Young and foolish, away I drove to face my future in the nation’s capital.

The first obstacle I faced upon arriving in DC was the Dupont traffic circle. I had never met a circle before. It took me three panicked laps around the circle in rush hour to finally maneuver my car into the correct lane to turn onto O Street. The house where she was staying was 21st and O NW. At that time it was rather shabby and very close to Dupont Circle. The houses may have been run down,  but the air was alive with the electricity of all the young people living there. There were people walking everywhere. This was the time of protesting Hippies and the build up of the Viet Nam War. The second obstacle was finding a parking place. After driving around the block several times, I managed to conquer the circle and park within walking distance in the same hour. Life was good.

My friend was sharing a house with another couple and a single girl downstairs. She was staying in two rooms on the second floor. On the top floor was another young couple. I had little time to meet any of them. Everyone went their separate ways. I was expecting a bed. What I was offered was an ancient lumpy almost full length couch. Those were the days I could sleep on anything and I adjusted. A few days later, my friend had managed to obtain a pull out sofa bed which I used for the next couple of months.

I got a job several days later at the Statler Hilton at 15th and K St NW. I was hired to work in the personnel office. The other secretary was a Greek woman named Toula. Her bosses came and went. She had been a fixture for twenty years.  She was probably twenty years older than I. Within days, I loved her completely. She trained me in that job very quickly to answer the phone, screen and interview applicants, and help process those hired . These people were the service staff, not, of course, the executives. My boss  was Ed. Our office was reached through a scary, darkened back alley. It was located near the kitchen, the time clock, and the dumpsters, not exactly a prestigious part of the hotel.

I started walking to work in those early April mornings instead of riding the bus. I walked right past the Watergate. Another young employee who joined me in the walk lived there. I had no idea I was walking right past history. At lunch time I would walk down to Pennsylvania Avenue and say hello to Dick and Pat.

By the first week of June,  we moved upstairs to the vacated apartment above us. There was a bedroom now with twin beds that we shared. The room had been painted black with a huge yellow submarine on the wall. The owner/manager agreed to have the room painted. It was soon a soft blue.

That was five months I will never forget. For the first time I was completely on my own in a large city. I debated staying there permanently. However, we decided to call it quits. My friend wanted to move back to Chicago and I felt obligated to begin my first teaching job. We started back to the midwest in my inherited Chevy Bel-Air July 18. By the 20th we were at her parent’s home and watching the landing on the moon. We didn’t miss that moment in history after all.

The next morning we left again to continue our journey. We were crossing the country that summer. Our destination was California to visit a college friend of my friend. We made it out there to Oakland in one piece. We partied in San Francisco and toured Sausalito before returning home. That was the summer of Dylan and a bottled red wine that tasted like soda pop until it came back up a few hours later and cemented my bursting head to the pillow. Those were the days of Lay Lady Lay, literally.

I hope your day goes well and your memories are sweet. Attic Annie

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