Louisville’s Museum Row

Louisville museums 11-05-2014Curator Jessica and I were killing time before meeting up with Jon Webb, the Athens Messenger photographer who originated the Picture Page concept before I started working there. She enjoys sewing period costumes, so she was quivering with excitement when she saw the Frazier History Museum had an exhibit Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Art, Fashion and Luxury in the Gilded Age.

While we were walking down Museum Row on Main on a cold, windy, drizzly day, I thought it was going to be a long time before anybody swings the bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Better choke up on it

Louisville museums 11-05-2014Based on the the size of the man standing next to the 120-foot tall, 68,000-pound steel bat, I’m pretty sure you’d have to choke up on it when you got to the plate.

Looking for the secret password

Louisville museums 11-05-2014I watched Jessica when we went to the ticket counter to see if she gave any secret curator handshakes or whispered any passwords to get us a discount, but I had to pay full price to get into the Frazier.

Why the Can-Can was scandalous

Louisville museums 11-05-2014Spend enough time in a car with Road Warriorette Jessica and you’ll find out more about period underwear than you ever wanted to know. I’ve gotten pretty adept at the head-nod and “Uh huh, that’s really interesting.”

I DID learn why the Can-Can was so scandalous (but I’m not telling).

Here’s Miz Jessica is counting the whalebone stays that made up this corset. I observed that anything that compressed the waist that much surely must have made the woman’s toes swell. When you squeeze a balloon in one place, it HAS to bulge out somewhere else. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Do you think I’m crazy?

8x10 Jessica KS1_4420Along one was was a bunch of silhouettes that showed the shapes of womens fashion over the years. Miz Jessica backed up to the display and asked me which silhouette most closely resembled her profile.

I’ve been married 45 years. I knew better than to answer THAT question.

I found my gas mask

Louisville museums 11-05-2014While she was hustling amidst the bustles, I wandered over to a display that showed a World War II gas mask just like the one I wore when I was teargassed covering student protests at Ohio University. At some point in my Boy Scout career, I carried a canteen that looked like that, too.

I hope it worked better than mine

Ken Steinhoff at OU Riot Photo by Ed PierattI hope it worked better in combat than mine did in riots.

Friend and photographer Ed Pieratt shot me in my riot gear. I had to wear my glasses on the outside of the mask because I was blind without them. The old WWII mask kept the gas out, but the lenses fogged up so badly I couldn’t see WITH the mask or WITHOUT it. (By the next riot, I had a state of the art M16 mask courtesy of a policeman who “liberated” one for me. I had it fitted with prescription lenses and used it for another two decades.

I told Curator Jessica that I thought I could lay my hands on the mask, helmet, press card, camera and strobe for an exhibit she’s planning for May. The only thing missing is the jacket and the skinny guy wearing it.

Martin Luther King National Day of Mourning

President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed Sunday, April 7, 1968, as a national day of mourning for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wrote back in January about a class project at Ohio University that put me in an ideal position to cover the event in front of the John Calhoun Baker University Center as both a student and photo editor of The Ohio University Post.

Next weekend is the 100th anniversary of The OU Post and some of these photos have my colleagues in the background. I won’t be able to make it to Athens for the reunion, so this is my contribution to being there in spirit.

Students filled the street

Hundreds, if not thousands, of students filled the street in front of the student union and spilled out onto the Main Green.

OU President Vernon Alden spoke

The Kennedyesque OU President Vernon Alden, center, wearing a black armband, spoke.

Religious leaders were present

All of the local faiths were represented.

Crowd was solemn

I was struck by how seriously everyone took the ceremony.

A salt and pepper group

The front ranks were heavily represented by black students, many wearing signs that said “In Mourning.”

Not your normal gathering

Most of the white students in the back were dressed more casually, but this wasn’t your normal student gathering.

The mood was solemn and there was no laughing or calling across the group.

I had been to many protests, concerts and gatherings on the Main Green, but this one had a feeling of dignity about it.

It brought to mind the spontaneous gathering the day of the Kent State shootings.

Instead of being your normal batch of campus radicals, you had a mixture of jocks, sorority girls, frat boys, professors and townspeople all coming together to try to make sense of what had happened.

The racial mix on this day was probably proportional to the school’s makeup.

The ceremony ended

After the formal ceremony ended, the crowd started to disperse. Many of them walked a block north to Court and Union, the main intersection in town.

A small group of students sit down

A small group of students sat down in the middle of the intersection.

The crowd grows

More and more students joined the sit-in. Again, uncharacteristically, this wasn’t your normal group of rowdy drunk students who block this intersection on the first warm spring night after a cold winter. You can tell from the expressions that this is a serious occasion.

All of downtown is blocked

Finally, the whole intersection for at least a half-block in all directions was full of students.

James Steele addresses crowd

James Steele, who was one of the speakers at the formal ceremony, addresses the crowd.

I should explain something before we get to the part where things turn ugly. Ohio University was founded in 1804, so the local police have a lot of experience in dealing with unruly students.

Usual procedure was to see if they’d break up on their own. If not, a half-dozen cops would show up in “bats and hats,” somebody would read the riot act over a bullhorn, then there would be some pushing and shoving, followed by everybody heading back on campus.

Rarely were any arrests made. Some bricks and bottles might get thrown and a few windows could get broken, but I never heard of any looting of the downtown stores. The police didn’t even use teargas at any event I covered until the spring of 1970.

Captain Charlie Cochran didn’t follow script

Athens Police Captain Charlie Cochran, always a hothead, didn’t follow the script. Instead of giving the normal order to disperse and having enough officers present to enforce it, he waded into the demonstrators and literally threw them off “my street.”

Seriously misread crowd

Charlie didn’t realize this wasn’t your normal unfocused mob of kids out for a good time. These folks had seen their national leader gunned down. They were hurting and looking for a place to direct their anger. They didn’t take kindly to being manhandled on a day of mourning.

Cooler head prevails

A friend grabbed the fellow who had been thrown to the ground just before he could retaliate. If the two had tangled, I’m convinced the whole crowd would have joined in and someone would have been seriously hurt.

Chief, James Walen works out compromise

Before things could get out of hand, Police Chief Fred James, left, and James Walen, university vice president for administrative affairs, right, worked out a compromise.

The chief agreed to allow the students to continue the demonstration for a “reasonable amount of time” and the students agreed to leave peacefully after that.

Charlie didn’t look happy to have me part of this confab, but this isn’t the first nor the last time that we’d have an awkward moment together. I’m not sure who the concerned citizen in the middle was.

Before long, intersection open

The bulk of the crowd retreated to the corners, then, after a “reasonable time,” everyone else moved on.

“Where do we go from here?”

A writer in The Athena, the university yearbook, penned, “The King is Dead! It echoed in microphones; and hearts were horrified throughout the campus, country, and world. Martin Luther King Jr. started a dream, but a bullet couldn’t shatter it. Now, where will his dream go?

“We talk about the coup d’etats of South America and the street riots in Europe, but when will we stop destroying our Kennedys and Luthers? Let us not scatter after the black arm bands have been put away.”

Well, that’s not exactly deathless prose, but it – and the scraps of posters in the middle of the street – raise an important question: “Where do we go from here?” Based on the headlines I worked on later, it doesn’t look like we learned a lot from 1968.

Photo gallery of King Memorial Day

I’ve included a wide variety of photos. If you were there that day, you might want to share them with your grandkids. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Post and Athena folks, I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Clarence Page, Joyce Halasa, Ed Pieratt, Todd Schofer and Tom Price. (Now that I think of it, I think this is a class I flunked because I didn’t turn in an assignment. Wonder if I could submit this for extra credit 43 years late.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dick Gregory for President

 

With all of the controversy about whether or not Cape Girardeau’s Rush Limbaugh should be in the Hall of Famous Missourians, I stumbled across a Show Me state resident who deserves a nomination – Dick Gregory. I was looking for something else the other day and stumbled across these photos of Gregory speaking at Ohio University in 1968.

I was surprised to find that (a) he was from St. Louis and went to school at Southern Illinois University and (b) he was still alive.

The Black Mort Sahl

The biography on his website says that he was African American comedian and civil rights activist whose social satire changed the way white Americans perceived African American comedians.

He was part of a new generation of black comedians that includes Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge. They broke with the minstrel tradition, which portrayed blacks as stereotypes.

Gregory, who had a dry, satirical wit, came to be known as the “Black Mort Sahl.” (Friends of Gregory would refer to Sahl as “the White Dick Gregory.” I was fortunate to cover Bill Cosby when he played Ohio University at about the same time.

Nigger” was best-seller

I bought his autobiography, Nigger, when it was published in 1963 (when it was on its way to becoming the number one best-seller in the country), but I never felt comfortable walking around with the cover showing, even though he explained in his forward that he had written a note to his mother saying, “Whenever you hear the word ‘Nigger,’ you’ll know they’re advertising my book.”

Routine impressed Hugh Hefner

He got one his earliest breaks when Hugh Hefner heard him perform this routine in front of a mostly white audience when he had been brought in as a last-minute replacement:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you”. So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

His temporary gig at the Chicago Playboy Club lasted three years.

Gregory changed my career

I was covering the event for The Ohio University Post. Much to my surprise, I got a call from The Athens Messenger, the local paper, asking if they could run my photo taken of Gregory while he waiting to go on. It was a surprise because I had seen photographer Bob Rogers at the press conference earlier that day, and I assumed that he must have covered the speech as well.

See, newspapers HATE to pick up something from a competitor. Now, The Post was the university student newspaper and The Messenger was the “real” paper, so we weren’t exactly competitors, but I always looked to see how I had stacked up against Bob or Jon Webb when we had been at the same event.

I was flattered that they wanted the art, so I offered it up quickly. I think that’s probably what led to them offering me an internship that summer. When they couldn’t find anyone who would work as long, hard (and cheap) as I would, it turned into a full-time job. When Bob moved on, I became chief photographer.

 Write-in Candidate for President

Gregory ran for president in 1968  as a candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. His button reads, “Write in Dick Gregory President for Peace in ’68.”

I guess I can add him to the list of presidents and presidential candidates I’ve covered.

Standing ovation

Gregory’s speech was well-received by the mostly white audience. Even though I was busy shooting the event from a multitude of positions, I heard enough to be impressed by the way he managed to get his point across without stabbing anyone with it.

I think he opened some eyes that evening. Most of us hadn’t heard that perspective before.

This site has an interesting collection of Dick Gregory quotes. In some he’s funny; in others he’s ironically angry; in others, he’s thought-provoking.

Interesting body language

I didn’t notice it when I edited the film in 1968, but take a look at the photo gallery. There’s an interesting contrast in body language between the white students and the black students at the afternoon press conference.

I see a lot of crossed arms and furrowed brows. I’m not sure the black students were as receptive to Gregory’s message as the white students.

Dick Gregory Photo gallery

I included a bunch of press conference photos in the gallery to show some of the folks I worked with in those days: Bob Rogers, Tom Price, Ed Pieratt and some radio and TV guys who look familiar (but we print guys didn’t bother pay much attention to them). Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

.

 

 

 

Kent State: Never Forget

I wrote on my other blog last year that I can always count on getting a message from John Lopinot on May 4. Usually the subject line says it all: Never Forget. May 4, of course, is the day that four Kent State students were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.

What would cause this look?

The short answer is opportunistic politicians.

I had expected this would be the year when I would do the definitive piece on what a small Ohio university town was like in the months leading up to the shootings and the days afterward. I wasn’t at Kent State, but in Athens, Ohio, the home of Ohio University.

At two in the morning, I was looking at 545 scanned negatives and a stack containing at least that many more. The best I can do for the 40th anniversary is to hit some of the high spots.

A nation near civil war

It’s hard to remember how torn apart this country was in the late 60s. The country was polarized by age divisions, by feelings about the Vietnam War, by economics and by race. Opportunistic politicians promoted those rifts for their own advantage.

Richard Nixon, while running for president in 1968, told the electorate that the country was torn by division: “America has suffered a fever of words, from inflated rhetoric that fans discontent into hatred; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another – until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

Peace march on Court Street

Athens religious leaders led a peaceful, non-violent march down the main drag in Athens on a beautiful October day in 1969. (My film sleeves are dated Oct. 16, 1969, but that might have represented when I processed the film, because Wikipedia says Moratorium Day was celebrated on Oct. 15.) The ministers and these children were at the head of the line.

The garage with the glowering man was on the parade route. I didn’t even notice that frame when I edited the film 41 years ago. Maybe I was so used to seeing that reaction that it didn’t register then like it does now.

Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam

Moratorium Day – a day to take off from work or classes and think about the war – was centered on the College Green in the heart of the campus and downtown Athens. It’s a beautiful setting with huge trees all around. The crowd ebbed and flowed throughout the day. It may have ranged from a few hundred to maybe a thousand at any one time.

There were a number of speakers, all forgettable. The thing that has haunted me since that day was a relay of volunteers reading the names of the servicemen killed in Vietnam. Every name was accompanied by a drumbeat on a drum with a smiling OU Bobcat mascot on its side.

If it takes about two seconds to read each name, you need about 24 hours to work your way through 50,000 names. The sound system wasn’t strong enough to carry the names much farther than the immediate area, but that drum beat was audible throughout most of downtown and the central area dorms.

Drumbeat marks the dead

Boom.

Boom.

Boom.

Even if you couldn’t hear the names, you couldn’t escape the realization that every beat represented someone just about your age who was dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction

I think of that drum when I listen to Barry McGuire sing this part of Eve of Destruction:

The Pounding Of The Drum The Pride And Disgrace
You Can Bury Your Dead But Don’t Leave A Trace
Hate Your Next-door Neighbor But Don’t Forget To Say Grace

ROTC: a stand-in for the war

Whether or not ROTC should be on campus was the surrogate issue for the debate over whether the university should be pro-war or anti-war. I attended small meetings and big meetings like this one for months. (I’m not sure if I noticed the guy in the front row with the turtle when I shot it.)

Photographers love action

Photographers gravitate to action. TV, in particular, has the slogan, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Demonstrators learned to play to that with marches, demonstrations, signs and street theater.

Unwittingly, they played right into the hands of the Nixon administration, which wanted something to demonize. Peter Davies, in The Truth about Kent State, wrote, “In less than two years the victors of that election [1968] had become masterful exponents of inflated, angry, bombastic rhetoric and evinced little inclination to learn from the dissenting views of others.

Nov. 15, 1969, half a million people participated in a March on Washington. Nixon, in what has to be a classic understatement said, “Now, I understand that there has been, and continues to be, opposition to the war in Vietnam on the campuses and also in the nation.” He continued, “As far as this kind of activity is concerned, we expect it, however under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it.”

Cambodian invasion

The war seemed to be winding down by the spring of 1970, and student activists were starting to shift their focus to more domestic issues. That changed when Nixon announced on Apr. 30, 1970, that he was going to have American forces invade Cambodia.

Reaction on campuses was swift and angry.

Dissenters should be treated as Nazis

Vice President Spiro Agnew, who later resigned in disgrace over petty bribery charges, escalated the rhetoric much as Nixon escalated the war. At a Republican fundraiser in Miami, Agnew recommended that campus dissenters be treated as if they were Nazis.

Four dead at Kent State

If you click on this sentence, you’ll be taken to my account of the day the Kent State shootings occurred.

OU students were stunned

Students at Ohio University were stunned by the killings. One of the largest groups I can recall seeing turned out on the College Green to hear speakers and to be close to one another. The group wasn’t made up of your “usual suspect” campus radicals and protesters. Faculty members and Greeks were sitting side by side with long-haired hippies.

OU President Claude Sowle

Another mass meeting was held in the Convocation Center, usually used for basketball games. Speakers, including university president Claude Sowle, lined up for their turn to speak. What I find astounding looking at these pictures today is that President Sowle (standing, in jacket, with back to camera) was surrounded by thousands of students without any security present.

These are the same kinds of students Ohio Gov. James Rhodes characterized at a table-thumping law-and-order press conference in Kent on May 3 as “worse than the Brownshirts and the Communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes. They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we’re up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America. We’re going to eradicate the problem, we’re not going to treat the symptoms.”

That speech was widely broadcast, including into the National Guard’s bivouac area on the Kent State campus, something that  was thought to give tacit approval, if not encouragement, to the shootings that would happen the next day. Rhodes was two days away from a tight primary race and he was hoping to fire up his base.

No-frill Communion

Some of the campus religious leaders announced a one-day fast in honor of the Kent State victims. It would be broken by the taking of Communion on the College Green the next day.

After having attended a Lutheran school for eight years, I always associated Communion with golden chalices, fancy wafer, droning organ music and great formality.

There were so many students participating in THIS communion service that the ministers had to dispatch someone to a nearby store to pick up some cheap bottles of wine and some loaves of ordinary bread off the shelf.

I understand Communion now

I usually never participate in the events I cover, but I understood, for the first time, the real meaning of communion. It wasn’t about the religious trappings, it was about coming together with something bigger than yourself.

I got in line for a chunk of bread and a swig out of a shared bottle of wine. I was never so moved by a religious ceremony before,  and I’ve never felt like taking Communion since. I don’t know if it was the place, the people or the circumstances, but something special happened that afternoon.

Days and nights blurred

Almost every day there was some kind of rally, march, demonstration or protest. Most of them were fairly benign. It was almost like no one wanted to push the envelope too far after what happened on May 4.

Alcohol, not revolutionary spirits

Even the night-time bonfires next to the War Memorial seemed fueled more by alcoholic spirits than the spirit of revolution. Ohio University has long celebrated The Rites of Spring where confrontations with local police were common when the first warm days chased the cold winter away.

The bars let out

When the bars let out on a nice spring night, it’s not uncommon for the students to take over the major intersection in town at Court and Union. On this night, there’s some political tension in the air, but there are no political signs and no organization. It’s a crowd, not a mob.

Officer reads the riot act

The officer in the center of the photo with the white hat uses a bull horn to tell the group to disperse. That’s commonly known as “reading the riot act.” It’s all part of the Rites of Spring ritual.

Streets clear, everyone goes home

Everyone pretty much stayed withing the Rules of Engagement and nothing unusual happened. Police and students all seemed on their best behavior.

Library taken over

At some point during the week, Chubb Library was occupied by the students. Some of the reporters and photographers decided that we would stay in the library during the brief siege. We figured the students would be less likely to trash the place if we were there to record it. We also assumed the police wouldn’t storm the building if we were there to photograph any head cracking. We were keeping both sides honest.

Movement is losing steam

There was one last half-hearted night of protest that involved a relatively small crowd that marched on the president’s home. I don’t recall much happening and the group started to disperse. Other newspaper folks and I had the feeling that this was about the last gasp. The movement was running out of steam. Even students get tired.

Herded back to College Green

Students started running back to the group saying that the Green was surrounded by police who were keeping them from leaving. To this day, I think this was a result of bad intelligence on the part of the police or bad planning.

  • I don’t think they realized that the energy was gone from the student movement and that it was about to collapse.
  • If they had allowed the students to disperse on their own, everyone would have gone home and it would have been over.

Bats n’ hats

To make matters worse, I discovered that police from all over the area had been brought in for reinforcements. These folks rarely had contact with students and were even more poorly trained than the Athens PD.

It wasn’t a good thing to see everyone decked out in full “bats ‘n hats” riot gear with gas masks. I don’t think I had ever seen Athens PD use gas before.

Like I described on my other blog, it wasn’t long before a cop I knew launched a tear gas grenade right toward me. It gave me great pleasure to give him a grin before I pulled on MY gas mask.

My tactical blunder

Friend and photographer Ed Pieratt shot me in my riot gear. I had to wear my glasses on the outside of the mask because I was blind without them. The old WWII mask kept the gas out, but the lenses fogged up so badly I couldn’t see WITH the mask or WITHOUT it. (By the next riot, I had a state of the art M16 mask courtesy of a policeman who “liberated” one for me. I had it fitted with prescription lenses and used it for another two decades.

I’m not happy with the photos from the night of the riot. For some reason, despite the fact that I specialized in shooting available light under lousy conditions, and despite that stuff I had shot by street lights earlier in the week looked good, I decided to bolt a flash on the camera.

Shooting flash draws attention to you – and can look like a muzzle flash from a gun – so you tend to shoot sparingly. It also makes for ugly pictures. Photographers shouldn’t think, they should shoot. Having that bleeping flash on the camera made me think, which caused me to miss photos I wish I’d had.

Ohio University shut down

It was over. By morning, President Sowle had made the decision to close the university until the summer session. Mayor Raymond Shepard and President Sowle decided jointly to request the Ohio National Guard.

Students leave town

With tear gas power still falling from the trees and the whole town suffering from red, itchy eyes from the night before, carloads of anxious parents descended on Athens to pick up their kids.

Kent State garnered all the attention

On the front page of The Messenger that detailed the closing of Ohio University is a story that has been dwarfed by Kent State: the killing of two students and the wounding of five at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Does Agnew sound familiar?

Vice President Spiro Agnew said in April 1970, “One modest suggestion for the academic community: the next time a mob of students, waving their non-negotiable demands, starts pitching rocks at the Student Union – just imagine they are wearing brown shirts or white sheets and act accordingly.”

Shootings were “unwarranted”

The Scranton Commission concluded that the gunfire from the Ohio National Guard was “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”

James Michener, in his book Kent State: What Happened and Why, wrote that “a depressing number” of the four hundred Kent State students interviewed “had been told by their parents that it might have been a good thing if they had been shot.”

Think of that the next time someone on the left or the right loses touch with reality. Words can sometimes ignite more than the political base.

[Editor’s note: I’m sure there are some “facts” that are wrong. Dates on the film sleeves could be the day the photos were taken or they could be the date the film was processed. After weeks of marches, rallies, meeting, speeches and songifying, days and events run together. Like so many things I’ve covered, I’m glad to have been a witness to history, but once was enough.]

Gallery of photos from Ohio University

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery.