On Junior High
On Junior High
I went to Roxboro Junior High in Cleveland Heights, Ohio from 1970 to 1974.
The first two years were the most interesting. Viet Nam was reaching it’s genocidal conclusion and the east side of Cleveland was a hotbed of radicalism. Cleveland had I think the fourth-largest SDS chapter at one time. Twenty six thousand people? That’s the membership number I remember. Never actually had any documentary evidence of it tho’ just word of mouth.
There had already been down-and-out fighting between some in the city’s black community of Hough and the police and 1600 National Guardsmen in the summer of 1966 (June 18-23, 1966). These were characterized as riots by the press and government but had some revolutionary characteristics. A Grand Jury investigation later found that , “The jury finds that the outbreak of lawlessness and disorder was both organized, precipitated and exploited by a relatively small group of trained and disciplined professionals at the business. They were aided and abetted, willingly or otherwise, by misguided people of all ages and colors, many of whom are avowed believers in violence and extremism, and some of whom are either members or officers of the Communist Party.”
There had been major tension in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, culminating in the “Glenville shootout” of July 23-28, 1968 in which seven people were killed (officially), including three police officers, and (officially) 15 were wounded.
On September 20, 1969, there was a demonstration at the Davis Cup tennis finals about a half mile from my house in which about 300 SDS’ers, including Bernadine Dohrn, were beaten and thrown in garbage trucks (the kind for fallen tree branches) They had marched around chanting, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh is going to win”. Mental facepalm once again. Nixon was supposed to come and they repaved all the roads from the airport right to the Clark courts (which was oddly on the Junior High grounds). But Nixon didn’t show. Officially 20 were arrested. I saw the whole thing from inside the stadium. News coverage, despite presence of the international media? None.
Later there were some bombings, popularly (and probably wrongly) attributed by the press to the Weatherman faction of SDS, in which things like one of Rodin’s “Thinker” (March 24, 1970) and the Shaker Heights police station (February 1, 1970) were blown up.
And then there was Kent State about 40 miles from us, where on May 4, 1970, Ohio national guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students, wounding at least nine others. This led to a student strike by an estimated four million people.
Events are somewhat jumbled in my mind but I remember a lot of chaos (and fun) in that time. The school was essentially ruled by the AV club. They had keys to everything kept on a big keyring hidden in a false bottom of a “safe locker” (and spare sets). They held “trials” of students accused of stealing things without authorization or misusing access to the keys. Or losing them.
A key amnesty was used to turn in the worst malefactors and tighten up on key security. Some people also ran a pirate TV station, 1/4 watt, broadcasting Star Trek in black and white up to 5 hours a day on school days.
The AV crew also spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to write “Page Bites” in the most improbable places, including in invisible ink on a white sweater which became visible after drying poor Mrs. Page’s sweater.
Kids who were thought to be wimpy got a rough time. Beaten with wet towels, clothes stolen, locked in wet used towel box. I let several of these go. In those days nobody wanted to fight me as I was heavyweight intramural wrestling champion of my grade in 7th and 8th grade. Well I did get punched in the mouth in the library, which aggravated me and prompted me to tell them they should leave now. lol. “No fighting in the library”.
The worst malefactors were kept somewhat under control by quite rough treatment when we played “Bloodball” or rugby football. Some, who stole AV equipment or keys or who repeatedly tear-gassed Ms. Barber’s science class, were strongly encouraged to mend their ways after being subjected to drumhead student courts.
I guess I would consider myself to be a liberal then. I refused to boycott school, and said we should Occupy instead. I did not participate in any of the big fights, like when about 200 people put the beatdown on some gangsters who had come looking for one of our brothers. Mr N_____ who was a former Marine Corps Sergeant, saved them from being beaten unconscious or worse. Or when the Nazi’s were invited to speak to the 9th grade Humanistic Curriculum program and ended up leaving abruptly pursued by a student version of the basic Frankenstein’s monster chasing mob. With baseball bats, knives and a machete in place of pitchforks and torches.
There were frequent bombings in the school, ranging from strings of firecrackers, to M-80’s, to toilet bombs, homemade incendiaries, and finally the bombing of the administration offices, which left them a burnt out shell and did more than a quarter million dollars worth of damage. All other kinds of monkeywrenching and Anarchist Cookbook stuff was done. Such as the old wrap a wet sponge with rubber bands tightly, let it dry hard, take off bands and flush it down the toilet. I didn’t do that I found it annoying as well as not in accord with my nonviolent principles, even moreso annoying when the toilets were actually exploded.
The Paris Peace Accords of Jan 27, 1973, changed the revolutionary ardor of the students completely. We had won the right to make a Student Union, but after the war “ended” only one person (and me) ever showed up to another meeting and it fell apart. The war of course was not over for the Vietnamese. What changed was US American student’s older brothers were no longer being drafted and coming home insane or in a box.
I was more inspired by the Yippie’s pranksterism. I remember in the Humanistic Curriculum getting the teachers to agree that we should study bipedalism by going around on quasi all fours like apes one day and the traditional school teachers and administrators being quite disconcerted as we ran around on all fours eating bananas and pant-hooting at them. The Yippies continued to be a presence up through the end of high school in 1977. But basically the antiwar movement, which pretended to such high ideals, was dead, its leaders dead, imprisoned, underground, or exiled and the self-interest in avoiding the draft gone as a major motivating factor. That year after 9th grade they re-keyed the entire school at a cost of 60 thousand dollars and brought in security guards/police to “monitor” the halls.
Then came high school where the real fun began.
Copyright © 2012 Henry Edward Hardy
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