Another May 4 Memory

Chief photographer John J. Lopinot and I took buyouts from The Palm Beach Post 10 years ago this summer. Cox sold our paper to another Chain on the first of May. I wondered if this would be the first year I wouldn’t get the usual cryptic message from John: “May 4 – Never Forget.”

All is still right with the world. The message, reminding me that on May 4, four students at Kent State were killed by National Guardsmen showed up like always. It’s getting harder and harder for me to find photos of that era that I haven’t published, but here is what happened when Ohio University students occupied the vacant Chubb Library on the Athens campus.

It was a chaotic 24 hours. It started with a rally in Grover Center attended by more than 2,000. John Froines of the Chicago Eight was of the speakers. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

The ‘liberation’ of Chubb Library

After the rally broke up, some of the students headed to the Main Green to the Chubb Library. A new library had been built, and the building had been standing vacant for about a year. Gail Schnitzer’s story in The Athens Messenger said someone broke the glass on a locked door and shouted, “Now, it’s open. It’s free. It’s yours – let’s go.” Most of the hundred or so people milling around were less convinced that this was a good idea.

Throughout the night, though, many people – some estimated as many as 150 – entered the building. They included students, faculty and staff, even though faculty marshals at the door were warning that this is “illegal – forcible entry”

Froines showed up to speak to the students. He urged them not to shut down the university, but to open it up by repurposing unused spaces like this one.

Freedom University

Some of the students argued that the library should be made into a “free university,” a place to study “relevant issues” and to form a Radical Studies Institute. “Freedom University” was the most popular name, primarily because of its initials.

Discord and debate were the order of the night. Many votes were taken and discarded as the students tried to decide if they would stay or leave, or if they should take the university’s offer of three meeting rooms, an office and a lounge in the Baker Center student union building.

Mellow folk music

Not everybody was into speechifying. This group picked a quiet corner to sing folk songs.

It’s going to be a long night

This pipe smoker must have figured it was going to be a long night, and he was going to be as comfortable as possible.

Waiting for the cops

Athens police officers in riot gear stayed outside, watched by anxious students.

Some of us media types figured that our presence might create a buffer that would discourage students from becoming destructive, and keep the police from over-reacting.

Let the university, not Columbus handle it

Dr. Edward Sanford, a physics professor, one of about five faculty members who remained throughout the night, cautioned the students to let Ohio University officials remain in control, “not the people in Columbus,” a reference to Gov. Rhodes’ calling in the National Guard at Kent State.

‘I’m sick of this, and I’m leaving’

Reporter Schnitzer wrote that a blond-haired student stood up on a table and shouted, “You’re all fools, man! You’re all ego-tripping. Everyone wants to do their own thing. You’re having a civil war right here – I’m sick of this, and I’m leaving.”

There were cheers from some, and “Shut up! Shut up!” from others. He walked out, and little by little, the crowd dwindled.

It was over by 6 a.m.

At 6 a.m., the remaining students were ordered to leave by Robert Guinn, OU director of security. President Claude Sowle said that all present complied with the order. At about 6:10, police officers entered the building. No arrests were made, and no force was necessary.

It wasn’t exactly over

Right after I left the library, I found out that someone had firebombed two buildings on campus that were under construction. Instead of going home and to bed, I had to shoot the damage and make a morning deadline.

So far as I know, the culprits were never identified. Most of the usual suspects were in the library when the fires were set.

The firebombing wasn’t the biggest blaze in Athens that night. It seems that Wife Lila, not too far from being a newlywed, had planned her first big dinner party where all the newspaper types were invited. Everybody who would would have shown up was busy with the night’s news, so she was left with lots of leftovers.

I tried to explain that there were no phones in the library, and that I was afraid to leave because I wasn’t sure I could get back in. That’s why I didn’t warn her that nobody was going to show up.

Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned this. Maybe she’s forgotten it after 48 years.

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.

Silver Bridge Collapse

Model of Pt. Pleasant Silver Bridge 08-10-1968Chuck Beckley, who was a high school kid working as a lab tech at The Athens Messenger  47 years ago, posted a photo to Facebook of a roadside marker that read:

Silver Bridge Collapse

Constructed in 1928, connected Point Pleasant and Kanauga, OH. Name credited to aluminum colored paint used. First eye-bar suspension bridge of its type in US. Rush hour collapse on 15 December 1967 resulted in 31 vehicles falling into the river, killing 46 and injuring 9. Failed eye-bar joint and weld identified as cause. Resulted in passage of national bridge inspection standards in 1968.

The model above is one that was exhibited at a fair I covered in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Who covered it?

Silver Bridge piers 12-06-1969Churck asked Bob Rogers, “Did I pick up film from the bus station for you and Jon [Webb], or Ken for this?”

It wasn’t me. I didn’t start working for The Messenger until the summer of 1968. On that particular day, I was on a train about half-way to Cincinnati headed back to Cape for Christmas break. At one of the stops, a passenger got on and started spreading the word about a big bridge collapse in Point Pleasant. He didn’t have a whole lot of details, and I was anxious to get home to see family and Girlfriend Lila, so I didn’t give it much thought.

I spent a lot of time later covering the building of the new Silver Memorial Bridge. Here are the piers of the old bridge. If the railroad bridge in the background is indicative of how well bridges were maintained in those days, it’s no wonder the bridge went down.

Over in less than a minute

Silver Bridge piers 12-06-1969Even though I didn’t cover the actual tragedy, I’m haunted by the gouges and scars on this pier. In other photos on that roll, you can still see cables and wires dangling down into the water.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology website explained it in chilling detail:

On December 15, 1967 at about 5PM the traffic signal at one end of the Silver Bridge turned red. The rush hour traffic, together with the Christmas shopping traffic, completely occupied the main span of the bridge connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia with Kanauga, Ohio. Suddenly a loud cracking sound was heard and one of the main towers began to twist and fall.

In less than a minute, all three spans of the bridge collapsed into the icy Ohio River, carrying with them all the cars, trucks, and people. Forty-six died.

[The failure of an eyebar set the chain of events in motion] Once this eyebar failed, the pin fell out, unpinning this part of the suspension chain. The adjacent tower was subjected to an asymmetrical loading that caused it to rotate and allow the western span to twist in a northerly direction. This span crashed down on the western shore, folding over on top of the falling cars and trucks. Loaded by the whole weight of the center span, which had now become unsupported on its western end, the east tower fell westward into the river along with the center span. Finally, the west tower collapsed toward Pt. Pleasant and into the Ohio River, completing the destruction of the Silver Bridge.

Two bodies were never recovered.

 Silver Memorial Bridge

Silver Memorial Bridge 12-06-1969I took this photo of the new Silver Memorial Bridge on December 6, 1969. The replacement bridge opened on December 15, 1969, exactly two years after the collapse.

When I went through that area last summer, I looked for any remnants of the old Silver Bridge. Either I was in the wrong place or every trace of it has been removed. I still think about what it must have been like to have been stuck in that traffic jam nearly half a century ago.

James Baughn’s Bridgehunter website has more information on the bridge and its collapse.

Typewriters and Pens

Steinhoff Olivetti typewriter 11-05-2013_0043Brother Mark has my old portable Olivetti typewriter. I call it mine, but Dad never specifically gave it to me. I remember how proud he was when he brought it home: It was a cool blue color and lived in a red felt-lined case. He was impressed at how light it was and how good the keys felt.

It ended up on my desk in the basement, typed a gazillion high school papers, then it went away to Ohio University with me.

Because Dad always had an office at home, in addition to one somewhere else, I always had access to a typewriter and a hand-cranked adding machine. That explains why my handwriting is lousy (and my math skills are equally bad).

An excuse to run typewriter photos

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013The lead shot is an excuse for me to run some photos I took July 3 when I was in St. Louis. On the way to meet Mary, an old friend from my Jackson Pioneer days, I saw an interesting typewriter repair shop on Manchester in Maplewood. I was running late (what’s new) and figured I’d never get back there again. As it turned out, I was meeting up with someone else the next day and passed the shop again. This time I stopped.

This is where the story gets embarrassing: I took a bunch of notes when I talked to the two brothers who owned the joint, but I must have left that notebook in Florida.

As it turns out, the repair place might not be there today. I did a quick web search and found a July 28, 2013, story that said Jones Typewriter might be leaving its Maplewood location because the rent had been raised too many times.

My own typewriter stories

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013In the absence of real info about the Jones business, I’ll blather on about my other typewriter experiences, then run a gallery of photos from the place where typewriters and calculators go to be reborn, even if cannibalization must occur.

I don’t know how Mark ended up with the typewriter. I probably brought it back home after I left Athens. By the time I started working at The Athens Messenger, I had access to a full-blown typewriter and good workspace to do whatever schoolwork needed to be typed.

Special IBM Selectrics

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013Not long after I started at The Palm Beach Post, the newspaper’s old manual typewriters were replaced with IBM Selectrics that had special characters on the magic spinning balls that put words on paper. Reporters would type their stories and the pages would be scanned and turned into type that was pasted up by the composing room. The special characters were formatting commands for bold, italic, and the like. You could use them as a regular typewriter if you avoided the special characters.

I kept putting in budget requests for more typewriters for the photo department, but they kept being rejected because “we’ll have lots of spares when we get the new pagination system.” After being turned down three times, I decided drastic measures needed to be taken.

Shhhh, here’s a secret

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013I’m going to tell you a little secret. I’m not with the company anymore; all of the old Selectrics are probably in a landfill, and I think the statute of limitations has run out on my transgressions, so I think I’m safe.

I would wander around the building until I saw a typewriter wearing a cover sitting in a corner or a hallway, obviously not in someone’s workspace. I would wait until nobody was looking, take off the cover, type, “Am I being used?” on a scrap piece of copy paper, then replace the cover.

If I checked back two weeks later and the note was still there, the typewriter would find itself in the photo department. Management never asked where the typewriters came from nor why I had quit asking for new ones. So far as I know, nobody ever reported any missing typewriters to security.

Besides, how could it be stealing if the property never left the premises, right?

Where’s the green ribbon?

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013I just noticed that my old Olivetti at the top of the page has a conventional black and red ribbon. For those folks who have never used a typewriter, you normally typed with the black portion of the ribbon. If you were doing bookkeeping and wanted to emphasize a negative number, you’d switch to the red part. Hence, the expression, “in the red” for losing money.

Dad had a thing for green. He had a green ribbon in his typewriters, painted his tools green and wrote with a green fountain pen. I did the same, for the most part.

I have a weakness for hardware and office supply stores. Since Missourian Office Supply was next door to the newspaper office and since I had an employee discount, I bought a selection of colors of ink cartridges for the fountain pen I used for school work. I think some of my teachers may have objected to my unconventional color choices, but I likely ignored them or switched to blue or black for their classes.

Thank goodness for felt tips

I had a few of the really old-fashioned fountain pens that had a bladder inside that you filled by pulling up on a lever while the pen’s tip was dipped in a bottle of ink. They leaked and always ran out of ink at the wrong time. Ink cartridges were much neater and you could carry spares. I abandoned ink pens when felt tips became common. They fitted my sloppy note-taking style better than fountain pens.

To show how old I am, I can remember that some of my grade school desks still had holes for ink wells. Or, they might have been to hold water for the dinosaurs to drink, who knows?

Hurricane gives, hurricane takes away

Jones Typewriter Company 07-03-2013My favorite ballpoint of all time was a Papermate pen I found on the steps of The Post in 1979 when I came back from vacation because Hurricane David was barreling down on Florida. David was a Category 5 storm went it went over the Dominican Republic, so this looked like it was going to be the real deal.

I drove 19 hours straight and pulled into West Palm Beach about 2 in the morning just as the winds were really starting to whip up. Fortunately for us, the mountains had knocked the storm down to a Cat 1. Still, we had some aluminum awnings blow off our house, never to be seen again.

I carried that pen every day until it slipped through a hole in my pocket while covering Hurricane Elena in 1985. I hope someone in Pascagoula, Mississippi, found it and loved it as much as I did.

Jones Typewriter Company photo gallery

The place was a cross between a repair shop and a museum. I hope the brothers and their typewriters found a new home if they did decide to move. There are a lot of writers out there who prefer turning out their works on a manual typewriter rather than a computer word processor. (I’m not one of them.) Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.