It was a very good year 50 years ago.
I was 12, and I remember 1969 like it was yesterday.
I had a Daily Journal paper route. The Jackson Five was the best band in the world, and the CYO was the best place in the world to hang out.
I remember the first moon landing. I know exactly where I was when it was announced on the radio. I remember meeting my baby sister that day. She was beautiful that day. It was a good day.
I also remember experiencing severe trauma 50 years ago.
My Chicago Cubs had taken a proverbial corked bat and beaten my heart out by squandering away their late season division lead to the New York Mets.
Those dang N.Y. Mets and the N.Y. Jets won their respective league championships, both beating teams from Baltimore.
Richard Nixon was president.
Charles Manson became famous for orchestrating eight murders in California.
Two Black Panther Party members were killed by police in Chicago.
A Massachusetts congressman drove his car off a bridge and abandoned his passenger to drown.
A bunch of hippies threw a great big music party somewhere in New York.
However, my fondest and most memorable recollection of 1969 was August 1.
It was the day I met the most honest, most decent, most caring, most nearly perfect man ever created. Of course, there have been unknown billions of human creations that have existed. However, I cannot imagine even one being a better person than O.V. Williams.
I have often mentioned him in this column.
He was my stepdad; my hero; my standard bearer; a man I actually saw walk on water more than once.
It was the result of his compassion and two-year effort that on Aug. 1, 1969, I was no longer a ward of the state. I was free. It would be the last day I put my entire meager belongings in a pillowcase.
One of his first and lasting impressions was, “Mi casa es su casa.” Actually, he made it very clear in English that whatever was his, was mine, and that sentiment never wavered.
O.V. taught me all I needed to know in order to stay within the lines of civilized and expected societal behavior.
Other knowledge I have acquired outside his influence has been beneficial, but I have yet to experience something I actually needed that wasn’t taught by him.
In those few instances when I may operate outside the lines of civility or decency, it is because I choose to function adversely or counter to his teachings.
O. V. is no longer here. Still, his calm words sometimes reverberate.
They ring true today as they did when he first uttered them.
“Being born with or accumulating more things, being bigger or taller does not mean better. We are created equal, and we will end equal. Some people won’t matter to you, but everybody matters. You are all you got, so when you meet someone who is willing to sacrifice their all for the benefit of others, you owe them every fiber of respect you can muster,” were just a few of his lasting lessons. And, the teachings went on and on.
Some I chose to learn.
Some I ignored.
We can’t pick our family, nor can we pick our date of birth; but if I could, it would be Aug.1, 1969. My biological parents might have given me life, but O.V. taught me how to live, and I have been living ever since.
Yeah, 50 years ago was a very good year. And O.V. Williams was a really great dude. To my fortune, time didn’t slip away before I was able to let him know just how great and how right he was. And still is.