“You’re Kidding, Right?”

I just looked at the calendar and saw that it is May 4. That’s the day that my old chief photographer John J. Lopinot always sends me a message that says, “Never Forget,” referring to the killing of four students at Kent State on that date in 1970.

I almost forgot.

I’ve always been amused at this photograph of a student offering sandwiches and drinks to a highway patrolman who was called in when students conducted a sit-in at Ohio University’s administration building over an increase in student fees. His good-natured expression seems to be saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me if you think I’d eat something you made.” His fellow officers seemed to be less good-natured. This picture was taken in January 1970. (Click on the photo to make it larger.)

A look back

Here are some of the earlier stories I’ve done about the era.

LBJ: “I will not seek; I will not accept”

Ohio University students watch LBJ annouce he won't run for POTUS 03-31-1968Walter Borton, an old Ohio University friend jogged my memory today with a comment on Facebook:

“Forty eight years ago today – I was in the front row of a student government meeting upstairs in Baker Center at Ohio University – I think Rita Corriel was presiding and suddenly from the back of the room, if memory serves, Tom Price, holding a small portable radio to his ear, interrupted excitedly to announce that Lyndon Johnson had just withdrawn from the Presidential race. I’m not sure what happened next but I suspect we recessed to the Union bar & grill to drink.”

OU Post reporter Carol Towarnicky chimed in: “From a different angle: While you were all at the Student Government meeting — what was the issue that had everyone there? — I was in The Post office with, I think, one other person and we were listening to LBJ’s speech. When he said, “I shall not seek, nor will I accept” I screamed. Then I didn’t know what to do because there was no way to reach people, but it turns out everyone knew anyway. What an exciting time putting out the paper that night.”

Post editor Bill Sievert remembers it this way: “Those of us Posties who were present (and most of the people in the room) cheered Tom Price’s announcement. Then we finished covering the meeting and went back and joined Carol Towarnicky in putting out the paper. It was hard work but somebody had to do it. (We drank much, much later in the night.) Tagging Ken Steinhoff; he’ll remember if he took the picture. He has a photographic memory.”

How I remember it

Ohio University students watch LBJ annouce he won't run for POTUS 03-31-1968

My perspective: Nobody knew what Johnson was going to speak about on that March 31 evening. The speech started off sounding like he was positioning himself to steal thunder from challengers Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy by announcing measures they had been advocating, demonstrating that his was the power to act, while his critics had only the power to propose, wrote The New York Times.

I’m not sure where this group was watching the speech on a TV. It could have been in the Scott Quadrangle dorm lounge where I lived, or it might have been in the Baker Center Student Union, where The Post had its offices in the basement. I shot a few half-hearted frames early in the speech, even resorting to my fisheye lens, signalling that I wasn’t expecting much to happen. When I blew up one frame, I’m pretty sure I saw my future Athens Messenger colleague Bob Rogers lolling in the doorway, equally as disinterested in what was happening as I was.

When LBJ said, “I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party as your President,” there was an audible gasp in the room. If I captured any emotion, it’s on film that I haven’t found yet. Right after he spoke those words, I looked over at a calendar, thinking, “Surely the President of the United States won’t follow that up by saying ‘April Fool!”

It was March 31, not April First, and, no, he wasn’t kidding.

Remember Student Standby?

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I ran across an old TWA ticket stub from March 19, 1967. I was flying from St. Louis to Cleveland on what the airlines called “Youth Fare,” but most of us dubbed “student standby.”

St. Louis to Cleveland for $16.54

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I was able to fly from Missouri to Ohio for $16.54. I was racking my brain trying to figure out why I was going to Cleveland, then I figured out what was going on.

In March of 1967, I flew to Cleveland and probably got a ride down to Athens with one of Jim Stone’s friends so I could visit him at Ohio University to check out the school. It was a good thing I did. I had applied to OU, but I hadn’t gotten a rejection letter or an acceptance letter. Jim suggested we go by the admissions office to see what was going on.

“Your grades aren’t high enough to meet our standards,” I was told.

“Not good enough?” I countered. “I have a 3.85 average on a scale of 4.0. How smart do I have to be to get into this place?”

She pulled out my file, shuffled through the paperwork, then said, “Somebody made a mistake. You’re in.”

You were good unless you got bumped

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967The airlines were clear that your seat was safe only so long as the seat wasn’t sold to a full-fare passenger. Planes flew with lots of empty seats in those days (which is why they calculated that a half was better than a nothing), so the odds were pretty good that you were OK.

I never got bumped, but I saw others having to leave the plane. That always made me nervous because I had seen enough of those crash stories where some kid was interviewed, “Yes, I was going to be on that flight, but, at the last second, I was bumped. If that hadn’t happened, I’d have been on that smashed tin can still smoking in a cornfield in Iowa.”

I was doubly nervous when I finally became a paying customer that bumped the last standby. That was REALLY tempting fate.

When did it end?

KLS TWA Student Standby ticket 03-19-1967I tried to find a little of the history of student standby, but didn’t run across much. The Daily Pennsylvanian had a story in 1968 that said that several airlines were phasing out the half-price standby fare, going for one charging two-thirds of the tourist class price. The trade-off was that it would be considered a reserved seat not subject to bumping.

TWA, interestingly enough, was NOT one of the airlines eliminating standby at that time.

In addition to bringing in revenue from what would otherwise be empty seats, the youth fares hooked a whole generation on flying, and airline execs were quoted as saying they hoped to build brand loyalty for future sales. “With a student fare, the student’s taste is catered to a particular airline. When he is 22, he is more likely to use that airline.”

Never a Dull Moment

Halloween constumes 10-26-2013I never know what I’m going to find when I pull into my Athens, Ohio, No-Tell Motel. These folks greeted me in October of 2013.

What are THEY doing?

U of Wisc NFA team 04-17-2015After spending the day helping Curator Jessica and the other fine folks at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum get set up for Thursday night’s exhibit of my photos, I headed back to the motel to put on a non-rumpled shirt and some clean pants.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I first encountered a guy with a noisy leaf blower. In my parking space and a couple of adjacent ones stood a circle of singing or chanting arm-wavers. Great, I thought, it’s some crazy religious nuts.

From the University of Wisconsin

U of Wisc NFA team 04-17-2015It turns out they were from the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, in town with about 1,500 other students from 79 schools to compete in the National Forensic Association’s finals.

They were doing warm-up exercises that included chants, some obscure elimination game and emoting that involved making expressions that looked like a poodle passing a peach pit.

When I was in the Central High School forensic program, about the only warming up I got was getting whacked with a ruler by Ruby Davis when I said “warsh” instead of wash.” Times must have changed.

Gallery of photos

Here are some more photos of my neighbors (who were amazingly quiet, by the way). They include Kelly Wright, assistant forensics director, in polka dots. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.