From Woodstock to Kent State by Susan J Erenrich

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The Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change Corner
From Woodstock to Kent State

By Susan J. Erenrich

Susan J. Erenrich 
Susan (Susie) J. Erenrich is a social movement history documentarian. She uses the arts for social change to tell stories about transformational leadership, resilience, and societal shifts as a result of mobilization efforts by ordinary citizens. Her career in nonprofit/arts management, civic engagement, community organizing and community service spans more than four decades. She has diversified teaching experience at universities, public schools and community-based programs for at-risk, low-income populations; has edited and produced historical audio recordings and anthologies; and has extensive performance, choreography and production experience. Susie holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University. She is the editor of
The Cost Of Freedom: Voicing A Movement After Kent State 1970; Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement; Kent & Jackson State 1970-1990; co-editor of Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change (a volume in ILA's BLB series); and co-editor of the forthcoming book, A Grassroots Leadership & Arts For Social Change Primer For Educators, Organizers, Activists & Rabble-Rousers. She is the producer/host of Wasn't That A Time: Stories & Songs That Moved The Nation, a live community radio broadcast on WERA.FM. Listen on-demand or live every Friday from 1:00 - 2:00 PM Eastern time.
 
 



Dear Friends,

Welcome! This issue of the Grassroots Leadership & the Arts for Social Change Corner is a bit different. Instead of one featured guest columnist, I collected short stories from a number of folks who attended, or attempted to attend, the August 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, NY, USA. Approximately nine months later, these same festivalgoers witnessed, or were directly impacted by, the shocking murders that took place on the Kent State University campus when the Ohio National Guard shot directly into a crowd of students killing four and wounding nine others.

The idea for this guest column blossomed on the evening of May 4, 2015. I was hanging out at Ray’s Place, a local bar in Kent, Ohio, with Tom Grace, Scott MacKenzie, and my longtime partner Brad McKelvey, after marking the 45th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre. Tom and Scott were among the wounded that dreadful day, when the Ohio National Guard shot them during a peaceful gathering on the Kent State University campus. Coincidentally, they had also attended the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair months before the barrage of gunfire on the Kent State University campus altered their lives forever.

Shortly after our rendezvous at Ray’s Place, I finished Michael Lang’s (2009) book – The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival. I was surprised to read the following passage in his epilogue:

“For me the end came nine months later when four students were shot and killed and nine others were wounded by National Guardsmen at Kent State University. The image of unarmed American kids being gunned down on a college campus by other American kids in uniform brought home the insanity of how far out of control things had spun during the Nixon administration. Neil Young’s immediate reaction - Ohio, which Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded within days, demonstrated again how music could reflect on the events of our time and help to point the way to turn things around” (p.260).

Once I started producing and hosting my weekly community radio broadcast, Wasn’t That A Time: Stories & Songs That Moved The Nation on WERA-LP Arlington, VA 96.7 FM in 2017, I felt it was worth exploring the topic further. I collected stories from festival attendees who were also eyewitnesses to the shootings or who were directly touched by the events in other ways. In my show, I interspersed their accounts with music by artists who performed at Woodstock and who later supported the long journey for justice at Kent State. The program aired on August 18, 2017. Readers may listen to the show by clicking the arrow on the icon above. You will be transported back to another era, experiencing the historic gathering from a different vantage point – From Woodstock to Kent State.

Now I am taking the project a bit further. In this column, I’ve included additional short personal narratives, photographs of some of the artists who graced the Woodstock stage and participated in one or more of the May 4th commemorations, and lyrics to one of the songs highlighted at both happenings.

All of the Woodstock singer-songwriters, attendees, and photographers presented in this guest column spent the fifty years since 1969 dedicating their lives to various causes by leading horizontally, collectively, and collaboratively from the bottom up. I hope readers appreciate the abbreviated, thought-provoking portraits presented here and envision what it would be like to walk in their shoes for a sustained period of time.

Sources

Lang, M. (2009). The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival. Harper Collins Publishers.
  

Country Joe McDonald

Country Joe’s performance of I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair has stood the test of time. Following the May 4, 1970, carnage on the Kent State University campus, he was invited to sing the tune during various commemorations over the years.

I first met Joe at an outdoor DC VegFest in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s or 1990s. My partner and I were wandering around the National Mall and bumped into him on the grounds. We exchanged views on the 1960s and went along our way.

In 2000, our paths crossed again when we marked the 30th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings. We shared community table space on the Kent State University Commons promoting our wares. Joe’s table displayed music, t-shirts, and bags. Mine exhibited books I edited, Kent & Jackson State 1970 – 1990 and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, along with the companion 2-CD set, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. We chatted throughout the day and exchanged gifts at the end of the ceremony. I received an autographed bag and t-shirt, which I still have. I gave him a copy of Kent & Jackson State 1970 – 1990.

That evening there was a thirtieth anniversary concert. Joe was one of the featured performers. I interviewed him after the show for a forthcoming anthology. It was around midnight. We had a great conversation. It lasted for about an hour. Unfortunately, the anthology was forthcoming for quite some time – two decades. The twenty-year-old audio cassette tape of that midnight conversation was too fragile and obsolete by the time I secured a contract with Kent State University Press to publish the collection. Sadly, The Cost of Freedom: Voicing a Movement after Kent State 1970 was released right before the 50th anniversary without Country Joe.

Thankfully, he generously granted permission to include the lyrics to I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die for this special project. The song, originally copyrighted in 1965, characterized the absurdity of the Vietnam War during that tumultuous era.

I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag
 
Lyrics

Well come on all of you big strong men
Uncle Sam needs your help again
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Viet Nam
So put down your books and pick up a gun
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die

Now come on Wall Street don't be slow
Why, man this war is a-Go-Go
There's plenty good money to be made by
Supplyin’ the army with the tools of its trade
But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb
They drop it on the Viet Cong

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die

Now come on Generals, let's move fast
Your big chance is here at last
Now you can go out and get those reds
Cause the only good commie is the one that's dead and
You know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for
Don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die, hey

Now come on Mothers throughout the land
Pack your boys off to Viet Nam
Come on Fathers, don't hesitate
Send your sons off before it's too late
And you can be the first ones on your block
To have your boy come home in a box

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Viet Nam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why, whoopee we're all gonna die
Oh yeah

words and music by Joe McDonald
(c) 1965 renewed 1993 by Alkatraz Corner Music Co BMI. Reprinted with Permission.


Country Joe

The photo of Country Joe performing during a special concert observing the 30th Anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University was taken by Michael Pacifico. Michael graduated from Kent State University in 1974. He helped organize more than twenty-five May 4th commemorations and organizes the annual May 4th vigil. He’s beginning to systematize, digitize, and catalog his vast collection of May 4th related photographs, videos, multi-media projects, and papers acquired or created since May 4, 1970. © Michael Pacifico; Reprinted with Permission.
 

Tom Grace

On May 4, 2017, many of us gathered as usual to commemorate the Kent and Jackson State massacres where unarmed students were murdered by the state. We congregated in a number of venues to mark the anniversary, and most of us lodged in the one hotel and conference center in the middle of town. It is always bitter sweet, and it is always a great reunion. It was there that I reminded Tom Grace about the conversation we had two years earlier. I asked him to pen some of his recollections for the radio broadcast and now this guest column. Here’s what he wrote:

A Syracuse, New York native, I was largely devoid of musical ability. Yet, like most baby boomers, I came of age listening to tempos that defined the 1960s. Rhythm and blues introduced me to rock and roll, and, by the start of college at Kent State in the fall of 1968, I had amassed a considerable album collection of both genres. Once I had finished unloading scores of record albums into my dorm room, I put on the Blues Breakers’ first album, which featured Eric Clapton on guitar. The sound easily traveled down the hall causing a neighboring student, Alan Canfora, to poke his head in my room. A friendship was born that endures to this day.

Less than a year later, we were both at Woodstock, although neither of us was aware of the presence of the other. For me, the trip to Woodstock began at the Atlantic City Pop Festival at the beginning of August 1969 when I was handed a 48-page glossy program advertising another such musical celebration that offered “3 days of peace & music.” Having thoroughly enjoyed the bands that played at the Atlantic City race track, the Woodstock program looked even more enticing, filled as it was with photos of performers like Janis Joplin; The Band; Crosby, Stills & Nash; and Jimi Hendrix. What was more, the theme of peace, which I read as anti-Vietnam War, was reinforced by a two-page article by Abbie Hoffman, one of the Chicago 8. It promised, therefore, to fuse the radical politics of groups like the Kent SDS and the music of some of my favorite performers.

My cousin’s wedding in Philadelphia, scheduled for Saturday, August 16th, came right in the middle of the festival, which necessitated that I make the long return trip to Syracuse, grab a few hours of sleep and then, with my father’s VW, back tracking to Binghamton and then down New York’s R-17 towards White Lake. Had my friend and traveling companion not encountered a car load of freaks that had departed the scene early, we would have probably not made it to the festival site. They showed us an alternative route around the highway congestion that enabled us to get within a half mile of the farm field. Later, I learned the farm was owned by Max Yasgur.

Lacking tickets, we surely would not have chanced the trip had we not learned in advance that the size of the enormous crowd forced the promoters to declare the Woodstock Music & Art Fair a “free festival.” The decision that caused promoters to do so came into view when we saw the trampled fences that just days earlier had surrounded the natural amphitheater. Never had I seen so many people. I had heard the crowd estimates on the news and had no reason to doubt that hundreds of thousands of young people, much like me, were there. Precisely three months later, I would be part of such a crowd again, with the moment being in Washington, D.C. at the November Moratorium protest against the Vietnam War.

Even though we had not left Syracuse until mid-morning, we late arrivals had no problem finding room to sit, among the massive throng, within a few hundred feet of the stage. Neither had we missed any of Sunday’s bands that included, as I recall, Joe Cocker, Ten Years After, and Country Joe, whose antiwar anthem, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die,” was further amplified by hundreds of thousands singing along to its vulgar musical refrain. The subsequent documentary film aptly demonstrates that all of these bands turned in electrifying performances.

Over the course of the afternoon the crowd was soaked by a heavy rain, but on that day did not seem to mind. A huge sheet of plastic also shielded us from the worst of the sustained shower. Fortunately, as well, we had brought sleeping bags on which to sit along with food and drink. The rain and mud rendered our sleeping bags useless from that day on, but the biggest impact of the downpour had been to delay the musicians’ schedules. Consequently, the demands of my friend’s summer job required us to leave just as The Band played their first number and long before Jimi Hendrix took the stage. Taking in a subsequent show by The Band at Cleveland’s Music Hall took the sting out of the missed opportunity at Woodstock, but Hendrix’s death a year later robbed me of a second chance to ever see him perform.

Of course, 1970 would also bring death to my own campus. When the 13-second salvo fired by the Ohio National Guard was over, their gunfire had claimed thirteen casualties, leaving me and my fellow antiwar friend, Alan Canfora, wounded and another Woodstock veteran, Jeff Miller, dead. The photo of his slain body, over which a young teenage runaway knelt in horror, won the Pulitzer Prize and came to define, as did Woodstock, a generation that came of age during the 1960s.
- (Tom Grace, personal communication, July 3, 2017 & August 9, 2021)

*Afterword: Tom’s compatriot, Alan Canfora, died on December 20, 2020. He was 71 years young. In a tribute Tom penned for Kent State Magazine after the passing of his friend, he wrote: “A half century is a long time—whether recalling a life span of 50 years, or denoting the same course of decades, say from 1970 to 2020. Since the shootings at Kent State, eight presidents have shaped the 110-year-old university. For one person to influence nearly half of the university’s institutional life would be unusual, if not altogether unique. Yet one Kent State graduate, Alan Canfora, may rival any for influence on the university over the past 50 years” (Grace, 2021, p. 54).

To learn more about the May 4, 1970, shootings on the Kent State University campus from a historian’s perspective, I encourage readers to check out Tom’s book – Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties.
 

Joan Baez

Joan Baez was a headliner at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. Years later, on August 20, 1977, she performed on the Kent State University commons to lend her voice to the May 4th Coalition in its continuing battle to preserve the sacred site and in its pursuit of the truth behind the May 4, 1970, killings.

John Rowe snapped the two photos, exhibited here, of Joan Baez with members of the May 4th family, taken on August 20, 1977. John attended Kent State University as an undergraduate and graduate student from 1970 – 1980. He was a founding member of the May 4 Task Force and an active member of the May 4 Steering Committee and the Kent State May 4 Visitors Center. His pictures captured many of the May 4th events. John passed away in 2018. He was 68. © John Rowe; Reprinted with Permission.


Joan Baez

Joan Baez

 
Elaine Holstein

During my original conversation with Tom Grace and Scott MacKenzie at Ray’s Place, they discussed others who attended the music jubilee in Bethel Woods and then witnessed the bloodshed in Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. One of the students mentioned was Jeffrey Miller, who was fatally wounded after the Ohio National Guardsmen shot him.

I reached out to his mother Elaine Holstein to see if she discussed Woodstock with Jeff prior to his death. Here is her reply. She gave me permission to include her testimony, which originally aired on August 18, 2017:

Hi, Susie - You can't find my message and I can't find your original message to me about your piece on Woodstock!! Doesn't that drive you up the wall?

Anyway, of course I remember you and I was delighted that you're doing this Woodstock program. Unfortunately, although I'd love to be part of it so that Jeff could be part of it, I really don't have enough detail to be of any use. I knew, of course, that Jeff had been to Woodstock and all I can remember is that he said it was a fantastic experience and (I THINK he said) it was so great to be with so many kids like himself. That's it!

And I wouldn't even swear to that. I'm 95 now and I'm in great shape and my memory is still not a problem but I find it's become quite selective. For instance, I can remember vividly that last phone conversation I had with Jeff when he called me at my office on May 4th to tell me he was going to the rally — but this morning, I had trouble remembering where I put the remote to my garage door! And, of course, I can remember all the lyrics to all the songs that were popular in the 40s.

There had to be much more that Jeff told me about his Woodstock experience — but I just can't come up with it. I'm really sorry about that. And since I can't retrieve your original message to me, I'd appreciate it if you'd give me a head's up a week or so in advance of the airing of your piece. I don't want to miss it! – Love Elaine
- (Elaine Holstein, personal communication, July 23, 2017)

Following our back-and-forth correspondence, Elaine asked her son Russ if he remembered Jeff’s reminiscences about the festival. He confirmed his mother’s recollection.

Elaine Holstein passed away on May 26, 2018. She was 96. She was the last surviving parent of the four Kent State University victims. Elaine’s son, Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder died as a result of their injuries when they were shot by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. 
 

Melanie Safka

According to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (n.d., Melanie), “Melanie’s unscheduled performance at Woodstock was memorable, for both her and her audience. She played without additional accompaniment—one of only three performers at Woodstock to do so, and the only woman—and the festival was certainly the largest audience of her career. She walked out onto the stage alone, wearing a loose-fitting red tunic and pants, sat down on a metal folding chair, and began playing the quiet, contemplative ‘Close to it All’ followed by the more forceful ‘Momma Momma,’ both from her debut album.”

On May 4, 2012, Melanie sang during the annual remembrance at Kent State University. The photo below was taken by Michael Pacifico. © Michael Pacifico; Reprinted with Permission.

 

Melanie Safka

 
Chris Butler

Chris Butler, one of Jeffrey Miller’s closest friends, was also at Woodstock. He penned his musings for the August 18, 2017, radio broadcast and now this guest column. There seems to be a discrepancy, however, regarding Jeff’s whereabouts during that extraordinary weekend. Chris doesn’t believe that Jeff went to the festival. This happens quite often with historic memory, especially more than fifty years after an event has taken place.

Historian Staughton Lynd (1997), in his book, Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical’s Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement, addressed the problem with historic memory in his introduction. He provided a personal illustration of a 1965 protest at the Pentagon. All of the participants recalled a different version of the action. Staughton concludes the opening to his book with the following message: “I offer this as a humble example of how we who took part in the struggles of the 1960s can contribute to writing its history. There are some things that we can do better than can any scholar who comes along after the events. For instance, how would such a person know to talk to Staughton Lynd and Bill Hartzog about an event that hardly made headlines? How would that scholar know what I had said, or what the occasion meant to those who took part? But as to details about which we’re not sure, let’s say, ‘To the best of my recollection…’ and if it is the case, suggest in a footnote that others remember it differently” (p. xii).

Here’s Chris Butler’s abbreviated story:

In the summer of '69, I was spending a lot of time over at Jeff's house. I had lent him my drums, and I would bring over my bass and we would try to play along with records, making what must have been an annoying racket that his saintly roommates graciously put up with. "Live Dead" was one of our regulars, and at some point, Jeff let me take his copy home to practice with. I still have it. Jeff's roommates Steve Drucker and Pat Foley somehow managed to scrape together the cash for a piss yellow pick-up truck, and I seem to remember being coerced into chipping in, too...so we had wheels. I seem to remember that going to Woodstock was a snap decision, once we heard about the event. The selling point for me was The Who, 'cause I was a rabid fan. Jeff could not go for some reason, summer classes or a little job or no dough. I was taking Intensive Russian to fulfill my language requirement for my degree, but Steven & Patty & I decided to do it even though it meant I had to cut my Friday class. Friday was the travel day, so we missed the first day's events. Some-how we found a place to park and hiked in pretty much unprepared for what we were to encounter, taking no food or water. As packed as the venue was, we managed to find three tiny spots between the first row of sound towers, and stayed scrunched up there for the next 48 hours or so. Food, water, pot, wine all seemed to pass by — you took what you needed, then passed it along. Eventually, nature did call, so that was another long hike out and hike back. Miraculously, managing to return to the same spot again and again.

Got to see all the great bands on those two days, which are well-documented elsewhere. Notables. The Dead utterly useless, kind of farting around for an hour, then giving up. How ironic that their whole hippie ethos coming together, and they blow it. Santana and Sha-Na-Na killing, The Who extending the end of "Tommy" as the sun came up behind them.

Images that stayed with me. Sandals, shoes, flip-flops in a curious pattern stuck in the mud, one in front of the other. A person got one shoe stuck, then took another forward step, finally giving up and leaving them there as they were. Eating some sort of hippie rice-and-beans glop in Hugh Romney's tent with Jack Cassidy from the Jefferson Airplane. Welcoming the rain as relief from the heat, and shedding clothes appropriately. A general feeling of good-humor from a huge crowd in a ridiculous situation that knew we/they were part of some sort of history. It did not feel like an ordeal, though hardly ideal. Then, driving back all night to Kent with me in the back of the pick-up, trying to sleep while being bounced around.

Back in Kent, what with all the news stories about the event, Jeff of course regretted missing out...because something had changed: an event like this did seem to offer some sort of naive hope that we were on the way to a huge cultural change in America, if not the world. Never mind that the so called "Age of Aquarius" was to last only eight-nine months, brought to a screaming halt on May 4, 1970. (Chris Butler, personal communication, August 1, 2017)

After receiving Chris’s submission for the radio broadcast, I reached out to him again to inquiry about Jeff’s Woodstock weekend whereabouts. This is what he wrote:

Well, I don't know/I certainly could be wrong. He did not travel with us, though. If he was there - then great!

Whether Jeff Miller was at the festival or in Kent that consequential weekend remains a mystery. But the fact remains — Jeff Miller was shot and killed on May 4, 1970, and he isn’t coming back.
 

Richie Havens

In The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival, Michael Lang (2009) recalls the moment Richie Havens took the stage:

“Looking down the hill, I remember the moment on Friday when Richie Havens, a beacon of strength in his orange dashiki, hit the stage. He was the first act, simply because he and his band were there and ready. As we were coming over the bridge, there was a look of amazement and then a flash of fear in his eyes as he took in the unbelievably immense crowd—what looked like miles and miles of people….When Richie started singing, rhythmically attacking his acoustic guitar like it was a talking drum, I knew for the first time that we were going to be okay. The show was on, and we were off and running. Everything we had been through for the past ten months had led to that moment, and I was overcome with joy” (p. 6).

Decades later, Richie participated in the May 4, 2002, Commemoration. Sadly, he died of a heart attack on April 22, 2013. He was 72 years old. The photo below was taken by Michael Pacifico. © Michael Pacifico; Reprinted with Permission.


Richie Havens

 
Neil Phillips

Neil Phillips sent me his retrospective during the summer of 2021. Neil was at Woodstock and was an eyewitness to the shootings that took place on the Kent State University campus on May 4, 1970. He was close friends with Jeffrey Miller. Sandra Scheuer and Allison Krause, who were among the fatally wounded on that terrible day, were also Neil’s buddies.

When Neil submitted his narrative, he told me: “Some of my recollections are a bit blurry but here they are.”

Every summer my mother would visit my sister in upstate New York, meaning that it was Party Time at my house for the next 10 days. And boy oh boy did we party. There were about 15-20 of us and Jeff Miller was of course there with us; he would not miss a good party. I had known Jeff Miller since Junior High School, but we became really good friends in High School. We went to many concerts at Fillmore East and other venues. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That was the basic theme of the day. Great music. A group of us all watched the moon landing on July 20, 1969, then took my little Sunfish sail boat to Long Island sound for a spin, whereby we realized that we were not in the best shape to do any sailing. Went back home to party more.

A few weeks later, Jeff Miller joined another buddy and myself, and we went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival which ran August 1 – 3 of 1969. I drove. Great music, lots of fun for all. I remember getting home at 3 in the morning and was washing my filthy car and my mom came out and reminded me I had to catch a train and go to my summer job in New York City in a few hours. Needless to say, I was in NO condition to do that. But I did go and quit my job. Decided to hitchhike cross country. BUT. Here’s where it gets a bit fuzzy. I know that I drove up to New Paltz University, and I am 90% certain, but not 100%, that Jeff was with me. My other buddies decided not to go to Woodstock, but I decided to go. I believe Jeff was with me. Decided to leave my car at New Paltz and hitch to the festival. I remember all the traffic and so many young “hippies” going to hear the music and party on. There were so many friendly people. Finally got in. Then it rained and rained and rained, but we really didn’t even care that much. The music played on. We found some shelter but were very wet for some time, but no one seemed to care much. It was truly a love fest. It was a wonderful experience but one that I would not repeat. Probably lost a few brain cells at those concerts that summer.

Jeff transferred to Kent from Michigan State for the January semester at KSU. I was not with Jeff at the demonstration but was there and did see him and my friend Allison Krause that fateful day. I remember hitting the ground and when I surfaced, I saw Allison being loaded into an ambulance. She was conscious. I decided to follow the ambulance to the hospital in Ravenna. I passed a fellow lying on the ground with a pool of blood starting to form around him. I remember saying “that poor fellow.” Found my car and drove to the hospital in Ravenna. On the way, it struck me that the fellow lying in a pool of blood was my buddy Jeff. OMG. At the hospital in Ravenna, I was told that “Allison is no longer with us.” How could this have happened. Went back to my house on Brady Lake and was informed that another friend Sandy Scheuer was also killed. OMG again. I drove to Long Island the next day to see Jeff’s mom Elaine. After attending Jeff’s funeral in New York, I was active in the Student Strike that year, then returned to Kent to pick up Jeff’s belongings and drove them back to his brother Russ. Jeff, Allison, Sandy, and Bill, and all those wounded, deserved a better fate. May they Rest in Peace. Life has never been the same. Neil
- (Neil Phillips, personal communication, August 18, 2021)

 
Crosby, Stills & Nash

According to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (n.d., Crosby) “Woodstock was only the second live performance for newly formed supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and they certainly were ‘scared shitless,’ as Stephen Stills informed the Woodstock audience after the first song of their set. It wasn’t so much that they were scared to perform in front of half a million people; their trepidation came from the presence of Jimi Hendrix and other musical peers in the shadows on stage, waiting to see whether or not these disparate musical forces could bring the excitement of their recently-released debut studio album to the stage.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash sang during the annual May 4th Commemoration in 1997. The photo below was taken by Michael Pacifico. © Michael Pacifico; Reprinted with Permission.


Crosby, Stills & Nash

 
Rita Rubin-Long

Rita Rubin-Long was also at Woodstock. On May 4, 1970, she witnessed and survived the shootings at Kent State University. She received her diploma in March of 1971. It would take twenty years before she visited the campus again. Here’s an abbreviated version of her story:

During the summer of 1969, I was home in Orangeburg, New York. When I heard about the Woodstock Music & Art Fair: Aquarian Exposition, I was excited to go. My boyfriend wanted to work on the stage so a bunch of us piled into a van with a big tent, some food, and arrived early.

I remember dancing to Santana in the rain. Janis Joplin belting out the blues. Melanie singing and Ravi Shankar playing his sitar. I shouted the Fish Cheer with Country Joe McDonald, swam in the pond, and felt a sense of community. Jimi Hendrix closed the festival Monday morning playing a medley with his band that ended with the incredible Star-Spangled Banner. Being there that weekend helped unleash my creativity and led to my passion for peace.

The war in Vietnam was on everyone’s mind. It was certainly on mine. My brother joined the Army and went to Vietnam. So, I had a personal connection.

The year before Woodstock I transferred to Kent State University. I learned more about the war. I went to meetings and was taught a different history – an anti-war history, not featured in my high school textbooks.

Life was different in Kent before the shootings. I knew three of the victims. Jeffrey Miller, who was shot and killed on May 4, 1970, was my neighbor. Sometimes, he came over to our house for music and dinner. Sandra Scheuer, who was also murdered on May 4, 1970, lived in the Tri-Towers dormitory. I lived there as well. Sandy kindly invited me to a football game one day, when I saw her in the elevator. Allison Krause, and her boyfriend Barry Levine, danced at a bar in downtown Kent. I boogied there too. I try to remember Allison in those happy days before she was shot. I never knew Bill Schroeder, also among the dead. I knew Robbie Stamps, Tom Grace, and Alan Canfora, three of the wounded students.

I attended Jeff’s funeral. I had to cross police lines to get in. It made me angry.

On May 4, 1970, I stood at the Victory Bell on the University Commons. I never dreamed the National Guard would use tear gas, chase us up a hill, turn and fire.

I currently live in Portland, Maine and I’m grateful to be alive. I have a May 4th garden of red, yellow, and white tulips to remember and honor my friends from that time.
- (Rita Rubin-Long, personal communication, September 18, 2021)

 
Alan Frank

My dad, Glenn Frank, was a geology professor at Kent State University. During the spring of 1969, I visited Kent to see if I wanted to enroll as a student in the fall semester. I was shown a side of Kent that I had never known.

I stayed in Johnson Hall and was introduced to Alan Canfora, who let me use his ID, (it was actually his SS card) to get into the bars in Kent. Having been shown such a wonderful time, I began thinking about going to school there.

During my visit, I was also introduced to one of the Kent State track stars, Al Schoterman. Al said his roommates had flunked out and he gave me a key to his room. He said, "If you ever need a place to stay, you can stay here." I'm fairly sure Al didn't expect me to take advantage of his offer. During the last month and a half of HS, I moved into Johnson Hall. (What on Earth were my parents thinking?) I hung out at the bars in Kent, during the evenings, got up early, ate at the training table, and then walked across the street to where my High School was located. It was a time where I felt I could make any adventurous decision.

That summer, I had heard of a music festival, taking place somewhere in New York. I couldn't find anyone who wanted to go with me, so I attempted to hitchhike to New York, on three different occasions. The last night I tried, I stood with my thumb out on RT.43 in Twin Lakes. After trying for at least a half hour, a car came by with what sounded like a bunch of guys partying. I felt something barely touch my ear and heard a bottle breaking behind me. My face was covered with beer. As I stood there, I contemplated what could have happened if that bottle had been another inch closer. It was the moment I decided it probably wasn't a good idea to go to the festival. I also had the distinct feeling that someone was watching over me.

During the Spring Quarter at Kent State, I was still hanging out at the bars on Water Street. JBs was my go-to place, as I became good friends with the doorman, Eddie Kaufman. I knew lots of the other bartenders, at places that sold 3.2% beer, who I had gone to HS with. Water Street was where I felt comfortable during the evenings. I hung out at the "Hub" between classes.

In late April I remember (a slight awareness of) escalating tensions in Vietnam. I was not particularly knowledgeable about Vietnam and mostly interested in keeping my lifestyle intact. My family upbringing tended towards a fairly conservative attitude. I remember watching President Nixon on television announcing increased bombings in Cambodia.

On Friday I attended a noon demonstration where a copy of the Constitution was buried near the Victory Bell on the commons. Later I attended another demonstration on front campus where BUS (Black United Students) had speakers from Ohio State address the crowd.

That evening on Water Street, the crowd was composed of many people I knew from the Hub, in addition to the regulars. There was tension in the air, and sometime after 11:00, people started getting rowdy. A police officer, I believe it was Ron Craig who was noted for being particularly rough on students, drove his car past the students a couple times. Eventually a bottle was thrown at the car, and he didn't return by himself. The Chosen Few, a motorcycle gang pulled wheelies in the street and eventually started a fire from a trash container. The crowd walked south on Water, towards Main Street, breaking windows and trashing Kent. As the crowd moved away and we were fairly certain the bikers weren't going to do anything, a couple friends from HS kicked out the remaining fire. Pictures from that evening show myself and my friends, identified as being the arsonists, however we were the ones attempting to put it out. Being a "townie" I was angry with those who were rioting. I stayed away from campus until Monday morning.

At around noon, Monday May 4th, I had just finished lunch with a friend from HS. We were both upset at the burning of the ROTC building, the National Guard, and demonstrations that Saturday and Sunday. I joked to my friend Greg and said, "Let's go beat up some hippies.”

After I joked with my friend (Greg) about beating up some hippies, we walked up to Johnson Hall to see the demonstration. It was peaceful, until the National Guard decided to break it up. They fired off tear gas and started marching (very poorly) towards Taylor Hall. I became one of the onlookers. I ran into Johnson Hall because of the tear gas. Then I came out and followed the guard onto the practice football field. A bunch of us stood watching the guard aim their weapons and appear totally inept. The general even threw a rock, back at the protesters.

TG canisters were tossed back and forth. It was like a circus. After about 10 minutes they started marching back to the pagoda. I was walking about 50-75 feet in front of the guard. I said to my friend, "Shouldn't we be walking faster?" He said, "What. Do you think they're going to fire?" I was so embarrassed that I could even think of something so ridiculous.

About 15-20 seconds later, they turned in unison and began firing. We ran into an open bathroom window, in Johnson Hall. The firing was still going on. We were laughing and saying, they're just blanks, they're trying to scare us. When the guard walked back to the burned-out ROTC building, we came out of the window. I specifically remember a student screaming, "They killed them, they killed them." Walking up by the pagoda, I was stunned.

I attempted to put all this info into my shattered reality. That reality changed immediately, forever. I walked over to Jeff Miller's body. His blood and brains were flowing down the pavement. I couldn't imagine how much blood was in the human body.

I remember walking up to my dad. He only took one moment to point his finger at me and he said," You get the hell out of here."

He attempted to get the wounded onto stretchers. When the dead and wounded were removed, I sat with a group of probably over a thousand students. My attitude was, you want to shoot someone? Shoot me. I made a conscious decision to die that day.

I remember seeing my dad and thinking, "This guy is going to try to make me move, but I'm not going to move. A couple professors tried to reason with us. One even said, "Come on, I'll buy you a burger (across the street). That only caused me to double down on my decision.

My dad, during the days preceding the shootings, accepted responsibility as a Peace Marshall. Wearing his arm band, on May 4, 1970, he went down to the commons to take up his watch.

In the moments following the thirteen seconds of gun fire, it was my dad’s words that rose above the fray. He called to the crowd in his emotionally charged voice to disperse: "I don’t care whether you’ve never listened to anyone before in your lives. I am begging you right now if you don’t disperse right now they’re going to move in and it can only be a slaughter. Would you please listen to me. Jesus Christ. I don’t want to be a part of this." The passion in his voice caused me and many others to move away.

Jerry Lewis, a Kent State University Sociology Professor and Peace Marshall on the day of the shootings, used to refer to my dad’s pleas as a prayer. Jerry said it was almost like divine intervention. A slaughter was avoided. My dad was a hero.

The massacre that took place on May 4, 1970, changed a nation. It also changed my dad and me forever.
- (Alan Frank, personal communication, September 3, 2021)

 
Magpie (Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner)

Terry Leonino is a Kent State 1970 shooting survivor and Greg Artzer was a Kent resident on May 4, 1970. They joined forces in September 1973, becoming the musical duo known as Magpie. They wrote and performed the following song for the 45th anniversary of the massacre in honor of their hero, Professor Glenn Frank. The lyrics to the tune, You Carried Us are below:

You Carried Us
For Professor Glenn W. Frank (1928-1993)
words & music by Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino


With an M-1 guardin’ every door you said ‘let’s not study these books no more’
So side by side out into the sun to join the voices shoutin’ down the gun
But that’s when peaceful anger met the searing gas, the bayonet
Before pointed and insistent threat we marched over that hill

You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
Where we wait still, for peace to come,
For peace to come

As on the crest they wheeled ‘round, a terrifying, crackling sound
The bullets flew through steel and wood where rightfully the innocent stood
You defended us, did what you could against those bound to kill

You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
Where we wait still, for peace to come,
For peace to come

When the shooting was all done and the scarlet river deep did run
We could not see through anger blind, through chaos, raging state of mind
Until your desperate, crying plea, reminding us of what might be
The slaughter we had yet to see if we don’t walk away

To resist another day

You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
You carried us over that river
Where we wait still, for peace to come,
For peace to come

© 2014 Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino
April 25, 2014; Reprinted with Permission.


Magpie

The photograph of Magpie with Rolly Brown performing during the 45th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings was taken by Brad McKelvey. Brad has been photographing the May 4th commemorations since 1990. He serves as advisor, confidant, and archivist for projects created by the author of this guest column. He is her longtime partner of 37 years. © Brad McKelvey; Reprinted with Permission.

 
Final Thoughts

On August 1, 2014, my partner and I boarded a Coach USA bus bound for the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The center, which is the site of the original Woodstock Music & Art Fair, is ninety miles from New York City.

I was invited to interview for the Director of Development position right before the institution kicked off its 45th anniversary celebration of the Woodstock historic gathering. Just two years before my visit, the center became a cultural and performing arts nonprofit organization, so there was lots of money to be raised to sustain this new venture.

I don’t know what I expected to see. I suppose I watched too many clips about drugs, sex, rock and roll, and mud.

The bus easily pulled into a parking space. The driver opened the door and cheerfully sent us on our way. Instead of being transported back in time, with throngs of people decorating the grounds like in 1969, I was greeted to a tranquil, gorgeous view of an 800-acre campus.

As I walked towards the entrance to the main building, I noticed the brick pavers with an assortment of heartfelt messages. It was a clever way for folks to support the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, help preserve its history, and honor loved ones.

Once inside, I saw the giftshop and the museum. I was particularly interested in the museum and looked forward to my afternoon meeting with the museum director, Wade Lawrence. The museum features award-winning multi-media exhibits that capture the Woodstock story, not as an isolated happening, but in the context of the 1960s and the Vietnam War. There is also a photo archive, film footage, newspapers, jewelry, posters, and artifacts that can be used for scholarly research.

Following a series of consultations with various staff members, my partner and I were treated to an evening concert with The Temptations and The Four Tops. The show was held in the Pavilion Stage amphitheater. The venue can accommodate up to 15,000 spectators. Our seats were great. Wade Lawrence, the museum’s director, sat with us in between meeting and greeting some of his associates.

It was a whirlwind couple of days. I didn’t get the job. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience. And it was the only time I visited the site of the original Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

Little did I know at the time, that the music festival at Woodstock and the shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, would be so intricately entwined. And that those consequential milestones would affect so many lives.

I want to thank all of the participants in this column for allowing me to share their recollections with you. To learn more about the May 4 Movement and its more than fifty-year battle for justice, please check out the collection I edited, The Cost of Freedom: Voicing a Movement after Kent State 1970.

Cover of Book

 
References

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (n.d.). Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young | 50 Years of Peace & Music. https://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/blog/crosby-stills-nash-young

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. (n.d.). Melanie | 50 Years of Peace & Music. https://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/blog/melanie

Grace, T. (2021, Spring/Summer). Tribute: Alan Canfora. Kent State Magazine, pp. 54-55. https://www-s3-live.kent.edu/s3fs-root/s3fs-public/210209-SPSU-05-10-21-FULL-LWRZ.pdf

Lang, M. (2009). The Road to Woodstock: From the Man Behind the Legendary Festival. Harper Collins Publishers.

Lynd, S. (1997). Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical’s Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement. Cornell University Press.