My Fifth Year – 1959-1960 Big Changes Ahead

In December 1959, a couple of months after I turned four, my Grandmother Kingsbury died. I must admit that I have absolutely no recollection of her. I do not know the cause of her death and it is not detailed in any of my grandfather’s (JBK) family letters. I assume that her years of alcohol abuse were a factor. She was 57 years old. She and I share a birth month – a fact I didn’t know until I began researching family history.

On a happier note, in December 1959 Nana and Buck adopted a son – Kenneth Alan Latham. I mentioned him in my last post “my little uncle” but I wasn’t sure of the timing of his adoption. From JBK’s family letter in the summer of 1960, I know the adoption occurred around Christmas time in 1959. My mother recalls that Kenny wasn’t walking yet when he was adopted, but she wasn’t sure of the exact date. He was born on January 6, 1959, but when his new birth certificate was issued (my mother says that Ken has “both” of his birth certificates) his birthday was listed as January 7th.

I probably spent the first six months of the new decade completely oblivious to the changes that were in store for me. My guess would be that the biggest change was that I finally had a playmate during the day when I stayed with Nana. At some point during the summer of 1960, Nana, Buck and Kenny moved back to Richmond VA. According to my mother, that was when we moved from 10831 Clifton Boulevard in Cleveland to the “pink lemon” in Broadview Heights, a new neighborhood south of the city. I know from JBK’s family letter that the house was located at 600 East Sprague Drive, Broadview Heights, Ohio. He described it as the only rental in a new neighborhood and mentioned that it couldn’t be sold because of some building defects. When I check on Google maps now there seems to be an empty lot where the house used to stand. JBK visited for two weeks in July 1960 and I stayed home with him while my parents were at work. He commented on the hectic pace of our lives as follows:

“I guess one thing that enables them to keep going is their ability to relax and have fun. Two Sundays we picnicked and swam and sun-bathed at Headlands State Park on Lake Erie, 40 miles east of Cleveland; three days we played golf; and in the evenings we watched the convention on TV, played Scrabble and talked. Saturday we did the marketing for the week, and I saw some of the biggest supermarkets in the country, which explain why the downtown merchants worry about the future. The night I left for Boston, Bry and Ceil took me to the Black Angus, the finest steak house in Cleveland. I drove to the University one morning with Bry, spent the morning strolling around and visiting the wonderful Cleveland Art Museum, had lunch with Bry, and then we went down town and bought blue suits for Deane’s wedding. I haven’t said much about Kathy because when I get started it is hard to stop. She is as sweet and unspoiled as ever, talks like an adult, uses big words, and is ready for school, but won’t be able to get into public school this fall because she won’t be 5 until October.”

My grandfather retired from Indiana University at the end of the Spring term in 1960 – he turned 70 on June 23, 1960 and refers to the practice that Universities follow of forcing professors to retire at age 70 as “statutory senility.” My father-in-law, who was on the faculty of the University of Southern California School of Medicine, experienced the same thing in 1993 and I remember thinking that it had to violate every age discrimination law on the books. It doesn’t -different rules apply to hiring systems based on tenure.

Not to worry though, both men (my grandfather and my father-in-law) went on to accomplish great things when they were no longer tenured faculty. One reason for JBK’s extended visit with us in July 1960 is that he was about to leave for his second teaching assignment in Thailand. He was appointed by Indiana University for an 11-month assignment to the Institute in Bangkok.

On August 6, 1960, Uncle Deane and Aunt Nancy were married in Columbus, Indiana. It turns out that without knowing it was Deane and Nancy’s anniversary, Rick and I chose the same wedding date 23 years later! I believe that someone else on Nancy’s side of the family also shares that wedding date. Deane and Nancy just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

JBK left for Thailand two days after the wedding and probably at about the same time, my mother and I moved to Richmond, Virginia to live with Nana and Buck. I have no recollection of my parents’ separation and only learned about it from JBK’s letters.

Our address in Richmond was 103 East 33rd Street. It is in that house that I begin to have memories of my childhood. I can picture the floorplan, the front porch and the back yard. I remember father’s day cookouts in the back yard. I remember the little curve in the street a few houses down from ours just before the house where my friend Debbie Ligon lived.

I remember an Easter egg hunt in that house when I had the measles so the hunt had to be indoors instead of outside. The indoor location for the hunt may have been because of bad weather but I remember it being because I had the measles. (My family often thought that being outdoors either caused illness or should be avoided when ill.) I also remember finding the golden egg – hidden in the pocket of Nana’s coat which was hanging on the kitchen door knob. I also remember (though I will deny it if any of my cousins challenge me) that I may have gotten a nonverbal “hint” from Nana as to the location of the golden egg.

The exact dates of these memories are less clear but they had to be within a two-year time frame between 1960 and 1962. The other important event in 1960 is that I missed the cut-off for starting kindergarten by five days.  I know that many people now like for their kids to be more mature when they start school but I was devastated. My grandfather recalls that we “played school” a lot during his two week visit that summer so I was probably looking forward to it. It is one of those “memories’ that is repeated so often that even if it isn’t a memory it seems like one – “if we had stayed in Cleveland you would have been able to start school but in Richmond you had to be five by October 15th so you had to wait a year.”

So as I celebrated my 5th birthday (perhaps with my cousins for the first time since they all lived in Richmond) I was experiencing a lot of changes – new house, new town, no school, no dad.  The adjective for this year is Southerner.

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