The following guest posts by alumni Ken Sachs (’71), Michael Pagliaro (’72), Lori Wallach (’70), and Janet Rogers (’72) 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.
Guest Post by Anonymous:
In 1969 I had a IIs deferment at UCONN that would run out in January 1970 when I completed my B.A. My roommate had served in Vietnam where he survived the battle that has been called “Hamburger Hill.” When I received my physical notice, he informed me that I needn’t worry about the draft as he would “kill me” before I was drafted rather than let me participate in that ill-advised war. Fortunately, T_____had access to some black beauties (little black capsules containing an amphetamine commonly referred to in those days as “speed”).
On the morning of my physical in the fall of 1969, I popped one of the “beauties” into my mouth and headed off to our local draft board. At age 22, I was the oldest on the bus, surrounded by a lot of naïve 18-year-olds, many just out of high school. Before the bus left, the middle-aged clerk at the draft board got on the bus waving a little U.S. flag and telling us all “how proud” she was of us all. Frankly, I wanted to strangle her for her “patriotism.” Before the bus arrived in New Haven I popped my last black beauty.
The pills did their job. My blood pressure was abnormally high; however, I was disappointed to find I wasn’t entirely disqualified. I received instructions to have my blood pressure checked for three consecutive days; I was told I could do it at UCONN’s infirmary. There was just one problem: no more black beauties and nowhere to score them among our contacts. That left me no alternative but to jog a couple of miles to the infirmary with the hopes of abetting any residual chemical in my system. My hopes were all but dashed at the infirmary when the elderly physician checking me announced that, having served in WWII, she was “a proud former WAC.” The reading came out borderline; I had two more chances. My hope was no longer to avoid the draft but to at least attain a deferment until the “draft lottery” that would begin in just a few months, in December of 1969.
The next morning I added push-ups and jumping jacks to my run, however, I wasn’t optimistic since the chemical was certainly out of my system by then. I arrived at the Infirmary dreading another encounter with the “WAC.” Instead I was greeted by a young male intern to whom I will be eternally grateful. Clipboard in hand, he ushered me into a nearby storage room to take my blood pressure. Odd, I thought, but the place was, after all, busy with an outbreak of flu. After an awkward silence he asked me, “Do you want to go into the military?” Now, in those days you didn’t show your cards to anybody because there were war zealots everywhere. (We used to joke that the salt shakers in the Campus Restaurant were bugged.) It was a tight place, but I decided to trust this guy:
“No, Sir; I do not want to join the military.”
“Well,” he said, “My instructions are to check your blood pressure; it does not say you can’t do 20 push-ups before I do that.” Given that permission, I proceeded to do 20 push-ups, and he took the reading which outdid the prior day’s results. The following day my luck held as he was there waiting for me.
The elevated blood pressure reading deferred me until the draft lottery held on December 1, 1969. Young men everywhere, their family, friends and lovers watched their televisions in dread as an official from the selective service in Washington, D.C. drew the first number from the first of 366 blue plastic capsules held inside a large glass container…the first date picked: September
14. Those who, like me, did not share that birthday breathed a collective, momentary sigh of relief.
It was generally understood that those with the earliest one-third selected numbers would likely be drafted, while those in the next third were likely safe and those in the top third unlikely to be drafted. Number by number, in what seemed to me a macabre reenactment of Shirley Jackson’s famed short story, “The Lottery” continued. I felt genuine pity for those unlucky young men who were sitting with me in the foyer of a UCONN girl’s dormitory that night. My number came up 265, well within the “safe zone,” but I left quietly after it was called. Until this day, anyone still living who was the subject of that lottery can tell you their number. The fact that I’ve chosen to submit this as “Anonymous” should tell you something about our political climate today and maybe what it takes, in some small way, to resist.
Guest Post by Ken Sachs (’71):
As I was walking across the campus one day an elderly women handed me some literature. She was from the Voluntown pacifist group professing an anti-war & nonviolence message. Seemed to make sense to me, as did info about becoming a conscientious objector (seeing as I was #38 in the big draft lottery).
I started attending SDS meetings, got to understand that Uncle Ho was the George Washington of Vietnam kicking out the next group of foreigners (us) after driving the French out. Realized I wasn’t just against the war, but was kinda rooting for the other side. Joined in the demonstrations. In the spring a group of us were made up (by some art students) to look and sound like wounded war victims as the Football game crowd approached the stadium. One man had to be held back from attacking us.
Spent a night occupying Gulley Hall and marching out after the final warning from the state troopers. Took part in disrupting classes when the moratorium was declared (later receiving a “suspended suspension” for this). Was proudly one of the 67 arrested (along with Peter Tork’s dad, Professor Thorkelson) for the sit-in blocking the corporate/military recruiters. I happened to be looking at the camera taking the picture which ended up on the front page of the Hartford Courant the next day. My brother Jon was in his social studies class at Pulaski High in New Britain, and each day they discussed the news in the Courant. His teacher recognized me and she said “Jon, I see your brother is really taking advantage of his higher education”. How right she was!
UConn decided to invite the foreign minister of one of the right wing repressive South American nations and a group of us joined the small conference room group he was to speak to. As he began, we clapped loudly for a bit; he tried to begin again, we clapped again. This continued until the event was cancelled. He did speak later at a large auditorium event without interruptions, but with many accusations he avoided addressing. I was at the Campus Restaurant one day when Charley Brover stood up & said “Who wants to go to Brandeis to show support for the black students who just occupied one of the buildings? I joined the road trip to Mass. and fondly remember Charley’s sign “UConn Reds Support Brandeis Blacks”.
I participated in the Inner College, doing independent studies & activities for credit. Did an Inner College road trip to Montreal in Len Krimerman’s VW bus (with a painted pig on it). I spent my last semester in New Britain involved with the “People’s Organization”. We had a storefront, sold various radical newspapers, showed Newsreel movies from New York, & started and ran a free breakfast program in a downtown church in the Puerto Rican section of town. Also did a People’s Org. road trip to attend the Black Panther Party convention in Philadelphia. At UConn a pal who was on the Student Senate agreed with my request to propose that funding be provided for the People’s Organization activities, & with the UConn connection through me they agreed to do so!
A year after graduating I worked briefly at a tire store in Avon. A guy came in who looked familiar – he was my chem. lab partner my 1st semester before I transferred to Liberal Arts. He stayed in Engineering. I told him I had a great time at UConn; he grimly said it was an awful 4 years for him and he hated his present job. It made me appreciate my choices and experiences, and to this day I relish the memories of those 4 years and the all the people involved. We were on the right side of history.
Ken Sachs UConn 1971
Guest Post by Michael Pagliaro (’72):
Sometimes just one day can capture the vibe of an era.
I was crashing with my Watson Hall hippie girlfriend on an off-campus couch.
A friend from the Jungle woke us up at about four in the morning. He handed each of us a dot of paper and said “eat this!” “Far out”, we said. We woke up an hour later in a much altered state.
We stared across the dark room and two friends were lying on their backs in the doorway, looking up at the ceiling.
Attached to the door molding was a flaming groovy (A plastic dry cleaning bag tied into tight knots, hooked onto a wire clothes hanger, then set on fire). Blobs of burning plastic were falling, looking like small comets and making a whooshing sound, before a hissing landing in a pan of water on the floor.
The guys were intently peering through kaleidoscopes at the descending gobs. “Oh wow! Oh wow!”
It took a few moments for me to figure out what was going on.
We got up and the guys went into the mud room, grabbed something and went outside for a brief time. Then they came crashing back into the room bent over in laughter. “What’s happening?” I said.
When they could catch their breath they said “we just painted our car (long giggling pause)…. but we’re not sure it’s our car!”
When the sun came up we scraped the paint off the windshield (it was their car.) We went to IHOP for pancakes and to a matinee of the new movie “Easy Rider.” Then back to the crash pad to read Furry Freak Brother comics, listen to Steppenwolf and watch trails off our light-up electric yoyo.
Michael Pagliaro UConn 1971+
Guest Post by Lori Wallach (’70):
In 1968, I was a nice Jewish girl from Long Island, completely out of my depth at UConn. I had no idea what it would be like to move to a rural area, with at the time mostly Engineering students (male) and Physical Therapy students (female). I wore miniskirts and brought my Rolling Stones albums to the dorm, when my roommate was wearing below-the-knee pleated plaid and not listening to music at all. I was kind of an outcast. After the first semester, I got myself together enough to try and find my people, the first of whom was a New York Jew who lived at TEP, the fraternity that admitted blacks and Jews. But he left campus soon after to work in VISTA (remember it? like a domestic Peace Corps).
Somehow, I was lucky enough to find a girlfriend in Philosophy class, and then to attend an SDS meeting where I met Larry Smyle, then president of SDS, and we soon moved in together. We first lived in a dilapidated apartment at Brown’s Corners, with a bathroom we shared with a Mr. Feeney, who usually urinated on the floor. Then a big house/commune in Coventry, with other radicals and artists. Last, and best, we moved to our own little apartment in Merrow, in the former garage and carriage house. Mr. Merrow, of sewing machine family fame, would drive up in a chauffeured limo from time to time to collect rent (ours was $70 a month). He did not seem to mind that we plundered the old furniture stored in the barn. And we planted an only semi-successful organic garden in the field next door.
SDS by then had broken off into separate parties. We were pot smoking, tripping, anti-War, anti-big business, pro-universal day care. The Progressive Labor Party advocated the dictatorship of the proletariat, which meant no drugs, no weird clothes, and standing outside factory gates in Hartford distributing their newspaper. A woman with whom I am still friends was with PL during that time, and told me that they had to pool all their money and she had to get permission to buy tampons. Nonetheless, we did our best to ally with PL, the Black Students League, and anyone else who would give us the time of day. Not always successful.
Once we wives, girlfriends and assorted other female politicos realized that we were not being heard by the men, we started the Women’s Radical Caucus, which included consciousness raising, sex education, and, per the Little Red Book, criticism/self-criticism sessions. Oy. Meanwhile, I had a show on WHUS, the Mother Jones Show, on which I played only female recording artists – not so easy to find in those days – and tapes from Radio Free America. I recall one in particular about the barefoot doctors of Cuba. One of my proudest accomplishments was breaking the gender bar at the post office. When I applied for a job there I was told that girls couldn’t do it. I went to the Ombudsman at UConn, who I gather made the guy test me – I had to carry a 60 lb. bag of mail (of course that was not required for the male workers). Loved that job.
I became a teacher, and after graduation, was contacted by the then-president of a pro-Socialist university in Mexico to go there and teach English. I had known him when he taught at UConn, and we were in a Marxist Study Group together – we all seem to have been very busy with groups and meeting and demonstrations, not to mention school (which we mostly didn’t). Mexico is a long saga, involving politically motivated arrest, student guerrilla warfare, and more demonstrations.
I am now a clinical social worker. Divorced, living in Manhattan, where I raised two wonderful (what else?) kids and they are raising my equally-if-not-even-more delightful grandchildren. I participate to a small extent in political actions, and try to keep myself educated about what is going on in the world. I am forever grateful to all my comrades from those days.
Guest Post by Janet Rogers (’72)
Past midnight, two stealthy UCONN women slipped into the cold water of Mirror Lake. In darkness on the island we hung our sign, of black paint on white sheets, to welcome
EARTH DAY – April 22, 1970! As day dawned, millions of Americans came together to ask questions, raise awareness, and generate action for better stewardship of our one-and-only “Spaceship Earth”. The groundswell of “The Environmental Movement” exploded into a network of connectivity for positive change in how to live more wisely as part of our mother earth!
As a bio major in the Ecology Club that coordinated that first Earth Day at UCONN, I found passion and future purpose in “saving the earth”. I became a student representative at the UCONN Conference to design an Environmental Studies Program, and served on the Governor’s Committee to create an Environmental Policy for Connecticut. After graduating, I lectured for National Audubon Society on conservation, and got my dream job as a Ranger Naturalist for Grand Teton National Park. (1980 photo with President Carter after guiding him to view wildlife, just months before he signed the largest conservation bill in US history!) I was finding ways to work outside in nature for conservation, restoration of habitats, and positive connections of people with the living earth. Saving the earth and saving humanity, seemed one and the same. The great vision was for “peaceful, equitable, sustainable” living with a “healthy, diverse” Earth.
So here we are in the Anthropocene, the current geological age when human activity is the dominant influence on climate and the environment. And, we are in BIG trouble. Some of our strongest legislation for clean water and air, and endangered species, are under attack. Our National Parks and Monuments are threatened. Fossil fuel industries are ruining our climate! We are pulling out of the Paris Agreement, backing away from NATO, and trade agreements, and dealing with increasing amounts of chaos, fear, and anger. Did Earth Day fail?
NOT YET!!! The network connecting “the people”, who hold the real power in democracy, is huge, and it’s growing stronger!! There are incredibly inspiring and hopeful things going on everywhere! Lots of solutions are ready to be embraced, like alternative energies that would allow us to end ALL fossil fuel burning. And here YOU are, brilliant and capable, full of good ideas and energy! So, I believe another massive groundswell is rising among the young who are a much larger demographic than the boomers of the 60’s. YOU will find new ways forward on the journey of hope towards a peaceful, equitable, and sustainable human lifestyle on earth where all forms of life can THRIVE. This time, however, the end of all life on earth is a serious possibility, even as we learn that life itself is the greatest gift of all!!!
So let’s go! We can’t waste another minute! We are all in this together! The EARTH needs US!
Janet Jahoda Rogers