A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Think Global, Donate Local

Have you seen those heartbreaking commercials for the ASPCA (short for American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals) featuring pictures of abandoned cats and dogs as Sarah McLachlan sings "In The Arms of An Angel?" Makes you want to whip out that checkbook and send them a donation, doesn't it?
Well, go ahead. It's a very worthy organization. But if you think any of that money is going to filter down to local animals, think again.
That's because the ASPCA, despite the "American" in its title, is simply the New York society. It gets to put "American" before the name because it was the first SPCA in the country. It is not – repeat, not – an umbrella organization for SPCAs all over the country, including the East Bay SPCA.
If you send the ASPCA a donation you'll be helping some very deserving cats and dogs in New York. But if you want your dough to go to animals closer to home, you'll have to contribute to a local organization.
Same for the HSUS, the Humane Society Of The United States. It's a lobbying organization in Washington. DC, that operates no shelters of its own. And it has no – repeat, no – connection to humane societies across the country that do operate shelters, such as the Berkeley Humane Society. Again, if you want your money to do some good here, you'll have to contribute directly to a local organization.
So what's the difference between an SPCA and a humane society? Answer: nothing. They're both private adoption agencies for homeless cats and dogs that cooperate closely with their respective city shelters.
They are supplemented by local rescue groups, such as Island Cat Resources & Adoption, Fix Our Ferals, Hopalong, Muttville, Home At Last, Furry Friends Rescue, Community Concerned For Cats, Rocket Dog Rescue, San Francisco Bay Area Dog Rescue, and Adopt A Dog, as well as breed-specific dog and cat rescue groups. These organizations deserve our support, too.
                                          * * *
 Finally, a fond farewell to James Garner, television's first anti-hero. In an era when westerns dominated the airwaves and every other actor was trying to be John Wayne lite, his character, Brett Maverick, was a charming rogue who did everything he could to avoid getting into a fistfight, let alone a shootout. In the stolid, button-down 1950s, that was a breath of fresh air.
 I still remember the dilemma I faced every Sunday night: Should I watch "Maverick" on ABC or Ed Sullivan on CBS?
Solution: I tuned in to the first 30 seconds of" Maverick" to see if that week's episode was going to be about Brett (Garner) or his brother Bart (Jack Kelly). If it was Brett, I watched "Maverick." If it was Bart, I would groan and immediately switch over to Sullivan.
Garner played variations on that character for the rest of his career, most notably on "The Rockford Files" and in two World War II movies – "The Great Escape," in which he played the scrounger, of course, and "The Americanization of Emily, which paired him hilariously with Julie Andrews at her earnest do-gooder best.
He was also one of the greatest Raiders fans of all time. I can't remember a game during the team's heyday in the 1970s when he wasn't on the sidelines cheering them on.

Remembering the Earl of Berkeley

The Earl of Berkeley has died.
That's the nickname a sportswriter for the old Berkeley Gazette gave Earl Robinson when he was a multi-sport star at Berkeley High in the early 1950s.
But Robbie, as his friends called him, was a Berkeley legend long before he got to high school. Growing up in West Berkeley in the late 1940s, he was the best sandlot player at San Pablo Park, where he earned a reputation for protecting smaller children from bullies.
After high school he moved on to Cal, where, as captain of the basketball team, he led the Bears to conference titles in 1956, '57 and '58. He was named to the All-Coast team twice and the all-conference team three times.
But to him, those accolades paled compared to the Most Inspirational Player award his teammates voted him in senior year. Joe Kapp, who played on both the football and basketball team, said, "Robbie was like our older brother."
Guard Denny Fitzpatrick adds, "I got off to a slow start one year. Robbie took me aside and said, 'Look, Denny. You can play in this league; you just have to look for your shots.' That really turned it around for me, and I ended up having a pretty good year. He was clearly our leader. Everybody looked up to him."
But as good as he was at hoops, he was even better on the baseball diamond. In 1957 he batted .352 and led the Bears to the NCAA championship.
After graduating in 1958 he played for the Dodgers and Orioles for seven years. Then he embarked on his true vocation as a teacher - first at Cal as assistant basketball coach, then at Merritt College as the first African American head coach in the California junior college system. He later moved to Laney College, then returned to Cal as freshman basketball coach.
He made a real difference in the lives of countless younger athletes, including Rickey Henderson, whose acceptance speech he helped write for the baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
He later taught speech and communications at Castlemont High, worked with the Oakland A's as director of special projects, was vice president of the Oakland Zoo's board of trustees, and served on the Alameda County Grand Jury and the board of directors of the Cal Alumni Association, South Berkeley YMCA, Oakland Police Athletic Association YMCA, and the Oakland Boys and Girls Club.
Last fall he was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure, but with his Medicare hospice coverage running out, there was no way to pay his mounting bills.
So his teammates passed the hat and raised the money. To a man, they said it was payback for everything he had done for them.
Robbie met his death the same way he lived his life: with dignity.
"I'm not sad," he said. "My doctors have been straight up with me. I'm probably dying. I'm not ready to give it up yet; but when I do, I'm cool with that."
He died peacefully on July 4, full of love and gratitude. His best friend, Pete Domoto, a guard on the 1958 football team, emailed Robbie's teammates, "Earl died on Independence Day. He soars with the eagles. We will keep him close to our hearts."
It was a classy exit for a classy man.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Food From The Heart

(Last year's Community Faire. Photo by Mike Rosati Photography)

One day last month, Mary (not her real name, to protect her privacy), was delivering meals as a volunteer with Alameda Meals On Wheels when she knocked on the door of one of her clients, a 98-year-old man who lives alone.
No answer. So she knocked again. Still no answer.
She was on a tight schedule, with many more clients to visit. But she knew his routine, and she knew that if he wasn't answering the door, something must be wrong. So instead of moving on, she called the police.
They came out and broke down the door, and they found him lying unconscious on the floor. They rushed him to the hospital, where he made a complete recovery; and now he's back at home, still getting daily meal deliveries from Mary.
"If it hadn't been for her, he would have died," said one of the cops.
All in a day's work for a Meals On Wheels volunteer. "We pride ourselves on doing a daily check on our people," says Rosemary Reilly, director of the program. "It's important for them to have a hot meal every day, but the psychological factor is sweet, too. They know we're coming to their door every day, and we're often the only people they'll see all day."
Ten years ago, Alameda Meals On Wheels created a second program called Friendly Visitors to supplement the daily meal drop-offs with once-a-week visits that last at least two hours, and often much longer.
"My visitor is so loving and sweet," says one client. "She calls and checks in between visits. Sometimes we go to lunch or shopping when she comes. There are times I don’t see people for days, so I love to see her."
It's hard to think of a program that provides such an important service to such deserving people with so little overhead.
Alameda Meals on Wheels is a locally-funded, seven-day-a-week program that has been delivering hot, nourishing meals to Alameda residents for 40 years. Each day, holidays included, its cheerful and caring volunteers deliver a mid-day meal to more than 140 Alameda residents of all ages.
The only obstacle is that providing good food to 140 people costs money, and AMOW runs a shortfall of about $16,000 every month.
To make up the slack, it turns to the public. The big fundraiser is the annual Community Faire & Wine Tasting, which will be held this year on July 20 at the Rock Wall Wine Company on Monarch Street.
Fifteen restaurants and several wineries in Alameda will be serving gourmet food and drink. As always, Tucker's Ice Cream will be serving ice cream in the children's play area, and music will be provided by the big band Three O'Clock Jump. All involved are donating their services for free.
 "Alameda is a very caring community," says Reilly.
If you can't make the party, you can still contribute online at alamedmealsonwheels.org or by sending a check to P.O. Box 2534, Alameda CA 94501.
If you'd like to be a meal deliverer, call 510-865-6131; and if you'd like to be a Friendly Visitor, call 510-748-0342.
This is AMOW's 40th anniversary, and I hope they last 400 years more. And there are Meals On Wheels programs in other local cities that deserve your support, too.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Glorious Fourth

Twenty score and 18 years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
They knew the odds against them. They were taking on the greatest superpower on the world, the British Empire.
And they knew that if they lost, they would be hanged as traitors – if they were lucky. The standard punishment for treason in those days was drawing and quartering, the same torture Mel Gibson's character suffered at the end of "Braveheart."
The largest signature on the Declaration was John Hancock's, who exclaimed, "There! Now King George can read it without his spectacles!" Then he gave a little pep talk to his colleagues, saying, "We must be unanimous. There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together."
"Yes," cracked Benjamin Franklin. "We must hang together, or we will be pretty sure to hang separately."
Not only their lives, but their property was at risk, too. As traitors, all their goods would be forfeit to the Crown, turning their children into paupers.
But against all odds they won the war, so none of them were executed, although a few were killed in battle. But many of them still suffered grievously.
Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire – yes, that's where "The West Wing" got the name – saw his house burned to the ground by Loyalist arsonists.
William Floyd of New York was forced to flee with his family to the Connecticut woods, where his wife died a few months later from exposure and stress. When he and his children were finally able to return home two years later, they found their fields and timber stripped, their fences destroyed, and their home ransacked and burned.
Another New Yorker, Philip Livingston, lost both of his homes to the invading British, who turned one into barracks and stables and the other into a Royal Navy hospital. By the time he returned after the war, they were unfit for human habitation.
William Hooper of North Carolina lost his home and property, forcing his family to wander the countryside, destitute as well as homeless. It was ten months before he was able to find them again.
Richard Stockton of New Jersey and George Watson of Georgia were captured and imprisoned in horribly unhealthy conditions. When Stockton was finally released he returned to find his home destroyed. He died a broken man less than two years later.
All told, one percent of the American population died during the war. If the United States were to lose one percent of its population today, the toll would be 2.5 million dead.
So as we celebrate the Declaration, we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: Are we worthy of the sacrifice they made? Or are we throwing it all away?
We now live in a country that is divided almost 50-50, with each side convinced that the other side is not only wrong, but downright evil. Some Americans hate other Americans more than they love their county. As Yeats said, the worst are full of passionate intensity.
We are the most powerful military superpower the world has ever seen, and I've never felt weaker. Al Qaeda may not be capable of bringing us down, but we are.

Wall-To-Wall Mozart

                                         (Above: Maestro Cleve)

One day 40 years ago, Maestro George Cleve and a few of his musician friends were kicking back with a few beers during a break from rehearsals for the San Francisco Spring Opera's production of Mozart's "The Abduction From The Seraglio."
"This really is the best music, isn't it?" said one.
"Yeah," said another. "Wouldn't it be great if we could play nothing but Mozart?"
"Let's have an all-Mozart festival!" said a third.
"Well," said Cleve, "I'm not very good at organizing these things, but if you organize it and want me to conduct it, let me know."
And that was the end of that – or so he thought. But a couple of months later they called him and said, "OK, it's organized."
Thus was born the Midsummer Mozart Festival, the only all-Mozart festival in North America. There are a lot of "Mostly Mozart" festivals, but this is the only one that's all Mozart, all the time.
That first year, the musicians split the proceeds among themselves. It came to about ten bucks apiece.
This year, as the festival celebrates its 40th birthday, it has grown to the point were the musicians are paid union scale.
But to tell the truth, they're not in it for the money. They're in it for the Mozart.
"He's the best," says violinist Robin Hansen, who is celebrating an anniversary of her own – her 20th year as the orchestra's concertmaster. "No one else can delight your senses while at the same time touching the deepest places in your heart. I often find myself with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye, both at the same time. He's so much fun to play!"
And to listen to. You can't ask for anything more fun than the overtures to "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Abduction From The Seraglio." Or more majestic than the great Symphony No. 40 in G minor. Or more delightful than the Divertimento for flute, oboe, bassoon, four horns and strings, which he wrote when he was only 16.
All these, and a lot more, will be featured at this year's festival, which will run from July 20 to 27 with two completely different programs.
The first concert - July 20 at Stanford's Bing Concert Hall and July 21 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley – will feature the 40th Symphony, the overture to "Figaro," and two arias sung by mezzo-soprano Tania Mandzy.
The second concert – July 25 at St. Marks's Lutheran Church in San Francisco, July 26 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley and July 27 at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford – will feature Seymour Lipkin playing the Piano Concerto in D Minor, mezzo-soprano Anna Yelizarova singing "Parto, parto" from "La Clemenza di Tito," and the San Francisco Boys Chorus singing the delightful Spatzen Mass ("Sparrow Mass").
All the performers are world-class musicians, but the real draw is Cleve himself.
"Definitely the highlight of my career is playing Mozart with George," says Hansen. "I've been fortunate enough to work with Leonard Bernstein, Herbert Blomstedt, Zubin Mehta and Michael Tilson Thomas. George is one of those musical giants. You're very lucky if you get to work with someone of his caliber in your musical career."
You can find a complete playlist at midsummermozart.org and order tickets at 800-838-3006, x1.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


What's it like when a network television show comes to town and does a program about you?

That was the plot of "Bye Bye Birdie," but it happened it real life to Cindy Kahl, co-owner of Speisenkammer, a restaurant in Alameda that serves authentic German food and beer with authentic Bavarian Gemütlichkeit.

In the 12 years since it opened on Lincoln Avenue, Speisenkammer – the name means – "pantry" - has become an Alameda fixture and a home-away-from-home for the East Bay's sizable German community, including the mechanics at the local German auto dealerships; a Bavarian dance troupe that meets there every week; and a stammtisch, a group of men (plus a few women) who have a reserved table every Wednesday night where they can hang out and speak German together.
Right now, the place is packed with soccer fans who watch the World Cup on huge television screens that have been set up (cheering for the German team, of course).
But last fall, Cindy and her business partner started hearing rumors that the "Dirndl Girls" – who had been hired to liven up the atmosphere during Oktoberfest – were behaving improperly with the customers.
Enter Charles Stiles, an international security expert, and his reality show on the Food Network, "Mystery Diners." He set up an elaborate sting operation, with four cameras in the dining room, three more in the bar, one in the kitchen, and one in the front patio where a temporary beer garden had been set up for Oktoberfest.
He also sent two undercover "Mystery Diners" (hence the show's name) to infiltrate the place, one as a waiter-in-training and the other posing as a customer.
Then Cindy, her partner and Stiles sat in a control room next door and observed the goings-on in real time on 11 different screens.
They watched in amazement as it turned out to be even worse than they thought. Two of the Dirndl Girls were drinking on the job, charging customers for shots that they should have been giving away (and pocketing the money), rigging contests in favor of their own friends, and even stealing tips from the waiters.
And as a bonus, they also discovered that one of the waiters was playing the two owners against each other to leave work early.
Naturally, it was "auf wiedersehen" for the Dirndl Girls. (The waiter got off with a reprimand.)
So what was the upshot? A public relations disaster.
Reason: Over Cindy's protests, the show said Speisenkammer is in Oakland instead of Alameda, and Alamedans are very particular about not living in Oakland's shadow.
"People were furious!" says Cindy. "I got hate mail. People assumed it was our fault and said they'd never come here again."
But please don't blame her her, folks. She tried to warn Stiles, and she thought her message got across. So she was as shocked as everyone else when the program finally aired, using the dreaded O-word.
"We love Alameda!" she says. "That's why we moved here. We wanted to live here, and we still do."
Besides, how can you pass up the most authentic German food this side of Munich? The wiener schnitzel, the sauerbraten, the schewieinebraten – Oh, Mein Gott!
If you want to see this episode, you can watch it at Comcast On Demand under the title "Oktobertheft."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

FSM Revisited

How time flies! This fall will be the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, and FSM veterans will return to campus for a reunion that will feature the usual events, plus some others you might not have anticipated.
For instance, are you ready for FSM: The Musical? Produced by Stagebridge in association with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the full-length musical production will have its first performance September 27 on Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage, with two additional performances the following day.
But wait! There’s more! The musical was composed by none other than Mario Savio’s son Daniel in collaboration with two veterans of The San Francisco Mime Troupe, Joan Holden, M.A. ’64, and Bruce Barthol ’68. Bruce sat in at Sproul Hall when he was a 16-year-old freshman.
“I feel a great responsibility to get it right for my father’s sake, and also for Michael Rossman and Reggie Zelnik and my mom,” says Daniel, who looks just like his dad. “I grew up with this history. I know it as well as anybody who was there.”
Daniel’s mom, Lynne Hollander Savio ’65, is the show’s creative advisor and a member of the 50th reunion committee.
The FSM began on September 14, 1964, when the University of California at Berkeley, under pressure from Senate Majority Leader William F. Knowland ’29, who was angered by Civil Rights sit-ins, announced that existing University regulations banning political activity on campus would be “strictly enforced.”
The resulting protests, unprecedented in scope, were the harbinger of the student power, civil liberties, and antiwar demonstrations that convulsed college campuses throughout the country for the next decade. They also triggered a voter backlash that many believe led to the election of Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on a promise to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” as governor of California in 1966.
In the five decades since that memorable autumn, FSM has become part of the popular culture. In 2006, an episode of Battlestar Gallactica featured a character closely paraphrasing Mario Savio’s “bodies upon the gears” speech.
“I got an email from the producer wanting to know if he could use it,” says Lynne. “He said his wife was at Cal at the time, and they were both admirers. He gave the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture Fund a nice contribution in exchange.”
This year’s annual Savio lecture—to be given by Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at Cal—will be the last one sponsored by Savio’s friends and admirers, who created the lecture series after his death in 1996. From here on, it will be sponsored by the Social Sciences Division in the College of Letters & Science.
“The timing seemed right to both its organizers and campus leaders to ensure it would continue in perpetuity as a part of our academic landscape and as a commemoration of a very important part of campus history,” says Carla Hesse, Dean of Social Sciences and a member of the campus coordinating committee for the 50th anniversary. Dean Hesse’s father, Siegfried Hesse, J.D. ’50, was one of the lawyers for the Sproul Hall arrestees.
After decades of ambivalence, UC Berkeley is finally embracing this important part of its history. “Though I cannot presume to speak for our current administration, I think it is fair to say that the attitude of campus leaders to the Free Speech Movement has evolved over the past 50 years, from fear to pride in what the students at that time stood up for and what they accomplished,” says Dean Hesse.
The official celebrations will start even before the fall quarter begins, with freshman and new students in the On The Same Page program being asked to read Freedom’s Orator, a biography of Mario Savio written by NYU professor Robert Cohen, M.A. ’81, Ph.D. ’87. The celebrations will continue throughout the fall, including a concert by Mavis Staples, a hootenanny at Ashkenaz, exhibits at the Bancroft Library and the Berkeley Historical Society, documentaries at the Pacific Film Archive, a political poetry night at the FSM Café, freedom-of-speech symposia at the law school, and the Academic Senate’s commemoration of their historic vote on Dec. 8, 1964.
The reunion itself will take place Sept. 26–Oct. 3, climaxing with a rally at Sproul Plaza on Oct. 1, anniversary of the arrest of former grad student Jack Weinberg—the man who said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Robert Reich, Dolores Huerta, and FSM veterans will deliver speeches from the Sproul steps, which were officially renamed the Mario Savio Steps in 1997.
Though FSM took place half a century ago, those who were there remember the events as if they happened yesterday: the thousands of students on Sproul Plaza surrounding the police car holding Weinberg; the mass sit-in at Sproul Hall and the mass arrests that followed; the cops jumping on Mario Savio as he attempted to speak at the Greek Theater; and the climactic Academic Senate resolution.
“Jack and I set up the card table at 11:30 on that fateful day when he was arrested,” recalls John Sutake ’68. “The reason he was arrested and I wasn’t, was that he was not a currently registered student and I was. It sort of hurt my feelings.”
Many of the FSM leaders were veterans of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, where they were deeply influenced by the nonviolent militancy of Bob Moses and Martin Luther King, Jr. But FSM drew support from across the political spectrum, including fraternity boys, sorority girls, even Young Republicans. Most had never before taken part in a demonstration.
“We were all sitting there, shivering for our careers,” the late Michael Rossman ’63, one of the first people to sit down around the police car, told me before his death in 2008. “We had just come out of the McCarthy period, when people’s lives were destroyed for walking a picket line, let alone sitting around a police car in the middle of a plaza of a great university.”
“I had to make a choice,” says Lee Felsenstein ’72. “Was I a scared kid who wanted to be safe at all costs? Or was I a person who had principles and was willing to take a risk to follow them? It was like that moment in Huckleberry Finn when Huck says, ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell.’”
“I was coming out of class and saw them take him into the car,” says Jeremy Bruenn ’65, Ph.D. ’70. “Somebody said we should surround the car, and we did. I remember wondering whether they would drive over us, and being happy when they didn’t. I thought they showed fairly good judgment in not creating more of a situation than was necessary.”
“I was sitting by the front bumper,” remembers Damon Tempey ’66. “Weinberg was in the back of the car for more than a day, so he peed into a Coke bottle and ate sandwiches. He had a ringside seat for the speeches as people mounted the police car and spoke.”
But not everyone on the plaza that day was a supporter.
“The vast majority of us were simply walking across campus and stopped to find out what all the commotion was about,” says Phil Litts ’66, who was elected Head Yell Leader later that year on a platform that mocked FSM. “I was on my way back to Unit Three for lunch.”
Although he opposed their goals, Litts was still impressed by the way they went about it.
“Mario Savio was very respectful of people with opposing views. There was no name calling. And when people climbed up on the police car, they took their shoes off first. There was no intent to damage. It was all done civilly, and that’s something you don’t hear a lot about.”
That night, some fraternity boys started heckling the seated protestors and flipping lighted cigarettes at them.
“A bunch of us formed a cordon line with our backs to the frat boys and let them beat on us to protect the people sitting on the ground,” Sutake told me. “Later, when we realized we had to reach out to these people, we went to the frats and sororities giving little talks explaining what we were all about. I don’t know if it changed any minds, but we were trying to build a mass movement, and that included people who disagreed with us.”
The confrontation escalated in fits and starts over the next two months, with rallies, sit-ins, cancelled classes, and picket lines urging students to boycott the few classes that were still going on. Litts, who crossed the picket lines, arrived at his lecture hall and found only two people there: him and the professor.
“So I had a one-on-one tutorial. I sat in the front row, he sat on top of his desk, and we talked, and it was great.”
Ginger Lapid-Bogda ’68 (née Snapp), on the other hand, was an FSM sympathizer who wouldn’t have dreamed of crossing a picket line. But some classes remained open by pre-arrangement between the professor and the FSM leadership, including her anthropology course in Wheeler Auditorium.
“There were movie cameras in the room, and for some reason I could tell one of the cameras was doing a close-up of me. I thought, ‘Can they do this without my permission?’ But I didn’t think any more about it until a few weeks later, when I was back home in L.A. having Thanksgiving dinner with my parents. We were watching Walter Cronkite, and one of the stories was a report from Berkeley. The reporter was saying, ‘Students are crossing picket lines in droves, like this coed.’
“Lo and behold, it was my anthro class, and the coed the camera was zeroing in on was me! I was watching myself being misused by the media to state something that was totally untrue about what was going on at Berkeley. It was my radicalizing moment, and I have never trusted the media ever since.”
Aside from Mario Savio, the best-known FSM leader was Bettina Aptheker ’66, whom the media portrayed as an intransigent hardliner because she was a Communist.
“The irony is that Bettina was one of the moderates,” says Sutake. “She was always saying, ‘Go slow’ and ‘Be reasonable.’ But she was a convenient target.”
The nightly FSM executive committee meetings often lasted into the next morning because everyone had to be heard.
“I sometimes went nuts listening, but you had to do it, and some of the speechifying was great,” declares Kate Coleman ’65. “Like the time we were trying to decide if Mario should lead us into a sit-in—I forget which one—and Barbara Garson in her Brooklynese said, ‘I don’t believe in the cult of the personality … (pause) … but if you have one—use him!’ We all laughed, because of course it was fitting that Mario lead us that day.”
The crisis finally came to a head on December 2, when Joan Baez led about a thousand students singing “We Shall Overcome” into Sproul Hall for a mass sit-in.
 Some passed the hours by doing homework, some sang Civil Rights songs, some watched Laurel and Hardy movies, and a sizable group of Jewish students celebrated Hanukkah by dancing the hora.
“I ran into my Anthro 1 T.A., who was just a wonderful guy,” recalls Bob Kroll ’68. “I asked him how I did on the midterm, and he said, ‘Terrible. I was going to give you a D, but since you’re here in Sproul, I’m going to raise it to a B.’”
At 3:05 a.m. on Dec. 3, Chancellor Edward Strong ordered the building locked and gave the students an ultimatum: Get out now or be arrested.
A few avoided arrest by climbing down a rope from the second floor balcony, including Sutake. “I was only 18 and already on probation from an arrest from a previous Civil Rights demonstration, so the sit-in leaders told me I could do more good on the outside by raising bail money and organizing transportation to Santa Rita,” he says.
But as soon as he climbed down the rope, others on the ground outside started climbing up.
“I heard on the radio that the arrests had started, so I got on my bike and rode to campus as fast as I could,” says Paula Shatkin ’67 (then Kogan). “Now, I am no athlete, but somehow I got hold of that rope and was pulled up to the balcony. That was the most physically daring act of my life, before or since. But, goddammit, I was not going to miss getting arrested after all that work and sitting in and demonstrating!”
The arrests began at 3:45 a.m. It took more than 12 hours to arrest them all.
“The cop who arrested me said, ‘Do you want us to carry you out? Or do you want to leave like a gentleman?’” says Malcolm Zaretzky, Ph.D. ’71. “They were dragging people down those marble steps, so I elected to walk.”
“Some were being dropped, so they would go bump, bump, bump as they were dragged,” Linda Rosen ’66 remembers. “It was so frightening.”
The arrestees were cheered by onlookers as they were put on busses and driven to Santa Rita. But the feeling wasn’t unanimous.
“As we got to the corner of Telegraph and Channing I looked out the window and saw this little old lady, who was probably younger than I am now,” says Glenn Lyons ’65, Ph.D. ’71. “I flashed her the peace sign, and she shook her fist at me. That was my first inkling that not everyone in the world thought we were doing a great thing.”
Neither did some of their fellow students.
“I belonged to a politically conservative group called Students For Law And Order. We had funding from one of the UC regents,” explains Bruce Roberts ’68. “Our job was to go onto campus with flyers and talk about why [FSM] was an inappropriate thing for the University.”
Their families weren’t always supportive, either.
Linda Rosen says, “My parents down in Orange County were so mad at me, they took away the Mustang they had bought me for graduation and gave it to my sister,”
“My parents’ reactions were classic,” remembers Susan Peterson, a grad student in literature back in the day. “My father said, ‘They’re just a bunch of Commies!’ My mother said, ‘You’re our daughter, and we love you no matter what.’”
Jentri Anders ’67 (then Barbara Samuels) returned home from Santa Rita the next morning to be greeted by her husband, who hugged her and said, “Take a bath. You stink.”
“We split up and were officially divorced two years later,” Anders says.
On Dec. 7, President Clark Kerr attempted to defuse the crisis with a kiss-and-make-up convocation at the Greek Theater. All seemed to go well until the end, when Savio approached the microphone. He was jumped by campus cops who wrestled him to the ground, ripping his suit to shreds and turning the convocation into an uproar.
Indeed, the regents, at Kerr’s urging, rejected the Academic Senate vote. But after another month of moves and countermoves, the first legal political rally finally was held at Sproul Plaza on Jan. 4.
Some of the arrestees suffered repercussions for years afterwards; others didn’t.
Jentri Anders was puzzled why she kept getting turned down for federal jobs until somebody referred her to an FBI agent who told her, “You have an arrest record and a file with us because of your participation in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. I am going to fix it so that you will never work for the federal government.”
On the other hand, Susan Peterson tells me, “Every time I apply for a new teaching job and have to go through a criminal background check, I delight in giving them more information than they want about FSM.”
Bob Kroll adds, “When I applied for the bar years later, they asked me, ‘Have you ever been arrested?’ I said, ‘Twice. Once for sitting in at Sproul Hall, and once for coming through LAX with a joint in my pocket. They wrote me back and said, ‘No problem.’”
And famed poster artist David Lance Goines, who would have graduated in 1967, insists that “FSM changed my life. I was studying classics and headed for an academic career. Instead, I was expelled from school and became an apprentice printer, which led to my artistic career, which would never have come to pass had I not been forcibly removed from the arms of my alma mater.”
So was FSM a good thing or a bad thing? Fifty years later, they’re still debating that.
“On the night I graduated, I went to Sproul steps and screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘You screwed our University!’” says Bruce Roberts about the protests. “I was so angry. The things I wanted to do, the fun I wanted to have, were taken away from me. And not just from me—from the entire student body.”
Paul Coopersmith ’68 disagrees. “For all that happened at Berkeley in the ’60s and early ’70s subsequent to the FSM, it never approached the pure, non-egotistical, lets-make-the-world-a-better-place idealism of that movement. I attribute much of that to Mario, who, looking back from this distance of half a century, strikes me as the most selfless leader this country has produced in a very long time. Without Mario, there may have been a Free Speech Movement. But it would not have been the FSM we came to know and so fervently believe in.”
“FSM was not a hate-filled movement, and so much of what came after was,” says Kate Coleman. “And a lot of it has to be credited to Mario. A lot of guys in the movement were arrogant jerks, but not him. He was so humble. I don’t think I really appreciated that until later, as the left got ugly and started to eat its own.”
But I think the late Reggie Zelnik, a junior faculty member in 1964 who became chairman of the Department of History and co-editor (with Robert Cohen) of a great history of FSM called The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s, summed it up best when we talked about FSM shortly before his untimely death in 2004.
“As a historian, I always like to remind people that nothing is as beautiful as it appears on the surface,” he said. “But FSM was as good as it gets. It certainly never got that good again.”
For more information and updates on the FSM reunion, check the FSM Archives website at fsm.berkeley.edu (Twitter hashtag #FSM50), the campus FSM website at fsm.staging.wpengine.com, and the On The Same Page website at onthesamepage.berkeley.edu.