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(418 posts)
11. I was three for about the last week of 1956. I remember it well.
Thu Feb 22, 2024, 12:01 AM
Feb 22

Well, not that week. But this was Wisconsin in the heart of McCarthy territory. My dad had come out of the army and straight into the McCarthy era. Not that he was on board. But he was deeply paranoid about being turned in for anything.

He was total white-bread, Miracle Whip, standard America. Mildly progressive leanings, but scared to death to say anything to anybody. Later, at a neighborhood bbq, the host commented on JFK's assassination by saying "One down, two to go". He kept his mouth shut. Mom even had to walk around with an alcoholic drink and was occasionally forced to drink some of it. You had to fit in, no matter what.

Listened to Belafonte, but we weren't allowed to admit it. Showed us tv coverage of civil rights demonstrators being hit by fire hoses and bit by dogs, making it plain he thought it was awful. We weren't allowed to admit that outside of the house either. When I learned The Click Song by Miriam Makeba off a Belafonte album, both parents smiled awkwardly and said "That's nice, dear. Please Don't Do It For The Neighbors". (I can still do it. No idea what I'm singing, but it's lots of fun.)

The one I remember most was being told to stay away from a particular neighbor. They were pro-union out loud. We were told word for word that if we went over there, people would think Dad agreed with them, he'd lose his job and we'd all starve.

Fear the neighbors. Pretend you like them, be social (for God's sake, be social). Go to all the functions, and hold your fair share of them. Drink with them. But don't ever get close enough to reveal any true feelings. Or any feelings. Just be social. This was a surrealistic way to live. Crazy stuff.

We were never 'turned in'. Nobody we knew and nobody in our town that we ever heard of was turned in. The pro-union guy had some work problems, but wasn't charged with Communism. It all happened in much more important areas to much more important people. But everybody was so scared.

I wonder why I'm an introvert.

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