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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: 1962 – In the Shadow of Nuclear War

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

(Third of a five-part series.)

In September of 1962 we began our eighth-grade year full of hope and joy. We had made it past the seventh grade and into the sweet territory of our middle year in Junior High. In a mere twelve months we would be ninth graders – the top echelon of students at Junior High. 

I began the year with Mrs. Summers for History, Mrs. Chastain for English, Mrs. Carter for Choir, Coach Tallent for P.E., Coach Groves and Coach Bond for football. 

Little did we know something was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico bigger and more threatening than Hurricane Carla. The Cuban Missile Crisis would put America on the verge of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

In mid-October 1962, our biggest worry should have been those first report cards coming home to our parents attesting to our diligence and competence those first six weeks of the school year. Instead, we had The Cuban Missile Crisis explode on the scene. It overshadowed every aspect of life. 

For us in school it meant having drills which were designed to ready us in the event war broke out. Yes, we were taught to “duck and cover,” as if that would actually do much good in the event of nuclear bombs or missiles hitting the Houston area. We also had drills to practice getting home by any means possible, such as walking, instead of being picked up by parents or taken by buses. It was the classic “every man for himself” scheme. It put a good scare into everyone. 

Life went on in our world, however. The band kids kept playing for Mr. Stroud. The pep squad girls and cheerleaders kept having fun. We were eighth grade boys playing football. We were practicing every afternoon and running wind sprints at the end of the practice. We were beat up and exhausted from that. We might make our way over to the cola machine 100 yards from the Junior High School and buy a Nehi orange or grape soda water in the bottle. It was thirst quenching with a sound dose of sugar. I could drink one straight down in one series of gulps, without ever taking the bottle down until it was empty.  I could worry about Cuban missiles later.

Six weeks the tension dragged out. Everything on news was led by the Cuban missile crisis. In America, the Kennedy brothers plotted to keep Russian missiles out of Cuba, as Soviets worked to force the USA to move out missiles it had planned for use in Turkey, which abutted the Soviet Union territory. 

It was testy for weeks after the USA placed Navy ships around Cuba and blockaded the entire island. Soviet ships were on the way with their cargo of missiles. Would they back down, or would World War III begin in the Gulf of Mexico a hundred miles south of us? 

In mid-November, just before Thanksgiving, an accord was reached between the USA and the USSR, averting a nuclear war. 

As the tensions abated, the entire world let out a sigh of relief, and Thanksgiving took on a special feeling that fall of 1962. For budding thirteen year-old teenagers, it was a new and very scary prospect. We got through it and got ready for the coming of 1963. 

Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.

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