Marc Catone's writings


Until The Birds Chirp: Reflections On The Sixties

My new book, Until The Birds Chirp: Reflections On The Sixties, is now available on Amazon.   The book is a personal and generational memoir of the Sixties and how the various events and experiences from that time period influenced me and the Sixties Generation. 

This is the Amazon link:

I also have a Face Book Group dedicated to the book:
Here is a radio/video interview about the book as broadcast on WHCU Ithaca NY:


Book excerpt:

 Most of the book takes place in my old hometown of Danbury Connecticut and the neighboring town of Bethel, but people who came of age during that magical decade will be able to identify with the book regardless of where they grew up.  We were all on the same wavelength.  The following is an excerpt, Chapter Eighteen, entitled "Last Kiss".


                                    Chapter Eighteen---Last Kiss





     Her lips were hot and moist as she covered my face with kisses and played with the hair on the back of my neck with her fingers.  Was this really happening?   It felt so good, yet I was afraid.

“Why are you so nervous?” she asked.

Only two weeks after getting dumped by my long-term girlfriend, I was apprehensive about getting involved with someone new...but that's not why I was shaking like a leaf.   She was older than me...but that's not why I was scared.

“What if we get caught?” I asked.

“Debbie” and I were in the middle of an impromptu make out school no less.  It was the last week before summer vacation at Danbury High School in June 1967.  Several minutes earlier, we arrived at the chorus room and discovered that our music teacher wasn't there.  A message written on the blackboard explained his absence and gave us permission to treat the period as a study hall.  Well, it doesn't take an expert in adolescent psychology to figure out what teenagers do without an authority figure to watch over them, especially during the final week of the school year.

Here's a hint if you need one...they don't study.

Debbie was a senior.   I had a “look, but don't expect to touch” policy when it came to older girls.  It was an unwritten rule that senior girls always went out with boys their age or older.  A senior girl paying attention to a lowly junior boy?  Not likely.  So, imagine the unbelievable ego boost I had when Debbie, who had been flirting with me in class for the past week, whispered in my ear that we should go somewhere more private.  But where?  We were in school.  Then, we had the answer... let’s go to the music practice room down the hall.  It had a door that locked from the inside, no windows, and best of all, there were soundproof acoustical tiles on the walls.

Still, I felt conflicted.  Was this wrong to do?  Should I stay or should I go?  Biology won the internal argument as we went inside the room and locked the door.  I was still jittery.  I kept imagining a teacher or worse yet, the principal discovering us in our seclusion.  Then, I envisioned being dragged to the main office, Mom and Dad receiving an unexpected phone call, and the punishment I would receive at home and school.  Debbie had nothing to lose.  She was
graduating in a few days, but I had my whole senior year ahead of me.  What if this incident, dare I say it, went on my “Permanent Record”?

There is nothing more mysterious and unfathomable during one's high school days than the Permanent Record in which every bad deed you’ve ever done is written down to haunt you the rest of your life.  Our teachers always warned us about the Permanent Record, although no one ever saw it.  We imagined that the record was filed away in our personal folders in the guidance counselor’s office, but it would always be available to anyone wanting information about you. Woe to the person whose Permanent Record is revealed.  Be absent too many days at school and no prospective employer will hire you.  Skip classes and no organization will want you as a member.  Stay after school many times for detention and you are destined for prison.  No one could escape the shadow cast by the Permanent Record.  My God, I thought, if Debbie and I get caught alone in this room, I'll never get into college, have a job, or move from my parents’ house.  I’m doomed.  

However, as lust would have it, Debbie and I survived unscathed, save for the knowing winks and giggles from our classmates when we opened the door to the outside world.   However, no relationship developed from this encounter.  A couple of phone calls and a meeting on Main Street took place, but that was it.  She went away and then off to college.  I stayed in Danbury and had a nice summer romance with a girl named Beverly.  Then school started, as it always did, on the Wednesday after Labor Day.  My senior year.

I was never very active in extra-curricular activities or athletics.  I was never one for “school spirit” and yet I really loved my high school.  It went back to Junior High at Main Street School in an old run-down building that had been the original Danbury High School before it moved to White St.  I hated Main Street felt like a jail.  Most of the teachers were mean, boring and listless.  However, by the time I entered high school in September 1964, Danbury High had moved from White Street to a new location north of the city on Clapboard Ridge Road.  It was fresh, invigorating and full of freedom...the polar opposite of Main Street Junior High.

The Class of 1968 was the first one to graduate upon completion of all four years at the new DHS.  We experienced the Sixties together within a large student body of over 2,000 teenagers.  We bonded together on many different levels.  Even today, the special relationship we had from 1964-1968 is still evident whenever we have our class reunions. 

Danbury High School was huge.  It was the largest high school outside of the Hartford area.  When I arrived at school on that first day in 1964, I thought the place looked like a factory.  The buildings were labeled, “A, B, C, D & E”.  “A” building contained the Music department, auditorium, and Shop/Mechanical classrooms, “B” housed the administrative offices and library, “C” consisted of the Business and Science classrooms, “D”, the largest building, was where most students had homeroom, English, History, Math, and Language, and “E” building included the gym, phys. ed. dept., and driver's education.

All of the buildings were divided into four semi-autonomous units called “Houses.”  The Houses were numbered “1, 2, 3 & 4.”  Each had a “House Master”, whose authority was similar to that of an assistant principal.  The House Masters' offices and administrative staff (including guidance counselors) were on their respective floors of the four-story “D” building.  House 1 was on the first floor, House 2 on the second, etc.  I spent all four years of high school with the same homeroom teacher, Mr. Trocolla, in House 2, room D267.  My locker was located just around the corner...#D114.  If you ask me what I ate for dinner yesterday, there's a slight hesitation in my reply, but I can remember my high school locker number immediately...go figure.

My senior year, 1967-1968, was different than the previous three.  Unlike most of my sophomore and junior years, I didn’t have a girl friend.  After being dumped at the end of my junior year, I became shy and quite wary of becoming involved with anyone.  I withdrew a bit into myself, spending lots of time alone reading and listening to music.  Although I wanted more freedom, I was upset that the carefree days of high school were becoming less and less.  High school offered mobility and choices, but with regulation and guidance.  I could fail without total destruction...someone always had my back.  I wanted to go to college, but was nervous about the next level of freedom it offered...a freedom unchecked...a freedom with more responsibilities.  The frightening idea of finishing high school and beginning the uncertainty of college was in the back of my mind.

I had fun in the hallways and cafeteria at DHS.  My participation in a food fight during my sophomore year was unforgettable.  Winning a scholastic award during my junior year was a highlight.  Also, there was a teacher who had an impact upon me.  Joe Pepin was my Algebra teacher during my senior year.  He was also the Class of 1968’s advisor.  I had a long history of doing poorly in Math.  I barely got through basic Algebra in my freshman year and miraculously passed Geometry as a sophomore.  I flunked Algebra II during my junior year and had to take it over again.  Fortunately, Mr. Pepin was my Algebra teacher the second time around.  He was the first person who got through to me.  He had great patience with us and carefully explained each step.  It made absolute sense.  Everything crystallized about Algebra in my brain.  There it was...bam.  It was like looking at a 3-D puzzle when the result pops out at you after staring through all the squiggles and lines.  For that one shining moment during my last year of high school, Math became clear.  The right teacher made all the difference. 

I became more politically aware in 1968.  I supported Eugene McCarthy for president and was happy when the success of his candidacy convinced LBJ not to seek a second term. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy occurred during the last three months of my senior year.  My classmates and I would be affected by those shootings for the rest of our lives.    We were saddened once a week when the TV nightly news programs listed the names of those in the body count from Vietnam... sometimes there was a name we all knew.  The class of 1968 had to mature quickly, but were we ready to leave childhood behind?

Many events occurred during the two weeks before graduation.  There were parties, cook-outs and a class dinner at the Amber Room banquet hall near Candlewood Lake.  I had a good time, enjoyed a lot of laughs, and drank a bit with friends as we drove “over the line” into Brewster and Putnam Lake in New York where the legal drinking age was 18.  I loosened up quite a bit during those last couple of weeks.  However, a slight sadness remained for what I was about to leave behind at Danbury High School, a place where 500 kids in the Class of 1968 had taken a journey together through a unique time.

June 20, 1968, Graduation Day.  During the morning, our class practiced the ceremonial procession in the auditorium.  That evening the actual event was set to take place on the football field.  We received our caps and gowns and brought them home.  In the intervening hours I got a haircut at Zoel’s barber shop on Greenwood Avenue in nearby Bethel.  Then, I went back to school and joined my classmates in the homeroom we shared for the past four years. Each senior homeroom marched to the field opposite the grandstand bleachers containing our families.  We all took our seats.  Our time had come.

My memory of the graduation ceremony is very dim.   I don’t remember much except climbing up the stairs of the stage to receive my diploma and then walking away with the entire class towards “E” building to return our caps and gowns.  A fence separated us from our families and loved ones.  I lost sight of my parents and sister along the way.  My head turned sharply as I heard someone call out my name.  It was Tony and Josephine Tartaglia, parents of my childhood friend, Tony Tartaglia.  They had been like second parents to me during the early 1960s.  I waved to them as I continued to walk away with the rest of the class.

Finally, we arrived inside the the gym where people checked off our names and took back our caps and gowns.  Many of my classmates had removed the tassels from their caps to keep as souvenirs.  I planned to do the same, but forgot in my haste to return the clothes.  I started to rummage through the containers, trying to find my cap, when a soft voice said hello.  It was a girl I knew.  She was returning her cap and gown as well.

“Susie” and I had been casual friends throughout our high school years.  When I told her what I was doing, she offered to help me search.  We soon gave up trying to find my tassel among the dozens of caps in the return bins.  Then I remembered that my parents were waiting for me, probably wondering what was taking me so long.  I began to tell Susie that I had to go, when suddenly she put her arms around my neck and kissed me on the lips.

Although the kiss was brief, it was warm and wonderful.  Unlike making out with Debbie in the music room one year earlier, Susie’s kiss was tender and heartfelt.  It contained four years worth of affection and memories.  When it was over, we looked at each other for a few seconds, smiled but said nothing and left hurriedly to join our families. 

Almost 50 years later, I still remember that last kiss. 

It was a good-bye to high school...a farewell to our Danbury youth...a sweet end to the world we knew. 


copyright: Marc A. Catone, 2016









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