The Baggage of Youth

That’s where I met Bob Ballard, a burly, big-boned, Franklin High sophomore with an uproarious sense of humor. We became good friends. He sold me my first set of golf clubs—a beat-up set with wooden handles. I think I used them twice, maybe three times, before I gave them away. A few years later, Bob entered Naval flight training about the same time I did. Eventually, as Marine Corps pilots in the South Pacific, our paths crossed at Espiritu Santo and Bougainville. He flew in VMTB-134, another Marine torpedo squadron.


Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for a second term in 1936— the same year I had a secret, unrequited crush on Beverly Welch, the snooty daughter of Portland’s wealthiest undertaker. She was a standout.

The Republicans nominated Governor Alf Landon, “The Kansas Sunflower,” to run against FDR. As a campaign button, the Landon camp used Landon’s portrait, centered on a bright, yellow felt, sunflower background. It made an eye-catching, decorative button. That’s what Beverly Welch was wearing, on the day that I started teasing and taunting her about her fat-cat, Republican cause.

As I think back now on my boorish behavior, it was inexpiable—and inexcusable.

With a couple of FDR buttons pinned on my fraying sweater, I moved in close, pointed at her Landon button and smugly wise-cracked, “Sunflowers wilt in November, ya know.” She whirled angrily and walked away, calling me a damned Bolshevik. A Bolshevik?

Our romance was over before it had even begun.


In November 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his running mate, “Cactus Jack” Garner, rolled up one of the greatest landslides in American political history, carrying every state in the Union, except Maine and Vermont.


At Washington High, we seldom saw our haughty principal, Mr. Hugh J. Boyd. He seemed to emerge from his inner sanctum only on special occasions, looking stiff and proper in a tightly vested, blue-serge suit, peering through pince-nez glasses with a scornful look on his face.

One of those special occasions was the afternoon of December 11, 1936.

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