In June of 1965, I had just finished my junior year in high school. I spent that summer working as a lifeguard at a country club
located about fifty miles north of New York City. It was there I met Sally, a girl whose parents were members of the club.
Sally and I spent that summer partying with friends, going to movies, and falling in love.
Also during that summer, the Vietnam War escalated dramatically. LBJ nearly doubled the number of combat troops in South Vietnam. That number would continue to escalate for the next several years, as did the intensity of the fighting and the number of casualties. And in several U.S. cities, the fight for civil rights turned violent. But as teenagers in love, Vietnam and the other events of the mid-sixties barely registered with us. Music and movies took precedence. And Mustangs entered the picture at various points in our lives as well.
When the summer ended, Sally and her family moved back into the city, leaving me behind in Northern Westchester. But Sally and I were really in love, and we began going steady before they left. We continued our relationship through the winter of 1965-'66.
And while some Americans drove their first Mustangs and took their first space walks, others continued to die as the Vietnam War escalated. Throughout those times, Sally and I wrote to each other regularly. We were separated by fifty miles of roads and expensive long-distance charges, so writing was our main method of communication.
During the winter of 1965-'66 we also visited each other once in a while. We'd take the New York Central for a weekend stay at the other's house. We continued to go steady through the summer. In the fall of 1966, I went off to college. Sally was a year behind me, so she remained in New York for her senior year.
I'm sure she doesn't have the letters I wrote to her, but I recently came across the ones she wrote to me. They were innocent letters, reflecting her life that revolved around school, family, and to a certain degree, me. I'm sure mine were no more "outward looking" either.
In this book, I lay out Sally's letters alongside the headlines, music and lead paragraphs from the biggest news stories of those days in 1965-'66.* The contrasts between a smart, pretty young lady's thoughts and a world in turmoil are there for the readers to see. I've also put in some of my thoughts and observations, as I remember them after all these years. Sometimes, they were the same as Sally's; sometimes they were different. Even though we were definitely in love, there were differences between us: I lived in the 'burbs, she was a city girl; I was in public high school, she went to the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan; I wanted more than heavy petting, she didn't.
As with all couples, we had our ups and downs; and Sally addressed those highs and lows in her letters. While I really loved her, I don't think I gave our relationship as much thought and consideration as she did. As most young men my age, we were less emotional than young women and had lots of other things to think about, as you'll see.
*Listed throughout the book is the number one song for each week during the time. They are taken from Cash Box magazine's rankings of the top one hundred songs, as published from the 1940s through 1996. The news headlines and other information from the '60s are taken from When We Were Young by Rita Lang Kleinfelder.