post might not be of interest to some of my readers, so feel free to skip it if
you’re not into stories about Baby Boomers in the 1960s. Or if you’ve heard too
many such stories. This stuff was buried so deep I’d forgotten it, and, well,
it is part of my life, so here goes.
March the University of Central Oklahoma, my alma mater, contacted me about
some of my activities there in the 1960s. It seems they’re putting together an
exhibit about the college during the Vietnam era. I promised to look for
anything that might help. During this search I came upon my notes from the
time. I was surprised I’d kept such detailed notes (I may have been
anticipating a lawsuit), and I was surprised I still had the notes. And it was
a good thing for the exhibit I’d kept the notes because not too many people
involved are still alive. I’d forgotten so much of what happened. It was like
meeting my younger self all over again. When I went to UCO, it was Central
State College. That’s how I remember it, and that’s how I’m going to refer to
the setting. When I went to Central State I was the product of the Oklahoma
City school system. I went to Northwest Classen, one of the best schools in the
system at the time (Elizabeth Warren was in my graduating class). Our education
was good, but it was limited.
born shortly after World War II—the “good war.” Our parents for the most part
had been involved in the war effort—either fighting it or supporting it at
home. My parents worked for the Manhattan Project. We were taught our country
was always right, and we believed it. We were taught to respect authority, and
we did. We were laughably naïve. We were set up for disillusionment. The
history we were taught was so sanitized that it was in college I first came
across a reference to the Japanese internment camps. I couldn’t believe my
country would do such a thing. I asked my father, and he said yes, it had
happened thanks to Earl Warren. There were probably hundreds of things that had
been sanitized from our history books! In Oklahoma we were taught
Reconstruction was evil, which set me up to go slack jawed when I did graduate
work at Ohio State and found that there was a whole different history taught in
rate, this sheltered naïve boy entered Central State in the fall of 1966.
Neither they nor I were prepared!
I was still leaning toward supporting the Vietnam war. It was difficult because
I saw many of my high school friends being drafted. Some didn’t come back.
Others came back damaged. I still trusted that the country would not be in a
war if there were not a good reason. After all, I respected authority, and our
country was always right.
that year Central State invited Ambassador Robert Strong to speak. I was
grasping at straws to believe the war was justified. This speech was the
tipping point. The Ambassador spent twenty minutes saying there were good
reasons for us to be in the war, told some personal stories, none of which were
relevant, and urged us to support the war so we could win in the “Asiatic”
sense of the word. That speech resulted in my first letter to the Vista, the
school paper, which was printed Dec. 7, 1967.
journalism student supposedly was in the Vista office when my letter came in
and wrote a simultaneously published response. I guess there’s no law requiring
a letter to be printed and waiting an issue or two to print a rebuttal, but it
seems to be a custom.
letter was about the evening class schedule. Amazingly, it elicited an
immediate response from the administration. The first day of Christmas break I
got the following letter at my parents’ house:
make an appointment to see me as soon as possible.
matter is important.
from Joe C. Jackson, Dean of the College.
made the appointment during the Christmas break, drove to Edmond (a 20-mile trip),
and met with my soon-to-be nemesis.
recall, you had an article in the Vista.” As he was saying this, he pulled out
a copy of the letter. Then he asked if this was true.
you think that’s fairly obvious?” By this point I was really pissed off. I’d
taken time off from my Christmas break and wasted my time and gas for this?
Roth, I’ve been in charge of scheduling since before you were born. The
schedule we have now has gotten us through many years without complaints from
students. Do you think you know more than I do?”
not about scheduling, but I do know when something’s illogical, which the
Dean Joe. It became obvious to him he not was going to get the apology from the
quivering subservient student he expected, so he began a sarcastic reading of the
on Friday. Isn’t that cute?” (One of my points was that classes could be held
him finish. It would have been rude to interrupt, and I enjoyed his making a
fool of himself, even if I was the only witness to this performance.
he said, “Mr. Roth, if you have any further complaints or problems, please come
to me before writing the Vista.” I agreed.
At the beginning of 1968 I began
working at the campus radio station eight hours a week. Max O. Davis was in
charge of the station. In a way, the station was run like the college was. If
Mr. Davis didn’t like a musical selection, he’d yank it off the turntable and
break it. (This was in the days of vinyl records.) He tolerated no criticism.
a detour here, since I suppose the Statute of Limitations has passed, I’m going
to confess I had a little fun with Mr. Davis. The station was ten watts. I
asked a cousin in Sweden to write Mr. Davis saying she had heard him on her
radio. He bit, and articles appeared in the Vista and the Daily Oklahoman.
back on track, that semester I was taking twenty hours and working eight. I’d
decided I wanted to graduate ASAP, so I wanted to load up on as many classes as
I could take in the summer. It turned out the summer school schedule was just
as illogical as the evening schedule. Maybe it was even worse. Classes met each
morning for a fifty-minute session and one afternoon a week for another
fifty-minute session, thus preventing students who worked in the afternoons
from attending classes. The school also held workshops in the afternoon. A
student could not enroll in a class and a workshop without missing part of one
or the other.
promised to go see Dean Joe before writing the Vista, so I did.
want to talk to you about your summer schedule. These classes in the afternoon
prevent working students from attending summer school.”
always been of the opinion that students who work have no business in school.”
(And no, I am not making that up.)
some students have to work.”
don’t have to go to school.”
ignoring the working students, a person cannot enroll in a workshop and a
class. Wouldn’t it be better to have sixty-minute classes in the morning?”
conflicts are my business as is scheduling. Yours is to come to school, make
your grades, and graduate.”
was no point in further discussion. I simply said, “You told me to see you
about any further complaints or problems I had.”
got problems, but you don’t need to see me about them.” (Nope. Not making that
started a petition. At the end of one day, I had more than 200 signatures from
just passing it around in my classes. That summer schedule was definitely not
a letter to go with the petition and called Stan Hoig, the faculty advisor of
the Vista, to see if he’d print the letter and the petition. He said he could
see no reason not to. I told him I’d bring them the next day after my classes.
I didn’t even get in the office. Mr. Hoig met me at the door.
Jackson advised us not to print that.”
said he answered any questions presented in it.”
petition had not begun when I spoke to Dean Jackson.”
his word against yours—you’re only a student, you know.”
weekend I wrote a bunch of letters to newspapers and the Board of Regents. I
never mailed them. When I reported for work at the radio station on Monday, Mr.
Davis was waiting for me.
petition you’re fooling with… “
proposed something similar only last week to Dr. Jackson.”
me down just as he did you.”
Larry, since you’re working at the station I’m in charge of, they think I put
you up to it.”
and last Friday I received several calls, one of which came from Dr. Godfrey.
Dr. Godfrey reminded me he was president of this college and that he could
still cut off funds for the station---Larry, a college is not a democracy.
You’ve got to stop thinking you have as much say as everyone else about what
goes on here.”
Godfrey said if you will stop passing the petition, he will forget it.”
retrospect I doubt that Mr. Davis had suggested any changes to anything, but I
do believe he was told to put pressure on me to drop the petition. The eight
hour a week job didn’t pay enough that threatening to fire me would have the
desired effect, so making me think I would save the station by giving up on the
petition was the better approach. It worked.
became involved in the Eugene McCarthy campaign and worked with them during the
spring break. When I came back from that break the petition, the letters, and
some other articles I’d written had been removed from my room. In retrospect, I
suppose this seems like an inexcusable invasion of privacy, but at the time it
didn’t seem particularly surprising. I was angry with myself for leaving the
stuff in my dorm room.
9, 1968 the Vista printed an editorial saying total victory was the only
solution in Vietnam. By this time the country was moving toward opposing the
war. Walter Cronkite had made his opposition official in February 1968. I was
still extremely bitter about the way I’d been treated when I suggested changing
the summer school schedule. When I saw this editorial and one published in
the same issue titled “Fair Criticism Welcome,” I snapped. I’d seen just how
welcome criticism was, after all, and the “Total Victory” editorial contained
errors (bay of Torkin, for example) and positions (no matter what the reason
for the war, we should go after total victory) that showed little thought (in
my opinion). And worse, the article proposed that Hitler could have won World
War II had he just done a few things differently. I responded with a scorched
earth letter that was printed May 16, 1968.
remainder of the semester was busy with finals, papers, etc. One of my
teachers, Dorothy Mills, and I had become good friends during spring break when
we were both working on Clean Gene’s campaign. She told me she’d nearly been
fired for trying to pass an anti-war petition to other teachers.
next week Dr. Godfrey was the first to sign a pro-war petition.
school year ended, the Student Senate, which was free to do its own will, voted
to favor a statement saying, “Any person who is not in favor of U. S.
involvement in Asia is not an American.”
probably at least 40% of the public opposed the war. The Student Senate would
have stripped citizenship from a good many Americans.
Student Senate elections for the year 1968-9, which took place in May, 1968
were some of the most interesting in the school’s history. Until that time
fraternities had been in control of the student senate. For the first time a
student ran against the fraternity students. The Greeks lost; Larry Spears won
with an anti-administration platform.
next year promised to be interesting.
summer I suffered through the schedule and took as many classes as I could. As
I was studying, several professors resigned publicly, calling for more student
and faculty freedoms. The president’s only statement was something to the
effect that the college was better off without them, which wasn’t true. All the
PhDs in the psychology department were among those who left, leaving that
department without accreditation.
time Larry Spears became president of the Student Senate he’d joined a
fraternity and urged everyone else to do so as well. We’d been betrayed.
Independent students loathed him.
been rehired at the radio station (Surprise!), so there was no reason not to
take up the summer schedule crusade again, and without the job at the radio
station, I had more time to put into the effort. Larry Spears held a discussion
meeting in October, and I told my story at that meeting. Larry Spears promised
to send some sort of letter to the Dean of the College. I sent my own letter to
the Vista without alerting Stan Hoig in advance. It was printed October 29,
got another of those “Schedule a meeting. This is important.” Letters from Dean
Joe. This time I ignored it. I knew just how important it was, and I figured he
knew where to find me.
November the Dean of Men, Alvin Freiburger, held a meeting in the dorm lounge.
When he opened for questions, I had a few.
are girls not allowed in our dorms?”
it is not proper.”
are dorm mothers allowed to roam halls* and enter rooms at random?”
they can keep order.”
what if the boys whose room they enter are undressed?”
should always be prepared to have a lady in your room.”
why aren’t girls allowed in the dorm?”
*I should explain the dorm rooms had no bathroom facilities. The bathroom facilities and showers were located in the middle of the building, which meant we had to get dressed to go to the bathroom.
lounge roared with laughter. Others were encouraged to try to put the dean on
the spot. The was the last such meeting the dean held.
years after this meeting I lived at the Jones Graduate Tower at Ohio State,
which was coed. There are good reasons for not having coed dorms!
the meeting with Dean Freiberger a friend of mine who worked in the dorm’s
office told me he’d been in the office when someone from the administration
called and said to spread the word that I was a communist. There was a joke in
Oklahoma at the time that if you wanted to smear someone, you’d call them a
communist or a homosexual. The administration chose the wrong one.
dorm had any number of blabbermouths who would take anything to the
administration if given the chance, so I took advantage of them.
someone thinks I’m a communist.”
like my card back. Would you tell the person who took it to put it in my
mailbox—no questions asked?”
the administration thinks I’m a communist. Isn’t that rather egotistical?”
they think a communist would come here for?”
worked. Being a communist didn’t make it into any of my records, and I never
had any problems getting the security clearances I’d need in the future.
wondered what kinds of mud would be thrown next. I considered transferring to the
University of Oklahoma and even took a trip there. It was a different world. It
was mighty tempting, but it would have taken two years to complete my degree
there, and I only had two more semesters at Central State before I could
this time Oklahoma Representative C. H. Spearman (known not so affectionately
as C&H), who represented Edmond, began a campaign to change the name of
Central State College to Central State University. I believe this campaign was
an attempt to embarrass Dewey Bartlett, the governor, who repeatedly vetoed the
C&H’s latest campaign was raging I saw an ad in the Vista seeking writers
for the Oklahoma Limited. I wrote and they bit. They asked for an article on
Central State and gave me a two-week deadline. The article made page one of the
Limited. I was never paid for the article.
article effectively ended the CSU campaign for a while. I thought, “Well,
that’s that.” I was wrong.
PM one night after the article appeared I got a call from Jim Taggart asking to
meet with me. I didn’t know him, and I thought, “Uh-oh. Is this another of
those ‘This is important’ meetings?” Jim was in the music department, so we met
we were both a little cautious. We’d both had our run-ins with the
article was very good.”
really believe everything you wrote?”
As I said this I was trying to remember the entire article to see if it was
really that unbelievable.
you be interested in being active on campus?”
Actually, I already considered myself active.
I’m supervisor of the Afro-American Student Union.”
was interesting, but Jim was white, and I’m white, so I didn’t know where this
are many of the blacks on campus who want to do something. They need a leader.”
you don’t mean me.”
the whites need to do their own thing, and they need a leader—you. Perhaps the
whites and blacks could work together.”
Taggart, that’s a good idea, but I’m just not the leading type.”
see. Anyway, something has to be done here. Why don’t you see if you can get
some interested people together, and we’ll meet Wednesday night here at my
agreed. I was also stunned. Someone wanted me to lead?
my friends. That Wednesday morning in one of my classes I noticed a student
sitting next to me with a stack of Xerox material. As I examined it more
closely I saw it concerned one of the professors. I asked to see the material.
The material was about Rene Mendoza, a professor from the Philippines who was
being fired ostensibly because he was not “permanent,” that is because he was
not a citizen. I asked the student how he felt about the matter. He said it was
a “pile of crap.” I introduced myself and invited him to the meeting that
evening. That’s how I met Terry Johnston. For better or for worse.
Taggart invited the Afro-American Student Union to the meeting. From the outset
they made it clear they would do their own thing. Jim proposed an off-campus
March 1967, Directions, an off-campus newspaper, had been started. Its editor
was expelled for her efforts. This was not ancient history, and I had only this
semester, the summer semester, and eight weeks of student teaching to graduate.
I was not thrilled with this suggestion.
explained times had changed (in two years?), that Central State had no right to
take any action while the paper was off-campus and did not print libel. We
agreed to think it over, but my mind was the only one that was not made up.
Terry came to my dorm room Saturday for the hard sell. I agreed to help edit
the paper. We agreed on the name Dialogue. I wanted to go with Dialog, but I
was outvoted. Terry wrote an “application for distribution” to be given to the
Dean of Students, Charles Richmond. My roommate also agreed to help edit the
paper. We agreed to meet with Dean Richmond the next Monday.
Sunday I got a call from another person who’d read the article in the Oklahoma
I go further, I need to point out not many people at Central State read this
issue of the Oklahoma Limited because the papers, uh, disappeared from their
campus distribution points soon after they were delivered.
rate this caller wanted to set up a meeting at her house. This was how I met
Sharon Humes. She was married and had a teenage son, and she was the grownup we
her about Dialogue, and she promised to come to the next meeting.
with Dean Richmond, who was not only not surprised to see us but knew why we
were there. It seems there were no secrets at Central State. He told us we
could not distribute on campus but he had no control over what went on off
campus. When we got his written reply, he said we couldn’t distribute
off-campus, either. But it was too late. Issue number one was already printed.
It was March 5, 1969.
all this was going on the Vista ran an editorial on the becoming a university
issue. My response was printed March 6, 1969, just as Dialogue was being
distributed off campus.
Vista took note of Dialogue on March 20, 1969. A letter responding to my
response on the University issue was printed March 13, 1969.
Terry was more liberal than I was. I also knew Oklahoma was and is a conservative
state, and that we should challenge but not offend our audience, and, should
the administration decide to take some action against us, we’d need support
from the state. We argued over this constantly. As I said before, Sharon was
our grownup. She kept us together. My roommate’s parents were advised he should
not be involved. I wasn’t surprised. Terry wanted to be editor-in-chief. The
reason we’d decided on three editors was strength in numbers. We decided he
would be editor-in-chief in practice, but not on the masthead.
immediately had a large vocal following. Terry thought we could depend on that
following should something happen. I knew better, and we saw just how much we
could count on their support when we put up a slate of candidates for student
senate. We lost big time, but I guess we got some notice. John Rogers, the
Oklahoma Secretary of State wrote the Vista. I responded as did some other
summer I again dealt with the summer schedule. I also drove trucks delivering
the evening newspapers to the carriers’ distribution sites in Oklahoma City. My
parents engaged in magical thinking. They wanted me to go to college, but they
didn’t want it to cost them anything, so I was a busy boy that summer.
Terry put together the summer issue with no
input from, as far as I know, anybody. We assembled it at Sharon’s house the
night of the first moon walk. I didn’t read the newsletter. Shame on me. Terry
had put together a pretty radical issue, calling the police “fascist pigs,” and
so on. I don’t have a copy of that one, but I was embarrassed.
called out of class by one of the campus police. Mr. Gentry and I had a good
relationship, which may sound unlikely, but I think he knew bullshit when he
saw it or was asked to do it. In the past, he had told me if I was fair with
him he’d be fair with me. He told me he was very disappointed with this issue.
I explained the situation—I was working, taking the maximum load, and so on,
and I’d been uninvolved in this issue. He said he understood that, but the
issue was irresponsible, and my name was on it. He said he was glad for our
reputation that the summer issue would not get the circulation a regular issue
would. He wasn’t the only one who was glad about that. He also told me he’d
been asked to do a background survey on me and found nothing. As I said, he
knew bullshit when he was asked to do it.
speaking of bullshit… .
weeks later I was relaxing after a hard day at work and at school. I was
thinking that after that summer I would only have student teaching, and it
would be kiss off, Central State. Then the phone rang.
heard this. You’d better sit down. You and Terry have not been approved for
student teaching. Are you there? Joe Walker, the director of Student Teaching
quit over it. I’m going to have to let you go. Can you tell me how to reach
I’ll try to call him later. Thanks, Sharon.”
a very long night deciding what to do.
next day I went to Joe Walker’s office. Only the secretaries were in. I said
hello to one of them who asked if she could help me.
like to know if I’ve been approved for student teaching.”
the committee met yesterday, and I don’t have the list yet. Almost everyone was
approved. What’s your name?”
down. Mr. Walker will be here soon. Are you sure you’re Larry? I mean, uh, I
was expecting your hair to be longer and, uh, well, you look like any of the
should explain that I never let my hair get long or failed to bathe. This was
not a political statement so much as a personal issue. I didn’t find long hair
comfortable—especially in the Oklahoma summers, and as for bathing, well, driving
those trucks and tossing the paper bundles to the carriers was hot, sweaty
work; enough said.)
that the poor secretary was ruffled, I sat down and assured her I was like any
of the other students.
for her, Mr. Walker came in soon, and before he could get to his office, she
announced, “Mr. Roth is here to see you, sir.”
into Mr. Walker’s office. I could see disappointment on his face.
Walker, I’m sorry to hear you’re leaving. This school needs principled people.”
principled people are out of place here. That’s something I’ve just realized. I
guess you never will.”
you didn’t resign because of me.”
didn’t. If it had been only you and Terry there would have been no need. You
can fight your own battles. I resigned because the powers that be were trying
to force me to approve some people who didn’t have the required grade average.
The teaching profession is poor enough with those presently in it. Think what
it would be with these extra substandard people in it. No. Don’t feel bad. You
weren’t the cause.”
whom should I confront with the fact I know about the decision?”
see. You know, the joke’s on them. They weren’t going to tell you until it was
too late for you to do anything—ah, Dr. Way, he should know. Let me call him.
This will be a pleasure.”
phoned Harrison Way, the Education Chairman.
Way, Joe Walker here. I have a young man in my office who wants to know if he’s
been approved for student teaching.”
him he’d be notified by mail in August. That doesn’t seem to go over too well
see him now? Good. I’ll send him down.”
up and said, “Larry, you’ve got ‘em running already. The situation is yours. I
guess it always was. Keep calling the shots. You know how.”
a lot, Mr. Walker.”
stop, Harrison Way’s office.
think you’re expecting me.”
how did you find out the day of the meeting what happened?”
really don’t. Sharon apparently foresaw some trouble for the person and didn’t
tell me.” I still don’t know who told Sharon.
well, then, uh, the Dean of the College, Joe Jackson, felt that you should be
called to account for some of the views you expressed in Dialogue.”
Way, after this summer is over, I will have only my student teaching left to
do. I have chosen teaching as my career. If this college prevents me from
entering my chosen career, I’ll have no choice but to sue. The college will
then be liable for the entire amount of money I would have made as a teacher.
Is that clear?”
uh, perhaps you’d better see Dean Jackson. After all, it was his idea.”
stop was Dean Joe, who assured me I had nothing to worry about. It was just a
“formality.” Dean Joe was uncharacteristically friendly.
was writing this all these years later, it occurred to me that with Mr.
Walker’s resigning because pressure was put on him to approve unqualified
students to teach in the public schools while qualified students were being
denied approval because they expressed “un-teacherlike” opinions, with the
threat of a lawsuit that could cost the college (taxpayer) money, and with the
governor being pissed at the school for wanting to become a university over his
veto, this was a media frenzy just waiting to happen. I would imagine Dean Joe
was told to diffuse the situation pronto, since, as Dr. Way had said, it was
Dean Joe’s idea (and Dr. Way seemed perfectly willing to throw Dan Joe under
the bus). I was in a better negotiating position than I realized!
stopped to see Mr. Gentry (of the campus police), who became very angry about
the situation. That evening I called Dr. Mills, who was happy to help, and I
stopped by to see Miss Loraine Bell, a conservative teacher who, although we
had political differences, seemed to like me. She gave me a lecture, but she
too agreed to help.
suspect Dr. Way, after receiving calls from the conservative Miss Bell and the
liberal Dr. Mills, did not know what to think.
sure I had to go through a question and answer session as did Terry. We were
admitted to the student teaching program without further ado. I took a tape
recorder to my session. Only when I got home did I discover it hadn’t been
my student teaching at Putnam City without radicalizing any students or burning
down any buildings. In fact, I was asked to take over the classes I’d done
student teaching in when the teacher’s wife had an operation. Pat Nichols took
over as editor of Dialogue. I did not keep up with Dialogue after I left
campus. I took a couple of graduate classes at Central State the summer of
1970. As I recall, the summer schedule had been changed to eliminate the
afternoon sessions. At the time I graduated, there was a teacher glut, so jobs
were hard to find. I did substitute teaching for much of the 1970-71 school
year. I was hired to fill in for a teacher who had been hired to replace a
counselor who was murdered at Taft Junior High. In June 1971 I left to begin a
whole ‘nother career.
I was at my local library here in Kansas City and saw a book by Terry C.
Johnston. I wondered if it could be that
Terry C. Johnston. It was.
Terry went on to write 31 western American fiction novels. He died in 2001.
evidently still lives in the Oklahoma City area.
was preparing this summary I tried to track down Pat Nichols to see if he had
copies of Dialogue from his tenure. I discovered he died in 2009.
Taggart left Central State for a job at Marshall University in Huntington, WV
in 1970. He died in Columbus, Ohio in 2007.
has been an interesting trip down memory lane for me. I hadn’t thought about
all this stuff in decades, and I was surprised to find I still had my notes
from those years. There is no way I would have remembered this much detail
without those notes. Looking back from a distance of nearly fifty years and
realizing that I am now older than the college staff I dealt with were then, a
few thoughts occurred to me. The first was so much of this conflict could have
been avoided if both sides had treated each other with respect. I wasn’t asking
for the moon when I asked Dean Joe to revise the summer schedule. By the way,
the teachers who had to do the extra afternoon sessions hated the schedule as
well. But, rather than saying he’d take a look at the schedule, Dean Joe
expected the fact that he’d been doing the schedule for twenty years was
supposed to be enough to preclude considering changing anything. I was a pain
in the ass, but the idea of being “just a student”
rankled me. The staff at Central State, after all, were public servants who
were paid by taxpayers to make the college work in everyone’s interests. It was
in the students’ interest that schedules be as user-friendly as possible, and
those students were the reason Dean Joe and the rest of them had their cushy
like to think things are different now, but a couple of months ago I was at a
meeting on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus, and a discussion
broke out about the selection of a new provost. The discussion could have been
held at Central State in the 1960s. Perhaps some things never change—only the
people doing them.