Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston       war29

I was driving with my dad to the local YMCA on the evening of February 25, 1964 and we were listening to the Cassius Clay (future Muhammed Ali) vs. Sonny Liston boxing match on the car radio. I had become enamored with Cassius Clay. He was young, cocky, talented and most of all …exciting. He would recite poetry about how he was going to demolish his opponents, get in loud arguments with the media because of his brashness, and back up his claims in the ring. Clay was a glib, fast talking 22-year old who enjoyed the spotlight and the majority felt he had no chance against the veteran, Sonny Liston. The brash Clay was disliked by reporters and a good majority of boxing fans because of his cockiness, all the more reason for me to like him. Even though Liston was the heavy favorite, he failed to come out for the 7th round and Clay was the new World Champion. I loved it and the year was just starting. 1964 was a landmark year in many ways and it seems odd to me that 50-years have passed since then. It seems like so many firsts and momentous events happened that year that it is almost overwhelming. I was still a kid and my memories have faded, but those I do hold seem so much closer than 50-years ago. The Beatles came to America to tour for the first time in 1964 and the British invasion was on. The Beatles coming to America was an explosion of excitement and I was at their first concert at the Hollywood Bowl which is an experience I remember vividly and chronicled in one of my earlier blogs (3/11/14). Other British groups were soon to follow including the Rolling Stones and the Animals and together with the American talent of the Supremes and Bob Dylan many say this was one of the greatest years for music. My interest in rock ‘n roll and collecting records sky-rocketed. It was also a year of turmoil with the Vietnam War taking center stage. In ’64 the US authorized war against North Vietnam after years of US intervention and an increasing American death toll. It was called the first war to be watched back home on television and from what I remember seeing it was flat-out ugly. The generations split with the older convinced that the US needed to be at war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism, while the younger wondered why we were at war half a world away in a country that we had no business being there. The split between generations broke up a lot of families as some older kids rushed out to enlist while others ran north to Canada to avoid it all. At my younger age I just sat back and watched with interest and sadness. It was hard to take sides at such a young age, who to believe, how much was media driven, and would I ever be forced to serve in the future. I had already developed a negative image of the war and had no inclination to enlist. As the war continued my initial feelings were confirmed, this war was not mine or ours to fight. The strife continued at home as well as abroad. After three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi the President, Lyndon Johnson, signed the Civil Rights act of 1964. I still find it hard to believe that legislation was not approved until my lifetime that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was a landmark piece of legislation but it did not stop the violence as it continued to increase in many American cities. I remember watching the Nightly News with my parents and it went from scenes of the war in Vietnam to riots in major American cities. The world seemed to be on fire and everyone had their own opinion of what was right or wrong and were willing to be heard. It was not until the next year, 1965, that Watts in Los Angeles blew up in flames bringing current events close to home. In 1964 Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize. We were still a couple years away from the Peace Movement associated with hippies but one can see how the movement came to be with so much turmoil both internationally (Vietnam) and nationally (Civil Rights). I was just a 11-year old kid in 1964 but I do have distinct memories of the events mentioned and it is odd that one year can provide so many. Cassius Clay would soon become Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, and the Beatles would become one of the most loved rock ‘n roll bands ever, Vietnam ended in complete chaos, and the Civil Rights Act had to be forcibly instituted. My memories of 1964.


3 thoughts on “1964

  1. 1964 was your first full year in California…we moved from NY to Ca in June ’63. This was your first summer at SURF…which became your passion…some good things happened!

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