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Cloyne Court - Page 2

Page 2 has just two sections about my time at Cloyne Court, 1966 - 1970:

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Sex, Drugs and Treason - Great slogan, Ron.

Ronald Reagan was the Govenor of California. He got a lot of political mileage out of student bashing. At one point his State Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty, told the world that the University of California offered a "four-year course in sex, drugs, and treason". Governor Reagan didn't dispute the fact.

It was a golden age for sex; after The Pill and before herpes. You could bring a guest of the opposite sex to breakfast without eliciting ribald comments. How to say this politely? The parties in the 60's you hear about, wild orgies with dozens of naked people and gallons of Wesson oil? We heard about them too. A lot more people heard about them than did them.

It was not a golden age for gay people. Their liberation was just getting started, and no one at Cloyne who was gay went public. One of the sports writers at the Daily Cal was publicly gay. After a particularly embarrassing spate of arrests at Harmon gym he wrote that the gays were going to take it over, making it a new Roman bath. His column caused a storm of letters to the editor. The best one read "Dear Bruce: I hope you all get hemorrhoids." It shows what passed for humor back then, before AIDS.

The drug of choice was ethyl alcohol. We would have a keg after the major home football games and on two or three times in the spring on Saturdays. We'd have mixed drinks at a dance once a quarter, with "JV" brand rum, gin, vodka and whiskey and three kinds of Shasta mixers.

The drink of choice for BYOB parties was "Red Mountain" Burgundy, which you could get for $1.99 a gallon on sale, equally good for taking to parties or controlling broad-leafed pests. When I took a fifth of Wente Grey Riesling to a party people would think I was a connoisseur.

A couple of times we had a wine tasting group. $2.00 would buy a bottle of decent wine back then, varietals from Charles Krug, Wente, Christian Brothers and the like. I put a note on the bulletin board ("Anyone want to taste 15 wines for $5?") and quickly got five like-minded men. We pungled up $5 each, a senior with a car bought 15 bottles. We paid a little more than $2 for the cabernet sauvignon, a little less for the whites. We met every Sunday night for five weeks, opening three bottles per meeting. We took turns bringing crackers and cheese. It was a pleasant and inexpensive way to learn about wine.

People in Texas were still getting 15 years in state prison for being caught with an ounce of marijuana. The penalties in California were less stiff, but they were enough to ruin your day. In the middle 60's smoking dope was still pretty controversial. In the late 60's it wasn't. My guess is that 20 - 40 of the house members smoked on a regular basis, and that three quarters would take a puff if it was passed at a party. LSD, mescaline, peyote and hashish were around, but a lot fewer people at Cloyne used them than the popular histories would have you believe. I'd guess maybe half of the 20 - 40 regular marijuana users used other drugs.

A related anecdote: it shows the flavor of the times. Three fellows who will remain anonymous spent their junior summer in Europe. They toured Spain, then took the ferry to Morocco, where they bought several kilos of hashish. Moroccan drug wholesalers had no love for infidels, and would often make a second profit by tipping the customs officials off as to who was smuggling what. The Cloyne men knew this, so told the fellow they bought the hash from that they were going to lay on the beach or a day or two and take the ferry to Gibraltar. Then they drove all night and took the ferry to Malaga.

At the Spanish customs post the officer went over their car carefully; they were American students, after all. He tapped the passenger side door panel (where the hash was hidden) suspiciously, at which point the Cloyne men decided to go for broke and offered to dig out their tools, unscrew the door panel, and let him look. He gestured "never mind" and waved them through.

Several nervous border crossings later they decided they'd had enough, so they bought some atrocious china vases and a sturdy wooden box. They used several thousand dollars of hashish as packing material for the vases, then secured the box with plumber's tape - the thin metal tape with holes in it. This was before drug-sniffing dogs, and they figured if it looked hard to get into and passed the x-ray test it would sail through customs. They addressed the parcel to "Cloyne Court III" (the son of the fellow who subscribed to all those magazines) and sent it off from Hamburg, at surface rates.

The package arrived that fall. The Cloyne men hid it, sold the hashish at retail rates, and used the profits for their school expenses. We didn't consider them to be drug pushers or corrupters of youth. We thought they had come up with an interesting alternative to a summer job.

The best practical joke of the era involved drugs and bananas. It was a time of experimentation. Besides the normal recreational drugs, people were eating morning glory seeds, smoking eucalyptus leaves, and generally seeing what would happen if . . .

Someone started the rumor that the strings, or, indeed, the entire inner surface of the banana peel, was a psychedelic. You could either scrape the stuff out, dry it and smoke it, or open the banana, put a strip of gum between the fruit and the peel, close it back up, wait for a week, and chew the gum.

It seems pretty silly now, but the rumor swept the nation. Liberal professors smoked the stuff with their classes, to see what would happen. The banana bins at grocery stores in college towns emptied. The day we had jell-o with bananas on the menu, there were 12 people lined up at the back of Central Kitchen, waiting for the peels. The California state legislature proposed making smoking bananas illegal. Art Hoppe wrote a column about the proposal, as satirical as usual. He asked what would they ban if it turned out mother's milk was mildly psychedelic? After enough people tried it, the rumor died, but it was a fun couple of weeks.

So much for drugs. Treason was defined as being opposed the war in Vietnam. Opposition ranged from thinking the US should leave to hoping the North Vietnamese would win. I'm going to skip over the war; for the most part, if you were in college you either didn't go or, if you did, you had a desk job. The guys who ended up in the jungle toting a rifle either wanted to or were from the bottom half of the scale - poor and poorly educated. A disproportionate number of them were black or Hispanic.

Opposition to the war was at the root of most of the student riots. At one point, late in 1969 or early in 1970, there had been at least one riot and one student strike called in each of the previous seven quarters. The standard student "riot" start with 3,000 students standing around Sproul Plaza at noon to see if anything would happen. 300 policemen would show up just in case something did happen. 50 to 150 hard-core types would throw rocks at the police, who would respond with tear gas, every one would run (some stopping to pitch a rock through a big window) and the next morning the newspapers would report 5,000 students had rioted.

People's Park - My view of a student riot

The biggest riot of the era had nothing to do with Vietnam. It was over a small plot of land - "People's Park". I remember waking up that day, hearing helicopters overhead and thinking trouble was coming. Several weeks before, some radicals had taken over a block of unused University property to build a park. The University feared a number of things. First, land wasn't cheap, and they didn't like the idea of giving it up. Second, the people that built the park hadn't taken out a $10,000,000 liability policy, just in case some kid whose father knew a lawyer fell and broke his neck while playing on the rickety swing set.

On the morning news that morning the chancellor said he wasn't expecting any trouble. Someone, however, had invoked a "mutual aid" agreement, and there were policemen from up to 100 miles away on campus that morning; big blocks of blue jump-suited Alameda County deputy sheriffs, platoons of SFPD Tactical Squad men in black jump suits, ranks of Oakland Policemen in royal blue. There were cops from as far south as San Jose and Cupertino, and as far north as Sonoma County. I remember seeing three officers all the way from Sebastapol, looking young and curious, and wondering what they thought of it all.

That noon, at a Sproul Rally, the student body president said "We'll take back the park" and four thousand students ran off to do it. The police ran out of tear gas and used birdshot and night sticks instead, then buckshot. When it was over one man was dead, one blind, and several tens were wounded. Governor Reagan called out the National Guard.

This all happened just two weeks before finals week. If the administration had waited just three weeks, until spring break, they could have paved the lot without more than a hundred people even knowing it was happening. If the students had waited a couple of days they could have made the governor look like a fool; they could have wandered by the long lines of cops, calm as could be, offered them flowers and asked what they were going to do with their overtime checks.

The government, or a part of it, gained from the riot. Every time a policeman used his nightstick on a student, Ronald Reagan got another 5,000 votes for being "tough on communism" in Middle America, where they assumed any male whose hair was long enough to touch his collar was a communist, a homosexual, or both. The other side gained too; each time some middle-class kid from Walnut Creek had to get twelve stitches to close up his scalp, his opinion of the lawfully elected authorities sank; the SDS gained, if not a convert, a sympathizer. So, each side gained something, at the expense of the poor schmuck in the middle.

An editorial comment: Inevitably, during the era, the people with portable megaphones would say it was time to "put our bodies on the line" in defense of The Cause. In my time I've risked my life and limbs just for the thrill of it, and I've put, if not my body, goodly amounts of time, money, and sleep on the line for causes and people I believed in. Looking back, I'm glad I wasn't there that day; I'd hate to have sacrificed anything at all just to be a pawn.

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[This is one of my Miscellaneous Essays. There are more; you may enjoy another section of my web site, too:]

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This page updated: February 08, 2017