Archive for August, 2012
My political interests and small time political career (which dead -ended in my late 30’s) began in the early spring of 1964. I was in the 10th grade. There was a small strip mall in North Miami on NE 6th Ave. and 123rd St. A small suite had been rented with a big elephant poster in the window and Barry Goldwater posters were hung too. I drove by on my bike for a whole week before I mustered the courage.
I walked in and confronted half a dozen startled people and said “I want to be in politics.” This attractive late 40ish blond lady stood right up and said “My name is Alyse O’Neill and my husband is running for the congress of the United States.” “I want to work for Goldwater.” I replied. “So do we and you have come to the right place!” she smiled.
I learned the mundane to the sophisticated. The basics included hand addressing over 20,000 envelopes, verifying at least several thousand phone numbers, studying maps to walk precincts, and passing out literature door to door and in front of the big grocery store. I soon had a key and was office manager. I was given this great responsibility because the adults had “jobs” (which I later found out meant mistresses for the men and vodka martinis and little pills for the women).
One of the very sophisticated things I got to do was to go to parties with lots of rich people. They were called fund raisers. Leaving off the letter “d” on fund would be a more accurate characterization. The people always seemed to drink a whole lot too much of beverages that left them so incapacitated that they could not even crawl to a voting booth, let alone pull a lever. I was very indignant about all this until I went to college. I learned all about politics very young. From sex to booze to money to the handshaking and precinct walking, I learned it all that year.
Now if you go to the library you can ask that nice lady in the gray dress, that has worked there since Coolidge was president, to help you find out about the election of 1964. We lost. I mean BIG TIME lost.
In June, 1965 the Republicans held a big strategy building convention on Miami Beach. They rented out the 3 most lavish hotels for a week. I went to all the activities and sat with Nixon, saw Jacob Javits, Winthrop Rockefeller, and a big time congressman from Kentucky, I think, named Thurston Morton. Some people called him “Mr. Jack Daniels,” however. I assumed that was his “with close friends” nickname.
The main event was on June 16th. The defeated Senator Barry Goldwater was to speak at the Miami Beach Convention Center(soon became the Jackie Gleason thing). There were over 6,000 people in the great room. They announced he would be at the platform in a few minutes . And then it started. The cheering of 6,000 of the standing faithful. For 15 minutes before he even arrived! I was so overwhelmed inhaling the energy of the event.
He made his entrance. Ramrod straight, squared jawed, sure of stride, dignity took to the podium. Another 20 minutes of cheering followed before he could speak. People had tears rolling down their cheeks and it was all so loud. It seemed they broke the cadence of his address at every word not at the end of a sentence or phrase. “sixty-eight, sixty-eight, sixty-eight,” they chanted. It was glorious.
I was not able to get backstage to get an autograph. That was one of my most disappointing times in my life. All I had was my ticket stub. I saved it.
In 1997, I heard he was very ill. I wrote John McCain(who now held Goldwater’s senate seat) for an address. The reply came quite promptly and I sent Barry Goldwater my ticket to sign. He did! I got it back in March of 1997. He passed away 13 months later. And that my friends is how I got Barry Goldwater’s autograph 32 years after I saw him that day on Miami Beach.