The way we were . . . May 1970 protests

The way we were . . .
This is the first of what we hope to be a series by alumni sharing
their most memorable anecdotes from their days at CU. Student
experiences may be unique to a particular era in time, but are
universal to, as George Norlin said, “all who come into and go forth
from her halls, who are touched by her influence and who carry on
her spirit. Wherever you go, the university goes with you.”
If you’d like to share a significant CU memory, please send a
maximum of 400 good words to Pam Penfold, Koenig Alumni
Center, Boulder CO 80309-0459, or [email protected]
Vietnam and civil injustice
made all kinds of students
angry in the 1970s.
10 Coloradan December 2007
May 1970 protests
By Pam Penfold
On May 7, 1970, I joined what was
estimated to be somewhere between
6,000 and 10,000 students on the Norlin
Quad. Think about the numbers. It was,
as they say today, awesome.
We weren’t all long-haired veteran
protesters. We weren’t all black and
Chicano civil rights activists. Many of
us were middle class, white and not by
nature likely to join protest movements
or show up for political events.
Sure, we were well aware of the many
campus protests — S.I. Hayakawa and
his opponents created an ugly scene in
Macky in March 1969, but I’d listened to
it on the radio in my apartment. Antiwar
moratoriums, sit-ins and marches were
frequent occurrences, which I followed
with interest but not involvement.
The draft did make things personal as
many of my friends frantically worked out
ways to avoid a year-long visit to Vietnam.
One friend drank massive amounts of
Coca-Cola to exacerbate his ulcer in hopes
of obtaining the magical 4F classification
— physically unable to fight. My brother
and another friend joined the National
Guard, figuring six years of one weekend
a month was better than 12 months in
distant, dangerous jungles.
But then Tricky Dick Nixon sent U.S.
troops into Cambodia. Protests led to
deaths in Jackson, Miss., and at Kent State
in Ohio. The images were hard to bear. It
was time to get involved. We were mad.
So thousands descended on the Quad
and called a strike to close the university
down. Beyond the speeches and typical
politicking, the most memorable aspect
of the day was the anger and the commitment to ending the war.
A frat guy I barely knew and who’d
never impressed me much was a changed
person. He was willing to go on strike
in hopes of helping force Nixon and the
Establishment to shut down the war. If
he missed his finals, he’d miss the grades
he needed for med school (and the draft
deferment that went with it). He was willing to give up his future to stop the war.
I never heard what happened to him.
The university didn’t close down, but
many sympathetic professors made finals optional. I turned in one paper and
graduated but, like many others, didn’t
attend commencement.
The war didn’t end for five more long
years — May of 1975. I still cry when I see
the 57,939 names on the Vietnam War
Memorial. And I’m still proud of those
in my generation who worked so hard to
end the war, foster civil rights and create
the environmental movement. It was an
amazing time to be a college student.
Pam Penfold (Hist’70) is editor of the
Coloradan and is grateful Hans Bjordahl
worked for her during his student days.
makes us the way we are
The Great Comics
War of 1991
By Hans Bjordahl
My CU experience of the late ’80s
and early ’90s was very much marked by
the news of the day. The big local stories
were the evolution of the Halloween
Mall Crawl from “fun” to “scary fun”
to just plain “scary,” a surge in campus
activism marked by such events as the
anti-apartheid “shantytown” built at the
UMC fountain, and a football team that
started generating wins on the field and
controversy off it.
The biggest event of the era, however,
was in a much wider context: The Gulf
War (now known as “The First Iraq
War”) disrupted the usual rhythm of
campus life with a rapid-fire burst of
“everything else stops” news events: the
invasion of Kuwait, the U.S. buildup in
Saudi Arabia, the start of the air war,
the start of the ground war, the quick
conclusion.
My filter on all these events was a
public one: a comic strip I penned for
the Colorado Daily called “Where the
Buffalo Roam.” For reasons I can only
ascribe to cosmic coincidence or perhaps
a problem with the drinking water, the
Daily hosted a whole gaggle of vibrant
local comic strips during that time,
including Holley Irvine’s “Ozone Patrol,”
Tom Oling’s “Tripp” and Terry Krueger’s
“SOS.” While discussing the war one
night, an idea struck us: Why not play
out our own version in the theater of the
comics page?
The Daily was willing to give it a
go, and the following week readers
opened their papers to discover that the
characters from “WTBR” had staged an
incursion across the borders to invade
“Ozone Patrol” and occupy its coveted
space atop the Daily’s comics page.
“Tripp” and “SOS” soon formed a coalition to drive “WTBR” from its newly
conquered territory.
Like wars are prone to do, this one
quickly escalated. We had been given
permission to spoof (and supplant)
the other Daily comics page mainstays
(“Doonesbury,” “Sylvia,” etc.). By the end
of the two-week conflict missiles were flying across the comics page. Considerable
carnage ensued. Among the collateral
damage: Willy from “Willy and Ethel.”
What can I tell you? War is hell.
The series struck such a chord that
I still occasionally hear about it when
running across a CU grad from the era
(though perhaps that’s because it is,
tragically, newly relevant).
The Great Comics War was in my
view a “uniquely CU” kind of event:
the kind of creative experiment that
could only have happened in that place,
at that moment, with those artists,
inspired by those events, in a newspaper
where the staff literally let us walk in
and draw on the comics page layouts
the night before they went to press. Try
that at USA Today.
Hans Bjordahl (Jour’91) is a group
manager at MSNBC.com and still posts the
occasional comic to www.bugbash.net. Due
to an apparent case of Stockholm Syndrome
incurred during the Great Comics War, Hans
and Holley Irvine are now married and living
in Seattle.
Hans Bjordahl and his cartoon
colleagues at the Colorado
Daily conducted their own
“war” in reaction to the Gulf
War in 1991. Hans is at left in
1997 while on campus making
a film based on “Where the
Buffalo Roam.”
December 2007 Coloradan 11