It was the summer of 1962 in Harvard Square. I was on a stool waiting for my lunch in the Tasty sandwich shop, the same stool Matt Damon sat on in Good Will Hunting in 1997, the year that diner closed.

At the grill, spatula in hand, Charlie airlifted my burger onto the safety of its bun and handed the plate to counterman George, who wielded a plastic ketchup bottle with the artistry of a cake decorator and slid the plate in front of me. The bun top was to the side of the burger, all the better to display his handiwork. In deft script, the ketchup spelled out “Hughes.”

The Tasty was one of those places where everybody knows your name or at least the name of your candidate: H. Stuart Hughes, Harvard history professor for U.S. Senate.

Like 2018, 1962 was an off-year election time, and a very special one for Massachusetts. John Kennedy had left his seat in the senate to enter the White House, and his brother Ted was running to fill the seat. The GOP challenger facing 30-year-old Ted would be 35-year-old George Cabot Lodge. Dynasty vs. Dynasty, this would be the third face-off between their families.

In the 1952 Senate race, John Kennedy beat Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., George’s father. In the 1916 Senate race, George’s great grandfather, the original Henry Cabot Lodge, beat Ted’s grandfather, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald.

When H. Stuart Hughes saw his anti-establishment positions unrepresented, he jumped in as an Independent. Hughes was an officer of SANE, the anti-nuke policy committee, along with Dr. Benjamin Spock. He called for total disarmament and opened a campaign office a few doors down from the Tasty.

Looking to get my feet wet in American politics that summer, I decided to work for Hughes. I had just left my teens and had not yet come to my senses. The aroma of anti-establishment causes was very seductive. Of course I’d support a progressive social democrat, a pioneering peace candidate. This happened before I came to realize that idealism is the way things should be but frankly never are.

My job was primarily canvassing, helping to gather the 72,000 signatures necessary to put Hughes on the ballot. My office captain was a 25-year-old spark plug named Abbie Hoffman. He had graduated from Brandeis in 1959. Five years later I would receive my degree from the same institution. Our meeting was kismet. Sort of. At any rate, in a few years Hoffman would have more name recognition than Hughes. With the scrappy metabolism of a squirrel, the wiry Hoffman kept us mobilized.

Canvassing was the building of confidence — to knock on doors, stop people in the street, sell yourself and your cause to strangers who may think you have three heads, and prepare yourself for rejection. In short, welcome to the rest of your life. Accepting failure is the surest path to success. By the September deadline, we had more than 72,000 signatures. Hughes was on the ballot. He even had two televised debates with Lodge. Kennedy, who saw his poll numbers going up, skipped the debates.

In the course of the campaign I learned several realities, starting with if you’re a candidate for elected office in the U.S., you don’t say you campaign on weekend mornings because you have the time since you don’t go to church. I also learned Americans secretly miss the embrace of Mother England, so if they can’t have a monarchy, a dynasty will do. And a name that begins with an initial is far more valued outside of politics. Just ask H. Ross Perot.

Then, days before the election, the Cuban Missile Crisis happened — 13 days that shook the world, during which John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev played a dangerous game of nuclear bluff 90 miles off the coast of Florida. A show of strength won the day and saved the peace. It appeared the voters no longer, if they ever did, had disarmament on their minds. Ted Kennedy went to the U.S. Senate and Hughes returned to teaching. So did Lodge.

The following summer I stayed in Cambridge again, this time to take a Harvard class that would give me credit toward my degree in English & American Literature. It was “Pope, Swift and Fielding: A Study in Satire,” invaluable for the continued appreciation and understanding of American politics.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.