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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Town Fools, Village Idiots, and Male Activists

Today's blog has nothing to do with real estate in Key West or elsewhere. If you want to know about what's for sale in Key West, CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls website. Otherwise, read on.

When I started my freshman year at Colorado State University in 1969 I was the biggest nerd around. I actually read the freshman student manual, and I really did go to the Campus Shop and actually purchased a freshman beanie. And for God's sake I even wore it until I realized I was the only idiot that was wearing the stupid thing. I kid you not. I still have that beanie somewhere.

I recently unearthed my Cub Scout medal with the scout oath and my gold confirmation cross. I believed in the simple lessons I learned in school, in church, and in the scouts. I thought that everybody did. I was wrong.

I majored in political science and entered the Air Force ROTC program. I planned on getting my legal education courtesy of the federal government. Viet Nam burst onto the scene and changed everything. I went to teach-ins, lectures, and listened to and read multiple sources about the conflict that became a horrible war. I ended my ROTC training after my first year in college. Someone tired to burn down the ROTC building at my university, and someone else did burn down Old Main. I decided I would have to get my legal education the old fashioned way: earn money to pay for it.

Back in the 1960's there was a Friday afternoon tradition outside the Student Center at CSU where students would stand on an old stump and speak their minds about whatever was bothering them. I went to the stump a lotduring my freshman year. I never spoke. But I did listen. There were some screwballs that spoke but there were a lot of well informed students and some faculty that voiced their opinions. I liked the give and take of people speaking freely about the war, civil rights, and other matters of importance in our lives.

Later I wrote an opinion piece that was published in Reach, a once a week supplement to the daily college newspaper. As luck would have it my political science professor read the piece and mentioned it in a class. He noted that only town fools and village idiots participate in marches and write letters to the editor and other dribble like that. He then announced someone in my class wrote that article. Then he named me as the author. The fear of being referred to as a town fool or village idiot was immediately and completely etched upon my brain. He then added that my piece was well written and worthy of being read. Thud.

After that I was even more careful not to stand up in crowds and make speeches for fear of being thought the town fool. I've kept my letters to the editor to a minimum to avoid being regarded as the village idiot as well.

I am second from left

The next year I ran for student government as a member of the United Action Party. Our party was an alternative to the fraternity and sorority kids that until then had populated student government. Our main platform was student control over student affairs. A simple mantra. But it ended up shaking the foundation of the university.

Seven of our members were elected that year including Doug Phelps, Bruce Randall, and me. We wrote a simple resolution that turned co-ed housing on its ear. The point of our resolution was to establish equal treatment of males and female students with respect to dorm curfew hours. Up until then female students were required to be locked inside by 11:00 PM (midnight on weekends) whereas males students had no restriction whatsoever. Our resolution was adopted by the ASCSU legislature and promptly rejected by the university. We then announced a sleep-in at the MOBY Gym (arena). The place was packed with guys and gals demanding an end to in loco parentis. We made our point. The media reported the protest. The university adopted a new policy. Our sleep-in worked and rules were changed quite quickly. Reason prevailed. No blood was spilled. No potential careers were blemished by arrest records.

I did a quick Google search to see how our efforts back then were remembered. I found the semi-official history of that and other events of our era at CSU which reads
"but a group of male activists [emphasis added by me] continued pushing for change that culminated in a May 1967 demonstration in which 2,500 people "stayed out" past the 11 p.m. curfew for women.

Two weeks later, President Bill Morgan announced female dorm residents could stay out until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, and junior and senior coeds could live off campus. But the university retained its ban on male visits in women's rooms."

There was a peace march in downtown Ft Collins in the early spring of 1968. Several thousand students and locals marched down Mountain Avenue and stopped at an old memorial near the railroad tracks that bisected the town. We listened as different speakers railed against the war. Then we heard the roar of a huge semi as it drove directly into the crowd of marchers. Nobody stood their ground in defiance of the truck. Thank God. It did not slow nor stop but instead plowed straight through the crowd. The truck sped east on Mountain and across the small college town. The driver was eventually stopped and arrested. His excuse for putting so many people's lives in jeopardy was that he had a son in Viet Nam.

That was not the end of violence that day. The marchers regathered as a group and made our way south on College Avenue back towards the campus. Spectators (townies and students) lined the streets yelling at us. Cruz, a college kid who lived on my floor, had the sign he was carrying ripped from his hands and torn by some townies. He then just carried the wooden cross that supported the former sign. We neared the Campus Shop located on Laurel Avenue when some frat boy a the Farmhouse Fraternity threw eggs at the marchers. An egg hit a little child in a stroller just ahead of where I was marching. The kid screamed, the mother screamed. We all screamed. It was the most frightening day of my life.

I remember going back to my dorm room at Green Hall. My roommate was not there. I knelt on the floor by my bed and looked up at a black and white poster of a nasty old man dressed in an Uncle Sam suit standing in front of the US Capitol with his right arm and his middle finger extended pointing up to the Capitol. I thought we were at the end of the world. I was wrong, again.

Later that night Norman Mailer spoke about the war - the war that divided our country so deeply.

A few months later the student legislature made a proposal to allow the sale of 3.2 beer on campus. Another student and I were invited to speak to the State Board of Agriculture (the governing body of the university) to present the argument for allowing the sale of beer on campus. This meeting was held during the summer, not during normal school session. We presented our case after which the president of the university announced the sale of beer on campus would not happen during the term of his presidency. The board voted against the proposal. But that was not the end of the story.

About one month after school resumed in the fall of 1968 the student legislature announced a "drink-in" in the Student Center ballrooms. The university fired back and announced anyone drinking on campus would be arrested. John Baker, another member of the ASCSU student legislature, and I met with the Dean of Students prior to the drink-in and arranged for an alternative to arresting a bunch of students. The Dean agreed to permit students to take the symbolic drink of beer and then be placed on social probation as an alternative to being arrested. Some students chose jail. I took the easier route. Just like the sleep-in, our drink-in made news on Denver media. We ended having beer on campus by the time I graduated in June 1969. The former college president retired. Maybe not because of us, but maybe we influenced him a bit. The world was changing.

During my senior year I got to intern for Colorado Lt. Governor Mark Hogan. I got to sit in on committee meetings and watch Senate sessions. What a bore. What a bunch of hayseeds and bigots. Rural Colorado was as conservative as any place in the deep south of the 1960's. There was a lot of turmoil going on across America during this time period. Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated. George Lincoln Rockwell (head of the American Nazi Party) had been assassinated. We had seen several years of riots based on racial tension across the United States. Student uprisings were going on at east coast and west coast universities and many points in between. There was a lot of discussion about a revolution. The Colorado State Legislature reacted by adopting an anti-riot bill. I saw government work. I was not amused. I decided never to run for public office. Governments react to public unrest. In Syria, for example, they shoot the protesters. In the U.S. governments restrict how and when people may safely assemble and require them to obtain a permit.

The revolution never occurred. My generation sold out and transformed from hippies to yuppies. President Johnson was driven from office, Viet Nam ended, President Nixon resigned in disgrace, the Civil Rights Bill and Voting Rights Act made it possible for blacks to become integrated into American life, and our country survived nonetheless. A little over forty years later our country is at war but against a different enemy. The racial tension still exists, maybe not as deep, but it is still there-just below the surface, waiting to explode if given the opportunity. The tension between different segments of our society is still in place as well.

Two months ago the nightly news was all about the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon that was sweeping the nation. People were occupying parks everywhere voicing their concerns over where our country is headed. For me watching the Occupy Wall Street is like watching a remake of my college years. The old guard or status quo or call it what you will is being challenged by young and old who want things to change, to be more fair for all people.

What I write won't change any reader's mind about the political or social upheaval that is going on in America. It is not meant to. Small protests like "sleep-ins", "drink-ins", political marches, and the occupation of parks often do have a causal effect on governments, businesses, and on society. I am not afraid of people who express their beliefs about what is going on in our lives. It is our Constitutional Right to be called town fools, village idiots, and even male (or female) activists. I am not afraid of the future. The future starts tonight at 12:00 PM.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Gary! I love reading your blog, and appreciate the effort and time you spend keeping your clients informed regarding the status of the Key West real estate market. You are a kind heated soul, with good Karma. I know we will do business in the future. Brad from Calgary

Anonymous said...

I meant kind hearted soul. Guess I should proof read before clicking send. Brad


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.