Barbara Bass, Oral History
Recorded: November 29, 2007
Interviewed by Amanda Remster
Transcribed by Celia R. Halkovich
Note: This transcript includes geo-references to locations that are discussed in the oral history. Geographical names linked in the transcript will open in a new window or tab that takes you to that location information and map in the Mapping May 4 project. To request a transcript without geo-reference links included, please contact Kent State University Special Collections & Archives.
[Interviewer]: Good morning, my name is Amanda Remster. The date is November 29, 2007, and I'm conducting an oral history for the May 4 Oral History Project and could you please state your name?
[Barbara Bass]: My name is Barbara Bass.
[Interviewer]: And where were you born?
[Barbara Bass]: In Ravenna, Ohio.
[Interviewer]: Where did you go to school?
[Barbara Bass]: I started school in Ravenna, Ohio and then I moved to Rootstown in probably about 1959 and finished my schooling in Rootstown.
[Interviewer]: How long have you worked at Kent State?
[Barbara Bass]: About twenty-eight years. [laughs]
[Interviewer]: And what was your job in 1970?
[Barbara Bass]: I was in the serials department in the library in Rockwell Hall.
[Interviewer]: What was it like being an employee of the university at that time?
[Barbara Bass]: It was real interesting. I really enjoyed the job there. I took care of a lot of the serials, I did check-in work. I think at the time I was also doing invoicing for periodicals and doing some letter writing and some different things for the department.
[Interviewer]: How would you describe the university prior to the events of 1970?
[Barbara Bass]: I think because of the tensions going on, amid--around Korea and Cambodia, they were pretty tense at the time and students were, they were pretty tense also and really against the war at the time and wanted the war to end to begin with. They just wanted to see it end any way they could, and wanted all the servicemen to come home.
[Interviewer]: What year did you start at the university?
[Barbara Bass]: 1968.
[Interviewer]: So when you started was the atmosphere tense?
[Barbara Bass]: Not really, I didn't really notice it then. Probably closer to the end of '69, when some of the things were going on in California it seems like that's when things started picking up here, I think. They seemed to have a lot of riots at the universities in California and then it just kind of seemed to rollercoaster towards this part of the country--just started to get tenser over this way.
[Interviewer]: What are your memories of those four days in May, 1970, and you can start wherever you like.
[Barbara Bass]: Okay. I don't remember a whole lot about Friday. It seems like there were some peace marches up Main Street that were really peaceful. Saturday, I was at home--I had been married the year before so I was--my husband and I were living in [Rootstown] and we had gone over to my parents' house probably that evening. And we'd been listening to the radio and had heard that the ROTC Buildings were on fire. My parents' neighbor happened to be over at the house at the time, and curiosity got the best of us and we decided we'd like to take a ride over to the campus to see what was going on. So my mother's neighbor and my husband and I got in the car and came over. I believe we came up [Route] 43 and into the campus up Summit Street that way. And we came up to where Lincoln [Street] and Summit come together there and they had Summit Street blocked off going up to the ROTC buildings because the fire trucks of course were up that way. We could see the flames from the ROTC buildings and a lot of people milling around, so we decided this really wasn't the best place to be so we went on down Lincoln Street and came on back home and kind of listened to the radio to see what was going on, but we pretty much stayed away from campus after that.
[We] heard later and on Sunday that things were getting tense because there were riots downtown and bars had been broken into --or, windows had been broken into, and the police were trying to get the kids to be peaceful--or trying to get them to go home, or at least back to their dorms. By Sunday night they put a curfew in and got it--everybody pretty much back to their dorms, I guess at a reasonable time, I don't remember exactly when that was. By then they'd called in the National Guard. So Monday morning I came in to work and I was bringing another girl in to work with me who lived out in Rootstown. She and I rode in together and we were parking at the old Liquid Crystals building [Lincoln Building] which was across from where the Robin Hood restaurant [Robinhood Inn] is. We walked over to Rockwell Hall and the National Guard trucks were sitting around there. It was really intimidating. We kind of debated, do we really want to be here, and do we really want to go in to work? So we finally decided we'd go ahead and go in, and we walked past the National Guard and I don't even remember whether we said anything to them or not. [We] went into the building and went ahead and went to work. Probably around noon a few of us went out to lunch and went over to Stahl's Bakery--I don't know if it's still there or not--
[Interviewer]: I think it is.
[Barbara Bass]: Is it? -- and picked up something for lunch and walked back to the office. There were a lot of people milling around at that time and there was a rally scheduled at noon on the commons, and we heard a lot of commotion and we heard what sounded like shots and we found out later that it was shots fired. Soon after that they started locking down the university. A little while later my husband called because I couldn't make phone calls out, they'd shut the phone lines down for the police to be able to use and everything. My husband called, and he worked on the other side of Kent and he knew more about what was going on than I did at the time. He asked me first if I was okay, and I said, "Yes, I'm fine." I said, "They have the building locked so nobody can go in or out." He said, "I want you to get out of there, now." I said, "I can't leave until they give us permission to go." It wasn't too long after that they started releasing people building by building, so there wasn't a mass exodus out of campus. There was another girl that worked in the department that lived in Youngstown and she didn't want to go out through 43 because they had police set up and National Guard checking everybody that was leaving, so I had her follow me out through Summit Street and the back way out so she could pick up the interstate at another spot. So she got home okay. [laughs]
I believe we were off work the rest of the week. They shut the university down that day with an ordinance from, I believe it was the governor. They had cancelled classes for the rest of that semester. The faculty primarily held classes in their homes later, when they could get things organized, so the students could graduate that were seniors because they couldn't come back on campus. When the staff could come back on campus they immediately had us get name badges, so we'd have some kind of identification so they knew we were staff when we came back.
[Interviewer]: Was security heightened when you came back?
[Barbara Bass]: Yeah, pretty much. They issued us keys for the buildings when we came back, so the building was locked when we came in and stayed locked all day.
[Interviewer]: How did that feel working in an environment like that, that you were locked in?
[Barbara Bass]: At first--it was a little scary, I think, at first, to know that you were locked in the building, but yet it felt a little more secure also. You knew that nobody could walk right in on you. I believe that probably the front doors were still unlocked. But it was the back door that the staff usually always came in that was kept locked all the time.
[Interviewer]: What was the atmosphere like on campus the following year?
[Barbara Bass]: I don't remember a whole lot about it.
[Interviewer]: Did you notice any changes, or not really?
[Barbara Bass]: I think people were probably a lot more cautious about others around them. I'm not really sure--I know as a staff person I think I was a little more cautious about other students on campus. I probably stayed in the building more than I had before. We had--our department worked at night once in a while, so we had to take turns and I wasn't real comfortable with that. [laughs] Just going in and out of the building at night. I guess I really didn't notice a whole lot of change.
[Interviewer]: What do you think were the consequences of the shootings?
[Barbara Bass]: I'm not really sure. [laughs]
[Interviewer]: How do you think people's viewpoints and ideas changed because of the shootings?
[Barbara Bass]: I think a lot of people divided themselves. Some of them blamed the students for it and others blamed the National Guard. Some people blamed the president because they felt that he picked this campus to make an example. There was a lot of different types of views, I think.
[Interviewer]: Are there any other thoughts you'd like to share, anything else you remember?
[Barbara Bass]: I guess just the fear of it happening again for a while. It was--especially when they started having the memorials. I was even afraid to go to the memorials for the longest time. I believe the first time I went to one was when they had the twenty-fifth anniversary. I just didn't want to be around it. Probably not that it would happen again, but it was just that fear, from being there. I wasn't even that close to the shootings itself, I was in a building away from it, but just the tension that was around there. Of course I really feel for the families because, having lost a son myself, you can never get that back. I just hope that they find some peace, eventually, that it wasn't some type of a cause there. It's really a shame that they had to lose a son or a daughter during that time.
[Interviewer]: Anything else?
[Barbara Bass]: No, I guess not.
[Interviewer]: Thank you so much.
[Barbara Bass]: You're welcome. ×