Patrick G. Smith, Personal Narrative
Submitted via email, April 22, 2000
I was working at the McDonalds located about 1 mile south of downtown Kent on May 1, 1970. I was 18, and just finishing my freshmen year at KSU. Bill Schroeder had recently quit. While we were not away from work friends, at work we were very friendly. McDonalds closed at 1:00 AM that night, and the closing crew worked till a little past 2:00 AM cleaning. It was while we were out in the parking lot, preparing to leave, that we first heard about the 'riot' downtown. The night crew of the Purple Martin gas station across the street yelled the information to us. I drove my car downtown, but saw no activity or signs of damage (I did not go down N. Water Street). I then proceeded home to my apartment in Tallmadge.
I had the weekend off from McDonalds, so some friends and I drove to the West side of Akron to attend a local AM radio station's appreciation day. (I think it was WHLO.)We returned to my apartment around 7:00 PM, and proceeded to listen to music and discuss events (KSU, Cambodia, exams, etc.) When my best friend and I took our dates home to Stow around 11:00 PM, that was when we heard of the problems on campus. After we dropped off our dates we drove into Kent to see what was going on. We took Main Street from the West side of Kent to the East side of campus observing nothing out of the ordinary. We then took Loop drive over to Summit Street, again observing nothing unusual. The radio had said the city of Kent was under a curfew, but we saw no police anywhere. We drove west on Summit Street back towards town. At the light were Kent State High School was, we discussed turning left onto that street (the name of which escapes me at the moment) or continuing on Summit to Water Street. We elected to continue on Summit. At the intersection of Terrace (I think? Street that winds its way on old campus, past the old (current then) student union and comes out on Main Street) police officers for the City of Kent stepped out of the shadows and stopped our vehicle. We had to exit the vehicle, and after we were searched and our vehicle was searched, we were allowed to inform the police why we their. We lied very well, something about being in Ravenna and taking Summit Street from Ravenna to return home to Tallmadge. They let us ago with a few pithy remarks meant to endear our entire generation to abusive, authoritarian, pigs. Opps, I mean dedicated officers of the law. We proceeded west on Summit to Franklin, and turned south on Franklin. At Cherry Street, we decided to go to the intersection of interstate 76 and route 43 to locate some food. To do that, we decided to take the shortcut of using the Clarkins store driveway, which had an exit onto Water Street (Rt. 43) and a back street connection to Franklin. The only problem with that shortcut, was the two speed bumps in the Clarkins parking lot beside the store. After we crossed the first speed bump. And before we reached the second one, a squad of National Guard stepped out in front, beside, and behind us with their rifles leveled on us. We stopped! We had made the mistake of trying to drive into their rally point. They had us turn around, and we went home having had more than enough excitement for one night.
I spent the day at my apartment studying and goofing off. Late that night I heard about the trouble on campus that evening. Nowhere was hearing an answer to my question, of would classes be held on Monday. I finally got in my car and drove down Cherry Street (NE Avenue in Tallmadge) into Kent. At the intersection of Cherry and Water I encountered a National Guard Roadblock. They did not know if classes would be held, but they know that I was violating the curfew. So I went home and to bed.
I was in class in the Biology building when the shootings occurred, or I had just left class. I first heard about the shootings outside the building. I went to my car and drove to the McDonalds on Water Street. While at the McDonalds, I listened to the Manager's CB radio which was picking up guard radio transmissions. The guard was terrified it appeared from listening to these. They expected retaliation. ( There has been many a day since, that I wished we had retaliated. Four unarmed students were murdered that day and they have still not received justice. My son is now a member of the Ohio National guard and I have received much input on the shootings from the guard perspective due to that) The city was in mass confusion. The telephone system had failed, police and guard were working at cross purposes, the press was reporting rumors instead of fact, etc. The store was closed and I made my way to my parents home in Stow. I knew my mother would be worried, since I, my older Vietnam veteran brother, and father were all on campus.
A few days later, May 6 or 7, I picked up my girlfriend at her home in Stow. She was not ready, so I waited for her in her parents living room. Her father came out and asked if I had been on campus Monday. When I answered "yes," he made a remark which still scars me to this day. He said, " Then you should have been killed with the others!" 15 to 20 thousand enrolled students were on campus that day, and we all should have been killed! Talk about a generation gap!
I finished spring quarter via mail. I agree with everyone else that the faculty did a fantastic job locating, coordinating, and teaching the displaced KSU students.
I withdrew from KSU the winter quarter of 1970. I eventually received a BA from Hiram in 1985. In 1985, I returned to KSU to study for my Masters. I received an MBA in 1987.