Special Collections and Archives
Jim Vacarella, Oral History
Special Collections and Archives
Jim Vacarella, Oral History
Jim Vacarella, Oral History
Recorded: April 3, 2000
Interviewed by Sandra Perlman Halem
Transcribed by Maggie Castellani
[Interviewer]: ... eleven o'clock, the Williamson Alumni Center with Jim Vacarella.
[Jim Vacarella]: My name is Jim Vacarella and I was a student. Started here in 1967, a premed student. And I lived at Moulton Hall. O.K., so now where do I go from here?
[Interviewer]: What are your memories of that time?
[Jim Vacarella]: All right, so this is what I'd like to say about that. The memories of the time are ... start with Nixon's invading Cambodia, the Vietnam War which we all were affected by, everybody that was living at that time was affected by it. And the war started widening in '65, '66, '67. When I entered, I signed a paper, SSS-109 form, with President Lyndon Johnson. Deferred me because I was a premed student, till I was 36, but I was draft-eligible till I was 36. Nixon got in office in 1968. I made the first lottery. When he instituted the first lottery, I made the first lottery number. Went up to 85, mine was 82. I went from Kent at my sophomore year, I went to Cleveland, Fairview General Hospital in Cleveland, to be a nurse anesthetist. And I lasted six months there and I came back. And in the process of changing schools, they reclassified me 1A.
So, in April 30, 1970, when Nixon announced on TV, in Moulton Hall, we were in Moulton Hall watching it, when he announced that anyone that didn't have the proper grades, or actually our RA counselor announced it, didn't have the proper grades or we didn't have ... we had a 1A classification, we would be gone in three weeks to Vietnam. And this from going from Woodstock and all of what we went through in the '60's, in the late '60s, to going to Vietnam in 1970 was not going to work. That was just not going to work. So, my definite feeling that night, that was Thursday night, was, and most of us were the same, was that we're not going and something drastic is going to be done.
So the next day, there was a rally and there weren't very many people. I dated this girl that was from Terrace and we went out that night and I missed Friday night's activities. So, all I heard was what everybody brought back on Friday night, 'cause I was dating at that time. So next day, Saturday, we heard all of what was happening and there was going to be a rally at 8 o'clock.
We met on the Commons at 8 o'clock around the building, and this is where my events are very, very clear, the events of the night were very clear. We stood around the ROTC Building, and I would estimate maybe under 1000 people, say 400-1000, hard to estimate, but some say it was only a couple hundred. It doesn't matter. There were lots of us but not masses. And someone lit a garbage can. In the garbage can was the fire. Threw it through the window of the ROTC Building and it went out. I've never heard this said but we were right there. That fire went out. Then this, definitely it was a policeman, jumped out of the crowd, someone took a flag, lit the flag and was going to throw the burning flag in. And definitely it was a policeman, jumped out of the crowd, and took with an automatic, auto-rewound, on his camera, he had a Nikon. I'll never forget that because I have Nikons. And he took [makes camera-taking noises] pictures. And he was pounced on by four huge guys. The camera was ripped apart and the film was thrown on the ground and stepped on. And the next thing we saw was a Molotov cocktail which we were told later that it was a police informant that had long blonde hair and subsequently one of our friends was indicted for this act ... so the second Molotov cocktail, if you will, that was thrown in caught the building on fire. Went through the window, caught curtains on fire and the wall was on fire. Now we moved from the fire because the firemen came. And then a bunch of people started ripping the hoses apart and the firemen left. And then several state troopers came and tried to guard that. And there were definitely rocks thrown, etc. and they left. And then we moved to the ... where the second building was burning, or was eventually burning, going to burn and that was the tool shed. And it was over by the tennis courts, right at the edge of the Commons by the tennis courts. And I looked back and that building was engulfed. And that building was certainly engulfed in flames. That was maybe a half an hour after that second attempt to burn it. Because I've heard all kinds of reports, "Oh yeah, it was burning by the time we got back around campus." No, that thing was burning before we left. No question about it. And it was up, you could hear shots going off 'cause there were rounds of ammunition in the building as I understand it now. So we could hear shots going off. And now, I just found this out thirty years later, there were bow and arrows in that little shed and one of the guys we knew tried to break in and get the bow and arrows. And so, one of the professors, now this makes sense, one of the professors burned that building. That's what we heard. I just heard this just late yesterday. It makes sense. I don't know who did it. It doesn't matter. But then that's the second fire. Then we went down and took over the Main Street, this Main Street here, from Music and Speech down to the plaque, down to the school seal, on the corner there, where Robin Hood ...
[Jim Vacarella]: Lincoln. Then there was a little shed down by the Library and that was the third building that went up. That building burned as well. And that building was on fire. Now I never went back to see if these three fires were put out or what, until the next day, of course. And about, I would say, maybe two, three hours into it, we had constructed barriers eight, nine, ten feet high. I don't know how all that happened. There were people ripping down the, actually trying to rip down the telephone poles and ripping the streets up with their bare hands. I saw that myself. And then the Guard came in maybe, maybe it was 11 o'clock, hard to say what time it was. Everybody has their own recollection on it. But the Guardsmen came in and they didn't come in to fight. They came in to do their stop and do their bivouac, or whatever. And they were pelted! No question about it! They were pelted with rocks and bottles and knives and whatever anything, anything anybody could throw. No question. And there were half-track tanks, jeeps and big old trucks carrying all kinds of soldiers. And they came and I guess they went to the field, where the practice field, and they set up. And all night long it was a guerilla-kind of warfare. We were up all night long throwing things, harassing the guards. It was interesting, it was interesting. Because look I'm admitting it for the first time that we did this [laughing]. Because years later I got in a lot of trouble for this. But anyway, that night went without any other hitches, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, nobody else that I knew got arrested. I'm sure there were some people. But no one was stabbed. No one was shot. Nothing.
So the next day, the half-track was on the seal over at Lincoln and Main there. It was right on the seal. And we went over and said, "You know, we're not even allowed to step on the seal." As freshmen, you have to get out here with a toothbrush and ... O.K., had to do all that kind of thing. 'Cause I remember that was ... that tradition was still there when I here. And I told the guy, "You know, you have to move off the seal." Because we were, we felt cocky and powerful and we were going to end this war, etc. etc. And we were met by Major Jones. This guy I'll never forget. Major Jones put a pistol right to my face. And there were five other guys right around me. And there were seven or eight of us but they managed to move and they caught me. And he said, "I want your name." I gave him a fake name. And he said, "Thank you." And he left. Now we had heard all that day, that was Sunday, that they were collecting names of all the long-hairs on campus and they were just going to throw everybody out on Monday and that would be the end of the riots. And that's something they should have done. 'Cause that would've ended it! [Laughs] They didn't!
So that night we massed again. Again it was curfew. Curfew was 8 o'clock. Again we massed at 8 o'clock. And this time I think the crowd was swelling in thousands. Don't know exactly ...
[Interviewer]: Are we talking about Sunday night, for sure?
[Jim Vacarella]: Sunday night, Sunday night, the 3rd. And we massed on the Commons again. Several people spoke. Somebody from the SDS. And you could see people in the crowd with cameras and all that. And we walked, we marched around Tri-Towers and came toward the parking lot in Prentice. And at Prentice they were there. They were waiting for us. They had this vee and they caught us in the Prentice parking lot. I think it's Prentice anyway. It's beyond Terrace, it's just up here. I'm not real sure. I just saw the parking lot and there's a lot of trees, a lot of cherry trees now that there weren't then. And the whole parking lot was cordoned off by three, on three sides by the Guardsmen. Down, sort of down the hill, so we didn't see them. By the time all of us got into the parking lot to go to Main Street here, they came and threw tear-gas and we were all gassed. And I was gassed, amazingly gassed! And I ended up in the bushes right out in front here by the President's house. And I ended up laying in the bushes for about two hours, so I missed the next two hours, to clear my head. When I came to, I came out on Main Street, went down the street and three unarmed, un-uniformed men jumped out of the bushes, and with not military guns, they had regular guns from their homes, jumped out and pointed guns right at me, "Don't move." [Jim] "I'm not moving. I am not moving!" Can we swear on this tape? [laughter]
[Interviewer]: Sure. [laughter]
[Jim Vacarella]: So, I said, "I'm not moving." There were three guys, they were definitely not cops, and they were definitely not troopers or Guardsmen. They were people, they were just ...
[Interviewer]: Townspeople are what you saw.
[Jim Vacarella]: Townspeople, yeah. And they said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I was at Music and Speech. I'm a piano major. I was just playing my piano. I heard all this commotion. Look, there's nobody around me." And there wasn't. And they said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "Right there. My dorm is right there." I was pointing towards Moulton Hall. And they said, "Get!" So I ran about thirty feet and I turned around and said, "Fuck you pigs!" And they went down to shoot me. They went down on their knees. And I jumped in the bushes and ran. And I remember seeing three other friends and I said, "Hey, hey, it's me." And we ran by the Music and Speech Building and from ... there used to be an old road that came, well maybe it's still there, the road that came from the plant, the physical plant or what we called the Student Union then ... and it came down and it came around the Music and Speech Building, or the Education Building, I'm sorry, in between Terrace and Education Building, came down there and there was a fire truck. And we saw it and we were running. We were absolutely running. And the truck came and blocked our exit. And again, out of this truck, came civilians. And they all had shotguns and guns that are home guns, not military rifles, and said, "Don't move!" Of course, we didn't stop and we kept moving. We didn't think anybody was going to shoot. And they didn't. They kept moving. They kept driving on. We went on.
Then that night was ... when I finally found the group, they were sitting on the road, blocking the road in Lincoln. Whenever time that was, they were there. The whole group was there. I had a roommate and he kept saying, "Sit in the street." And I said, "No way. There's something real bad about this, it feels real bad." And then maybe ten minutes after I said that, I was standing on the sidewalk, I heard this [makes stomping noises]. And it was boots. Hundreds of Guardsmen in a flying vee. And they came right in, charged right in to the crowd without any warning whatsoever. And that's where people were stabbed. That's where people were bayonetted. And you know, I mean there were several bad wounds that I understand but not any serious, not any deaths. Then there was real war. Then it became a real fight. And it became Guardsmen against students. And we actually did a real fight. We had a real fight with rocks, all we had were rocks and maybe plates from the dining hall and so on. But it was a real fight all night long. The rest of that night we were really pissed. And everybody was really pissed. And word went around the whole campus that school's going to close tomorrow. We are going to close this school. No matter what. Nobody's going to be thrown out. Not Howie Emmer or all those guys that went before, the last year. Or the people that were really arrested. There were some people that were arrested that weekend. And they were throwing these people out. They were arrested and not going to come back and cause trouble. Or anybody that was outside agitators that was coming in, because there were plenty of outside agitators. And this is well-known. Bernardine Dohrn was here. They stayed at the old "Psycho" house. Mark Rudd. These are national figures. They had come through here and mobilized the SDS in this area. And then Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. We partied with these guys. We know they came through here and organized. I mean, it was very loose but it was organization.
[Interviewer]: But not that weekend of May 4th?
[Jim Vacarella]: No, no, they were here ... no, no, they were here the year before.
[Interviewer]: That's right.
[Jim Vacarella]: Right. And those people had already been on the lam because they had been involved in bombings and so on. But the people that were outside agitators were perhaps people coming from Columbia or wherever, going on their way to Berkeley. It was, it was minimal. I think it was minimal. It was just the frustration with the fact that we were, here we were, we trusted the President. First it was Kennedy, then Johnson and then Nixon -- we never trusted, never voted for him. And here he just turned it around and just did all the ... did the lottery and widened the war, etc., etc. And so everyone faced that Vietnam ... that fear of going to Vietnam. That was, that was like the fear, the same fear, if you went to a doctor and the doctor said, "You have cancer." It was that same choking fear that we had. And there were only the men had. Because they were the only ones that were going. And they were only taking the 18, 19, 20 year olds. They weren't taking 30 year olds. They weren't taking 15 year olds. It was us! And without any counselling, without any kind of softening of the blow. They just said, "If you're 1A, you're gone! If you're this ...". You know, it was that tough thing from World War II. We still have that post-war baby-thing. Yeah, yeah! Have to be tough! Have to be macho! Men are still macho! Bull, that's bull!
O.K. so ... so, that night we knew. We just knew that this school's going to close ...
[Interviewer]: Now when you say you ...
[Jim Vacarella]: We knew it was a rumor ....
[Interviewer]: The rumor that it would close. I'm just trying to verificate ...
[Jim Vacarella]: On Monday.
[Interviewer]: No one knew who would close it?
[Jim Vacarella]: No, we didn't know how ...
[Interviewer]: Just knew it would be closed?
[Jim Vacarella]: We just knew that we were going to close the school. We didn't know how, we didn't know when. But we knew that it couldn't go on like this. It was getting increasingly violent, increasingly violent. We didn't know what was going ... what was coming next. But we knew that it would close. So, the rumor ... cause I've heard other rumors from Alan Canfora and I've heard other things on tapes, and through the years. And mainly that was our, our rumor: We're going to close this school ...
[Interviewer]: That the students would close ...
[Jim Vacarella]: We were going to close this school! So Monday started with that feeling. And we saw many people from outside of the campus come to our dorm, 'cause Moulton was an open dorm. It wasn't like Tri-Towers, or the others, where you had to sign in, you had to go through a gate. You could come up the sides. Which now it's closed and it's a technological center. But you had side entrances so you didn't have to come in the front door. And there were people with, you know ... [tape ends].
[Jim Vacarella]: This is Jim Vacarella continuing on tape number 2.
So that night, oh sorry, that was morning of the 4th with the ... I was mentioning how we had our anti-gas mask thing. And it was a rag, a cotton t-shirt, and it was dipped in vinegar and we broke carrots and wiped carrots. Now this is what we were told would work against gas. But we never got a chance to use it. I mean, they just gassed us before we ever got these rags to our faces. And they smelled pretty bad. Anyway, and there were some people like I said had some kind of weapons. They had rocks or knives. And knives meaning a butter knife. The majority of them did not have anything. And even the person that I saw, that I remember now, 'cause we were in a room smoking joints, and there were whole bunches of us. There must have been 50 people in my room. And they were preparing by smoking pot. It was pretty interesting. That was very interesting. Now looking back 30 years, that was very interesting getting a downer drug and then going out there to fight an upper war. It was just pretty weird. I mean but that was the culture. The culture in the '60's was pot and acid and so on. At any rate, that morning, I had a feeling that something was really wrong. And my roommate had a feeling. He is not here. He has never been back. He's from Ohio and he's never been back here. This has been very traumatic for him. And we tried to get him here, he was our roommate. The guy that you just interviewed. And said to me at the end, when everybody started to move out and to go to the Commons, he said, "Wait, let's wait." [Jim]: "Wait for what? What are we going to wait for?" and "Ron, we gotta go, we have to go, we can't wait here." [Ron]: "No, no, no. We have to wait." And so, to this day, we both say this. Now there's only two of us so it's not going to be a big story. But he rolled a joint. And he said, "Now we have to roll these two joints and smoke them before we go out there." [Jim]: "No, no, no. We're going to miss this whole thing." [Ron]: "Yes, yes. Let's do it. Let's do it." So we did it, and then we finally went out.
And by the time we got to the Circle, the mass of students was around. The guardsmen were gone from the front of the ROTC Building. There were still guardsmen around it but the contingent was gone. So we didn't know what was happening. But there was this loose contingent in front of the ROTC Building, or near the ROTC Building, that we broke through. And we went right to the victory bell. And there was only two of us. And we thought, "Wow, nobody's here and it's just too early. What's going on." So Ron rang the bell [makes bell chiming noises] and there was one other guy with a black coat. One young guy with a black coat. And here comes Major Jones in his truck with five guys and they had M78 grenade launchers, the teargas launchers. And they told us, "It was marshal law, that this is illegal gathering, you're under arrest." Blah, blah, blah. And of course, we did all our slogans: Up yours! We're not going to the war! Blah, blah, blah. And there were a bunch of guardsmen where there is now this monument up on Taylor hill, to the left of Taylor hill, if you're looking at Taylor hill from the Commons. And there's a monument up there and there were guardsmen all up there and behind them were students. There were guardsmen over by ... is that Satterfield, or over on the right of Taylor? I can't remember those dorms over there but there were guardsmen there and there were students and there was no Art Building where that Art Building is and there were lots of guardsmen and students there as well. Plus ringing the Commons. So it looked like an arena. Like we were in an arena football or something. And we got into the middle, he's ringing the bell, Major Jones comes out with his five men and told us these things. And he pushes, he pushed the two of us up the hill toward this guy who was just standing there and then they focused their attention on him. We went up the hill to the Guardsmen and started to shout at them. And we watched this little scene where the five guys got out of the truck, out of the jeep, told him to move, two guys went down on their knees, shot the teargas, missed him, both missed him, and went behind him. The teargas floated away and then they took their billy clubs out, or whatever, their swagger sticks, and raced and started to beat him. And we went to his aid. And we started throwing things at them to go to his aid. And they sent this little group down at us and we were pushed to the ... all right I'm going to look at Taylor Hall from the physical plant, from the Student Union, so I'm going to call it, they came from the left, they pushed us to the right and they trapped us. We were trapped between this little group, I don't remember how many guys, and the group that was coming up the hill. And when they reached the Pagoda, this is all that we saw, we were trapped there. I have pictures of, there are two of us there in the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. We were in this photo. And they turned and fired down. And we heard the volley, and they were right there in front of us but we heard the volley going the other way, the opposite direction. And then they turned and came in front of us. And this group that was behind us stopped. We stopped. No one was moving. And no one has said this. But no one, no one was moving except for these how ever many guys there were -- 80, 90 guys, 70 guys, whatever that was in that group that fired. However many people were moving, they were the only people moving, none of the students. I looked around and it was as if time had stopped. Totally time had stopped. Now, subsequently, I've figured out what it was. And so I say it just blatantly because I just tell people this. It doesn't really matter if they believe it or not. When people die violently, a veil is rent. And whether it's a gun or whether it's an accident, or whatever, you're thrust into the next plane, you're thrust into the next world. And anyone who's sensitive, or anyone who's tuned into the event feels this rush of this door opening, this gate. We call it a veil now, an esoteric parlance, it's called a veil. And a veil is rent. And any kind of evil thoughts, or what have you, that are there from humanity's beginning, from inception on this planet, are available on this record. And if depending on how sensitive you are, you hear it, or you feel it, or you see it. And that's all that was going on there. Those guardsmen came down and they moved past us, right past us, we were within ten feet, I could've touched one of them. They walked right past us [makes stomping noises], and the guardsmen behind us did not move. Everyone was frozen. And then I heard, errrrrrrrr, like nashing of teeth, a demon-kind of thing. Something that I would imagine when, because the veil is really a veil that protects the physical plane from the astro planes because of people's inexperience with life after death, etc. So we're protected. This is what I know now. We're protected from having that information because it would drive a lot of, a lot more people nuts. And after that close which was just momentarily, then the ambulances started. That was the first noise anybody heard was the ambulance. So it was as if it was a planned event. To us, it was a planned event. Here they went. They already, I didn't know this, that they already went down to shoot once when they were in the practice field. And they went down, they did shoot at the Pagoda. I didn't know that. But why were the ambulances there? I mean, how come there were four ambulances right there? I mean, nobody ever hits that! Why were those things right there? What were they expecting? O.K. They were right there. And they came right on the field and picked up Allison and Jeffrey because ... now, Jeffrey's body ... let me back up, when the guardsmen passed we went over the field and we came to Lewis and Clancy or Cleary, I can't remember, those two ...
[Interviewer]: John Cleary.
[Jim Vacarella]: Yeah, Cleary. We helped put them on the ambulance and we went down and saw the rest of this mayhem. And the body of Jeff Miller was laying there for some time. And then finally the ambulance came up and they turned him over and he was dead. There was no question, he was dead. The others were not dead. Those others that I was near were not dead. And then someone dipped a Vietnamese flag, now I paid for this, that guy doing that, for years the FBI chased me for that act. And they thought it was me. He dipped the flag in the blood and jumped on it. He jumped on the blood and he was photographed jumping on the blood!
O.K. So now we cleaned up and we went over the hill and sat, several hundred of us sat, in front where ten, twenty guys stripped to the waist, put X's on their chests and on their backs and on their foreheads and they were going to go down and battle the guardsmen. And whoever died was going to die. Everybody was gone. It was freakville! There wasn't any rational thought now. Now it was a full-fledged riot and people were ready to die now. Even though they didn't know what was happening because ... and I attribute that to opening the veil and allowing people to see what that other side is so that fear disappears. Now the fear disappeared. So they're actually going confront people with guns with nothing. And the savior of the day was Dr. Glenn Frank! Not a question about it. And that guy, Steven, Steven, he was a ... he had an armband on. Steven [Sharoff] was a graduate assistant. He was there all the time. He had a mustache and long side-burns. I see his picture all over the place but I don't know his name. But without a doubt, Dr. Frank convinced us to get up and leave. There's no question that he did that. And I just read an article where it says that his son is carrying on the legacy. And that's great because I really always wanted to give that guy credit because he definitely saved our lives. No question about it! And he convinced us to get out because it was pretty traumatic. We were really pissed! But didn't know what to do with that anger. We didn't have anything, anywhere to put that anger. And there wasn't anybody in those days to counsel anybody. Now guys coming from Vietnam, nobody counselled them. So they became murderers and stupid and killed themselves in cars and drug addicts and 78% of all the homeless men on the streets are Vietnam veterans. This is a shame, a travesty! And this is because we had no counselors. We had no one that wanted to help. You're a man! Take it like a man! That thing from World War II. That's crap. That doesn't work anymore. That may have worked in World War II and I don't believe it did. Those guys just swallowed it and became neurotic in their own selves. And I don't believe that they saw that holocaust and just could exist day on day without any therapy. That's not possible. That's post-traumatic stress disorder. We have names for it now. And nobody came out of the woodwork to help us. Nobody.
So when we came down the field, my next recollection was I was coming down the field and I encountered this whole big group of people. And they were students. They were just wondering. The girls came and asked us. The guys were pissed. The girls came and asked us, "What happened?" [Jim] "This is what happened, people died there!" And I had this rag, I had blood on it. And this big guy came out, big jock, and said, "It should have been you, hippie! You should have died!" And I looked at this guy and I looked at the guy I was with and I said, "I can't take any more trauma today. I'm leaving. I'm going home. I'm not going to fight you and I'm not going to fight your friends. I can't take anymore trauma today. I just can't." And we left.
And when we got to our dorm, we were told that Nixon himself closed our campus. I thought it was 5:00, Julio told me it was 3:00. I don't remember exactly. But I do know that I made no plans. That I was stunned, that all of us were really stunned. People that were hurt by it, that were really torn up, were just gone. And they were never, never came back to Kent! Never mentioned they came back to Kent! Never even mentioned they went to Kent State! Never! They were so appalled by what happened. The ones that were pissed, the ones like myself, the people that I knew, they were just, "Let's get out of here before we get killed." And then I went to off-campus to one of the professor's houses and I stayed until my father could get through two days later. It was two days before I got off the, wherever that is, there's a big huge off-campus thing out in the back, I don't remember anymore. And it was, of course, FBI-controlled. The whole city was controlled for months, I suppose.
And then we came back in the fall. Well let me continue, that was May 6th. May 10th, two FBI agents showed up at my house and said I was identified throwing rocks, participating in a rally. And they said that I could have a lawyer if I wanted and if I didn't want then I could do this interview. My father said I should have a lawyer. I said, "I have nothing to hide." And all they wanted, they were just local FBI, from Niagara Falls, New York, they were from Buffalo, they just wanted, they were told to come and see me and find out if I knew any names. And I gave them all these nicknames. I never gave anybody's name. And five days later, the 15th of May, I got my first draft notice. And it says, "Greetings from the President of the United States. You are hereby inducted, hereby ordered to report for induction." O.K. That induction notice I took to my local draft board. My father grew up with the guy. He, as we all know they used to do, fixed it for two months. Two months later, I received my second draft notice. I burned that. I burned my card. I turned them into marijuana joints, huge marijuana joints with a bunch of other protestors. Believe me, I got in so much trouble for this. It was incredible. And they thought I was the one who dipped the flag in blood and they said, "You've got sideburns." I said, "I can't grow sideburns." Even to this day, I'm 50 years old, I can't grow sideburns. It's just my, I don't have hair here. I mean, it just didn't, and I said, "I can't grow sideburns." And he said, "Well, look it, here's the photo and this looks like you." And I said, "My hair's not even that long. Look. Look at my hair." [FBI] "You could've cut your hair. [Jim] "O.K., but I don't have sideburns. And I didn't do this." And they're saying, "Well, we think it's you. We can't be sure. We're going to analyze it." And I said it again, "I can't grow sideburns. I don't know how you're going to think this is me." And he said, "Oh yeah, you're just like a [tape ends]...".
[Jim Vacarella]: So when I received ... so that whole thing behind me, I went and I received my second draft notice, in, school started I think it was the 28th of September, if I'm not mistaken in those days. We were on quarters. I don't know about now. And I believe it was somewhere around the end of September that we started. My birthday is on the 5th so I know that I had weeks after the 5th that the school started, that first quarter. And I was enrolled again. And I received that second draft notice. We burned it like I said. We, lots of us burned it! We went to Washington, we marched on Washington. I marched any place I could. I attended every rally I could. I thought it was open warfare. And we really did. We bought guns. We didn't know what was next, no one knew what was next. I shot that gun at a tree and blew my ear out. I'm a drummer, I'm a life-long drummer, I've been a drummer for 35 years, and I blew my ear out. Drums did not blow my ear out, not the amplifiers, that gun blew my ear out. I never shot it again. I fired twice and I gave it away. I said, "Whoa, this is horrible. Whoa." I mean you know some people could really be into the power of it but it was really appalling. Anyway, the second draft notice I ignored obviously.
The third one came in December to me to report in January. And I left for California. And I was on the lam for the next three years. And I wasn't on the lam where I was hiding but I just didn't have, I didn't rent an apartment under my name, I didn't have a phone under my name. So I just was sort of incognito, I thought I was anyway. And the FBI came to my house a second time, but I wasn't there, I was gone. And they saw my father, my father recognized them and he said, "Come in, what can we do for you?" [FBI]: "Well, your son has left, he's received three draft notices. Hasn't reported either, not even one of the three. The first one had said that it was taken care of by the draft board, but that's number three, number three. Now this is a federal offense." And he said, "Well, I'm not real sure where he is." And they said, "Well, we know where he is, we know exactly where he is." So the next time I called my father, he says, "They know where you are!"
So then I started to move. I was on the move again. And I came back and joined a rock-n-roll band in 1971, '72, and we were going to record with Apple Records and didn't hear a thing and we were really on the move. This band and I were on the move. And in the fall of 1973 Nixon was resigning, it was, all Watergate was broken loose. So it was plain that he was going to be impeached or he was going to resign. And we had magazines that were called the Dragon Kent, Dragon Fire. Very few people know this. And on the cover of the Kent Dragon Fire, it was a yippie magazine, was a picture of Nixon with a fist in his face! You couldn't see his face and it said, "Would you buy a used care from this man? Impeach him!" I'll never forget that. I mean it was just the funniest thing to us. And it had a fist right in his face signifying let's punch him. So Nixon's troubles were his own now and he was really in his own troubles.
And, in the paper, in the Buffalo Evening News, was my name, federal indictment. 125,000 men around the country were indicted for refusing to be drafted in the United States Army. And my name was in there. And so I went through a lot of hell for that. And I finally said, "Its got to be a lawyer. I got to do this right now. This really has to be the right way." Went with a lawyer, went down. Nixon resigned. Ford came in. He gave us a partial amnesty. Partial amnesty included two years. You had two years of one of your three choices: the Army, CO work (conscientious objector), jail. Make your pick, you're at the federal court in Buffalo, make your pick. You stand up with your lawyer. Which one do you want? We stood up and we said, "We'll take the Army." Boom! Five days later, I got my fourth draft notice, my fourth order, draft order. And the day before I went in, just to see, I'm not going in the Army now, of course, after the Kent State shootings. There's no possible way I'm going to do this now. And I went in there and they said you know, "What are you doing here?" [Jim]: "Well, nothing." And this guy said, I won't mention his name, but boy he saved me, and he said, "Come back tomorrow, you come and see me." So I did. He failed me on all, every single test. He said, "We want no one in the Army who doesn't want to be here anymore. That's over with. The draft is over. Since the lottery the draft was over. And we don't want anybody who doesn't want to be in." And the Army did not buy that. They didn't buy the fact, they figured I could buy this doctor or something. So they sent me to a shrink. And I lasted ten minutes with this guy. And at the end of the interview he said, "What's your future like?" I said, "Drugs and alcohol. What do you think our future's like? Who's out there helping us? Who? Who's out there telling those Vietnam vets that it was O.K. that they went in the jungle and killed babies? And then now they're back in the street in Kent, Ohio and they can't function. All they can hear are these little screams from a little baby. Who's helping them?"
And I took up real amazing causes from then on. For the next 27 years, I took up environmental causes, esoteric causes, meditation causes, causes for peace, working with Ghandi's Foundation, etc., etc., etc.
So, getting back to May 4th. I place the entire blame, absolutely 100% on President Nixon! Because had he done it correctly and been advised correctly, could have adverted every one of the schools, 1200 colleges across the country, some burning, some being killed at Jackson State, other kids getting killed, Berkeley, campuses burning, the Weathermen blowing up University of Missouri, wherever. He could've ended that by just saying, "We've expanded the war to end the war. And this is what's going to happen." And somehow soften the blow. They could have had spins, doctors somehow spin it easier. And not told us, like the World War II veterans that they were, "You're goin' in the service if you're 1A!" Cause that just pissed everybody off. Every one of us just were pissed off.
And the second blame goes to Rhodes for allowing fixed bayonets and ammunition, live ammunition. Now people say, "It's not him, it was Canterbury, it was this guy, it was that guy, Del Corso." Whatever. All these people have responsibilities. And within the last 30 years, we have seen this country go from somewhat, people somewhat accepting responsibility to no one accepting responsibility! So if you don't recycle, we don't give a shit about the environment. It doesn't matter. What's one more bottle? What's one more SUV? What's one more murder? What's one more black kid getting killed? Or whatever. And so our social responsibility has gone into the toilet. And we have a president that's a lawyer and he lies and everybody's "Wow, this guy's, he's cheated our presidency." Wait a minute. Did everybody forget Nixon? When Nixon died seven, eight years ago, whenever it was, everybody said, "What a great man." This is the guy who bombed Hanoi with more tonnage in one day than they bombed in the whole of World War II! And he expanded the war! Millions of people were killed from this war! Millions! Not just our people, and it was only 58,000 of our people. But there's 1.2 million of those people were killed! Plus the Cambodians, etc. etc.
So, what do we have now? We have a future, or a new millenium, supposedly, and we have this future to look back. We have this past that's painful and we have this future that could be bright. So, my job now, and this is the only job I have, is to make sure that that future is bright, that optimism prevails! Because that was painful, hateful, scornful! And it was so traumatic for us that it was amazing that I could talk to someone 30 years later and they would not come back to this campus because they couldn't face looking at that Commons and those dead girls! And they couldn't do it! They just couldn't do it! So, myself personally, this is my trip. I went to India. I went to Africa. I went to Asia. India was my last trip. I meditated in the mountains. I sought gurus. And my whole existence now is about helping people through the veil because I know it exists. And when I'm at, I'm present at people's deaths. I do that purposely, purposefully. And I sit at their beds and whisper it, the instructions, how to get through the veil. Because everybody dies. No one escapes that one. No one. And we have no counselors, we have no philosophers, we have nobody on this side in America telling us, "Wow, it's not just about when you're 20-30 or 20-45, your youth. It's about living, getting older. And when you're older, supposedly, having wisdom." We don't venerate young people, we don't venerate kids, we don't venerate old people. We have a society that's based on youth culture and it is a muck!
So the goal is positive, spiralling motion. Forward, forward, forward. No hate, no blame. Except for the blame where it's gotta be. But those people need to really come out and claim their responsibility. Rhodes still doesn't claim responsibility. That's O.K. I'm not going to hold him accountable. I hold all of us accountable because we're responsible for everything we do.
[Interviewer]: Thank you very [much].