Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memories of the 60s

Originally posted to a group on Yahoo remembering New Paltz in the 60s -- the protest movements of 1967, when protest was not yet fashionable.

About 5 years earlier, living briefly in NYC, I had known a young man named Vinnie, very troubled, from a conservative Irish Catholic family, no longer sure of very much in his life but still tied closely to that background.

A couple of years later, I ran into a mutual friend. He'd recently seen Vinnie, who had apparently found a substitute for his CYO: "I've found this swell group -- they have dances, and meetings, and the kids are really great -- did you ever hear of a group called 'Progressive Labor'?"

Fast forward again to 1967, and I'm faculty chaperone to a group of New Paltz students going down to the city for a march against the war, culminating in a rally at UN Plaza. The rally was interrupted by a downpour, so we left, and took shelter from the storm under the eave of a building -- a bank, misappropriately enough. Suddenly someone comes dashing across the street and squeezes in beside me under the same eave.

It's Vinnie.

"Hey, how have you been?" "Oh, I've been great -- I've been traveling a lot -- Holland, Germany..."

"That's great, Vinnie."

"You know, there's a real revival of the Nazis over there."

"Is that so?" And it's here that I notice, under Vinnie's raincoat, a brown shirt.

"Yes -- I'm one of them!"

A momentary speechless pause from me.

"Were you at that peace rally just now?"

"Yes, we were, Vinnie."

"I notice you had a lot of Jews at that rally."

Rain coming down even harder.

"Gee, great to see you, Vinnie. Well, it looks like the rain's letting up. We've gotta be going. Come on, everyone!"

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