May 4 Slipped Up on Me

May 4 Mea Culpa

When I went to bed after midnight on May 3, something made me think that I had something to do on May 4, but there weren’t any calendar entries for that date.

Just as I hit the light switch, I knew that I’d be greeted by an email from old friend and former chief photographer John J. Lopinot.

Like expected, it was there first thing in the morning: “Never forget: 49 years ago today! We are getting old…..

It WAS the 49th anniversary of the National Guard killings at Kent State, and for the first time, it HAD slipped my memory. I hadn’t completely forgotten the event because Curator Jessica and I had been trading emails about how we were going to handle the 50th anniversary, but May had crept up on me unexpectedly.

Postings for the years I DIDN’T forget May 4

May 4: Compare and Contrast

2014 Jackson HS Prom pix in Jackson Park 05-03-2014Mother and I were on our way to Wib’s in Jackson for my last BBQ before leaving Missouri. On the way past Jackson’s city park, a flash of glow-in-the-dark green and a small crowd caught our eye. I did a U-turn (causing Mother to gasp uncharacteristically when she thought I turned too quickly in front of an oncoming car) and headed into the park.

We drove around spotting other gaggles of kids in fancy clothes and even a horse-drawn carriage. Pulling up to the Green Gal gaggle, I rolled down the window and asked, “Wedding or prom?”

It was the Jackson High School prom.

The Green Gal Gaggle

2014 Jackson HS Prom pix in Jackson Park 05-03-2014The foursome provided names: Tessa Long and Amanda Matlock are in the front row, left to right, and their dates are Mitchell Graham and Alex Wright.

[Editor’s note: When I asked if was a wedding or a prom and was told “prom,” I joked, “Well, since you are all dressed up anyway, why don’t you go ahead and get married?” I got a call this morning that I must have had that on my mind when I was typing at 2 in the morning, because in the first posting of the story, I called Amanda Matlock “Amanda Wright.” I guess I was determined to marry her off. I have officially annulled her marriage and given her back her maiden name. Another note: the kids were home by 1 a.m. The prom ended at 11 and the stopped at Denny’s on the way home. I guess the younger Jackson generation doesn’t have the stamina that the Cape Central Class of ’65 had: our party lasted all night.]

Color coordination

2014 Jackson HS Prom pix in Jackson Park 05-03-2014Alex’s tie matches Amanda’s dress, but Amanda went him one better with her green socks and shoelaces. This is a gal who looks like she’s ready for some serious dancing.

Our May 4th memories will be different

Meeting on Ohio University Main Green after Kent State shootings 05-05-1970When Tessa, Mitchell, Alex and Amanda wake up on May 4, their memories of that date are going to different than mine. They are going to remember the clothes, dancing, music and fun.

I’m going to remember four Kent State students who were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. Former Palm Beach Post chief photographer John J. Lopinot sends me an email every year: “Never Forget.” I don’t intend to.

Another photographer and I were on our way to Marietta, Ohio, to a surplus store where we were going to pick up riot gear and head up to Kent State. We were about half-way there when a radio news bulletin reported the shootings, although the initial garbled reports had the guardsman as being the ones shot. We elected to get the gear and head back to Athens and Ohio University, because we didn’t know how our campus was going to react.

4,000 gathered on College Green

Meeting on Ohio University Main Green after Kent State shootings 05-05-1970The protest movement up until that point was fairly small and made up of “radical” students. That afternoon and evening, though, as many as 4,000 students, professors, townspeople, preachers and even a congressional candidate crowded onto the College Green to listen to speeches and to figure out what was going to happen next.

The most moving moment was when a young woman who said she was a Kent State student came out of the darkness and grabbed the microphone. She said she and some of her friends had witnessed the shootings and had agreed to fan out to the other state schools to beg the students not to allow a similar bloody confrontation to happen.

“The kids at Kent are running scared,” she was quoted by Tom Price in The Athens Messenger. “Don’t bring that here. Don’t throw rocks here. You don’t know how good it is to be here tonight. Just stay this way, please. Keep cool and stay together, please – male and female – because there have been two girls killed and two guys.”

Ministers call for 24-hour memorial fast

Meeting on Ohio University Main Green after Kent State shootings 05-05-1970After the young woman spoke, Rabbi Joseph Polak called for prayer, and silence fell over the 4,000 persons on the green. Each minister then offered his own short prayer.

“I’m calling you to prayer for your brothers and sisters at Kent,” the Rev. Thomas Niccolls said. “I’m calling you to prayer for your brothers and sisters in Vietnam. I’m calling you to prayer for your brothers and sisters in Cambodia.”

“As we pray for the dead and the dying,” the Rev. Robert Hughes said, “let us pray for the living and for ourselves. We have seen enough dying and enough pain for a lifetime.”

The Rev. Thomas Jackson concluded the prayer

Meeting on Ohio University Main Green after Kent State shootings 05-05-1970“I’ve gotta try one more time. I just want a moratorium for one day on the terms ‘jock’ and ‘Greek’ and ‘hippie’ and all the things we use to punch each other out.”

Praying the students realize what it’s like when people who are shot and killed, the Rev. Thomas Jackson quoted a Kent State student who said he thought the National Guardsmen were firing blanks, “until I saw her head blown open.”

“It’s time to quit blowing open heads,” the Rev. Jackson said. “It’s time to quit splitting up and hating and disgusting each other. Can’t we just once do it? Just one day, that’s all I ask. Please remember that head that was blown open. Do something embarrassing tonight. Like don’t kill each other. Like touch someone. Be a fool.”

A lengthy standing ovation from the demonstrators followed Jackson’s prayer.

OU Closed on May 15

Ohio University Protests May 1970Ohio University managed to stay open until May 15, when it closed after two nights of tear gas and rioting.

Previous posts about the Kent State eraPeace demonstration at Ohio University 02-22-1968

How Soon They Forget

Lindley Hall Ohio University 02-27-2013Today is May 4. I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t hear from my old chief photographer, John J. Lopinot, today. He always sends me a message on May 4 that says, simply, “Never forget.” He’s referring to the killing of four students at Kent State on that date in 1970.

I’ve published pictures of the protest era over the years and am working on putting together a photo exhibit for May 2014.

While I was killing time before speaking at a photo exhibit of my Martin Lutheran King National Day of Mourning pictures, I wandered around the Ohio University’s Main Green, feeling a lot like the old geezer in Catcher in the Rye who went back to his old school to see if his initials were still carved in a bathroom stall.

When I stood in front of Lindley Hall, a dorm on Court Street, I had a flashback to 1970.

May 15, 1970

Ohio University protests that led to closing of school 05-14-15-1968After two nights of tear gas and rioting, Ohio University closed and students scrambled to get home.

Anxious parents descend on town

Ohio University protests that led to closing of school 05-14-15-1968Frantic parents clogged all the streets in town trying to pick up their students. Every breeze would cause tear gas powder to rain down from the trees, causing red eyes for blocks. National guardsmen, some with bayonets affixed were spaced all over the downtown and campus area.

Incredible wave of emotion

I climbed to the landing where I had taken the photo above and felt an incredible rush of emotion. I was transported back to that time. I can’t explain why that particular location triggered the feeling.

Did something happen here?

Lindley Hall Ohio University 02-27-2013While I was coping with that and composing this photo, two coeds ran squealing down the street and jumped on the back of a male student. There was much high-fiving and quite a reunion going on. Finally one of them saw me with a camera and gave me a friendly wave. I returned the wave and walked down to them.

“You know, the last time I stood on that landing and took a picture looking down Court Street it was May 15, 1970. Tear gas was wafting through the air and there was a National Guardsman with a rifle spaced about every 25 feet.”

“Really? Something happened here?” one of them asked, giving me a “is this old geezer harmless?” look..

If I don’t get the message from John, I guess it’s a sign that we really have forgotten.

My initials were gone

KLS iniitals on OU Post darkroom door 02-02-1970-5 3

I didn’t carve my initials on the wall of a bathroom stall, but it was a tradition for the photo editor of The OU Post to put his (they had all been male up to that point) initials on the darkroom door. The white arrow, top left, points to my “KLS 68“. I was killing time waiting for that night’s demonstration or other madness to start when this picture was taken in 1970.

Baker Center, where The Post lived, is being remodeled and the basement where my initials were scrawled has been gutted no telling how many times over the years. That’s the way it goes.

 

May 4 – Kent State – Never Forget

I’m sure I’ll get an email from former coworker and friend. John J. Lopinot today. It’s going to be short and simple. “Never Forget.” He sends me one every year.

May 4 is the day when the Ohio National Guard killed four students at Kent State University. I promised more in 2012 after doing a big piece in 2010. To be honest, May 4 snuck up on me and you’re just going to get a smattering of photos this year.

Looks like a nice spring night

I’m not sure what caused the big turnout in front of Ohio University’s Baker Center Student Union on May 1, 1970. It might have been Mother’s Weekend. Or it could have just been a nice warm spring night after a nasty winter. There are lots of shorts and short sleeves in the picture. The crowd seems to be just hanging out. (You can click any photo to make it larger.)

Here comes trouble

Despite what you might think, not every student in the ’60s was a long-haired peacenik freak. OU was a fairly conservative campus with an active Greek community that was even more conservative than the average student.

I’m not exactly sure who these guys are or what caused them to go marching down the street looking like something out of Gunfight at the OK Corral. It’s pretty obvious that they’re looking to kick some serious hippie ass.

There had been a batch of nuisance dumpster fires for several days and there was one here that night, so that might have been what prompted the confrontation.

Fight broke out

Without much warning, one of the most violent student-on-student confrontations I covered at OU broke out. It didn’t last long and the combatants were separated fairly quickly, but it was heated while it lasted

Students have short attention spans

Just as quickly as it started, it was over. Long-haired and short-haired students joined in to pitch the trash back into the dumpster and everybody went back to enjoying the evening.

Kent State erased the boundaries

What does a minor student brawl have to do with May 4?

The killings at Kent State unified the campus. Petty differences between cliques and classes were set aside when students realized that this wasn’t a game anymore.Straights and radicals; faculty members and students, young and old all pulled together in this memorial gathering on the Main Green the morning after the killings.

Neil Young captured the mood perfectly in his song, Ohio:

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,

We’re finally on our own.

This summer I hear the drumming

Four dead in Ohio.”

Earlier stories about protests