I went to a small Christian school from the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated from high school. It was small, familiar, and felt like a warm, safe place. I have memories of teachers who were good people, and, for the most part, these were happy times. It was in this school that I was blessed to have Mrs. Foster for English grammar. I continue to use so much of what I learned in her class. It was in this high school that I would have Wayne White for history and learn how to take notes in class. Again, I would use that skill for the rest of my life.
All of this took place in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. There was so much cultural upheaval during those years. When I was a high school freshman, both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Drugs. Race riots. Woodstock. The Vietnam War. It was a time of much chaos and upheaval. I remember driving on some major streets in Dallas and seeing people on the street corners selling radical newspapers. (I still have a few copies filed away.) Since those decades, volumes of books have been written on the issues of these years. At the time, it was a bit much for me as a sixteen-year-old boy to try to sort out on my own.
While in school, I watched these events on television as they were unfolding. I can still remember watching our black and white television the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I vividly recall being in our living room, sitting on the floor, staring at these horrible scenes. In those days, I don’t remember a lot of overlap between what was on our television screen and what was happening in school. In fact, it seemed like there was sort of a disconnection between school, church, and these cultural events that occupied my mind much of the time. I found all of this to be overwhelming. It was much easier to think about the Dallas Cowboys, what eight-track tape I would buy, and how to put more powerful speakers in my car.
I began working nights at a fast-food restaurant on Buckner Blvd., a very busy street near our house (sort of the "main drag" for area high school students). Most of the time, I worked one weekday night and then worked on Friday and/or Saturday nights. I would generally get off at 4:00 AM on those days. This was an introduction to a part of our community that I had very little experience with. So many of the people who came through this fast food place during the very late hours were either drunk or high on drugs. I was amazed at the number of adults who night after night seemed to do nothing but aimlessly roam the streets in their cars.
One year, 1970, there was a large "Jesus Rally" in our city. It seemed that college students had come from various parts of the country to talk to people about Jesus on the streets during the day and then gather in various stadiums in the evenings. I was at work one night and a number of these people came through to get something to eat. I was amazed to see people my own age openly talking about Jesus and even having his name written in large white letters on the sides of their cars and vans. Though I had been a part of a church all my life, this kind of thing was very foreign to me. I had never seen people my own age be so open about their faith in Jesus. What was especially impressive was these people all looked so normal. I was amazed when my best friend from down the street told me that he and his girlfriend were going to a Jesus rally.
Finally, I graduated from high school. At the time, I felt very, very lost and had little direction in life. I had no clue as to what to do. Unfortunately, I was not seeking advice from any older, wiser person. So, this was a time in which I felt very confused about my emotions, my thinking, and whatever direction I would take in life.
I turned eighteen in July and went to the post office in Pleasant Grove to register for the draft. A few months later, I received a dreaded letter in the mail informing me that I was to report to the Naval Station in downtown Dallas for a physical exam. (Before being drafted a person usually received this notification first.) I spent a Saturday morning being examined by various Navy medical personnel. This was sobering. The Vietnam War was still going on, and I wondered if I would not end up there.
For the next few weeks, I visited the offices of several military recruiters wondering if I should join. I never got drafted. The war ended. I would spend a number of years in college.