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Remembering May 4, 1970


Say it right! I'm Black and I'm bright!
J. Marchbanks and Waverly Dean: Roth H.S. National Merit Scholars

May 4, 1970

This autobiographical remembrance is sent especially for the benefit of those among of you who were not yet born 42 years ago.

Young 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.

Thelma 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.

Four 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.

You can download it from iTunes or from Amazon.

Of 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.

Keep your history ever in mind. Even the parts you'd rather forget.

Copyright (c) 2012
Jack Marchbanks

 

 

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