1968

A friend’s dad is a ward leader and we get to be on the advance team for Robert F. Kennedy and that means Secret Service clearance and other privileges. When RFK arrives in Philadelphia in late March, we ride in the motorcade out to Our Lady of Czethochowa in Doylestown. Because we have college kid cars we’re in the back, chug-a-chugging through red lights like a funeral procession. Somebody’s jalopy ups and dies about halfway and he just glides it onto the shoulder and the guys scramble out and tear-ass running up to another car where they’re hauled aboard, like a rescue at sea. RFK gives a speech outside the shrine. He takes off his shoes to stand on a car roof so as not to scuff it up. Kennedy finishes, big applause and turns out somebody stole one of is shoes. I’m thinking, “This guy doesn’t have enough security.” At one point we visit South Philly and Kennedy’s given a slice of pizza that he begins to eat with a knife and fork before someone stops him. “Pizza. Hands. Eat.” In June RFK is dead. Martin Luther King Jr., is dead. Riots. Marches. Even goofs like us realize that this isn’t any ordinary election year. Hubert Humphrey is staying at the Bellevue Stratford. We have red lapel buttons to show we are cleared through Secret Service. I get to take some stationary up to the candidate’s room. I am running through the hall when a Secret Service agent grabs me, pins me to the wall. “What have you got in that box, boy?” And on the motorcade to the airport I get to ride in the bus with some 76ers because I am tall and in a blue blazer. We get to the airport and some hunters in the woods nearby are shooting and everybody hits the ground.  That is a moment.  For some reason, I missed my ride back but I get to ride with then Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo. His driver and bodyguard is Harold McGarth. A lot of commentary from Rizzo focusing on people he classifies as hippie fags. Yeah, 1968.

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