Spring is such a great time of year, daffodils, trilliums, Dutchman’s britches, bluebells, red buds, dogwoods ... observing all of the best things about living in this part of Ohio. This time of year is also a time for recognition of growth and achievement and the start of new opportunities ... Graduation!
So I reminisce of the spring of my college days while attending the Ohio State University (the first ever fifth year junior), especially as I watch the energy and excitement of Ohio University students, some to graduate, some to enjoy another year in the best place on earth. My recollections of spring are also shaded by 14 years as Athens City Code Director and witnessing first hand more than my share of Palmerfests, and Highfests, and Millfests (and Halloweens) and the relative newcomer #fest.
This past fest season was my third as an Athens Twp. Trustee, the annual event held on West Union Street, but my interest now is not in attending but avoiding and having to field questions about enforcement of disorderly conduct laws at the local Venue, the traffic and of course the noise. Trustees are somewhat limited in their ability to create and enforce law and honestly, contrary to local legend, Andy and Barney are not the township constables, we depend solely on the sheriff for all of the law enforcement in the unincorporated areas surrounding the city.
Thinking back to the spring of 1970, my freshman year, living off campus and not at home (please don’t turn me in) I was having the time of my life. Econ 101, Sociology 101 and trampoline (yes, trampoline and not basket weaving). Hair way over my ears, penciling in that wispy mustache fuzz and the bell bottom jeans, the ones where I bought two pair and my dad had told me I had wasted money on just one. I remember being so upset at the “institution”, quarterly tuition was going from $150 to $175, oh the outrage! Now those are spring memories.
In May my roommate and I, having left Larkins Hall after an exhausting afternoon of trampoline class, headed toward Thompson Library and a stroll across the Oval, vectored for the apartment to die for, 3rd floor, 9th and High. The view from the balcony of the South Berg and the Bier Stube were breathtaking.
We knew there had been some protests regarding the war in Vietnam, repeal of the university’s paternalistic policies, ending gender discrimination, increasing student involvement in policy-making, daycare programs for female students and staff and more representation for minority students. But those were way too serious things for two trampoline majors to ponder, it’s a sunny day, perfect for strolling the Oval, people watching at its finest. But then the best damn green in the land became a war zone. Batons, tear gas, rocks, bricks, and stones flew as hundreds of police and National Guardsmen became embattled with thousands of people watchers and social activists, now being transformed into so called rioters. “Festing” would have to wait ... and innocence ended.
I made it back to the sanctuary of the apartment but my roommate didn’t. About an hour later a knock at the door and he was dropped from the shoulder of a kind fellow “rioter” with whom he had been trapped in the delivery dock at Mershon Auditorium and tear gassed with no route of escape. Now what? The idyllic life of the 60’s turned into the spring of 1970.
And now, 46 years later, has passed the spring of 2016, Athens, Ohio. Fest central, including #fest. It seemed to have gone well, fun for most, relatively safe, participants somewhat observant of the law, the worries of the day set aside. But with the political hope fading of free tuition and loan forgiveness don’t give up hope, there are even better springs ahead as those you leave behind in a memory struggle to find answers for the noise, the traffic and the trash. Not exactly the spring of 1970 but another spring to remember none the less!
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Steve Pierson is the Nelsonville Assistant City Manager, Nelsonville Director of Code Enforcement, Athens Township Trustee, 20 year member of the Athens County Regional Planning Commission and 36 year member of Carpenter’s Local #200.