It was fifty years ago last April that our President, John F. Kennedy proclaimed that as a nation we should be physically fit, and further that all able-bodied males should be capable of walking fifty miles in a span of twenty hours.
This whole thing began with President Teddy Roosevelt, who had admonished HIS “Rough Riding” Marines to be capable of marching full on fifty miles in a twenty-hour span.
After President Kennedy threw out the challenge, the entire United States Marine Corps got on board.
The President’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy, who was also U.S. Attorney general, took up the torch and rallied three Justice Department staffers to give it a go. The press reported that Bobby made it all the way through the slick muddy road in his Cordovan loafers, but the guys from Justice dropped out.
This President was extremely popular with young people, so the race was on as Boy Scout troops and fraternities all over the U.S. began these hikes called Fifty Miles for Jack. I couldn’t ever figure you out why they called him Jack when his name was John, but in the sixties anything was okay.
Our Claremore Boy Scout Troop made a vote one day on a lark to go do our part for the President.
As I wrote earlier, we made the first 18-mile leg to Pryor without incident and were met at the edge of town by the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, well-wishers, and a police escort who accompanied us to town and fed us a free breakfast.
Time was ticking. We had to make it in twenty hours, so we started back toward Claremore between ten and eleven o’clock.
The next leg back from Pryor to Midway Grocery went easy as pie. We were halfway home and by now again hungry and thirsty, ready for the breakfast of champions: RC Cola and a Moon Pie.
We devoured the first Moon Pie and ventured on to the second. Sadly, Midway was out of RC Cola so we instead drank a fizzy, pink, bubbly liquid called Vess Bubble Up.
Not sure if it was the second Moon Pie or the second Bubble Up, but it was somewhere along in there the wheels nearly came off the wagon.