The current turmoil in our country made me think about elections in my past. My first experience with politics outside of public school was stuffing envelopes for Ted Weiss’ city council campaign at the Reform Independent Democratic Club on Broadway near 72nd Street.
Later, when I was 19 and Nixon and Humphrey ran for President of the United States, I couldn’t vote yet. But I could vote in 1972 when McGovern ran again Nixon. Both elections took place in a dark time in America, particularly in the lives of young men.
I lived most of those years still on West 83rd Street although a brief period was spent on West 78th Street. I was in college, CCNY, until June of 1971 and had passed one draft physical but never served (a story perhaps for another time).
It was I believe the 1968 election when I was ringing doorbells in 222. Remember this was a typical West Side pre-war building with many people who had lived in the building since the war and many who had survived the war and the horrors of Nazi concentration camps.
Our next door neighbor and his wife had both fought in and survived the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto and multiple camps. They had given their son to a non-Jewish family and in a miracle were reunited at the war’s end. Both bore the tatoo’d number on their arms and neither ever talked to me about their experiences.
I read my neighbor’s memoir, The Holocaust Kingdom, as an adult and cherish the copy autographed by Alex Donat to his “good neighbors and friends Edith and Ira Marion” in 1965.
On that 1968 election night I was ringing doorbells to remind people to vote, I was not canvassing for my candidate, HHH, just trying to make sure that people exercised their right to vote as my father had taught me it was critical to our way of life.
One door was opened and an older man stood before me. I told him what I was doing and he responded, “Did I vote, of course I voted, you have never lived in a country where you didn’t have the right to vote!” and firmly closed the door.
That was almost 50 years ago. I have never missed an election and have encouraged my children to fully participate as well.