stevenhager420

counterculture history, conspiracy theory & reviews

The Chain Whipping Incident

with 5 comments

Did you know the world’s only hippie memorial is located along the Illinois Central train tracks in Arcola, Illinois? The town I grew up in was actually a hotbed of radical activity in the 1960s. The fledgling Students for Democratic Society (SDS) picked Urbana, Illinois, in fact, as the site for their 1965 conference, and hundreds of members arrived from all around the country. Soon, we had the state’s best garage band, The Finchley Boys, as well as the country’s greatest experimental artist, John Cage, both performing in our little community 120 miles south of Chicago. We also had the first landmark performance of a masterpiece called “MacBird!” which theorized JFK had been murdered and President Johnson was an accomplice in the crime.

Jim “Chef Ra” Wilson was my high school senior class president, the first black elected to that position. He organized the first black appreciation celebration in the history of Urbana High. It was held late at night and included free soul food and a series of performances by notable black musicians who were also students at the school.

My best friend Larry Green, recently arrived from Baltimore, somehow became one of the star attractions of the evening by commanding a gaggle of black girls around him at all times, all constantly cracking up at his improv performances. The alpha chick among them was also the girlfriend of the star of the show, who played keyboards and sang, among many other talents. I remember him from the stage suddenly stopping the show to ask his girl what she was doing with her arm around Larry Green’s neck? Somehow, Larry turned that all around into a big belly laugh and the performance went on. I don’t know if any long-term inter-racial relationships were born that night, but it certainly was a wonderfully healing ceremony for all who attended and I hope we left many of our fellow black students with a sense of our appreciation for their culture, despite the institutionalized racism that had afflicted the school up until then and the fact few of us would actually try the chitlins.

Jim’s ceremonies would continue to evolve and mature as he grew up. One of his best was his annual appearance in the July 4th parade, which wound its way through much of the town before culminating at the football stadium, where the state’s largest fireworks display would be set off come darkness. Jim could often be found in some wild, colorful outfit, roller-skating through the entire parade route and doing circles and stunts the whole way. He was well over 6 foot tall, and had placed third in the state high jump his senior year so his athletic abilities were unparalleled.

In 1968, someone applied for a permit for anti-Vietnam war demonstrators to march in the annual parade and the permit was duly granted on grounds of free speech after a brief court battle even though members of the town councils wanted it denied as un-American and inappropriate. We happened to be driving past Green Street when the protestors were attacked by a gang of men wearing hard-hats, some of whom wielded clubs and chains. Jim Cole, leader of the Finchley Boys, was one of the protestors and would later describe grabbing a fist aimed at his face and then realizing it belonged to someone he knew quite well. I really felt I’d missed out on something exciting, but I wasn’t much of a street fighter anyway. My time, however, was soon coming.

Later that day, I was hitchhiking with Larry and Carole. Carole, at this point, had become Larry’s girl friend.  I’d already read “The Sun Also Rises” so the part of discarded ex-lover who hangs on for dear life had already been portrayed as a noble cause. Whenever I saw films like “Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid,” I immediately recognized my role.

Anyway, a white car slowed to a stop. “We’ll take the girl, but we won’t take you,” said a dude in the backseat, whose mouth seemed full of marbles. He had a southern, redneck accent and was barely understandable. I looked inside the car and noticed some guys in uniform and thought I saw a hardhat on one of the seats.

“Would you like to ride with these guys?” I asked Carole, who, of course, said, “No.”

As I was explaining the situation, the dude in the shotgun seat reached down on the floor and produced a steel chain. He opened the car door and I began backing away from the car, while holding Larry and Carole behind me. But we couldn’t back up fast enough for the dude swung that four-foot chain and it whipped around my side while he began yelling about his contempt for long-haired hippies like me. At this point, my only thought was to get Carole out of there before the other three dudes got out of the car and tried to abduct her. She seemed to be the real center of interest in all situations, so I grabbed her arm and yelled, “Run!”

Meanwhile, Larry, stepped around me and confronted this dude. Larry had the supreme confidence he could talk his way out of any situation as well as being somewhat fearless. Larry probably began with some comment like: “Hey, now wait a minute, this doesn’t call for violence…” Meanwhile I was already halfway around the house wondering why Larry hadn’t taken off running with us when I yelled “Run!.” Although I couldn’t see what was happening, I soon surmised that Larry had been pushed into a large bush and beaten on his back a couple times with the chain.

Some guardian angel appeared out of no where, claiming to be a Vietnam War Vet. The dude beating on Larry was talking about the war while he was beating on him. And this Vet wanted him to know that all Vets didn’t feel like him and that he should leave Larry alone and let him go. Carole, meanwhile, refused to stay hidden on the other side of the house with me since she was delirious with concern over Larry.

Eventually the three of us re-united and the car drove off. Back at her house, Carole scolded me pretty harshly for running away from the scene and abandoning Larry like that after he tried to stick up for me. But we got over it pretty quick and headed back to Campus-town, where everyone was hanging out in front of Turk’s Head. Larry showed off his chain marks for all to see while we recounted the story of our adventures. Much later than night, while I was alone in the bathroom, I would finally notice the chain welts across my own back.

Magic Chakra Candles

Magic Chakra Candles

Buy from Amazon

About these ads

Written by Steven Hager

August 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I’m talking about this passage:
    In 1968, someone applied for a permit for anti-Vietnam war demonstrators to march in the annual parade and the permit was duly granted on grounds of free speech after a brief court battle even though members of the town councils wanted it denied as un-American and inappropriate. We happened to be driving past Green Street when the protestors were attacked by a gang of men wearing hard-hats, some of whom wielded clubs and chains. Jim Cole, leader of the Finchley Boys, was one of the protestors and would later describe grabbing a fist aimed at his face and then realizing it belonged to someone he knew quite well. I really felt I’d missed out on something exciting, but I wasn’t much of a street fighter anyway. My time, however, was soon coming.

    Raven

    October 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm

  2. My memory of the chaining is only slightly different from Steve’s.

    It was July 4, 1969, in the early afternoon. Steve and Carole and I were hitch-hiking on Green Street towards Carole’s house, when a car full of recruits from the nearby Rantoul Air Force Base stopped. I went up to the car and the guy in the back seat rolled his window down and said, “we’ll take your woman, but we won’t take you”. The problem was that he had been drinking, and had a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He also had a very strong southern accent, so I couldn’t understand him at all. I asked him what he had just said. He repeated it, but I still couldn’t understand him. This went on a few more times, and as it did, the young man got more and more irritated. (Looking back on it, I should have just walked away, since we were not going to get a ride, no matter what he was trying to say.)

    When he got out of the car with a log chain in his hand, Steve said something like, “run”, and he and Carole took off. But, for some reason, I still wanted to finish my conversation with this guy, who was only a few years older than I was. I have always had the ability to make friends easily, so I saw it as a kind of challenge. This time, however, it was not going to happen. His friends were egging him on and he said something about hippie faggots and then just started hitting me on the back with this chain.

    Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt very much. It was a heavy chain, and felt more like I was being bumped around by big guys in a football game. (Since I was 5′ 10″ and weighed about 125 lbs., all my experiences of football involved that feeling) I was still trying to talk to him, when an older guy came up and started to argue with all of them about the war and the armed services and not hitting people. That’s wen I ran. I found Steve and Carole on the porch of a nearby house asking the woman in the house to call the police. We left before the police came and walked the rest of the way to Carole’s house. I now feel bad that we didn’t stick around to help the stranger who so kindly distracted them from their attention to me. We probably wouldn’t have been much help to him. They were all fighters and we would have just got in the way.

    Later that afternoon we all went to the Turk’s Head, drank beer and watched the parade. I got to take off my shirt and show off the welts from the chain. It was my 5 minutes of fame in the culture wars of the 60’s.

    Larry Green

    August 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  3. Seems the hardhats of 68 merged with the Airforce cadets of 69? I agree the chain left bigger marks than the pain involved would have indicated.

    Steven Hager

    August 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  4. Might have been 1968, It’s all a bit foggy.

    Larry Green

    August 29, 2012 at 9:39 am

  5. I’m pretty sure it was actually the 4th of July 1970. I came home from the Nam in Sept 69 and was right in the thick of the brawl at Lincoln and Green. We had a brand new puppy and I told the woman I was with if anything happened to get the hell out of there. When we got to the middle of the intersection the “hard hats” and plain clothes cops came out of the crowd and started pushing ans d swinging. I lit one up, knocked him down and jumped on top of him. I ended up taking a couple of shots to the head and then let go. I was actually wearing a hard hat and my jungle fatigues but it was easy to tell which side I was on. Mitch Brown was filming that day and I remember seeing footage of me in front of the Union with an upside down American flag. BTW, happy birthday Jim Wilson.

    Raven

    October 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,646 other followers

%d bloggers like this: