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

 

 

 

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.

Last month, I got an email from Bob Stewart who was looking for photographs of the Day of Mourning for a video to mark the date. He reached out for a mutual friend, Tom Hodson, who worked on the OU Post when I was photo editor in 1967-68. Tom said I had probably the best overall collection of photos of the formal ceremony and the sit-in that followed.

We traded emails for a few day, then I sent him way more pictures than I thought he could ever use. Much to my surprise, in a day or so he produced this video that was better than I could have ever made myself.

Here’s some background on the images Bob used in the video.

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.

The 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 Whalen works out compromise

Before things could get out of hand, Police Chief Fred James, left, and James Whalen, 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.)

2013 Exhibit Catalog

In 2013, I was invited to put together an exhibit of the Day of Mourning photos for Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc., in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Athens Historical Society and Museum, the Foster and Helen Cornwell Lecture Series, University College, the Campus Involvement Center, The Athens Messenger and The Post.

Here is a catalog of selected photos in the exhibit.

Top Stories: 2009 to 2011

When I cranked up this blog on Oct. 20, 2009, I never dreamed that I’d still be churning out stories two years later. The first post contained a photo that later became one of two rotating pictures at the top of the blog page. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

This is the time when publications traditionally look at the previous year. I started to do that, but discovered that some of the top read stories from 2011 had actually run in 2010 and were still getting hits, probably from search engines. That caused me to look at what the most popular stories were overall.

 Rush Limbaugh – Koran-burning Terry Jones

The most-read story of 2010 and 2011 continues to be the coincidence that the two best-known members of the Central High School Class of 1969 are Rush Limbaugh and the kooky pastor, Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Koran (and eventually DID burn one when he was out of the spotlight).

The Sept. 9, 2010, story has garnered 14,274 pageviews, about four times as many as any other story I’ve done. It was picked up by media all over the world.

I rode tight herd on the comment section, which attracted 150 comments, to keep the train on the tracks. I was impressed by the general high tone of the discussion compared to the trash talk I saw on other sites. When it was all over, I had deleted only three comments that stepped over the line into personal attacks on other readers.

 Cape’s new water park

The second most-popular story is probably a fluke. April 18, 2010, I did a quick and dirty story on Cape’s new water park while it was still under construction and compared it to the Lickitysplit Water Slide that used to be between Cape and Jackson on Hwy 61.

It kept getting a smattering of hits during the summer of 2011, probably from people searching for information about the park. Interestingly enough, folks who got there, probably by mistake, ended up spending over two minutes reading the page, something that’s highly unusual. Folks who don’t find exactly what they’re searching for generally bounce out in about 10 seconds.

The Boat House

When you wanted to impress visitors from out of town with the homes in Cape Girardeau, there’s one place you’d always take them – The Boat House at the corner of West End Blvd. and Highland Dr., across from Capaha Park. This story attracted 2,109 readers and 28 comments, including good information from the family that owns it.

 Bill’s Transition to Jacqie

One of the most interesting and challenging stories I’ve done started out with this email: “Hi lila and kenny. Its bill jackson but if you have facebook, you will discover that many changes have taken place. It seems that after all these years I am more comfortable as Jacqie, my female half and counterpart. Florida is much more familiar with this than cape. The reunion should be very interesting.”

 Bill and Wife Lila were good friends from lifeguarding days. In fact, he was her first date in high school. We connected in Cape and St. Louis and I produced a video showing our classmate as both Bill and Jacqie. For a first effort at an ambitious project, I’m happy with the way it turned out. The page has only logged 2,024 hits, but the video has been viewed 16,106 times. I was really pleased to see how understanding the 31 commenters were and how well Jacqie was accepted at the class reunion.

Here’s a comment I posted after I saw the reaction to the piece:

“It’s amazing how much more accepting we are of others’ differences when we get a few miles on the old odometer. Maybe some things do get better with age. In a scene I had to cut because of time constraints, Bill commented, ‘We were all not exactly as kind to each other as children as we could have been, but that’s the nature of being children. You’re learning how to be human beings.’

 “Looks like my readers have done a good job passing the human being test. That’s a pretty good diploma to tack on the wall.”

 Rains, Wind and Flooding

I was in Cape during the spring of 2011 just before the near-record flooding. A page of photos showing Cape’s flood control project that kept the Town Plaza from flooding like it did in earlier decades, attracted 1,976 visitors and 28 comments. There’s a link on the page to a video I shot when Mother and I took shelter from a hail storm earlier in the week.

 Kent State, Never Forget

I can always count on getting a message from friend and fellow photographer John Lopinot every May 4. Usually the subject line says it all: “Never Forget.” May 4th, of course, is the day that four Kent State students were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.

 I pulled together a sequence of photos of protests and demonstrations I covered at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, during that tumultuous period. Another photographer and I were on our way to Kent State when word of the shootings came over the car radio. We headed back to Athens, figuring we needed to be in our own backyard that night.

The page has been read 1,876 times and attracted 27 comments, including one from my former Ohio University Post colleague Clarence Page, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a frequent talking head on TV.

From Shoe Factory to Casino

I still contend that the city missed the boat in not finding a way to make a productive use of the old shoe factory. If the old Central High School on Pacific can be re-purposed as Schultz Senior Apartments, then surely the landmark building on North Main could have been saved. It’s a moot point, though. The building was torn down decades ago and a gambling casino is going up on the property.

The page showing aerial and ground photos of the shoe factory taken in 1970 and the area around it taken before the land was cleared in 2010, drew 1,829 visitors and 22 comments, one from the granddaughter of a woman who had been scalped by machinery in the shoe factory.

Capaha Park reduced to memories

I did several stories on the razing of the Capaha Park swimming pool. This was one that hit close to home: much of Wife Lila’s teen years were spent at the pool swimming, lifeguarding and teaching swimming.

I dug out a bunch of vintage photos and turned the page loose for Lila, Bill/Jacqie Jackson and Terry Hopkins to write about how much that hole in the ground meant to them. Terry’s account ended, “At one time, I wanted my ashes scattered on the hill above the pool just so I could be close and watch people having fun at a place I loved. Farewell my 12-foot deep, 8-lane, L-shaped fun factory and memory maker, farewell.”

There were 35 comments, some almost as long as the original piece. A total of 1,654 people visited the page.

 Central High School ’60s reunion

June 27, 2010, I ran one of several galleries of photos of the 1960s decade class reunion. It picked up 1,641 readers and 23 comments.

On the last night, I was moved to write, “This isn’t my favorite photo of the weekend, far from it. It’s a mediocre image from a technical standpoint, but it’s the one that caused a wave of deja vu to wash over me.

 “It was the end of the evening. The crowd was starting to drift away. A few couples got up to dance. I climbed up on the stage for a higher angle and stood there holding my camera and waiting for a photo to happen.

 “Suddenly I was transported back forty-plus years. It dawned on me that my life had come full circle. I was the same kid I was in high school who was AT the event, but not PART of the event.”

This account of the last night contains links to all of the reunion pages.

 Annie Laurie’s Laurie Ann

There’s a bit of nepotism here. Laurie Everett, who owns Annie Laurie’s Antiques on Broadway across from Shivelbine’s, is my wife’s niece. Putting that aside, she’s a shrewd businesswoman who was worth a story because of the building she’s in (the old Brinkopf-Howell Funeral Home) and for her interesting life. The petite blonde was an army MP who was an Expert marksman before she got into the antique business. She’s as good at that as she is with a gun: her shop was rated #1 Antique Shop in Cape County three out of three years (maybe four, since that story was done in 2010).

It’s not your typical stodgy antique shop. She makes good use of social media and has developed quite a following of SEMO students with her emphasis on vintage clothing, dorm makeovers and competition for models to become the face of the shop.

 Tornado drills and the JFK assassination

I stopped by Alma Schrader School to get some photos identified just as they were conducting a tornado drill. That give me a flashback to that stormy day in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I took photos of students gathered around a TV in the gym and rushed them to The Missourian to make my first EXTRA!

 Wimpy’s in 1966, 1967 and 2009

There are two topics that will always bring in readers and comments: Wimpy’s Drive-in and the Blue Hole BBQ. Everybody who grew up in that era has fond memories of both.

I shot a night time exposure photo of the intersection of Cape Rock Drive and North Kingshighway in 1966 that showed the traffic patterns in and around Wimpy’s. In 1967, I shot a wreck at the intersection with the drive-in in the background. By 2009, Wimpy’s was gone and the intersection had changed, but I tried the time exposure technique again.

Readers: 1,552; comments: 31, including much discussion of a shootout near there that took  the lives of two Cape police officers.

 Top Stories of 2011

In addition to the 2009 and 2010 stories above, here are the top stories that were published in 2011:

  •  Cape’s tornado of 1949: a riveting account of the May 21, 1949, tornado that killed 22 people, hospitalized 72 and injured hundreds, written by a pregnant newlywed to her mother on pages torn from a day calendar. If you haven’t read it, you should.
  • Do these photos say Cape? A collection of photos of Cape Girardeau for use by the city on its web page.
  • 43 years of Cairo photographs: I’ve been fascinated with Cairo since I covered my first riot there in 1967. This was a collection of photos of the town which is, unfortunately, disappearing a block at a time.
  • Arena Park Stock Car races: Vintage photos of the Arena Park stock car races. Some of them are classics.

 Mind-numbing statistics

Since the site started in 2009, it has seen its pages viewed 565,631 times. I’ve written 641 posts containing 512,268 words and you all have left 5,728 comments. In fact, commenters have written 391,796 words, almost as many as I have in the original stories. The depth of detail in those comments is astounding. I’ve posted nearly 5,600 photos.

Support this site

Here’s a link to my Tower Rock book and my 2012 calendar.

In addition, if you do your Amazon shopping by clicking on any of the Amazon ads on the page, I get a tiny percentage of your purchase without it costing you anything additional.

 

 

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.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.