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Larry Shank, Oral History
Recorded: March 14, 2019 and April 12, 2019
Interviewed by Kathleen Siebert Medicus
Transcribed by the Kent State University Research and Evaluation Bureau
[Larry Shank]: I was born in Ravenna, grew up there, graduated from Ravenna High School. At the time, the state had a system, whereby if you went to a state school, it was really cheap. I think my first quarter was $120 or something like that. The state would subsidize you to go to a state school. We weren’t rich and Kent’s eight miles away. So, I chose Kent and I started there in 1965.
[Interviewer]: So, you were a freshman in 1965?
[Larry Shank]: I was a freshman in 1965, yes.
[Interviewer]: What were you focusing on, in terms of your studies and your major?
[Larry Shank]: At the time, I was going to—I wanted to be a teacher. So, I was in the Education Department, with a major at that time, was social studies. I remember my first day on campus was orientation and I think our orientation, I’m not terribly sure, but I think it was in Korb Hall, because I remember coming in—it still sticks in my mind. There was a lone student in front of the Education Building. I think that was across from Korb. A lone student protesting the war in Vietnam.
[Interviewer]: You mean one, solitary individual?
[Larry Shank]: One solitary, yeah. The movement hadn’t picked up or anything, so that stuck in my mind. Then we went over to Korb. Got orientation and then I started classes.
[Interviewer]: So, growing up in Ravenna, close to Kent but not living right in Kent, was this something your family talked about? What was happening on campus? Again, early 1960s maybe, wasn’t discussed much?
[Larry Shank]: No, it wasn’t very pronounced. It wasn’t anything like that. My dad was a World War II veteran and he was pretty savvy on what was going on. My dad did not like care for war too much. He had had some tough experiences during World War II, but for the most part none of that ever entered into it. When I started Kent, I was commuting. Then, I got a place there—a house, where I had a room. From there on, I kept on moving on to other places, as far as living in Kent.
[Interviewer]: So, you weren’t ever staying in one of the dormitories?
[Larry Shank]: Never in a dorm, no. My girlfriend lived in Korb, so I was aware of the dorms and all of that—kind of the dorm experience because of her—but other than that, no.
[Interviewer]: Could you maybe paint a picture for us, of those first years for you being a student at Kent State in terms of, the first day seeing that single student protesting, to what you were seeing in subsequent years?
[Larry Shank]: It kind of—it seemed like it built incrementally. There was—I remember going to an SDS meeting and then going—yeah, I was curious about everything that was going on, so I just remember there was turmoil with the Black students and then there was the SDS and then there were the ROTC. One of the things I always remember is the ROTC and I think, at the time, they would practice on the football field. Whenever they would do their marching and all, there would always be protestors and people yelling at them and that type of thing. It was kind of like, incremental. The war was ratcheting up. None of us wanted to go, and so we were vehemently anti-war. It was just one of those things, it just kind of built—
[Interviewer]: Each year you were here?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: You mentioned you attended an SDS meeting?
[Larry Shank]: It might have been in the Student Union. I was curious—the SDS—and I had read about it and all that. I went to a meeting and—these guys aren’t for me. They’re a little crazy. So, it just wasn’t in my purview to see them any more than when I did.
[Interviewer]: Were you involved in any of the protests, in those years? The ROTC on the football field or—
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, there was a—I think there was a protest in front of the Administration Building and people slept out overnight, as I remember. So, we—there was a bunch of us got sleeping bags and joined the protest and sat out front of the Administration Building. I can’t remember if—I think that some students actually occupied the Administration Building and whether that was like—that must have been maybe ’67, somewhere around there. For the most part, I was working two jobs, so I didn’t have time to do that.
[Interviewer]: I saw you wrote down your schedule of what you were doing while you were a student.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. I worked at the bars, at JB’s, at night and then in the morning I always scheduled my classes so that my classes would be from the first class early, to like eleven or twelve o’clock and then from twelve o’clock I would usually stop in The Student Union, get some lunch, and then head over to the Supply Center.
[Interviewer]: So, you were doing morning classes, working in the afternoon, working at night?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: That was hard.
[Larry Shank]: It was fun. I was young. It was no big deal.
[Interviewer]: Back to that sleeping overnight in front of the Administration Building. I just want to stop back at that for a minute. Do you have any other memories? How big that was? How many students [unintelligible]?
[Larry Shank]: It was pretty big. There was a lot of students that were out front, that slept overnight, as part of the protest. Like I said, I’m thinking that one of the offices was occupied or something like that. But, they came to some resolve, and it kind of dissipated, after a day or two.
[Interviewer]: And that was—was it generally peaceful? Pretty [unintelligible]?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was very peaceful.
[Interviewer]: And was it focused on anti-war or civil rights or—
[Larry Shank]: I don’t remember, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it had something to do with the war. But, you know, I’m very vague on it. In fact, somewhere, there’s a Daily Kent Stater with the picture on the front and I’m right in the middle of it. I’m standing there talking to somebody and, of course, that picture made it. I think it made it to the Record-Courier and my parents were not pleased.
[Interviewer]: Oh dear. We can look that up and see that picture. Does anything else—is there anything else from those years? Sophomore year, junior year, that stands out in your memory?
[Larry Shank]: No, other than, like I said, there was general unease and it had to do with the war. I think in 1968, I became a little more radical because I was called in for my physical. So, I became even more involved in the anti-war stuff. For the most part, it was—I don’t remember anything being violent. I don’t remember anything being—you know, hippies, either all of us were just kind of hippies and into that kind of subculture-type thing and being anti-war. I do remember—actually, I do remember one. There was something at the Speech Building. Students, I think had occupied—this was actually just before May 4th. I think students had occupied the Speech Building. And I remember they called in the Highway Patrol and Highway Patrol went in, made arrests, took people out, and it was over. That was one, yeah, I do remember. Then there was a big thing with—the Greeks were all fired up. They were angry about the hippies and the building and that type of thing. I do remember conflict between the hippie kids and the Greeks. It was, at times kind of, close to being violent, but it was never anything that really, as far as I knew, ever went into violence.
[Interviewer]: Greeks being fraternity and sorority members on campus?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. Which is funny, because I was really good friends with some people in the Sigma Nu. Which was kind of like—they were Animal House, just like the movie. They were exactly like that, but that’s because I worked with a lot of them at the Supply Center. So, I became friends with them. They were actually, at times, especially if you were downtown and they were around, they kind of protected you. So, nothing ever happened to you.
[Interviewer]: If you were near Sigma Nu members.
[Larry Shank]: Well, the Sigma Nus were always—they were down in The Cove. At The Cove was Tiny Reed and the Velours, was the band. They were like a Motown band. So, it was kind of people who wanted to go and dance, do Motown, that kind of stuff. Kind of attracted the people who were in fraternities. On the other hand, I was at JB’s, which was where all the hippies went.
[Interviewer]: That’s where you worked?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. That’s where you went down and people were sitting the whole time listening to the music. In fact, the owner, Joe Bujack complained to me at one time. He goes, “I don’t get it. This place is packed but nobody’s drinking beer.” I go, “Joe, they’re all high, that’s why!”
[Interviewer]: Not so good for his business, I guess.
[Larry Shank]: No, no.
[Interviewer]: That protest at the Speech Building, you remember that being spring of 1970, close to when the shootings occurred?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I think so, because somewhere—I’m going to say ’68, ’69—I can’t say for sure.
[Interviewer]: Then you mentioned this kind of general unease, that seemed to be kind of building over time during your years on campus.
[Larry Shank]: Well, the people in the town didn’t like us. They were pretty hostile. Especially, if you looked like a hippie. You got a lot of abuse from the townies and all that. Being on campus, everything was pretty good.
[Interviewer]: What was that like, if you were seen walking downtown to your job? Did they get close to you or—
[Larry Shank]: It was like, Hey you hippies, [unintelligible] bellbottoms, you sissy. Just that general type of nastiness—which we see today. Just got a lot of comments from people. A lot of bad looks. In fact, I can interject this, I guess, in at one point. After the shootings, I was walking to school and I was living down on Dodge Street, at the time, which was, at that time, the area was pretty Black. I was walking down the street and a guy was sitting on his porch and he goes, “Hey, kid”, he says, “Now you know how it feels.”
[Interviewer]: I’m curious about what you said: you had to go for a physical. You came up in the draft?
[Larry Shank]: I came in the draft, yes. In Ravenna, they had filled their quotas. They had taken everybody they could. People who were in school, even though we had a deferment, they could take you—if they needed you.
[Interviewer]: So, the deferment, in your case, might not stick?
[Larry Shank]: Right. So, I had to go up to Cleveland. The bus full of people from Ravenna and we went up and had our physical, which I passed.
[Interviewer]: For better or for worse.
[Larry Shank]: I passed it and the guy we went up with, he wanted to go in and he failed. That just—it’s funny.
[Interviewer]: What happened with your draft status after that?
[Larry Shank]: My status was that I was pretty close to getting drafted. So, I wrote a letter to Representative Stanton, I think it was. Actually, my uncle, my uncle owned a bar in Kent. It was, at the time called, Eddie’s Stag Bar. He knew Representative Stanton. So, he wrote him a letter and said, “My nephew has some problems.” When I was born, I had two clubfeet and I was operated on. So, my legs were never really good. I would have never lasted through basic training. But, he sent my doctor stuff and all to Representative Stanton and then I got a deferment.
[Interviewer]: So you weren’t drafted?
[Larry Shank]: I wasn’t drafted, no. I was close, but I wasn’t. And then, when they did the lottery, my number was good, so I wasn’t even in any chance of being drafted.
[Interviewer]: So, that means you had a high number, right? You were pretty safe.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I was safe. I was very relieved.
[Interviewer]: But still, that would certainly—you know, that affected you…
[Larry Shank]: It made me sympathize with the anti-war movement, more than anybody else.
[Interviewer]: So, after your family had seen that picture in the newspaper, when you were involved in one of the sit-ins, your family I presume was talking about what was going on more at that point, then when you first started?
[Larry Shank]: Well, you know, my family was pretty quiet. They never said much. Their attitude was, It’s your life, you’re making your choices. We may not like what you’re doing, but it’s your choice. In fact, my dad at one point told me, he just said, “If you choose to go to Canada,” he says, “I’ll understand.”
[Interviewer]: That was a lot for him to say, because you wouldn’t be able to visit your family.
[Larry Shank]: Right, and I told him, There’s no way that I’d ever do that. I’ll take my chances.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else from those days leading up to 1970 you can think of or are we ready to move forward in time?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I think. It was just kind of general stuff on campus. Like I said, I was working two jobs. My time on campus was only four or five hours a day. And on the weekends—not even on the weekends, because I was working on the weekends, too. So, I wasn’t really part of the campus life, as it was.
[Larry Shank]: Well, I did—my grades were not good to begin with. In fact, I ended flunking out of school after my second year and then I came back, and then I got good grades, after I realized I wanted to be in school. But, more than anything else, I loved cinema. So, I wanted to program the movies that were shown on campus. I think it was on Tuesday nights and I think they showed them in Korb Hall, but I couldn’t because academically, I didn’t—you had to have at least a 2.5 in order to be able to do that. So, my girlfriend ended up—she took the job and then I’m the one who programmed the movies.
[Interviewer]: So, you did it together? That was a good work around.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was, it was.
[Interviewer]: Maybe just tell us a little bit about your job on campus. What you did, what a day there was like.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, the Supply Center. There was a—we had trucks. At the beginning, they made me a driver and I was in charge of a group of other students. Sometimes, I wasn’t the driver, sometimes it was somebody they had hired, but sometimes, I was the driver. What we would do is, we would go to a warehouse. There was a warehouse on Water Street. Primarily, one of the things that we got were the bunk beds. So, we had to go get the two pieces of bunk bed, the frame that went on them, and a mattress. And then, wherever they needed the beds, whichever dorm [unintelligible], that’s where we’d go. Some years, at the beginning of the school year, they had too many students. So, they set up bunk beds, I think it was in the halls, until they could place students somewhere. That was our primary job. The other one was getting furniture. There was furniture that went into the dorms and things like that. We got it, put it in, took it out, put it back in the warehouse, that kind of stuff.
[Interviewer]: And that was a yearlong thing, anytime dorms—?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, when the summer came, they let us work full time, but during school they allowed us to pretty much make our own time.
[Interviewer]: There were a lot of other student workers there with you?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, a lot of students. I remember there was a couple kids from Iran who were working there, some football players—kind of a wide array of people who needed to have a little extra money on campus.
[Interviewer]: So, that was kind of like, part of your campus “family,” that group at the Supply Center?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, kind of.
[Interviewer]: Let’s maybe look at spring of 1970. Maybe, I don’t know where is best for you to start? The week before the shootings or if you recall Nixon declaring—expanding the war, invading Cambodia?
[Larry Shank]: To me, that was, the Nixon-Cambodia thing was the thing that really got people fired up. I vaguely remember, like on the Friday right where the bell is. I think they had—they were talking about Nixon invading Cambodia and all that kind of stuff and I think they ceremonially buried the Constitution. So, I remember that. But, it was kind of—it wasn’t very well attended or anything.
[Interviewer]: That was Friday, May 1st.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, that makes sense. Then from that point on, you know, there was the same thing, people grumbling about the war and that kind of thing. But the weekend was coming up, so, it was no big deal. On that Saturday—of course, it was the Saturday I didn’t work JB’s, but, that’s when all the problems happened downtown, with the spray painting and things like that. I remember one of my roommates—his name was Ron Mihalic, and he was kind of the, almost the manager of JB’s at the time. He was kind of in charge at the time.
[Interviewer]: On Saturday night, you were not working that night, but you were still? [Editor’s clarification: these events described in downtown Kent actually took place on Friday night, May 1]
[Larry Shank]: I was not working there. But funny thing is, that when everything started and the police came in. And there was really—for weeks after—really bad feeling amongst the younger people towards the police because the way they handled everything. They were really, really angry towards the police, but they had taken—they had gone down Water Street and they closed all the bars and pressed everybody out onto the streets and then they pushed them back up towards campus. My brother happened to be in the movies. And he was coming out of the movies when this was all going on. He got swept up and forced up on campus. So, a lot of people really—I really think that’s part of where some of this anger came from and why some of the kids were so hostile is, the police were really nasty, they were really, really nasty.
[Interviewer]: Did you see was it the City of Kent police? Did they also have other?
[Larry Shank]: There’s Kent police, there was Stow police, I believe. There was a number of police units that they had called in.
[Interviewer]: Was it later in the evening that things really got—
[Larry Shank]: I think it was somewhere around ten, eleven o’clock. And then subsequently when I went—
[Larry Shank]: Subsequently, when I went back to work, everybody was really on edge. They just—then there was a police presence. It just—downtown Water Street used to be really a good time, type New Orleans feeling. After that it was gone. Our kids that were in JB’s, they were the hippies. They were quiet. Sometimes, I would let them out. There was a back door that went back along the railroad track. I would let them go out the back door so that they didn’t have to deal with anything out in the street.
[Interviewer]: Because after that Saturday, there was big police presence downtown all the time or—
[Larry Shank]: There was a police presence, where there never had really been one before. They had pretty much left Water Street alone, at least as I remember it anyway.
[Interviewer]: I wanted to ask just a little bit more about the motorcycle gang presence. So that had been going on the whole time you worked at JB’s?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it started building. First, it was a few. Then, by May 4, it was quite a lot. It seemed like the street had a lot of motorcycles parked on it.
[Interviewer]: So that was sort of part of the culture, part of the atmosphere downtown, the biker on the street.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, a lot of kids doing drugs on the street. But it wasn’t hard drugs, like now. It was LSD, marijuana. That type of thing.
[Interviewer]: I’ve heard one other person in an oral history say that some of the bars had run out of beer because of the truckers’ strike? Was that true where you worked? Did you have—
[Larry Shank]: No. Our kids didn’t drink. I don’t ever remember running out of beer. At The Cove, I could I see that happening. There was a lot of beer drinking at The Cove, but I don’t remember anything with us running out of beer.
[Interviewer]: So, were you there on the street when the police were closing bars, making everybody leave, and then pushing the crowd toward campus?
[Larry Shank]: No, I wasn’t.
[Interviewer]: But your brother was in that crowd?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. It’s funny I think the following—there was another time that they did the same thing. When things got tight on the street, I locked the door so nobody could get in, nobody could get out. But then the police came and they banged on the door and told us that I had to make everybody get out or they were going to arrest us all. So it was that type of mentality.
[Interviewer]: And that was after the shootings? Sometime that summer?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. I can’t tell you exactly when that was.
[Interviewer]: Any other memories or things you remember seeing Saturday? Or where were you since you weren’t downtown?
[Larry Shank]: I was at my house on Dodge Street. I had a date and we were back there listening to music and that type of stuff. Then, later some of my roommates came home and said, Oh! There was all this going on downtown. And I’m going, Dang! I missed it all. My one day off. But then afterwards the next day, I don’t remember any problems. I didn’t go on campus, I stayed at my house. So, I didn’t really return to campus until May 4.
[Interviewer]: You didn’t work on campus on the weekends?
[Larry Shank]: No, no, we worked during the week.
[Interviewer]: And you probably got early Monday morning class? Monday, May 4, I’m guessing?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I’m thinking it was one of those things where I could get a class that was like, early Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then another class that was on Tuesday, Thursday. I always managed to get my classes so I could get the right amount of credits and still be able to work.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember Monday morning, were you aware that there would be a rally at noon? Did you see any—
[Larry Shank]: I don’t remember being aware of it. I know that when I got there, I, of course, I had to go down and look at the barracks—the building that had burned—but then I went off to class. Classes seemed relatively normal. I think I had my last class, I think, was geology, and it was on the far side of campus and I don’t remember which building it was in, but I do know that it was across from the Robin Hood, because sometimes we would ditch class and go to the Robin Hood.
[Interviewer]: Right at the front campus [unintelligible]—
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, so I had a class over there somewhere and I believe it let out at eleven. And then I went walked from over there, went over to The Student Union, then got something to eat. And then headed over to the Supply Center. And usually, I went up Blanket Hill crossing over whatever building, whatever dorm is there, because you could just cross over and go back to the Supply Center. I started off—I was going to be a good boy and go to work, but when I got up on the hill, there was a gathering. There was somebody ringing the bell. There was talk about the invasion of Cambodia, and all that kind of stuff. So, I sat around and watched.
[Interviewer]: And it was a beautiful, warm spring day.
[Larry Shank]: It was a gorgeous day, just like 9/11. Just that kind of day, just a gorgeous day. As they advanced, they start shooting tear gas. The thing that turned it all is that they shot the tear gas, but there was breeze. And so, the breeze blew the tear gas back on them rather than up on us and a number of students ran down, picked up the tear gas canisters, and threw them back. And they still kept advancing and, as they advanced, they still shooting tear gas and eventually it kind of got to us. As they were coming up Blanket Hill, I left and went up to the walkway around Taylor Hall. Got on that, walked around to the front, and then walked down to the parking lot. And then from the parking lot, I crossed Midway Drive. There was a patch of green there and that’s where I stopped. I stopped to see what was going on. Once again, kids it was—the weirdest thing was, I think, at the time class, had just gotten out. So, there were—not only were there Guardsmen and kids throwing stuff, there were people coming from their classes, walking right through all of it, too.
[Interviewer]: Just going, where they’re going.
[Larry Shank]: And not really even paying attention as to what was going on. It was really kind of a weird thing. But once again, it was kind of that carnival atmosphere. Then, the one wing of the Guard went down advancing on some of the students, they got trapped in a practice football field. There was a fence up and the kids were on the other side of the fence. The Guard went up to the fence, couldn’t get through so they backed off and they started coming back. I just remember people laughing going, Boy, are they stupid. You know, advancing into an area like that and getting trapped. Then they came back. And I personally thought, Well, this is all over. So, I was getting ready to head back down to the Supply Center thinking, Well, this is all done. And then, the shots and—this is so vivid in my mind because what I remember the most was that time slowed down. I heard the shots and then everything was like slow motion. I dropped to the ground. You could hear the ricochets. Seemed like it took forever. Then, when it was over, I got up and I looked and there was a body laying in the street. Kids didn’t know what to do. They were pretty upset. Then I remember the Guard coming down and kind of surrounding the body and that’s when the kids got really angry. Yelling at them and saying, Kill the rest of us, that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: Were they giving first aid?
[Larry Shank]: No, it seemed to take forever for the ambulances to get there. But the kids who were there, like I said, they were angry. The ambulances came up and I remember them getting the person who was wounded and taking them out and they passed by me. The thing that’s indelible in my mind that this body was covered, but there was hand hanging down covered—whether it was covered in blood or not, I don’t know. I just remember that stretcher with that hand hanging down.
[Interviewer]: So, go right past where you were, you saw someone on a stretcher, totally covered, except the hand?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was like they put them on the stretcher, maybe the hand had fallen down. And, I think it was at that point, there was—I thought there was going to be more shootings because the kids who were there really angry. The Guardsmen didn’t—they were kind of angry, too, and I don’t think they knew what they were doing. That’s when Dr. Frank came out and kind of talked everybody down, diluted the situation. And then, once they got all the bodies out, then it kind of dissipated. They told everybody to go home. And that was kind of like the end of it.
[Interviewer]: Were you—you were in that spot on Midway Drive, near the parking lot? Did you go back to The Commons—?
[Larry Shank]: From that point, if you crossed over—whatever—Dunbar Hall, is that what was there or is there? Anyway, there was a building there, if you cut across there you could go back through a parking lot over the Supply Center. So, that’s where I was headed.
[Interviewer]: Did you see and hear Dr. Frank talking to students?
[Larry Shank]: Yes, I did. He was really freaked out and he was just really impassioned. But he was calm. It seemed like he was near tears, but he was calm. No matter who he was talking to he was calm, whether he was talking to the Guardsmen, talking to the kids. It was just about, we got to stop this so more people don’t end up being dead. That type of thing. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was generally what he said.
[Interviewer]: You knew he was professor. Had you had him in class?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I did know him. I don’t know if I had him. Did I have him for class? What did he teach, do you know?
[Interviewer]: It’s not at the top of my head at the moment. I was thinking it might have been geology, but can’t remember.
[Larry Shank]: That’s what I’m thinking of. That I had him either in geography or geology, one of those two. So, I knew who he was. I knew he was faculty. If I remember correctly, the faculty were wearing armbands, so we knew who the faculty were.
[Interviewer]: I’m curious about some other visual memories that morning? Did you typically walk to campus from where you lived? Or did you drive?
[Larry Shank]: Sometimes, I drove. Parking was, as always, was a problem, but Dodge Street was pretty far away, but I would walk. I didn’t mind walking.
[Interviewer]: Do you remember sort of what you saw when you first arrived on campus. Did you see Guardsmen here and there or were there—
[Larry Shank]: Oh yeah. Especially, down around the building, the football field was filled with army vehicles, which was—to me that was really unnerving. Then there were Guards-
[Interviewer]: That was your first time to see that on campus? You hadn’t been on campus on the weekend.
[Larry Shank]: I had kind of assumed that, okay, things were under control. They would go home. I never ever thought that they would stay there that long.
[Interviewer]: You mentioned that you went by the ROTC building that had burned. Were there people there?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. They had it roped off. There were Guardsmen. There was a jeep there. There were Guardsmen with their guns. It was roped off, so you had to go kind of around it. There was a walkway that you could still go around. But, you had to go around it to get the other part of campus.
[Interviewer]: From The Student Union, where you had lunch, you walked across to Blanket Hill toward Taylor Hall and you saw a gathering. Was it primarily students that were there in The Commons at that point?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was all students.
[Interviewer]: So, you didn’t see any Guard in The Commons until that jeep came?
[Larry Shank]: Right.
[Interviewer]: Maybe, we could pick up then, where you left off after Dr. Frank was talking to everyone.
[Larry Shank]: Like I said, he was talking to people. He initially got everybody quieted down. He talked the Guardsmen into stepping back because, at the point they were close to the body, nobody was sure what they were going to do. Were they going to try and move the body or whatever? Nobody wanted them to touch them. Dr. Frank talked them into backing away. Once they backed away, then things seemed to get a little calmer. Just their presence down there was really infuriating people because of the deaths.
[Interviewer]: So, it was clear this whole time that that person was gone?
[Larry Shank]: Oh yeah, there’s no doubt that he was dead. There was so much blood, it was unbelievable.
[Interviewer]: There was a large crowd, I’m guessing in that area?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, which was amazing because you would think that, with the shooting, people would have run away. Nobody ran away. Everybody stayed there, you know, and just kind of became kind of confrontational.
[Interviewer]: Did you know that person at the time? It was not someone you knew?
[Larry Shank]: I didn’t know any of the people who were shot.
[Interviewer]: Later, you learned the name of that person that went by you.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah—I can’t think of his name—Jeffrey, I think.
[Interviewer]: Jeffrey Miller?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I think that’s who it was. I mean he had a head wound. I knew a lot of people who were there. One of the ironies is I was really good friends with one of the Guardsmen. In fact, he was the only Guardsmen—his name was Larry Shafer—who admitted to shooting somebody. So, I had been in his wedding, so I knew him. But I never knew until a long time afterwards that he was there or he had taken part in the shootings.
[Interviewer]: You didn’t see him and recognize him there that day?
[Larry Shank]: Oh, no, no, no.
[Interviewer]: Were many of the Guard wearing gas masks still at that point? Maybe you wouldn’t have recognized him anyway?
[Larry Shank]: Right. Yeah, they all had, they still had gas masks—I think they still had gas masks on. In my mind, that’s what I remember. There was no way to tell who they were.
[Interviewer]: What do you remember next?
[Larry Shank]: Well, after that, after everybody started to leave, the police or Guard said, Everybody, you have to leave. You have to clear off campus. So, what I did was I went down to the Supply Center and told them what had happened. Then, I believe, they sent us home. And then, when they eventually allowed us to come back to campus to work, we were told that—the Guardsmen were still there when they told us we could come back to work. They told us that we would have to get haircuts. No way that we were going to be able to continue working there with long hair.
[Interviewer]: Your boss on campus?
[Larry Shank]: Being a smart-ass, I told them no. What they ended up doing was that they kind of demoted me. At the time, I drove the trucks and I was in charge of a crew of kids, and then I was demoted so I became one of the kids who was in the back of the truck. Yeah, they told us we had to clean up our act. They also told us that while we were out, not to get off of the trucks anywhere on campus. And if we got off the trucks, we would probably be shot.
[Interviewer]: Wow. So, this was during the time campus was closed and classes were not in session, no one was living in the dorms?
[Larry Shank]: No, no. In fact, we got from our classes, we got—our professors sent us, in the mail, what we would have to do to complete the course. So, we got those, and I think most of them were like essays or something like that and then we had to send them back to the professors in order to get our grades.
[Interviewer]: Did you have any off-campus meetings with any of your professors? Or it was strictly through the mail for you?
[Larry Shank]: It was through the mail.
[Interviewer]: Were you working full time then at that point, since classes were not in session at the Supply Center like you did summers prior?
[Larry Shank]: Oh, you mean afterwards. Yeah, I think I was. As long as there’s no classes. If there are no classes, then we worked a full eight hours.
[Interviewer]: What was campus—I mean what did it look like? It must have been very different.
[Larry Shank]: It was pretty eerie. There was no one on campus. There were roadblocks up on Main Street. So, if you were driving into Kent, the likelihood, if you were young, you were going to get stopped and, What are you doing? Why are you here? Where are you going? That type of thing. So, there was that. In fact, I had to, since I lived on Dodge Street, in order to get out of town—I think that was Mogadore Road, I could get to Mogadore Road from Dodge Street and then I could go and take back roads to go to Tallmadge or go to someplace else without having to take the main roads in. One of the things that they were there for is that they were certain that there were people coming in from Berkeley, with bombs. They were coming in from Berkeley, and they were going to bomb the place. And that also that one of the Black Panthers or one of those groups was going to come in and cause great disruption. So, everybody was terrified that these groups were coming in to Kent. That they had targeted Kent to be a place like Berkeley, which, of course, never happened.
[Interviewer]: But that’s why there was all this caution and checkpoints?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, they really did believe that these people—the one I heard the most was that there people on their way from Berkeley. They were driving in from Berkeley and they were going to blow up some of the buildings at Kent.
[Interviewer]: There had been bomb threats?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: When you were on duty at work, you had to sometimes go to that warehouse off campus. Did the truck have any trouble going back and forth?
[Larry Shank]: No, I guess because it was a university vehicle. I think, at that time, we had one of the university employees driving the truck.
[Interviewer]: And you were in the back?
[Larry Shank]: I was in the back, right.
[Interviewer]: What did the dorms look like? Students had to leave in a hurry. Were some rooms not fully cleared out at that point?
[Larry Shank]: We weren’t allowed into—
[Interviewer]: You weren’t in rooms?
[Larry Shank]: No.
[Interviewer]: You were moving furniture from common areas and other supplies?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I don’t remember being in any rooms because they wouldn’t want you in any of the rooms without someone being there.
[Interviewer]: Did you work all through the summer for the university that summer?
[Larry Shank]: Yes.
[Interviewer]: At a certain point, classes were back in session and things were different?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, I think for the summer session they allowed people back on campus.
[Interviewer]: Did you take courses that summer or you were working full time?
[Larry Shank]: Did I take classes that summer? I don’t think I did.
[Interviewer]: What was it like where you lived and in your neighborhood in the immediate aftermath?
[Larry Shank]: Like I said, I was down on Dodge Street. It was pretty far from campus, mostly Black neighborhood. Kind of isolated from everything else. I was able to go from there, be able to go down to Water Street to go to work there. It was pretty calm. There was always these—I heard from other people about just things like people sitting out on their porch and a jeep would come by and force them to get off the porch because there was curfew. I forgot about that. There was a curfew and you weren’t allowed to be out after seven o’clock, or something like that. So, if anybody was sitting out on their porch or whatever, they would come by and yell at you and tell you to get off of the porch. Couldn’t be outside, that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: You had to be inside the house.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah.
[Interviewer]: Did that happen in your neighborhood as well or you were further off away from campus?
[Larry Shank]: This was up the closer you got to campus. That they had—actually had, they had patrols that kind of went up and down the streets, making sure that everything was calm.
[Interviewer]: Do you have any other memories from that those initial days after May 4?
[Larry Shank]: I just remember everything changed. There was no longer this feeling of well-being on the campus. No longer the feeling of well-being down on Water Street. The feeling of community that we’re all students and we’re going to school and having fun and that kind of stuff, that all ended. It was kind of—it kind of got dark, actually.
[Interviewer]: Did you graduate that year?
[Larry Shank]: I graduated in—excuse me.
[Interviewer]: Larry, would you like to take a short break, get a drink of water?
[Larry Shank]: Let me grab a drink of water.
[Interviewer]: Let me just pause.
[Interviewer]: Alright, we’re back to recording, I have un-paused, go ahead.
[Larry Shank]: So, we were talking about how dark. Everything was kind of dark and ugly, especially on Water Street. The business for the bars started to dry up. People just weren’t coming anymore. Some of the business went down to a place called The Dome, which was on the other side of Water Street.
[Interviewer]: And further away from downtown?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. I think there’s a parkway that goes through where it was now. A lot of the business went there. Just because kids a little safer being on that end away from Water Street.
[Interviewer]: You were telling us about how your studies at Kent State ended. When you graduated?
[Larry Shank]: I graduated in ’71—the summer of ’71. Then I stayed on campus for another year. I took some post-graduate work. And then, after that, I was in Kent until—stayed in Kent till around ’74. Then I got gainful employment and went off to Maryland.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else from those days that stands out that you would like to share?
[Larry Shank]: Like I said, there was that one period of time when—I think it might have been the year after the shootings, when, at the time, I was kind of the manager at JB’s, at the time. They had some disturbances on the street. Police came in and, I think I told you, what I did was, I locked the doors. On this occasion, also, I opened the back doors so if anybody wanted to leave and avoid the police they went out the back doors along the railroad tracks. But then, the police banged on the door and told us that, Had to get everybody out, had to close the business up and, if we didn’t, we were going to be arrested. That was kind of like what was going on from that point. The music scene, kind of died. We had the James Gang and then, after May 4th, we had some good bands, but the amount of people—we used to get people coming from Cleveland and Akron and all, just to hear some of the bands. But after May 4th, it just declined, and never what it used to be. The crowds that used to be in the street and that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: So, the music was a big draw?
[Larry Shank]: Oh, the music, yeah, because we had the James Gang, a group called Glass Harp, the Raspberries, groups that went on to record and were fairly popular. So yeah, we had some good music.
[Interviewer]: You got to be there through all of that, hear all of that, while you were at work?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, music started around six, I think. Then I had to wait until the bands cleared all their equipment out and so I was usually there until two o’clock in the morning.
[Interviewer]: I guess at this point, I would just open-endedly ask, is there anything else that pops in your mind? Or is there anything you want to say about the aftermath of the shootings on you personally? As you went to your first job in the mid-Seventies and people found out that you had been at Kent State that kind of thing? Has it had a big impact on your life?
[Larry Shank]: On my life—yes. [Coughs] Jeez, whatever this thing is—
[Interviewer]: I’m so sorry, would you like to pause again?
[Larry Shank]: No, that’s fine. I had never seen anybody killed before. It really shaped my ideas towards the military and war in general. The first time you see—and guns, also—you see what a bullet does to a human being. It just shatters your whole idea. You know, I was a typical kid growing up. It was fun to go out and play with guns and everything else. But, after that, I’m on board with all these high school kids about getting them [guns] out of the way because it’s—no place for this in our society. And I just think if people would ever see what it does to a human body, that you’d never want to pick up a gun. Yeah, that part of it did shape my—a lot of my attitudes. Of course, who did I go to work for? I went to work for the army!
[Interviewer]: That was [unintelligible] in 1974?
[Larry Shank]: In ’74, I came to Maryland I worked at as a teacher. I taught for eleven years, and then I got a—my love was photography and I got a job with a place called the Army Research Laboratory, which had nothing to do with any kind of wars or anything. They just—research and development. I got a full-time job as a photographer, videographer, editor—that type of thing. I always found it ironic that, in the end, I ended up working for the army.
[Interviewer]: In the research end. But you did have a teaching career, which is what you had studied for at Kent State?
[Larry Shank]: Yes, I did, yep.
[Interviewer]: I think we can end there unless there’s something else you’d like to say?
[Larry Shank]: No, I think we’ve pretty much covered it.
[Interviewer]: I want to thank you again, Larry, so much, for sharing your story and what you saw and heard that day. Thank you.
[Larry Shank]: I hope it will be of some help.
[Interviewer]: I know it will. It’s important for people to hear—you were there and people can hear it from your perspective. So, thank you very much.
[Larry Shank]: Thank you.
[RECORDING OF MARCH 14, 2019, ENDS]
[Interviewer]: This is Kathleen Medicus in Special Collections and Archives at the Kent State University Library, April 12, 2019. I am speaking with Larry Shank by telephone and he is continuing his oral history recording today. Good morning, Larry. Thank you.
[Larry Shank]: Good morning.
[Interviewer]: We were just speaking off the recording, that you’d maybe like to start with campus life before the shootings and you had some stories to tell from those times. Thank you.
[Larry Shank]: One of the things I remember last time was that, when we came in for first—I think it was our first day—orientation, that’s what it was. They gave us beanies. They told us, we had to wear them and if we didn’t wear them and we got caught not wearing them we would have to go out to the main gate and scrub the Kent State symbol that was in the ground, with a toothbrush. I wore mine for maybe a half a day, but that was it. Have you ever seen them?
[Interviewer]: I’ve seen photos of the beanies.
[Larry Shank]: I still have one, which I would be happy to donate to Kent State, if they’re interested.
[Interviewer]: That’d be wonderful. I’m sure we are. Was the expectation you would wear it your entire freshmen year?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah,I think, well, that’s what they made it sound like. I don’t know who would’ve enforced it, other than the frat boys or somebody like that. Just a freshmen, you’d go, Uh, okay, I’ll do that. So, as far as campus life went, it was pretty nondescript. For me anyways, it was going to classes, going to work. Spent a lot of time in, what was called the “Hub” then—I don’t know if it still is, it was where the student cafeteria and the bookstore and all that was. It was called The Hub, at that time. So, in between classes, I’d go in there and meet with friends. I think we played—what was it? Euchre, is what everybody was playing at that time. So, we’d sit in there and play euchre and have a hamburger and French fries or whatever and then head back off to class. As far as—
[Interviewer]: Just for the record, you were a freshman in 1965-1966?
[Larry Shank]: 1965. There was some anti-war activity going on. But, it was just kind of like little demonstrations. It wasn’t anything big at the time. Didn’t consume campus life, as it would later on. I just remember my girlfriend was in one of the dorms and so, you know, I spent a lot of times at the dorms and I remember there were a lot of panty raids in those days, which sounds really stupid now.
[Interviewer]: I heard of that too.
[Larry Shank]: She was in Korb Hall, so I spent a lot of time over at Korb. In the afternoons, people would go down. There was a TV, in the lounge, at the dorms. The big thing was to go down there and watch, Dark Shadows. People would just congregate down there to go see Dark Shadows. But, it was just that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: People didn’t have their own TVs, so it was very social in this common room in the dorm.
[Larry Shank]: People who weren’t in the dorm would come in because there were no TVs. In fact, there used to be a little place right across campus that was like an early type of McDonald’s. Seven hamburgers for a dollar. Fifteen cents for French fries. But, in the back, they had three rooms with television sets—at that time there were only three networks. They would have those on all the time. So, you would go in get your food, and then go back and watch whatever TV you wanted to see. That was kind of how we saw TV.
There were a lot of events. Things like—a lot of movies over in the education building. In one of the auditoriums, they had a projector and so they would show films in there. There was always a film series of some sort. So, you’d have those. Those are all free. There was a Thursday night cinema was another one in which they would show films. Sometimes, they would bring in bands to play. I think at one point, Devo played when they were still an Akron band, and they came in played. In fact, they went to school at Kent, as a matter of fact. You get bands and it was that type of thing. A lot of times in the evenings, especially on the weekends, there’s people go get a blanket, go sit out on Blanket Hill and make out or whatever. Whatever you do when you’re nineteen years old. That was kind of campus life. It was fun. I loved being in college, I just enjoyed it. It was very nice. I think you asked me something about—Black people?
[Interviewer]: I was wondering. You mentioned when Hubert Humphrey came to campus?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, that was big deal because people didn’t want him there because of the war. He was in—I think in the gym. I think that’s where they had him. I think that was the only place big enough to accommodate a lot of people. It was packed. I remember him having trouble talking because people were jeering and that type of thing. Then, at one point, a whole group of people got up and marched out. And at the time, even then I didn’t especially like their war policy, but I kept on thinking, Boy, I better support this guy rather than letting Nixon come in. It was that type of thing. There was lot of fairly active political groups on campus. One of the big ones was for Bobby Kennedy. They organized a lot. I helped them a few times distributing pamphlets and things like that. They actually organized people and took them on buses down to Indiana or whatever and go canvassing and knocking on doors and types of things. There was—I’m trying to remember if there was a big Republican Nixon-type presence, I don’t remember it, but I’m sure there was. I only remember being involved in McCarthy and Bobby, and people like that, being the young, radical punk that I was.
[Interviewer]: So, there was kind of big shift on campus from your freshmen year. So, now we’re talking about 1968. You were probably a junior, maybe even a senior at that point? Somewhere in there.
[Larry Shank]: Well, I certainly wasn’t a freshman.
[Interviewer]: Upperclassman, at that.
[Larry Shank]: Unfortunately, I really got into the campus life and I flunked out. I had to spend a year out and taking speed-reading classes and get readmitted. Once I was out, I go, Aw man, I don’t want to be out of school. When I came back, it was a big difference. I really knuckled down. You know, I’d never been out of Ravenna. To have, all of a sudden, you have all this freedom thrown at you, I didn’t have any discipline. And the Robin Hood was right across the street, so you’d get out of class and run over to the Robin Hood and have a few beers and then run off to your next class. So, it was easy to get distracted.
[Interviewer]: So, when you came back, after being out for a year and kind of catching up, on your study skills—
[Larry Shank]: I was actually, I was still on campus because I was working at the Campus Supply Center.
[Interviewer]: So, you continued working on campus through that time.
[Larry Shank]: So, I was still involved. I knew what was going on and I had a girlfriend, who was still in class. She didn’t flunk out.
[Interviewer]: So, you were just not in classes that year?
[Larry Shank]: I was not in classes, exactly.
[Interviewer]: You were still seeing and hearing and involved in what was going on in campus. Do you remember the BUS walkout of 1968? Did you see that happening?
[Larry Shank]: You know what, I vaguely remember it. Not so much. It was—it’s really funny. I didn’t ever notice a Black presence on campus until around then. It seemed as if they—at least in my circles anyway, that there wasn’t a whole lot of Black people involved and what I was involved in. They kind of had formed their own groups and things like that. So, I was only vaguely aware of that.
[Interviewer]: You mentioned also the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy and how that affected campus.
[Larry Shank]: I just remember it being when King was assassinated. I just remember it being really quiet. It’s just—I guess everybody was kind of stunned. And then when Bobby got killed, it was even more so. People just kind of walking around in a daze going, How could this be happening? That type of thing. There was memorial services. I think that there was a candlelight memorial service for King and for Bobby at one point, but I can’t tell you for sure. It seems like that to me anyway.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, I’ve seen photos of a march across campus, in memory of King.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, that’s right, okay. It comes back to me—
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else from those years, before the shootings—’68- ’69, that sticks out in your memory?
[Larry Shank]: Off hand, no. I’m sure, at some point, something’s going to pop into my head, but now it’s so far in the past that a lot of it’s kind of a blur. A lot of my campus life was down on Water Street and the bars down in there. It was a lot of hanging around in bars, listening to music. That type of thing.
[Interviewer]: You got to hear a lot of live music in those days. It was an important part of your education, I think.
[Larry Shank]: Well, for me it was. People like Joe Walsh, and people like that that I ran into and I kind of knew in those days. The music was a big part of our lives. Everything kind of revolved around, at least in the left wing, radical area, it was around music, a lot around music.
[Interviewer]: Maybe that leads into, you mentioned that you were working at JB’s when Graham Nash and David Crosby came after the shootings?
[Larry Shank]: Well, actually, I was working there that night, but in those days, we had an agreement with The Cove. So, if you were worked at JB’s, you could go over to The Cove and listen to the band over there, which was, Tiny Reed and the Velours, I think is who was playing there. And then, they could come over and listen at ours. So, at the time, I was next door when they came down [editor's clarification: Mr. Shank sent a correction that he was actually at JB's when Nash and Crosby stopped in]. And they didn’t stay long, but when they left, they took a number of young ladies with them. One of the—a friend of mine and I got a call that night, she was saying, ”Oh, we’re up in Cleveland. We’re having a lot of fun.” This was—I can even tell you the exact date. This was 1970, July 2, because they were playing a concert in Cleveland, and it was right after they had released the song, “Ohio.” So, Nash and Crosby came down because they were curious about Kent and I believe they had a limo. They came down, popped into JB’s for a little bit, picked up some girls, and went back to Cleveland.
[Interviewer]: And they performed “Ohio”?
[Larry Shank]: “Ohio,” yeah, it might have even been their closing number. I’m not sure. I don’t remember.
[Interviewer]: Thank you. What a great story. Thank you.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was just being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right person, really.
[Interviewer]: And having a car or access to a car?
[Larry Shank]: And having a car that helped.
[Interviewer]: Other things that happened that summer: I understand the FBI contacted you, you mentioned.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, after the shootings, I developed my photographs and printed them up.
[Interviewer]: So, you were taking photos the whole time while the National Guard was in The Commons?
[Larry Shank]: Kind of. At that time, I had no experience with a camera. I happened to borrow a camera and it was an old two-and-a-quarter—wasn’t the kind of single reflex one where you can look through the image. You had to hold it down and look through the top and that type of thing. So, my photos aren’t really great, mainly because I didn’t know what I was doing. But, I took—during the first part of the whole thing, when the National Guard was coming up the hill and everything, I took photos. But after that, I wasn’t taking any photos. I only have maybe ten or something like that.
I took the photos. I printed them and I gave them to somebody. I don’t know, they had something to do with Kent, or whatever. As a result, I got a call from the FBI and they said that they wanted to talk to me about the photographs. And so I said, “Okay.” They came, I was living on Dodge Street. They came down and they had all the photos with them. Showing them to me and said, “Do you know this person? Do you know that person?” And I’m going, “I don’t know anybody, I was just there. I just took some photos. I don’t know any of these people.” But, they were really intent on trying to identify, I think, people who were in the—might have been protesting or doing whatever that was unlawful. I gave them my photos and told them whatever they needed to know. Then, I never heard from them again.
[Interviewer]: So, it was just that one time?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, and I’m assuming anybody else who had photos, they probably went and interviewed. They were more concerned with me identifying people, if I knew who these people were.
[Interviewer]: Because you were the photographer, maybe they—there’s a chance you might have known people. How many of them were there when they came to your house?
[Larry Shank]: There were two.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else from that summer? Do you—
[Larry Shank]: You asked me something about the mud fights on campus?
[Interviewer]: You mentioned mud fights, I know nothing about mud fights, so yeah, I’m curious.
[Larry Shank]: Well, there used to be a field just between The Hub and Korb Hall. And I think it was a field hockey field and we had a lot of rain one time and it got really muddy. Then, there was a bunch of students out there and it was, you know, they were having fun getting muddy, and other people would jump into the mud and that type of thing. And then they tried to recreate it. The next time that they did and I don’t remember if it was the following year or later that year. Of course, it became out of hand. A lot of boys—and girls walking by. They’d grab the girls and throw them into the mud and that type of stuff. So, that ended the mud fights at Kent State.
[Interviewer]: So, the first time, it was sort of a spontaneous thing?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, which is people splashing around in the mud, kind of like a Woodstock type of thing, but I think this was like 1966 maybe, ’67, somewhere in there.
[Interviewer]: In the earlier years of your career at Kent State. It was a fun activity—
[Larry Shank]: It was that type of goofy campus thing that kids do. Like anything else, it got out of hand and they cracked down on it and stopped it.
[Interviewer]: I can imagine if I were walking to class...I would not be happy.
[Larry Shank]: If somebody grabs you and threw you in the mud, you would not be happy.
[Interviewer]: I guess, another thing on our list that you had mentioned previously was your involvement in Professor Moore’s Speech Department class. He had students helping him with his project to survey people.
[Larry Shank]: Basically, what we did was we had the Kent State book by Michener. What he wanted us to do, was go through and we had to write—I think we had cards. We wrote down on cards, the person and what their statement was.
[Interviewer]: I’ve seen those cards.
[Larry Shank]: Good, my memory’s okay. And then, what we did was we contacted the person with the quote and asked them, “Is this what you said and if not, what did you say?” And so he—we were surprised at how many people were misquoted or they didn’t even talk to him, they didn’t remember talking to him, that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: You first started by—I imagine just finding all the quotes, identifying people.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, just going through the book. In fact, I still have the book downstairs. All the quotes underlined and who said them, that type of thing.
[Interviewer]: I’m guessing that part of the project took quite a bit of time just identifying the people.
[Larry Shank]: Well, we had a lot of people. I think we were assigned parts of the book. Everybody—and your job was to try and identify who was talking and write down their quotes.
[Interviewer]: Then find them. Find out how to contact them.
[Larry Shank]: I think we had a form letter and if we could find out who the person was, we sent them a letter. Some people actually went and, I think, went and talked to the person, because a lot of people are still on campus [unintelligible]. You know, I remember him on campus. I remember him in—down in Walter’s, it was a bar on Water Street. Sitting around, and talking to people, and writing things down, and stuff like that.
[Interviewer]: And you’re referring to James Michener?
[Larry Shank]: James Michener, yes, I’m sorry.
[Interviewer]: No, it’s okay.
[Larry Shank]: And I knew people—a friend of mine invited him over to his house and they had dinner and he was asking him questions and things like that. But, he got a lot of things wrong because it didn’t quite fit in to the narrative he wanted, I don’t think. He made up this whole story about—there used to be a house on a hill right next to the theater. And it looked like the house from Psycho. So, there was this big narrative about James—that Alfred Hitchcock modeled the house in Psycho after this house in Kent and then all these SDS people were living there. It was all bogus. None of it was true.
[Interviewer]: I think that probably does fit into the urban legend category.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. How great of a story would that have been if they modeled that house after Psycho and the SDS was living in there?
[Interviewer]: Were you involved in the later phases of that project, where you were analyzing people’s responses to whether their quotes were accurate, et cetera?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, but not for long, because I just didn’t have the time to devote to it, but a little bit of it, yeah.
[Interviewer]: That must have been interesting.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, it was. You have the one quote and a lot of times—well, most of the times, they had written back and they had wrote whatever it was. I didn’t talk to them or that isn’t what I said, I said this. A lot times it just didn’t jive. Then, I kind of lost track of the whole project. At least, I don’t remember how it came—I vaguely—I think he published something, but I don’t remember.
[Interviewer]: It must have gone on beyond the semester, in which you taking the class where he recruited volunteers.
[Larry Shank]: But, at that point, I was willing to do anything to help and try and identify what the heck—what really happened.
[Interviewer]: Part of your own process of understanding what you went through being there.
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. I was trying to remember some of the other things you asked me about.
[Interviewer]: I think we covered the main points.
[Larry Shank]: Oh, you asked me about the, 1969, the occupation of the Speech Building.
[Interviewer]: I just wondered if you saw any of that go on. If you were involved?
[Larry Shank]: I was there, not inside but outside. I remember that the police were there. I think, if I remember correctly, they called in the Highway Patrol, which is what they should have done on May 4th. When these guys came in, they were real professional. They went in, they handcuffed people and took them out. There was no big deal, other than they were taking them out. They took them all over to the County Courthouse in Ravenna. As far as that went, the one thing I was impressed by was that it was all very orderly. It seemed to me also that they were fraternity guys outside, who were yelling and screaming and hazing these people.
[Interviewer]: Hazing the people who were protesting?
[Larry Shank]: Yeah. Right around that time it was—there was a lot of friction on campus between fraternity guys and hippies. Then, within a year or so, all of the fraternity guys were wearing their hair long and so it was whole different ball game. But at that point, there was a lot of tension between those groups. The other thing that just whipped into my head, I remember the ROTC was practicing on the football field, I think is where they would practice. Then people were jumping over the fences and all, getting down there trying to disrupt them, heckling them, and things like that. Anything that had any kind of military tint was not really welcomed on campus by certain groups at that time. That one just popped into my head. I forgot all about that.
[Interviewer]: What was your graduation like? Did you attend your commencement ceremony?
[Larry Shank]: Yes. The ceremony was on the football field. I graduated, summer of ’71. Yeah, it was on the football field. It was—pretty routine type of thing. Just speakers and that type of thing. I mean, nothing out of the ordinary. No protests, no nothing. By that time, I think we were all kind of numb, after what had happened.
Stupid things pop into my head. When they had the campus close down and I was working at the Supply Center, they sent us over to one of the cafeterias, and the cafeteria was going to be remodeled. But, they were throwing out everythin: all the pots, the pans, the dishes. And we had to pick them up and we—there used to be a field between, just off from where the Supply Center is, was a big field. They dug a big hole there and we had to drive over and put all that stuff into this hole and they buried it because, evidently—
[Larry Shank]: Yeah, because you weren’t allowed—because it was state property, you couldn’t sell it or whatever. So, they just buried it all. So somewhere out on campus, if they didn’t dig it up again. But there is a whole bunch of pots and pans and things buried out there somewhere.
[Interviewer]: That’s an amazing story. Maybe archaeology students could do a practice dig.
[Larry Shank]: Get their metal detectors out. Actually, one of the things I did salvage and, at some point I’m going to give it to Kent, is this big platter. It was from before it was Kent State University, it was Kent State Normal School and it has K-S, it was was just K-N and S, Kent Normal School.
[Interviewer]: So, you saved that as a souvenir from your days working at the Supply Center?
[Larry Shank]: I did. Having been a history major—I’m a history major and you can’t throw away history. There’s got to be a place for this stuff.
[Interviewer]: That’s a funny little detail—story.
[Larry Shank]: So, anyway, unless you have you have some other questions or something else pops into my mind, I think we covered most of it.
[Interviewer]: I think so, too. But I always like to wait just a second and see if something does pop into your mind.
[Larry Shank]: It’s amazing that these little tidbits from fifty years ago, you know, just kind of pop up.
[Interviewer]: I’m kind of curious when you graduated that summer of ’71, I mean, just one year later, did you and after having working on that Michener project with your professor, were you feeling, at that point, a little bit of kind of understanding, and a little bit of closure, that maybe helped you as you went on to your next phase of your life, or—?
[Larry Shank]: No, I don’t think I ever really felt any closure about it. I was always kind of angry about the—they had that commission and they kind of glossed over everything. And then, nobody wanted to talk to the National Guardsmen or find out what kept it [unintelligible]. It was all kept secret. It was really no closure to it because there was just a lot questions as to what went on, why did it happen, and it was like they didn’t want to know. It never—I still don’t feel any real closure toward it. But I guess it’s one of those things: you see people getting killed, you see all this other stuff going on, and you just wonder why. And I think, didn’t they make some arrests—the Kent 25, I kind of remember?
[Larry Shank]: There was like twenty-five people. Not Guardsmen or anything, it was twenty-five people on campus that they arrested for, and put on trial for, disruption or whatever. That didn’t sit well with me either.
[Interviewer]: You didn’t feel like anybody was really, certainly not by summer of ’71, getting to the bottom of—
[Larry Shank]: And no one was held responsible. The government wasn’t held responsible and the guy in charge of the soldiers wasn’t being held responsible. It was just, you know, Damn kids. A lot of was, “Well, they got what they deserve,” that type of thing. I’ve heard that a lot.
[Interviewer]: That’s something that you carried with you, to this day, after having been a student at Kent State during that time.
[Larry Shank]: I loved the school and I loved being there, so I did graduate work. Photography and things, I took classes and all so, but I could stay on campus. But then, at some point, I had to grow up.
[Interviewer]: Well, Larry, thank you so much. I really appreciate taking the time to share.
[Larry Shank]: I enjoyed talking to you and I hope that what little bit knowledge I have helped shed a little light on something and is useful to somebody.
[Interviewer]: Absolutely, I think for people to hear first-person perspectives and eyewitness reports is really valuable. Thank you so much.
[Larry Shank]: You’re welcome and thank you for doing all this. Thank you very much.
Student at Kent State University in 1970
|Date of Interview||
Larry Shank was an undergraduate student at Kent State University from 1965-1971. He had a job on campus at the University Supply Center and also worked during the weekends at JB’s, a popular bar in downtown Kent. He discusses life on campus and the music scene in Kent. He relates his eyewitness account of the shootings: after having lunch in the Student Center, he was on his way to report to work at the Supply Center when the National Guard opened fire. Mr. Shank also discusses his experiences during the aftermath of the shootings: how the mood in town had shifted and people stopped coming to the bars downtown and how things were very different at his campus job.
|Length of Interview||
|Time Period discussed||
Cove (The) (Kent, Ohio)
Crosby, David, 1941-
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Ohio
Frank, Glenn W.
JB's (Kent, Ohio)
Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970
Michener, James A. (James Albert), 1907-1997
Michener, James A. (James Albert), 1907-1997. Kent State
Miller, Jeffrey, d. 1970
Ohio. Army National Guard
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
Young, Neil, 1945-
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Kent State University
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The content of oral history interviews, written narratives and commentaries is personal and interpretive in nature, relying on memories, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of individuals. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Kent State University and the University makes no assertions about the veracity of statements made by individuals participating in the project. Users are urged to independently corroborate and further research the factual elements of these narratives especially in works of scholarship and journalism based in whole or in part upon the narratives shared in the May 4 Collection and the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project.
May 4 Collection