Tidbits - June 11, 2020

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY

FIFTY YEARS AGO...
  Lost in the demonstrations and rioting in Columbia last week, is the same thing happened almost exactly 50 years ago.
  There are many similarities.
  Both were caused by senseless deaths, the killing of four Vietnam War demonstrators at Kent State University in 1970, and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman a few weeks ago.
  In both instances, our country was led by divisive presidents, Richard Nixon in 1970 and Donald Trump today.
  In 1970, Jane Fonda bought her anti-war campaign to the Carolina campus, and 50 years later she is still a controversial figure.
  The main difference for me is I was right in the middle of the riots in 1970, certainly by no choice of mine.
  Carolina had its active anti-war segment, like every college back then. Soon, after the incident at Kent State, things began to stir in Columbia. For the innocent bystander, it was an uncomfortable feeling.
  Aside from the war, there were other issues students were opposed to on campus and one thing led to another, and it ended in clashes with the police and National Guard on the Horseshoe.
  I don’t need to tell you how stupid teenagers can be at times, because we have all been there. When news of the threat of conflict on the Horseshoe began to spread, many in my dorm went ... to watch, as if it were a football game.  You had the students, armed with rocks, on one end of the historic land, and National Guard and police, armed with guns and tear gas at the other. It would not have been a fair fight.
  When we mistook a low flying bird for a rock, we ran like the devil. Stupid is, as stupid does.
  The next night conflicts broke out again on Assembly Street, just outside our Honeycomb dorms. We were “smart” this time. We did not go down on the ground to watch. We went up on the roof.
  Apparently, someone on the roof of our dorm threw something at the National Guard. The Guard returned the favor by firing tear gas cannisters on the roof. Once again, we ran like the devil. We could run, but we couldn’t hide.
  The tear gas got into AC system, filling our rooms. We grabbed towels, wet them, and covered our faces as we sat on the floor in the hall.
  I can’t remember if we slept in the hall, but the next day we found out tear gas hangs around in invisible pockets, as many, including me, fell victim again.
  All of our class buildings were guarded by armed National Guardsmen, many of whom were our age. IDs to enter the building were required.
  Later in the day, we got the news the Weathermen, a radical group, were coming to Columbia to blow up the Physical Science Building, which was right next door to our dorm.
  That convinced a bunch of us to rent a room at the Orvin Inn. Like in the recent Columbia riots, many of the rumors were not true.
  Back in those days, freshmen were not allowed to have cars on campus, so we were trapped, until our Saluda parents go together, and Mr. Herman Epting drove his big Ford Galaxie 500 over and rescued a car full and brought us home.
  I can’t imagine what parents went through back then. There were no cell phones or internet, just one phone at the end of the hall. I don’t recall how the Saluda students made contact, but we were so happy when “Hermie,” as we affectionately called him behind his back, saved us.
  Although communication is so much better, I’m sure parents have that same worry for their children involved in the current demonstrations.
  In a few weeks, the school year ended in 1970 and things began to return to normal. This year, Carolina students had  been gone a weeks because of the COVID-19, so they really weren’t the main focus.
  I’m sure things will return to normal this year, but things have to change.
  The anti-war demonstrations and riots ended when the war ended.
  I hope a pray we will not have to go through the cause of this year’s rioting again.
  I pray this be a start of a new day.