autobiographical remembrance is sent especially for the benefit
of those among of you who were not yet born 42 years ago.
and Feeling Pretty Good About Ourselves
On Monday morning, May 4, 1970, I remember waiting outside
Assistant Principal Art Thomas's office at Roth High School
with two other juniors who were supposed to be with me on
a bus to Kent State University that morning. We were Roth's
"smart kids" and were scheduled to visit KSU along with other
"top of their class" Dayton Public School students from Colonel
White, Dunbar, Meadowdale, Stivers, Belmont and Patterson
on a field trip designed to tout the advantages of enrolling
at the university. But, late Sunday afternoon on May 3rd,
my father had received a call from Principal Thomas informing
him that the trip had been canceled because of ongoing student
demonstrations at Kent State against the Viet Nam War. Thomas
said the last thing Dayton Public Schools wanted to see was
a bunch of bewildered 16 year olds and 17 year olds from their
school district in the middle of a campus protest.
Cromartie ( a surgeon's daughter), Waverly Dean and I (the
son of a railroad trackman turned factory worker) were all
supposed to be on that bus to Kent State. We groused about
how we weren't going to get a chance to check out the school.
Back in those days, a 4.0 or 3.9 GPA got you noticed. All
three of us had already been wooed with academic scholarship
offers from the University of Dayton, OSU, Brown, Bowdoin
and Notre Dame even though we were just juniors. My winning
a National Science Foundation award earlier that year ---
for my analysis of the how the sulfur dioxide-laden effluent
that Dayton Tire and Rubber Company piped into Wolf Creek
was turning the stream where blue gills, rock bass and crayfish
once thrived into a dead channel of stinking water--- had
vaulted me into this elite club. (Thank you, Mr. Kirby-my
inspiring science teacher-for encouraging me to think big!)
Principal Thomas, who later moved on and up to become the
president of Central State University, apologized to us and
said he'd try to re-schedule the trip for us before the school
year ended. It never happened.
Dead In Ohio
On the evening news later that day, Thelma, Waverly and I
learned along with the rest of the world about the tragedy
that had transpired at Kent State that fateful May 4th. Meanwhile,
off in some canyon wood near Los Angeles, Neil Young had secluded
himself to write songs with Graham Nash, David Crosby and
Stephen Stills for their group's follow up album to their
triumphant performance at Woodstock the previous August. When
Young found out about the student killings at Kent State,
he was furious. He went off to a cabin and wrote "Ohio" in
an hour or so . Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young went into the
studio and recorded the song immediately. Reprise/Warner Brothers
Records pressed the single and rushed the song to radio stations.
"Ohio" was on the airwaves across the nation before school
let out in early June that year.
can download it from iTunes or from Amazon.
course, I already have the song in my Neil Young collection.
I listened to it on my car's CD player on the way to work
this morning, May 4, 2012.
your history ever in mind. Even the parts you'd rather forget.