The following guest posts by alumni Chris Malis (’72) and Ellie Goldstein/Erickson (’70) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The Gallery is open Mon-Fri 9-4pm, with a Saturday viewing on October 12th, 9-5pm.
Guest Post by Chris Malis (’72):
We Are Stardust
Coming of age in the Sixties (c.1965-c.1972) was a gift; it made me who I am now. Contrary to the changes of many as they age, I have not grown more conservative over the years. Am I the same person I was then? Of course not. Would my 20-year-old self like my 70-year-old self? Perhaps not so much. Would I do (or not do) certain things differently if I could go back in time? Sure. But on the whole, I feel grateful to have come of age in that time and space. It was the most magical, earth-shaking decade of the 20th Century. I won’t say earth-changing, because … look around. Who would have thought that, 50 years later, we’d still be fighting racism, poverty, war, women’s reproductive rights, income inequality, sexual violence, and impending environmental collapse?
In the words of Lincoln’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1861: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell … when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
The Sixties, for me, was a time of better angels coming to the fore. I desperately hope they return in force… and soon!
I Was So Much Older Then
I began my Leftist political journey in 1963, quite by accident, at the ripe age of 14. It was my turn that year to spend time with my cousin and his family in Silver Spring, MD. We’d explore D.C. by bus and by foot. On August 28, 1963, we left the house as usual, with the admonition from my Aunt to steer clear of the “troubles” near the Washington Mall. This, of course, made visiting the Mall an imperative and we were soon at the Lincoln Memorial, now part of the almost 300,000 people participating in the People’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Chance and adolescent rebellion gifted us with witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Our initial apprehension at being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of mostly Black people quickly faded as we stood among the working poor, the homeless, people fighting for economic equality and social justice, as we listened to Dr. King, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins and the protest music of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary. We were accepted and supported by the people who were marching to achieve those very things. It was a transformative, life changing day for me, one I would not have again until Woodstock.
Attending UConn in the Fall of 1967, following the “Summer of Love,” opened up a whole new world for me. For the next 4 years, I would try, and sometimes succeed, in living in the moment… and accessing the “better angels” within.
After Bathing at Baxter’s
When I first dropped acid as a Freshman in April, 1968, I was fortunate enough to get two capsules of Sandoz Pharmaceutical (now Novartis) medical grade Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25. My roommate “Whitey” and I each took a capsule. Two friends accompanied us for our safety, and another friend drove us to a lovely stream in the woods of Coventry. At one point that beautiful afternoon, I spontaneously decided to get up and run through the woods. I believed I was running in a straight line, directly THROUGH the trees. My friend George thought I was freaking out, and ran after me yelling “Chris, I’m your friend! It’s OK!” It was OK. On our walk back, I pulled a dead sapling out of the ground and dragged it along. Arriving back at the stream, my roommate was nowhere to be seen, and our friend David was sitting there waiting. A voice called my name from a wooded area to our right. Making our way to the spot, we saw my roommate, also holding a dead sapling HE had pulled out of the ground in his hand! He told me that I was the only one he could communicate with, and we all went back to the stream. A short while later a beautifully carved walking stick floated down the stream. I pulled it out. On it was written “This is a MAGIC STICK.” To this day, no one has claimed responsibility for placing it in the stream! Later that afternoon the sun seemed to “vanish” from the sky, replaced by a kaleidoscope of colorful Chinese dragon kites. That evening, when our “driver” Bill came to pick us up, we passed a Michelin tire store, and I got a big kick out of the giant Michelin Man.
Another highlight of my time at UConn was during a philosophy class, when we all dropped acid and went to see Walt Disney’s Fantasia at the College Theatre!
One prevalent theme at the time, of searching for inner enlightenment, coupled with my youthful sense of invincibility, enabled me to leap into the unknown with psychedelics. Today, LSD, psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA, and other psychedelics are at the forefront of scientific/medical studies into their extremely positive effects on depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies by literally rewiring and creating new synapses in the brain, thus helping people hindered by a physiological resistance to anti-depressant drugs.
Out of the Jungle
The strangers who became friends in the Jungle at the end of the Summer of Love decided to stay together the following year. We had abandoned the traditions of the frats: hazing, beanie caps, panty raids, and weekend binge drinking. We had pot and our music, plus Civil Rights, the Vietnam War and the draft to deal with. So in the Fall of 1968, we moved into the second floor of McMahon Hall, creating our own “fraternity”: Frappa Rappa Eappa Appa Kappa – “FREAK” HOUSE!
A Day (actually, 4 Years) In A Life
My parents got REALLY tired of seeing me on the local evening news, at one demonstration or another, disrupting Board of Trustee meetings, occupying Gulley Hall, participating in “Bloody Tuesday” at the house used for corporate recruiting – in this case, Olin Matheson – on Gilbert Rd., occasionally getting arrested (including voluntary arrests en masse!) for minor misdemeanors related to the protests. But Dad came around, especially after Tricky Dick exposed himself as the lying traitor crook that he was. A fun day for me was performing in a Charlie Brover play during English class. I only remember walking around on stage with a bowl of Corn Flakes, hurling handfuls at the audience while shouting “Consume! Consume!”
After a reading by Allen Ginsberg at Jorgenson Auditorium one weekend (at which many tuxedoed parents in attendance walked out due to his constant and pronounced use of the word “Fuck”), we gathered at the Inner College House off campus on Rt. 195 next to a hardware store for a party in Allen’s honor. At one point, Allen Ginsberg came up to me and asked if I wanted to fuck! Somewhat taken aback by this surprise gesture, I politely declined the invitation, and Allen went on his way to other potential partners.
Questioning (and Flaunting) Authority
Our sit-in at Gulley Hall in the Fall of ‘68 was a fascinating experience for me, a direct action that had the potential to negatively impact my future, both immediate and long term. Organized by SDS, people were busy all night reading and copying documents of all kinds. There was a record player in Gulley Hall, and I remember listening to the recently released Dylan album “John Wesley Harding,” with his original version of “All Along the Watchtower” during the night. Exiting the building the following morning, with our hands held high in Peace signs, was exhilarating. We believed in what we were doing, and willing to risk our futures to achieve our goals.
Same was true for “Bloody Tuesday,” when we gathered – again — to attempt to prevent corporations like Dow Chemical (the makers of the napalm “defoliant”) and Olin Matheson from recruiting students to their ranks ON CAMPUS. Another primary recruiting station was the UConn skating rink building. A much smaller but vocal and aggressive group called “Young Republicans” would often confront us there. “Bloody Tuesday,” however, was at a house on Gilbert Rd. being used for corporate recruiting purposes.
At both the Gulley Hall and Gilbert Rd. incidents, the State Police were called in. While things remained peaceful at Gulley Hall, a scuffle turned into a small skirmish with the police at the Gilbert Rd. house. As a result, a cop hit one of the demonstrators (I believe it was Ed Vann) on the head with his club, drawing blood; hence, “Bloody Tuesday!”
Other Leftist events occurred off campus. For several months at a time, it seems like I would travel to Boston, New York, and/or Washington D.C. for a rally or demonstration of one sort or another at least once a month. The national Student Moratorium Committee would hold an anti-war rally almost monthly in D.C., and various friends and I would often be there. Sometimes, a group of us would break off from the hundreds of thousands of people listening to speakers and musicians, and move over to the Justice Department for some more hard core demonstrating against John Mitchell and Tricky Dick. We usually wore bandanas, not so much to hide our identities, but to buffer the tear gas they used on us; it wasn’t much protection. Another D.C. trip occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 1969 or 1970, when friends showed up at my parents’ door at the appointed time, hopped into my brand new VW Bug, and I drove to D.C. for the Black Panthers’ First Plenary Session of the People’s Constitutional Convention. It was there that I met Jane Fonda (albeit very briefly), better known to right-wingers as “Hanoi Jane.”
May Day (May 1 each year) was always a significant date each year for many Leftists. On May Day 1970, I was at Yale University in New Haven, protesting the trial of Bobby Seale, cofounder of the Black Panther Party, and the continuing Vietnam War. Local news came on TV at 6:00 pm each evening, and some of the crowd wanted to go back to the dorms to watch. As I picked up and hurled a tear gas canister back at the police, I shouted “We ARE the news;” everyone stayed. That weekend we stayed at my friend Gary’s mother’s house, as the protests continued. One morning we were on the Yale campus and went to leave one building to go to another. As soon as we opened the building door, the same INVISIBLE tear gas they used in Vietnam hit us. Our third member, Kate, went down like a sack of potatoes. Gary and I carried her to an improvised medic and triage tent, where she recovered and we continued our activities. Prior to this event I had never heard of colorless tear gas.
May Day 1971 was a big one. A rather thick pamphlet had been published, telling the world (including the authorities) that the goal was to bring a halt to Washington, D.C. business as usual… and explaining exactly how we were going to do that. Buses came in from all over the country, most from various schools and universities, some from religious or other groups. The organizers had prepared well with the various schools in and around D.C. for housing and strategic planning purposes. Those of us from UConn went to our respective school for housing and to receive our assignment for the May Day shutdown of D.C. Because May 1st was a Saturday, the shutdown was scheduled for Monday, May 3. We attended rallies that weekend, and camped out at the Washington Monument one night. Around daybreak the following morning, we were listening to Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth performing live for us, when word that the police would soon run a sweep of the area came through. A couple of thousand people picked up their things and vanished in minutes! Monday morning, May 3, we arrived at our designated shutdown intersection at 5:00 am, conferred with our group leader, and proceeded to sit down in the intersection, locking arms and preventing commuters from driving to work that morning. As I remember, we were pretty successful in shutting down Washington business – government and commercial – for the day. By late morning, we were entangled with the police, as they tried to round up as many of us as possible. Something like 12,000 people were arrested that day.
D.C. had a very large and “special” goon squad that they would call out for Leftist actions like this. These were cops (or deputized thugs) who ENJOYED banging heads of left-wing agitators like us, however non-violent we might have been. At many actions that I participated in, we faced these goon squads as they charged us on electric scooters and on horseback, flailing away at our heads with their billy clubs; I narrowly escaped their attacks more than once. At a demonstration at the DOJ building, Mitchell stood on his little balcony watching. It was lunch time, and mothers were out walking their kids or their dogs, workers were on lunch break, and others were simply walking from one place to another. They all got caught up in the goon squad net at the DOJ. In spite of the Chief of Police shouting through his bullhorn that anyone who wanted to leave could do so and not be arrested, the phalanx of goon squad cops closed off the street and prevented ANYONE from leaving. More folks were arrested on that day and place than any other single day in U.S. history! Buses were brought to the large opening on the side of the DOJ building, and info was taken on each person – babies, dogs and all – as we were loaded onto the buses for transporting to our arraignments. As the jails were already full, many of us, including myself, spent the night at the JFK stadium, where we awaited our initial court date. A class action lawsuit against the government in the ‘80s won a court battle establishing the illegal nature of this goon squad and indiscriminate mass arrests.
Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? The Draft and the Lottery
It was in the small TV lounge in McMahon in December 1969 that we all sat down to watch the first drawing of Draft numbers AS A LOTTERY, live on TV. Those present each kicked in a buck, and the person with the worst (lowest) number won. I took home $30.00 that day. My birthday drew number 14; nobody else was even close.
I had been doing anti-war counseling, helping people apply for Conscientious Objector status, and steering students to a UConn psychiatrist named Dr. Steinman who protected those who had received their draft notice by writing letters for them. When my best friend from high school was ordered for his physical, this wonderful doctor met with him and wrote and incredibly insightful letter for the draft board, resulting in a 4-F classification for him. My friend was NOT cut out for the military; the Army would have killed this kind and gentle man before he got out of boot camp. By the time I got my induction notice for my physical, Dr. Steinman’s signature assured an automatic trip to ‘Nam. I, and others, found a New Haven psych clinic called Psychotherapy Associates; they wrote me a letter which got me a 1-F classification. Had this not worked, I’d probably be living in Canada now. The former head of Psychotherapy Associates was kind enough to write an essay for the “Dayglo and Napalm” Exhibit. Over the years, I’ve sometimes felt conflicted by my choice. I did and still do believe the Vietnam War was both illegal and immoral, initiated by a lie (Gulf of Tonkin non-incident), imposed on the poor who could not avoid a draft that was fundamentally racist in its execution. I opposed the war on moral, philosophical, political, social, economic and spiritual grounds. But unless you were raised in a faith that explicitly prohibits killing under any circumstances, you could not qualify as a Conscientious Objector. Ironically, the Quaker faith in which Nixon was raised DOES prohibit killing! Go figure! As for war objectors, I always felt the ones who went through the experience of Vietnam had the most credibility to point out the flaws of war. On the other hand, you don’t have to actually do heroin to understand the dangers and negative impacts of using it.
The Spring of 1970 also saw an event put on by a nascent environmental movement at UConn, called the “Garden.” I am happy to have been part of it, singing with our ad hoc group Ripe Olives during the event. A geodesic dome was built down by Mirror Lake, and we had literature and speakers about the environment as well. Nixon allowed the creation of the Cabinet-level EPA in 1970 due to popular demand.
Don’t shoot! We are your Children.
The biggest single event of my time at UConn occurred on May 4, 1970. In response to Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam “Conflict” into Cambodia, anti-war demonstrations increased. On May 4, a sunny Spring Monday, at lunchtime on the campus of Kent State University, 28 young (mostly 19 and 20-year-old) Ohio National Guardsmen with live ammo were ordered to shoot at unarmed students. Yeah, I know the “official” report says no one “ordered” the shooting, but the Kent State Archives at Yale has a tape, which recent technological advances have allowed us to hear an officer shout “FIRE;” 67 rounds and 13 seconds later, 4 persons lay dead, and 9 others were wounded, one of whom became a paraplegic. Some of those 13 people were demonstrators, some were simply changing classes, some were just enjoying a beautiful Spring day. Suddenly, American kids were killing American kids on American soil at an institution of higher learning. The Scranton Commission, “The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest,” set up by Tricky Dick, concluded that the National Guard shootings were unjustified, but the 8 indicted Guardsmen never faced trial; a conservative judge dismissed all charges. The Grand Jury INSTEAD indicted 24 students and 1 faculty member, (the “Kent State 25”), of which 5 went to trial. One person was convicted, and 2 others pled guilty. One person was acquitted, and the 5th person had charges dropped. The remaining 20 indictments were thrown out for lack of evidence in 1971.
The Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling in a frozen scream of horror beside the dead body of Jeffrey Miller lying in a pool of his blood (he was shot through his mouth) is forever etched in my mind; it still gives me shivers when I see it.
4,000,000+ students across the country then participated in the first ever national student strike. Over 450 colleges and universities shut down for the remainder of the school year. It remains the largest student strike in history. UConn gave us two choices: either take the grade we had as of May 4, or accept a simple Pass/Fail grade. The administration made all classes optional to students; faculty had to be present for students who wanted to attend class. A group of us decided that this was unacceptable under the circumstances. That week a dozen of us covered our faces with kerchiefs and roamed the campus, interrupting the two or 3 classes we found in session, to ask why they were discussing math instead of the Kent State Massacre. On Friday, May 8, there was a knock on my door. It was a letter requiring me to appear before the Dean of Students the following week to justify why I should not be immediately suspended/expelled from UConn for my activities. I was thus suspended pending a hearing during the summer, at which I expressed my views on both my actions and the war itself. The final verdict, made by Dean of Students Jack Manning, was to keep my suspension in place, but to “suspend the suspension” for the remainder of my academic time at UConn… providing I was a “good boy!” [As we had come to know one another somewhat during1970, I utilized Dean Manning to get me into a full class in the Fall of 1971, thus allowing me to complete my undergraduate work at UConn in my 5th year, while I worked full time in a factory in Willimantic.]
The invasion of the “little boxes on the hillside”
WHITE Baby Boomers were raised after the horrors of the Depression and WWII, in the tranquil ‘50s, when tract housing in the suburbs, a new car, a manicured lawn and 2.5 children was the new American Dream. Unions had created a Middle Class. Most of my peers and I came from relatively comfortable, albeit not affluent, homes. By the mid-‘60s, however, we were questioning the values of our parents’ generation, which included political, philosophical/moral, and social mores of the time. The Beatles – primarily George – opened the doors to Transcendental Meditation and Eastern religion and philosophy. Aldous Huxley, Herman Hesse, C. S. Lewis, Ram Das, Timothy Leary and others opened the doors of perception to not new ideas so much, as to new/old ways of looking at ideas and the world. The wisdom of 19th Century Indigenous peoples helped spread alternative views of life and the environment. By the mid-‘60s, technology had brought the national news with Walter Cronkite (“Uncle Wally,” touted as “the most trusted man in America” in the ‘60s), into our homes Monday through Friday at 6:30 pm, extended from its original 15-minute time slot to ½ hour. The world was at our doorstep transported by the rabbit ears on our TV, the books that we read (Hermann Hesse, Ram Das’ Be Here Now, etc)… and the music that we listened to and saw live.
Rock my Soul
Rock ‘n’ Roll became Rock music in the mid ‘60s, a torch to light the way to this alternative worldview. Movies like “Easy Rider,” “Coming Home,” “Billy Jack,” “The Trial of Billy Jack,” “A Man Called Horse,” and “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” influenced a generation. We learned that not only is there more than one way to look at just about anything, but that a lot of what we were taught as youngsters growing up was actual lies… and just plain wrong. We learned to question authority. Music lyrics helped guide and reinforce both our beliefs and our experimentation; they were written by band members who were of our generation, and expressed what we were feeling and thinking. Baby Boomers evolved into listening to whole albums, not just hit singles. This was, in part, because bands and artists not just pushed the envelope of sound, but tore the lid off of what was lyrically and sonically possible. Corporate control of music hadn’t yet established their formulaic sound for maximum profit through repeat sales of the same song over and over again. Record labels then just saw dollar signs in the youth generation. They signed anybody who played guitar, and Rock was born, on the foundation of Blues, Country, Folk, Bluegrass and R&B, into something new and fresh. It truly was the Classic Age of this incredible musical form called Rock; even Pop and Easy Listening artists were influenced by it. Experimentation was tolerated, if not outright encouraged! For much of my college life, if I did not see three live concerts and two films (at the College Theater just off campus) each week, it meant that I was ill … or away at another demonstration.
The musical free expression of my generation culminated in the August 15 – 17 (ending mid-morning on the 18th) weekend forever known as Woodstock. This was NOT merely a Rock concert. Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99, Bonnaroo, Coachella, along with most any other music festival you can name, are commercial music concerts. In spite of what you may have read in this 50th anniversary year, Woodstock was different – a unique event that couldn’t have been planned or executed by human thought and endeavor; a singular, transcendent event that literally changed the entire forward trajectory of the lives of many of the attendees. Although most of the biggest bands in the world played Woodstock, the festival also happened at hundreds of small campfires scattered around the 600-acre farm of Max Yazgur, where kids played their own guitars, kazoos, tambourines, mouth harps, etc. in communal bonding to a Gathering of the Tribes. Two million people attended the festival at some point during that weekend. We were the 3rd largest city in New York State, with all the inherent problems any big city has: not enough sanitation, food shortages, lack of shelter, communication breakdowns, etc. So the State declared a “Disaster Area” around Bethel. But they weren’t there. They didn’t see what we saw. They didn’t experience the reality of running a city on counterculture values of Peace, Love, Communal and Community Sharing, of aspiring to our better angels by accepting EVERYONE there as Brother and Sister… as Family. In part because no money was involved, capitalism had no presence there that weekend. Thus, no greed, no selfishness… NO FIGHTS! This is why duplicating that festival is impossible, given $400 tickets, $40 T-shirts and $4 bottles of water. We were safe in each other’s arms, safe to express our true selves, safe to experiment with drugs seeking our inner selves within the context of the outer universe… having each other’s backs. I am still so grateful to have been there.
Course work back then for me included writing an almost 20-page document as the final project for a philosophy class. I called it: An Autobiography of God.” It was my young life story up to that point… and it was composed entirely of Rock lyrics accurately describing every aspect of my life.
Work, or We were looking for someone who could quote Kant.
I graduated with a major in English and a minor in Philosophy, making me uniquely qualified to be an apple picker, a cab driver, a welder, a house painter, a wholesale traveling salesman for a small-label vinyl record distributor, a retail salesperson at a vinyl record store at the Eastbrook Mall in Mansfield, a newspaper correspondent, a writer for a Union paper, an 18th century house restorer/carpenter/laborer, and an aide at Mansfield Training School, which was a large institution for those with intellectual disabilities (then called “retarded”). But that’s another story!
When it all comes down, you’ve got to go back to Mother Earth
In spite of these apparently limitless career opportunities, I felt compelled to participate in the Back-to-the-Land Movement and in 1972 bought 50 acres of land overlooking Lake Ainslie on beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada for the astronomical price of $3,000.00!
Sidebar: In the Fall of ’72 I drove West, via Canada, then down through Detroit – where the customs agents at the border literally tore my VW bug apart looking for drugs (and made us put the car seats and our belongings back together at 1:00 am!) – continuing on to Chicago and then heading down through Boulder, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, then Phoenix and Tucson, over to San Diego, and up the Pacific Coast Highway to my final destination of San Francisco, where I and 10 others lived in a beautiful urban commune on Frederick Street, just down from the old Dead and Airplane houses in the Haight-Ashbury. The return trip East the following year was spent mostly camping in National Parks and Forests.
Once I returned to CT, during every summer from 1973 through 1980, I’d quit whatever job I had and head up to Cape Breton to live on my land, with about $300 in my pocket. Often, I would return with more money than I left with, as day laborers were greatly appreciated by the area farmers. I had a large cabin tent as my base camp, and a backpacking tent for travel. I met several people with the same idea that first summer, and even more as the years passed, and we all helped build many a log cabin. We lived in a 20-mile radius of husband and wife U.S. expats, and their 8 kids (7 boys and a girl) whose farm was the center of our counterculture community, in the lovely farming village of Mabou. Returning to the States each Fall, I became a member of the Willimantic Food Coop, then operating out of a church basement on Valley Street, where bulk orders were distributed once a month. When the Coop moved to their present retail location in the early ‘70s, I wrote for their early newsletter, contributing the name “The Monthly Compost.” Coop members also contributed financially, in effect becoming owners/workers/consumers of the coop, for the good of the entire community.
Talking Your Friend the Atom Blues
I tried to live according to my values into the ‘80s, with the No Nukes and Earth First Environmental Movements. In 1991, a quasi-public state agency called the CT Hazardous Waste Management Service (CHWMS) chose 3 sites for a Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) dump in the Vernon/Ellington/South Windsor area. The siting process was mandated by the federal gov’t, as the two out-of-state facilities that CT and other states were sending their LLRW to – Barnwell, South Carolina and Envirocare of Utah, Inc – were both reaching capacity. Congress simply abdicated finding a permanent disposal solution for LLRW, and mandated each State dispose of their own LLRW, with the caveat that States could enter into Regional Compacts to accomplish that goal. All 3 of the CT sites, plus a potential 4th site in Stafford, included prime farmland, were in close proximity to several grade schools, and had a high population density as well as a high water table.
When they chose these sites, they calculated that the local yokels living in the region wouldn’t even notice, much less put up a fight. However, our neighbors included farmers, parents, scientists from UConn and other area schools, experts on water, soil, nuclear technology, social impacts, and the economy. Real Estate agents documented the fall of property values as a result of the dump. Printers printed signs and buttons for us for free or at cost to spread the word and provide visuals for the media to state our purpose. We formed two groups: C.O.R.E. (Citizens Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) and COW (Citizens Opposed to Waste); I was Vice-President of C.O.R.E. We marched, we rallied, we met with other groups, and we physically stopped CT surveying teams and others from accomplishing their objectives. We also went on speaking tours to towns all over the State that invited us to speak to their officials and towns people about the situation, and to offer ways they, too, could resist the building of a LLRW dump in their communities. We used a detailed manual we created over the first few months containing all aspects of the issue, making copies to give to other CT towns when we visited them. It took over 1.5 years, but we stopped the siting process and the proposed LLRW dump. As a result, the CHWMS changed tactics. Instead of mandating a site, they made it voluntary, offering financial incentives to any town that volunteered to host the LLRW dump. To date, not one town has gone for the 30 pieces of silver, knowing there is NO suitable site for a LLRW dump in the state of CT.
[NOTE: TODAY Trump wants to REDUCE oversight and safety visits to nuclear power plants and the 33 LLRW storage sites in CT… and all over the country. These plants are DECADES past their stated life spans, but, once again, there is no way to truly decommission a plant safely. In the late ‘50s, “your friend the atom” was supposed to be benevolent, providing energy that would be “too cheap to meter!” Behind their motto of Profit over People, they once again put the cart in front of the horse, stating that we humans would figure out how to decommission nuclear power plants and dispose of nuclear waste by the time we needed to. Well, that time has come and gone, with STILL no solution in sight.]
Finally, I believe – thanks to my education at UConn – that the word “politics” can be defined as “how we live our lives.” Our lives define our politics. It is all too easy to leave the Light and go to the Dark Side. With all the shit going on today, I struggle each and every day to bring myself back from the brink of becoming that which I hate… while remaining true to my Progressive ideals. So I persevere, struggling to achieve BALANCE, and a modicum of GRACE and WISDOM, constantly stumbling. I am bolstered by my music (from back in the day through now – although I have no idea what’s in the Top 40 today … except to know it’s not MY music!), Progressive politics, Hippie ideals, the still beautiful natural world around me, and the Leftist ideals embodied in true Socialism, in the best sense of that word: Of the People, By the People, and For the People. I strive to achieve a mindfulness that truly resonates with me, as an individual, as part of a community of humans AND other living beings, and as a citizen of the planet Earth. Both my father and my UConn experience taught me that the means justify the ends, NOT, as is so common today in politics and business, the other way around. I was set on this course by my years at UConn (’67 – ’72), and I am ever grateful for having come of age at that time and place. Participating in political protest, immersing myself in the counterculture experimentation and questioning of the times, taught me so much more than mere classroom book study did. The risks I/we took were worth every ounce of energy I expended on them. When I think back to those years 50+/- years ago, I still smile. After all, we are stardust, we are golden, but we’re also carved in the Devil’s bargain … so we’ve got to get back to the Garden.
Chris Malis, Class of ‘72
Guest Post by Ellie Goldstein/Erickson (’70):
I started at UConn as a freshman in the fall of 1966. My family had lived in Pennsylvania until the summer of 1966, when my father took a new job as a full professor and director of research at the UConn Graduate School of Social Work. This will figure into my story later in November, 1968. Because we moved my parents encouraged me to go to UConn, since we could afford the in-state tuition.
I had already been active in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in 1965-66, picketing against Hubert Humphrey at a Philadelphia appearance, standing with Quakers at several events, including a day long fast in front of Independence Hall. That was when tourists getting off buses to see the Liberty Bell would yell at us, call us communists, and tell us to go back to Russia if we didn’t like it here. My best friend and I both were raised by left wing parents but our mothers always told us to dress nicely so no one would criticize our ideas based on what we were wearing.
I lived in Stowe C at South Campus and was the only person out of 60 women in the dorm who was against the war. Ironically, I also was the only person who lost someone in the war; in April 1967 the boy who had been our next door neighbor in Pennsylvania and joined the Marines after high school, was killed in Vietnam. A woman on my floor had a fiancée in Vietnam who ended his tour and came home safely.
For my fine arts requirement fall semester I took a theater class and did makeup for a play the teacher, a grad student, was in. Since I was out past 11:00 pm for performances I had to get special permission from the house mother to be out that late past week-night curfew. Meeting many of the theater department folks got me going to the Campus Restaurant where a lot of them hung out.
I don’t remember how I learned about it, but I went to an antiwar conference at Amherst sometime during fall semester 1966. It may have been organized by SDS. By spring semester there were more visible antiwar advocates on campus. Someone arranged to rent a school bus and we went to New York in April, 1967 for the first big national march against the war, when Dr. King was the main speaker at the rally. I remember meeting Alan Cohen and Jeffrey Thomas on that trip.
At the end of spring semester there was an event called the psychedelic dance in the women’s gym (I think it was called Hawley Armory) complete with a light show. That may have been the start of a more visible presence of what was called the counter culture on campus.
During sophomore year we lefties and hippie types started organizing to gain a presence and influence in student government to counter the fraternity dominance. We called ourselves the All Student Party and a number of us won seats in the student senate, including an African American named Tyrone Johnson. We tried to bring more political awareness to student government. I chaired the Student Welfare Committee of the Student Senate, but can’t remember anyone else on the committee. I sponsored a resolution in the Senate against campus police carrying firearms, which I presented to Homer Babbidge before a speech he was giving in the recital hall. We had a large turnout to greet him outside with many students carrying signs supporting not having security carrying guns. That may have been the first time I met Babbidge face to face. In what we come to see repeatedly, he appointed a committee to study the issue. I actually have an undated newspaper clipping showing pictures from that event.
By my junior year, 1968-1969, SDS had become a much more visible and active group on campus. SDS ran a campaign called Vote with Your Feet about the presidential election. Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic candidate, had been LBJ’s vice president and we felt he was too supportive of the war. We went to Hartford for one demonstration against both Nixon and Humphrey, but mostly stayed in Storrs.
After Nixon was elected and even before he was inaugurated we targeted many more corporations besides Dow Chemical, manufacturers of napalm, who were profiting off Vietnam. The university began scheduling the interviews in more remote areas of campus to divert us, but we always found out where they were. Students and faculty who didn’t participate in SDS directly also came in support of the antiwar movement. The Olin Mathieson interviews were scheduled in an unoccupied faculty house at 7 Gilbert Road. As the crowd of demonstrators gathered we were mostly in front of the building. I remember being part of a group that stood on the steps to prevent anyone entering in the front. A psychology professor stood with us. The crowd grew enough that it filled the area in front of the house, overflowing into the street and beyond.
Someone in an upstairs window used a bullhorn to address the crowd, but our response drowned it out. We found out later they were reading the riot act. That gave the cops justification to arrest anyone who didn’t leave. Columns of state police in riot gear came marching in, complete with helmets and wooden clubs, from several directions, effectively hemming us in. Richard Savage, an SDS leader, stood on the trunk of a car with his arm extended as most of us chanted Sieg Heil. Dean of Students Robert Hewes, standing in front of the building, pointed at Richie. Several cops swarmed him, knocked him to the ground and began beating him with their clubs. I was near him and got so angry I ran toward Dean Hewes shouting about what they were doing. He pointed at me, said “Get her,” and told them my name. I was taken inside the building and handcuffed to a plastic chair in the kitchen. I assume it got pretty wild outside, since rocks and clumps of dirt flew through the windows, breaking the glass. I was right next to a window and tried to use my shoulder to protect my face.
At some point a man in a suit came in and wanted to know why I was handcuffed like that. I hoped they would put me in a safer place, but he told them I was dangerous and should be handcuffed behind my back. I need to point out that at that time I weighed 117 pounds and was wearing a wool jumper since it was cold. Another cop opened the handcuffs, put my hands behind my back and refastened them to the chair leg with the handcuffs. During that time a man student I didn’t know was also brought in and handcuffed. I have no memory of how long I was there, but eventually two plainclothes women cops came in, freed me from the chair and started taking me out of the building. As we were going down the stairs in front, Provost Gant was coming up the sidewalk. I knew him both from student government and SDS. He stopped, clearly astonished, and said “Ellie!” with great surprise. I said, “Hello, Provost Gant.” The women cops holding me by the arms had to stop when I stopped. Provost Gant kept looking at me and finally said, “Would you like me to call your father?” He knew my father as a full professor at the graduate school of social work. All I could think was how awful it would be for my father to get a call from the Provost saying, “Lou, we’ve arrested your daughter.” Since the only people outside at that point were cops and reporters I said as loud as I could, “No thank you, Provost Gant. I believe I get a phone call.”
The other student and I were put in unmarked cars and driven to the state police barracks at Stafford Springs. I don’t remember everyone who was arrested; I think there was a total of 7 of us that day. Karen Cassyd, also active in SDS, and I were the only women. David Colfax, a sociology professor prominently active in the antiwar movement, was also arrested, although we understood he had been teaching during most of the demonstration. After the fingerprinting, etc I asked to use the restroom. Both women cops came in with me. My mother told me later I should have told them to wipe me. They also had a big discussion about what color to put down for my eyes.
The cops put us in chairs far apart from each other in the big garage and had us wait. Somehow we all decided to refuse to sign a release paper promising to appear in court unless they released David Colfax. I remember telling the cop I couldn’t sign a legal document because I was only 19 years old. Much later in the afternoon they loaded us all in a state police bus and drove us to court in Willimantic. A judge told each of us when to appear in court and then told us to leave. More UConn people were there and drove us back to Storrs. Since this was years before cell phones I have no clue how they knew we would be there. I think we were charged with disorderly conduct, failure to disperse after the reading of the riot act and something else. My mother called my dorm room just as I got there. Of course the television news had carried all the reports, so she knew about that happened. She just didn’t know I was one of the people arrested. That was the last day of class before Thanksgiving break, so I got a ride to my parents’ house in West Hartford.
While my mother was really upset, assuming I had been doing something bad to be arrested, she always stood up for me to anyone else, even critical family. Since our names and home towns were published in the newspapers, we started getting threatening phone calls at my parents’ house. My mother insisted on calling the police about it. She and my father were going out of town to a family wedding over the weekend and she was worried about my safety alone in the house. I refused to go into the police station to make the report, so an officer came to the house. He assured my mother they would check on me while I was in the house alone. I ended up having Thanksgiving dinner with Richie Savage and his family since they lived nearby.
Sometime later that winter we organized a demonstration that entered Gulley Hall where all the high ranking administrators had their offices. Somehow we decided to have a sit in and simply did not leave after all the offices closed. I remember we used heavy duty masking tape in crisscross patterns on all the big windows so they wouldn’t break if counterdemonstrators threw rocks or the cops shot tear gas in. We wrote leaflets about why we were there and used the mimeograph machines on the second floor to print them. One vivid memory I have is that I was one of the only people who knew how to use them, since I had been on a newspaper staff in high school. One of the men students was impressed that I knew how to do this and nicknamed me Tania. I don’t know if anyone slept during the night. There was some kind of negotiation that happened, and we all walked out in the morning.
Later that school year UConn hired another dean, Jack Manning, a younger man, who was supposed to be more able to connect with student activists. From our perspective he was more of the same. I remember having an informal meeting with him and other members of student government in the snack bar of the student union.
During the time I was a member of the student senate and chair of the student welfare committee I had met with the dean of women, whose name escapes me. I was spearheading a campaign to get gynecology care for women at the student health center. We started by distributing surveys through the meetings the dean had with representatives of all the women’s dorms and sororities. After getting the surveys back we were able to show the need for medical care for women students specifically. The university hired a gynecologist on a part time basis; I think it was two afternoons a week. While I don’t remember the exact date, I do remember the Connecticut Daily Campus ran a front page story about it. They inserted some subtle humor in the report, using the word climax announcing this new service.
When school started in the fall of 1969 I had moved off campus with two other women from my dorm. We had a tiny two room apartment at the back of a house right off campus. They both had man friends who lived out in Coventry and spent most of their time there. Early that semester SDS joined a group that included people from student government, Jack Allen (a left wing minister) and other progressive folks to continue organizing against the war. Nationally a movement called the Moratorium had started, with activities planned against the war, starting with one day in October. A young African American minister working with Jack Allen, whose first name I think was Eliott, came into one of our meetings asking if we wanted Dick Gregory for our main speaker at the big day time rally. We were really excited to have him, since he was a prominent leader in the civil rights and antiwar movement. During this time 8 activists who had been involved in demonstrations during the Democratic convention in Chicago the summer of 1968 were on trial for conspiracy in Chicago. Rennie Davis, one of the defendants, came to speak at the big indoor auditorium at Jorgensen the night before, along with Doug Miranda, who was the head of the New Haven branch of the Black Panther Party.
My parents had loaned me my mother’s old car, a Rambler Rebel, when I moved off campus, and somehow I became the driver to pick up the speakers at the airport. When we took Rennie back to the airport his plane had taken off early. We had to get him back to Chicago by the next morning for court or the judge would revoke his bail. We put all our change together and used the pay phones to call airlines to find him a flight. We found one out of New York and somehow got him there in time. On the way back the man driving got a speeding ticket, so they woke me up in the back seat and I drove the rest of the way. I got there in time to drop off the folks with me and get the people who were going with me to pick up Dick Gregory. On the way back to Storrs we got a flat tire. While I was pulled over on the highway and we were changing the tire, people coming to hear him speak recognized Dick Gregory standing there and stopped to say hello. Brother Greg himself started laughing both at the situation and that he never expected, as a black man who had grown up during segregation, to have a group of black and white college students changing a tire for him. He gave an inspiring and stirring speech, but we couldn’t use my car to drive him back since it didn’t have a spare. TJ, an African American grad student, somehow got us a car from the University motor pool to drive him back to the airport. I remember being amazed at Brother Greg’s (which he told us to call him) brilliance and ideas.
In November the Moratorium movement went national, with the main east coast event in Washington D.C. I went with a group of 15 people in 2 cars. One of the students had family in Silver Springs, MD, just outside DC, and we slept in our sleeping bags in their basement. It started on Friday with what was called the March Against Death. We gathered at Arlington National Cemetery and each person carried a placard with the name of a person who had been killed in Vietnam. I carried the name of my neighbor, who had been killed in April, 1967. We all marched to the White House, shouted the names we carried and deposited our placards in coffins. We spent Saturday getting trained as marshals then Sunday we circled some of the dignitaries as they marched. Our dignitaries included Dr. Benjamin Spock and members of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, some of whom helped carry the coffins with the placards of the names of those killed in Vietnam. The main rally was at the Washington Monument with speakers and singers.
Our problems started as the rally broke up. An SDS group headed to the Labor Department and a different group went to the Justice Department. I don’t know what happened, but the cops and troops fired tear gas, and my friends and I got caught in it. We got totally lost and ended up near the White House, which was ringed by troops wearing gas masks and holding rifles with fixed bayonets. The entire atmosphere was surreal, with gas in the air and troops careening around in jeeps, taking corners on two wheels. We couldn’t find a pay phone to use; most of them were indoors and no one would let us in since our clothes reeked of gas. Finally a hotel let us in to use the pay phone. We had written our friend’s parents’ phone number on our arms, so we called using our emergency dimes and they gave us directions of how to get out of the city. While moving around DC we had counted off to be sure we were all together. In Silver Springs we realized we were missing Margie, one of our group. When the phone rang it was a volunteer medic at the march telling us he had a woman who had suffered total disorientation from the gas and could only tell him she was number 13. We all shouted, “Margie!” He had found the phone number on her arm. We were all reunited at our friend’s parents’ house and watched the TV news. I think that was the night VP Agnew gave one of his inflammatory speeches about antiwar demonstrators.
Another event we attended in November was a march in New Haven organized by the Black Panthers in support of Panthers who had been arrested and charged with the murder of a man named Alex Rackley. They were being held on millions of dollars of bail, so they were stuck in jail. The women especially were subjected to terribly brutal conditions. The Panthers organized the march with the women in front, declaring “Sisters lead!” The women’s liberation movement had started and this felt like a very real and visible manifestation of power.
Continuing our work on campus, SDS and the Black Student Union worked together, organizing against recruiting/interviewing visits by war companies. The university moved the visit by General Electric to the warming hut of the skating rink, way up a road above the football stadium. I remember it as cold with a lot of snow on the ground. We spent lunchtime in the Campus Restaurant to eat and warm up. After that demonstration we heard some of the people who had been there would be arrested. Like the demonstration against Olin Matheson, a select group would face charges. I do not remember if this happened before or after winter break. Again through some channel we learned one of the people to be arrested was Kevin Keyes, an SDS member with whom I was living.
Kevin was originally charged with only one count of a misdemeanor but when he had his trial in the spring he asked for a jury trial rather than taking a plea deal as some other defendants had done. After a brief recess when we came back to the courtroom there was a new prosecutor, who turned out to be the head state prosecutor. He announced that new evidence had just come to light, and Kevin was charged with nine additional counts. Kevin had known from the beginning that this entire trial was a set up. He decided to make it a political trial and represented himself. A professor from the UConn law school named Bard volunteered to sit with Kevin and advise him, but I don’t remember if he stayed for the entire trial.
We filled the courtroom every day. Jack Manning, one of the UConn deans, testified for the prosecution and identified Kevin in pictures the university had taken. A student named Jay Doody testified for Kevin. I remember he threw the prosecutor for a loop when he refused to swear to tell the truth before taking the stand. Jay explained he was a Quaker and the judge realized Jay would affirm rather than swear. One bit of his testimony I remember is Jay telling about right wing students showing up during the demonstration and physically trying to break us up. We all laughed when Jay explained that right wingers don’t wear a particular uniform, especially in winter. There was no way to distinguish them from us. Another thing I remember happened when we were all outside when the trial was over for that day. The prosecutor was walking out with a smug smile. Kay Brover, Charlie Brover’s wife, started shouting at him, asking why he was smiling. Kay truly inspired me to do the same in a similar situation a few years later. Reporters were in the courtroom every day and filed fairly even handed stories. Once when the judge reprimanded Kevin for having his hands in his pockets when he was standing, the prosecutor was also standing in his hands in his pockets. The reporter included that in his story that day.
As we expected, Kevin was convicted on all counts. We filed an appeal within the time allowed. One of the court clerks let me use an office and I typed up the paperwork, as I had spent the previous summer working for Neighborhood Legal Services in north Hartford. I don’t know what happened after the summer, as Kevin had moved away.
In April, 1970, the country observed the first Earth Day. SDS nationally had been working to build an alliance with campus workers. We combined that initiative with our campaign to abolish ROTC. I had been working in the early breakfast shift at the McMahon kitchen to earn money and establish ties with the people who worked there. I learned that there was no day care available for the women who worked in the kitchens. We tried to focus the Earth Day activities on turning the ROTC hangar into free day care for campus workers. Unfortunately we were unable to achieve that goal. Sometime during the night following someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the hangar, but the damage was minimal.
That spring the antiwar movement was gaining strength all over the country, including members of Congress and many more adults. It was no longer simply a student or left wing movement. I don’t remember exactly when in May we started a march around campus, beginning at South Campus, moving to the highway on the far side of Mirror Lake, then towards Towers, the Jungle and the fraternity dorms. It may have been after Nixon announced he had sent U.S. soldiers to invade Cambodia, the National Guard had shot and killed four students at Kent State and police had shot African American students at Jackson State. The crowd was much larger than any of us had expected and the group began moving to Gulley Hall. I think Jack Manning the dean was standing in front trying to tell people to calm down. Because I had charges pending myself I stayed at the back of the crowd, and then went around the back of the building. A friend who was there told me the crowd just moved right past him, breaking the glass in the doors to get in. A friend named Manny Stamatakis who had participated in a lot of marches, came stumbling out of the back door holding his hand, which was bleeding profusely from a really deep gash. I grabbed his arm and supported him while I tried to help him walk to the infirmary. We met a student wearing an olive green army jacket, which he gave us to wrap around Manny’s hand. The nurses at the infirmary cleaned and bandaged his hand enough that the bleeding was controlled while I drove us to the emergency room at the hospital in Willimantic. The doctors and staff stabilized Manny and prepped him for surgery. While I waited another student, John (Chip) Ciputi, came in with some minor cuts on his hand. At the same time cops from both UConn and other agencies came in, looking for anyone who had been injured at Gulley Hall. Even though they had no proof Chip had been there, they arrested him as soon as he got his hand stitched. They couldn’t arrest Manny because he was being taken into surgery. I remember the UConn cop telling me the state was going to come down hard on anyone they could identify. When I got home really late at night I told Kevin what had happened. I think that was a time when I was really aware of how frightening events were becoming.
Jim Sober, a member of the Progressive Labor Party who had been working with us in SDS, was arrested along with Chip. Their bail was set at $1,000 each. We spent the next day, which was a Friday, trying to raise $2,000. Several faculty members, including Eric Larsen in sociology wrote us checks in the hundreds. SDS members canvassed the entire campus urging students to donate. Somehow we managed to raise enough. My parents lived in West Hartford; their bank was open on Saturday. I called my mother, who met us there. I drove there with a woman named Barbara, whose last name escapes me. She and her husband Mark were active in SDS. She and I carried the money in a cardboard box into the bank. We had so much change it took both of us to carry it in. My mother vouched for us and we left with $2,000 in hundred dollar bills. The jail wouldn’t let us bail out Jim and Chip until Monday morning. The man at the jail kept counting incorrectly and telling us we were $100 short. Since we knew we weren’t, we took it all back and laid it out for him ourselves to prove we had it all. I remember going to court with Chip and his parents, but I don’t know what ever happened. Years later someone told me Jim Sober returned the money faculty had put up for bail after his case was decided and his bail was given back to him. I don’t know if either of them was convicted.
With the invasion of Cambodia, the shootings of students at Kent State and Jackson State and the general anger in the country, many colleges simply ended their school year. At UConn most finals were cancelled and students went home. My friend Barbara from SDS, who had worked with me on the bail money, went to graduation with her husband, since it was important to her parents. A liberal student named Bill Palmer, who was a member of TEP fraternity, was chosen to give a speech on behalf of the students. Barbara told me many of those attending gave him a standing ovation, but she and her husband stayed seated. They felt his speech was not radical enough.
I spent the summer of 1970 living in New Haven working with the Progressive Labor arm of SDS. We leafletted at a lot of the factories and attended rallies for the Panthers. Even though I had graduated I had no other plans so I returned to Storrs and lived in an apartment in Merrow with Nancy Hutchinson and Lily Markons/Allen. I worked at various jobs and stayed active in political events. When the foreign minister of Portugal came for a speech we were determined to prevent it. Portugal still controlled countries in Africa, including Angola, although many other African countries had gained their independence from European countries. Our tactic was to clap and cheer when he came out, but not to stop. We even had some faculty members participate also. The clapping and cheering went on so long the officials finally had to escort the foreign minister out. We knew our action had been a success when Babbidge announced he was “mortified beyond words.” We believed that the colonization of Africa by Europeans had been unlawful from the start and wanted the Africans to have their independence.
In April 1971 my father died suddenly at the age of 52 and my mother was dealing with both her grief and legal issues. My sister and I decided our mother would benefit from having someone in the house with her, so I left my job waitressing at the Rock Garden in Willimantic, where Charlie Shur was one of the bouncers. I moved in with my mother in West Hartford and did some substitute teaching for a year before going to Berkeley to earn my Master’s in Library Science at UC Berkeley. While I was still at Cal I ran into Wayne Lawrence and his wife Merle. Wayne had been active in the BSU (Black Student Union) at UConn and attended the demonstration against GE. Charlie Brover had given Merle away when they got married in 1971. Wayne was enrolled in the criminology school at Cal. We had dinner one night that spring, but I lost track of them. I spent more than 40 years as a school teacher librarian in public urban high schools in Richmond, CA and Berkeley, CA before retiring in June, 2017. I am still involved with political work, including Planned Parenthood, March for Our Lives and education groups. Most recently I work with Swing Left, campaigning on behalf of liberal candidates for Congress.