2007-09-21

1960s Athens and drugs

As you drive down Lumpkin near the track, notice the cement block wall that surrounds the football practice fields. This brick wall was built way back in the day to protect the sanctity and secrecy of the UGA football team practices. Coaches and scouts from other teams would spy on upcoming opponents practices to try and figure out the game plan in advance. So the wall was built.
In its first form, it was a plain cement block (we called it cinder block) wall. As such, the wall was pretty porous. You've no doubt seen a cement block up close, there are little holes, fissures, and the like throughout the block. Well, the wall was no different as it was unpainted.
In a previous post, I had mentioned the drug culture that flourished in Athens back then. Yeah, I know, it still does, but in the 60s that culture was...different. I guess it was more innocent. Most of the drugs other than weed were acid, mescaline, psilocybin, hallucinogenics in other words. College kids in the 60s really thought that this was a mind expanding thing, nothing insidious. It was widely viewed as a part of the educational process I suppose, but more importantly, drug use was counter-culture, another form of protest. And Athens/UGA was all about protest as I had mentioned. So kids dropped green-dot LSD and went to class. Or maybe did a little blotter and hit Legion Field for some tunes. Or maybe the Arch for an anti-Vietnam rally. The Arch has always, as long as I can remember, been a focal point for protest and it gives me a sense of well being that it still is.
There were frequent rallies on campus at various locations. Most of the Vietnam protests tended to be up near the Army ROTC building for obvious reasons. It is still at the same location, so the rallies would be there on Baldwin. The rallies started out being completely peaceful and even respectful. Just a bunch of engaged college kids who felt compelled to voice their disapproval of the war in Vietnam. As such, the campus police stood by and mainly watched. The Athens City Police would be around too, just in case. I attended more than several of these rallies/protests just to see what was happening, to try and understand what was up with this Vietnam thing.
Then Kent State happened. The hippy movement was in full swing before then on a national and a local level, but after Kent State, things changed in tone. The Students for a Democratic Society had gained some momentum during this time, and after Kent State, the SDS took a more activist roll in their protests. In fact, they became violent.
Now, this is just my opinion, and I would be glad to hear other's opinions on this, but here is what I think happened at UGA. The SDS folks and their rhetoric, their anarchistic elements, tended to alienate the true hippies. The real hippies were into peace, drugs, music, and all the other stuff that you are no doubt aware of. So here at UGA, there was a split on campus between the hippies and the freaks, the SDS types. I won't mention the south campus, and usually south Georgia, kids. They were ag types, country boys who looked down their noses at the whole thing going on on north campus. I know, that’s a huge generalization, but I make it to illustrate the divisions on campus. The frat boys and girls didn't count one way or the other in all of this for what that’s worth.
So we have the hippies and the freaks. The freaks got somewhat violent here on campus, I had mentioned the 'firebombing' of the ROTC building, which didn't really amount to much at all. I remember when the thing was thrown, I got on my bike and left quick. Everyone else was headed out too, and I don't even know if the police knew that the place had been 'fire-bombed'. So there was the violent element that was really the polar opposite to what the hippies were about. So they withdrew from the protests and rallies. The real hippies just quit showing up, but they didn't quit their drugs. Not at all. In fact, I think maybe it intensified. More kids were tripping more often, which brings us back to the wall around the football practice field.
Word got around about all those little holes and fissures in the wall. The hippies were drawn to the wall like moths to a light in the summer night. The holes and cracks were thought to contain little worlds, miniature societies. I'd ride my bike down Lumpkin and turn right on Smith Street, it runs parallel to the wall and behind the Hoke Smith Annex building. And there they'd be, sometimes as many as 10 or 12 kids, tripping their heads off, standing with their faces about 2 inches from the wall. Some of them would just stand there in silence. Some would be muttering, some would share what they were 'seeing' in the wall. They saw little creatures, humanoid or otherwise. They would see interactions between these little creations, one group invading another. I know that sounds like so much hyperbole and may be unbelievable, but I saw it on a weekly basis for several months as I recall. It got so bad that the Athletic Association finally painted the damn wall with several thick coats of acrylic paint, dooming, I suppose, all those miniature worlds. And dooming the hippies to go somewhere else to trip.

1 comment:

David Hamilton said...

I'll bring the paint stripper - you bring the acid . . .