I have a great memory, but fifty years ago is a long time. If some of the people mentioned have different memories, then that is to be expected. I also depended on the valuable memories of my old friend Dicky Strozier and my brother Charlie. Charlie’s differ a bit from mine, but not in any significant way.
At times I look back on the sixties in the deep south and see a foreign place. I think that sense of alienation may have been enhanced by the fact that I joined the Peace Corps in 1975, and except for a year or so living in DC and a few extended visits, I lived and worked in Africa until the early nineties, and only returned to live in the south in the mid-nineties. When change happens gradually you can adjust almost unnoticed, but after a twenty year absence, I experienced culture shock. In Columbus, Ga. the elderly husband of my neighbor had been rushed to the hospital, a very sweet couple. A few neighbors, including me, had gathered around her when we saw her outside to give her our best wishes. One of them said something about bearing witness for her husband. She started dancing around, flailing her arms and chanting, “He’s been bathed in the blood of the lamb! He’s been bathed in the blood of the lamb!” It reminded me of the time I had inadvertently stopped my truck in the middle of a female circumcision ceremony in Chad. This was alien to me, strange ritualistic stuff. Things had changed over the years. There has been a great deal of mythology and revisionist history written about the sixties. Perhaps one personalized account can reset reality for those who read it.
I was born in Charleston, but spent years 2-10 in the outer suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri being my father’s home state. Then we moved back to the Charleston area, to Johns Island, in 1959. Distance wise Johns Island is not far from Charleston, but in those days it was still mostly rural with a 70% black population, many of whom spoke Gullah. Blacks lived right down the road, any road, but there was no mingling of the races. Black kids and white kids never played together, or went to the same churches, or attended the same schools. Blacks and Mexicans harvested the produce, and white kids worked the sheds packing it. There was a palpable sense of arrogance bordering on animosity shown by all white people toward black people. The n-word was commonly used. The only pro civil rights whites were “northern agitators,” often Jews. There were no Jews on Johns Island that I ever heard of; they all lived in downtown Charleston; and I only knew of one Catholic family. As I would learn later, most of the Jews in Charleston shared the prevailing prejudices. In fact some had ancestors who had fought for the Confederacy. I don’t think there were any white liberals on Johns Island. If there were, they kept a very low profile. I remember asking my father why he had voted for Kennedy. He replied, “Because Lincoln was a Republican.”
I’m going to tell a little anecdote here that I have included in another story, because it provides some insight into the times. My mother grew up on a farm in St. George, SC. She had a limited education, sixth grade I think, but she was literate and enjoyed reading newspapers and such. She was ignorant of many things, but she wasn’t stupid. She had a bevy of strange beliefs and superstitions. Now the point of this is not so much the tale itself, but her absolute unawareness that there was any sexual component to it. Of course as a precocious teenage boy I saw the sexual connotations, but I never mentioned them. That was ground best not trod on.
You see there is an actual long, slender, nonpoisonous black snake in the SC low country called the coachwhip. My mother believed it would lie in wait for a young woman to walk by. Then it would rise up, head waving back and forth, and make a perfect wolf whistle, just like a brash construction worker might. When the woman looked toward the sound, the snake would stare into her eyes and hypnotize her. Then it would crawl up, wrap around her, and squeeze her to death.
The black culture on Johns Island and adjacent Wadmalaw Island was quite different from the white one. Many blacks spoke the Gullah dialect, although almost all of them could and would speak something much closer to regular English to white people. They had their own music and superstitions. I remember the shack like houses with blue panted doors, window trim, and porch ceilings. That color was called haint blue. They believed that ghosts (haints) wouldn’t cross water, so the blue would keep them from entering their homes. One of my great regrets is that I never immersed myself in such an interesting culture. That was impossible for me at that time. I had evolutionary miles to go.
I was a product of my environment. I was just as prejudiced as the other white kids, used the n-word, and generally tried to fit in with everybody else. There was one difference though, I loved to read. No one ever read bedtime stories to me or even encouraged me to read, so I started out reading comic books. I later branched out to kid’s adventure stories, then sports books, and soon I was reading anything I could get my hands on. My one year younger brother and I thirsted for knowledge in a wasteland. How I envy the children of today. In those days encyclopedia publishers would send the first book, the “A” book, to people free, hoping they would go on to buy the set. We could never afford a set, but Charlie and I memorized the “A” book from cover to cover. I still have a warm place in my heart for aardvarks. Also it probably explains why I haul two old encyclopedia sets around with me every time I move. I just like looking at them.
The small sexually censored, but surprisingly philosophically uncensored, school library was my only source of literature. I read anything and everything, Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, just to name a couple. These days I would probably be put on a watch list. What I discovered from reading those books was that even the most abhorrent philosophies have some appealing truths at their core, which are then warped and twisted into something evil. There is an Arabic proverb: “That which is learned in youth is carved in stone.” However, thanks mostly to my voracious reading, gradually, very gradually, I began to question my own beliefs.
Because of the association of the Republican party with Lincoln, as well as being the party of blacks during Reconstruction, almost all whites were Democrats. I never heard of a white Republican on Johns Island. That would have been a curiosity like a two-headed calf. Since blacks were kept from voting by one means or another, that meant that in South Carolina the Republican Party only existed on paper. Oh every now and again some guy with a big ego would run for office as a Republican simply because he could, but it was just token stuff. For all the statewide offices, the general election was a joke. The Democratic primary was the only real election.
During the Kennedy Administration, southern whites became increasingly alarmed and angry with the progressive tendencies of the Democratic Party. The solid south held together one last time for Johnson in 1964, only because he was a fellow southerner. Johnson’s relentless support for civil rights was the killing axe blow among whites to the Democratic Party in the south. Oh the tree didn’t fall immediately, but it was doomed. On the other hand the Republican Party was a blank slate, an empty vessel just waiting to be filled. And fill it they did. The Republican Party in the south was reborn as the party of racism and intolerance. That didn’t mean that the whites who remained in the Democratic Party weren’t racists too, most were, just of a more moderate variety, some of whom were capable of adjusting their beliefs. Also a few hardcore racists remained Democrats for seniority or other personal reasons.
The exodus to the Republicans continued over the years, particularly as the Republicans began to tone down the racist rhetoric. The fight over integration and voting rights was over. They began to couch their policies in terms of states rights, limited federal government, and the pro-life movement. The last time that I looked, around the turn of the century, less than fifteen percent of registered white voters in South Carolina were Democrats. It well might be less today. Even with the exodus of the hardcore racists, it was still difficult for blacks in the sixties, seventies, and eighties to win Democratic primaries. This was the era of Clinton, Carter, the Gores, etc. White Democrats were more progressive than white Republicans, but it was still tough for them to vote for a black person, especially one who had never held a major elected office, and almost none had. Eventually this led to the tacit acceptance by southern blacks of Republican gerrymandering, which assured that fewer Democrats would be elected, but most of those that were would be black. Also it meant that Republican candidates in gerrymandered districts did not have to moderate their positions in order to get elected, in fact quite the opposite.
Religion in the sixties down south differed greatly from today. Yes there was a school prayer over the loudspeaker every morning, and the football team said a quiet prayer on the sidelines before games while the DDT truck sprayed the people in the stands, but it was perfunctory vanilla stuff. There were no religious groups at school, formal or informal. No one wore their religion on their sleeve. No one said praise God, or have a blessed day, or any of the other religious catch phrases and code words that you here everywhere today. True evangelicals were a small minority of Christians. Southern Baptists were by far the biggest protestant denomination, although still a minority overall. They were more fervent than most, but still pretty tame compared to the evangelicals of today. Most protestants attended the mainstream churches, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc.
The Civil Rights Era ended all that. The mainstream churches on the national and international levels accepted integration and voting rights for blacks, in some cases even promoting them. I was a Methodist. Half of my congregation, most of whom I had known for many years, just could not live with the thought that a black person might walk in and be allowed to sit in a pew. They left for the nascent Southern Methodist Church. That was repeated in denomination after denomination, and therein, free of the doctrinal and methodological restrictions of the mainstream churches, the up to then small evangelical movement was given rocket fuel.
At the age of fourteen, 1963 was an important year for me. I was at the doctor getting an ingrown toenail treated when I heard about the Kennedy assassination. I was delighted. They got the SOB. My brother Charlie said that when they announced it at school, the students started running around cheering, while the teachers looked on indulgently. According to Charlie there was only one student exception. Kathy Fugal stood in the middle of the hallway, cheering students running by her on both sides, and cried. Even though I didn’t see her, that image stuck in my mind. I kept coming back to it. There was something noble there. And there was something ignoble about my initial reaction. Plus watching that brave little boy salute his father’s corpse shamed me further. The coverage of Kennedy’s funeral brought home to me the stark difference between my odd little world and the wider world.
Also in 64 in the run up to the election, I regularly watched a weekly TV show, That Was The Week That Was (shortened in the TV guides to TW3), an American spinoff from a British show of the same name presented by David Frost. Nancy Ames (who sang the theme song), Gloria Steinem, Buck Henry and Alan Alda were regulars. Ames and Steinem were absolute babes in those days, which didn’t hurt a teenage boy’s interest. The show was off the charts intellectually for the TV shows of that era, witty and funny, extremely liberal, featuring the clever songs of Tom Lehrer. That it remained on the air for over a year was a miracle. I think that it flew completely over the heads of most people. I remember a line: “If elected Goldwater would turn the ship of state into a Birch canoe.” Humor is the mind’s oyster knife.
Me (14) with dog and brother Charlie (13) in 1963. Notice the bare feet.
One thing that astounds people is that male students drove the school buses, no females. I qualified after two days of group training when I was either sixteen or seventeen, I forget, which included a total of about half an hour behind the wheel. It was a big deal to get a bus to drive. I think it paid about a buck fifty a day. You kept the bus at your house overnight. I never got one. The football coach was in charge of those decisions. Unless you lived in a remote location like the far end of Wadmalaw Island, which made economic sense, all the buses went to the star football players. Being one of the best students didn’t count. I can’t recall a serious accident, but then traffic on Johns Island and Wadmalaw Island was usually light. About a year after getting my bus license, I was asked to substitute for a student driver who was a star on the track team, which had afternoon meets. I refused. It had been too long since even that minimal training. I wouldn’t take on that significant responsibility for a one day thing. That didn’t make Coach Biggerstaff happy.
Even though at school girls and boys as groups didn’t mingle, human nature being what it is, individuals mingled, usually older boys with younger girls. There were exceptions though. There were usually quite a few fresh out of college female teachers, in those days often from all female colleges, and because of the draft, there were a few nineteen and twenty year old Fonzies in classes. Stuff happens. There were a few hush hush scandals. One teacher became pregnant by a nineteen year old James Dean wannabe in her ninth grade class. And one lucky friend of mine, a regular student, a senior one year ahead of me, had an affair with a great looking young teacher. Amazingly he did not suffer from lifelong trauma as a result. When it surfaced she left. In those days they dismissed female teachers for that, but they didn’t prosecute them. I believe that a male teacher would have been in more serious trouble. Interestingly I don’t ever remember a scandal involving a male teacher and a female student. Possibly because of the draft, young male teachers were comparatively rare. When a girl became visibly pregnant she was expelled from school. In most cases she’d quit long before that. If the father of the child was in school, which was unusual because of the older boyfriend norm, he usually quit too to marry her. No married students were allowed to remain in school. Overall female students vanished along the way in far greater numbers than males. By my senior year, only about one quarter of my class was female.
I was given a sixteen gauge shotgun when I was thirteen or fourteen. I was never an avid hunter, although I went frequently. It was more an ironclad macho male excuse for getting away from a chaotic house and spending a couple of tranquil hours in the woods. Once as I sat dozing, my back against a fallen tree, a noise awakened me. A squirrel was two feet away from me on the fallen tree. We were both startled. The squirrel jumped right on the top of my head and then up into a standing tree. I laughed at myself, the mighty hunter. In the thick woods of the low country shotguns were the preferred hunting weapon. Small bore twenty-two rifles were also popular, mostly for target shooting and birds at a distance. Pistols were less common, but some people had them in their houses for protection. I’d heard of people owning thirty-aught-six rifles, which refers to the bullet caliber, but I never saw one. Up north where you can see through the woods for a distance, they were the standard hunting weapon. On Johns Island where you could only see clearly for thirty or forty yards, they were too dangerous to use for hunting and therefore not very practical. There was no long tradition in the south of people owning military style weapons. No one even imagined using weapons against the government. Gun laws were common. Nearly every city had them. No one questioned their constitutionality.
Another oddity of the times bears mentioning. Without going into the details, my home life was chaotic and dysfunctional. Sometimes I had to leave, for a few days, a week, once as long as two weeks. The parents, and in one case grandparents, of several of my friends would take me in for as long as needed, no questions asked. And not once did anybody call my parents or prevail upon me to do so. They were more than willing to help me, their son’s buddy, but at the same time they did not want to get involved, which was fine with me. That just seems so utterly strange today.
I think it was 1965 in the tenth grade, when I was fifteen/sixteen, when the school was first opened to a few brave black kids, although it might have been 64. As I remember it, I was just as mean to them as the other kids. Well almost as mean. My memory was a bit vague on this one, but my old buddy Dicky refreshed it. In what could have been a scene right out of a Pat Conroy novel, out in the schoolyard a bunch of white boys were tormenting a black kid named Arthur Brown. At least, if memory serves, I was above that sort of thing. I’d like to think so anyway. A tougher black kid named Edward Brown stepped in the middle of it all, wrapped his belt around his fist, buckle flailing ominously, and said, “Which of you white motherfuckers wants to go first.” He had no takers. He faced them all down. In fact Edward seemed out of place on Johns Island, and some people thought that he might have been assigned by somebody outside of the school as a protector for the black students, but that was pure speculation, never proven. If so, he did his job well.
That same year I went out for football. The team was all white. Coach Spoon was a sadist. Two-a-days in August were brutal, sand gnats and sweltering heat. Toward the end of practice my tongue would swell from dehydration until I couldn’t talk. Then after the torturous wind sprints, they would bring a bucket of ice water out, soak some towels, and throw them to us, so we could fight over them to suck out some moisture. Once James Glover, a top defensive player, had an injured forearm. They put a pad on it. Coach Spoon called me over and told me to bend forward. He then instructed James to hit my helmet as hard as could, as many times as he could. I think I took about twenty direct blows to the head while Coach Spoon chuckled. I had a three-day headache, probably a concussion. We were a small school. Coach Spoon wanted every able bodied male to go out for football. We had a couple guys on the team who weighed maybe 115 lbs. soaking wet. Our tackles averaged 170. One day a guy who hadn’t gone out for football was sitting outside with his girlfriend at the lunch break. My neighbor and buddy Dicky Strozier watched as Spoon sicced some of the team on them. They threw pebbles and yelled insults until the couple had to leave.
I remember one game in particular that year. James Island was our neighboring island on the Charleston side. It was an old rivalry. However being closer to the city, James Island had outpaced Johns Island in population growth. At that time there were about 650 kids in the white James Island High School and 190 in ours. That’s a big difference when it comes to fielding a football team. The two teams were in different conferences, but they still played every year. That was the last year. The size difference had become too extreme. In addition that year the James Island QB was David Teal, a jump passer, the best high school player I ever saw. I can’t really say played against because except for a play or two I sat on the bench. He would go on to letter three years at Miami as a QB. In those days freshmen in college couldn’t play varsity football. Playboy picked him preseason as the top college sophomore in the entire nation. He never lived up to that hype, not sure why, but he had a solid college career.
Needless to say, we were completely outsized and overmatched. They won by a score of 33-0. It was 20-0 at halftime. Spoon went crazy, tossing tables over, screaming, grabbing guys by the jersey and shoving them against the walls. After the game on the bus ride back, neither accepting any blame himself nor acknowledging the inherent unfairness of the match, he told us in somber detail just how worthless he thought we all were. I’d watched my much smaller teammates play their hearts out. Hell I remember thinking that holding Teal to 13 points in the second half was an accomplishment. But then I didn’t fancy myself the next Bear Bryant.
St. Johns had the grammar school, junior high, and high school, all in the same location. Coach Spoon also taught phys ed and some history in junior high. In a history class he actually mocked and embarrassed a kid who stuttered. I think he thought that indulging weakness was itself a weakness, following the George Patton model. Fights between male students were frequent in junior high, often involving a bigger kid beating up a smaller one. Coach Spoon’s solution to that was to assemble the class at phys ed, put boxing gloves on both fighters, and have the whole class cheer the bully on as he beat the crap out of the smaller kid. A lesson plan right out of The Lord of The Flies School of Behavioral Science.
Spoon was the school disciplinarian. Every few weeks the entire junior high or high school, depending, would file down to the auditorium. Students who had committed some infraction would go up on stage one by one and get paddled. He had a whole range of instruments, regular ping pong paddles, a thicker paddle with big holes in it which amplified the pain marvelously, as well as yardsticks and rulers that he could use straight on or whip downward edge wise. Although there were far fewer female offenders, if memory serves they were paddled as well, although I think that was limited to junior high. At least I don’t recall any older girls being paddled. Since they knew when it was coming, I suspected that the junior high girls wore a little extra padding that day. Spoon always made a grand production out of choosing the implement of torture and announcing the number of blows to be delivered. Obviously he enjoyed himself.
The Spoon family lived in my neighborhood. I don’t think I ever saw his wife, except maybe hanging out clothes to dry. He had a son several years younger than me. I don’t know if the boy was gay, but he was a delicate kid who often played the piano. I could hear him as I pedaled my bicycle by his house. I felt sorry for the kid, having Spoon for a father must have been hell for him, but I also felt that perhaps some form of karmic justice was being meted out.
Since quitting during the football season was simply not done, I stuck it out that first year. I hadn’t yet made a final decision, but I was leaning toward not going out my junior year. I had had enough of Spoon. Then at the very end of my sophomore year, I heard that he was moving upstate. Upon hearing that news at school, I failed to completely conceal my pleasure. Before you could shake a stick, James Glover appeared wanting to fight. I’d fought my share of fights in earlier years, even won a few, but I felt that at sixteen I was a bit beyond that now. Besides James was older and tougher and would have kicked my butt. We had been teammates, so I managed to talk him out of it without losing too much face. I would have lost more face if I hadn’t. Like James, there are still quite a few people who remember Coach Spoon fondly. I don’t get it. I never got it.
So I went out for football the next year, my junior year. Coach Biggerstaff was the new coach. A few days into practice, one of few black students, Charles Heyward, came out for the team. Coach allowed him to suit up, then had the whole team line up single file. He made that kid take the whole team on, one by one, each one of us hitting him as hard as we could. I didn’t feel good about it, and perhaps I didn’t hit him quite as hard, but I went right along with the crowd. When he limped off, he seemed the noble one. We are weighed against the force it takes to stop us — a foot or a wall. I felt dirty and ashamed by what we had done. I vowed that I would never go along with something like that again, regardless of the consequences. Coach Biggerstaff was a decent guy. He went on to coach majority black teams at St. Johns over many years. I’m sure that he regretted that incident too. But it happened. As an interesting aside, many years later Heyward told my brother Charlie that Stokely Carmichael had been hiding out at his house during that time.
Later that same year my vow was put to the test. Over the course of that year I had become the de facto class liberal, not counting the three black kids that is. I was still not friendly with the black kids, that would have been suicidally brave, but I was no longer hostile. In fact I was still pretty conservative, but unlike my classmates at least I could see both points of view. I could debate in support of the Supreme Court decision against prayer in schools even if I didn’t agree with it. My opponent was usually Ted Austin, a smart fellow whose father was a fervent member of the John Birch Society. In those days the John Birch Society viewed as inevitable that in the near future the Soviet and Chinese Communists would conquer the entire world. In later years I wondered how the Austins reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which should have shattered their lugubrious world view. One always hopes that people will abandon their beliefs when they are proven completely wrong, but if I ran into Ted I doubt that that would be the case. It rarely is. Anyway, I liked to argue, and somebody had to take the unpopular side. My dad once looked at me, shook his head, and said, “That boy would argue with a fencepost.”
The Junior/Senior Prom was financed by concessions sold at football games. The few white students in the forty something member junior class that weren’t either on the football team, in the band, or on the cheerleader squad, manned the concession stand. The three black students in my class were the first blacks ever eligible to attend the prom at St. Johns. One morning in homeroom, over the loudspeaker, it was announced that in order to avoid any possible incidents, the prom was canceled, and Principle J.W. Wiggins would decide what to do with the money raised for it. There was a good bit of grumbling and mumbling in the class, but there wasn’t anything anybody could do. I stood up and told an amazed audience that I was going down to talk to Mr. Wiggins. It wasn’t about being brave or being a showoff, and I couldn’t have cared less about the prom. It was about fulfilling my vow. I wasn’t going to wimp out once again. I had to do it.
So I went down, sat in J.W.’s office, and presented my case. I had been paddled by J.W. a few times in my mischievous younger years in that same office, but for him it was just a duty he had to perform. Basically I said that like it or not, integration was the law of the land. We were all going to have to adjust to it, and we might as well get on with it. If he was worried about fights, we could designate a couple of students to help insure the peace. I would volunteer to do that. He responded by saying that it was his decision and his alone. Just like the people of Eastern Europe, students had to learn to yield to authority. That puzzled me. In what turned out to be an obvious tactical error, I asked him if he was really comparing us students to the oppressed people of Hungary, and himself to the Soviet tanks. That might have won debate points, but it didn’t win points with J.W. Wiggins. He grew red in the face an ordered me out of his office. I went back to class, shrugged, and told everybody that I’d tried. I thought that that was the end of it.
Not so. The next morning over the loudspeaker the junior class was called to the auditorium. There J.W. mounted the stage and spoke long and loudly about discipline and authority, almost none of which I remember. The part I do remember: “There is one student among you whom I will not name, a dogmatic Communist radical trying to stir up trouble. And if he steps out of line one more time I will expel him.” Of course everyone knew whom he was talking about. To say that I was shocked would be a gross understatement. Wow! I mean that was completely over the top. However, at the same time it was kind of cool. By embarrassing and threatening me in front of the whole class, J.W. had elevated my insignificant gesture. He had made it a brave act of defiance with potential dire consequences. I’d read Emerson: “Your good must have some edge to it,– else it is none.” There was a cleansing quality to my act now, extirpating at least some of my past sins. I know it is hard to believe, but I was more delighted than mortified. I was never one of the popular kids, but many of my classmates had been my classmates since the fifth grade. I think that they were shocked by J.W.’s rant as well. In their own small act of defiance I was elected a few weeks later to the ceremonial student council, which I don’t believe would have happened otherwise. I probably got the votes of the three black students.
At the University of South Carolina my political views continued to evolve. For a while there I was one of the more active leftist hippie types on campus. However 1968 was a disheartening year, and gradually over the next year or so I grew tired of it all, a bit jaded. At one point there was a riot on campus, which I avoided participating in, not that that did me any good. I was sitting on a couch in a dorm room lounge with a couple of buddies watching the 5pm Star Trek rerun, when the double doors burst open and a national guardsman in full gas mask regalia ran in and blasted us with pepper sprayed at point blank range from a powerful nozzle. Pepper spray in the eyes is damn painful, but trust me it’s even worse when you wear contacts. My eyes were extra sensitive to light for years afterward.
And finally, although I’ve told this anecdote previously in my Phil Ochs story, it bears repeating here because it provides a neat conclusion to my story. One afternoon I was walking down the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina toward McKissick Library, my arms full of books, when I noticed a gathering of students at the USC President’s House. I went over to take a look. It was a civil rights protest. Somebody up front was burning a Confederate Flag. The campus is very close to the Statehouse where a Confederate Flag waved. I hated that flag, so I didn’t mind in the least seeing it burn. Standing at the back for a few minutes, I chatted with some old friends, then I headed on down toward the library. I never saw a thing, or if I did a mild concussion wiped my memory. Two coeds witnessed it. A student was hidden behind a hedge. When I passed him, with my arms full, he jumped out and sucker punched me, knocking me out. As I lay on the ground, he yelled: “I got one of the n-lovers!” Then he ran off.
I awakened in the infirmary, sitting in a dentist’s chair, shirt covered in blood, getting my face sown up. Two of my friends had managed to get me there. Apparently I had been in an incoherent dazed condition, but able to stand supported on either side and shuffle my feet. My two friends told the doctor what had happened and left out of fear of being arrested, but they’d remained hidden to watch the infirmary. Nobody trusted the police at any level. They were instruments of the state, and the state, especially the State of South Carolina, saw anybody who protested against the Vietnam War or in favor of civil rights as the enemy. When he finished, the doc asked if I wanted to file assault charges. Challenging me to a fight was one thing, a cowardly ambush another. It was a sign of the times that even the doctor realized that I might not want to get the police involved. I said yes and he called the campus cops. In the sixties the campus police did not resemble a military strike force. They were more like mall cops. A squad car arrived and drove me down to the campus police station.
I was inside the station filling out paperwork, when five or six cars/vans full of hippies screeched into the parking lot. They got out and started pounding on the police cars, chanting “Let George go!” My watching buddies had informed everybody that the campus police were holding me. The campus cops didn’t know what to do. I walked outside to calm the situation down, which took some doing. I looked pretty rough. My friends left; I finished the paperwork; and the cops drove me home. The next week the student newspaper reported the protest, including the line, “One unidentified student was reportedly injured.”
As far as I could tell, the campus police did nothing to find the guy. They never contacted me or the coed witnesses. Many months later at the Russell House, the student union building, I ran into Donald Bailey, a high school teammate who played football for South Carolina. He made a point of informing me that the guy who’d attacked me, whom he would not name, had initially been the toast of fraternity row. Later he’d flunked out of school, been drafted, and subsequently sent to Vietnam. Apparently Donald had felt duty bound to relate that to me, but had not felt duty bound to turn the guy in. A curious ending to a curious incident and, as Alice might have said, an even curiouser decade. And that concludes my stumbles through the sixties.