Today was awesome! What an absolutely beautiful day! 80 degrees and clear as a bell. I’m not sure why, but today made me kind of nostalgic. It reminded me of a day just like it back in 1970.
It was early May, I was 19, a mere child. I had somehow managed to graduate from high school the previous June and was enrolled at our local junior college, where I occasionally attended class. I had a part time job pumping gas, a cool VW bug and joy of all joys, I thought I was in love! How could I know about love? Yeah, life was bliss. I had no idea who I was or where I was going. I was just treading water, floating along on a daze of pot and Budweiser hanging out with the guys nearly every night. I mean, what the hell, Viet Nam was going high gear and the government had brought back the draft lottery. The next one was only a few months away. With my grades a student deferment was out of the question, so I was pretty sure Viet Nam was in my immediate future. In the first lottery for those born in 1950, held in December of 69 I had been number 82. That year they drafted up through number 195, so had I been eligible for the first draft I would have had a guaranteed ticket to Nam. With my luck, I figured I’d be getting another low number in the1970 lottery for all of us lucky young men born in 1951.
I remember I was heading to my nine o’clock class that particular Monday morning and was running late. By the time I parked and got to my class it was nearly 9:20, so I decided to skip class and head over to the student center instead. A few of my friends were sitting around playing cards and listening to music so I grabbed a coke and joined them. We were playing hearts and listening to the Guess Who’s ‘American Woman’ when the buzz began. Something bad had happened back east. Some kind of massacre on a college campus in Ohio, students had been killed! Well it didn’t take long for the student center to clear out. My friends and I parted ways and I made my way back to my car. I couldn’t go home or my mom would know I hadn’t gone to school, so I went up to the ranch.
The ranch was a one acre avocado grove behind Foothill Dairy near the mouth of the canyon. A friends dad owned it and it was one of our favorite hang out spots. I remember parking and tuning the radio to KFWB . I sat there the better part of the day listening to the sad news about the killings at Kent State. Four students dead, nine wounded, gunned down by the Ohio National Guard who were on campus to quell student demonstrators protesting the war in Viet Nam.Things just got out of control…
The backlash of the Kent killings was substantial. More protests followed. Across the country universities, colleges and even high schools were forced to close as four million students called a strike to protest what had occurred at Kent State. I didn’t go to school to show my support, but then I didn’t go to school very often anyway.
I’ve never forgotten that day. Like the assassinations of the Kennedy’s, King, and Lennon, like man’s walk on the moon, it will always be a part of me. I sat up at the ranch that day, a bit dazed and confused, staring up at the lush San Gabriel Mountains and the deep blue sky overhead, wondering how such a terrible thing could have happened on such a beautiful day… A day just like today…