Poly Memories - by Bud Barns
I had a conversation about the period of unrest at Cal
Poly recently. I attended from '65 to '70. The '66-67 school year was perhaps
what I recall as the "beginning" of activities at Cal Poly. Until then,
most of the unrest was at Berkeley, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, as I recall.
Probably due to the fact that San Luis Obispo was seen as such a small venue to
gain media attention. Following the lottery for the draft in '66, the pace of
things picked up. Mind you, we were only about 9,000 students strong.
the most part, a conservative school as many of the students were engineering
or ag, not liberal arts. When the SDS began to make some waves on campus, they
were mostly ignored for the better part of year. I personally was outside the
group of people who made waves...I had been drilled by my single mom to get a
degree and was frankly petrified to think of how I'd go through life without one.
Besides, I was enjoying the curriculum at Cal Poly as a major in what then was
called Technical Arts. The following year, we became Industrial Technology.
As far as "memorable" events, there were two. The first was a "demonstration"
that consisted of perhaps 30-40 students in front of the Administration Building.
It was short-lived. However, when the local TV media picked up the story, they
positioned three cameras from three angles. When the tape was edited and aired,
the size of the demonstration grew to appear as more than 100.
event, the one that Jim referenced, was a demonstration by the SDS. After several
failed attempts to hold an on-campus forum, the school received a bomb threat
against the old Business Administration Building, which was a symbol for the campus.
Ultimately, the group was given the opportunity to conduct an anti-war effort.
This bothered the local campus police, naturally. In order to provide enough space
for onlookers, the stage was set up on the steps of the library, where a crowd
could gather on the adjacent lawn area.
Given the nature of the school
and its predominantly conservative student body, there was a lot of curiosity,
not support, for the SDS. I recall one of the speakers making the point that the
"capitalist pigs" were abusing the rights of workers in foreign countries
and that the mission of the U.S. in Southeast Asia was to prevent the spread of
communism (in response to the "domino theory") promoted at that time.
The mood of the crowd grew suspicious. People began to heckle the speakers, rather
than giving them support as was the case on most campuses. Suddenly, four or five
aggies came on horseback with lariats and rifle holsters from the side of library,
and, without much discussion, simply roped the speakers and dragged them from
the stage. The entire event lasted perhaps 20 minutes. From that point forward,
we never had another incident on campus during my remaining years there. Life
returned to the Cal Poly way.
We were far more fortunate than Isla Vista
in Santa Barbara, UCLA and other campuses
P.S. Reading through the story
attached, I recall the old dorms (former barracks). They were coined "the
jungle" by the student body. More relative, Cal Poly exuded a spirit to every
student. It began with WOW (Week of Welcome) and concluded with Poly Royal. I
am sure that much of the success of Poly graduates came from participating in
those experiences as they instilled a character and value that was uniquely Cal
Poly. -- Bud Barnes