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

Decorating the Gym

No telling what dance these students were preparing for. I started to put names to faces, but realized the only one I was sure of was Jim Stone. These look like they were shot for The Tiger or The Girardot, but I don’t think any of them were ever published. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Since Jim was Class of 1965, it was unlikely he was decorating for the Class of ’66. Ditto the Class of 1967 Senior Prom.

Where are the coaches?

I can’t believe there’s no coach around to complain about abuse of hoop. When we visited Central at the last reunion, we kept expecting someone to chastise us for walking across the basketball court in our STREET shoes. Of course, by 2010, it was a junior high school and it was the practice gym, so maybe nobody cared.

Okeechobee High School Prom

I wish I had been able to put my hands on a photo story I shot at the Okeechobee High School Prom. I had a shot very similar to this in it. I decided I wanted to shoot an old-fashioned prom held in a gym, not a fancy coastal one held at the Flagler Museum or someplace equally high falutin’.

Okeechobee is a rural community about an hour west of West Palm Beach and on the north rim of Lake Okeechobee. I liked it because it had real trees and real people living there.

The two biggest industries were cattle and dairy farming and supporting retirees who came from the Midwest for the bass fishing. The high school advisor was very protective of her students. “I don’t want you coming out here and making these kids look like a bunch of hicks. This is a big deal for them.:”

I assured her that wasn’t my style and that I had grown up in a town not much bigger than Okeechobee.

I had to sell the story

My next task was to “sell” the story. Photographers worked for both the conservative afternoon paper, The Evening Times, and the liberal morning paper, The Palm Beach Post. The Post generally gave us much better picture play, so it was my first stop. The features editor was interested and threw out the name of the reporter he was thinking about assigning to do the words. His approach would have been exactly the one the advisor feared, so I said that I’d get back with him.

The two newspapers were separated by a walkway and a five-foot wall that was painted, we said, affectionately, Post-Times Puke Green. I crossed over.

The Times, being the underdog, liked to stick it to The Post whenever it could, so its feature editor loved the idea of snatching a good story out from under the morning paper. The only problem was they didn’t want to send a reporter. No problem, I said, give me a section front and I’ll shoot the pictures, write the copy and lay it out.

It was a blast. The student body was divided into the hippies and the cowboys. I knew immediately that I had made the right choice in not having The Post’s writer come out. He wouldn’t have been able to resist turning the kids into caricatures. I ended up with a couple of shots I like to this day. The best part was the advisor was happy when she saw the paper.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.

College High Junior-Senior Prom

I hope this will make amends to Miss Peggy Schweain for not showing her face when she was crowned College High School Prom Queen in 1967. We ran this action shot of Miss Carol Keller helping Miss Schweain adjust her crown. To add insult to injury, the caption had her last named spelled both “Schwein and “Schweain.”  (The latter is correct.)

Miss Keller is the daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Layton Keller, and Miss Schweain is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Schweain. Miss Nora Reynolds, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Reynolds, Jr., is at right. Click on the photos to make them larger.

College High Prom Court

Maybe I was trying to squeeze out an extra five bucks from the assignment, hoping the paper would run the action shot, then back it up with a group picture. I guess not. It was getting close to the end of the school year, so it was probably pushed off the page by the  glut of school news to get in. (The New York Times motto was “All the news that fit to print.” The Missourian came closer to reflecting economic realities: “All the news that fits we print.”)

The May 13, 1967, Youth Page story said the ceremony was held in the Memorial Hall ballroom. In addition to Misses Keller and Reynolds, her attendants were Miss Judy Masterson, daughter of Mrs. Evelyn Masterson, and Miss Ellen Gockel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Gockel, Jr.

The queen’s throne was placed on a platform decorated with a purple curtain held back with gold streamers. At the center of the curtain was a crown of purple velvet trimmed with gold tinsel.

Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Gilbert and the parents of the queen candidates were special guests of the juniors and seniors. The class sponsors were Wendall Wyatt and Mrs. Mary E. Magill.

(As an aside, I could have sworn that Carol Keller was a Cape Central High School student. I don’t know what I assumed that.)