See Me, Feel Me
We now leap back in time to September of 1970. My daddy and I are headed down College Street in The Loveliest Village of the Plains and we pass the Baptist Student Union. He stays to me, “That’s a good place for you to hang out.” I snickered to myself and thought “That’s not gonna happen.”
We turn on to Glenn Street and make our way toward 332 West Glenn where I would set up shop for the next six months. The Peak House, as it is known today, is a two story brick home. The Peaks lived downstairs and there were three rooms and a bath upstairs. I lived in the room on the right facing Glenn Street. David Hardy, another story for another day, lived across the hall from me and Alvin Baggett lived in the back room on David’s side of the house. We share the small bathroom. We had no air conditioner and no television. There was a community fridge.
Well now here I am, a freshman at Auburn, both excited and a bit apprehensive about what the future may hold for me. Classes had yet to start and daddy insisted that I go to a reception for all incoming freshman at the the President’s mansion. Dr. Harry Philpot was the president of Auburn at the time. I decide that I didn’t have anything better to do so I went.
The lush green lawn in the rear of the house was bustling with young innocents like myself. There was a line to shake President Philpot’s hand and I walked through and shook his hand. We exchanged pleasantries and I got some refreshments, finished them and proceeded on my way.
I hadn’t run into a soul I knew, but about that time Donnie Chancey and Nan Woddail (Nan Woddail-Smith) appeared. Donnie and Nan were high school sweethearts and fellow graduates on Wilcox County High School in Camden, AL. We were also good friends.
Donnie had received an athletic scholarship to play football for the Tigers and, therefore, he was a hero of mine. Nan was a lovely cheerleader, in high school, and a dear sweet friend. We had a brief chat. This was a Sunday afternoon and Auburn had a game with Southern Miss the following Saturday. After a round of “War Eagles” we went our separate ways.
Now it is Saturday September 19th and time for my first football game as an AU student. I am predictably excited. Another friend and graduate of Wilcox County High, Cindy Miller, has arranged a date for me with a young lady named Kathy Hartzog.
I was getting ready to go to the game when I heard something outside, I looked out the window and my family’s Ford Galaxy had pulled up into the yard. It was Daddy and a friend of his and they just stopped by to speak to me before the game. I was not unhappy to see them but I was nervous about the black Michelob mug that I had perched on my dresser. The mug had already been christened earlier in the week.
We had a very short conversation, daddy and friend took off for Cliff Hare Stadium and I completed my preparation for the contest. I had selected tan slacks, a navy blue shirt and a white tie as my wardrobe for the day. I slapped on some Hai Karate cologne and took off for the dorm where Kathy was living.
As we approached the stadium we could hear the band playing and the buzz of the crowd. I was about to come unglued. WAR EAGLE !!! Kathy and I made our way toward the 50 yard line in the student section looking for a place to sit. The student section was general admission and it cost us all of one dollar to get in at that time.
I heard someone yell, “Bird !” And it was John Clyde Riggs who was also from Camden. John Clyde was a couple of years older than me and I appreciated him calling me up there to sit with him and his fraternity brothers. He was an Alpha Gamma Rho as were many many people from Camden over the years.
It turned out to be a great, albeit swelteringly hot, afternoon at the game. Auburn won 33-14 on the strength of two touchdown passes from Pat Sullivan to Terry Beasley. Sullivan hit Dick Schmalz, I had two classes with his sister Beth, for the Tiger’s first touchdown. Sullivan scored a TD on an eight-yard keeper and backup QB Tommy Traylor scored the final points on a one-yard sneak.
It was a workman’s effort from the home team that day. A non-conference victory was secured and we were 1-0. A stern test was in the offing the following Saturday. Auburn was to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Birmingham’s Legion Field. John Clyde mentioned to me that Auburn had done more practicing for Tennessee in fall camp than they had for Southern Miss. He also invited us to their band party later that night.
I asked Kathy if she wanted to accompany me to the party and she gladly accepted the invite.
I showed up early for the event and went to John Clyde’s room. I told him I had no beer and no way of getting any as alcohol sales were, and are not to this day, permitted on campus. He gave me the keys to his Chevy and I ran out to The Tiger, an over-the-counter a beer sales joint at the time, and purchased a six pack of Schlitz Draught in the bottle.
I picked up Kathy, we walked around the corner to the fraternity house and we spent a couple of hours dancing to tunes from a pretty good live band. I remember songs like “Shout” and “Louie Louie”. I polished off the last bottle Schlitz, she didn’t want any, glanced at my watch and declared it was time to go.
Kathy had to be back at the dorm by 11 pm. That was perfect ! The midnight show at the Village Theater that night was Woodstock: 3 days of Peace and Music. I had purchased the soundtrack to the movie earlier that summer while attending freshman orientation and I LOVED IT !!!
The movie was actually to start at 11:15 pm so I had to hustle back up Thatch Street down to Gay Street. I hurriedly purchased some popcorn and literally ran toward the auditorium. I was so frazzled that I spilled about half of my popcorn before I made it to my seat. Whew !
The lights go down, the curtain opens and the film begins to the sounds of Canned Heat and their song ‘Going Up The Country.’ I am mesmerized at the enormity of the event, the sea of unshaven hippies and their equally unshaven girlfriends teeming toward to entry gates to Max Yasgur’s farm in New Bethel, New York. WOW MAN !!! FAR OUT !!!
As the movie progresses I am pulled deeply into the event as though I was there. Nun’s flashing peace signs, joint after joint being smoked OPENLY and the most heavenly music to ever grace my ears blaring through the speakers. People were dancing, some naked, and frolicking and spinning and swimming and I had now wanted SO to have been there.
We eventually arrive at the time for The Who to take the stage. I remembered it well from the soundtrack. I can’t wait to hear Summertime Blues (which I didn’t know had been done first by Eddie Cochran in the 50’s).
Well Roger Daltry, dressed in his white fringe shirt, is throwing his microphone high into the air and Pete Townsend is doing windmills on his guitar and I am sitting there mouth agape. I have never in my life seen anything remotely like this in my young life.
“We’re not gonna take it (da dunt da da da dunt dunt)…We’re not gonna take it (da dunt da da da dunt dunt)… We’re not gonna take it, never have and never will. We’re not gonna take it (the music slows down considerably) we forsake you, gonna rape you, let’s forget you better stilllllllllll…”
And then… “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me… See me, feel mehehe, TOUCH ME, heeeeaaaallllllll MEEEEEEEEE (the music and oh I hope you know the tune)… Listening to you I get the music, gazing at you I get the heat, following you I climb the mountain, I get excitement at you feet !!!!!!! Right behind you I see the millions… ”
It is at this time that I have, what I now recall, my first epiphany. I am at one with the music and my soul has been moved… DEEPLY. I want to dance with those hippies ! I want to smoke what they’re smoking ! I want to make love like they are making love. I WANT TO BE A HIPPIE !!!!! YESSSSSSS !!!!!! Here I am ! SEND ME !!!!
Be careful what you pray for. At that point my life changed and I would never be the same. And neither would those who had the good or ill fortune to be around me from that point on. As my friend Rick Carter wrote, “It’s all about the music and it ALWAYS sets you free.”
In our next blog… the thick plottens. (A ninth grade girl, who is from Thomaston and her first name ends in an “E”, is living at Edwards Air Force base in California and she has also been touched by the same song near the very same time).