Dickinson College, Fall 2023

Category: 1970s Page 1 of 2

Vietnam Through A Veteran’s Eyes

Vietnam Through A Veteran’s Eyes

Sam Schmidt, History 118

One November morning in 1968, twenty-five-year-old Jerry Begley disembarked from a military aircraft at Travis Air Force Base in California. He and a cohort of other young veterans were thanking their lucky stars for returning home from Vietnam in one piece. Buses whisked the tired troops to San Francisco International Airport for their flights home. None of them anticipated that they would soon be intercepted by the city’s many antiwar protesters. “We were there at three o’clock in the morning”, Begley recalls incredulously, “and there were lots of protesters”.[1] The bus driver promised to drop the veterans as close to the door as possible as the protesters began to approach the buses. As their bus neared the entrance, Begley remembers, “The protesters…[were] throwing stuff against the buses…[then] we got off. I didn’t get hit with anything. Some guys got hit with eggs. We got inside and from that point on, then everything was okay”.[2]

Whatever Begley and the other Vietnam veterans expected of their return, surely it was not bitterness from their own countrymen. Begley had guarded convoys, patrolled the streets of Saigon, and defended the American Embassy during the Tet Offensive of 1968. He had involuntarily weathered twelve months of harsh and dangerous Army life at the nexus of one of the most controversial foreign-policy engagements in American history. In his book American Dreams: The United States Since 1945, H.W. Brands says that Vietnam “seared itself onto the American mind”.[3] Brands’ own coverage of the Vietnam War is appropriately detailed and complex. However, it does not fully encapsulate the experience of Vietnam veterans like Begley, who fought and returned home only to often find themselves relegated to the fringes of both collective memory and any discussion of the war.

Click above for background on Vietnam and Begley’s thoughts on the conflict before his service.

Begley in Vietnam, 1967 or 1968.

Begley was drafted into the Army in 1966 and arrived in Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, in late 1967, where he worked as an MP (military policeman). Cycles of routine security patrols soon devolved into the war’s turning point: the 1968 Tet Offensive, wherein a supposedly handicapped Viet Cong coordinated elaborate attacks across South Vietnam. Begley and other MPs witnessed Viet Cong sappers bomb the US Embassy; Brands calls this event the “handwriting on the…wall” for the war’s future.[4] Begley says he realized then that the war was a “losing affair”, despite assurances otherwise from the military brass.[5] Brands similarly contends that many U.S. generals acted unfazed by the offensive.[6] However, this posturing was belied by changes in policy on the ground. Before the offensive, Begley was instructed, “We were told to respect the Vietnamese…and only return fire. We couldn’t shoot first. After [Tet], it was different. All of that went away”.[7] Brands effectively corroborates this situation, recalling Marine Philip Caputo’s encounters with frightened Vietnamese confronted with forceful American suspicion.[8] Already-wary American troops had to treat the people they were supposed to defend as foes. The war had taken a turn, and not for the better. However, Begley was out by November 1968. He had been fighting the Vietnam War a world away; he returned to a country fighting itself over the deteriorating situation there. He had not chosen Vietnam service, but he now found himself representing the divisive war, for better or worse.

The airport reception was the only antiwar protest Begley ever witnessed. San Francisco specifically was a hotbed of pacifist activism at the time, which Brands connects to the growing 1960s counterculture movement.[9] Condemnation of the war varied from complex accusations of imperialism to simple moral outrage. Verified accounts of the directly anti-soldier protests Begley saw are uncommon. However, Begley remembers an officer warning his bus cohort to ignore the insults and projectiles, knowing that any reaction would play into the protesters’ hands.[10] Evidently, this was a repeat experience for the officers. However, the situation for returning veterans varied significantly, and it remains a source of debate.

Accounts of veteran-protester interactions like Begley’s form a complex tapestry. The sociologist Jerry Lembcke asserts that the infamous stories of protesters spitting on returning veterans were likely fictitious.[11]Brands doesn’t really weigh in on these events, only offering vague accounts of Vietnam veterans participating in a diverse march on the Pentagon.[12] Begley never protested the war, and he was not sympathetic of the protesters: “I thought they were totally wrong, because they’re protesting the soldiers that were there under orders. We didn’t make the decision to go there”.[13] Jerry’s return to conservative rural Iowa was much warmer, and most veterans likely didn’t experience what he had in San Francisco.[14] But it was still not the welcome many had hoped for. 53 percent of surveyed Vietnam veterans called the often-lukewarm reaction to their return a “big letdown”; 79 percent agreed that people “just didn’t understand” what they had endured.[15]Jubilant parades welcoming returning WWII veterans still loomed large in the national memory; many Vietnam veterans glumly wondered where that sentiment had gone.

Antiwar protest in San Francisco, 1967. (Harvey Richards Media Archive)

The country debated Vietnam until its end, but evidently, many veterans simply felt shut out of that discourse. Brands never really covers their postwar experience. Of course, he cannot document everything, but he gives significant attention to WWII veterans and their role in the growing postwar economy, from the demobilization to the GI Bill to the baby boom.[16] Although he assures the reader that people simply wanted to move on from WWII, one wonders if that sentiment is really more applicable to Vietnam.[17] WWII had vindicated America’s economy, military might, and national spirit. The ever-decaying effort to prop up South Vietnam was fostering little more than doubt about all three. But whatever the case, life moved on back home.

Begley finished another year of service in Chicago before returning to Springville, Iowa, in 1969. He settled into a job and started a family. He didn’t discuss his service much afterwards. “Military service was respected” there, Begley remembers.[18] However, he also recalls, “For a long time you would hear the occasional comment about drugged-up Vietnam vets”.[19] Begley says he never saw hard drug use in Vietnam, although he concedes that his fellow MPs, as enforcers, would be less likely to partake.[20] Nonetheless, drugs were very present in Vietnam, and fed a common stereotype of the troops as demoralized, lazy junkies. Brands somewhat feeds this narrative of chronic addiction among the troops, citing a 1971 report alleging that one-sixth of the Vietnam force was addicted to heroin.[21] Epidemiologist Lee Robins disputed this assertion, also noting that Vietnam veterans rarely resumed drug use once home.[22] These comments, probably coming from Iowan conservatives who likely supported the war, reflect the social complexities of the time. The rising tide of drug alarmism was adopted by Nixon in 1971 in the “War on Drugs”, and many citizens flinched to see drugs proliferate in the proud U.S. Army. Desertions, heroin, crumbling resolve? What had become of the Vietnam war effort?

The unpopular and unsuccessful war did not last much longer. In 1973, the U.S. withdrew its last troops from South Vietnam; by 1975, the North Vietnamese communists overran the country and negated nearly two decades of American effort. Begley’s second daughter was a toddler by then. Besides the home loan, his service was fading into the background. Indeed, he recalls little reaction to the war’s end. He was happy to see long-imprisoned American POWs freed, but otherwise he recalls thinking, “The war’s over now…put it behind us, I guess”.[23]

Evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon, 1975. Begley helped to defend this building during the Tet Offensive in 1968. (PBS)

Many Americans certainly wanted to put Vietnam behind them. Lembcke calls the loss a “tough pill to swallow”, particularly given the lingering triumphalism of WWII.[24] Jerry reflects, “It was definitely a waste of 58,000 American lives. Definitely a waste of tons of material…and a bunch of money. To prove nothing”.[25] If the war proved anything, it was that the U.S. was not an omnipotent power. As Brands puts it, Vietnam unveiled the lesson that “When in doubt, America must not [fight]”, a stark reversal of the hyper-vigilant anticommunism of the early Cold War.[26] The country is still yet to fight another war on Vietnam’s scale.

Scale defined the Vietnam War. The commitment of 2.6 million soldiers, 58,000 lives, and some one trillion 2023 dollars was precisely what made the loss so harsh.[27] Brands’ book covers grand figures and broad trends in American history like these, and for good reason. However, the individual stories of the war are equally valuable. They have often been defined by political strife, memories of addiction and desertion, or just the defeatist pity of an ugly loss. As with all wars, though, life went on. Begley himself worked, raised two daughters, traveled the world, and enjoys a comfortable retirement today. His service did not define him, but neither is it invisible. However unpleasantly forgettable Vietnam proved to be, it was an experience that personally impacted millions of Americans. Brands is right to argue that Vietnam “seared itself on the American mind”.[28] It divided and challenged the country in more ways than historians can expect to document, stirring both the unfamiliar fidgeting of loss and the militant fires of protest. Americans both immortalized the war and tucked it away. Begley balances these instincts. “The war probably shouldn’t be remembered,” he reflects. “The people that lost their lives, like the Vietnam War tribute wall, that’s very appropriate. The only memory I would cherish would be the wall”.[29] And neither can the living be forgotten.

Begley (far left) and other veterans revisit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 2023. It commemorates 58,276 soldiers who gave their lives in Vietnam. Currently, it is estimated that over 500 Vietnam veterans die every day. [30] (Russell Hons Photography)

[1] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, and Stalker Lake, MN, November 27, 2023.

[2] Ibid.

[3] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York, Penguin Books, 2010), 175.

[4] Ibid., 155.

[5] Brands, 175.

[6] Brands, 157.

[7] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, and Stalker Lake, MN, December 4, 2023.

[8] Brands, 143-145.

[9] Ibid., 147.

[10] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[11] Jerry Lembcke, “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester,” The New York Times, October 13, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/opinion/myth-spitting-vietnam-protester.html. [Google]

[12] Brands, 154.

[13] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[14] Email Interview with Jerry Begley, December 4, 2023.

[15] Loch Johnson. “Political Alienation Among Vietnam Veterans,” The Western Political Quarterly 29, 3 (September 1976): 398-409, https://doi.org/10.2307/447512. [JSTOR]

[16] Brands, 13, 17, 27, 69, 78.

[17] Ibid., 22.

[18] Email Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, December 4, 2023.

[19] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Brands, 170.

[22] Lee N. Robins et al., “How Permanent Was Vietnam Drug Addiction?,” American Journal of Public Health 62, 12 (December 1974): 38-43, 10.2105/ajph.64.12_suppl.38. [PubMed Central]

[23] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[24] Lembcke, 2017.

[25] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[26] Brands, 175.

[27] “The War’s Costs”, Digital History, 2021, https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3468.

[28] Brands, 175.

[29] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

[30] Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, “The Unclaimed Soldier: A Final Salute for the Growing Number of Veterans Who Have No One to Bury Them,” The Washington Post, November 11, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/11/unclaimed-soldier/ (accessed December 1, 2023). [Google]

[31] Video Interview with Jerry Begley, Carlisle, PA, November 27, 2023.

Appendix I: Additional Photos

Begley took this photo of an MP security convoy in Saigon, 1967 or 1968.

Marines resting after a Tet Offensive battle, one of some 120 that occurred across the country in late winter 1968. (Associated Press)

Begley and his wife Diane, before and after his tour of duty, October 1967 and 1968.

Celebratory parade in Seattle for returning troops, 1969. Such pictures of returning troops are rare, and none exist of the protests Begley encountered. (HistoryLink)

Begley in 2023 returning from an Honor Flight. These trips to Washington, D.C. are provided free of cost to veterans. Jerry described the celebratory welcome as “something I’ve never experienced before”.[31] (Russell Hons Photography)

Appendix II: Initial Interview and Transcript

“The vain struggle…seared itself on the American mind” (H.W. Brands, “American Dreams”, 175)

Interview subject: Jerry L. Begley, age 80, former U.S. military policeman, served at American Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam from 1967-1968 before returning to the U.S. and reentering civilian life in his home state of Iowa.

Zoom Interview with Jerry L. Begley from Carlisle, PA and Stalker Lake, MN, November 27, 2023.

Q: What were your feelings on the Cold War in general before your service?

A: I agreed with the [containment doctrine] in my own evidently, perhaps naïve way sometimes, but yeah, I thought it was the right thing to do, because we didn’t want Soviet aggression in all those countries. So I thought that was okay.

Q: What were your feelings on military service before and during your being drafted?

A: I wouldn’t have decided to [volunteer]. But when I entered military service, it was still okay. It was a Midwestern thing to do. There was no protests going on of the war – in Iowa, anyway. Okay, so yeah, we’ll go do this. It was the thing to do.

Q: How did your views of the war evolve during your service?

A: Initially, I thought, this is what we gotta do, I’m in the army, I’ll do what I’m told to do. But I was there during the Tet Offensive on January 31st, 1968, at that time, what I would call a disconnected NVA and Viet Cong army overran military installations, they bombed the embassy [in Saigon]. And from that point on, I thought, if they can still do this in 1968, we’re never going to defeat them. That turned a lot of people against the war, and us also, because if they continue to do so, this is going to be a losing affair…it was definitely a waste of 58,000 American lives. Definitely a waste of tons of material…and a bunch of money. To prove nothing.

Q: What was your experience with commonly narrated tropes about Vietnam veterans: drugs, desertion, violence, et cetera? Did you experience this?

A: There wasn’t much drug use within the MPs because if you got caught, you were out the door to [an] infantry unit or whatever…but there was drug use amongst troops…There were desertions in Vietnam amongst troops. As a matter of fact, our military police unit would conduct raids at times on a refugee area just outside of Saigon where deserters were known to stay. So we’d go in there and search that and yes, we’d find some deserters. I didn’t really feel [any emotion either way about that]…it was just a job. A couple I remember in particular were just plain afraid of the war. They weren’t mad or anything. They were just afraid…they were young guys – they were just afraid.

Q: What were the reactions to your service when you came home?

A: I flew into Travis Air Force Base in California to get processed out and then we went from there in buses to the San Francisco International Airport. There were protesters outside the Travis Air Force Base, protesting us and throwing stuff against the buses and stuff. We got to San Francisco International, and we were there at three o’clock in the morning. And there were lots of protesters there…so we got off [the bus]. I didn’t get hit with anything. Some guys got hit with eggs. We got inside and from that point on, then everything was okay. So after that, I came back to Iowa. There was no protesting in Iowa. Every once in a while you’d hear some comments about some drugged-up Vietnam vets, but there wasn’t any protesting.

Q: What did you think of the protests?

A: No I thought they were totally wrong. Because they’re protesting the soldiers that were there under orders. We didn’t make the decision to go there…the politicians made those decisions. And that was the general feeling. Why do they want to protest us? And you’d hear terms like “baby killers” and all that, and that may well have happened, but they were protesting our involvement in the war.

Q: How did you feel about the conclusion of the war after you had come home?

A: As part of the peace accord…they got to bring all the POWs home…I thought, that’s wonderful…[Otherwise] the war’s over now. They’re home safe. But uh, put it behindd behind us, I guess.

Q: How did you feel about how Vietnam should be remembered?

A: The war probably shouldn’t be remembered. The people that lost their lives, like the Vietnam War tribute wall that’s now up to them, that’s very appropriate. Everything else…yeah. The only memory I would cherish would be the wall.

Further Research:

Boyle, Brenda M. “Naturalizing War: The Stories We Tell about the Vietnam War” In Looking Back on the Vietnam War: Twenty-first-Century Perspectives, 175-192. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2016. [JSTOR]

Michael Clark. “Remembering Vietnam,” Cultural Critique 3, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 46-78. https://doi.org/10.2307/1354165. [JSTOR]

  1. Drummond Ayres Jr, “Army Is Shaken by Crisis In Morale and Discipline,” The New York Times, September 5, 1971. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/09/05/archives/army-is-shaken-by-crisis-in-morale-and-discipline-army-is-shaken-by.html (accessed November 15, 2023). [New York Times Archive]

David Flores. “Memories of War: Sources of Vietnam Veteran Pro- and Antiwar Political Attitudes,” Sociological Forum 29, no. 1 (March 2014): 98-119. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43653934. [JSTOR]

Eric T. Jean, Jr. “The Myth of the Troubled and Scorned Vietnam Veteran,” Journal of American Studies 26, no. 1 (April 1992), 59-74. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27555590. [Article, Waidner-Spahr Library]

Loch Johnson. “Political Alienation Among Vietnam Veterans,” The Western Political Quarterly 29, no. 3 (September 1976): 398-409. https://doi.org/10.2307/447512. [JSTOR]

Jerry Lembcke, “The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester,” The New York Times, October 13, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/opinion/myth-spitting-vietnam-protester.html (accessed November 15, 2023). [Google]

The Farm from Caravan to Changeover

“We were raised to think that we were that we were the people in the world who were living the right way.

– Jen Cort, The Farm resident from 1973 to 1984


“’The cultural cliché has it that the flower children danced at Woodstock, crashed at Altamont, and gradually shed their naïve ideals as they made themselves into ice-cream moguls, media magnates, and triangulating politicians,’ Jim Windolf wrote in Vanity Fair in 2007. ‘But the 200 people who live at the Farm,” he added, ‘have managed to hang on to the hippie spirit.’”

-Stephen Gaskin’s Obituary, NYT


The American Yawp textbook calls the 1960s and 70s a time of the counterculture that was defined by “Rock ‘n’ roll, liberalized sexuality, an embrace of diversity, recreational drug use, unalloyed idealism, and pure earnestness.”[1] However, the counterculture was more than just a common group of sentiments and pop-culture items. Many who considered themselves members of the counterculture launched new ventures and made attempts to change the world. One type of attempt at changing the world was the creation of communes. My mother, her siblings, and her stepfathers lived on a commune called The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.

Gaskin teaching on The Farm in 1972 – Courtesy of LA Times

Stephen Gaskin was an English professor turned activist who lectured on the use of psychedelic drugs and world religions. Gaskin amassed a following of roughly 300 people in a caravan of brightly painted school buses and VW vans. The group traveled around the country gaining followers on the way to a 1050-acre farm just south of Nashville. [2] Jen Cort, her mother Carol, and her sister Michelle joined the caravan. “We started our trip from Seattle to Tennessee when I was three and I arrived right after I turned four.” The rolling hills and open fields that later became The Farm were undeveloped, “I lived with my mom, my sister, and my mom’s friend in our bus” with little insulation a small camp stove for cooking and heat.[3]

The bus Jen Cort, her sister Michelle, and Mother traveled and lived in. -Courtesy of Jen Cort

New Farm commits were drawn to the commune for a variety of reasons. “There were a lot of things that went into the decision-making factor. One of the biggest drivers was fleeing the draft, Vietnam. But also, Ina May, who’s considering one of the Mothers of midwifery in this country, she really wanted a place to develop her midwifery practices and Steven, our founder, was her husband.”[4] Though the Vietnam War was coming to a close when Cort arrived at The Farm, anti-war sentiments ran hand-in-hand with an interest in returning to a simpler way of life; “we were creating the ideal life and being very centered on being in touch with nature, working to help people…and very close to the earth.[5] To ensure proximity to the earth, Farm residents followed a few expectations that fit with the commune’s philosophy; “the Farm’s young men in straw hats and beards and women in long skirts lived an almost puritanical life. They took vows of poverty and pooled their assets. Vegetarianism was mandatory. Mr. Gaskin banned alcohol, tobacco and, to the surprise of many, LSD, though not marijuana. Plenty work — considered a form of meditation — was assigned. Artificial birth control was forbidden.”[6] Future Vice President, Al Gore was friendly with Gaskin and wrote about The Farm for the Tennessean. “Gaskin’s followers eat no meat because they say they have made a ‘spiritual agreement’ with the animals. ‘There would be a lot more vegetarians if everyone had to kill his own meat,’ Gaskin said later.”[7] Gaskin’s followers also participated in the use of drugs and psychedelics, “he admits that his followers smoke it and occasionally do stronger drugs like peyote and psylocybin — or ‘mushrooms’ as they refer to it.”[8]

Cort, a child during her time on The Farm, did not participate in the drug use, however, she remembers her time growing up on The Farm as revolutionary and happy, “we always took history from different people’s perspective, like we had Native American history and women’s history…I remember our 5th-grade history class was around socialism and communism and how countries like Russia had done it wrong and failed with communism, but that we were doing it right.[9] The Farm was a largely idealistic place and was known internationally for its revolutionary ideals. “[Gaskin and The Farm Band] were on the Donahue show…[in] Time magazine, in the New York Times…Globally, they thought that we were doing right…At one point there were famous musicians and scientists, and you know writers who would come and spend time there because we were living in the way that people should live and not being as interested in what they call the material plane meaning physical things. “[10] One famous visitor was the mathematician Buckminster Fuller who was Cort’s math teacher and who she remembers teaching her to use a compass.

The Farm School Class Photo -Courtesy of Jen Cort

Despite idealistic and peaceful appearances, the conservative and rural local community surrounding The Farm did not always appreciate the communes presence. “We had a sign at the end of our road, and we couldn’t have advertisements about where we were because people would want to attack us, throughout my whole childhood people tried to attack us.[11] In an attempt to protect members of The Farm community and children from aggressive locals, most children weren’t allowed to leave the property unaccompanied and when they did they were buffered by adults speaking to locals for them. At the start of Cort’s freshman year in high school, she decided to secretly attend the public school off The Farm. After she started attending school she was exposed to the full brunt of local criticism, “We were called Devil worshippers, which I didn’t know what that meant but I knew it was bad.” After classmates at her school learned that Cort was living on The Farm, “I lost my status at school. I had sleepovers at my friend’s house all the time and then I couldn’t go to people’s houses after they found out I was from The Farm. I was a cheerleading alternate which at our school was a really big thing but then I was kicked off the team. Teachers started treating me differently because they suddenly knew where I was from. And so, it was very hard.[12]

Cort and Farm kids -Courtesy of Jen Cort

Cort says leaving The Farm school to attend a local high school was a contentious decision. After our recorded conversation, Cort explained that Gaskin grew angry with Cort and her mother for deciding to let Cort attend school off The Farm. She said Gaskin was verbally abusive to her. Gaskin’s relationship with Cort and her mother Carol may have also been related to Carol’s role in what is now called “the Changeover.” The Changeover was a moment in which The Farm reached a financial tipping point. The Farm had established many companies including a book-publishing business, a pickle company, a sorghum syrup brand, a Geiger counter-producer,[13] an ice cream company, and a successful midwifery clinic.[14] Despite many business ventures, The Farm was not making enough money to continue to feed the commune’s population or make payments on loans. Cort remembers “we were almost always hungry and cold and without shoes.[15] As a last effort to keep The Farm economically viable a fellow community member,  “Michael and [Cort’s mother Carol] worked together to orchestrate what is commonly referred to as the Changeover…The local bank was saying if you don’t pay back some of these loans, were going to take the land.”[16] Effectively, the 1983 Changeover meant “each adult Farm member was required to contribute financially toward the annual budget and operating expenses for the community.”[17] The Changeover marked a fundamental change in the history of The Farm, “Mom knew, and Michael knew before anyone else that the decisions they were making were going to completely alter the future of The Farm.”[18] The Farm was transformed overnight from a place mostly free of financial obligations in which the essence of the counterculture lived on to an intentional community which maintained some ideals of the old Farm. However, with the reintroduction of money to The Farm, it was nearly unrecognizable. “Nobody had any income like I don’t remember seeing a dollar bill when I was little, I had no idea that…something that was paper could buy me something,” said Cort.[19]

The Farm changed fundamentally after the Changeover and many families who came for the idealistic community that existed before began to leave The Farm. Cort and her family stayed for only a short while later before leaving themselves. By 1983, the Vietnam war had ended eight years previous and the peak of the counterculture movement had ended about a decade before. The Farm was an attempt to prolong and live out the values that anti-war and counterculture movements espoused. The end of The Farm as a commune and its transition into an intentional community was “entirely financial;” most of Gaskin’s and The Farm’s beliefs had remained intact until the very end, proving that intentional living and a radical way of life was possible.


[1] Samuel Abramson et al., “The Sixties,” Samuel Abramson, ed., in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018).

[2] “History Timeline.” Accessed May 7, 2021. https://thefarmcommunity.com/history-timeline/.

[3] Phone Interview with Jen Cort, April 29, 2021.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Martin, Douglas. “Stephen Gaskin, Hippie Who Founded an Enduring Commune, Dies at 79.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 3, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/us/stephen-gaskin-hippie-who-founded-an-enduring-commune-dies-at-79.html.

[7] Gore, Albert. “Church Group Swaps Views with Gaskin.” The Tennessean. March 13, 1972. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2014/07/07/from-the-archive-church-group-swaps-views-with-gaskins/12312875/.

[8] Ibid

[9] Phone Interview with Jen Cort, April 29, 2021.

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Ibid

[13] Martin, Douglas. “Stephen Gaskin, Hippie Who Founded an Enduring Commune, Dies at 79.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 3, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/us/stephen-gaskin-hippie-who-founded-an-enduring-commune-dies-at-79.html.

[14] Phone Interview with Jen Cort, April 29, 2021.

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] The Changeover. Accessed May 8, 2021. https://thefarmcommunity.com/the-changeover/.

[18] Phone Interview with Jen Cort, April 29, 2021.

[19] Ibid


Phone Interview with Jen Cort, April 29, 2021.

Selected Transcript

Q: How long did you live on the Farm and with who?  

A: We started our trip from Seattle to Tennessee when I was three and I arrived either right after I turned 4 or right around that time and we left when I was a junior in high school. And when I went there, I lived with my mom and my sister and my mom’s friend and our bus. 


Q: As a kid on the Farm did you think of the Farm as different than the rest of the world? 

A: Oh yeah, we were raised to think that we were that we were the people in the world who were living the right planning. But I mean, the world was literally on the farm and off the farm and off the farm. People living on the Farm were people who were living the right way, and everyone off the Farm was living wrong, which was really weird to me because. A lot of my friends didn’t have both their parents on the farm, but I was one of the only ones who saw my dad regularly and I knew he was a good person so I didn’t understand that. But we were absolutely raised that we were the only ones living in the right way. 


Q: Did people living on the Farm make it seem like they were there to make an intentional community or were there other intentions for being there? 

A: There were a lot of things that went into the decision making factor. One of the biggest drivers was fleeing the draft, Vietnam. But also Aina May, who’s considering one of the Mothers of midwifery in this country, she really wanted a place to develop my midwifery practices and Steven, our founder, was her husband. I know that there was a couple of years where people scouted out land around the country to try to find where we could go live. And then it was supposed to be that we were creating the ideal life and being very centered on being in touch with nature, working to help people, but very much in a white savior way and very close to the earth. 


Q: How would people that lived on the Farm describe the Farm when they talked about it? 


A: That’s a really good question. And part of why I’m struggling with that question is because I didn’t hear people on the farm talk about it much because we didn’t spend time with people who weren’t from them, so I didn’t hear them describe it up. I know when Nan would take us to our grandparents and my dad’s. She would always just talk about how we were having fun and we were planting and growing our food and we were learning a lot and that you know it was very much the idealized version of it. She certainly never talked about that we were almost always hungry and cold and without shoes. It was always like the girls are learning to ride horses and things like that 

By the way, if we would leave and go to Summertown like where Roberts from, we were told not to talk to him. As kids we didn’t talk to people from who weren’t part of the farm. Often the grownups did because we had companies that made money in other places, but we would even ride our bikes from the farm to the little like general store that was across from Robert’s house and we would be told, you know that we had to go with the grown up and the grown-up was going into and speak for us. We weren’t allowed to go in and speak for them for ourselves. 


Q: Was the farm nationally known at the time you were living there? 

A: It was internationally known. They were on the Donahue show which is, you know, it’s like Oprah then Time magazine in the New York Times there was a of lot of interest in U.S. and we had centers all over the world. Globally, they thought that we were doing right and that we were just people and that we were being raised in the right way. You know we had people from the farm and my family who were invited to go be on Greenpeace. At one point there were famous musicians and scientists, and you know writers who would come and spend time there because we were living in the way that people should live and not being as interested in in what they call the material plane meaning physical things. 


Q: Did people on the farm think of it as like a philosophical thought experiment, or was it like a political statement? 

A: Both. I remember in one of our history classes we always took history from different people’s perspective, like we had Native American history and women’s history, and one of the history classes that we took was. I remember in 5th grade history class was around socialism and communism and how countries like Russia had done it wrong and failed as with communism, but that we were doing it right. 

And so, it was very much like a physical experiment and the centers around the world were designed to go in and do things like run irrigation to towns that didn’t have it and teach women in Guatemala how to nurse and care for their babies? And then it was also a philosophical experiment because Steven was considered to be on a higher level; a higher ordered person than other people. He was a spiritual leader, and he was known internationally for. 

Q: Could you just talk a little bit about what the Farm’s relationship to local was?  


A: Like I said, we didn’t have a lot of experience with people from off the farm. We didn’t meet very often and when we did we, you know, we were fairly protected. My dad, grandpa Dan. He was our postmaster and so he had this truck that had always all post boxes in it and so I would get to go into town with him about once a week to go pick up the Mail and then I would get to go to the store and sometimes I would be able to get a V8 or a banana or something like that. There I would hear people talk about us in a different way. 

I’m not relating it to racism or anything, but the way people talked about us was kind of some of the things you hear people say about black people. As a kid, I distinctly remember somebody saying that they couldn’t believe how articulate I was and that they couldn’t believe I was clean. 

I didn’t know the full extent of it until I went to public school and Robert told me not to tell anyone where I was from, and I had to sneak to get off the farm to go to school. I would leave in the dark, walk a couple of miles in the dark to the bus stop and wait for the bus to come. When I got to school, I started hearing people talk about the farm. Nobody knew I was from there, but they would say things like we didn’t know who our dad was, and that we had free loves and free drugs and all these other things. 

We were called that Devil worshippers which I didn’t know what that meant but I knew it was bad. I didn’t know what they meant because we didn’t talk like that on the farm and then  I was in public school for a year. My friend Peter came to school from the Farm school, so he and I knew, but we didn’t tell anyone, and then everyone, all the kids from the Farm school started to go to our public school. Then everyone knew who we were and all of a sudden, I lost my status at school. I had sleepovers at my friend’s house all the time and then I couldn’t go to people houses after they found out I was from the Farm. I was a cheerleading alternate which at our school is a really big thing but then I was kicked off the team. Teachers started treating me differently because they suddenly knew where I was from. And so it was very hard. 

So, and one other thing about the locals, we had a sign at the end of our road, and we couldn’t have advertisements about where we were because people would want to attack us, throughout my whole childhood because people tried to attack us. 


Q: Did adults on the farm talk about the counterculture and larger political movements outside the farm 

Yeah, so people would come to the farm you couldn’t just walk in and say I’m going to live here. You had to go through this whole process called soaking. You had to live up by the gate for a couple weeks and then hope to be sponsored by somebody and live in their house and then the house would decide if you should get membership. But there were people who came who were fleeing the draft and the local people at the local government had no idea who was there, although they tried to raid us and bust us all that. Steven went to jail for avoiding the draft at one point and they were always trying to imprison him. That’s why we had that holiday 4/20 because they came and said that we were growing weed all over the place, but we weren’t we’re growing ragweed. There were all these helicopters came and landed in our field and people and guns came after us. 

Stephen would leave the farm all the time and he would preach around the world and even preach on TV. He was considered a leader and teacher of the counterculture narrative like you know now if I tell people, I’m from the farm, it’s not uncommon that people know what I’m talking about.  

There was a huge amount of media attention on us. And we had our own school system and local universities would come in and send their teachers to observe us because we were presented as like an idealized version of education. So, we were very well known and very much thought to be one of the leaders of deep thinking and higher-level thinking. 


Q: Do you think the reason that the farm stopped operating the way it did was because of bigger global changes? Or because of smaller things within the community? 

A: It was entirely financial. The thing was that a lot of the people who lived on the farm were highly educated and came from fairly welltodo families, however we did not make enough money to support what we were doing. There was a book publishing company which my uncle ran and you know Hops and Grampa Dan operated the ice cream company, and all those companies were meant to bring money into the farm. And we had a clinic and an ambulance, and doctors and midwives but we did not have surgical facilities and we were going into debt. Michael and my mom worked together to orchestrate what is commonly referred to as the changeover. The changeover is thought to be the end of the farm as it was because. The local bank was saying if you don’t pay back some of these loans, we’re gonna take the land. Which is why the land grant is written in such a weird way that it can never be sold because they’ve made it really complicated to protect it from being seized. 

So, the changeover happened, and Nana was part of it. Auntie Shell was considered a teen elder. We had elders who made our decisions and Stephen blamed Nana and Dan for the fall of the Farm economically and blamed me for the fall of the education system.  

People were told you can stay here, but you’re gonna have to pay rent, which was the first time ever. 

And if your kids go to our school, you have to pay tuition. But Nobody had had any income, like I don’t remember ever seeing a dollar bill when I was little like I had no idea that paper, something that was paper could buy me something. 

When the changeover happened, if you worked for a company on the farm, and you wanted to own that company, you could. The whole reason why we moved from being a commune to what was then referred to as an intentional community is the changeover, and it was entirely financial. 

Steven was verbally abusive tome. 

Nana and Michael were working so long and so hard and they would take a couple quarters and get a thing of M&Ms and divide them up because they knew before anyone else that what they were doing to make the changeover happen. Mom knew, and Michael knew before anyone else that the decisions they were making were going to completely alter the future of the farm. 


Selected Images – Courtesy of Jen Cort

Chasing the American Dream

Chasing the American Dream
by David Ndreca


[NOTE:  Both the subject and the interviewer switch languages as per convenience, therefore, the transcript has been translated and appropriated.]

“Immigrants dreamed the same dreams that immigrants always have–of opportunity in America for themselves and their children” Brands writes in his American Dreams.[1]

In this short piece, I will introduce the story of Marcello Cardillo, an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1966 to chase the American Dream. The focus of my story is the description of Cardillo’s journey, which demonstrates the hardships and sacrifices an immigrant had to go through to get to the land of the free and opportunities. Not only will I describe his journey, but also the nature of his success and his consequent ability to help others, who, just like him, dreamed of America. This piece follows the spirit of Brands’ statement, supplementing it and giving it a more sensitive perspective.

In the late 1930’s, Marcello Cardillo’s father, Peppe Cardillo—a U.S. born citizen—was taken back to Italy by his parents and, he was never allowed to come to the U.S. again. In 1940 he was drafted to Africa.[2]Specifically, he was drafted in the Italian Eastern Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), a complex of territories made up of ancient Italian colonial possessions of Somalia, the Eritrean Colony and the Ethiopian Empire.[3]During the war, Peppe lost a leg and was sent back to Italy. Unable to provide for his family, Peppe sent his young kids to work in the fields but it was not enough to feed a family of seven, with a sick mother and a disabled father.[4]Many Italians who emigrated to the United States during the 20s and 30s eventually returned to Italy, “a rarely noted fact that reveals a fundamental ambivalence about being in the United States.”[5]Known as “soujourners” or “economic opportunists” these immigrants came to the U.S. to make money and return home to buy land and open businesses.[6]

At the age of 16, Marcello Cardillo applied, along with his other two male siblings, for a U.S. visa, but it was denied since their uncle was an outspoken communist. Overtaken by desperation, Marcello, the youngest of them all, undertook a journey to Northern Italy, hoping to make it to Switzerland. In Milan, the young Cardillo had to spend the night under a bridge waiting for the seven o’clock bus to Zurich. He said “It was the end of September but I wasn’t cold, I didn’t feel it. I had six starving people at home and the simple idea that I could provide them with a piece of bread kept me going.”[7]

In Switzerland Cardillo was sheltered by farmers and was allowed to sleep in a barn. His hosts found him a job and also forced him to go to night school. “They told me that if I wanted to work, I had to go to school so I could do something better, perhaps find a job in the city.”Soon, Cardillo moved into a little apartment in Zurich, which was “expensive, but it was worth it” he said, “I could make double of what I made working in the farm, and I could send my family twice as much.”[8]

Two years had gone by, and it was time to go see his family. Cardillo had now purchased a car, a Fiat 600 Vignale Spyder, a car he could only afford without much sacrifice. “I was poor, I gave most of my money to my family, but I had saved a lot and now I could pass as middle-class kid, but I was nowhere close to being like [them].”[9]

While visiting his family at the age of 18, Cardillo got arrested for intentionally avoiding the draft. “The communists of the village had reported me, who else?” he stated, “poverty led people into committing evil actions against each other” he continued. Because of his family’s many connections, Cardillo was granted 24 hours to spend with his parents before he could be taken by the authorities and escorted to a military base. However, Cardillo decided to flee and with the help of his neighbor, a marshal of the Carabinieri (Italian police), he was escorted in the marshal’s car trunk to a train station in Rome. “You must cross the Lugano border tomorrow at 9:15, my brother’s shift starts exactly at 9. I will call him, tell him I sent you. He will help you cross the border” the marshal told Cardillo. Once arrived at his apartment in Zurich, Cardillo no longer felt safe and he knew it wouldn’t have been long before the police would find him. Cardillo shared his concerns with his family in New York, and his aunt promised that she’d help him leave Europe.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the Quota Acts which were based on national origins and opened the borders to people with skills needed in a developing American economy.[10]It’s 1966, just a year after the passing of the new immigration law. Cardillo’s aunt sought the help of Congresswoman Edna F. Kelly who, according to Cardillo, “called the U.S. consul in Zurich and arranged a work visa” for him (There is no evidence of such correspondence nor is Mr. Cardillo aware of the relationship between his aunt and the Representative Kelly).

Representative Edna Kelly was a Democrat from New York and had different roles in American politics; most importantly, she was known for her contributions to foreign affairs and women’s rights. Kelly served as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and later as the third ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.[11]Many Representatives, including Kelly, favored immigration reform. The House Immigration Committee took the issue of race and racial discrimination as legitimate grounds for supporting a new reform.[12]Most Congressman in support of the immigration reform “represented eastern European interests, either in their ethnically mixed regions, or in their own or biographies.”[13]

“The plane took off and I thought about that good-hearted woman (referring to Rep. Edna Kelly). I wouldn’t be on this plane without her, and without my aunt.” At the age of 20 Cardillo arrived to the United States and was not expecting what he saw. “It was dark and rainy but I couldn’t take my eyes off the high ceilings of the airport” he said. “I was asked my passport by a very tall officer. He asked me many questions to which I didn’t know how to answer, of course, but I do remember very well his big mustache.”[14]The American Dream turned to be a bit bittersweet: the demand for laborers was very high but Italian immigrants had socialist approaches to work organizations and were organized into mutual-aid societies. Italian Socialists provided leadership and protection to garment workers, barbers, and construction workers. The Italian Socialists also built a bridge between Italians and labor organizations such as the Knights of Labor or the Bricklayer’s, Mason’s and Plasterer’s International Union of America of which Cardillo was a part of.[15]

Once settled at his aunt’s house, Cardillo quickly started working as a construction laborer with his uncle but was unsatisfied with the attitude of his superiors. “Our bosses would give us the worst positions, the risky ones and many times they withheld a portion of our salaries to pay for the tools but in reality those filthy bastards were putting that money into their pockets” Cardillo stated.[16]In fact, immigrant workers took, and arguably still take, jobs with higher health and safety risks than native-born laborers. This phenomenon occurs because of the immigrants’ levels of education, language abilities, and different perceptions of job risks. Many immigrants obtained their work authorization directly through their employer and were tied to the company for an extended period of time. Undoubtedly, this leads to a system prone to exploitation but because of the aforementioned factors—particularly those immigrants whom immigration status depended on their employer—laborers did not seek for alternative employment or working rights out of fear of the consequences for them and their families.[17]

At 23 years-old Cardillo had just gotten married and wanted his family to live comfortably and still had parents and siblings to feed back in Italy.  He said “I needed to do something, I was an angry young man that needed opportunities and not a [slave-like operated employment].” With the help of family and friends, Cardillo opened an Italian deli in downtown Brooklyn. There, he employed his wife Adele while he continued to work as a construction laborer. In two-year time, Marcello and Adele Cardillo saved enough money to buy a house in Yonkers, New York.[18]Italians were known for the many entrepreneurs and workers engaged in the manufacturing, construction and food businesses. Italians did not assimilate in America, but they created a cultural pluralism that allowed them to keep their Italian traditions and values while becoming good Americans.[19]

In 1983, Cardillo decided to sell his Italian deli and invest the earnings into a construction business. “It was a Sunday, I remember it because we had just returned from mass at St. John’s church. We sat down outside the fig tree and I [consulted] Adele whether or not we should sell our deli. She did not hesitate and supported my idea without any questions” Cardillo said. Within a few weeks Marcello opens his construction business called M & C, S & D Mason Contractors, Inc. and hires five laborers. It was a hard beginning working as subcontractors in Westchester County, NY, there was a lot of competition, and Cardillo’s English was very limited.  However, only a few years later, Cardillo became one of the most renowned construction businessmen in the county. His projects quickly increased and were comprised from 50 to even 100 condominiums. “I did 50 condominiums for Jack Nicklaus. I know [him] very well, we don’t hangout anymore but I knew him very well” Cardillo proudly said. This business not only allowed him to chase his American Dream, but to help his employess do so as well. He made sure his they were protected by a union and partnered with the Bricklayer’s, Mason’s and Plasterer’s International Union of America, the oldest and still operating trade union in the United States. After 30 years in business, the union awarded him with a plaque of excellence in craftsmanship.[20]

After many years in business, Cardillo started supporting both politicians and people in need. He donated to humanitarian organizations and sponsored campaigns. He held beneficiary events and distributed food to the poor. “After 50 years working with immigrants, [Hispanics], people of color, with everybody, [I can say] for me, working people are all the same. America is the number one [compared to any other country] in the world. I am Italian but America is the number one for me. When you’re born in another country and you come to the United States you got to suffer a lot” Cardillo concluded.[21] 

[1]H. W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 384.

[2]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[3]Giuseppe Morandini, Enrico Cerulli, and Ugo Leone, “AFRICA ORIENTALE ITALIANA in “Enciclopedia Italiana”,” Treccani, , accessed April 28, 2018, http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/africa-orientale-italiana_res-13a6efa4-87e5-11dc-8e9d-0016357eee51_(Enciclopedia-Italiana)/.

[4]I Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 28, 2018.

[5]Stephen S. Hall, “ITALIAN-AMERICANS COMING INTO THEIR OWN,” The New York Times, May 15, 1983, , accessed April 28, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/15/magazine/italian-americans-coming-into-their-own.html?pagewanted=all.


[7]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[8]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 4, 2018.

[9]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[10][10]H. W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2011), 371.

[11]“Kelly, Edna Flannery,” US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives, Accessed April 28, 2018.http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/16168.

[12]http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=e9f5d25d-9e01-4437-887e-4dac1b08ff44%40sessionmgr101page 58

[13]Ibid page 64

[14]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[15]Wang Xinyang, Economic opportunity, artisan leadership, and immigrant workers: Italian and Chiense immigrant workers in New York City, 18090-1980, (Labor History, 1996) 492-493.

[16]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.

[17]http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=c33255e9-d7cc-420f-8aee-a4cec4dca146%40sessionmgr104page 142-143

[18]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 24, 2018.

[19]Mary Brown, Italians of the South Villages, report, ed. Rafaele Fierro (New York City, NY: Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation , 2007), 80, October 15, 2015, accessed April 28, 2018, gvshp.org/blog/2015/10/08/italians-of-the-south-village/

[20]Interview with Mr. Cardillo, April 4, 2018.

[21]I Interview with Mr. Cardillo, March 17, 2018.



–Video recording, Yonkers, NY March 17, 2018.

–Inteview, Yonkers, NY March 28, 2018.

–Phone Interview, April 4, 2018.

–Phone Interview, April 24, 2018.

Selected Transcript

– Video recording

[NOTE: Both the subject and the interviewer switch languages as per convenience, therefore, the use of certain terminology has been appropriated.]


Q. I know your father was a U.S. citizen. What happened to him?
A. My father was born in this country and then my grandpa [took him] back to Italy when he was 12 years-old. He never came back in this country because in 1930 [there was a draft to Africa]. In Africa, he lost his leg and never came back in this country.

Q. Where were you born? When did you come to the United States?
A. I was born in Italy, in the province of Rome, I left [the country] when I was sixteen years-old and went living in Switzerland. In Switzerland I used to go to school. During the day at work and at night I used to go to school. Then in 1966, I came to the United States to find my [wife]. I was 23 years-old when I met my wife, we got married and after a little while, in a year, we bought a house.

Q. How were you able to sustain your family and buy a house?
A. I used to work all over the place to make money. After three years, I bought my first store, an [Italian] deli. During the day, I would work at the construction site and at night at the deli.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. Were there any obstacles that hindered your business?
A. At the time, everything was managed by the mafia but I was never, I mean … How can I say it … A man from the mafia came to collect the “protection fee” but I told him I didn’t make enough money to pay for the protection.


Q. What happened afterwards?
A. After that, I closed the store and opened my [construction] business. I stayed in [the construction] business 33 years. I started with three foremen and ended up with 80, 90, 60. [All] union people, everyone used to be a [union man] and I was glad to be a union man and still am a union man, up to today.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. How big were your projects?
A. All the projects consisted of 50, 100, 80 condominiums depending on the various projects, but they were all new.

Q. I know you’ve worked for famous people.
A. Yes, I did 50 condominiums for Jack Nicklaus. I know [him] very well, we don’t hangout anymore but I knew him very well, we ate together… Then I know many political figures such as Nita Lowey (D-NY 17thDistrict), (former state) Senator Spano. I know many of these judges, they’re my friends because the have respected me as a [working] immigrant and I respect them for who they are.


Q. How did you engage with the community?
A. When I was 26, I started joining [various Italian clubs]. At first, [I joined the] Columbus League, named after Cristoforo Colombo, after that, I joined the Italian-American Organization. After two years, they made me the President of C.I.A.O. A lot of people did not like it because I was an immigrant, I don’t speak very well English. [Afterwards] I started [sponsoring] politicians, I started helping them, helping people and this is my story. After 50 years working with immigrants, any kind of people. I worked with immigrants, Spanish, people of color, with everybody. For me, working people are all the same. For me, America is the number one [compared to any other country]. I am Italian but America is the number one for me.When you’re born in another country and you come to the United States you got to suffer a lot.

[Translated from Italian]

Q. A bizarre question but would you go back to Italy?
A. No. Because I’m planted here and I no longer like the Italian [socio-political] environment. However, Italy is still Italy, it’s beautiful! When you spend your whole life abroad, it’s hard to get used to the Italian environment again.



Facing the Draft Lottery During the Vietnam War

By Noah Frank

Congressman Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) draws the first number of the Vietnam draft lottery. Courtesy Selective Service

On the night of December 1, 1969, hundreds of thousands of young men across the country anxiously held their breath. For the first time in over twenty-seven years, a national draft lottery was being held.[1] Congressman Alexander Pirnie, ranking Republican of the House Armed Services Committee, drew the first number. “September 14th… September 14th is 001.” Pirnie had selected one of 366 capsules from a large bowl. Each capsule contained a day of the year (including leap years), and was pulled at random and given a corresponding number. [2] Those with birthdays corresponding with low numbers were faced with the imminent prospect of being drafted into the army and sent overseas to fight in Vietnam. For Joel Frank, the specter of the draft loomed large. “I was very worried. I did not want to be drafted.” [3] Though Joel didn’t face the immediate possibility of being drafted that night in December 1969, it was a distinct possibility on the horizon that couldn’t be ignored.

During the era of the Vietnam War, roughly 26.8 million men between the ages of 18 and 26 were eligible for the draft lottery. Of these, around 8.7 million eventually wound up serving overseas in Vietnam. [4] Prior to the implementation of the lottery system, the draft had operated under the principle that the oldest eligible men were drafted first. [5] President Nixon hoped that the draft lottery would reduce anti-war sentiment on college campuses around the country, by making those with higher lottery numbers feel less immediately threatened and creating a sense of “randomized fairness.” A key feature of the draft lottery was that each age group was only at risk for a single year. [6] Despite Nixon’s hopes, many resented the draft and saw it as unfair. [7] A key feature of the draft lottery was that each age group was only at risk for a single year. [8] Men eligible for the draft would have their lottery number called the year before they turned 20. Those with lower numbers would be ordered to report for physical exams as part of pre-screening. Those fit for service were given the classification 1-A. [9] Even with these measures attempting to create an image of “fairness” associated with the draft, there were still 570,000 draft offenders and 563,000 less-than-honorable discharges from the military during the Vietnam War Era. [10]

An example of the capsules containing dates throughout the calendar year that would be drawn at random and paired with a draft lottery number. Courtesy Selective Service

Historian Michael S. Foley notes that young men confronting the possibility of being drafted essentially faced the three choices of fighting in a war many of them considered futile and immoral, going to jail, or finding a way avoid both the war and jail. These decisions arguably inspired cynicism and weakened American’s faith in their government. [11] While historian H.W Brands in his book American Dreams: The United States Since 1945, makes much of how many young men protested the war, sometimes violently, most young men facing the draft lottery confronted their fate in ways far less dramatic. [12] Depending on their socio-economic status, young men facing the draft lottery had a variety of options. As Natalie M. Rosinsky writes in her book The Draft Lottery that “men studying to be ministers, priests or rabbis could be exempted from service.” [13] Men could also join the National Guard to substitute their military service, an avenue future presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both took. Some men tried, usually without success, to qualify as conscientious objectors and avoid service altogether. [14] The draft lottery also faced criticisms from those who said it favored the middle and upper classes, by offering deferments for those seeking college degrees. Men from working class families often could not afford college, and so this possibility was closed off to them. [15] Young men who managed to stay in college were able to delay their risk of being drafted through most of the years of the draft lottery. [16] For many men from working-class families, the draft lottery must have hardly seemed random.

Joel Frank, however, grew up in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York City. [17] Asked whether people he knew were concerned about being drafted, Joel recalls that “most of my friends were concerned. Living in a middle-class neighborhood. Most [sic] guys I knew where [sic] going to college and expecting to get student deferments.” [18] Joel also decided to enroll in college. On his college experience, Joel stated “I was commuting to college, but eventually I dropped out. When I was 19 I moved to upstate New York and enrolled in Ulster County Community College to renew my student deferment, but I soon dropped out there as well. Schools were slow to inform the government that students had dropped out in order to prolong their deferments, and I re-enrolled in the fall when I was 20, though I would drop out again not long after I got another deferment.” [19] Joel’s draft lottery occurred mid-year in 1971, and he recalls his draft number being 187, though he initially thought it might be 179. [20] The ceiling number for Joel’s lottery group was 95. [21] Joel remembered that his high lottery number for that year “made it less likely for me to be drafted.” [22] An article from 1971 appearing in the New York Times would seem to confirm Joel’s memory. The article declared that men born in 1952 (like Joel, who were 19 that year, and facing the lottery for next year’s draft) were safe from the draft, and that those with low numbers would only be drafted in the event of a national emergency. [23] In June 1971, the rate of induction for draftees had slowed to a trickle. [24] Though Joel may not have realized it immediately, he was essentially safe from the draft lottery from this point forward.

Joel’s story with the draft lottery, and the story of countless other men from the period who faced the draft, seem to contradict Brands’ narrative in his book American Dreams. In discussing how young people viewed the war, Brands spends several pages focusing on the SDS movement and its violent off-shoot known as the Weathermen. Brands writes “The Weathermen and similar groups espoused violence in America as a way to end the violence in Vietnam, and members bombed college ROTC buildings, draft board headquarters, army induction facilities, and research laboratories conducting defense-related work.” [25] Brands also makes a tacit acknowledgement that most protest of the war was peaceful, but still misses the larger picture. [26] In focusing his narrative on dramatic storytelling, Brands arguable misses out on the less dramatic, yet no less compelling story of the vast majority of young men facing the draft lottery. Most men did not burn their draft cards or sympathize with the views of groups like the Weathermen. The majority of young men seem to have been ambivalent or opposed to the war, but to primarily be focused on simply finding a way to stay out of it. Joel Frank’s story reflects this more common narrative, which Brands neglects in his discussion of the period.

[1] Abney, Wes. 2009. “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!” HistoryNet, November 25, 2009. http://www.historynet.com/live-from-dc-its-lottery-night-1969.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Interview with Joel Frank via email, December 7, 2017.

[4] Maxwell, Donald W. “Young Americans and the Draft.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25162083.pdf

[5] Abney, Wes. 2009. “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!” HistoryNet, November 25, 2009. http://www.historynet.com/live-from-dc-its-lottery-night-1969.htm

[6] Card, David, and Thomas Lemieux. “Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2677740.pdf

[7] Abney, Wes. 2009. “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!” HistoryNet, November 25, 2009. http://www.historynet.com/live-from-dc-its-lottery-night-1969.htm

[8] Card, David, and Thomas Lemieux. “Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2677740.pdf

[9] Abney, Wes. 2009. “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!” HistoryNet, November 25, 2009. http://www.historynet.com/live-from-dc-its-lottery-night-1969.htm

[10] Maxwell, Donald W. “Young Americans and the Draft.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25162083.pdf
[11] Ibid.

[12] H.W Brands. American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 152-155, 170.

[13] Rosinsky, Natalie M. 2009. The Draft Lottery. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books. Google Books. 10.

[14] Ibid. 10-11

[15] Ibid. 13

[16] Card, David, and Thomas Lemieux. “Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2677740.pdf

[17] Interview with Joel Frank via phone, November 12, 2017.

[18] Interview with Joel Frank via email, December 7, 2017.

[19] Interview with Joel Frank via phone, November 12, 2017.

[20] Interview with Joel Frank via email, December 7, 2017.

[21] Selective Service. “Vietnam Lotteries.” https://www.sss.gov/About/History-And-Records/lotter1

[22] Interview with Joel Frank via phone, November 12, 2017.

[23] Rosenbaum, David E. “Men With Numbers Over 125 Safe From Draft in 1971.” The New York Times. October 6, 1971. http://www.nytimes.com/1971/10/06/archives/men-with-numbers-over-125-safe-from-draft-in-1971.html?_r=0

[24] Card, David, and Thomas Lemieux. “Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War.” Courtesy of JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2677740.pdf

[25] H.W Brands. American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 154.

[26] Ibid. 154.

NOTE: This transcript is reconstructed from detailed notes taking during a phone conversation with the interview subject on November 12, 2017.

Joel Frank is the father of the author, and was a some-time college student of prime drafting age from Brooklyn, NY in the years immediately after the height of the war in 1968 with the Tet Offensive.  

Q.  What do you remember of the Tet Offensive? Were you surprised?

A. It was on the news a lot. Every night there would be news from Vietnam on the TV. At the time of the Tet Offensive (January 1968) I was a sophomore in high school, but I would turn 18 in June of 1970. I was certainly worried, but I primarily remember domestic events that were happening around the same time as the Tet Offensive, particularly around the issue of civil rights with riots of the previous two years in Newark and Detroit. I went to an all-boys high school, and all the talk of the issues of the day filtered down to us. We even pulled off our own small protest, walking out of class to demand that we be allowed to wear blue jeans, which we felt was a big deal at the time. My older sister was more involved in issues of civil rights at the time, but it was something I became concerned about and the issue gradually gained traction at my school.

Q. Were you concerned about the prospect of being drafted?

A. Not when I was a sophomore in high school, though I was against the war. I was definitely not worried in 1970 when I turned 18, because even though I didn’t have the best grades in high school I managed to get into York College and get a student deferment. If it weren’t for that though, I most likely would have been drafted that year. 1968 and 1969 had seen some of the largest number of draftees into the war. The draft worked on a lottery system, and I had a high number, possibly 179, which made it less likely for me to be drafted. They would use a bingo-type machine to choose draft numbers. I was commuting from home to college, but eventually I dropped out. When I was 19 I moved to upstate New York and enrolled in Ulster County Community College to renew my student deferment, but I soon dropped out there as well. Schools were slow to inform the government that students had dropped out in order to prolong their deferments, and I re-enrolled in the fall when I was 20, though I would drop out again not long after I got another deferment. The draft was polarizing the country, with half the country thinking those who tried to avoid the draft were cowards and the other half thinking they were standing up for their rights. Some people were burning their draft cards and heading across the border to Canada.

Q. What was your opinion of LBJ before the war? How did it change?

A. LBJ became president in 1963 after JFK was killed, and I didn’t know much about him [LBJ] then. I was very young at that time, but I remember I was very sad when JFK died. My family had visited Washington, D.C in the summer of 1963, I remember keeping a postcard with JFK on it. This was also around the time I first became aware of politics. I remember that the death of Kennedy had an intense effect. At first, LBJ focused on civil rights, which I hadn’t been fully aware of [as a child] but supported once I became more aware in high school in 1966. My sister’s involvement with civil rights issues also had an effect on me. As I got older and became more worried about being drafted, I started not to like LBJ so much. The war was always in the news, and there were a lot of bad feelings surrounding it in 1967-68. I remember they announced in 1971 that men born in 1952 wouldn’t be drafted that year, which was a temporary relief due to the high draft number I received. After LBJ announced he wouldn’t run for reelection I supported Humphrey as I had never liked Nixon. I thought Nixon was vague and remembered watching JFK debate Nixon on TV and not liking him even then. By 1968 though, my opinion of LBJ was greatly diminished.

Q. H.W Brands, in his book American Dreams, describes how the assassinations of MLK, JFK, and RFK happening in such a short span of time, along with the Vietnam War, lead to a decline in American liberalism which helped elect Nixon. Do you agree?

A. I find that slightly odd. There was certainly great anger, especially after the deaths of MLK and RFK. I suppose it’s somewhat true, there were riots, and many people were scared. It seemed that a slow end to white dominance in society was occurring, and whites were polarized with some seeing no issue, while others were viciously opposed to their loss of influence. There was pushback which helped elect Nixon. There were also racial equality marches in D.C in the 70’s.

Q. What was your reaction to the 1968 DNC Convention protests in Chicago? Did you sympathize with them?

A. They were terrible, the police were very violent. The polarization the country was experiencing surrounding the war came to a head. There was fierce anger, which only grew in the wake of the assassinations. Different groups at the time had different agendas, the police were provoking the protesters into acts of violence and beating them up, and anti-government sentiment was growing with resistance to the war. There were also rumors that Nixon viewed himself as a king, that he wanted White House staff to have fancy uniforms and a “palace guard.” That was a general time of upheaval, and I also remember the black athletes in the Olympics of ’68 who held their fists up, similar to the NFL protests today. I also remember Kent State a few years later, where the anger over the war again came to a head with the shooting of several students protesting the war. Some people in the country viewed the protestors in Chicago and elsewhere as traitors, and others agreed with them that the war was wrong.

Q. How did you react when Nixon won the 1968 election?

A. I was not happy. I was about 16 at the time. There were so many crazy things happening at the time, with riots, and the events in Chicago, that the election felt like just another thing. Many people were disturbed by all that was happening, and people rallied around protests related to the war and civil rights. There were also conspiracy theories floating around. People were worried that the FBI was spying on them, that they kept files on people and tapped their phones. There were also infiltrators in movements like the Black Power movement in which Malcolm X had been a prominent figure. He had been assassinated himself only a few years earlier.

Q. Do you remember Nixon’s phased ending of the war through “Vietnamization,” and the invasion of Cambodia? How did you react at the time?

A. Nixon had been waging a secret war in Cambodia. I remember during high school in June of 1970 things were all “helter skelter” just like in the then recent Beatles song. Many different things were visible in the media, from issues relating to civil rights to rumors of soldiers “fragging” [killing] incompetent or poorly trained officers to avoid getting killed pointlessly themselves.

Q. Were you relieved when the war ended?

A. Yes. I had been living with a fear of the possibility of my going to war. There were mixed feelings in the country generally, with people talking about whether or not the U.S had been defeated. For most, losing the war had a negative effect on their self-image of the country. Not long after the war, President Ford granted a mass pardon to those who had burned their draft cards and fled to Canada.

Q. How did you feel when South Vietnam fell a view years later? Did you sense a “Vietnam Syndrome?”

A. A little. I remember there were “boat people,” thousands of South Vietnamese refugees trying to get out of the country before it fell under communist control. There was some debate at the time over letting them into the U.S, but ultimately there was a fear that U.S-Vietnam babies (babies with a GI father and a Vietnamese mother), who were ostracized in their society, would be killed once the North took over, so many were let into the U.S. In general I was simply glad the war was over. It seemed that it had been a huge waste, with many Americans and Vietnamese dying for no reason. Nixon had campaigned on ending the war, which he eventually did, but half of all U.S soldiers to die in the war died under Nixon’s administration. Petty politics seemed to needlessly cost lives.

NOTE: This transcript is from an email interview conducted on December 7, 2017.

Q. What do you remember about registering for the draft when you turned eighteen?
A. I remember feeling very worried. I did not want to be drafted. For me this occurred in mid-1970.
I had spent the previous 5 years (1965-1970) “watching the war” on the nightly news broadcasts.

Q. What do you remember of how the draft lottery system worked? How much of the draft lottery
system did you personally experience?
A. I was in the third Vietnam war lottery. I was thankful for a relatively high number (187). This
occurred mid-year 1971 when I was 19.
Q. Do you remember ever appearing before a draft board?
A. I do not really remember, I may have to go when I turned 18to appear but did have to send in
documents occasionally.
Q. Were many people you knew at the time worried about being drafted? Were there a significant
number who were “draft-resistors,” or were most people simply trying to go about their daily life
while avoiding the draft?
A. Most of my friends were concerned. Living in a middle-class neighborhood. Most guys I knew
where going to college and expecting to get student deferments.

Q. What was the process for getting a student deferment?
A. College or University registrar had to send information about full time enrolment.

Q. Was getting a deferment a significant reason you went to college?
A. ABSOLUTLEY. I enrolled and dropped out of college 3 times when I was 18, 19 and 20 years
old. I would wait for my daft board to be notified that I was a full-time student, then drop out. It
seemed schools did not notify when I dropped out. So each fall I made sure I was registered.

Q. Did your draft-eligibility, or potential eligibility, strongly affect your views of the war?
A. Yes. I had an anti- Vietnam War sentiment and draft just helped to personalize that feeling.

The Vietnam War: Protests and the Commencement of a New Movement

By: Olivia Zoratto

“Was I naïve? You bet! Was it a good time to be naïve? Absolutely!! Protesting to rock and roll was actually fun at times, scary at others…but it was always interesting…” stated Dr. Geoffrey Kurland when reflecting on the anti-Vietnam war protests which he attended during the 1960’s. Now, an eminent, valued, and well-respected pulmonary specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA, Dr. Kurland has worked for twenty-eight years in his field of profession, ameliorating the lives of his unwell and infirm patients each day. He began his occupation in the year 1988, after graduating from Amherst College and later Stanford University for medical school, where he diligently devoted his time to medicine as an industrious and conscientious student. However, during his time at the university, more events where transpiring on campus than just that of studies. A greater phenomenon was sweeping the nation, transfiguring tranquil and peaceful campuses into locations of riot and uproar amongst liberal minorities. As an influential reaction to the Vietnam War, the phenomenon of anti-war protests evaded America throughout the 1960’s, commencing a new movement towards an adapting American culture.

As an accomplished author, H.W. Brands illustrates in his book The United States Since 1945: American Dreams, many Americans had objected the Vietnam War since its beginning.[1] “They asked whether the status of a small country far away justified the expenditure of American blood and treasure,” Brands quotes as he discusses President Johnson’s decision to further involve the United States with Vietnam in 1965.[2] However, the repercussions of escalating the war were both grim and consequential, as more casualties were reported and troops were drafted, resulting in an immense and commanding expansion of publicity for anti-war protests. An advertisement for the March for Peace in Vietnam stated, “It’s costing YOU $80 million a day! $80 million a day, $30 billion a year–For what? To wound, burn, and kill innocent children…to sacrifice the youth of America before they have their chance to begin their lives as adults…to raise your rent, food, costs…to bomb a peasant country…”[3]

Dr. Kurland, did not challenge nor oppose Brand’s assertion. “The protests brought attention to the war and tried to emphasize the perceived injustice inherent in our participation in it,” he stated, suggesting that the protests themselves were “trying to prop up a regime that, itself, was not democratic.”[4] Additionally, according to Dr. Kurland, the U.S. drafted men from poorer economic backgrounds, placing them in uniform, while those enrolled in higher educational institutions could be exempted, further demonstrating the injustice and inequity of the war.[5]

As the war developed, and the feeling of injustice and inequity expanded, a particular type of non-violent protest grew to popularity as “teach-ins” began arising on college campuses throughout the mid 1960’s. While still in college at Amherst, Dr. Kurland took part in a teach-in protest himself. “They consisted of a group of scholars and academics and were usually run by historians, political scientists, and others who were both passionate about their feelings on the war. In addition, they were also able to focus their attention on historical and political facts that dealt with the war,” Dr. Kurland stated.[6]

Dr. Kurland as Amherst student

Dr. Kurland as Amherst student

Specifically, the teach-in that Dr. Kurland attended was both historically and politically factual, just as he had suggested. “I went to a teach-in and learned something about the complicated history of Viet Nam, a history of its previous occupation by the French, and the true origins of the war in terms of the artificial division of the country into North and South.  I won’t go into great detail, but I remember coming back to my dorm with a lot of questions about the validity of the American involvement in the conflict…” said Dr. Kurland.[7] Similarly, many liberal minorities and college students embraced this point of view, as they feared that the news and government pronouncements were inadequate to explain the intricacies of the events occurring in Vietnam.[8]

After Dr. Kurland had graduated from Amherst College, he had found himself in far more “Left” learning place.[9] During this time, American culture was being refined, metamorphosing itself into a nation of drugs and rock and roll. “The music, the style of dress, and the whole emerging “hippy” scene were both infectious, intoxicating (in a good way, no pun intended), and completely different from the life I’d had prior to medical school,” Dr. Kurland stated.[10] However, as the irresistible and contagious lifestyle disseminated throughout America, the protests did as well.

Contemplating on the protests he attended, Dr. Kurland spoke of a few in particular such as the march to support the People’s Park in Berkeley, California in 1969. “The land [of the park] was being considered to house a car park, but meanwhile had turned into a dumping ground of refuse and was a mess,” Dr. Kurland began.[11] “Inspired by the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley as well as the anti-War movement, a local committee of protesters decided to use the land as a park, and planted shrubs and trees, took out the garbage and were cleaning it up with the help and money of local merchants who were tired of the eyesore,” he continued.[12] Regrettably, during this time Ronald Reagan had run for office where his platform included clamping down anti-war protestors and their ilk.[13] “Governor Reagan referred to the University of California, Berkeley as “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants…(We all thought he was just missing a good time)” Dr. Kurland joked. However, Reagan later appointed the Highway Patrol and Berkley police to reclaim the park, attracting more protestors who were tear gassed and one student by-stander was shot and killed.[14]

As time progressed, with the park fenced in, a peaceful rally and march throughout Berkeley was instigated by the Berkeley Barb, a local underground newspaper. “Many of us (me included) in the medical school went over, and joined about 30,000 people who marched peacefully through Berkeley, with music playing from the windows of residents and people cheering us on from their windows. Ultimately, the park became…a park; the chancellor of the university, who’d helped to gather the police and Highway Patrol officers, was forced to resign. Berkeley residents took a leftward turn that to some extent remains to this day,” Dr. Kurland discussed as he reflected on this indelible occurrence.[15]

Satirical poster featuring “Blue Meanie” (a cartoon villain referencing the popular Beatles film “Yellow Submarine”). The poster depicts how poorly U.C. Berkeley and the local police managed public opposition to People’s Park.(https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/df/5d/6b/df5d6b132f4d9b93d73fbdec0a605401.jpg)

Furthermore, Dr. Kurland attended another protest a few years later in San Francisco, once President Nixon took office because he “had a plan” to end the Vietnam War. “His plan, it seemed, included bombing the neighboring country of Cambodia, which to many of us didn’t seem like the correct way to be ending a war and was actually more like extending it to another country,” Dr. Kurland explained.[16] The protest he attended was a massive rally in Golden Gate Park, consisting of 50,000-75,000 people and an article from the Boston Globe stated “the marching column extended nearly 40 blocks when reinforcing groups joined at three assembly areas along the seven mile parade route.”[17] “We heard speeches deriding Richard Milhouse (emphasis of the Milhouse, by the way) Nixon as going back on his campaign promise, resulting in more unnecessary deaths of Americans and Vietnamese,” he said.[18] Additionally, hundreds carried signs and posters as one quoted the President: “ ‘It will have no effect’. Give Nixon no choice.” and another “45, 595 Americans, 693, 492 Vietnamese killed in the war in Vietnam.”[19]

While the reasoning for the protest was violent and intemperate, the march itself was peaceful according to Dr. Kurland. “The speakers, while vitriolic, didn’t call on us to go around destroying things. The desire to was rebuild…make the country better, making us less of a seemingly imperialist country and more a country willing to tolerate differences in the world just as we like to think we can tolerate differences of opinion here in the USA…” he said.[20] For Dr. Kurland, the rally was a great idea, and a great time for it educated Americans on the war, while also provided entertainment for the adapting culture and “hippy” generation.

Dr. Kurland and a fellow medical student at rally in Golden Gate Park on January 14th, 1967.

Dr. Kurland and a fellow medical student at the rally in Golden Gate Park on January 14th, 1967.


Advertisement for the rally in Golden Gate Park(http://cdn8.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Human_be-in_poster.jpg)

Advertisement for the rally in Golden Gate Park(http://cdn8.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Human_be-in_poster.jpg)

Nonetheless, not all protests served to be as restful and cordial as the rally in Golden Gate Park, being that many resulted in brutality and arrests. Dr. Kurland discussed, in particular, a faculty member at medical school whom had been arrested during a protest, Hadley Kirkman. “At a local protest against the war early in my time at Stanford, Hadley and some others had apparently locked themselves to some building (I’m not sure what the building was, but it apparently was in some way associated with the Government, I think). He was among those arrested and spent the night in jail. It was a transient big deal and word rapidly went around the medical community,” Dr. Kurland recollected.[21] Kirkman became an instantaneous celebrity and was recognized for having the courage to speak his mind, although never participated in other protests.

Unfortunately, Kirkman was only one of a vast majority who were arrested for anti-war protests. An article in the Washington Post, “11 Arrested in Melee after Antiwar Protest” stated, “At least 11 persons, including four juveniles, were arrested in Washington last night during several melees that erupted after a peaceful demonstration against the use of tax dollars for the Vietnam War.”[22] Police were brought in after demonstrators smashed windows in federal office buildings along the Avenue, however some of the more aggressive and belligerent demonstrators threw rocks at the force, resulting in arrests.[23]

Comparably, according to another article in the Washington Post “Protest for Peace Brings 34 Arrests on Steps of Capitol”, “Thirty-four Vietnam War protesters were arrested yesterday on the Capitol steps in two separate incidents after they refused to stop reading the names of 35,000 American war dead.”[24] Moreover, the group’s arrest was similar to arrests made four times earlier in the month by Capitol Police. [25] Evidently, Kirkman’s arrest, the 11 arrested in Melee, and the 34 arrested on the steps of the Capitol, only serve as a few examples of protests and demonstrations, and indicate the escalating feelings of negativity towards the war.

Nevertheless, although sometimes violent, while other times harmonious and undisturbed, Dr. Kurland asserted that anti-war protests did possess value and avail. “Doing things like this with others results in an amazing sense of community, particularly if one is protesting something that one feels is monstrous and too big to be attacked by one person,” he stated.[26] In particular, one of the aspects of the Vietnam War was that it involved the entire U.S. military, the U.S. government, foreign policy, and everything else. “They say it’s hard to fight city hall…it’s both harder (and yet sometimes easier) to fight the government itself.  It is somewhat removed (Washington seemed very far away from Amherst and Stanford, for example), and it’s possible in our society to actually disagree with the government and not get put in jail for life,” Dr. Kurland admitted.[27]Those in favor of the war, the government, the unjust society, often went further suggesting that those in opposition should leave the United States. Dr. Kurland, however, felt differently. “It’s my country, so what I think is right about it I accept and what I think is wrong about it I will work to change. I had no interest in leaving my country (after all, it was and is my country, too).  I just wanted it to be a better version of my country…” he said[28], a version that many wished for, of concord, harmony, and contentment.

[1] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 152.

[2] Ibid, 152.

[3] “Advertisements” Jesús Colón Collection: Arte Público Hispanic Historical Collection: Series 2.

[4] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), April 15th, 2016.

[5] Interview with Geoffrey Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[6] Interview with Geoffrey Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[7] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[8] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[9] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[10] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[11] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[12] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[13] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[14] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[15] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[16] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[17] “85,000 attend golden gate protest.”Boston Globe,16 November 1969.76.

[18] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[19] “85,000 attend golden gate protest.”Boston Globe,16 November 1969.76.

[20] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[21] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[22] “11 Arrested in Melee A After Antiwar Protest.” The Washington Post, 16 April 1970. A1.

[23] Ibid, A1.

[24] “Protest for Peace Bring 34 Arrests on Steps of Capitol.” The Washington Post, 19 June 1969. B1.

[25] Ibid, B1.

[26] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[27] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

[28] Interview with Dr. Kurland (email), May 03rd, 2016.

Watergate Scandal: Inside look at Davis & Cox & Charles Rebozo

Killian Donohue

The Watergate Scandal: Inside look into Davis and Cox & Charles Rebozo 

The Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel

In June of 1972 James P. Donohue, Jr. was finishing his work on his Masters when the Watergate burglary was halted. He started law school in September of that same year. At that time, Watergate was just a small story, not gathering much interest from the public. However, by January of 1974, now a second year law student at Fordham University, it was a major news story.  It was at that point, that James was hired as a part-time law clerk by the New York firm of Davis and Cox and personally interacted with one of the many players who came before the Senate Watergate Committee. In that role, he saw firsthand now the concept of simply being forthright was foreign to many people, not just Nixon.  In his book, American Dreams, H.W. Brands, in examining the Watergate Scandal, speculates what could have been, “Had Nixon stepped forthrightly in front of the Washington Post story, accepted responsibility for the actions of the Plumbers, and looped off a few heads among the White House staff… But forthrightness wasn’t in Nixon.”[1]  As will be shown from James Donohue’s experience at the firm of Davis & Cox, Nixon was not the only one who attempted to stonewall instead of stepping up and accepting responsibility.  This was the same attitude shown by Chester Davis, of Davis & Cox, while James Donohue worked there, although almost certainly for other reasons. Chester Davis was one of the people called before the Senate Watergate Committee.  James Donohue’s interaction with Chester Davis was small, but interesting.  In fact, he referred to as an, “outside seat on one of the peripheral issues involving one of the peripheral issues,”[2] of the Watergate scandal.

The Watergate scandal had its roots in the presidential election of 1972 when President Richard Nixon was seeking reelection. He was opposed by the Democratic candidate, George McGovern.  Nixon’s re-election at the time was considered fairly secure. In fact, he won easily.  Despite this, during the campaign, an attempt to burglarize the Democratic National headquarters at the Watergate Hotel was foiled by a security guard, Will Franks.[3]  It seemed too incredible to believe that this burglary effort was somehow related to the election, in light of Nixon’s commanding lead.  Nevertheless, when the burglars were arrested, they initially asserted their 5th amendment privilege as to what they were doing and refused to talk.  The judge who took the case, Judge John Sirica, made it clear that he did not think the arrested defendants were being cooperative or telling the truth. To encourage them to change their position, he gave them significant jail time.[4] By that time, the well-known Washington Post reporters, Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein, had already broken the story that one of the burglars was connected to Howard Hunt (a former CIA agent then working for the re-election of the President). To arouse even more interest, they alleged that Hunt was connected to Charles Colson the special legal assistant to President Nixon[5].  In short, the Washington Post reporters were drawing a line between the burglars to the President.

In May of 1973 the Senate Committee began to investigate the Watergate break-in and an independent special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, was named to investigate possible presidential improprieties.[6] Ironically, his brother, Maxwell Cox, was the other named partner, in the law firm Davis and Cox that James was working at. That summer, the Senate Committee found out that Nixon has been taping conversations in the oval office and both the Senate Committee and Archibald Cox demanded the tapes be turned over. Nixon refused.[7] This created a major political issue. It became even more serious when Nixon told his Attorney General to fire Cox. The Attorney General, Eliot Richardson, refused pointing out he had promised the Senate that Archibald Cox would be independent of the Attorney General’s office on this matter and he would not interfere with Cox’s work. Rather than comply with the order, he resigned his office. Nixon tried again with deputy attorney general, who also resigned. Finally, Robert Bork, the third in command, reluctantly carried out the order.  This event came to be referred to as the Saturday Night Massacre. Watergate and related issues were now all over the news and James Donohue recalls “the government was at war with itself and the only thing that seemed to be going on in Washington was Watergate investigations.”[8]

While this is going on, a somewhat collateral issue came out of the Watergate investigation.  This concerned an allegation that billionaire Howard Hughes, in 1968, had made a $100,000.00 loan or gift to Richard Nixon, using an individual known as Charles “Bebe” Rebozo as the individual who received the money. Rebozo was a banker in Florida.  He had become a friend of Nixon’s years earlier.[9]  In August of 1973, the Woodward-Bernstein reporters, following up on their Watergate story, broke another story that Rebozo may have been involved in laundering secret campaign contributions to Nixon personally.  The amount of $100,000.00 reported as being the amount they had learned about.  Eventually, it was asserted that the source of $100,000 of these the funds was Howard Hughes. [10]

As investigators followed up that lead, Rebozo acknowledged he had received $100,000 from a Hughes representative, but claimed he never delivered the funds to Nixon or his campaign, but rather held the Hughes money in a safe deposit box for several years. He further asserted that believing the source of the funds might embarrass the President, he decided to return it several years later untouched, to Howard Hughes through one of Hughes’ representatives.  That story seemed incredible and eventually the Senate Committee advised the cash had been delivered to Howard Hughes personal attorney, Chester Davis, wanted to see what he had done with it.   In December of 1973, Chester Davis appeared before the Senate Committee with a briefcase. He reportedly opened the briefcase and dumped the contents on the desk, saying “Here’s the god dam money”.[11] It was 100 packets of 100 dollar bills, allegedly the $100,000 that Rebozo claimed Howard Hughes had provided him in 1968 and he had returned several years later.

The following month James Donohue had become a part time law clerk at the New York law firm of Davis & Cox.  The “Davis” was the same Chester Davis, the personal attorney of Howard Hughes who only a month before had appeared before the Senate Committee.  The “Cox” was Maxwell Cox, who was the brother of Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor who had been fired by Nixon just several months earlier. James Donohue knew prior to starting that Davis and Cox was considered a tough litigation firm. Only after he arrived, did he realize that among other things the frim was dealing with a request that Howard Hughes appear before the Senate Committee with respect to the $100,000.00 “loan”.

While at the firm, Donohue’s involvement had little to do with Chester Davis or the Howard Hughes loan.  His assignment was essentially to digest depositions and do research and memorandum of laws on specific legal issues, primarily involving a securities action unrelated to the Watergate hearings. The transcripts involving testimony before the Watergate Committee fell within the purview of one of the associates who worked in the adjoining offices. To the extent there were discussions, by the associates on their progress, it was with the partners, whose offices were even further down the hall. James Donohue did recall, early in his employment, looking over at another table while digesting depositions in another case and seeing transcripts from the hearings before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate. James, “assumed that there was some connection, and then thinking about it, the Bebe Rebozo connection came to mind because that issue had to deal with money that allegedly came from Howard Hughes.”[12]  During his time there, he would have contact with both Chester Davis and Maxwell Cox and the associate working on the $100,000.00 Hughes loan.

Chester Davis was the type of person who was held in high regard by those who knew him and often, with more than a little fear. His work for Hughes apparently kept in out of the office most of the time. In fact, the first time James ran into Chester Hughes, he got a first-hand look at how Chester Davis was viewed by other lawyers.  It was a weekend and he was working in the office with the associate he reported to.  This particular associate had regularly impressed him as being an individual who was unintimidated by anything. He regularly took on other large law firms, large businesses (like the New York Stock Exchange) and even the Federal government.  On the day in question, James Donohue was going back to the office after a short lunch break, and another individual got on the elevator with him and followed him out of the elevator on the same floor.  When James Donohue walked into the office to sign in, the man still followed him. The receptionist said “hello” to this stranger, who then turned and headed down the hall to where the offices were located.  James turned to the receptionist and said, “Who’s that.” And the answer he was given was, “That’s Mr. Davis.”[13]

This being his first encounter with Chester Davis, as James returned to his work place, he stopped by the associate’s office, under whom he had been working. He told him, without much concern, that he had just come up the elevator with Mr. Davis.  As he recalled, the shocked response was, “Chester’s here?” The response clearly indicated that this was no joking matter. The Associate excused himself from what he was doing and headed down the hall to see Chester. It was clear, at that moment, that Chester Davis was not an individual to take lightly, and that the story about him essentially throwing the money at the Senate Watergate Committee, was probably true.

Based on the newspaper reports, it was clear that Chester Davis was also not going to “cooperate” or be forthcoming with the Senate Committee if he could avoid it.  Obviously, as a lawyer, he had a client to represent, yet it did not go unnoticed in the newspapers that his positions were not always consistent. For a while Davis was doing whatever he could to prevent the Watergate Committee from forcing Howard Hughes to testify.  The contradiction apparently did not cause Chester Davis any concern. The similarity, between Nixon’s efforts to stonewall the Senate investigation and the efforts of Chester Davis to stonewall any investigation into his client, were clear, even though the motives may have been different.

In the early part of 1974, the Watergate investigations began to produce results.  One of Nixon’s aids and even Nixon’s own personal counsel were pleading guilty to perjury charges or illegal campaign activities. Nixon was even named as an, “unindicated co-conspirator” in an indictment against sever of his former aids.[14] The focus, as the matter moved forward, continued to beam in on the Whitehouse tape recordings.   By now, a new special prosecutor had been appointed. He subpoenaed the tapes. Nixon and his lawyers refused to turn them over.[15]  The matter now fell into the hands of the courts.  By this time, the issues of the Hughes donation was dropping off the radar as the Senate Committee. While they had been considering trying to get Hughes to testify, essentially they dropped the pursuit of that part of the investigation, in no small part due to the opposition being put up by Chester Davis and his firm.

In July of 1974, the court ordered the tapes to be turned over.  Included in them was the “Smoking Gun” that showed that Nixon and some of his aids within a week of the burglary attempt, were talking about how to “cover-up” the connection to the White House. Within days, impeachment charges were being drafted and Republican leaders in the Senate told Nixon he would not survive the hearing and would be removed.  A few days later, Nixon resigned and the “Great National Nightmare” was over.[16]

About a month later, Nixon received a pardon from President Ford. The issue with Rebozo essentially ended when the $100,000 could not be shown to be recently manufactured. Nixon would, in grand jury testimony a year later, only recently released, confirm that as he far as he knew, Rebozo had held the funds for several years and then turned them over to Chester Davis.  No law was found to have been violated.  For Chester Davis, he continued to be a successful attorney and was involved in some other issues which made the press, but not because of anything that had to do with Nixon. As for James Donohue, this was his first experiences at a law firm and the lesson that one vigorously represented one’s client was clearly shown. He would go on to working at law firms on Wall Street eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Marchi Jaffe Cohen Crystal Rosner & Katz.


[1] H.W. Brands, American Dreams (p.182)

[2] Interview with James Donohue, April 11, 2016.

[3] Fred Emery, Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon (New York, 1994) 132-3

[4] Bird, David, “Watergate Burglar Arrested on Charge of Coercion,” New York Times (New York, New York) Nov. 2, 1977

[5] Ken Hughes, Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, The Chennault Affair, And The Origins of Watergate (Virginia,2014) 152-9

[6] Genovese, Michael, The Watergate Crisis. (Connecticut, 1999), XXV.

[7] Lardner, George. “Nixon Refuses to Give Tapes to Jaworski: President Withhold.” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), May. 2, 1974.

[8] Interview with James Donohue, April 11, 2016.

[9] John M. Crewdson, “Report Questions Rebozo’s Account on Hughes Funds.” The New York Times (New York, N.Y), Jul. 11, 1974

[10] Crewdson, John. “Report Links Watergate to Hughes-Rebozo Funds.” The New York Times (New York, N.Y), Aug. 4, 1974.

[11] “Hughes cash ‘flung’ at panel,” Register Guard, Dec. 5, 1973, 3.

[12] Interview with James Donohue, April 11,, 2016.

[13] Interview with James Donohue, April 28, 2016.

[14] Genovese, Michael, The Watergate Crisis. (Connecticut, 1999), XXVII.

[15] Washington Post Staff, The Presidential Transcripts: With Commentary by the staff of the Washington Post (New York: Delacorte Press), XI.

[16] Klipatrick, Carroll. “Nixon Resigns: Richard Nixon Resign as 37th President of the United States.” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C), Aug. 09, 1974.

A New Campus Culture: The Anti-War Movement and Education Reform at Dickinson College

By Sarah Goldberg

Students protest the Vietnam War outside of Denny on May 6, 1970 (Photo courtesy of Pierce Bounds).

“I’ve never been a radical,” insists former anti-Vietnam War activist Pierce Bounds.[1] In an oral history interview about his years at Dickinson College, Bounds laments the historical treatment of the student anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s: “There’s been a lot written about veterans coming back and being spat on and I think most of that is urban myth.”[2] Bill Poole, a classmate of Bounds, agrees: “We really played at being hippies and played at being freaks.”[3] Yet the narrative of radical leftist student protest certainly dominates conventional historiography. Popular images of the period depict violent student protest leading to mass destruction of property; film footage features leftist ideologues calling for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutions.[4] Historian H.W. Brands aligns with this mainstream historical perspective by highlighting the radical organization Students for a Democratic Society as the face of the student anti-war movement. Focusing his analysis on the work of SDS leader Tom Hayden, Brands quotes the organization’s “earnestly provocative” manifesto and links the organization to its most extreme faction, the Weathermen, a group known for their violent tactics of bombing and riots.[5] While Brands focuses on the anti-war movement’s most radical moments, Bounds’ testimony of social change and peaceful activism at Dickinson College seems a world away. Bounds’ unique college experience highlights a movement born not of the radical left, but instead of a generational adolescence that inspired social changes even beyond anti-war activism. Bounds’ memories of student protest culture ultimately complicate Brands’ radical narrative by framing the trajectory of Dickinson’s moderate anti-war movement in the context of a larger generational shift towards new campus norms rather than radical politics.

Bounds’ denunciation of radicalism was rooted in his conservative childhood. While Brands uniformly labels the Baby Boomer generation as solidly liberal, [6] Bounds admits that he supported Nixon in 1960 and even wrote an essay in support of the war in Vietnam during junior high.[7] Bounds’ parents boasted a solid Republican voting record and his comfortable white-collar family had little reason to challenge the status quo. Yet as Bounds was introduced to the working class neighborhoods of Philadelphia, he began to question the political influence of his parents.[8] His growing political consciousness was further fueled by a “wake up call,” when an older peer became one of the first casualties in Vietnam. “The more you knew about [the Vietnam War], the more you realized it was kind of a hopeless policy,” explains Bounds.[9] As the young Bounds witnessed the horrors of Vietnam both in his community and on television, he grew more involved in liberal politics, much to the chagrin of his parents.

Far from dissuading Bounds, the disapproval of his parents merely encouraged his liberal leanings. “All of us baby boomers hit college and we knew we didn’t want to be like our parents,” explains Bounds of the widening generational divide.[10] He and his friends actively sought ways to distinguish themselves politically from their parents. Bounds and his friends liked “irritating our elders” by flaunting a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. “I never read it. Most people never read it. But we loved to hold that little red book,” Bounds reminisces.[11] Rebellious acts sought to distance the Baby Boomers from what they saw as the Establishment. Judge Edward Guido, a peer of Bounds at Dickinson, recalls the historical context of this division: “Our parents were the World War II generation… and so they didn’t understand how these snot nosed little kids, who had everything handed to them their whole life, couldn’t appreciate [it]. How dare they question authority?”[12] Bounds notes that this resentment could even break families up entirely. While his own parents tacitly accepted his growing liberalism, he recalls that some of his peers were disowned for their involvement in the anti-war movement and other liberal causes.[13] For the Baby Boomers, however, this generational divide was not a burden but rather the primary appeal of liberal politics.

Yet as Bounds left the conservativism of home, he soon found that Dickinson College in 1967 was far from the hotbed of leftist politics described by Brands.[14] Perhaps Berkeley or Ann Arbor were swept up in new liberal attitudes, but changing social norms had yet to reach the sleepy town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Dickinson clung steadfastly to the rules of the 1940s and 1950s, mandating strict limitations on student independence. “All of the old rules, social rules were still firmly in place,” remembers Bounds, describing how female students had to obey a 10 pm curfew or else risk “big trouble.”[15] Former Dickinson College President Bill Durden recalls similar restrictions: “We couldn’t go upstairs [in a women’s dormitory]; we would have been, you know, arrested or something.”[16] Dickinson’s harsh policies represented the last vestiges of an age of institutional conservativism. As Bounds arrived on campus, so did major social and cultural upheavals.

At first, these new liberal impulses represented only a minority of Dickinson students. Bounds notes that the vast majority of his peers were far removed from the hippie ideal remembered in survey histories. Among “the fringe,” however, anti-war and anti-Establishment sentiment had begun to flourish. Bounds reminisces fondly about the “back of the dining hall culture,” where artists, musicians, hippies and protesters smoked cigarettes and chatted for hours.[17] “We were young kids and we were full of piss and vinegar,” remembers Poole, recalling that he and his friends in the fringe were eager to protest just about anything.[18] During his freshman year, Bounds describes the liberal factions of the school as a secluded minority.

Yet it wasn’t long before the national move towards liberalism infiltrated the campus mainstream. Soon, even bastions of conservative culture like the fraternities and ROTC started to challenge social norms. The sexual revolution arrived at Dickinson shortly after Bounds’ arrival, challenging gender roles and catalyzing protests for co-ed dormitories.[19] Recreational drug use grew more common, as the administration frantically tried to prevent the spread of drug culture: “Marihuana [sic] is part of the student’s environment,” admitted Dickinson’s Drug Education Committee.[20] Bounds also cites an “amazing blossoming of the arts” as inspired students pursued their creative impulses.[21] At Dickinson, the movement towards a more liberal campus was assisted by a wave of younger professors with progressive ideals of education and a relaxed sense of hierarchy. “The professors weren’t necessarily our enemies,” recalls Durden, noting that some even allowed students to call them by their first names.[22] As the college moved gradually toward a more liberal campus environment in late 1960s, almost all students felt empowered to challenge authority in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

This new attention to student’s rights culminated in D.E.C.L.A.R.E Day, or Dickinson’s Expression Concerning Learning and Re-Evaluating of Education.[23] On March 5, 1969, the administration announced a moratorium on classes so that students could participate in discussions with faculty. Students hoped to address the conservative academic environment that felt anachronistic among the social and cultural shifts of the late 1960s. “My courses add up to a degree – do they add up to an education?” questioned the front page of The Dickinsonian.[24] In particular, students called for “revision of the school’s grading system, reduction in course distribution requirements, reduction of the course load for freshmen and sophomores, opening of co-educational living units, and a new college government arrangement.”[25] The college began a rapid institutional shift to catch up with the new culture of the campus. “[D.E.C.L.A.R.E. Day] was just to rethink the whole social order of things and out of that came what you’re still living under,” explains Bounds.[26] Kisner-Woodward Hall soon opened as the first co-educational dormitory and academic reform swept through the college. When Mary Frances Watson, the Dean of Women at Dickinson College, spoke to first-year women and their parents during the 1969 orientation program, her speech notes read: “DC is not the conservative little college in Penna. that will ‘take care of my daughter, see that she’s in at 10, never tastes a drink, etc.”[27] The Dickinson of Bounds’ freshman year was gone. The Baby Boomers ensured that even the conservative Dickinson could not go unaffected by the national shift towards generational empowerment.

Ultimately, the anti-war movement at Dickinson followed a similar trajectory as other campus reform efforts. Popular opposition to the Vietnam War moved liberal politics out of the domain of the fringe and into mainstream campus discourse. Inspired by this same generational empowerment to challenge authority, the larger student body soon embraced criticism of the war. By 1970, Bounds remembers that “the majority… were fed up and joined the march.”[28] As a member of ROTC, Durden was as far away from the fringe as you could get. Yet even he recalls “internally questioning, ‘What is this all about?’ This is a war that didn’t seem to be making sense.”[29] These doubts were compounded by a fear of the draft: “More and more people our age were getting shot,” remembers Bounds, “that really came to the forefront of our minds when the lottery system was introduced.”[30] As fear of the draft increased as the war in Vietnam expanded to Laos and Cambodia, opposition to the war grew stronger among all social groups. No longer a subculture of the school, the anti-war movement in 1969 and 1970 was poised to act on this new spirit of youth liberation.

Due to the mainstream nature of the movement, anti-war protest at Dickinson was far removed from the violent scenes described by Brands at other universities. By 1968, Dickinson was merely catching up to the true pioneers in campus culture. “We weren’t the Berkeley types,” stresses Poole, labeling the protest culture at Dickinson “middle class hippie-ism.”[31] For all their successes in pushing forward co-ed dorms, protest culture at Dickinson was nothing like the radicalism of SDS. Citing his Quaker background, Bounds notes that he “never had any stomach for [violence].”[32] The relatively restrained disposition of even Bounds’ liberal subculture highlights the campus’s prevailing moderate nature. At Dickinson’s largest anti-war protest, more than a thousand marched through Carlisle to the War College in May 1970 in reaction to the shootings at Kent State and the invasion of Cambodia.[33] “I remember saying that in a lot of these protest marches, it was really, that was the social way to connect with women back then,” remembers Guido, who chose to march separately from the crowd to demonstrate his serious dedication to the cause.[34] Bounds admits that while he and his fringe took the cause quite seriously, the protests were hardly a gloomy affair.[35] During the strike in the days leading to the march, students voted against shutting the school down and ensured that all students who wished to go to classes could be able to do so. “We were a very polite group of radicals,” jokes Poole, “We wanted our voices heard, but we didn’t want to disrupt anybody else’s life.”[36] After the march on the War College, the anti-war movement gradually faded away as the activist spirit died down over summer vacation.

Bounds’ account of student protest culture at Dickinson offers an interesting counter-narrative to Brands’ tale of radical activism. While Brands relates campus protest to nationalist leftist politics, Bounds’ memories seem to connect the anti-war movement more closely with campus reform protests for coed dorms or a relaxed academic hierarchy. Among Dickinson’s largely moderate student body, opposition to the Vietnam War was inextricable from a larger movement of generational empowerment. Despite its ideological distance from the radical left, Bounds looks back on his student activist days as a formative experience: “Those four or five years were unlike anything since,” Bounds remembers fondly, “It was a great time.”[37]


[1] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[4] Flint, Jerry, “Students Debate New Left Tactics: Seek to Battle Draft and Set Up Radical Organizations,” New York Times (New York, NY), July 3, 1967.

[5] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 153.

[6] Brands, American Dreams, 213.

[7] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Interview with Judge Edward Guido by Flint Angelovic and Michael Gogoj, February 22, 2005, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[13] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[14] H.W. Brands, American Dreams, 153.

[15] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[16] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[17] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[18] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[19] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[20] “Report of Drug Education Committee,” The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA), February 7, 1969.

[21] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[22] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[23] “March 5, Declare Day, 1969,” The Dickinsonian, (Carlisle, PA), March 7, 1969.

[24] Ibid.

[25] “Declare Day,” The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA), March 13, 1969.

[26] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[27] Watson, Mary Frances. “Notes for Orientation Speech,” June 13, 1969, Box 4, Folder 7, President’s Office Series 4, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[28] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[29] Interview with William G. Durden by Michael Gogoj and Jason Snow, December 8, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[30] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[31] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[32] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[33] For further reading on student-led protests at Dickinson College in May 1970, check out The Dickinsonia Project’s “The May Crisis: Voices of Protest at Dickinson College in 1970.”

[34] Interview with Judge Edward Guido by Flint Angelovic and Michael Gogoj, February 22, 2005, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[35] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

[36] Interview with William Poole by Christian Miller and Jason Snow, October 24, 2004, Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

[37] Video Interview with Pierce Bounds, Carlisle, PA, April 8, 2016.

The Day All Hell Broke Loose: May 4, 1970


By Matt Pasquali

Patricia Mackey

Patricia Mackey

Patricia Mackey was a college student at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh during the Kent State shootings, occurring on May 4, 1970. According to H.W. Brands book, American Dreams, on “hundreds of campuses across the country students boycotted classes and faculty suspended teaching in favor of discussions—which was to say, condemnation—of the war.” [1] Mackey remembers the immense cultural changes that took place on her campus after the shootings. “It was as though all hell had broken loose,” Mackey recalled about the day of the tragedy, “suddenly sleepy Plattsburgh campus became a hotbed of student unrest.” [2] Although Mackey’s experiences were common throughout American colleges and universities, her recollections during this time of turmoil are important because such memories can help show the drastic changes seen throughout American culture. However, memories from 40 years ago can become twisted over time. Ultimately, there were significant cultural changes seen post Kent State that Mackey  lived through, keeping in mind that not everything was changed because of this event.

1970 era hippies

1970’s era hippies

One of the most immediate changes seen during this era was among the nation’s youth. “People learned to question everything” after the shootings at Kent State. [3] “Students who had been quiet, reserved in their actions…lost the majority of their social inhibitions,” Mackey remembers. Changes in music, TV and the newly acquired drug culture became a “stronger force for expressing the public’s dissatisfaction with the status quo.” [4] The newly acquired drug culture affected everyone even if they didn’t partake in such activities. “You might not actually use marijuana or PCP…but they affected you,” recalled Mackey. Mackey noted how the drug culture caused people to “discard the traditional suit or dress of the past” and trade it in for a “psychedelic tie-dye T-shirt, bell bottom pants and sandals of the era.” She also claimed to witness her roommate “passed out in the dorm’s elevator,” an “over-drugged” student leap out of his dorm room on the sixth floor, and she claimed that the new trend of smoking marijuana caused her clothes to “smell of marijuana” regardless of if she participated in the usage or not. [5] Drug culture was everywhere and it started having effects on the entertainment business. “By way of TV at Woodstock” and “through the anti-war songs,” civilians started turning into hippies, who demonstrated their disapproval of the current wartime and aftermath of the Kent State shootings through this new type of music [6] Such rapid changes even affected athletics, where the largest impact was seen through “postponement of practices and contests.” [7]

May 24th, 1970 antiwar movement

May 24th, 1970 antiwar movement

The ongoing effects of the Kent State shootings and the Vietnam War left an impact on civil rights issues pertaining to women and blacks. “Widespread protests and the televising of the process became the norm,” Mackey noted. “Those who protested the war combined their efforts with those who protested in favor of increased rights for Blacks and women,” Mackey added. Campuses, such as Mackey’s, turned into “chaos” while students became “crazily radicalized over night.” [8] However, such chaos helped campuses across the United States become less strict about the rules regarding female students. “Young women no longer had to stay in separate dorms; they could live in co-ed dorms and use co-ed bathrooms.” [9] Mackey also notes how “no one kept track of their schedules or their whereabouts any longer” and “there was no longer a curfew for girls.” With fewer restrictions on females, there was an increased opportunity created for women after more and more people began protesting for what they believed in. As for blacks, changes were seen during the Vietnam War era, but were not as substantial as the progression seen in the movement for women’s rights. The first war blacks were allowed to enter the army was World War II, and by Vietnam times, “Blacks were drafted in higher proportional numbers than whites” but “were often required to do the most dangerous work.” [10] Blacks got what they wanted but were treated poorly. “Blacks also could not serve as officers,” Mackey adds. Even though “Blacks gained rights, at least in terms of the law” they were still treated with unequal and unfair opportunities in American society. [11]

Education was another visible cultural change seen throughout this era. One of the most immediate changes seen on Mackey’s campus after the shootings was that “no one went to class” and students attended “teach-ins” to learn about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. SUNY Plattsburgh President George Angeil even allowed students to use “his office for strike-coordinating activities.” [12] Nationwide, “detrimental” effects were seen on 18% of college campuses, according to historians Richard Peterson and John Bilorusky, and “academic standards could be said to have declined or academic integrity to have been comprised” after the Kent State debacle. [13] Classes at SUNY Plattsburgh “were officially cancelled” and students were given the option to “take the grade [they] had when everything had fallen apart” or contact their professors to discuss their grades. [14] This was a nationwide effect and Peterson and Bilorusky note that in as many as one in four colleges, classes were brought to an abrupt end. [15] In the following semester, drastic changes in course content changed, as well as policies regarding dropping courses. Mackey explained how you could now “drop/change courses without a penalty” and questioning the professor “about the grade you received” was now common. [16] She also explained how by her recollection, courses “suddenly changed.” Courses started incorporating content regarding “Africa and Asia, current events, civil rights” and the “women’s liberation movement.” Courses also started incorporating “Chinese and Indian classics, world religions…and courses on what other cultures are like and…what they thought of America.” [17] Schools, such as Mackey’s, “began to study and analyze the cultures of Africa and Asia because our ignorance of such things in Vietnam.” [18]

Example of antiwar movements across the nation's universities

Example of antiwar movements across the nation’s universities

Antiwar movements and strikes swept the nation after the Kent State shootings and the ongoing war in Vietnam.  Peterson and Bilorusky state that “significant impact” was portrayed at 57 percent of American colleges after the Kent State shootings. [19] Peterson and Bilorusky also report “essentially peaceful demonstrations” on 44 percent of the American colleges. [20] Such demonstrations included “sit-ins, parades, picketing, mass meetings, rallies…and so forth.” [21] However, these peaceful protests led to threats of violence at schools such as Mackey’s. “There was a sense of urgency—a feeling that we had to get involved,” explained Mackey. “Someone came up with the idea of a march on the Air Fore Base…they were met at the gate of the base by servicemen with loaded guns who told them in no uncertain terms that if they came closer, they would be shot.” [22] The amount of student participation in antiwar movements “had exactly doubled” from January 1970 to June 1970. [23] There was such a high demand for locations to hold protest meetings that “universities bent over backwards to provide students with office space.” [24] Antiwar movements and strikes became more and more common.

During times as vulnerable as they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it only takes one dramatic event to spark change. The Kent State shootings created “a new wave of arson” and can be looked upon as a pivotal turning point in American culture. [25] Changes in all aspects of culture were seen: education, women’s rights, black rights, and the increased participation in antiwar movements and protests. Without the unfortunate event at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, we may not have seen such important changes in American culture.

[1] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 170.

[2] Email interview with Patricia Mackey, March 20, 2015.

[3] [Mackey] interview.

[4] [Mackey] interview.

[5] [Mackey] interview.

[6] [Mackey] interview.

[7] Husar, John. “Big 10 Coaches Feel Effect of Campus Riots.” Chicago Tribune. 18 May 1970: c2. [Historical Newspapers].

[8] [Mackey] interview.

[9] [Mackey] interview.

[10] [Mackey] interview.

[11] [Mackey] interview.

[12] Linda Charlton, “Activity Stepped Up Here: Students Move Off Campus to Widen Protest Here,” New York Times, May 7, 1970 [ProQuest].

[13] Peterson, Richard E., and John A. Bilorusky. May 1970: The Campus Aftermath of Cambodia and Kent State. (Berkeley: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1971), 25.

[14] [Mackey] interview.

[15] Peterson and Bilorusky. 16.

[16] [Mackey] interview.

[17] [Mackey] interview.

[18] [Mackey] interview.

[19] Peterson and Bilorusky. 15.

[20] Peterson and Bilorusky. 15.

[21] Peterson and Bilorusky. 15.

[22] [Mackey] interview.

[23] Beggs, Daniel C., and Henry A. Copeland. “Opinion on the Campus: Students Become More Willing to Support Beliefs with Action.” Chicago Tribune. 01 August 1970: w2. [Historical Newspaper].

[24] Oliphant, Thomas. “Universities Feel Compelled to Restrict Anti-War Activities on Campus.” Boston Globe. 19 July 1970: 1. [Historical Newspapers].

[25] Brands. 170.

Recalling the Implementation of Title IX Through the Eyes of a College Athlete and Coach

By Kayleigh Wright

The 20th century in the United States of America saw considerable progress in human rights. Women gained the right to vote, the Supreme Court declared that separate is not equal in public education, and then there was the passage of various civil rights acts, and the implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments. Signed in by President Richard Nixon in 1972 [1], Title IX reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”[2] This act about the time of the constitutional amendment passed by Congress (though never ratified) reading, “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on the account of sex.”[3] H.W. Brands describes in his book American Dreams the rise of the feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s. Across the U.S., organizations formed that encouraged women to, “leave their kitchens and laundries…until they achieved equal pay, equal respect, and equal rights.”[4] The Implementation of Title IX, although not expressly stating the benefits to women, was another victory for those pushing for women’s rights.

The passage of the Title IX act did not immediately solve all problems for collegiate women. The one area where this act received the most publicity has been in collegiate athletics. The prevailing opinion in the 1970s was still that women were physically inferior to men, especially in sports. John A. Howard wrote to an assistant of President Nixon on the matter of Title IX while serving as president of Rockford College, saying, “there is no way the government can make oranges and apples equal. Nor can the government make men and women equal.”[5] This widespread view, especially common in the collegiate sports world itself, made opposition to Title IX a powerful force. Robert C. James of the NCAA believed that, “imposition of unrealistic administrative and operating requirements, drawn by persons totally unfamiliar with the practical problems of athletic administration, in the name of a non-discriminatory sex policy,” could be considered counterproductive.[6] Some people, such as Jim Kehoe, went so far as to suggest that the women were incompetent to act on the legislature of Title IX, saying, “[the] people who are writing this thing are all women. They have never lived in this world, or worked in this world, yet they’re passing judgment on this world.”[7] NCAA executive Walter Byers worried that “the women writing this thing are terribly naïve about intercollegiate athletics.”[8] Resistance began before the act was officially passed, and continued to surge following its passage. Thus, the implementation and successes of Title IX took a lot more effort than we can appreciate today.

Bev Bruce and the team she coached, 1983.

Bev Bruce and the team she coached, 1983.

Bev Bruce was a lacrosse player and coach at the University of Delaware when Title IX was in its early stages of implementation. To this day, she can still recall how, not so long ago, equal rights for women were not as simple as just passing a law. She graduated in 1977, and accepted a coaching position at her alma mater in 1980. Looking back on her experiences before Title IX was put into effect, she remembers the unequal treatment she encountered. “The girls were expected to shower and change before getting on the late bus, and the boys just got on in uniform,” she says.[9] She also notes that there were far fewer sports offered for women when compared to men, “there was one sport in the fall: field hockey…two sports in the winter…[in] spring there was lacrosse and that was it.”[10]

Despite Title IX being passed before Bev entered into her undergraduate education, not much seemed to have changed from her high school experience with sports by the time she was involved in collegiate athletics. She remembers attending practices for her lacrosse team at a field that was, “in the way far back…in the middle of nowhere that was always muddy.”[11] “Although we represented the University of Delaware, the students had to assume the costs of [competition] and transportation,” she remembers, “although we had an intercollegiate schedule, we were coached by a graduate student.”[12] Nearly a decade after Title IX was signed in as an amendment, as Bev became a coach, female teams across the country and at the University of Delware were still dealing with some of the issues they faced before the implementation of the act. “We still got the lousiest fields, the field house was by the three-hole golf course that they had… So you’d be playing the game with golf balls whizzing by your head,”[13] she reminisces. When she was playing herself, she remembers having to change in a small side locker room and never having access to the main gym. But the most exciting things she remembers gaining for the team as a coach were material things, not real equality in rights and access. “We were happy to have kilts that weren’t falling apart at the seams, and they all matched, and the numbers were in sequence,”[14] she says.


She also noted the gap in time between the passage of Title IX and actually putting it into practice, saying, “At Delaware, [Title IX] didn’t even kick in, they didn’t start adding teams, until ’79 or ’80. It took them [at least] 5 years to get up to speed.”[15]

The barriers that needed to be deconstructed to see the full impact of Title IX were not able to be resolved simply with legislation. Social stigmas and preconceived stereotypes were the biggest hurdles to be overcome in order to see the successes of the act. In an article for the Washington Post, Patricia E. Barry speaks to how the roles of men and women were perceived as different, saying that men who go to college to play sports go, “to become professional athletes,” while the goal of women is, “to get an education.”[16] A collegiate female athlete Sherri Bleichner, in the same article, calls attention to how she needed more ‘substance’ to get into college, such as good grades, while the boys got in “on their playing ability alone.”[17] The only way that Title IX could have its full beneficial impact was for there to be a societal shift, especially among collegiate athletes, coaches and athletic departments.

Charles L. Crawford, a basketball coach at Queens College, in a 1975 column for the New York Times, importantly noted, “this attitude will not develop overnight.”[18] He wrote that “we must begin thinking of all our institution’s student athletes as members of our program,” and that, “men will have to reevaluate long-held assumptions.”[19] He suggested that, “the coach who maintains the traditional attitude of “natural” male superiority will feel constantly threatened.”[20] Crawford tried to remind fellow male coaches and athletes that success is success whether you play on the nicest field or have the most funding. He suggested that although many were predicting the demise of collegiate athletics under Title IX, “realization of our common human goals and striving for mutual professional respect can produce not only harmony but also more significant achievement for school and collegiate athletics.”[21] Crawford implied that, perhaps it was the long held prejudices and stigmas that will cause destruction in collegiate athletics, not Title IX.[22]

Although Brands does not provide any direct reference to Title IX in his book American Dreams, there is no doubt that the act has had significant bearing on women, specifically in sports. Today, a mere 43 years after the passage of Title IX, women across America play collegiate athletics at all levels. It is now the sport division under the NCAA that determines whether student athletes are eligible for scholarship, not the school itself or the gender. Any athletes playing for NCAA Division I or II schools are eligible for scholarship money for athletics. In some sports, such as basketball, cross-country, ice hockey and swimming, there is equal or more scholarship opportunity available to women.[23] Although it is impossible to ever completely eliminate prejudices and stigmas against women, especially in a notoriously male dominated area such as athletics, Title IX has gone a long way towards legally improving women’s chances for opportunity and success. Bev Bruce reflects on the impact of Title IX, saying, “I think that it’s so wonderful to see young women like you, or a couple of the teachers at school [where I work] that have recently graduated…who have really played hard, played competitively, and had all those opportunities that we didn’t have. I think it’s just fabulous. But the unfortunate side is, and maybe this is why it all changed, that it had to be legislated. It took legal action to hold people to equal opportunity for women.” [24] So in society, in the eyes of the American population, will men and women ever be truly equal? Perhaps not. But those who fight and succeed in getting America closer to inherent inequality for the genders see success every day from Title IX.


[1] Title IX.,”The Living Law,” (2015). http://www.titleix.info/history/the-living-law.aspx

[2] United States Department of Labor “Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972,” (2015).http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm

[3] W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: The Penguin Group, 2010), 177-78.

[4] Brands, 177.

[5] Ying Wushanley, Playing Nice and Losing: The Struggle for Control of Intercollegiate Women’s Athletics 1960-2000, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 83. https://books.google.com/books?id=XzDu0PLXVy4C&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=implementation+of+title+ix+in+the+1970s&source=bl&ots=eLWsim3Cuv&sig=zl00klrskya6D_qzsYvym2TLwYs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oRZAVbOBA8OWNs23gNgE&ved=0CEkQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=implementation%20of%20title%20ix%20in%20the%201970s&f=false

[6] Wushanley, 83.

[7] “Title IX: Taking the Macho out of College Sports.” The Boston Globe, 23 March 1975,1. [ProQuest].

[8] “Title IX: Taking the Macho out of College Sports,” 1.

[9] Phone Interview with Beverly (Bev) Bruce, Carlisle PA and Scituate MA, March 20, 2015.

[10] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[11] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[12] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[13] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[14] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[15] Bev Bruce, Interview.

[16] Gary Davidson, “Title IX Begins Changing the Scholarship Outlook for Women.” The Washington Post, 2 February 1978. [ProQuest]

[17] Davidson, 1.

[18] Charles L. Crawford, “Title IX: No Reason For Fright.” The New York Times, 10 August 1975.

[19] Crawford, 1.

[20] Crawford, 1.

[21] Crawford, 1.

[22] Crawford, 1.

[23] Scholarship Stats, “College Athletic Scholarship Limits,” (2014). http://www.scholarshipstats.com/ncaalimits.html

[24] Bev Bruce, Interview.

The Hippie Counterculture: A Teen Finding his Place Within It

By: Kendal Packo

It’s the end of the 1960s and it’s the hippies versus the Establishment. Living in the midst of the social whirlwind was Bill Packo, a high school student from Randallstown, Maryland. Packo’s vantage point of this time is unique; he was an avid athlete and a dependable student, who was also involved in the music scene. “I wasn’t a hippie by any means”, Packo claims, “but I had a group of friends that were hippies… I would go to parties and I would just drink, but there were drugs like LSD and Quaaludes, hash, pot… they were doin’ it all.”[1] And these were in fact two of the trademarks of the hippie generation: music and drugs. Historian H.W. Brands acknowledges the relationship between the two, stating, “Their music matched their taste in drugs. The Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and other new bands sang of getting high and staying high… Marijuana was for socializing, methamphetamines and cocaine for partying, LSD for probing the mysteries of the psyche.”[2] The hippies used both the music and the drugs to detach from society and create a social movement that shook the United States. Packo offers multiple memories that complicate Brands’ understanding of what it meant to be, or not to be, a hippie, and how the music could exist without the drugs.

The sudden prevalence of drugs was alarming for society in the end of the 1960s. One article from the Boston Globe in August of 1967 sought to express some of the concerns that non-hippies had about LSD, one of the most commonly used drugs of the time. It claimed that this drug would “lead the user to feel that he has found the answers to life’s problems, a chemically centered religion, or values that transcend his society and culture.”[3] Their scientific logic may or may not have been valid, but it certainly demonstrates society’s concern for the effects this drug would have on society. Packo validates that the invention of LSD helped to ignite the hippie movement. He explains, “There’s a little neighborhood in San Francisco called Haight-Ashbury where the hippie movement really began. A guy named Timothy Leary invented LSD and all the hippies… flocked to San Francisco. That was like the hippie headquarters. All they did was do drugs and have sex and hang out and protest the war.”[4] Brands mentions Haight-Ashbury and Leary in his book, and even quotes one of Leary’s famous catchphrases, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”[5] The phrase was meant to encourage people to disengage from societal norms through the use of psychedelic drugs. One of the primary ways in which people did this was by protesting the war. Both Packo and Brands agree that peace was at the core of the hippie values. Packo himself disagreed with U.S. involvement in Vietnam, but unlike the extreme hippies, this did not lead him to completely rebel against the social order.

Promotion of peace and protestation of the war in Vietnam were largely asserted through music during the ‘60s and ‘70s.  As Packo’s interest in music developed, he became more in-tune with the anti-war efforts. He explains, “Music was really an important way for the hippies to be heard.”[6] Packo became directly involved in the music scene as a result of his friendship with a man named Doug Robinson. Packo elaborates, “He played guitar and piano and started a musical group called Crude Oil. It was five of us and we played different parties and small get togethers. I’m not sure if we ever got paid but it was a lot of fun… We would just listen to music all the time.”[7] And this is what defined many young people just like Packo. He used music as both an escape, and also a way to connect with his friends. In fact, his participation in his band led to some amazing experiences. One of the most memorable nights of his teenage years, he claims, was during the summer of 1969. He tells of him and his band mates, “We won tickets to a concert at the Baltimore Arena to hear a group called Blind Faith. Eric Clapton was the guitar player and after the concert we got to go back stage and we hung with him for a while. But during the concert, an MC fromtimes mag a radio station [in Baltimore] came out on the stage and said ‘Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, we have our first man on the moon.’ July 20, 1969—it was a great night.”[8] Knowing how monumental this night would be for America, Packo still couldn’t refuse the free tickets; “Most people were excited to stay home by their TVs,” he added, “but Eric Clapton was a god to us, and there was no chance that we were going to miss out on that concert.”[9] This story combines an epic night for a music fan with one of the greatest achievements for American modern technology, creating a lasting memory for Packo.

Another one of the most monumental events of the ‘60s was Woodstock, the three-day music festival in Bethel, New York during August of 1969, which featured some of the biggest names in music during that time. Some of the acts included Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Creedence Clearwater, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Packo didn’t attend the festival, but in a way was still able to experience it first hand. After a visit to his grandparents’ house in Connecticut, he recalls an abnormally long ride home on the New York Freeway. The cause of the delay was a mass of people walking along the freeway. Packo remembers, “A five hour drive for us to get home took ten hours because of all the congestion. We didn’t know what it was from; we found out later it was Woodstock. All we saw were hitchhikers and hippies everywhere—it was crazy.”[10] This concert, it turns out, was not expected to be as momentous as it was, and news of it hadn’t even traveled far enough for Packo to hear about it beforehand.[11] Although Packo didn’t consider himself a hippie, this coincidental encounter with the hippies was yet another reason why they were an inspiration for his musical interests.

While the culture of the hippies was certainly unprecedented, Packo downplays the magnitude of the generation gap that many people claim existed between the hippie generation and their parents. He describes a solid relationship with his parents, claiming they rarely argued and they shared many common political views. His personal experience illustrates an article printed in The Washington Post in 1973, which featured a study showing that the hippie generation and their parents were in agreement on most political and social concerns, such as integration and war.[12] These two sources suggest that many people, including Brands, may exaggerate the generation gap. Slight difference in opinion and social habits between generations is common, and Packo is proof that many members of the counterculture resided in the middle of the spectrum between ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘free spirit drug-addict’. It is the memory of the protestors and the rioters that has branded the hippies as being completely defiant toward their parents and society at large. While older generations also opposed the Vietnam War, it was the members of the hippie generation who protested in striking ways. “[They would] burn the American flag, which is illegal, women would burn their bras and men would burn their draft cards,”[13] recalls Packo. While his parents disagreed with the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, they were shocked at the hippies’ utter defiance towards the country. He comments, “My parents and their friends felt the burning of the draft cards was un-American and unpatriotic. My parents grew up during World War II when it was the citizens’ duty to defend our country.”[14] Because of the varying opinions and reactions of the hippie generation and the generations that preceded it, it is difficult to make a claim that the hippies were completely isolated from the remainder of society. There were undoubtedly many critics of the hippies, given that their era was a pivotal one in American history. However, to say that they rebelled against everything that their parents stood for is a complicated and misleading assertion, according to Packo’s memory.

Packo doesn’t deny the impact that his generation had on society, and that it made revolutionary changes for young people. The hippie movement and the battle against the ‘Establishment’ ended in a victory for the youth of society because “it just changed the way people thought of young people,” Packo claims. He elaborates, “Young people had a say in things now, you know? They could give their opinions. Before, you were just a kid… [kids] were to be seen, not heard. The hippie movement let young people not only make noise, but to actually be heard and not just ignored.”[15] The credit for these changes may be due to the extreme hippies, but had an effect on all young people, including those like Packo who were caught in between. While interested in the music, he stayed in school, got along with his parents, and stayed away from drugs. Packo embodies a large population that over the years has been overshadowed by the stories of the most unrestrained of hippies. Maybe he wasn’t a hippie by popular definition, but a part of the counterculture nonetheless.

[1] Email interview with Bill Packo, March 24, 2015.

[2] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 146.

[3] Herbert Black, “LSD Makes Hippies Only Think They Love,” Boston Globe 1960-1983 (24 August 1967) [Proquest].

[4] Email interview with Bill Packo, March 24, 2015.

[5] Brands, 147.

[6] Email interview with Bill Packo, March 24, 2015.

[7] Phone interview with Bill Packo, March 25, 2015.

[8] Phone interview with Bill Packo, March 25, 2015.

[9] Phone interview with Bill Packo, April 29, 2015.

[10] Email interview with Bill Packo, March 24, 2015.

[11] Phone interview with Bill Packo, April 29, 2015.

[12] William Chapman, “Study Minimizes 1960s Generation Gap: Changes of ‘60s Not So Drastic,” The Washington Post, Times Herald (16 September 1973) [Proquest].

[13] Email interview with Bill Packo, March 24, 2015.

[14] Phone interview with Bill Packo, March 25, 2015.

[15] Phone interview with Bill Packo, March 25, 2015.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén