Friday, June 17, 2011

Oral History

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One of the benefits of living a long life is the wealth of knowledge and experience you receive. For Tom Callicolt, this is no different. Tom was born on February 7, 1944 in the small town of Flatonia Texas. He and his family moved to Corpus Christi in 1950. Throughout Tom’s life he bares witness to many historical and tragic events.

Right before Tom was born Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, destroying five battle ships, three destroyers, several smaller vessels, and over 100 airplanes. This angered the American people and a day after the attack the United States declared war on Japan. During that time of the war Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps fearing they could be spies. The United States also helped allied forces battle the Germans. Then in August 6, 1945 the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. A second atomic bomb was dropped on August , 1945 in Nagasaki, Japan. These bombings were in fact the biggest factor in the surrender of Japan to America on September,1945.

In Tom’s early childhood he saw his older brother sent off to the Korean War. On June 7, 1950 the United Nations declared war on North Korea. During this time on May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to segregate schools by race. This decade was also when Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on a crowded bus to a white man. This started the Montgomery bus boycott. The Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into orbit around the earth, it was named Sputnik. A year later the United States launches its first satellite into space called Explore 1.

The 60s were a kind of New Frontier for the country. The youth and ambition of president Kennedy coming into office in 1960 started this. He energized the country with powerful speeches and exuberance. One of his greatest accomplishments before he was assassinated in 1996 was the pushing of NASA and the space program. His efforts helped America reach the moon first in 1996. There were also great non-physical conflicts with the Soviet Union such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Which frightened many Americans. Then with the new president as Lyndon Johnson in 16 there was a push to help Americans at home. He developed programs like Medi-caid and had strong foreign policies. The fact that he thought communists were determined to take over the world, led the nation into conflicts with other countries like the afore-mentioned Cuban Missile Crisis. The controversial Vietnam War began in the 60s when President Johnson started to greatly increase the number of troops that were going there. There were some other major effects on people then too. Like the mourning and sorrow the country faced when president Kennedy died. The recovering of our country after that was very hard. The Vietnam War also had a large impact on people at home. Though some people advocated the war others spoke out vividly against it and thought it was pointless. For Tom, he had no good or bad opinion about this war even though he was drafted. No, his opinion doesn’t come for many years after. A new breed of culture came from many of the people that were against war. They were called hippies. Their songs of sex, drugs, and rock n roll was prevalent in that days music, ideas, and new type of society. Civil Rights was a strong issue too with the militant Black Panther group being formed and Muslim leader Malcolm Xs assassination.

Tom had been discharged from the Army due to a violent reaction to a vaccine given to him at the end 1960. The Vietnam War still going on until 1970 and Nixon was caught in the Watergate scandal until 1974 when he resigned. Then it went on to new Presidents in Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. At the beginning of the 70s the Vietnam was still going. This incited many protests and riots that were spurred from conflicting beliefs about the war. The Watergate scandal effected Americans too. Some government officials were sent to jail and Nixon probably would have been impeached if he hadnt resigned. The country also faced a big change after Nixons resignation with the unexpected new president Gerald Ford. The Watergate affair left the country struggling to recover. The economy also suffered from stagflation when inflation and unemployment rise, but the economy remains stalled and stagnant. To make matters worse, a revolution in Iran also caused oil and gas shortages. This theme also effected the rebellious youths and adults of the decade. Unfortunately for many people and musicians though, along with this were illegal drugs and promiscuous sex. This was a large carrier of diseases like the AIDS virus that was later discovered in 1981. Which became the plague of Tom’s generation. At this time Tom was a counselor and counseled some of the first Aids patients in the Corpus Christi area.

In the 80’s Tom saw the fall of communism in the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1978, and the end of the Cold War altogether. Tom also saw a revival of moral values in the country, new kinds of flashy music, and wild hairstyles after the 70s. These new things greatly effected Americans other ways too. Like how President Reagan helped Americans find a lost sense of pride in their country, and a new hope for the presidential office after the embarrassing Watergate scandal in the 70s. It also affected them with tax cuts, a shrinking of the federal government, and an even greater increase in defense spending. There was the beginning of the huge market for home computers and the invention of the compact disc or CD. These inventions would have even more of an effect on us now than they did then. The computer industry started back then has become one of the most important industries today with giants like Microsoft leading the way. There was George Bush who was elected in the 80s and brought us into the 90s. He made the decision to involve us overseas in Iraq. The fall of communism was also in the 80s because of the Soviet Unions inability to keep up with us in defense spending

By the 90’s you would have thought Tom had seen enough of war. Well in August 1990 the country of Iraq invaded Kuwait causing the U.N. to impose sanctions. This also led to the gulf war to protect the oil interest in Kuwait. In January of 1991 President Bush sent troops to the Persian Gulf in Operation Desert Storm to free Kuwait. That war lasted only 4 days. Not only did Tom and the rest of America look towards the Middle East but also there was a new threat to look at. In 1 the World Trade center in New York City is bombed. Then in 1995 the federal building in Oklahoma City is bombed. This string of homeland terrorism would not end in the 90’s. In fact, it would follow us to the new millennium with the tragedy. On September 11, 2001 terrorist high jacked planes and used them to crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a miss target of the White house which crashed in Pennsylvania.

So much can be said about what the quiet man who comes into my restaurant around the same time everyday for a cup a coffee, had seen in his life. This project has helped me realize what a vast amount of knowledge comes from just simple living of life’s experiences. For Tom, I’m sure his book of knowledge will keep growing until the day he passes. As for me I can only hope to live though so much and still live to talk about it.


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