Marvin Hupart is a historian and a teacher at Groveton High School. Being a resident and a teacher at Groveton for many years, he has noticed the changes in behavior and the people that resulted from the sixties.Dawn C. Fones is a piano teacher who has been living in the Groveton area for twenty seven years.
In the sixties? At Groveton High School? You're probably interested in the bizarre part of the 1960's. I would say the early part of the 1960's was very much a reflection of the 1950’s; which was certainly more orderly than the type of situation that appeared from 1965 to about 1972 or 1973.
The situation was very similar to what was occurring in the nation at that moment. Groveton High School was like a microcosm of the nation. It has an interesting mixture of peoples, and the schools, more or less, reflect certain trends and conditions in the nation. If I'm trying to seek out adjectives for describing that period, I would say bizarre, unusual, and peculiar. A lot of people were attracted to extraordinary things. Many things had their origins in California and seemed to move toward the eastern part of the country. For instance, witchcraft, the occult, psychedelic music, which, of course, attempts to get into your subconscious, was very big in the late 1960’sand early 1970's. The consumption of pot was regarded as a hideous sin in the sixties. It is not accepted, but certainly tolerated today. In certain places, like Madison, Wisconsin, nobody even bothers with that subject anymore.
I think we're far less materialistic than we were in the early sixties and fifties. My parents went through the depression. I was born during the depression. I never really felt the ill effect of the depression, but I went through a certain amount of indoctrination that I should get a good education, I should work hard, I should be frugal, I should be economically successful, I should have a job with all sorts of security in it, because you never know, the depression might hit again. Now those values are transmitted by my generation to the younger generation, but it's like water off a duck’s back. It has absolutely no meaning what so ever, because you don’t identify with that 1929 depression or what occurred in the 1930's. It was close to me in the sense that my father and grandfather remembered it. I went through that process of indoctrination, and from their experiences, I embraced the same values.
Those values became meaningless to people that are really born into a pretty prosperous environment. So the same values don’t really have that much meaning. Self-sacrifices nowfor a better future don’t really hold too much weight if you've got it made right now. What's the sense of making sacrifices now if there’s nothing better in the future? If the good times are coming as soon as the bell strikes two o’clock? It's a different ball game.
The general prosperity that came from the Kennedy-Johnson years, the great society that we're going to make things better for all people, was largely responsible. There was a good deal of disruptiveness in the 1960's. I think the rhetoric that came from the Lyndon Johnson years was partially responsible for it. That we're goingto bring the great society downto all people that have not been exposed to American prosperity. I think that type of rhetoric, the type of promises that were made, and also that some of the promises were delivered, was largely responsible for the disruptiveness that occurred. I would say that objectively, just about every group in our society benefitted from certain important historical changes that affected people in the 1960's; but subjectively, in their ownminds, things weren't getting better, they were getting far worse.
There was a lot of rioting that occurred in American cities. The rioting had a strong racial significance to it. I don't see the rioting occurring because things were getting worse for black Americans. If anything, I think the rioting occurred because things were getting better for black Americans. Don't get me wrong. Racial discrimination, these impediments, the road blocks, were still placed in the way of black Americans. It was a far cry from the type of situation that occurred in the early part of the twentieth century, and for that matter, even as early as the 1930's, the 1940's, and the 1950's. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’sgave many black Americans the right to vote and eliminated many discriminatory areas which hindered black progress for a very long period of time. There were some very strong concrete gains that were made. Federal programs benefitted Appalachians in so many ways. They were not a part ofthe main stream of America. If you read the book Night Comes to the Cumberlands you might know what I'm talking about. There were very beneficial programs. The American blue collar worker never had it better than he had it in the 1960's. Perhaps the prosperity still caused certain amounts of frustration. There might have been a tendency on the part of those people over 30 to have the extra automobile or the extra television set. If an unskilled black laborer who left South Boston, Virginia and is now working in Washington, D.C. is making $150 a week, more than likelyhis frustrations will grow tenfold, because he cannot move into the Fairfax County suburbs because of the racial barriers that are still placed in his way. Although the disruptiveness was there, I don’tsee America going to hell in the 1960's. I think there are many fine good things that came out of the 1960's and they are very much a part of our-daily experiences in the 1970's.
I would say the big thing was the frustration of rising expectations. There was considerable progress that was made in the 1960's. Many, many people were benefitting from it. Women's rights was coming into its own, there was no doubt about it. More women were entering certain professions and occupations that were formerly barred to them. More black people were making it into mainstream America, but the impediments that were placed in the way of womenlike those that were placed in the way of black folk were still there. Objectively, things were getting better, but I think subjectively, as I said earlier, in the minds of large numbers of people in this country things were not getting better, they were getting worse.
Jimmy Lewis was a basketball player. He's an interesting person by the way. His father chauffeured around John L. Lewis, who was a very important union man, for many, many years. Jimmy Lewis was a black basketball player who transferred from either Alexandria or Washington to Groveton High School. The team was very fortunate to have him for half a season. If we’d had him for a full season; no doubt about it, we would have taken everything that year, regionals and state as well. There were very few black students attending Groveton High School at that time. Jimmy Lewis won the hearts of a good part of the student body. Most certainly he won the hearts of his team mates.
After one of their very frequent victories they went to the Dixie Pig, and they were denied service because they insisted on having a meal with Jimmy. The whole team walked out of the Dixie Pig. The whole team was very irate over the whole incident. We learn tolerance and brotherhood not from abstract principles, but from experiences. In other words, they didn't read about brotherhood in a book. They experienced brotherhood from working with Jimmy Lewis on a day-in, day-out basis. There are many basketball players who apparently did not accept him at first. Un-acceptance leads to tolerance. Then from tolerance there is full-fledged acceptance.
They liked the guy. They had a tremendous admiration not only for his skills as a basketball player, but for him as a personality, for him as a human being. It was a wonderful sight indeed. He made a valuable contribution to this school. There's no doubt about it. I haven't seen Jimmy in I don't know how many years. I’d like to see him and say a few things about that little incident. Now, of course we take integration for granted.
I think one of the things that characterized the 1960's was a revolution, and people don't really appreciate or understand what happened. You have integrated schools coming into its own. Everybody expected a real blow up. There wasn’t. There were some difficulties, there's no doubt about it, but it certainly wasn't a blow up. You see some budding black-white relationships and black-white friendships coming out of it. The very fact that a black person can go to the Dixie Pig and have a cup of coffee and nobody stares at him, is obviously a sign that we're moving in the right direction. That really did not start happening until the 1960's.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Hiller. Mr. Hiller was interested in integrating the Fairfax Education Association which is equivalent to a union. There was a big to do about it. Most teachers were very adamant about it and said, 'No, we don't want to integrate with black teachers. Hiller was a very strong proponent of integrating this organization. There was a special meeting held in the auditorium. He was booed and there were cat calls. I was scared and I wanted a job. I didn't say anything. I wanted a job at this school in the worst way. I didn't say anything at all. I was not a very courageous person at that moment. Certainly, he showed a hell of a lot of courage and he's really a hell of a human being. He doesn’t make mention of it.) but I remember it very well. There's all sorts of ironies involved and it's interesting how flexible people can be. Some of the people who spoke against integrating the
F.E.A. end up as human relations directors at the Fairfax County level. I won't make mention of any names, but you'll have to take my word for it. All of a sudden they discover human rights and civil rights and civil liberties but where were they when it was very unpopular to do so?That was in the early sixties. By the mid-sixties, the battle was already won. There was a dress code; there’s no doubt about it. I remember Mr. Frazee used to go around measuring bangs, which I thought was a little ridiculous. I think eventually we abandoned the dress code all together, and I think on the whole it was probably a good thing. The part that disturbs me about abandoning the dress code is that in
some cases the garb worn by one of the students could have a disruptive effect on the class. I'll never forget the person who dyed her hair green. It was rather difficult to discuss the Edict of Nantes
in that type of situation with the girl with dyed green hair sitting in front of the class. One day Mr. Hiller and I were walking down the halls of the Groveton High School, and the first three students we saw were dressed as a monk, an Indian, and a cowboy. That’s no exaggeration at all. We really thought the school was going bananas during that period of time.
I would say another characteristic of the mid-1960's, late 1960's, or early 1970's was a general informality. Perhaps the Beatles were somewhat responsible for it, but I don't like to think in terms of a single cause. The Beatles certainly had a tremendous impact on this country They came over in 1963, and there was a tendency for a lot of young people to ape and imitate the Beatles. It was going to expand and eventually affect a good part of the country. Not only the younger people, but the elderly people as well. There was a tendency for the elderly to emulate the youngstersin many respects. It was not unusual to see bald men imitate the youngsters, growing their eyebrows long and then combing their eyebrows over their heads. I'm only kidding about that. (laughs)
There's a general informality (puts feet on table) and a more simplistic type of life style. We've institutionalized it. I used to wear a suit and a tie. I did! Many people did. I would say on the whole we have a more simplistic way of doing things. We have an informal type of clothing. We don't wear the shirt and the tie and the jacket. I t's making a comeback, by the way, but it will never really be quite the same because of what took place in the 1960's. I like wearing these shoes, these pants, and this shirt. I avoid wearing the tie.
Perhaps I'm a little old fashioned, but I think the lack of cleanliness is the thing that really got to me in some instances. I don’t really mind the garb as much but I find it rather difficult to accept the person who doesn’t wash his face or clean his fingernails. We had a little bit of that business in the mid-sixties. Now, in one sense, this was a protest against the war in Vietnam, against the older generation which was regarded as crude and materialistic. We've had these protests before in history. Interestingly, enough, many of those things of the late sixties which were done inprotest have become institutionalized in the seventies. Longhair was a protest against the establishment. I would say wearing the Levi's and the Wrangler's was a protest against the establishment at one time or another, that we’re going to put on this working man’s garb to shock our parents. Now everybody wears Levi's, but at that time, it was not proper to do so. It's happened before in our history. Quakers would deliberately dress themselves in black against the ostentatious display of the English aristocracy and Quakers still dress in black, but they probably don’t know the reasonwhy. That occurred four centuries ago.