Episode 174: Smollop: The Hard Hat Riot

Meany Meany Meany angry–Gareth

George Meany’s profile at AFL-CIO.org

labor history in America timeline at AFL-CIO.org

That Peter Boyle movie, Joe, was also Susan Sarandon’s first movie, and it is the source for slang that I learned when I went to grad school in Massachusetts; working class people referring to themselves (usually with affection or benign resignation) as “Joe Six-Pack” and their jobs as “Joe jobs”. I don’t know if that slang is American, or just New England’s.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Joe Curran (Boyle) is a loudmouthed factory worker with a bigot’s mean streak. Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) is a wealthy executive who, in an uncharacteristic fit of rage, has just murdered the drug-addicted boyfriend of his daughter (Sarandon). When the two men meet in a bar, an unholy alliance is formed. And after Bill’s daughter runs away, they search for her in the psychedelic underworld they despise, setting in motion a shocking and humiliating string of events that leads to a brutal and chilling final scene.

Good gracious. I think the copywriter was the one doing the happy hippie drugs. “Dig this, man…’unholy alliance’…”

Okay, things are going to get a little tight, here. Momma’s just warning you. So I am going to give you one more Joe funny. Listed as “frequently bought together with Joe” on Amazon? Bolero and The Happy Hooker Trilogy. I love this country. My peeps, keeping it weird.

Hang on with me. This is important–and interesting–and I end with a funny. I promise.

I have riffed on Kent State before, and I’mma gonna do it again. It’s the key that unlocked a particular Pandora’s box for America.
Much like watching Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind now, the movie viewer might be (might be, I said insert Momma Carla side eye) excused for not seeing the big deal, because the viewer’s seen it all a million times. Context is crucial: Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz…no one was using those filmmaking techniques, those movies were first. That stuff you take for granted, they pioneered. Context makes all the difference.

Same with Kent State. We, unfortunately, are becoming accustomed to news of authorities shooting civilians. Not jaded, that’s not what I mean, but time doesn’t stop when you hear the news of civilians shot by protective authority.

It did that day. Time stopped. People couldn’t work, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Because it was the first. It just didn’t happen.
Our country vehemently disagreed about the war in Vietnam, the culture war was intense–

the Man versus the dirty hippies, and yeah, part of that culture war involved distrust and joshing of “the pigs”. But resistance was passive on the hippies’ part, and police response was arrest. Rinse, repeat.

Until time stopped, and the police killed kids.

From Episode 85: The SLA:

May 4, 1970: The Ohio State National Guard opened fire on a student protest, wounding nine and killing four. I found an incredible archiving site dedicated to this watershed event, actively maintained by Kent State University radio: kentstate1970.org. Audio, news reels, video, and testimony. People can even add their own stories.

If you weren’t aware of this event, you do owe it to yourself to poke around this site, to see why kids and young adults so distrusted adults, why they would look to the SLA or Charles Manson instead of society’s structures of family and college and occupation. See how terrified and angry they were, for good reason.

From It really is all connected:…

my strange who-are-the-good-guys day ended with this quote, from Detective Rust Cohle:

Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can do terrible things with impunity.

The horrible, beautiful balance of civilization teeters right there on that one fragile word: can. Potentiality without intentionality. Razor’s-edge balance…

Kent State 1970
National Guard at Kent State University
Students at Kent State University, attempting first aid


So here’s the timeline, to show how we got from the Kent State Massacre to the Hard Hat Riot:

The Vietnam War wasn’t going well.


February 18, 1970:

A jury finds the Chicago Seven defendants not guilty of conspiring to incite a riot: the violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Five are found guilty on the lesser charge of crossing state lines to incite a riot.

March 6, 1970:

A bomb being made by the Weathermen to be detonated at a military dance in New Jersey explodes, killing 3 members of the Weathermen instead.

March 17, 1970:

My Lai Massacre: The United States Army charges 14 officers with suppressing information related to the violence.

March 18, 1970:

United States Postal Service workers in New York City go on strike; workers in California and the cities of Akron, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Denver also go on strike; 210,000 out of 750,000 U.S. postal workers strike on the job. President Nixon assigns military units to the larger post offices. The strike continues to last 2 more weeks.

April 29, 1970:

U.S. invades Cambodia to to further fight the Viet Cong. Large protests ignite all over the United States.

May 1, 1970:

Demonstrations against the trial of the New Haven Nine: over 12,000 protestors. Actions in Cambodia intensify on Nixon’s orders, further intensifying demonstrations all over the US.

May 4, 1970:

Kent State:
The Ohio National Guard were a presence on campus due to the four million strong student strike across the nation that was closing universities. This was wigging Nixon out; he figured that the remaining universities were going to go up in flames, or some such bullshit. So send in the guards.

On campus that day, a small number of youth were protesting America’s deals with Cambodia with regard to Vietnam; the remainder of the kids on the Kent State pathways and green were either walking to class or just hanging out.

28 Guardsmen admitted to firing upon the kids. The guardsmen that did fire shot 61 rounds over a period of 13 seconds. They murdered 4 students and wounded 9 others, 1 of whom was permanently paralyzed:


wounded, with distance from shooters:

  • Joseph Lewis, Jr.; 71 ft
  • John R. Cleary; 110 ft
  • Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft
  • Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft
  • Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft, shot in the back, paralyzed
  • Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft
  • James Dennis Russell; 375 ft
  • Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft
  • Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft
Kent State
John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

Read that famous photograph’s caption again. Mary Ann was 14. 14 is what?…7th grade? In 7th grade I was wearing Love’s Baby Soft, playing MASH (mansion-apartment-shack-house, who are you going to marry & where are you going to live ) in my notebook, and griping about riding the schoolbus. She was watching someone get murdered by the authorities right in front of her.

What that caption doesn’t say is that John Filo was a photography student, and won the Pulitzer Prize.



Four days later…

May 8, 1970:

Hard Hat Riot: Unionized construction workers attack about 1,000 students and others protesting the Kent State shootings near the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street and at New York City Hall.

Ironically, that same day, when the union and the mayor most certainly did not let things be, The Beatles release their 12th and final album, Let It Be.

Kent State in popular culture:

the first song specifically written about the Kent State shooting: “Ohio“, by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago

What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Genesis’ song “The Knife” explores Kent State from the point of view of the National Guard shooters.

Jello Biafra references Kent State in his song “Wish I Was in El Salvador“; included in the collaboration with D. O. A., Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors:

Commander says I gotta hold the line

‘Til the TV cameras leave

Then we’ll fire away, make my day

Just like good ol’ Kent State

Oliver Stone’s Nixon: major plot point; uses actual footage

Kent State: The Day the War Came Home (2000 documentary)

The Day the ’60’s Died (2015 documentary)

The Stand * Stephen King (with the Superflu as the catalyst)

How Nixon Taught America to Do the Kent State Mambo * Jerry Fishman

67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence * Howard Means

The Year That Trembled: book by Scott Lax; movie


We need to end on an amusing thought. Mr. Meany and those books Gareth mentioned?

They are real, and they are by Roger Hargreaves41JydZpMVrL._AC_US160_

And you won’t believe what the very first book of the Mr. Men series was called.

Mr. Tickle.

everything’s connected

    Bands from this episode:

  • Red Scare
  • Menstruation Protestations
  • Backwards
  • Establishment Conspiracy
  • Peanut Butter Division


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top
We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. We do not store personal info.