It was the best of times ... and it was the worst of the times. But the group of six young men who gathered at the outdoor basketball court on the Saturday before Labor Day in 1964 could not have suspected what that meant on the late summer afternoon.
All of them had graduated from high school a couple of months earlier. You could say they were the vanguard of the so-called "Baby Boom," as their parents had brought them into the world in 1946.
They had been raised the old-fashioned way, which meant they respected their elders, held doors open for ladies and said thank you.
In other words, traits that you don't often see from young people today.
You could say, as I've often told former Dollar Bay basketball coach Jim Bronczyk (a 1964 Norway High grad), they were the last old-fashioned graduating class.
The summer of 1964 was a great time to be young. If you had a car, cruising was in vogue on a summer evening. The beer was cold and the radio would be jacked up to listen to groups like the Beach Boys, Supremes, and a new group from England called the Beatles.
Yet, something had happened 10 months earlier to cloud the thinking of young people. That something was the assassination of President John Kennedy in Dallas.
You have to remember that JFK was the role model for young people in those days. He was young, confident and completely different from our recent presidents. He represented the hopes of the younger generation and his death was deeply felt.
Vietnam was still just a faraway country with some military troubles, and few people gave it much thought. That perception would change very quickly.
It was a diverse group of youngsters that gathered that afternoon. Three different area schools, Chassell, J.A. Doelle and White Pine High, were represented.
There was some talent, too. Two of the group had gained either all-conference or All-U.P. honors in their final seasons on the hardcourt. The remaining four had been starters at their respective schools.
The game had a simple format: Three-on-three, first team to make 20 baskets won. And you had to win by two baskets.
But neither team could gain that elusive two-basket win on this day, and the game droned on and on.
It was as if the athletes didn't want to see the care-free days of their youth come to an end. This final game was a way to delay the inevitable.
All had plans for the immediate future. Two were going to college that fall, another was headed to the Great Lakes boats and the other three would be working in either Detroit or Milwaukee within a month or two.
After they agreed to end the stalemated game after more than two hours, the young men said their goodbyes. They were sure they would see each other before too long had passed.
By the time 1965 rolled around, three had received their dreaded draft notices and another joined the National Guard.
It would be nice to report that all six came through the tumult and deception of the later 1960s in good shape.
But real life seldom offers fairy tale endings, and for the group, that would not be the case.
Two of the young men went to Vietnam, one as an Army medic who saw the worst that war has to offer. He did come back, but with psychological scars that would haunt him for years to come. He died far too soon in his late 40s.
Another returned with a drug habit that would require many years to shake. Still another had a drinking problem that would be just as difficult to get rid of.
And the National Guard member didn't go unscathed, either. Called to Detroit in 1967 to provide security during the race riots that would tear the city apart, he was fired at and returned fire at rioters.
As for me, a year working at a steel mill in Detroit was followed by two generally unproductive years in college.
The Army eventually came calling and I served my time.
Before I left the service, I got married and later raised a family. It was an ending much better than some of my friends from that long ago Labor Day game would see.
I've often wondered if we knew then ... what we came to know later ... maybe we would have kept playing that game to its conclusion.