BREAKING THE GAZE, by David M. Betts, available in paperback & offered by Kindle. TAKE A TRIP THROUGH THE 60's WITHOUT LEAVIN' THE FARM! - READ SOME. scroll down. -

A true story of transformation: Powerful, Intriguing, Humorous and Irreverent!

THE TALE OF AN AMERICAN YOUTH and the INFLUENCES and EVENTS which cause him to become a DRAFT RESISTER, HIPPY, then RADICAL STUDENT with me through the 60's! Through the action you'll understand what created the hippy phenomenon and why a generation rose up against its government in protest.


THE ENTERPRISE of Bucksport, Maine blared...(readers) "will appreciate his accurate picture of the 60's, with all its energy, imagery, charm and colorful characters, as well as its gritty side~ You can almost smell the incense and the tear gas too. This book is truly a joy." -

by David Meade Betts - of Bucksport, Maine USA
(registered) copyright 2013

ATTENTION: If you don't totally enjoy BREAKING THE GAZE, we will refund your purchase price. (How many authors promise that ?)


November 1963, Rockaway, N.J.

Beep, beep, beep. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an emergency news bulletin: Shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas, at 12:30 Central Standard Time. It is reported that President Kennedy has been wounded. No further information on his condition is available at this time. Updated information will be announced as it comes in. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program."

"Oh God that's horrible. Hope he's OK. They probably just winged him," I imagined. Flipping my Sophmore text over I laid it on my knees and reached down for a tissue. Lying there on the couch, missing school on a Friday afternoon, I was gripped by the fever, headache, and congestion of a nasty cold.

Wiping my nose I looked over to the TV and wondered how he was doing. Closing my book, I dropped it to the floor and then pulled the old wool blanket up to my shoulders and stared at the ceiling. It was the only position I could find to keep my head from pounding. While awaiting further news I dozed. In and out of a fitful sleep another announcement roused me.

Beep, beep, beep. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an emergency news bulletin: We have just received confirmation that President John F. Kennedy has died from gunshot wounds he sustained in Dallas, Texas. The President was hit by a sniper's bullet as his motorcade traveled through downtown Dallas. President Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. The President was pronounced dead at one o'clock Central Standard Time."

"NO," my mind bellowed as it propelled me into a state of shock. Not being able to believe it, they repeated the message for me once more. Then a dirge began to play and a still picture of the flag appeared on the TV. Laying there I turned my head away and stared at the ceiling, trying to grasp the meaning of this terrible news.

He was a bright star of hope on what I saw as a bleak horizon. Kennedy was fresh, young, and new, not like those old suckers or that guy Nixon who'd run against him. He had represented a new vision, and now, we were going to be stuck with that geezer Vice President Johnson.

(Click on the 'purple pez button' to enlarge the picture.)

In total shock I wondered how it could've happened; who would've done this and why.

"Maybe Johnson had it done. He's from Texas." My mind began to run wild, "Maybe the Russians did it."

A segment we'd see just about every night on television came to mind, it starred Soviet Prmier Nikita Khrushchev. The short clip was a commercial for an anti-communist organization's fund raising effort but the footage was real. It showed Krushchev taking a shoe off as he addressed the United Nations Assembly. Directing his remarks to US supporters, he pounded the podium with it, as he yelled into his microphone, "We will bury you." Everyone in television land felt he meant it.

"Maybe they're going to start dropping nuclear bombs on us right now. New York City is only forty miles away. It would be one of the first targets," my woried mind calculated. I wondered if the Russians knew that Picatinny Arsenal was nearby and that Reaction Motors was here in Rockaway. If they did they'd probably drop one on us. "What if World War III starts right now, before my mother and father get home," my brain gasped. A wave of fear and then a feeling of profound loneliness crept over me. It dawned on me that my life might be over in ten minutes. In my mind I told my family, friends, and the world, it had been nice knowing them, suspecting there might not be a chance to do so in a little while.

Maybe it's time to go into the cellar. That's where we were taught to go if someone dropped an atom bomb. The specter of sitting down in the cellar all alone waiting to die had no appeal at all. I'll wait for the announcement that the war has begun or for a sign, like the TV instantly turning to static, then I'll run downstairs, I decided.

"Damn, I wish my father had listened to me and built a bomb shelter," I sputtered. That was the rage after the Cuban Missle Crisis, just a year ago. Lots of people built them or turned part of their basement into one.

My neighbors had one. It was in their cellar. There was a bunk bed for each family member, lots of food and water, a transistor radio that ran on batteries, and books and games to keep everyone from getting bored. The odd thing about it though was it only had a screen door. Old man Dudak, a busy MD, never got around to finishing the job. However, it was better than no shelter at all I figured.

At this time of day only Mrs. Dudak would be over there. Would she let me in? She'd probably be happy to have some company, but then I wasn't sure. Her son and I had been getting into alot of trouble lately. She was always quick to put the blame on me. She seemed to be liking me less and less as time went on. I could see it in her eyes.

My mind went round and round. Would the Dudaks' let my whole family into their shelter? Unlikely, probably they'd want all the food and water for themselves. They'd just let us die. "Those cheap bastards," my mind scowled.

Becoming a nervous wreck, my feelings were compounded as I remembered my father had gone into New York City to pick up his dental supplies. "Oh God, he'll never get out, he'll be stuck in the panicked exodus when everybody tries to leave the city at once," I surmised. "He could end up dead." The thought of everyone in my family dying far away from each other momentarily plunged me into a state of sadness and depression which was deeper than I'd ever known.

I had to get a grip, so I decided to call up my aunt. My mother was at her house and my uncle was a bigwig at Reaction Motors. They'd know what was going on.

My aunt had actually met John Kennedy and got to shake his hand. Accordng to my mother, Aunt Kay got so excited when she shook hands with him that she leaned over and kissd him.

During Kennedy's campaign for the Presidency he came to Rockaway and toured Reaction Motors. They showed him a new engine the company had developed for the X-15 Rocket Plane. It was a major breakthrough which would allow a jet to travel higher and faster than ever before.

I called my aunt and asked if she'd heard the news. She immediately began to sob, saying she had. She told me my mother was on her way home, and still crying said she had to get off the phone.

I felt bad for Aunt Kay. She was a big Kennedy supporter. She had pictures of him and Jesus all over her house. Aunt Kay was Catholic and she'd been so proud of Kennedy; the first Catholic ever elected President.

Hearing my mother was on her way home gave me a sense of relief. I went over to the window and looked out to see if there was any unusual activity out there. Fall leaves swirled and scraped along the sidewalk, whipped by gusty winds, under a dull gray sky. A squirrel collecting food for the coming winter was raiding the feeder. I could hear a bird chirping in protest. Cars went by in the usual manner. Everything appeared normal.

Getting back on th couch, pulling my blanket up to my chest, I listened for any unusual noises outside. Looking over to the television, the flag was still there. Martial music played. It sounded familiar and had a calming effect on me. In my feverish condition I stared at the ceiling and then closed my eyes.

Soon I fell into a trance-like state and that music spun me back in time to simpler days. I found myself standing with the rest of my third grade class singing America The Beautiful. With remarkable clarity my mind resided in the safety of those carefree days.

The vision made me recall how we'd start our day singing such songs and really believing the lyrics. Then we'd do the Lord's Prayer, and while we prayed Mrs. Hartley would look around the class. She was locating the lucky soul who'd said the Pledge Of Allegiance the best the day before. That student got to hold the flag the following day. We all looked upon it as a prestigious job. To be granted this great honor, you had to do two things. The first trick was to stare at the flag as if you were looking at God. Wearing an expression of awe, pride, and great thoughtfulness was important. It was best not to even blink. The second trick to master was to never break the gaze.

One day, as we said the pledge, I stared at the flag in as holy a manner as I could muster and didn't blink once. My eyes started to water from holding them open for so long. A tear rolled down my cheek and Mrs. Hartley spotted it. The next day I was selected to hold the flag.

And that's how it went. With hands over hearts we saluted the flag. Later, in music class we'd sing patriotic songs, battle hymns, and a few religious ditties. In Social Studies we learned about the greatness of our country. We were taught that we should always stand for what was right.

We all ate it up. The sum of the messages said we were blessed. We had our whole lives ahead of us in this peace loving utopian land. Bounty, security, and justice for all, helped shape our freedom. We were proud, full of hope, secure, and believed everything we were told.

But as we got older the glorious facade began to crack, chip, and peel. The structure underneath seemed sound but not as picturesque as described.

We din't have to get much older for these illusions to begin to crumble away. Behind them loomed signs of a darker, more dangerous world than we could've ever imagined. First signals appeared the next year in grammar school when the civil defense man came to our class and taught us about air raid drills.

We were taken aback when it was explained that someone might want to drop a bomb on us. Why would anyone want to do that we wondered. This new developement caused occasional change in our routine. Some mornings after the pledge, a song and the prayer, the horn at the firehouse would blare. We'd hear the air raid warning and we'd all dive under our desks.

The first few times we heard it, we really thought we were being attacked. Over time we assumed the alarm was a drill. But when we first heard that sound, we momentarily wondered if it was heralding doomsday.

Months later the drill was changed. The new orders were for us not to get under the desks. The principal had decided that we might get sprayed with breaking glass in what he always referred to as a "nuclear moment." So now on these days we went to the hall and hugged the wall.

The door opened in the next room, snapping me out of that era. My mother had arrived and was I ever glad. She was upset but didn't act like she knew she was going to die. Her attitude was reassuring. She asked if my father had returned and then quizzed me on my condition. We talked about the shooting and as we did, she walked to the window and looked up and down the street.

One by one my brothers came home and parked themselves around me a I lay there on the couch. School had let out early and they said on their way home they'd seen everything was closing down. The three of them transfixed, solemnly stared at the small black and white TV screen as Walter Chronkite rehashed events and brought us new infomation.

A gunman was captured. The Russians denied any involvement and offered their condolences. The military was on full alert and Johnson had been sworn in as President.

My father came home right before supper. He said he'd been stuck in traffic for two hours while trying to leave the city. Glad he was home, we all decided to eat in the living room and watch the unfolding events on the evening news.

I was surprised and moved as we heard of peoples' reaction to the assassination. It was relayed to us that men and women all around the world were seen crying in the streets. These reports magnified our loss.

My family was thankful to be together this evening, though we were quite dismayed at the day's events. Even my father, who often referred to Kennedy as a "stupid son of a bitch," was shocked at what had happened today.




Buy 'BREAKING THE GAZE' right here from my Grow A Tree site These paperback editions are hand Made, 205 pages long and signed by the author, in the manner chosen by the buyer. These very limited editions are $24.00 (U.S.)



BREAKING THE GAZE HAS BEEN EQUATED AS 'Holden Caulfield' ~ "On The Road" in the sixties. ~ Betts' style a mix of Hunter Thompson and Jack Kerouac"



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