The Summer of 1966 was a scorcher. Often my friends and I complained about the heat, the lack of available swimming pools, and how boring it was to run through the sprinkler. When it was really hot like that, nobody wanted to do much. Many kids retreated indoors to watch TV, or play in their rooms until those activities became deathly tedious.
Those wickedly hot days brought a quiet calm to the neighborhood streets. Front doors were always open, and you could hear television sets or nearby radios from behind the mesh of screen doors. When the streets were void of kids, those of us who did brave the heat often retreated to the deepest shade possible to escape, or to invent new adventures.
Cool grass under the shade tree felt soft and lush against my bare legs. We drank Kool-Aid from tall colored aluminum cups. The ice in those cups made a dull clunking sound and usually, the Kool-Aid never lasted long enough for the ice to melt. It was great to crunch a flavored cube after all the sweetened water disappeared down our gullets. I have no exact memory of our activities, but I'm sure it involved army men, riding our bikes, or trying to coax some other kids from their indoor lairs. Summer days and playtime were holy, and NOT to be wasted by hiding indoors.
During that summer of 1966, Drive-in theaters were great entertainment for us, and we went to see many of them just to get out of the house and into the cooler summer evening air. There were even outdoor seating areas in case it was just too hot in the car. People could actually walk into the drive-in if they wanted and sit on the benches. We used to go see westerns a lot because they were my dad's favorite. We saw "Night of the Grizzly" with Clint Walker who was probably much larger than the Grizzly he was tracking! I absolutely loved this movie, and that bear kept me on the edge of our back car seat.
We also saw "Nevada Smith" which for me, was one of the best movies ever. You just couldn't go wrong with Steve McQueen. We'd taken my friend from next door with us. There was one scene in particular where a dance hall girl (in a small part played by the ever-charming Joanna Moore) is trying to entice our hero by letting the straps of her dress fall off her shoulders. This caused my pal to duck his head down behind the seat in embarrassment. It just goes to show how innocent and shielded we were back then!
Another surprise favorite for us was "Cat Ballou" with a very memorable Lee Marvin. "One Million Years B.C." which I'm sure my dad loved (for obvious Raquel reasons), was another drive-in delight. Actually, he was conned into taking us all to see the movie. Even bad movies were great at the drive-in. One movie that my dad really wanted to see was "Your Cheatin' Heart", the biography of his favorite country singer Hank Williams. The movie for me was only so-so, but he loved it and that's really all that matters.
I picked up my first transistor radio for a dollar. It was an AM only radio, but I could tune into our local station KISN to hear all the greatest hits. The radio had the worst sound, and even worse reception, and came with a single earplug that was even worse than the sound and reception combined! For a dollar though, it was great fun though the battery life wasn't so great. The old plastic dials for the stations and the volume were fun to fiddle with, but after awhile, the sound was just too awful. It really didn't matter as the music that was being performed was still great despite cheap transistor radios!
On a very hot day in August, a U.F.O graced our skies. My friend Alden and I were sitting in his front yard under the shade of their tree no doubt yakking about something on TV, or what we were going to do that day. I have no memory of our conversation, but I'm sure it involved army men, riding our bikes, or trying to coax some other kids from their indoor lairs.
Suddenly Alden looked up to see something strange. "Look at that thing up there!" he said excitedly. He then jumped up, and ran to the sun exposed arena of yard where dry needly grass jabbed at our bare feet. Even before I saw anything, I knew it had to be important to get him to jump up and leave the shaded sanctuary. I shaded my eyes and likewise peered into the blue trying to locate his object. I saw it. At first it looked like a black military jet. The most curious aspect was that it moved across the sky quite rapidly. There was also no vapor trail and no sound which was highly unusual. The object cleared our line of sight within about twenty seconds.
According to Alden, it began changing colors from black to red to blue. I personally could not see any color changes, but that doesn't mean there were none. However, I do acquiesce to the fact that I saw faint traces of red like a glow surrounding it. Within a split second the object no longer looked like a jet, but something more oval, and again, traveled very quickly. Of course our moms didn't believe us when we ran in and told them, but instead shrugged it off as wishful thinking.
That evening the local news was abuzz about UFO sightings that had happened in Portland and the surrounding areas at the same time of day, going the same direction and with the same description as the one we'd seen. One of the witnesses was a state trooper who'd described it as a "bright, flashy craft, changing colors, and moving at a high rate of speed." My dad came home that evening thinking that he'd had a big surprise for us after hearing the news on the car radio. "Hey you, boys, guess what I just heard on the news?" "Dad, dad! We saw a flying saucer today!" My mom then believed us.