Special Collections and Archives
Ronald Sterlekar, Oral History
Special Collections and Archives
Ronald Sterlekar, Oral History
Ronald Sterlekar, Oral History
Recorded: October 12, 2007
Interviewed and transcribed by Craig Simpson
[Interviewer]: Good morning, my name is Craig Simpson. The date is October 12, 2007. We are having a May 4 oral history interview today, and could you please state your name?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Ronald Sterlekar.
[Interviewer]: Where were you born?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: East Cleveland.
[Interviewer]: When did you attend Kent State?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: From '66 to '70. Got drafted, and then came back afterwards to do my master's in the early/mid-70s.
[Interviewer]: What was your major?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Graphics.
[Interviewer]: Graphics. Okay. And that's what you got your master's degree in as well?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: No, I fell fifteen hours short [laughs]. I had a falling out with my--the director, so, fifteen hours short of the degree. So, anyways-- [laughs].
[Interviewer]: And you were drafted into Vietnam?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Well, at that time, it was interesting, because they kept college guys--probably they needed them. I wound up in a missile--firing missiles. So if you had a college degree they instantly pulled you out, and you were sectioned off for other-type work. They did not want you to be a grunt. But, and that was in '71, so right after they had given me one extra quarter to finish school. I was a quarter short of school because of the shootings.
[Interviewer]: What made you decide to come to Kent State?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: It was inexpensive. [laughs] And, uh--
[Interviewer]: That's always a good reason.
[Ronald Sterlekar]: It was great. The other schools were so expensive at the time. Just wanted to get the degree under my belt.
[Interviewer]: You just said this before the interview but if you could state it again, what was the Mobobrious PIT?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: The Mobobrious PIT was a group that--it started in Manchester Hall our freshman year. There were about ten of us guys. And how the name came about took a while. Somebody actually had to visit the library to get a medical term, and it has to do with brain injury--"mobobrious"--and it was perfect for us. But because we couldn't afford to be a fraternity at the time, so we formed our own, and it started off as the May Cong Delts [?], which had to do with Vietnam, of course--so it was Mu Kappa whatever. But everybody knew us as the Mobobrious PIT, and then it later on became known as the PIT, and was run on for six years. Finally ended up with 99 females and males from the campus, and a number of them, basically people who were pretty creative, who were pretty well known on campus. But we had code names, so you never--to this day they still use our code names. So it's like--it was an interesting group of characters. Sanctioned the following year as a spirit organization.
We did a number of things, actually really did back the sports on the campus. But we had a lot of marketing pros in the group, and we actually marketed a number of campus and homecoming queens that we would--and had a lot of victories. And then we ran--just for sport because we were so good--we ran two guys for campus presidents, and under fictitious names: one was a thug, and one was like Captain America. But they were entertainers, they were also--in fact they're coming in tonight for the, we're having a party downtown, and they're actually--so we haven't seen these guys in 35 years. But they were terrific. Every night we would take them to a different dorm and they'd pull out their guitars then and have everybody singing along. Their own music. So we were running them for camp--uh, for president, and actually the PIT was running a guy we had put under the name T.P. Waterhouse for president in May of 1970. In fact, that weekend we were to have a motorcycle parade through the campus for him with 100 choppers. So we did these a big--and then we pulled a lot of stunts on campus. Got in a lot of trouble, lot of trouble. We had to bail guys out of police stations a number of times. We even had the FBI looking at us. We pulled some major stunts on the campus that everybody knew we were responsible for but they couldn't pin it on us. But they were pretty scary stuff.
[Interviewer]: Was the PIT politically active?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: No, not at all. Not at all. It was very diverse, and the people that were in it from one end of the spectrum to the other. So, no, we never--it was never anything like that. We even participated--there was a mock GOP convention at the campus, and we even participated in that. And--right down to having probably a couple of the SDS members on board. But it was a different type of organization.
[Interviewer]: So these pranks were just for the sake of being subversive, not to necessarily make any kind of a statement?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Well, they were--well, sometimes they were to get even. If there was somebody on campus that was getting away with something they shouldn't have been getting away with, we were like the instigators to make sure it was "taken care of." It was almost like an internal mafia really, to, you know, kidnapping if it needed to be done. And actually right outside where the library sits today--it was fraudulent, but it was captured on television--we had a "gangster murder" out there in broad daylight in front of a class change. But it wasn't real. The police didn't think so, because there was blood on the ground. It was well-staged. [laughs] There were shotguns! Oh, we were idiots. And then if it got down to toilet-papering a fraternity house--you know what I mean?--that we needed to get back at. So, stuff like that. But people were pretty upset about us because of the number--whoever we would back as Campus Day or Homecoming Queen was almost automatic. They'd win it. A number of marketeers, and as myself, own ad agencies today. So--
[Interviewer]: How would you describe Kent State prior to the events of 1970?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Pretty, uh, normal. I'm missing the word here, but not very involved. Kind of detached from the rest of the world. Happy. Everyone was happy to be here. A community unto itself. It was like a satellite. It was just, the world was out there and we were over here. So it was pretty neutral.
[Interviewer]: Take us through your memories of the events of May 4, 1970, and you can start wherever you like, if you want to start earlier that weekend, or [unintelligible]--
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah, unfortunately, we actually had a part of this. And it was for fun, here we were running a guy for another--last year we had taken second place on the campus with a fictitious character named D'Angelo LaTreico [sp?]. A thug. Or you thought he was a thug. He was a straight-A student and he was brilliant, but the guys behind him were in fact thugs. Leather jackets. And we'd march him around the dorms every night to prac--to do his speech and pull out his guitar and he'd do his thing. So the following year we did exactly the same guys, just put motorcycle colors on them, and we had this guy who was a writer for the Stater named T.P. Waterhouse, and we were running him for president. And, we had taken--I'll do this short and then I'll get back to the overall scene--but we were, and as I had said we were going to this parade on the campus. We always had a massive parade, police escort and everything, the day before the election--the weekend before the election--to go through the campus and by all the dormitories. And so we had this year T.P. Waterhouse with all these choppers. But we needed more, we needed a hundred, so we invited in two motorcycle groups, one from Youngstown, one from Akron.
Well, on Friday night, May 1st, we were down at the--we were going from bar to bar, and everybody knew T.P. He had this costume on, dressed like Captain America, with a cape. And we had motorcycle colors on and we were going from bar to bar, because we were getting free beer. And the crowd would cheer, "T.P. Waterhouse for President!" All of a sudden the bar got shut down at midnight, and they say, "Everyone out." And we went out into the street and what we saw immediately were two of the motorcycle gangs that we had called in that were beating on each other, right outside the Rathskeller [sp?], which is now burned down, right across from The Loft. And immediately the campus was shut down, we couldn't get back onto the campus. We all jumped into my car. So, immed--you know, it was just--but, at that time, the SDS, there was a bonfire in the middle of downtown Kent, and they were breaking windows too, so there was a lot of confusion there. But even James A. Michener, in his book that came out later--and he spoke at my graduation--said that everybody was wondering why the two motorcycle groups were in town. That was because of us. So, it was just a coincidence at the time. So, that immediately, that was like something, you were kind of--this was a fun thing but it turned into this.
But anyway, then you--I lived in Stopher Hall and you could watch out the window, we watched--the ROTC Building was right outside our window, and we watched that burn down, as members of the Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] were out there chopping holes in the firehoses, right outside our window. We were amazed.
[Interviewer]: You saw them do that?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah. And I was actually in ROTC the first year here, so I was really amazed. Even one step farther, ROTC actually sent me to Houston--that was my first introduction to Houston--in 1966. Kent had its own plane, a C-47, and like ten of us flew to Houston to go visit NASA. So that was my first introduction to Houston, where I've lived for the last 30 years now. And I said, "Wow, this is a place I want to live." And then the next night, which would have been May 3rd, we're watching out our windows, and of course they were trying to restrict movement on the campus, and my roommates still recall--and our room was actually known as the PIT at that time--but helicopters coming right up to the building itself with stoplights. Get inside the windows.
[Interviewer]: Where did you live on campus?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: At Stopher Hall, on the top floor. And then on May 4th, I was just coming across campus, actually I had books in my hands, and I'm standing on the hill. Strangely enough my best friend from Houston--first guy I meet when I get to Houston in '77? '78--was actually a National Guardsman, but a graduate of Kent State. So I'm standing on the hill, and of course the National Guardsmen--because we were warned not to be there, but there's two thousand people here anyway--and so I'm standing there with my books and I walked up to the crest of the hill. As the Guardsmen came from the campus--I was out there for about an hour, just watching the tear gas fly back and forth--and then they marched right through us--and I'm standing there--with bayonets--they marched to this side of the Architecture Building. And I was standing right there and then followed them to the other side of the crest of the hill and just stood there, and of course they went into the practice football field and were surrounded. Well, not surrounded. There were people throwing rocks from a long distance, way out as a matter of fact, and not really hitting anything. But they made a circle in the middle of the practice football field and took a defensive position. So I said, "Well,"--this had gotten boring, and I said--"I'm going back to my room, I've got another class."
So I had just crossed the crest of the hill and then that's when the shootings occurred. And everybody hit the ground. And then we got up, everybody got up laughing, because of course there wouldn't be live ammunition. And all of a sudden there was screaming from the other side of just the hilltop. And a fellow graphics student came up and all of a sudden someone was leaning on my shoulder with both hands. And I forget his name, and I never saw him again after this, but we gone through--we were seniors now, and we had gone through college almost all together, and I'm sorry I just forget his name. [Jim Russell?] And he starts laughing. And I said, "What's wrong?" and there's kind of a small surge at first of people running by. And he said, "Ron, I've been hit." [I said,] "What are you talking about?" He said, "Look." And I looked down and he showed me his thigh, and there was blood coming from his thigh. Not much, it was like a trickle. And then the surge of people kind of almost knocked us over.
And so we ran off with him, ran over to Olsen Hall, I think it was, and I forgot what you called them--the ladies who ran the dorms, actually locked the doors. And we were panicked. There were hundreds--we were kind of running for our lives at that point, because here come the Guardsmen back over the hill, and they were taking off their gas masks, and they were panicked. So something had happened. And then everybody scattered trying to get back into the dorms, and she had locked the door and wouldn't let us in. And somehow we got into Stopher through a doorway and ran back upstairs. And within twenty minutes, I think, the campus was shut down.
[Interviewer]: So your friend was one of the wounded students?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: You know, you're right. It would have to be, because, I just remember that faint--it all happened so fast. I looked down--it was in seconds. Yeah, and just quickly--I mean, he was walking. But I couldn't remember if he was nicked or what, but I looked down and I thought he was kidding. I thought, You're laughing, you're joking. He goes, "Look!" and we looked down and what the heck, it was his left thigh. I don't know if he was nicked or what.
But anyway--but we were just kind of tourists. We were standing up there with our books just watching and go, "Man, I can't believe they're doing this." Define the campus, but then I--you know, the administration--but there I am too, and I'm just between classes. Most people had books in their hands; it was to change classes. I said, "Are they going to really do this or not?" Relatively small group, a group up there just watching. Most people are turning away and starting to go back to their dorms to go eat lunch and go to their next class. I'm sorry, I probably got off the questions there, but that was my recollection.
[Interviewer]: What do you remember after that?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Oh, [of] course that was May. I was desperate. I think I already got my notice that I had been drafted, so I had put in for an extension, but that meant taking courses through the summer. And because the campus was semi-closed, we were meeting off campus to finish courses. But I had to drive down here from Cleveland while trying to work to get enough money to finish your last quarter, which I really almost couldn't do. I was--but I wasn't going to make enough money and I was running down here every night to finish the courses that we hadn't finished. Because now I was panicked, and almost had to take a double-load for the last quarter which now would have been fall of 1970, which I'm not supposed to be here, I'm supposed to be out of here. So, anyway, but I did finish on time. Just barely. And graduated. And as I said, James A. Michener was the guest speaker for our graduation, and he was writing a book at the time on Kent State.
[Interviewer]: When were you drafted again?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Went in, and it was February 3rd, 1971. And so it was a tight window that I was trying to--I'd moved off campus, didn't have anything more to do with the PIT. I had to get serious real quick because my load was so heavy. Lived down at The Townhouse, it was called The Townhouse, down near corner of Main and Water, which is boarded up now. It was a dump. And a bunch of us guys moved down there to--I was only going to be here one more quarter. Wound up waitering at what was JB's back then and got to meet who would later became incredible musicians, known world-wide, that were basically the house bands there, but they were Kent students also. But it was an amazing place to meet some--and at the time they were just one of us. Everybody was one of us.
By the way, I think I saw on my--he was a freshman at the time, but Michael Keaton was actually acting over at the--I actually saw him in a play over at the Music Center. So this place was loaded with talent, and I just--I named, I read off the names to people who were on campus at the time, and I just don't understand why there was just so much creativity at the time here on campus. But people who really made names for themselves, including Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers. Just one of dozens, one or two of dozens.
[Interviewer]: When did you return to Kent State?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: I left Ohio permanently in--I was interviewing in Houston in '77, and then left in '78. Just a couple years ago was the first time back.
[Interviewer]: I'm sorry, I meant after you were drafted. Did you say that you came back for your master's degree?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Oh, yes. Yes. Got out in '73 and then came back, I think I started, it was '74-'75. And I was coming down only at nights, because I was now in advertising and working at ad agencies in Cleveland.
[Interviewer]: Was there anything different about the atmosphere of the campus when you came back?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: A lot more solemn. A little frightened, you know what I mean? People were pretty shaken. It was rough on the students going home from here. Parents just flat out did not understand. And I thought it was just me, but now come to find out it was everyone across the board got treated like outsiders by your own family for having gone here at the time. It was rough. I got thrown out of the house immediately. I was living out of the trunk of my car. Mom threw a mattress in my car to just get me out of the house safely. It was very rough. And I understand that it was even tougher on other kids that wound up going home. You're out of money, you're at the end of the quarter, so you needed to start work. Soon after that my car was stolen. It was a terrible time.
But it's interesting, because after I got out of the service I saved every nickel I could and went backpacking in Europe for three months. And Kent State, differently than in the United States, if you even bring up the fact at the time that you're from Kent, although it's on your resume, so everybody's interested--[they ask,] "Were you there?" and you say, "Yes." People still say that. But all of Europe, of course, knew. The whole world knew. And they wanted to sit down [with] you and talk about it, but from a sympathetic viewpoint rather than antagonistic. You know, What were you kids doing there? Well, I was walking with my books. I didn't have anything to do with this. It just wasn't a place I wanted to be and I had no political aspirations at all to be on either side. I was just monitoring events. Anyway, so it was an interesting kind of dichotomy of things. Later, as you were traveling around the world--which now I've been to fifty countries--everybody knows the place. It was like, Wow, you were there? No one had ever heard of it before, but now you were--so, it's actually, in the long run, I've found that in interviews for jobs along the way it certainly broke the ice immediateley that you had something to talk about, that people everywhere were interested in what was your take on what occurred there.
[Interviewer]: What is your take on what occurred there?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Well, there were two groups at the time, but there was a tough group called The Weathermen on campus. They were a serious group, they were scary. But there was the Students for a Democratic Society who were certainly not afraid to stand up and be counted. A lot of art students in that group. [laughs] So, I was just--I wasn't a part of it, but I watched with interest everything that was being said and going on. The whole Vietnam thing, it was a mess at that time. It was hard to be a student for sure, because you're going to get drafted, and I'm losing friends. In fact, one of my best friends from high school--we walked on to the wrestling team in our freshman year--but he got drafted. He had a tough time with grades and got drafted right out of Kent, and within a year he was shot and killed there. So I'm losing friends, and this is scary at this point. Having arguments with my father--what-are-we-doing-there type things. And these kids weren't afraid to speak out about it, so you have to honor that. They'd get violent at times, and certainly with the riots the four days there, it got rough. And I was amazed that they were kind of taking this thing into their own hands.
When I couldn't get my car back onto the campus--the police, the campus police actually had put up roadblocks at all the entrances, and I had to come in the back way, the back way then was Eastway that you would come in--but one of the back streets to find a place to park your car so you could back to your dorm. You couldn't even get back onto campus from downtown, as they had just kind of boarded up the place. So as the--on May 1st, the night of May 1st, as the crowd kind of came down Main Street heading toward the campus, at first I thought there was a lot of randomness to the whole thing, and later on you find out that maybe it certainly it had been perhaps planned. But just happened to be in the middle of it, there as a joke, just right smack in the middle of it, and actually kind of running for our lives. We're running by the bonfire and you look like you're a part of it. You're certainly dressed like it, because we're out just having a good time going to bar to bar, about ten of us, just for fun, part of our presidential campaign. It was a strange time. And of course it kicked off a lot of other campuses after that.
What made it interesting was, JB's at that time, it was a cellar--it's Fat Jimmy's now, I believe, it's Fat Jimmy's, I think they changed the name again--just on North Water--at that time, after that summer, music was huge at that time. Just huge, the music scene. And that was where, if you were going to protest, that's where you did it, if you were a celebrity and well known. And because JB's had Phil Keaggy and Glass Harp and Joe Walsh and the James Gang, basically their house groups, they attracted a lot of people that today are gods. They're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they've made a gazillion dollars. And they'd just be sitting there coming to see these guys play, because it became a center point. Everybody wanted to make their--it was kind of like a Mecca, you know what I mean? I remember going to, in my last quarter, in fall of 1970, I was dating a girl I think in Tri-Towers, and went to pick her up and Joan Baez, who was a huge folk singer in the 60s, gigantic, she's sitting there on the floor. So I went over and sat with her. She's sitting crosslegged in the lobby with about two other people, so I just went over and joined her. And Crosby, Stills and Nash are down at JB's. And then one night I came in and they said, Well you should have come to work last night, because Neil Young was here. And guys would just stop in and Joe Walsh would hand off his guitar for the next guy to play, and it's like, look who's here! Just enormous names. Just rock gods. What are they doing here? And it's all of a sudden you've got songs being written about the place. But people came by, and the only place to go at that time was JB's. If you were a musician, that was where you wanted to be seen.
[Interviewer]: Were they coming before 1970 or was it more of an after-effect?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah, it was, because I think that Joe and Phil had become legendary guitarists already. And Joe was just a student here. He'd be practicing in the stairwell, and he was doing phenomenal stuff. Crazy stuff. Here on campus, you'd go see him play for a quarter, in the cafeteria, sit on the floor.
[Interviewer]: This is Joe Walsh?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Joe Walsh. And so he already had a name. And there was a rumor on campus at the time that, just before Hendrix died, he did an interview, I think it was with Rolling Stone, and I've never actually read it before, but everyone on campus was talking about it, that Jimi Hendrix had said that Phil Keaggy was the greatest guitarist in the world. Well, they were both from JB's! You can go see them every night if you want. They were phenomenal. So people were already coming to see them anyway. But then after Kent, then everyone wanted to be seen here after the shootings. There were just legendary people showing up left and right, every week, and they'd somehow wander down to JB's every night. They'd be sitting on a bar stool there to just listen to these guys play. And they went on to extensive careers. Joe's in the Eagles today.
[Interviewer]: How do you spell Phil's name?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Keaggy. K-e-a-g-g-y. I'm not--he was really young. And I ran into him in California, oh, fifteen years later. The name of his group is Glass Harp. They just released--this is interesting--they just released their first three albums which they recorded at Electric Ladyland, which was Jimi Hendrix's studios. And they were kids. They were from Youngstown, they were just kids, and they still live in the area. Phil lives in Nashville. In fact, he's doing a concert tonight somewhere in northern Ohio. But he became a Christian artist in the mid-80s, brought rock and roll to Christian rock all by his lonesome. That's why it's rip-roaring today, is because of Phil Keaggy. And he became--he's got a ministry that is basically rock music. He's probably on album number fifty. I mean, I was just, Wow. So these guys were just, you just went and you sat there in awe of what they could do at the time, and then the world caught on. But XM national radio today--they're kind of the darlings now of XM radio. You can't listen throughout the day and not hear the both of them: Joe Walsh, his solo stuff, many times a day; and then you'll hear Glass Harp a couple of times a day. They've just now have caught on that in the late-60s/early-70s these bands were there. They were front runners.
[Interviewer]: Are there any other thoughts about May 4 that you would like to share?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Uh, no, aside from being appalled. You know, at the time, you just couldn't believe this had happened. And so strangely, it shouldn't have happened. People panicked, and there were kids facing kids, and I don't really think that, I don't believe the Guardsmen were provoked, quite frankly. I was dating a girl at the time--and she was the girl in Tri-Towers--and she was like on the 7th or 8th floor watching the events from her window, and said that a bullet missed her, went through the window and missed her by two feet. I can't remember if that's true but I remember she was petrified at the time.
[Interviewer]: I've heard that confirmed by other people, that the bullets traveled--
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah. And she was standing there, and you've got a campus--and she's, goodness gracious, she must be a quarter-mile away or something. So, to just, I mean, it was in all directions. Of course when I last saw them they were in a circle. And I understand it was really hot, you have gas masks on, they probably fogged up, they probably couldn't see, and then what they thought was a shot. There were just a few kids on the perimeter that were throwing rocks that really weren't reaching there, they were bouncing yards in front of them. At least that's what I saw, was the last scene that I saw, and I said, "Well, this is crazy." And there were just people wandering really with their books through the parking lot. And I said, "This is silliness. I'm going back to my dorm." And then for this to happen, then it got nasty. It was like, oh my gosh, because the next thing I know there's the improvised ambulance coming up the hill. I looked out the window and said, "Look at this." And the doctor [professor?], I forgot what his name, taking the microphone down on the--once I got back to my dorm, dropped off my books, I was trying to get a feel for what's going on now. But you were right there, because Johnson Hall and Stopher Hall in all the photographs, those are the two dorms that are right there in the photographs, so you were right there in the midst of the action whether you wanted to be or not. Not a place, if I had to do it again, not a place I'd want to be. I just happened to cross the crest of the hill or I'd have been in the line of fire just seconds before, just ten-fifteen seconds before. I'm heading back to the dorm, and then hit the ground just over on the opposite side of the crest. So, wow. Wow. Outright. Just scary.
But it gave the SDS then a voice at that time, for good reason now. Now you had given them a reason to stand up and scream, and turned this whole thing really into a war protest, although the campus, I would say, over 90 percent of the campus wasn't really involved. You're just going about going to school. And just because they were there on the hill, they were just there to say, Are these guys really going to divide the administration and show up at noon? And they're out there ringing the Victory Bell. So, it was like, Yeah, they are. So this ought to be interesting. And there's just a few hundred. But by the time people just stopped the watch it looks like a big crowd, but really I'm not sure it was an anti-[war] protest crowd. They were just there going, This is interesting. I've never seen this on campus before. But then, certainly, they were going to run with it once they had this in their hands, and of course it ran nationwide then too. You know, "Look what happened at Kent."
[Interviewer]: "They" being SDS?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah. Yeah, they had other groups that were antiwar groups really took this and ran with it then. And, so it--I was there. And I saw what had taken place, but it was kind of a mistake, how it got out of hand. And when you read Michener's book too, it comes through loud and clear, that it was just a number of errors: by administration; by the police downtown; by the police on campus; the National Guard--on and on--the governor. Making small blunders that turned into a terrible thing. So that, or this should have probably have not happened. What else you got there?
[Interviewer]: That's it, Ron. Thank you very much for speaking with me.
[Ronald Sterlekar]: All right. Thank you. [end tape]
[Part II of interview begins]
[Interviewer]: We are continuing with Ron Sterlekar's interview, and you were just talking about some of the aftermath.
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yes. After I was drafted into the army, and of course they sectioned us off and if you had a college degree they were gonna put you in something cool, so I'm firing missiles. And I'm going to go learn how to do this, but you have to have a security clearance. So I'm off in El Paso and I'm almost finished with the courses, and one day the MPs walk in with sub-machine guns and escort me out, take me down to the legal office on the base in El Paso, and I'm informed that, "Well, you were a campus leader at Kent State." And I said yes. They'd say, "Well, you were in National Honor Blue Key [?]" So, I said it was an honor to be a leader at Kent State. And they said, "Well, you were also one of the founders of the Mobobrious PIT." And I go, Oh my gosh, how did these guys know this? [laughs] And not only that, but [they asked], "How was the PIT involved?" And I said, "Well, we weren't involved in the shootings." And I think it came out at that time, because I was really impressed, that something about the motorcycle gangs, that the phone call had been made from our dormitory. Well, I didn't even think the technology at that time even existed, that could be traced back, but actually the phone call had come from our room. It was a guy down the hall but he used our phone, and said, "Hey, I know where to get the motorcycle gangs for the parade for our fake student body president."
Next thing I know, I'm washing, I'm cleaning toilets for the next three months while the FBI is going to all my family, all my friends, and they're all over Ohio. And my letters are cut up [laughs] that I'm receiving in the army, and I'm being really scrutinized because I'm about to get a secret clearnace. And now they're not even sure that I should have been in that school to begin with. But as it turned out, they went through the neighborhood, people were freaking out: Now what did Ron do? Now it's the FBI. Well, they had heard about the the possibility of the FBI checking in on the PIT while we were on campus, but now it's for real. They're at their doors, and it was like, oh no--no, you don't understand, I'm trying to tell the legal guys in the army, as if you're going to tell majors this: No, no, it was a joke! Yeah, some joke.
But actually, in fact, I did get the clearance. They found out it was in fact done in good spirit, that we hadn't done anything wrong. But they were checking me out, and they allowed me to finish the very last class that they had, and I quickly got shipped off to Canada. Of all things. Other guys were running there in order to not be in the draft, but I'm actually sent there to shoot missiles at Russians. So, anyway, that was my little story of the aftermath of being part of the Kent State scene. It was kind of interesting.
[Interviewer]: Were you ever subpoened?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: No, no. They had found out that it was exactly as I told them, that it was a spirit organization. Yes, we had gotten into some trouble through the years, but this had nothing to do with the shootings or the antiwar protest at Kent. Because, boy, they got serious about it real quick, and said, "You cannot be here." That was the wrong time to be from Kent State, where you were actually going to be operating missiles from an advanced base for the protection of the country. But, no, never subpoened. But my family and neighbors and friends--college friends--got frightened, because they said there are FBI agents at our door inquiring about you. It made matters with my dad a whole lot worse. [laughs]
[Interviewer]: You had mentioned in the first part of this interview some of the antagonism that you encountered. Did you encounter a lot of that in the--was it the army you were in, in the armed services?
[Ronald Sterlekar]: Yeah, and had I been in probably infantry or something else, something like that, I would have really gotten nailed by officers or particularly sergeants. But because we were--we were like hands off. We were putting in a dorm that was nothing but college grads, guys with masters, from all over the country, and it was kind of a hands'-off kind of deal. They treated us very well, because they had special plans for the dorm.