Launching my new blog with an excerpt from the opening essay in my book-in-progress, Hullabaloo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place:
“In July 1950, Bumper V-2 blasted off a tiny hand-poured cement pad in the middle of the palmettos to become the first rocket launched from Cape Canaveral. As my mother waited out the sticky final months of her pregnancy with me in Miami, neither she nor my father realized this event would have anything to do with us. My father was on the GI Bill at the time studying electrical engineering, but “rocket engineer” wasn’t a common profession back then. Eight years later, our family was among the eighty-eight thousand people who moved to Brevard County, home of Cape Canaveral, to become part of the space industry, a population increase of three hundred and seventy-one percent for that humid backwater.”
Now, over sixty years have passed since then and I’m surprised to discover that I am suddenly interested in my growing up years during the early days of the space industry. When I left Florida for good in 1969 to go “on the road” like so many in my generation, rocket launches were something rather childish seeming, another massive waste in the “military industrial complex.” Florida itself was just one big shallow, Disneyfied theme park, rootless and materialistic, and I couldn’t get far enough away from it.
But now I find myself not only interested, but researching and writing about those early days of the Mercury program that put the first Americans into space and which my father worked on. Not only researching but accumulating around my house lots of books with pictures of rockets blasting off their covers. Books on the sociological effects of the go-go Wild West atmosphere of what was called “the space coast.” Books about the people of Florida—Native Americans, Cubans, plantation owners, African Americans, and the white people known as either “Mosquito Beaters” (the crackers) or “snow birds.” And, of course, books about the natural history of the area and shifting coastal sands.
And now a blog?
“At the time of the Bumper launch, the area was nothing but fifteen thousand acres of scrub and palmettos in the middle of nowhere on the sleepy Florida midcoast. Conditions were so primitive that those working on the launch received hazardous duty pay to compensate for the swamps, four species of poisonous snakes, and alligators. The aggressive salt marsh mosquitoes that attacked them could reproduce up to a million mosquitoes per square yard in one day. Directions to the launch site along the sandy road included the admonition, ‘Don’t stop or you’ll bog down.’”
I’ve known I carried that ecosystem inside me ever since I left. My girlhood “woods” were the palmettos I wandered and the undeveloped beach at the end of my road. Once a bookish, imaginative child who grew up in the fifties, came of age in the sixties, went “back to the land” in the seventies, became a mother and a professional in the eighties, a widow in the nineties, and a published poet during the first decade of the 21st century, I can see now that I never really left behind the place that created who I am.
And now, a blog., a blog about my book-in-progress, Hullaballoo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place. I’ll be posting a couple of times a week on the book’s progress (with excerpts), the juxtaposition of Maine and Florida, travels, and whatever else may cross my path, or mind.
(Italicized xcerpts from “Launched” in Hullabaloo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place, copyright 2012 by Linda S. Buckmaster.)