Richard Mosier's Story
Contributing Reflections by
Richard C. Mosier, BSBA 1973
University of Denver
I lived (and still do) in Lakewood, a southwest Denver suburb. I commuted all four years to DU. My sport was gymnastics and I earned a scholarship to compete on DU’s gymnastics team. I went through college never experiencing dorm life and I had no other extra-curricular activities with a steady girlfriend/wife in Lakewood. I was practically unknown and knew few people, and outside my jock-circle very few people knew me.
I was the guy that wore a letter sweater in high school. I was the last guy to wear a letter sweater. So when I started school in Fall 1969 at DU I was one of a very small group; elite is not the right word, out of touch is more like it. I was unprepared for the liberal arts college experience. I whiffed my first second-hand MJ smoke in the student lounge. I was shocked at the long, stringy, unkempt hair, and why didn’t the students wear socks? The anthem of the day was “Come Together” by the Beatles, very different from the bubblegum music I was raised on.
With that mindset, imagine my wide-eyed wonder when Woodstock West sprang up on the Penrose lawn. (It wasn’t called that, but the Penrose Library is there now.)
The economics professor (Dr. B? Burkhardt maybe?) announced that as young citizens we should participate in the deomonstrations. Whatever grade we got on the first exam (I got an A) would be our grade for the quarter so we could be free to get involved. Needless to say I blew that class off. I remember seeing that professor down on Evans Avenue behind the protesters that faced the Denver Police riot squad. My observation post was the 3rd floor of the General Classroom Building. The windows would not open. I would have gone to the roof if only I knew how.
I remember another class, sociology, maybe. The prof let a student (it was doubtful he was a student) give a pitch to the class to join him in the protest. He was bearded, scraggly, and wore a hunting knife on his belt. No one jumped up to follow him so he left the classroom with a “F… you!”. The knife did it for me. I wasn’t going into a crowd armed with knives and who knew what else. The Kent State incident was fresh in all our minds.
Outside the GC building was a lot of agitators—none that I recognized as students, not that I would know since I was isolated from most of the student body. It was about the time the protesters occupied Old Main. I didn’t go there. The risk of getting swept up into the turmoil was too great. The occupation was just a rumor anyway, along with the rumor the CU-Boulder was under siege and Crosby Stills Nash and Young were coming to our protest.
The next day I parked as usual and walked through the tent village they called Woodstock West. I just remember the campfire smoke, the smell of bacon frying and “I Am Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone blaring from the frat house across Evans Avenue.
By the afternoon the DPD occupied the lawn where the shanty-town had been, and stood in the middle of Evans Avenue shoulder to shoulder in full riot gear. When the police showed up is when I took my position at the GCB 3rd floor window. They tried to disperse the crowd by moving through it. The lines of police riot squad moved through the crowd like wading through a pond: like the water the crowd just came back around behind them. Years later I became good friends with a policeman (they called them “pigs” then) who said they pulled a 24-hour shift on the DU campus that day and no one remembered to feed them, so the students brought them sandwiches.
The next morning the tent city was back again but smaller this time. A stroll through the campsite revealed a different mood: more somber, more determined, maybe. Again, I recognized no one there. Rumors went out the National Guard was coming. A reconnaissance airplane circled high overhead, so this rumor seemed plausible.
Keep in mind I would drive home at night and watch the goings-on on the local news from my safe suburban home. The whole experience was surreal to me.
The next morning all that was left of the Woodstock West was the tooth marks from the front-end loaders that scraped the lawn clean. The National Guard was filing in and I was brave enough to go up to the 3rd floor of the Science Building on the west side of the lawn. The old windows opened and I hung out the window to watch. The Guard marched around to set a perimeter around the lawn, rifles slung on their shoulders—some of which pointed toward me as they milled around. They looked up warily at me. I had the height advantage, but they generally looked bored and didn’t perceive me to be a threat. My hair wasn’t long enough.
No one approached the National Guard like they did the DPD. There was no taunting and shouting at the Guard. What could have been a repeat of the Kent State killings didn’t happen that day. The whole thing died down from there, and I went back to my sheltered existence, but with eyes wide open. That night I went home and pointed out to my mom and dad my perch in the Science Building over the heads of the National Guard on the evening news.
About agitated crowds I learned:
1. Be aware of your surroundings both physical and general attitude;
2. Keep an exit route open; and
3. Don’t’ commit your political position. See #’s 1 and 2 above.
About the sincerity of college students, I learned:
1. Demonstrations can be great fun until someone gets their eye poked out;
2. Then it’s back to business for the “squares”;
3. Then it’s on to the next demonstration for the “pegs” (that don’t fit into square holes).
About me I learned:
1. How to look at the other side without committing to it;
2. The “Hokey Pokey” is not what it’s all about.