Tag Archives: 1969

“Hell No, We Won’t Go!”

A portion of the crowd -- primarily Staples students -- protesting the Viet Nam war in 1969. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

For nearly 10 years, America’s all-volunteer military has fought 2 costly, controversial wars.

Protests have been muted.  A few people stand on the Post Road bridge every Saturday morning.  Someone writes an occasional letter to the editor.

At Staples, high school students — few of whom even think of serving — scarcely give Iraq and Afghanistan a passing thought.

How different things were in 1969.  Vietnam was a quagmire — and Westport was up in arms, on both sides of the issue.  Loud anti-war protests took place at Town Hall every Saturday.  After 3 hours of raucous debate the RTM passed — 17-15 — a resolution asking immediate action to withdraw from Southeast Asia.

Many Staples students — though certainly not all — were fervently anti-war.  On October 15, 1200 students — joined by some from the 3 junior highs — celebrated a national Moratorium Day.

They — actually “we,” because I was among them — marched from the Staples tennis courts, down North Avenue and Long Lots Road, all the way to the steps of the YMCA.

The long line of marchers headed downtown. The A&P was near what is now the firehouse; the Esso gas station is now a Phillips 66. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

We carried American flags and wore buttons saying “Peace Now” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go.”  Along the way, other students threw eggs at us.

At the Y, we listened to speeches (including one by Iowa Senator Harold Hughes).   We waved our fingers in the peace sign.  We looked around, and were stunned at our numbers.

A year earlier, we had helped drive Lyndon Johnson from the presidency — but our new president was Richard Nixon.  Finally, in 1973, a peace treaty was signed.  Two years later the last Americans were evacuated from the U.S. Embassy roof.

In 1969, Adrian Hlynka was a Staples student.  A gifted photographer, he took dozens of shots on Moratorium Day.  Here is what it looked like to protest a war, more than 4 decades ago.

A portion of the crowd in front of the Y. The Fine Arts Theater (now Restoration Hardware) was showing "Alice's Restaurant" and "Medium Cool." Police stood on the roof next door. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

More of the enormous downtown crowd. The current Max's Art Supplies is on the extreme left; what is now Tiffany is at the far right. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Rabbi Byron Rubenstein of Temple Israel addresses the crowd from the steps of the Y. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

The crowd was predominantly -- though not entirely -- made up of Staples students. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

A Staples student states his case. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Junior high students joined Stapleites at the 1969 Moratorium rally. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

One Giant Leap For A Teenager

Earth and moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of man’s 1st step on the moon.

The media is awash in my generation’s memories of July 20, 1969.  Some may even be accurate.

Here’s mine.

1969 was quite a year.  The New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.   Drag queens rioted at the Stonwall Inn.  Ted Kennedy killed Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.  Most importantly — to me, anyway — I got my driver’s license.

The day of Neil Armstrong’s astonishing moonwalk I was scheduled to work at Chubby Lane’s, the concession stand at Compo (where the volleyball courts are now).  It was a Sunday, so the beach should have been packed.  But like many days that summer, it rained.  I was told not to come in.

I was happy to have 1 day less dealing with obnoxious Westporters, 1 day more of freedom.  But I was not happy not making my $2 an hour, and because the weather was so bad, nothing went on anywhere in town.  To my chagrin, I watched the historic event at home.  With my parents.

To be honest, I remember little of that afternoon and evening.  I do recall it took a while between touchdown and actually setting foot on the lunar surface.  I’m sure I was excited, and probably proud.  But to be honest, the grainy photos and garbled radio transmission made it hard to see and hear.

I was 16 years old.  I watched perhaps the most momentous event in human history for as long as I could.  Then I got bored.

So I borrowed my parents’ car and drove off into the night, seeking a more interesting adventure somewhere in Westport.