Hometowns – Bear Lackett Chronicles

Part 3 of a series, titled The Bear Lackett Chronicles

It has been a few weeks since Joanne sent me the photo slideshow used at Bear’s viewing in Wall NJ. I loaded up the photos in Aperture on my Mac and paged through the 50 static views. No sound, no commentary and no association to time and place. This is what I had of Steve “Bear” Lackett’s life and times before and after college but not during. There were no photos documenting that time in his dash.

Before there was Bear - he was Just Steve, Maybe Davey

I wrote a quick email note to about 30 plus frat brothers requesting any photo that might fill gaps but it’s hard – we just don’t keep hard copy anymore, it’s digital or go digging. Buried deep in someone’s closet or storage chest, may be even a smartphone, there might still might be an existing out of focus memory of Bear.

The slideshow confirmed a premise – the best memory of a part of Bear’s dash would need to be recreated by those of us who experienced it, lived it. The usual suspects (see the earlier photo), those of us who gathered in Spring Lake NJ in June 2012, did just that, a quick recall of him while at the viewing and funeral.

So how did we get to the point where there was a Bear, a Bones, a Shaffno, a Peaches and so many other DSP dubbed brothers.

It started in the late 60’s in hometowns and continued at college into the early 70’s.

For me hometown was Syracuse, NY – for Bear it was Freehold, NJ. Here we both were influenced by the power years – the so-called years that changed everything – from 1968 through 1969, our senior year in high school and first semester at Maryland.

Springsteens’ My Hometown, from the 1975 Born To Run album gives a glimmer of life and times in Freehold – there is no complementary song for life then in Syracuse. But Springsteen’s song always spoke to me about my change – it was social change no matter where you called home.

In 1968 prior to the September start of high school senior year, what we had, or perhaps you may recall/studied, was tragedy and mayhem. In the spring of 1968 there were two assassinations, one of Martin Luther King and then of Robert Kennedy. After the King assassination there were riots in DC, Baltimore, Kansas City and many other major. The war in Vietnam logged on with the Tet Offensive and social protests grew larger across the U.S. By the summer we learned of Yippies, the SDS, and the Chicago 8 all morphing into the Chicago riots at the Democratic National Convention with the whole world watching. The Big City boss Mayor John Daley, President Johnson, George Wallace and Richard Nixon were common household names heard on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and written about in the morning and evening dailies. November 1968 saw the election of Nixon and who knew then what we know now.

Overnight from 1968 to 1969 things just got crazy.

In January there was the inauguration of Nixon and he was in the White House with his Silent Majority and his Doctrine. About the same time the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, in probably the greatest sports upset ever. By early spring The Beatles would give their last performance on a London rooftop and followed that up later in the year with the release of their infamous Abbey Road album.

In 1969 an age of peace, love and inspiration was foretold as the dawning of the Age of Aquarius through the pop song Let the Sunshine In. Recorded by the 5th Dimension from the 1967 musical Hair the song topped all the music charts in April and May eventually earning them a Grammy.

Music, art, literature and business were soon influenced by a new generation called – Superstars. There was Led Zeppelin and Blind Faith; Easy Rider – the movie and its actors; the book The Godfather; and then there was the social science tome named The Peter Principle. All of these were released to the public in 1969. The Woodstock Festival and the cadre of performers and participants played out to a national audience in August. This year was not yet finished.

There was the completion of JFK’s 1961 challenge – the Apollo Missions and its two historic age defining manned lunar landings. British troops landed in Northern Ireland and US troops began departing Vietnam. There was a car crash in Chappaquiddick MA that ended the Kennedy political sphere of 60’s influence. The Miracle Mets beat another Baltimore team – the Orioles, 4 games to 1 in the 69 World Series. Hurricane Camille stormed the Gulf Coast while the high profile Manson Family terrorized LA.

The first US military draft lottery since World War II began as the year came to a close. Men who were then between the age of 18 and 25 to this day still remember their draft lottery number. The Rolling Stones playing at Altamont was the final curtain act of the 60’s with that fatal multi-day concert in Northern CA.

So, two teenagers, one in Syracuse and another in Freehold made a senior year choice to apply to the University of Maryland and upon acceptance would leave their rust belt hometowns and adopt a temporary new one in College Park during a time of great astrological, economic and social change.

Now main streets’ whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back to
Your hometown

Lyrics by B. Springsteen – My Hometown

After college - Bear on a Beach