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Tuesday, November 8, 2016


I have written my little blog about Key West real estate for nearly eleven years.  Occasional I have departed from writing about homes to share stories about growing up in the suburbs of Denver after World War II. I often mention photos in my old shoebox. I have several boxes of photos, really. And I have boxes and boxes of little trinkets of things I held dear at one time of my life including my Communion Cross and Cub Scout Promise Token. Neither is probably worth much. But they mean so much to - especially on this Election Day November 8, 2016 because these two pieces of metal represent the values I learned in my church, my school, and in my home in the 1950s - a time when values were much different than they are today.
Last summer I traveled back to Colorado to attend my 50th high school reunion. Earlier that day I went to my grade school which was sold off by the school district and is now owned by a non-profit which primarily teaches the children of Mexican immigrants.The young woman who runs the school allowed me to wander through the old building. That blog is located here.

I remember November 2, 1952 quite well. It was the Sunday before election day.  I was sitting on our living room floor looking at the comics in the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. My dad came over and threw down the Sunday supplements for each paper. There was a full page photo of Dwight Eisenhower on one and Adlai Stevenson on the other. My dad gave me one of those ubiquitous life lessons fathers give to their sons. He told me to NEVER VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN BECAUSE ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS MONEY.  He said the Democrats care for working people.  At that moment I learned I was a member of the working people group.

Two days later after my mother and dad got off work I walked over to the town hall where they voted for Adlai Stevenson. I remember going inside the building where I saw one or two machines similar to the one below. They each had to tell the people who they were and where they lived before they could go inside. They closed the drapes and voted in private. I understood what voting was. Later that night or maybe the next day we learned the Stevenson lost and Eisenhower won. We repeated the process four years later with the same results.

It was in 1960 that I developed the bug for politics.  I admired John F. Kennedy so much. He was so not like Ike. He was young. He spoke in prose that evoked visions of pride in our country and what we could become.

I got to see President Kennedy in Berlin in 1963. Thousands of people were there screaming and yelling praise at Kennedy. I was so proud that he was our President. Later we got to go to East Berlin and I saw what not having the freedoms we enjoy in the United States looked like. Shortly thereafter we ere on our train riding through East German where we had to stop. German guards boarded the train and went through each and every compartment looking at our passports and bags. A schoolmate of mine, Nina McKitrick, had take a couple of photos of the guards. One grabbed her camera and ripped out the film and handed back to her. She was in tears. I think the rest of us were pretty terrified. Things like that do not happen where we came from. At least not where I lived. A little more than three months later John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He had spoke to my generation to be our better angels. And then he became one. Sometime between his being elected and before his death, I decided I wanted to go to law school to become a lawyer. I planned eventually to run for public office. I did become a lawyer but I never ran for office. Now I sell houses in Key West.
In the summer of 1963 I got involved in local community politics. I organized the Jefferson County Teen Democrats. I was terrified about what a Barry Goldwater presidency would do to our country. There were a lot of other teens like me who got together on Saturdays to walk through various neighborhoods handing out election brochures. We went to several campaign events where we got to shake hands with President Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Humphrey. We did not have polling back then like we have now. I did not go to school on election day. Instead I got in my car and drove voters to their precinct polling places. Later I went to the Democratic post election meeting place to gather with other Democrats. The news coming on TV was quite exciting. It looked like we were going to win and win big. A fellow Teen Dem and I drove down to the Hilton Hotel in Denver. Early editions of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post already announced that LBJ had won before midnight.
It wasn't until the next day that we learned the extent of LBJ's victory. The Democrats not only won the US Senate and House, but also took over many governorships, state houses, and local offices across the country. Johnson's coattails were long and wide. Several of the candidates who the Teen Dems worked for were elected. We felt we contributed to their victory.

The lessons I learned as a little boy about God and Country live with me today. I have been horrified at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming President. He is not from the mold of an Eisenhower - he ran away from war not toward it. He is not a skilled politician like Nixon nor a statesman like Regan. Just about everybody has a word to describe him. I don't know what will happen today. I already voted. VOTE.  Fifty years from now how will you look back on what you did today?


Anonymous said...

Well done

Joseph Graham said...

Gary, once again, your beautifully written memories and sentiments have brought me one of the best moments of my day. Keep the dream alive, sir, and thank you!

Gary Thomas said...

Thank you both!


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.