But I was not blind to the Viet Nam War protestors, with C. U. being the home, of course, of the S.D.S. Remember the Students for a Democratic Society?
Before I came to oppose the war in an editorial article for one of C.U.'s student newspapers, I found myself at fee payment in the Fall of 1970, with Richard Nixon having just vetoed the National Defense Act, leaving me devoid of loan money to pay enough to continue! Fortunately, I had a friend at the Placement Center whose wife worked in Financial Aid, and was able to get me an appointment with its Director. That amiable gentleman proved to be my salvation, for, with my having carried a 4.0 grade point average in the past year, he said: "Son, with those grades you don't need a loan! You are eligible for a "President's Grant!" So, at least for a while, I went on my merry way.
I still recall all the protests which, as much as drugs and alcohol, ravaged the Boulder campus, even at one point taking over, through a sit-in, the Administration Building! I took note of the fact that the best, highest paying positions available were for engineers, chemists, and other technical fields - all in spheres of influence of what Eisenhower called "The Milatary-Industrial-Complex." It was not lost on me that in my conservatism, I'd marched in no protests, but still ought to voice my anti-war opinion.
So, risking friendships at the Center, I penned a satiric article called "The Displacement Center" for one of the two student newspapers. You see, most of the best paying positions available were not in the arts or teaching, but in technical fields of expertise among big oil companies, weapons makers, aircraft firms, and such like. The article was printed, and to their credit, neither Gene Nelson, the Director of the Placement Center, nor the wonderful ladies that I worked with, even blinked an eye, saying that my point was well taken and I was entitled to my opinion.
That opinion had been forged and then hardened with my upbringing. The son and nephew of two railroaders, I had watched as during the Eisenhower years, my dad and uncle were frequently laid off. While the old General golfed, we were eating well enough, but only because my mother and aunt were adept at stretching dollars and occasionally pinching pennies. But my negative, economic experiences with Republican administrations would certainly not end there!
I was an actor, singer, dancer, technical director, scenic artist and designer in the Theatre - legitimized, I suppose, in my family's eyes, because, with the Master of Fine Arts degree I earned from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1983, I went on to teach Theatre on the college level at Christopher Newport College in Newport News, Virginia. In that, my first teaching experience, Republicanism again reared its unholy, foul economic head!
"Your enrollment in the Introduction to Theatre Class is declining," I was told by the administration. "You need to give more A's!"
I responded that I would certainly not give an undeserved grade. In fact, I had already taken to devoting two classes a semester to remedial English composition, so that students could write even a modestly passable, comprehensive review of a play!
Came time for my contract renewal and, despite the votes of all but one member of the Art and Communications faculty, the President, John Anderson, and the Director of the Theatre Program, Bruno Koch, colluded together and my contract was not even given due process of access to the President.
The students marched in protest, and then stuffed faculty mailboxes, refusing to work on the next production, "South Pacific." I had not thought them capable of such activism, haven not seen such a phenomenon for decades! Their voices, like my own were ignored. By setting us aside, and effectively firing me, the right of free speech was most definitely abridged!
While Reagan preached, "They should lift themselves up by their own bootstraps," two administrative vice presidents, with no expertise in the arts, reviewed my portfolio and recommendations. That very same portfolio of artistic renderings and models of stage settings, along with enthusiastic recommendations and my able service as the preferred scenic artist at U.N.C. Chapel Hill, had earned me an offer from the Yale graduates who then ran the program: "You can go to Yale with a complete free ride for your doctoral degree, and study with Ming Cho Li on Broadway - the greatest New York theatre designer of our time!" Unfortunately, I had demurred, because I wanted to teach as well as devote myself to my marriage in person - not in absentia.
After my non-renewal, less than a year later, Anderson was fired for malfeasance and treating myself and others blatantly unfairly, but of course he had a "golden parachute!" Koch only had his hands slapped with a reduction of budget, and the shrinking of my full time position in a two-person program to a half, and later, quarter time position.
Imagine, if you will, those times, in which a college administration would actually assert that the primary purpose of the program was not to teach students, but to serve as a public relations tool for the college in the community! Clearly, it was a time in which business attitudes under Republicanism triumphed over the principles of teaching!
There were other documented abuses in the theatre program, well known but having a blind eye always turned toward them. Sour grapes? Yes! In fact, they are the stuff of which only bad wine could flow, and politically, they constitute my rightful "grapes of wrath!" I survived it all, wanting to sue the College, but without cooperation from my ex-wife or her family, it proved futile.
Physical ailments, including progressively worsening arthritis, got the better of me. And in every interview, I had to charge straight at the question: "Why was your contract from your teaching position not renewed?" I said that I was quite willing to work for less, and it was always countered with: "You are over qualified, and we can't afford you!"
Nonetheless, I continued to work professionally as long as I could as a free lance artist and scenic designer, until, in the end, I was physically no longer able to do so. At that time, in the 1990s I began reviewing the performing arts for the Pueblo Chieftain, earning only $40.00 each time, but glad of the pocket cash and a renewed connection to the arts I could otherwise not afford.
I had been told by several medical specialists, more than ten years ago, that I had only three or four years to live. But here I am to tell my story - after the fusion of five cervical discs, and drilling out my spine when the cord had only a thirty-secondth of an inch clearance! I'm also told I will, in the future, require more surgeries. But at this time, for the first time in almost a decade, I am miraculously living without morphine.
Food? I have food stamps. Health care? Medicaid. So, at the end of this day, I am not about to drift slowly and complacently into the Rocky Mountain sunset!
Instead, I ask that others read my story and ask the simple fiscal question: "Economically, are you better off than you were eight years ago?"
I've a bill-payer mortgage on the house bequeathed to me. Do you also find yourself in like circumstances? If not, let me ask that you merely imagine walking a mile or two in my shoes, while checking for those damn boot straps!