In Dubai last month I met the principals of an exciting Tempe, AZ start-up company, ZEV. The CEO, Carolyn Maury, and her co-founders were all at GITEX Global. ZEV converts fleets of gas-powered vans into electric vehicles quickly and at a low cost. What they’re doing is brilliant. As they have grown, they have sought and found political guidance and lobbying help from Barry Goldwater, Jr., son of the late Arizona senator who is now an energetic 83-year-old, who regularly visits Washington D.C. and provides politicians with his ideas. When talking with Carolyn in Dubai, she showed me a photo of herself with the Jr. Barry Goldwater. He’s a spitting image of his father and it reminded me of my time as a Barry Goldwater (sr.), political operative. I meant to tell Carolyn the story, but never found the time, so now I will tell you.
In 1964, my early teen years, I found myself on the slippery slope where righteous intent slides into political chicanery. My father, always a staunch Democrat in a family of Democrats, had sided with the republicans when J. F. Kennedy gained the party’s nomination in 1960. The church we attended believed if a Catholic were ever elected to the presidency, it would mean the Pope would be in charge of the USA. While my uncles stuck with the democrats, my dad—horribly distressed by Kennedy’s election—chose to side with the republicans into the 1964 election when Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater struggled for the nomination. Rockefeller had divorced his wife and remarried. This was another major black mark on him from our church’s standpoint. Barry Goldwater was our man. Goldwater expected to run against Kennedy, but when JFK was shot in 1963, his opponent became Lyndon Johnson.
During the final days before the election, my father brought my brother Leif (11) and me, (13), to a late-stage Barry Goldwater get-out-the-vote organizing event and rally at Lincoln Grade School about a mile from our home in Fairmont, Minnesota. We quickly tired of the “what do we do next” discussions and found ourselves in a cloakroom in the back. It was full of campaign literature, political tchotchkes, and bumper stickers — boxes of them – lots and lots of boxes of stickers. Staring longingly at the boxes, we asked one of the party faithful if we might help ourselves to a few bumper stickers. “Of course, of course,” he said, “… take as many as you want. We’ll never be able to use them all.” We grabbed a box, not realizing it contained about 10,000 stickers, and headed out into the early November night.
Our first stop was the school parking lot, where every car got at least two new “GOLDWATER 64” bumper stickers. Heading around George Lake towards home, every parked car we passed got Goldwater stickers, whether it was on the street or in a driveway. About a third of the way home, we realized that unless we prodigiously upped our rate of sticker application, we would arrive home with a mostly full box. Although only junior operatives, we knew stickers in boxes could not help the cause, and we got to work. Stop signs soon had 4 or 5 Goldwater Stickers. The sign to the boat landing was covered with them. A homebuilder’s billboard advertising lakeside lots for sale was soon coated with at least a hundred stickers or more. We crawled up street signs at every crossing and placed stickers over street names. A block or two from home, it occurred to us that mailboxes should also get stickers, and from that point on, both sides of every mailbox on all sides of the street were adorned with Goldwater 64 stickers. But even with all that hard work and creativity, we arrived home with nearly half a box of stickers left.
When my father got home he acted less than pleased. The stickers, which shined in the dark, had reflected in his headlights, illuminating his drive all the way home. He explained we shouldn’t have put stickers on public property and as to people’s cars and mailboxes, we should have asked first. He acted mad, but I suspect there was some internally smirking – as no one would know who’d done it. He made us give him the remaining stickers and he locked them in his car trunk. He told us the next day we needed to go out and remove the ones we’d put up. Good idea, but the glue used back in those days was meant to last, and remnants of those stickers remained well into the following summer, long after the election was over. I don’t recall voting for many republican candidates, but I had one exhilarating hour as a volunteer operative!