Baby Boom Brings Poverty: A Personal Account of Life’s Challenges in the 1950’s and 1960’s

By Kassidy Lesher

“Poverty in the 1960’s is invisible and it is new, and both these factors make it more tenacious,” Michael Harrington proclaimed in his groundbreaking study, The Other America (1962), “It is more isolated and politically powerless than ever before.” [1] To most individuals, the baby boom evokes an age full of growth and prosperity. Unfortunately though, that was not always the case. There were people born and raised in the baby boom who did not find a prosperous nation. Living conditions were horrible for the poor and little was being done to help change it. This was the case for Ann Marie Harpel, a child of the baby boom era who was born in 1948, along with her four other sisters. She recalls the difficulties of her life growing up in a time. Her story illustrates a darker side of the baby boom era. It shows that post-war American life also had extensive poverty.

Harpel’s father served in World War II, returned home and then began to start a family. Her parents always wanted to have a large family, and with her father coming back from service allowed for them to finally make it happen. With five daughters arriving almost one right after another, however, it was not easy on her parents to provide. Money was tight around the house with Harpel’s father being the only one with a job. Some families were doing well which is why historian H.W. Brands observes that  “rising postwar incomes enabled families to thrive with single breadwinners.” [2] Yet this was not the case for the Harpel family. Harpel remembers, “my life was very hard growing up. I did not have the advantages that other children had. I was always lacking the necessities.” [3]. She owned one dress and one jacket growing up. The jacket came from the Salvation Army, and she wore it for years. She felt like she was always at a disadvantage. Unlike many other children around the neighborhood, she did not have money to take the bus to school. She and her siblings walked.  Yet, the worst part about going to school was lunch. “I never had enough to buy a meal though” Harpel recalls, “When I could afford food, it was only two rolls because they were only a nickel at school. On the days I was able to eat rolls, were the days that I was happy.” [4]

Harpel’s father worked as hard as he could at a steel mill from the time he returned from service until the business was shut down. Yet even though it would have benefited the family for her mother to work, she never did. Harpel’s mother instead enjoyed her freedom and would do whatever she pleased, without worrying about her family. Brands states, “their wives could devote themselves to caring for the children.” [5]  Unfortunately though, that was not the case for Harpel.  She had to take care of herself and her siblings because her mother did not bother with them. “My life would have been one big happy memory if I did not have any worries” Harpel says, “Instead, I have sad memories of my childhood because I never got to do what I wanted and just be a child.” [6] As soon as she got home from school, she had to help her siblings with their homework and then do the chores. Cleaning and cooking were almost always her responsibility, for as long as she can remember. Her siblings contributed, but with her being the oldest a majority of the tasks fell on her.

Harpel was also forced to help out by getting a job. She started working around the age of twelve. Her mother found her a job as a babysitter for the local district attorney. She would babysit for them any night of the week when the family needed help.  She also had to clean the house when it was asked of her. Harpel said, “The job was not so bad because I already knew how to take care of children and how to clean a house, because they were both things I was doing for my own family.” [7] She normally received around $8 dollars a week and of that money she could only keep $2-$3 if she was lucky. Either all of the money, or most of it, went to things for the house. Her job was not for her own benefit or enjoyment, it was simply to help provide for the family. After babysitting and cleaning, Harpel would attempt to do her homework. Sadly, schoolwork was not always an option, because whatever she needed to do to for herself came last.

Harpel recalls the moment of receiving her diploma was “one of my proudest moments because I felt like I achieved something completely and solely for myself.” [8] Yet this moment turned sour because he mother told her that if she had not forced her to attend school every day, she would never have graduated. Harpel particularly remembers this moment because it was the first time when she fully realized that her mother was unable to show any love towards her. Harpel had been so proud of herself for achieving something special and her mother had stripped her of it. Parents are supposed to be happy for their children’s success,  but Harpel sadly did not receive that. Luckily for her and her siblings, however, there lived a kind elderly women down the street who would always help out the girls whenever their mother was not around and father was at work. She would open up her home for the girls, so they would have a place to bathe.

Harpel notes, “Also, there was no running water or a flushing toilet. We would have to use a bucket to flush the toilet. We had no tub either to bathe in.” [9] Her living conditions were a prime example of the poverty she was in. The house she grew up in only had two bedrooms, and she does not remember her parents ever sleeping in one. Each room to her memory had a double bed and the sisters shared those two beds. The living room was the only place with heat during the winter, and Harpel believes her parents used to sleep on the floor by the fire to stay warm. Every other place in the house though was without heat, because they could not afford a heating system. The house also lacked appliances such as a washer and dryer. If laundry needed to be done, Harpel would have to take it to the nearby laundry mat. The money she made from working would contribute to things as such. Her family was unable to afford a house as nice and simple as the Levitt model homes that were being produced around the nation. Not everyone could afford to enjoy the new American lifestyle .

As Harrington wrote, “The poor are not like everyone else. They are a different kind of people. They think and feel differently; they look upon a different America than the middle class looks upon.” [10] In the early 1960s, Harrington showed the growing divide that existed in America. Most people did not want to acknowledge the troubles of that time though. Instead the people wanted to only see the good in the nation that was happening, and not work on fixing the hardships that still existed. Poverty was a problem that needed to be dealt with, and unfortunately for many it was an issue that people forgot about. Irene Brown, a sociologist of Emory University, points out that, “The odds of being poor for the cohort born between 1959 and 1964 is 33 times that of the oldest cohort.” [11] In other words, poverty actually increased as the baby boom continued. “For every cohort of white household heads born since the beginning of the baby boom,” Brown observes, “each new generation has been facing a higher risk of impoverishment than the cohorts preceding it.” [12] The issue of poverty was not properly addressed and taken care of during the rise of the baby boom, and thus families such as Harpel’s had to suffer growing up. Yet too many historians have overlooked their struggles in their happy depictions of the post-war era.

 

[1] Michael Harrington, The Other America (New York: Penguin Books, 1962), 14.

[2] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 70.

[3] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 22, 2015.

[4] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 22, 2015.

[5] Brands, 70.

[6] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 23, 2015.

[7] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 23, 2015.

[8] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 23, 2015.

[9] Email interview with Ann Marie Harpel, March 23, 2015.

[10] Harrington, 146.

[11] Irene Browne, “The Baby Boom and Trends in Poverty” Social Forces Vol. 73 No. 3 (Mar. 1995): 1071-1095 [JSTOR].

[12] Browne, 1088.

 

World Trade Center Bombing of 1993

 

By Glenn Carr

Christopher Carr was just checking in on his industrial gas supply company in New York on a snowy afternoon. It was February 26, 1993. “I was in the field riding along with our New York City sales manager Andy” he recalls “we were visiting accounts in Brooklyn, [when] we heard about the explosion at the World Trade Center.” [1] The World Trade Center had been the target of a terrorist attack that winter afternoon which would momentarily shock the nation and the City. Carr left his house in Fairfield, CT expecting an uneventful and routine day checking in on his business accounts. He got quite the opposite. After the news of the attack struck, Carr got even more than he bargained for that morning. “Within 5 minutes of hearing about it on the news, Andy’s pager started screeching on his belt he recognized the number as one of our largest account, Felix Contracting.” [2] Carr explained. Felix Contracting’s materials had been provided by Carr’s company. They supplied most of the welding supplies, torches, and cutting gases, throughout the five boroughs of New York City. “The project manager, his name escapes me, needed us to get a truck and deliver oxygen, acetylene, and cutting torch supplies immediately to the World Trade Center.” [3] Carr recalled. New York City had quickly become a victim of a hate crime. The question is how much did this crisis affect the city in the years after.

New York City was complete chaos after the bombing had occurred. There was a sense of sheer panic that overcame the seemingly invincible city. The World Trade Center was a major part of thousands of people’s everyday routine. As Brands puts it, “To strike a blow against the Twin Towers would be to register displeasure or outrage against America’s global power. The trade center, moreover, sat stop a train and subway station, through which hundreds of thousands of people passed daily.”[4] Brands captured the essences of the severity of the 1993 attack. The bombing greatly affected many New Yorkers and those that were visiting the city. Many were in shock and feared that their loved ones were near the attack. Carr recalls, “Andy explained to the Felix man that we had no trucks in the area and that it would be hours with the massive traffic jams on the BQE [Brooklyn Queens Expressway] to get a truck to the World Trade Center. After I heard this, I decided that we would risk putting the high pressure gas tank in the back seat of Andy’s Lincoln and take them through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in order to rush the cutting equipment to the site of the explosion.”[5]Trucks are not allowed in the tunnel with hazardous gases in them for obvious reasons but Carr and his coworker were not going to take no for an answer at this time of crisis. They drove under the East river very nervously and cautiously in order to not get hit.

As Carr and Andy neared the crime scene a procession followed them in order to ensure that they got to the site of the explosion. When they arrived on site there was an abundance of trucks awaiting their arrival. There were two police cars, a fire truck, sanitation truck, and many Felix trucks and vans. Carr and Andy did not have time to take in the devastation of terrorist attack. They quickly pulled all six of the tanks out of the car and got back into the car in order to make another run for more tanks. It was not until the following morning that they were able to fully comprehend the brutality of the attack. “The next morning I was invited back to the site of the explosion, we were given NYPD jackets to wear over our coats.” Carr explained “We were given the guided tour by the Felix project manager, who wouldn’t stop thanking us.” [6] The aftermath of the attack was astonishing. The hole that was left due to the explosion was devastating. According to Brands:

“The explosion blasted a hole two hundred feet long and one hundred feet wide, and five stories deep. Several floors of the building structure collapsed, and large segments of the concrete ceiling of the train station smashed down upon the tracks and platform. The blast caused the Twin Towers to tremble; many of those inside thought they were feeling an earthquake. The motion shook slabs of marble off the façade of the building; the shock wave propelled windows out of their frames. Electrical wires shorted and steam pipes burst, spewing a scalding fog into the building.”[7]1101930308_400

Carr’s description coincides with the description that Brands depicts, both emphasizing the size of the damage due to the attack. The width and depth of the bomb that was placed inside the van was unbelievable and a very powerful image.Carr explained that when he finally got to the parking lot level where the truck had been placed with the bomb inside, FBI and NYPD personnel were swarming the site. The FBI and fire department were able to begin investigating as soon as possible. The image to the right illustrates the scene that Brands and Carr painted so well. [8] The picture that appeared on the cover of Time Magazine after the bombing was taken at the parking lot level that Carr describes in his interview.

As Carr looks back on the event he recalls having never really given terrorism a second thought beforehand. He had believed that it was a problem in other parts of the world. He did not think that terrorism was an issue on America’s radar, especially not a problem that pertained to Brooklyn, a place so close to home. Carr was truly taken back by what he had seen February 27, 1993 referring to the events of the bombing as “dumb luck”. He said, “The absolutely dumb luck we had as the van was parked in such a way that the blast bounced off two reinforced with rebar concrete walls and knocked down pillars for [hundreds] of yards.”[9] He continued with what else stuck out to him from the scene, “The second and scariest was when you looked up from the hole you noticed that it was right on the inside corner of the building. They knew what they were doing they wanted to knock World Trade Center tower 1 and have it crash into Word Trade Center tower 2.” [10]

Carr still goes into New York City on a daily basis. The atmosphere of the city was different after the 1993 bombing but, he also acknowledges that after six months or so no one really thought of the 1993 bombing.  Even subsequent reports about the master plan by the terrorists to blow up the George Washington Bridge and Grand Central Station proved to be minor news stories.  Then the attack on 9/11/2001 happened and everyone knew how wrong they had been.

 

 

 

 

[1] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[2] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[3] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[4] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 303.

[5] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[6] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[7] Brands, 303

[8] ALLAN TANNENBAUM / SYGMA. TIME Magazine Cover: World Trade Center Bombing — March 8,1993. Digital image. TIME. 2015 TIME Inc, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

[9] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

[10] Phone Interview with Christopher Carr, March 24, 2015.

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.

Footnotes:

[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.

Protests –What Were They Good For?

Burlingame's high school ID card from the year he went to the D.C. protest.

Burlingame’s high school ID card from the year he went to the D.C. protest.

By Isabel Burlingame

Jack Burlingame attended the May 9, 1970 Vietnam War protest in Washington D.C. “I traveled from Massachusetts to Washington D.C. on a chartered bus with other high school and college students,” he remembers. “I and my friends were probably the youngest people on the bus – 15 years old at the time….we had been encouraged by our history teacher to attend.”[1] In 1970, Nixon widened the war into Laos and Cambodia in order to reinforce the image of American interest in Southeast Asia after withdrawing from parts of South Vietnam. According to H.W. Brands in his book American Dreams, “Whether or not these efforts conveyed to the communists the message Nixon intended, they got the attention of the antiwar movement in America. The Cambodian invasion sparked the largest protests of the war.”[2] The protests to which Brands refers took place largely on college campuses, but also included those in major cities where people from all demographics of the population, such as 15-year-old Burlingame, spoke out against the Vietnam War. Both Brands and Burlingame agree that the protests had an important role in influencing the government to end the war, but neither seem to discern any lasting impact beyond that. Despite the influence that the protests had on the American government at the time and their immense prevalence across the country (with some ending in tragedies such as the Kent State shootings), their effect did not last beyond the immediate context of the war.

The Vietnam War protest movement began long before Burlingame attended the 1970 protest in Washington D.C. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), led by Tom Hayden, was one of the first antiwar groups to emerge around 1960. Their efforts did not have a noticeable impact for the first five years.[3] In 1965, however, President Lyndon Johnson expanded America’s involvement in the war by increasing troops and funding, which “caused membership [of the SDS] to mushroom”.[4] The SDS subsequently split into moderate and radical factions, the latter of which sometimes turned to violent protest tactics such as bombings.[5] The mid to late 1960s also saw the beginnings of the peaceful protest movement. Marches in major cities, such as the one in D.C. that Burlingame would attend a few years later, grew in numbers and included a wide variety of Americans, ranging from students to hippies to white-collar businessmen.[6] While some viewed the protests to be successful, they did little to change the direction of the war as controlled by the government. According to Brands, “Ronald Reagan, then running for California governor, dismissed the antiwar protests in three words– ‘sex, drugs, and treason'”[7] The protests allowed the portion of the population that opposed the war to express their views, but their effect on the rest of the country and much of the government was unclear. However, both Brands and Burlingame contend that the protests had a cumulative effect that swayed the government’s decisions. Brands references Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, who was one of the first House leaders to change his position on the war.[8] Burlingame pointed out that “as public sentiment inexorably tilted against the war, politicians were acutely aware of the shift and its potential implications at the ballot box.”[9] As the protest movement increased, those running for office were forced to consider the views of the protesters.

The May 5, 1970 New York Times front page article about the Kent State shootings.

The May 5, 1970 New York Times front page article about the Kent State shootings.

By May of 1970, the protest movement had grown considerably. On and around May 9, protests occurred in major cities and on college campuses across the country, including the march in Washington D.C. that Burlingame attended. Burlingame remembers a sense of camaraderie among the protesters, all working towards a common goal, although with a variety of motivations. Many of the protesters had been angered by Nixon’s covert invasion of Cambodia, and others by the Kent State shootings, which had occurred less than a week before. Burlingame cites both of these events as reasons for his participation in the protests, as well as “the expansion of the draft with the elimination of several categories of deferments, including those for college students. The fact that I was just a few years from my 18th birthday and eligibility for the draft certainly captured my attention and heightened my awareness of the war and its consequences.”[10] The draft policies had changed two years earlier, in 1968. Previously, students attending graduate school or planning to attend the next year were exempt from the draft, as were those in certain occupations. Removing these exemptions increased those eligible for the draft by roughly 430,000. This decision led to a surge in the protest movement, drawing in educators who contended that many bright young minds that were essential to the country’s future would be needlessly lost in the war.[11] Even high school students like Burlingame feared the effect that the new policy would have on them and joined the movement.

There is little doubt, however, that the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 dramatically increased participation. Burlingame recalls the May 9 march in D.C. having been planned before the shooting, but “the massacre undoubtedly led to an increase in the number of students taking part.”[12] In a front-page New York Times article the day after the shootings, President Nixon was quoted as urging protesters towards “peaceful dissent and just as strongly against the resort to violence as a means of such expression.”[13] Burlingame recalls the protest that he attended as reflecting this wish for peace. “Despite Kent State, I experienced no feeling of impending violence or fear that a riot might break out.”[14]

American involvement in the Vietnam War came to an end in January of 1973 when Henry Kissinger bargained the withdrawal of US troops for Le Duc Tho’s agreement to a ceasefire.[15] Two years later, in 1975, once American troops had been withdrawn, North Vietnam launched a successful attack and captured South Vietnam, bringing the entire country into communist rule.[16] The United States had essentially failed in its attempt to keep communism out of South Vietnam, wasting years and thousands of lives in the process. Burlingame believes that the protests did ultimately decrease the duration of the war, and speculates that “without them, the war would have dragged on several years longer and resulted in significantly more casualties and destruction.”[17]

Perhaps the protests were successful in their immediate goal: bringing about the end of the Vietnam War. But neither the protests nor the Vietnam War itself left a prominent legacy on the United States, judging by American involvement in future conflicts such as the First Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. As Burlingame eloquently puts it, “I struggle to discern any lasting impact from the Vietnam War protests, other than to give aging hippies something to reminisce about…In the years since, the U.S. has experienced no shortage of legal and illegal wars, covert actions, extraordinary renditions, illegal arms sales, state-sponsored torture, POW abuses, both ‘collateral’ and criminal killings of civilians in war zones, imprisonment without trial, military profiteering, drone strikes of dubious legality and morality, and other deplorable acts carried out in our name using our tax dollars. Would the rogue actions of the U.S. over the last 40 year have been even worse if the Vietnam protests had never happened? Perhaps, although it’s hard to imagine.”[18]

 

[1] Email Interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

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

[3] Ibid, 153.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 154.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 155.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, April 30, 2015.

[10] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

[11] “Resist Or Fight!” Bay State Banner, Feb 22, 1968 [ProQuest].

[12] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

[13] John Kifner, “4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops: 8 Hurt as Shooting Follows Reported Sniping at Rally 4 Kent State Students, 2 of Them Girls, Killed by Guardsmen.” New York Times, 5 May 1970, 1.

[14] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

 

[15] Brands, 174.

[16] Ibid, 175.

[17] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

[18] Email interview with Jack Burlingame, March 23, 2015.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s: Life in Birmingham

By Rachel Glick

In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was at the center of the revolutionary Civil Rights movement. However, Melvin Glick’s testimony shows that this “revolution” was hard to actually see in daily life. Glick, as an observer and participant, saw first hand the effects of the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. On the surface, the political successes and famous marches and protests seemed to change little. H. W. Brands’ book, The American Dream, does a good job of summarizing the key moments of the movement, noting the hardships and struggles on the way, but he only briefly mentions frustration that many people felt during this time. Glick’s testimony adds depth to Brands’ account, offering an illustration of the ways segregation and discrimination persisted despite the advances of the Civil Rights movement.

Glick grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where he knew no black people until high school. He recalls that despite being taught by his Mennonite parents that “all people were to be treated with respect, and that there was no difference between races,” he had little understanding of race and racial slurs.[1] Pigeon, Michigan, where Glick and his wife taught at a church school, was just as detached from the world of racial tension as Parkesburg, Pennsylvania had been. They moved to Birmingham in 1963 so Glick could work in the University of Alabama hospital laboratory and attend the Medical Technology School. “For me this was like moving to a different culture in another part of the world,” Glick remembers. “I immediately noticed that all the black people lived in one area of Birmingham, mostly in the Bessemer, Alabama area…Driving through Bessemer was an ordeal because it was so difficult to breath, and from the chocking smell of sulfur from the iron smelting going on continuously.”[2] He learned not to hold the door for a black woman, as she would simply wait for him to go through first and got used to the phrase “separate but equal.” A few months after they moved, four little girls died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The victims rode segregated ambulances to the hospital.[3] The possibility of integrated neighborhoods had white families contemplating “to move over the mountain into the next ring of suburbs…”[4] This snapshot of life in the south is typical of the 1960s, but Birmingham was especially bad. The “particularly ugly form of racism” of police and officials launched the city into the spotlight, setting the stage for many of the historical moments of the Civil Rights movement to take place.[5]

Glick quickly noticed the “separate but equal” mentality that many people had. Everything was separate: separate doors, waiting rooms, water fountains, and schools. Even the courthouse was segregated. However, equal was another matter. Glick drove past a black school everyday on his way to work. The playground was gravel and children had to walk outside to get to different classes or the restroom.[6] The nearby white school was a “modern brick building” with “plenty of playground equipment plus baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and soccer fields.”[7] The famous Brown v. Board of Education case was in 1954. This was 1963. The ruling to desegregate public schools was flawed because of its demand that states do this “with all deliberate speed,” a rather ambiguous phrase.[8] Brands notes that this resulted in “foot-dragging” by the Jim Crow south.[9] As “momentous” as the decision was, it did little to help immediately.[10] Even when schools were officially desegregated, they were not necessarily integrated. Paul Mokrzycki makes the distinction between the desegregation of schools and integration: “Integration…entailed a complete and seamless incorporation of African Americans into every facet of academic life…”[11] This was still a problem in 1972, when Glick and his family moved to Indianapolis. He recalls seeing the beginning of integration of white neighborhoods and the subsequent “white flight.”[12] As blacks moved in, whites moved out.[13] Schools remained mostly desegregated, even if it was not legal desegregation.

Glick enrolled in the Medical Technology School at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1964. This was just a year after George Wallace famously (and literally) attempted to stand in the way of the desegregation of the university in Tuscaloosa.[14] Vivian Malone and James Hood were the first black students enrolled in any University of Alabama classes. Glick’s 1964 Medical Technology class had only ten people; one of them was Wilma Ann Barnes, the first black woman attending the university in Birmingham. “On the first day of school, all of us agreed to go as a group, with Wilma, into the white section of the University Hospital dining room,” Glick remembers.[15] Barnes was the second to last student in the line, followed by Glick. First, the other students sat down at a table together, followed by Barnes and then finally, Glick beside her. “The order was deliberate. We knew we were breaking a taboo in that room. The others could appear to have no choice in the matter, because Wilma chose to sit down at their table after they were already seated. However I could have chosen to sit elsewhere and it was obvious what was happening. I heard the hisses and mutterings as I sat down, and saw the glares of hatred from some of the people facing me.”[16] They continued this routine for several days and after awhile no one paid them any attention. There is hardly any information on Barnes available, even though she was technically the first black student to graduate from the University of Alabama. The Medical Technology program was only twelve months long, so she graduated alongside Vivian Malone in 1965. A short article was written about the event in the magazine Jet. It mentions Barnes by name but she was a “Mystery Girl” then and still is now.[17] The integration of the cafeteria was apparently a success. No one bothered them, as Glick said. But they still made sure Barnes was not alone at lunchtime, an indication that although the new status quo would not be challenged openly, it was not entirely accepted.

Brands’ summary of the Civil Rights movement and incidents like the integration of the hospital cafeteria seem to point to the success of the movement, yet Glick stated outright that he could see no improvement in the treatment of black people in Birmingham. Brands focuses on struggle to pass legislation, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which would end legal discrimination based on race. President Johnson’s “promise,” as Brands puts it, seemed “distant” and “irrelevant” to many black people.[18] Glick remembers witnessing a bowling alley employee refuse a black man trying to rent shoes. “The black man asked, ‘what about the court ruling?’ The bowling alley employee said, ‘we have no court ruling against us and we’re not going to rent to you. Now why don’t you just leave and not create any trouble?’”[19] This incident illustrates the frustration that Brands mentioned. Changing the laws did not erase people’s prejudices, so discrimination continued.

Glick did not attend any of the demonstrations or marches in Alabama, but he did have a sense of the danger in Birmingham. In one instance, his job at the university hospital required him to run medical tests on a black man “castrated and left lying along the road” by the KKK.[20] Bombings often occurred in places he had been recently. These were sobering reminders that the city was not entirely safe. But that violence was not restricted to the south. “I hadn’t realized that the heart of the KKK movement was in the small towns around central Indiana,” Glick remembers.[21] In a 1975 article for the Chicago Tribune, Michael Hirsley describes a Klan picnic in rural Indiana. He ends with a chilling quotation from a young boy contemplating a burning cross: “Looking at the cross, he said, ‘All we need are two niggers on the ends, you know it?’”[22] The corruption of many southern governments and the police force made the height of the civil rights movement no safer for blacks than they had been in the decades after the Civil War, when lynching was publicly accepted. “Black residents expected to be harassed by white police officers…” Brands notes.[23] Unfortunately that statement is still true in many areas of the United States today.

Glick’s recollections seem to contradict the popular interpretation that the Civil Rights movement radically, and quickly, changed in the daily lives of black Americans. “In discussions with neighbors there was just as much prejudice against blacks as there had been before, but there was a fear that changes were coming and that they would need to adjust to the changes.” Glick recalls.[24] The Civil Rights movement made huge leaps in the demolition of legal discrimination and segregation, but the system of oppression persisted for many years on its own. Laws were easier to change than the prejudices that had been instilled in the population for decades, a fact that is still relevant today.

Footnotes

[1] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Bomb Victims Rode Segregated Ambulances to Hospital, Morgue.” Chicago Daily Defender, September 18, 1963. [ProQuest]

[4] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[5] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 111.

[6] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Brands, 86.

[9] Ibid, 86.

[10] Ibid, 86.

[11] Paul Mokrzycki, “After the Stand Comes the Fall: Racial Integration and White Student Reactions at the University of Alabama, 1963-1976,” The Alabama Review 65, no. 4 (2012): 290-313

[12] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[13] Brands, 151.

[14] Ray Abrams, “Air of Nervous Peace Hangs Over U. of Ala. Campus.” Afro-American, June 22, 1963. [ProQuest]

[15] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Second Negro in Alabama Graduation A ‘Mystery’ Girl,” Jet 28, no. 2 (1965): 43 [Google Books].

[18] Brands, 148.

[19] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Michael Hirsley, “Klan in Indiana Dishes Out Beans, Hate at Picnic,” Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1975. [ProQuest]

[23] Brands, 148.

[24] Email interview with Melvin Glick, March 20, 2015.

The Impact of the Vietnam War on The Civil Rights Movement

By Christina Braxton

           Black men, like Dennis Braxton, the subject of my interview, served their country during the Vietnam War only to return home to be treated like second-class citizens. This was the recurring theme throughout my interview. We also discussed the anti-war movement, the civil rights struggle and his involvement in the Black Panther Party.

Mr. Braxton, now 67 years old, decided to enlist in the Navy in 1967 and served until 1971. For three consecutive years, he spent about three months each year in Vietnam. By the time Braxton had enlisted, major Civil Rights legislation had already been passed. However, laws were one thing, implementation was another. When telling the story of how he ended up in Vietnam, Braxton explains:

“I went into aircrew training and anti-submarine warfare and I did real good in my training. I went into the West Coat anti-submarine squadron again because since Viet Cong didn’t need any submarines, I didn’t think I’d be in an area that was fighting a war anytime soon. I got assigned to my squadron of choice after finishing my training and I was flown into a duty station in the Philippines. It turns out that part of my squadron was rotating through Vietnam because they had changed the mission of the squadron to drop the submarine equipment into the jungle and check for Viet Cong. So I ended up in Vietnam anyway. [1]

Braxton also explained that discrimination in the navy was just as bad as discrimination outside of the navy. Before serving, Braxton was a student in Bluefield, Virginia, which was an extremely segregated part of the country. As an electronics technician, he was truly in the minority because most blacks served as cooks, mechanics, and deck workers. Blacks were constantly looked down on and were assumed to be “dumb, ignorant, and uneducated”. [2] Braxton goes on to explain that “There was a built in resentment from the white folks because they thought they were smarter, better, and more sophisticated and thought they were superior to black folks.” [3] When I asked Braxton what the hardest thing to deal with , he answered, “The hardest thing to deal with was the fact that people were giving me orders that were dumber than I was and they didn’t have the vision, common sense, or level of education that I did. They had the same fears and had the same limitations that I did but back then, no one looked into that in detail.” [4]

In 1964, the movement against the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War began and many were peaceful protests on the campuses of universities across the United States but some became violent. This movement also incorporated civil rights, free speech, and the women’s rights. Anti war protests increased in frequency once Americans became aware of the violence that was happening overseas due to growing television coverage. As the death toll rose, many Americans began to question the country’s role in the war and in the draft, specifically. Many American’s saw the country’s involvement as immoral and unnecessary. In the book Chronicles of a Two-front War: Civil Rights and Vietnam in the African American Press, the author, Lawrence Allen Eldridge states, “the President was allowing his calendar to be monopolized by the Vietnam War, and the far-off war was pulling the attention of the American people away from the vivid stories of the civil rights struggle.” [5] H.W. Brands claims that many Americans “asked whether the status of a small country far away justified the expenditure of American blood and treasure.” [6] This made black participation in the war more difficult because blacks were not accepted as citizens in the United States and to make matters worse, they were participating in a war that was increasingly unpopular. Braxton remembers feeling conflicted:

“On one hand, I’m a representative of the United States of America. On the other hand, I’m not getting the full benefits of citizenship. And what made it even worse was that most citizens were against the Vietnam War. So for black men it was a little bit different. When we wore the uniform wanting to be respected as a black person, the country didn’t respect us as a people of color. And to make things worse, we were fighting in a war that people didn’t agree with in the first place. So it made it weird. [7]

Braxton returned to the United States in February of 1971 and was honorably discharged from the Navy on March 11, 1971. When he returned to California in 1971, he describes the area as “hippie-land.” [8] Peaceful protests were now extremely common but movements like the Black Panther Party also rose in popularity. One of the first things Braxton did when released from the Navy was to join the Black Panthers. They were not always a violent organization, but they would use violence as one of their tools. In American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 by H.W. Brands states that “ Even as King and other civil rights leaders were advocating nonviolence and urging blacks to work within the existing political system, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and a cadre of militants declared the system incurably corrupt and told African Americans to take their grievances to the streets.” [9] Braxton stated bluntly that, “they didn’t have any tolerance for peaceful protesting.” [10]

 

 

[1] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[2] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[3] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[4] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[5] Eldridge, Lawrence Allen. Chronicles of a Two-front War: Civil Rights and Vietnam in the African American Press. Columbia [Mo.]: University of Missouri, 2011. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed April 26, 2015).

[6] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 148-151.

[7] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[8] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

[9] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 148-151.

[10] Phone Interview with Dennis Braxton, Carlisle, PA, March 26, 2015

Audio snippet from Braxton interview:

 

Vietnam War Campus Protest: A History of Resistance

By Patti Kotrady

Marc Weinberg, a 67-year-old photographer and retired lawyer from Frederick, Maryland, played a significant role in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. From 1968 to 1970, Weinberg spent the last two years of his undergraduate college career at Ohio State University participating in campus protests. He recalls, “Whenever there was an opportunity to get involved, I would gather and make my voice heard. I didn’t believe in violence…We wanted to end the war.” [1] Particularly, Weinberg remembers a campus-wide protest during the spring of 1970 that gained momentum partially in response to the United States invasion of Cambodia. During the spring of 1970, in an attempt to attack North Vietnamese refugees, President Richard Nixon ordered an American occupation of Cambodia as well as the bombing of Laos. [2] According to H.W. Brands, “The Cambodian invasion sparked the largest protests of the war. 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.” [3] Although Weinberg’s narrative of protest certainly resonates with Brand’s description, his experience expands significantly on Brands’s terse explanation. Ohio State University’s 1970 protests were about more than just the Vietnam War—they also confronted larger issues of racism, student power, and police brutality.

According to Brands, “Some Americans had objected to the war in Vietnam from the outset. They asked whether the status of a small country far away justified the expenditure of American blood and treasure.” [4] As a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) student during his first two college years, Weinberg was not a part of the initial anti-war activism. He instead fit into what Rhodri Jeffrey-Jones categorizes as the third stage of campus protest from 1969 to 1972 in which students were “idealistic,” yet understanding of the importance of legislative politics. [5] By the late 1960s, students such as Weinberg became upset with the seemingly unjustified nature of violence in Vietnam and were willing to do all they could in order to end the war. In this effort, various groups on campus, including the Afro-American Society, the Women’s Liberation Front, the Anti-War Ad Hoc Committee, and the School of Social Work, submitted a series of demands to the Ohio State University Administration. [6] These demands included “that the University support the views of its students and condemn the continuation and expansion of the war in Southeast Asia,” “that ROTC courses not receive academic credit, and that ROTC instructors not have faculty status.” [7] In addition to these war-related demands, Ohio State students demanded “a degree-granting department in the field of ‘Afro-American Studies’ be established…,” “fees be lowered for all in-state and out-of-state students,” and “the establishment of a Planned Parenthood Center within the campus area.” [8] Yet, the administration refused to meet many of these demands. According to University Vice President James Robinson, “most demands have reflected only the concerns of self-appointed groups and have neither proposed nor suggested constructive programs that recognize what is already being done by the University to work toward our common objectives…” [9]

Students at Ohio State were not only concerned with issues regarding the Vietnam War, as Brands seems to suggest. They also advocated for racial inclusivity, women’s reproductive rights, and student liberties. Weinberg recalls, “We had a protest going for two things. One thing was a protest against racism on campus because black students on campus weren’t getting the same opportunities as white students were given, and the other thing was the war.” [10] Although Weinberg mentions that they had a “protest going for two things,” the student demands suggest that they advocated for rights of women and students as well. This can be further exemplified through a 1969 study by the Urban Research Corporation of Chicago. According to Jeffrey-Jones, researchers “surveyed 232 campuses and found that the draft was a major issue in less than 1 percent of protests. Whereas antimilitarism was a main issue in 25 percent of cases, two other issues counted for more: racial issues, at 59 percent, and student power, at 42 percent.” [11] Although Brands fails to mention African American, feminist, or student rights motivations for campus protests, these factors played a significant role in the activism of students at Ohio State University and other college campuses across the United States.

1970_OSU_Demonstrations_Flyers_Ad Hoc Com2

Ad-Hoc Committee of Ohio State University. “Time to Act!” Flyer, April 28, 1970. from the Ohio State University Library Archives

In addition to the Vietnam War, racism, and student rights, police brutality became a key concern of Ohio State students. When demands were not met, students fought back through both violent and non-violent protest. For example, Weinberg recalls a protest in April of 1970 in which students expressed their concerns: “To show that we believed in a closed campus, we decided that we would literally close the gates of the campus. And I was in that group, of course…the police came and said ‘Open those gates, dammit, or else.’ We didn’t open the gates, and they came busting through those gates, and that was the first time that I ever saw a police riot. They went ape…they were catching people and beating them over the head with their sticks. It was nasty and it was bad…From that moment on, that campus was in complete and absolute turmoil. [12] Due to the “turmoil,” administration put a dawn to dusk curfew on the campus [13]. Weinberg recalls, “I had no freedom…The police were running around in police cars with the police numbers taped black. They took off their badges and any identification. They had helicopters so if anybody gathered anywhere they dropped teargas from the helicopters.” [14] Historian Melvin Small further emphasizes the role of police on college campuses when he states, “during the academic year 1969-70, 7,200 young people were arrested on campuses.” [15] Weinberg’s story of police retaliation to student activism combined with Small’s statistic of general police involvement demonstrates the intensity and violence that arose from anti-war protests on college campuses.

In regards to police brutality on college campuses, Brands focuses on the shootings at Kent State.  He writes, “At Kent State University in Ohio, protesters clashed with National Guard troops, who fired on the crowd and killed four students. Days later a similar tragedy occurred at Jackson State in Mississippi, where two students were killed by police fire.” [16] When the shootings at Kent State occurred, Weinberg and his peers were in the midst of a protest on their own campus. As news of the student deaths spread through the crowd, Weinberg remembers, “We were just shocked. They’re killing us. They’re killing us. It was very sobering. My friends and I, we were all gathered around and thought, ‘Is this the time to take up arms?’ I mean, it’s the army. How can you fight the army? You can’t do it…It felt like we were at war.” [17] As evident through Weinberg’s recollection, the shootings at Kent State represented a larger issue in which students and police forces were “at war” with one another. Weinberg even remembers that, when police forces charged the students, they shouted “kill, kill, kill, kill, kill.” [18]. As students resisted oppressive actions and beliefs, police forces, along with the National Guard, retaliated with force and intimidation. A Ohio State University peer, Don T. Martin, also remembers police activity during the 1970 campus protests: “Throughout the student Anti-Vietnam War Movement much was said about the ‘theatrics’ displayed by student protesters in their resistance to authority; yet what was not appreciated was the fact that the authorities in their counter-resistance efforts possessed and utilized far more theatrical resources than did the student resisters. For example, to walk through the night emptied by curfew and patrolled by carloads of policemen armed with shotguns and gas-grenade launchers, to be hit with searchlights from overhead helicopters, to see tanks and armed authorities putting on their gas masks with some jeeringly gesturing at students with hippie-type dress and demeanor created a surreal setting.” [19] Although Brands mentions shootings at Kent State and Jackson State, police and National Guard occupation, intimidation, and violence occurred on various college campuses, including the Ohio State University, ultimately resulting in a “war” between students and authorities.

Eventually, overwhelmed by the growing number of student protesters, increased violence, and mass boycotts of class, the President of the Ohio State University made an announcement on May 6th, 1970 that the University would shut down for a short period of time. [20] Students disbanded with demands unmet as they were forced to leave their campus. When students returned on May 19th, security measures tightened, but activists continued to rally, establishing a 2,000-person protest on the day of return. [21] Despite this continuation of activism, graduation commenced and momentum eventually waned. [22] According to Weinberg, “We wanted to change the world…but we failed” [23] Although student activists at Ohio State University may not have achieved most of their goals as documented through their demands of the administration, they experienced some victories. For example, an Afro-American Studies department was established and efforts were made to start a daycare service free to University women. [24] In order to understand the experiences of student protesters at Ohio State University and elsewhere, their efforts must be viewed outside of the context of anti-Vietnam War boycotts. Although the anti-war effort was certainly important to people such as Weinberg, students also advocated for the rights of African Americans, women, and the general student body in the wake of immense resistance from university administration and police forces.

Clip from Marc Weinberg’s interview:

 

Footnotes

[1] Video Interview with Marc Weinberg, Frederick, MD, March 14, 2015.

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

[3] Ibid, 170.

[4] Ibid, 152.

[5] Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 43.

[6] Novice G. Fawcett and The Ohio State University Administration, “University Administration Responds to Student Demands,” September 29, 1970 [Ohio State University Archives].

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Diary of a Dilemma, The Ohio State University Alumni Monthly, June 1970, 9 [Ohio State University Archives].

[10] Video Interview with Marc Weinberg, Frederick, MD, March 14, 2015.

[11] Jeffreys-Jones, 85.

[12] Video Interview with Marc Weinberg, Frederick, MD, March 14, 2015.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Melvin Small, Antiwarriors: The Vietnam War and the Battle for America’s Hearts and Minds (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2002), 102.

[16] Brands, 170.

[17] Video Interview with Marc Weinberg, Frederick, MD, March 14, 2015.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Don T Martin, “Reflections of a Graduate Student at Ohio State University During the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, 1965-1970,” American Educational History Journal 30 (2003): 1-5 [ProQuest].

[20] Diary of a Dilemma,” 15.

[21] Diary of a Dilemma,” 18.

[22] Martin, 1-5.

[23] Video Interview with Marc Weinberg, Frederick, MD, March 14, 2015.

[24] Fawcett and The Ohio State University Administration. “University Administration Responds to Student Demands.”

The Cold War Gets Warmer: A Former Member of the Air National Guard Recalls the Era of the Berlin Crisis

By Jessica Snydman

The New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Matthew Snydman is on the far left.  Courtesy of Matthew Snydman.

The New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Matthew Snydman is on the far left. Courtesy of Matthew Snydman.

Matthew Snydman joined the New Jersey Air National Guard (NJANG) in his early 20’s. He was young, recently married, and working at a sweater factory in Philadelphia, PA.[1] It was the late 1950’s and at the same time, the United States found itself in a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.[2] In 1957, the Soviets shocked the West when they launched Sputnik, the world’s “first artificial earth satellite.”[3] The advancement proved the Soviets were developing military technology at a faster rate than expected. [4] As Matthew Snydman recalls, “the Sputnik satellite was different [from other developments in outer space and missile technology at the time] because we really didn’t want to hear anything good about the Russians and especially them beating us on anything.”[5] In response to Sputnik, the United States increased their efforts in building new military and space technology, but advancements on both sides of the conflict did not come without a price. As historian H.W. Brands explains, “the paradoxical effect of the arms race was that the more weapons the two sides deployed, the less secure they were.”[6]  Snydman’s experience in the Air National Guard confirms the wisdom of that insight.

Two years after the launch of Sputnik, Snydman enlisted in the NJANG .[7] When asked why he decided to enlist he said, “There may have been a draft at that time but most of my friends were joining the NJANG as a chance to fulfill our obligation to our country and at the same time, begin our families and working careers. I think the choice of the Jersey Guard was because there were more openings available at the time than in Pennsylvania [his home state] and also the Air Force seemed a little more glamorous than the Army.”[8]

In June of 1961, Kennedy met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, where they discussed the looming issue of what to do about Berlin.[9] The city of Berlin was divided between the free, NATO-occupied Western half, and the East German and Soviet controlled, communist Eastern half.[10] Because the city of Berlin was situated “110 miles behind the Iron Curtain” in East Germany, “surrounded by Soviet troops,” the stakes were high for NATO and Western powers in West Berlin.[11] Therefore, when Khrushchev threatened “to make a peace treaty with East Germany, which would end Western access to Berlin,” Kennedy reacted firmly.[12]  Soon after the meeting in Vienna, Kennedy addressed the nation in regards to how the United States would react to the Soviet Union, declaring he would increase military forces to prepare for conflict if need be, including the Air National Guard.[13]

Matthew Snydman’s unit, the 177th Tactical Fighter Squadron (177th TFS), was called into active duty that summer as a result of the speech. He remembers there being “mucho, mucho excitement!” at the prospect of being activated into the regular Air Force, saying he was “happy to finally [be] doing something more productive”.[14] Stationed at a base in Atlantic City, NJ, the 177th TFS was never actually deployed during their active duty, however. Snydman describes his work as “a refueler, the guy who, after the plane was down and positioned, plugged in my tank truck line to a port under the wing, watched the gallon counter and filled the plane with gas (JP4 fuel),” adding, “I drove a 10,000 gallon tank truck back and forth, back and forth.”  He admitted it was “Boring as hell”.[15] For the most part, however, he remembers the time as being enjoyable. He sarcastically described it as a “tough life, living on or near the beach, water skiing and drinking a little beer and going to work and driving a truck and not thinking about much except if and when we were leaving for Germany which we never did”.[16]

Fortunately for Snydman, and the world, the combat deployment never came.

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

[2] Unknown, “The Widening Conflict, 1953-1963,” in Cold War: An International History, (New York: Westview Press, 2014). [Credo Reference]

[3] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 95.

[4] Unknown, “The Widening Conflict, 1953-1963”. [Credo Reference]

[5] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

[6] H.W. Brands, American Dreams, 96.

[7] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

[8] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

 

[9] Unknown, “Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963),” in A Dictionary of Contemporary History – 1945 to the Present, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999). [Credo Reference]

[10] John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Berlin Crisis, July 25, 1961,” John F Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum (accessed March 2015). http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/Berlin-Crisis_19610725.aspx

[11] Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report.”

[12] Unknown, “Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (1917-1963).” [Credo Reference]

[13] Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report.”

[14] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

[15] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

[16] Email interview with Matthew Snydman, March 25, 2015.

The Hydrogen Bomb: Keeping Us Safe

By Patrick Meier

My grandfather, Stephen Patrick Meier, participated in the creation of the deadliest weapon of its time.  One could say that the Cold War was fought not with guns, but with science and political maneuvering. H.W. Brands focuses on the political debate surrounding the hydrogen bomb, but my grandfather’s story is about the science and actual creation of the hydrogen bomb.  In the end, however, Stephen Meier’s opinions on the matter reinforce Brands’s interpretation about the development of thermonuclear weapons.  Some have called it a dangerous escalation in the Cold War.  Others, my grandfather included, think of it as a necessary evil, one that “kept us safe” despite its danger.

Stephen Patrick Meier graduated Earlham college in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in physics.  After a year in Indiana working for RCA, he was drafted into the Army.

Stephen Meier in 1953

Stephen Meier in 1953

Basic training occurred that year at Fort Knox, after which Meier was assigned to Aberdeen, Maryland.  From there he was transferred to Edwards Air Force Base, and transferred yet again a few months later to Kirkland Air Force Base.  In the span of only a few months Meier went from basic training in Kentucky, to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, to the Aberdeen Bombing Mission outside of Los Angeles, and finally to Kirkland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico as part of the Aberdeen Bombing Mission Special Weapons Liaison Group.

Being a physics major, Meier’s main role was creating bombing tables for the new hydrogen bombs.  In layman’s terms, he conducted tests to determine how the fallout from bombs would disperse in the air.  In his own words, “depending on the way the bomb acted when it was released we would put numbers into the bombing system to make the sure the bombs went toward the target.  Of course if you’ve got 8 and half megatons it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference!” [1]

Meier’s involvement with the hydrogen bomb began in 1953, an entire year after the United States’ first detonation of a fusion device, and months after the Soviet Union’s creation of a weaponized hydrogen bomb [2].  At the time of his involvement, the Soviet Union had already successfully created a hydrogen bomb that could be dropped from a plane.  The Cherokee test (which Meier had worked on), according to nuclearweaponarchive.org, “was the first U.S. air drop of a thermonuclear weapon. This… was intended to gather weapon effects data for high yield air bursts, but also was a political demonstration of the United States capability to deliver H-bombs by air to pressure the Soviet Union.” [3].

Cherokee test

Cherokee test

His work then ended in 1955, so while important and interesting work, his story itself says little about the political concerns that factored into President Truman’s decision to go ahead with development of thermonuclear weaponry.  When asked about what he thought of his project at the time, Meier said, “Politics didn’t enter into it as far as we were concerned.  It might have somewhere else but not for us.” [4]

That somewhere else was Washington, where debate over whether or not to even create fusion weapons had raged for years previously.  The General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission was a panel made up of scientists tasked with helping to decide what course of action the United States should take in terms of nuclear weapons.  The panel published the Acheson-Lilienthal Report on October 30, 1949.  Their report was split into two sections, signed by two different groups within the committee, as each side could not agree unanimously on certain issues.  One thing, however, was clear.  “Although the members of the Advisory Committee are not unanimous in their proposals as to what should be done with regard to the super bomb,” explains the report, “there are certain elements of unanimity among us. We all hope that by one means or another, the development of these weapons can be avoided.” [5]

In this report, they condemned the creation of the hydrogen bomb, on the basis that current weapons were sufficient for destroying military targets.  The hydrogen bomb, on the other hand, seemed too dangerous for civilians. They wrote:

“It is clear that the use of this weapon would bring about the destruction of innumerable human lives; it is not a weapon which can be used exclusively for the destruction of material installations of military or semi-military purposes. Its use therefore carries much further than the atomic bomb itself the policy of exterminating civilian populations.” [6]

The project was meant to be a secret.  Meier says, “security wise I was top secret and q-clearance, which was atomic energy clearance.  Actually I think the q-clearance was higher than top secret.  And really it was pretty well contained right on the base.  We didn’t talk about it.” [7] Brands says little on the actual development of the hydrogen bomb, choosing instead to focus on the debate surrounding its creation and the impact its construction had on the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Brands states that although the debate over the hydrogen bomb was meant to be secret, it didn’t stay that way for long.  Details were soon leaked to the press and public opinion was not one-sided.  One expert, Ralph Lapp, even claimed that “for America to build the bomb would be like ‘the man who lives in a tar paper shack and develops a flame thrower to defend himself’.” [8]

Meier’s stance, then and now, is that creating the hydrogen bomb was the right thing to do at the time.  However, he is not without his qualms.  He says, “it was such a dramatic increase in destructive capability.  And you know you had to be thinking long and hard, I don’t care what kind of madman you were, to even unleash such a thing.  It was terrible.” [9]

We can see hints of this uneasiness in this letter written by Chief Herman Miller, Meier’s supervisor at the Aberdeen Bombing Mission Special Weapons Branch.  This letter was sent to RCA notifying them of the end of Meier’s military service and return to work at RCA.  He says in the letter that “Cpl Meier has proven himself to be an outstanding individual who has placed duty far above his own personal feelings and comforts.” [10]  In hindsight however, during my interview with him, Meier decided that “I think we should have [created the hydrogen bomb] to be honest about it.  It kept us safe.”  [11]

He was not the only one with that opinion.  Lewis Strauss believed that “the United States must be as completely armed as any possible enemy.” [12]  Essentially, the United States was obligated to create fusion weapons just in case the Soviets were creating them too.  This eventually motivated President Truman to go ahead with development of the hydrogen bomb.  Additionally, the fear of the Soviets being able to make a hydrogen bomb turned out to be justified.  The Trinity Test at Alamogordo in July 1945 predated the Soviet’s first atomic bomb by almost four years.  [13] America’s first hydrogen bomb, however, beat the Soviet’s first hydrogen bomb by only one year.  The gap was closing.  However, The United States had one more card to play yet in the race for thermonuclear superiority: Turkey.

The eventual incorporation of Turkey into NATO lent the United States a distinct advantage at this stage of the war.  Turkey’s airfields and America’s new, powerful, deliverable thermonuclear bombs kept pressure on Soviet borders. [14] The Cold War, however, was only beginning.

 

 

[1] Stephen Meier, phone interview, March 21, 2015.

[2] H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States since 1945 (New York: Penguin Books, 2010), 66.

[3] “Operation Redwing.” Operation Redwing. Accessed March 25, 2015. http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Redwing.html.

[4] Phone interview with Stephen Meier.

[5] PBS, American Experience, Race for the Superbomb. Accessed April 28, 2015.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/primary/extractsofgeneral.html

[6] Ibid

[7] Phone interview with Stephen Meier.

[8] Brands, 66

[9] Phone interview with Stephen Meier.

[10] Herman Miller to W.F. Warrender, June 2, 1955.

[11] Phone interview with Stephen Meier.

[12] Brands, 66.

[13] Ibid, 66.

[14] Ibid, 67.