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[Beginning of Tape 1]
[June Stevenson]: My name is June Stevenson. I live at 930 Hickory Grove, Medina, Ohio. Friday morning, I was in the cafeteria eating breakfast and the general discussion that morning was on the Cambodia situation. Several of the fellows were sitting at the table, drinking coffee and discussing Nixon’s speech from the night before. The consensus that I heard that morning was the boys were very unhappy with the situation. They felt that Nixon really had taken advantage of this country in escalating the war.
At noon, I was in the Student Union, and the undercurrent was growing–this was Friday. By Friday afternoon at 3:05, as I left class, [BUS?] was in front of the campus [unintelligible] a demonstration of the events of the day. As I left Kent Friday, I had a feeling that there was great trouble coming. When I got home that evening, I made the statement that I thought there was to be a great upheaval at Kent in the near future. Sunday morning, as I got off the bus, it was quite a shock to see on Summit Street tanks and National Guard. I walked through McGilvrey Hall, the feeling had mellowed from Friday–the antagonistic feeling of the students, and an example was [unintelligible] when the National Guard walked down the hall. Nothing was said or done, just the undertow of feelings.
Monday morning, the first class was canceled due to a bomb scare and I was in the second class through till noon. The feelings had grown. As I went through the Student Union, I could feel a sense of something like a time bomb. I had an appointment with Dr. [unintelligible] at 1:15 and I felt I should try to get around to Memorial Gym to either cancel the appointment or see if he was there. 12 o’clock or 12:05, I started around the west side of the campus Commons. Standing on the west side above the fence, I could watch the action that was [happening?] below. It must have been, on either side of the fence, there was approximately around 2,000 students. Around the National Guard on the hill were around 400 to 500 students. The National Guard were lined up below around the ROTC burned-down building. The reason I remember the times so well was that, since I had this appointment, I was checking my watch to make sure I didn’t–wasn’t late in seeing Dr. [unintelligible].
At around 12:05–12:10, the National Guard started lobbing tear gas to the students on the rise. The prevailing wind that day was from the south and the students, it was 400 or 500, lobbed the tear gas back at the National Guard because it was very easy to pick them up. The thing that I remember very clearly was, at one point, the National Guard was lined up in a cross section of the ROTC Building. At a certain time, the National Guard formed. After lobbing a great deal of tear gas at the students, they hurried up the hill. Students, by then, started to head back towards Taylor Hall. As they pulled back, the National Guard surged forward. I didn’t see the actual shooting with the Guard. I was going toward Memorial Gym. I had to go out of my way to get around that area. As I came around Memorial Gym, I heard the shots thinking they were teargas. I didn’t really realize at the time that they were actual shots. When I got to Memorial Gym, it was impossible to get inside the building as it was surrounded by National Guard. It was locked and there was a sign on the door that the Memorial Gym was closed for the day. From there, I went down around again and stood on top of the hill and watched the action. During the period while I was up at Memorial Gym, I came around the building again and down by the hill which was the west side. The ambulance had come for the students.
Oh, let me–it’s rolling now, right? Okay, wait a minute.
By then there was mass confusion. The students, especially the young students, were quite hysterical. I saw one girl–I imagine she was one that had saw one of the students shot–quite hysterical and other students were around her, trying to comfort her. By then, the National Guard had re-formed back in front of the ROTC Building. At the same time, the State Patrol had formed a double-line and marched down to the ROTC Building, where it was roped off. The next step was the students re-formed on the hill, very quiet, mostly sitting down. I think some of the faculty were talking to them, trying to quiet them at this time. During this time, I had–
[break in the recording]
[June Stevenson]: –from the opposite direction, I watched the first series of events. While I was standing there and everything was quiet, one student who was quite hysterical was saying, “Please move away from the [unintelligible], disperse these crowds, they’re going to kill us all.” He was quite hysterical. I would say he was rather young–18, 19 years old. Nobody did anything, they just stood there and looked at him. From this position, I moved down to the Student Union and things had quieted down. That’s where I met Dr. Olds and I asked if there’d be class, and I went upstairs and from there they started to lock the doors, I believe. The last class was not in session when we stayed inside. I went over to the AV Building–or AV side of the education building–and watched the State Patrol going around from every building checking to see whoever they were looking for–I assume it was students. Around 3 o’clock, the building was unlocked and around 3:30, the announcement was made for all Kent State students to go home.
I feel, in watching this situation from the hill that day, had the National Guard guarded the ROTC Building and stayed in the line that they had formed, and not started up the hill, that the killings would not have occurred. The students, in watching them that day, never, in my opinion, got very close to the Guards. It was only after they started up the hill–
[break in recording]
June Stevenson: –duty that day was to guard the buildings, and it–I really feel that had they done their job there, that the students, which numbered, in my estimation 400 to 500, would have antagonized them, which they certainly did through words and actions, but would never have gone to the extremes that have happened on this day, May 4, 1970.
[End of Tape 1]
[Beginning of Tape 2]
[Unknown Speaker]: A continuation of the statement by June Stevenson.
[June Stevenson]: I feel that there was such an undertow at Kent that when I left Friday afternoon, I made the statement at home that I felt a great deal of trouble was going to happen at Kent in the near future. There was a–this terrible undertow of this feeling of resentment of the Cambodian war, and the resentment of the student body as a whole from the Vietnam war, was the straw to break the camel’s back.
Monday, when I came back to campus, it was like sitting on a volcano ready to erupt. The feelings were so strong, it’s something you can feel, that I have a feeling that events leading up to the tragedy could have been avoided, but the problem at Kent, as far as Monday being, were to the point of no return. There had to be an explosion.
[Unknown Speaker]: End of statement by June Stevenson. Statement by Betty Woodlee follows. Both this statement and the previous one were recorded on June the 1st, 1970.
[Betty Woodlee]: My name is Betty Woodlee. Address is 381 County Route 18, Rootstown, Ohio. The things that I can remember–we got into Kent about between 11:15 and 11:30 Friday night. We started down Water Street, and of course we saw kids standing out in the street, and the thing that took us by surprise–the first thing–was there were vacant parking lots–or parking spaces along the way. And this, you never see in Kent on a Friday night. So, we thought, well, you know there’s just kids just standing around outside and we went on down. They did let us through. The kids came out into the street, but I suppose it was because we were in a Volkswagen–two girls--and they thought, well, maybe they’re going to join us or something. They let us go on through.
We parked the car and walked back up Water Street and by the time that we got up into the crowd, we realized that it was–that there were [unintelligible] going to start something, we didn’t know what, I had never been to anything or seen anything like that before. We went in and around the group. And in there, no one seemed–everybody had been in there and they didn’t know what was going on outside. So we sat down and I guess it was my natural curiosity that led me back [laughs], and I was told to–I talked to several guys and, you know, supposedly it was about Cambodia and all this, and they told me to stay right inside the door so in case anything happened I could get in very quickly.
When I first started watching them, there weren’t really–there were a lot of kids standing in the street, but it seemed like there were maybe between 10 and 20 in the very beginning when I saw it, that were really trying to stir up the rest of the crowd. The first thing that I can remember seeing them do that was really violent, or was leading to this, was there–a guy got up on one of the cars that was parked there–I don’t know, I don’t think it was his–we were trying to figure it out, and he was leading the chanting and, you know, it’s going on. First, he was on the hood of the car, jumping up and down and yelling all these things, bashing in the hood of the car. And then he got on the roof of the car and kept this going–this hysteria is the only thing I can call it. They would go into the middle of the street where I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I suppose they could.
And it seemed that there were a few who would tell the rest of the growing crowd what to do and everything, and I did see the motorcyclists there. Everyone said they were the Chosen Few, or whatever they’re called. In the beginning before it really got going, one of them would rev up his motorcycle and drive down through the crowd and everybody would cheer him and then he would go back, you know–back down Water Street. And there were probably about, between six and eight other motorcyclists that just stayed off in the distance down Water Street. They seemed to be very–you know, the crowd seemed to think that they were really–very something, you know, they really cheered them. When they did–when the crowd did move down toward Main Street, the motorcycle was–exited. They left on Water–they took off.
It seemed to keep growing in momentum. I saw–well, we had only been there–I went in, I came back out–so we had probably been there 15 minutes when they started stopping cars. I can’t really remember how many cars they stopped, but enough–a few people had enough sense not to completely stop, as they went through. And this way they were–maybe they got hassled a little bit, but they got on through it. The kids seemed to really–the more people that would try to go through, it seemed their wanting to stop them seemed to grow, and the crowd seemed to grow. I can’t remember if they had set their big cans in the center or not. At least they didn’t have them all the way across because they seemed to want people to go through then. They had big, steel drums. I think they must have been full of things because I later saw them–that was what they added onto the firewood. But, I don’t think they had them all the way across because they wanted people to go through, it seemed like. I saw one car went through–it was older people probably in their 60s–and that was a car that they really–I mean, this man, he was confused. He stopped, and I could hear them throwing things and kicking it and beating it, and I’m pretty sure that I could hear the windows breaking. With that many kids standing around a car, you can’t really see. This kept–it was between probably 11:30 and–I know it was about 10 of 1 when the police came in and told us the bars were closing. So, I can’t really time it all because I would stay out there and then I would go back in and I would stay about five minutes talking with my girlfriend who was afraid about what was going on. It wasn’t really funny, but at the time it seemed very ridiculous–
[break in tape]
[Betty Woodlee]: –he went and he eventually went to try to go through three times. I think he came up toward Main Street the first time and just drove on through and they sort of got him, so I don’t know why he kept coming back. The second time he came from towards Main and he–they wouldn’t let him through. I mean, you know, it was either you run over 100 people or stop. So the kid stopped and they threw up the hood of the truck. I don’t know what they were going to do. And he–of course he backed out real quick and [they just missed him?], and they were throwing–
[End of Tape 2]
[Beginning of Tape 3]
[Unknown Speaker]: First continuation of the statement by Betty Woodlee.
[Betty Woodlee]: He backs out real quick and he just missed it, you know? And they were throwing boards and things at him, and he got out and he put the hood down and he took off. And, you know, this kept getting–the crowd kept getting bigger and bigger and this was just before they moved down Main. He tried to come through a third time down Main Street. And of course–I don’t know if he thought that they were going to disband, I don’t know. But, he saw they were still there, but he turned off one of the side streets right before he got to the crowd. And this was of course just stirred them up, and they took off after him. There must have been a hundred kids chasing that truck. I guess he got away, but it was just so foolish. I mean once I think would be enough for anybody.
And then, what got me was standing with a group of kids–older kids–in Rendezvous, you have to be 21 to get in and everybody that I was with, or had talked to, couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on, and we were very much against what was going on. We were talking and trying to figure these things out and a kid came up to me and mainly, I suppose because I had been saying what I felt, and he asked me if I was for the war. I said no. He asked me what I was doing about it and I said I didn’t think there was much I could do about it as an individual. And he said, well we’re here and we’re doing something about it, and he walked off into the crowd. I know that the owner of the Rendezvous went in and–he was standing next to me by the door–and he went in a couple times. He said he was gonna try to get help. I suppose he was calling the police, and nobody came and nobody came. And finally they built the fire and they used the steel drums and they–the kids ran around the steel drums. They were chanting some sort of–they looked like a bunch of wild men–I suppose that was the idea–but they ran around the drums and were yelling [laughs] their beautiful little odes. That was when they first got the fires going.
The crowd just kept growing–it was like, there were so many kids that were just standing there that weren’t in it, and it–I don’t know how many really were in the hard-core part of it, I couldn’t really tell. Eventually, when they did move down, people were turning in off Main and they were [unintelligible]. I think their purpose in that was to try to go through, but the kids decided they would go up to Main and block the traffic there. Of course, I stayed at the Rendezvous, I wasn’t going to follow. [laughs] And, I was standing outside and one of the kids came back and said [laughs]--he was very much shocked by the whole thing and he came back to me and said “they broke out every window all the way up to Main Street,” he says, “I’ve got to go in and get a drink.”
So, I stood there and I watched and they had put the–the barrels were still out there and this was after the crowd had moved up. One kid came back who looked like he belonged in that crowd as somebody’s grandmother. He was very straight-looking–you know, not the type to be in this group. And I thought, he’s going to do something–he’s going to move those barrels out of the street so people can get through because he started playing around with the barrels. But, what he did was empty the barrels out and get the fire really going, line the barrels up, and throw an old tire on it to really make the fire thick. I was–this was really shocking because I thought, well somebody is going to do something. I was getting ready to go out and help him get that stuff out of the street [laughs]. Of course, I ran, I didn’t get into it. After they moved, I watched them from the Rendezvous. I was standing next to the road and I saw the police [unintelligible] and I decided that was the time to get back into the Rendezvous, so I went in and I thought that was a safe place, but they came in at about 10 of 1 and told us that all bars are closed and to get out of Kent.
So, our car was parked down Water Street and when we went out they told us we had to go toward Main Street, which was something we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to get into that, we wanted to get to the car and get out, and I didn’t know what they were thinking. They told us we could go up into the back street and then cut back down to Water and not get into the crowd at all. Two kids had gone by and the owner of the Rendezvous was talking to the kids that I was around and they had wine bottles. He said, “I didn’t see them, I saw the kids with the bottles, but they looked just like wine bottles to me. I thought there was wine in the bottles, but they were the molotov cocktails.” So I thought, well I’m not getting in that crowd, so I went to [him?] and told him that I wanted out of there. Of course I was–I mean he could see that I was pretty close to [laughs] being in hysterics, so he took us part way to the car and said to get out of Kent, there’s going to be trouble. He said, “Now, run like hell to that car,” [laughs] and that’s what we did. And that’s all I saw on Friday night.
I didn’t see very much Monday either. When I got over there–well, I went over Monday and the only reason I went was for a midterm. I wasn’t planning on going to the rest of my classes anyway. I was terribly frightened. I got there Monday and I saw the signs put on the doors. Now, I didn’t–I really didn’t stop to read them. I think that they said–you know, they were telling you what you couldn’t do. But every sign I saw–that had been put out by whoever put this out–took up about an inch of space on that sheet of paper, and people had written “a rally at noon” or “a rally at 12:00” on every sign I saw. This really shook me because I knew from what had happened Friday and what I’d been hearing on the radio, that there was going to be trouble.
I went up to Satterfield around 9:30 to study for my History midterm that was supposed to be at 1:00, and I sat by the window so I could watch what was going on. I walked over and I could see the signs, and they had posted signs on every door, and I could see one of them on Bowman and I walked over to see if it was marked, too, and it wasn’t. I went back to Satterfield then, and I sat down, and some kid came along. He had his motorcycle helmet, you know, and the whole bit. He looked at that sign and he saw that it didn’t have the “rally at noon” on it because I had seen–checked that one off because I thought [unintelligible] and he just tore it down and wadded it up and threw it away. And I thought, there’s going to be trouble and I want to [know?]. I went out and I talked to one of the Guards and I asked him if he knew that there were signs posted all over campus about this rally. This was probably about 10:30 or so. He said, “Yes, I heard.” He got the call in over the intercom that they were checking on it. They had the buildings numbered–building number 29. I thought, this is great, now what do I do? What building do you hide in? So I said, “Well, what should I do?” and he said, “If I were you, I’d get off the campus,” and I said, “That’s what I’d like to do.” I went to my History class, I was–[laughs]–I told him I was afraid that I–
[End of Tape 3]
[Beginning of Tape 4]
[Unknown Speaker]: Second continuation of Betty Woodlee.
[Betty Woodlee]: [Unintelligible] I waited and eventually I watched the Guardsmen–they stopped out in front of Satterfield on the road there and loaded their guns. I had no desire to go out and see any of it because I just knew there was going to be trouble because of the kids’ attitudes and the things I had seen them do. I just didn’t want to be around it. One of the girls that was on television the night of May 4 had been in Satterfield before it all started and you know, this was a big thing, let’s go out and see this. She came up to me and she said, “Do you want to come out with me and see it?” and I said, “No, I want to stay away from it.” And so she was on the news–of course she was hysterical, but she had chosen to go and watch it. But I didn’t really see anything else–I didn’t see–I didn’t go out. I hid–that’s all I did on Monday.
The only kid I saw in the crowd that I recognized Friday night was the kid that had been in my history class. And the whole five weeks, he would come in–I was always early because I had just walked from Satterfield–and he was early, and people would ask him how he was doing about–if he’d thought of any way to get out of the draft. It was the only thing that was on his mind. Every day he’d say, “No, I haven’t thought of anything yet.” He wanted some sort of police record so that he wouldn’t be taken in. When I–he was the only one that I did recognize in the crowd and he was one of the ones that was–when they were doing the dancing around the drums, beating on the drums, and yelling and running around like Indians, he was in that main group that was carrying it out, but yet, I watched him because I did more or less know him and there were other people telling him what to do and he was just going along and doing it because this was the way I’m going to get arrested–it seemed to me that that was what he was thinking–and you know, I’ll do what they tell me to do. But he was one of the real leaders in it. Maybe one of–not really a leader, but a real follower and one of the real active ones at that.
One of the girls in my history class had told me–and I’m pretty sure it was the beginning–the Monday of that week before the rioting started, that she had heard through the grapevine, and it was going around that there would be trouble on campus before Spring Quarter was over. I took her to mean this was the Black students because they were marching that day–or at that time. I don’t think that’s what she meant now, because she seemed to be very much in-tune with what was going on. She went to every meeting that was held or every rally that was held, she participated in it. But, it seemed like a lot of people knew a lot more than I did, as far as all of that goes.
I went to my History–for my History midterm, which was supposed to be at 1:10, and when I got into the room there were five guys there out of the 50 some students that were taking the course. And I was crying–I had just heard what had happened. I asked them, I said, “Are you going to take this test?” I said, “I don’t think I can start trying to take it.” And they said, “No, we sent someone up to talk to the professor, and we won’t take it.” Everybody was in shock–nobody–you couldn’t take a test. So we waited around. He was going to come down, and he came down and talked to us for about two or three minutes and he said “well, we’re not going to have a midterm.” And I was sitting there crying, and afterwards I talked to him about how to finish the course and everything and he said, “I remember you. You were the one that were afraid and you were the one that was crying,” and he said, “Now I know why you were afraid.” But at the time, he just–nobody seemed to know, and they didn’t realize what was going on and when we–the kids had come in for class had told us to watch out for the left-wing radicals who were running around campus, shooting at anybody–kids. And, so I was terrified. I had to go to Van Deusen to pick up a girlfriend and to bring to school with me, and so [laughs] I’d never spoken to the guy before in the class–he was about 6’4” and about 230 pounds and I asked him if he would walk over with me. So we went on–and this was long after the shooting had taken place, and I think that these were reinforcements of the Guard that were brought in. These guys were sitting in Jeeps and they looked as scared as I felt. And the kids, they were standing up around the front of Bowman–were standing there, even after these shootings, after all had gone on, and they were still jeering at these Guardsmen. And the profanity, I won’t even try to describe because it just sickened me. But they were saying that, they were yelling, “you’ve killed three, why don’t you kill me.” They kept yelling this at these guardsmen. I wanted to turn around and hit them, but I thought that’s a good way to get it.
I walked on through and by the time I got to Van Deusen, this girl’s prof had said she couldn’t leave. I said we’ve to get out of here because it is something like two and one-half miles back to the stadium parking lot. She said the buses were not running and I said “they’re still running,” and so we ran all the way out and caught the bus, it was the last bus out. We got–[unintelligible] picked up people. I can’t seem–it’s hard for me to realize that these kids could take this so calmly. I know one guy and girl got on and the guy was saying, “well, I wonder what they will do next.” He said–now, [unintelligible] good plans and everything, I don’t think he was [unintelligible] in what he was saying, something about Memorial Gym and burning the floor and that because the varnish would go so fast, and this would be a good thing to do. Those kids were just thinking ahead of what was going to happen next. They didn’t, of course, maybe they were in shock, too. I don’t know.
We got down to one of the last stops at the dorms and picked up two guys. They had missed the whole thing. I just could not stop crying and they got on and I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I wanted to be left alone. These kids were saying the bus driver told us that this was the last run that he was making, and that he was going back to the garage. The kids said “well can we get up there, we want to see what’s going on.” And they knew at the time there were people dead there, and the trouble that had happened, but they were so–they wanted to get there and see, they were so happy about the whole thing. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t say anything to them.
From the time that we got there, and the thing kept growing, we all kept wondering when the police would come. As I said, I suppose it was the first cop that [unintelligible] and he took off. No one came back. The owner of Rendezvous was calling, I’m sure there were other people trying to get police out there. But, it seemed like that they would never show up. They didn’t show up until the kids were down at Main Street. I don’t know, I couldn’t see if they had stopped any cars down there or–it just seemed like they reached Main Street and I saw the first white helmet. That’s when I went back into the Rendezvous. It was–I know it approximately a quarter of [unintelligible].
[End of Tape 4]
[Beginning of Tape 5]
[Unknown Speaker]: This is the third continuation of Betty Woodlee.
[Betty Woodlee]: –a quarter of 11 to about a quarter of 1, which is an hour and one-half. No one showed up. I read in the paper that they said they thought they would disperse, but it just kept growing, and I know that that one guy, the owner of Rendezvous was telling them what was going on. I guess they were gathering forces. They thought that they needed more people to come in. There, no one tried to stop it for an hour and one-half that I was there.
[Unknown Speaker]: End of statement by Betty Woodlee.
[End of Tape 5]
Recorded statements of Kent State University students June Stevenson and Betty Woodlee conducted by the CKSUV.
Kent State University
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|Subcollection||Commission on KSU Violence records|
Commissions, Hearings, Tribunals
Reactions, Responses. Students
|May 4 Provenance||
May 4 Collection