Monday 10 February 2014

"You're" Going to End up in Prison"

    If you haven’t read yesterday’s blog, go back and read that first.  

    The next day, Monday Feb. 10, 1964, started out like most other school days.  I got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, then my sister and I went up and waited for the school bus.  The ride into North High School was much the same as it usually was, although there was a lot of talk about the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  
    When I arrived at school however, there was a noticeable change.  A lot of kids, many I didn’t know, were coming up to me and asking about the Beatles.  My friends were all very friendly, eager to talk, and to be seen with me.  Overnight, my status in school had changed, but daily school routine went on as usual.
    I was sitting in my morning chemistry class, when a student came into the room and handed a note to the teacher.  He glanced down at the message, looked at me, and told me I was wanted in Mr. Buck’s office.  Naturally, my first inclination was that there had been some terrible accident to some member of my family.
    I walked down the long empty hallway to the Principal’s office.  Mr. Buck wasn’t the principal, but the vice principal--the heavy, who usually dealt with behavioral problems.  When I got to his office, the secretary told me to take a seat.  So putting my books beside me on the bench, I sat and waited.  I now realized that this is just a tactic to “soften the subject up.”
    When I was finally allowed into the office, Mr. Buck glared at me and asked me what I was trying to do.  I had never been in his presence before, although I knew about his reputation as a “hard ass”.
    “Do about what?”, I asked.
    “What are you trying to pull with that long hair?” he shot back.
    “What do you mean?  My hair isn’t doing anything,” I was starting to figure out what this was all about and I was starting to feel indignation.
    “You need to get your hair cut,”  
    I had never really been a rebel or a trouble maker, but I did believe that people had certain rights and as long as they weren’t causing any harm to anyone, I didn’t believe that he had any say in the matter.
    “Look, my hair isn’t noticeably longer than it was last week and no one had any objection to it then, I have been called down here just because the Beatles were on TV last night.”  I wasn’t planning on giving in to this bullying mini-tyrant.
    The arguments went back and forth, but I didn’t cower, and after about an hour and a half he told me to get a haircut before I came to school tomorrow, and to get back to my classes.  During the rest of the school day, most everyone had heard about my call to Mr Buck’s office, and my status grew to even greater heights.
    Of course, in those days, parents always sided with the authorities, and so I was confronted by an angry father, who told me he was going to take me down to the barber shop, which he did.  While I was there, I made a compromise and got my hair trimmed in the back--my bangs weren’t touched.
    When I went to school the next day, Mr. Buck was livid, and I was back in his office.
    “I did get my hair cut,” I explained, “I got the back trimmed.”
    Mr. Buck was pissed, I’m sure he knew he was on shaky ground, and really all he could do was to assault  me with fear and threats.  “If you remain on this path you have chosen, I warn you, you are going to end up in prison.”   That being said, I was sent back to my classes.

    Those two days in Mr. Buck’s office had a profound effect on my life.  It was the first time I had really experienced bigotry, and bullying by an authority.  I was proud of myself--I had principles, and I managed to stand up for them despite Mr. Buck’s pressure and threats.  It led me to start questioning authority, and blind obedience to it.  It set the stage for my opposition to the Vietnam War and my eventual move to Canada.
    I mentioned yesterday how conservative Southern Indiana was, and how all “men” were expected  to have short, military-style hair.  The photos above show what I looked like in 1964.  You can see why Mr. Buck was so furious at me and what a rebel I was.
    Although the incident did manage to sort of break the ice for those who followed behind me at North High School, it did not totally change things.  I was a popular person, a good student, and someone who was polite and kind--they had trouble coming down on me.  A couple of years later however, they prevented a student, who was a member of a local rock band, from getting his diploma at the commencement ceremony, because he had long hair.
    So far, I am happy to report I have not yet been sent to prison, although way back in 197I, I told my draft board I would go there, rather than be in the military.

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