Thanksgiving, 1963. The saddest Thanksgiving in recent memory. It fell on November 28, the week after the nation had sobbed together as we saw our handsome, beloved young President Kennedy laid to rest.
(Actually, Kennedy wasn’t particularly beloved back then. Lots of people detested him. But in the wake of his assassination we mostly forgot about that.)
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, millions–my family among them–had watched horrified as the murderer was himself murdered, live before the TV cameras. And we wondered just what in hell was happening to this country.
I wondered; I grieved. Then I went back to my typewriter, to continue preparing for the event that for me made that week super-special.
This was the appearance of the NJAAP Bulletin, the official publication of the New Jersey Association on Aerial Phenomena, the scientific research society of which I’d become Director the preceding summer when my predecessor had gone off to college. I was still in eleventh grade, so I figured I had two years of directorship before I did the same. “Volume II, Number 2” appears on the Bulletin‘s masthead. But it was the first issue published during my administration, and I’d written it all.
I’d also typed up the mimeograph stencils (remember those? and the way they smelled?). I’d drawn onto the stencils the diagrams accompanying my “Special Article” on the mysterious craters that had been popping up in Great Britain, and the map of England, Scotland, and Wales onto which I’d plotted those craters. And one night, I’d guess the Monday before Thanksgiving, my aunt let me into the office where she worked and we ran off on the mimeograph machine copies of the Bulletin, to be sent to the entire NJAAP membership.
It probably didn’t take too long. NJAAP had a total of about 25 members.
The next day after school I collated and stapled the Bulletins, folded them, wrote the addresses on the backs. I mailed them out on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving–49 years ago today–and settled back, tired but content with my achievement, to enjoy the sorrow-darkened holiday as best I could.
Click on NJAAP Bulletin, and you can read the whole issue. I’ll quote only the headlines:
“UFO’S SEEN OVER PHILADELPHIA, DETECTED ON TWO SEPARATE RADARSCOPES
Cover-up of Reports”
“PUBLICATION OF NICAP REPORT ‘ASSURED'”
“‘BONFIRE’-LIKE OBJECT SIGHTED OVER PHILADELPHIA”
“Special Article: AN EXAMINATION OF THE RECENT CRATER ‘EPIDEMIC’ IN GREAT BRITAIN”
“FAMED AUTHOR, NATURALIST JOINS NJAAP PANEL”
(This last referring to Ivan T. Sanderson.)
And at the bottom of page 8, a single sad sentence: “NJAAP joins the nation in mourning the tragic and untimely death of President John F. Kennedy.”
It’s kind of funny. I’d convinced myself that the world was on the brink of some unimaginable transformation. The UFOs, I thought, were probably hostile; we UFOlogists were the true scientists and prophets of our age, trying to alert the mocking throng and the bigoted intellectual establishment to the scary things zooming around our skies. Any day, any week, they’d land, reveal themselves, and very likely set about the conquest of Earth. So my friends and I believed, or at least told ourselves we believed.
Yet in truth UFOlogy was a cozy cocoon. Inside it, I felt secure. I knew the rules; I was in control. Then along came this assassination and tore open my little shelter, let in a blast of reality. Of times that were a-changing–that would continue to change, as the 1960s played themselves out–and mostly for the worse.
It wasn’t fair. UFOs should have protected me. How could a thing like this happen? Yet it had.
With the nation, I mourned. Then I went back to my bedroom and my typewriter and my UFOs, where it was safe.
At least for the time being.
“Journal of a UFO Investigator” is rooted in my experience as a teenage UFOlogist in the early 1960s. You can check out memories and photographs from that time on my Facebook Fan Page, http://www.facebook.com/JournalofaUFOInvestigator.