Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Music: San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) - Scott McKenzie

I heard this song on the radio earlier today, and while I don't think it's a great song (and didn't think so back when it was new, either), it did trigger a lot of memories. And since (consider yourself warned) I'll seize any excuse to wallow in nostalgia . . .

I spent most of the summer of 1967 in the tiny town of Blanket, Texas, about halfway between Comanche and Brownwood, for those of you familiar with the area. My widowed aunt lived there, and my grandmother, who was in poor health, lived with her. My mother went down there to help out, and I went along.

I never went anywhere and stayed without taking a big stack of paperbacks with me. Since there really wasn't a whole lot I could do to help with the situation, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book, as people used to say. I can't remember everything I read, of course, but I do recall reading RHUBARB by H. Allen Smith, the story of a cat who owned a baseball team (hilarious stuff); some of the Lancer editions of Robert E. Howard's stories (and I knew even then that pure Howard, or what passed for it at the time, was better than the stuff DeCamp and Carter monkeyed with); various "Nevada Jim" and "Larry and Streak" Westerns by "Marshall McCoy" (never dreaming, of course, that twenty years later I'd be friends with Len Meares, the guy who actually wrote them); a great Man From U.N.C.L.E. story in the digest magazine, "The Pillars of Salt Affair" by "Robert Hart Davis" (actually Bill Pronzini, and years later I was able to tell him in person how much I enjoyed it); half a dozen Sam Durrell espionage novels by Edward S. Aarons; and some hardboiled private eye yarns by Thomas B. Dewey featuring Mac, his most well-known character (Dewey lived out the last years of his life in Brady, Texas, about sixty miles from where I was reading those novels). Also, my aunt subscribed to THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and had stacks and stacks of them going back years, and I went through all of them reading the short stories that looked interesting, scores of them, I imagine, although I can't remember a single one now.

I listened to the radio a lot, too – KBWD-AM out of Brownwood – and Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)" was on there all the time that summer, along with "I Dig Rock 'n' Roll Music" by Peter, Paul, and Mary and "Light My Fire" by the Doors" (much better songs, both of them). And I hung out with the girl who lived across the street, who seemed impressed by a guy from the big city (trust me, compared to Blanket, Azle was a big city). It's driving me crazy that I can't recall her name, even though I can close my eyes and remember what she looked like. But I never saw her again after that summer, of course, so I guess it's not too surprising that her name eludes me. She probably doesn't remember me, either.

That was my summer of '67. Nothing spectacular, by any means, but the memories are good ones, and the influences of some of the books I read still echo 45 years later.

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