Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Philadelphia Launches Earth Week thus Saving Earth Day and the Polluted Trail to Disillusionment

Earth Day, the celebrated birthday of the Cult of Global Warming, began in April 1970 and was honored in many cities, mostly by college students who swallowed the clamor  and dire warnings that we would all be dead from pollution by 1990. At that time I was as hooked in as any other local radical, as this chapter will show. The most successful of the launches of Earth Day occurred in Philadelphia and actually comprised the dates April 16 through the 22nd and was known as Earth Week. So successful was Earth Week that when Walter Cronkite hosted the CBS Special on Earth Day a good segment of it focused on Philadelphia. (By the way Ira Einhorn, who claimed he founded Earth Day was nowhere mentioned in this mostly propaganda film.) Here are links to the three part Philadelphia Earth Week story as told in that coverage. (By the way none of the dire
predictions made in the initial Earth Day presentations came true and apparently we have survived beyond 1990, although those who froth at the feet of Al Gore continue to predict the demise of human kind and the world we know to be imminent within the next ten years, over and over every ten years. Remember in 2000 we were told by the experts that by 2015 our children would not even know what snow was? Anyway, I suggest you view the videos if you can fine the time.)

Once there were trees and a river
 Once there was grass where you stand…

There we stood, a motley band of people singing this song by Travis Edmonson (left), a semi-obscure country singer/songwriter from Arizona (Died 2009).


To answer that we have to back up a few months from where we last left off.

We wrote about a character well-known around the underground scene in 1970, one Ira Einhorn and we mentioned his claim of being the founder of Earth Day, a bit of an exaggeration. If you were to watch the video at the beginning of this portion, which contains the CBS Walter Cronkite coverage of Earth Week in Philadelphia, you won’t hear Einhorn’s name mentioned once, even though he did host the big rally in Fairmont Park on the first Earth Day.

He obviously had to have some influence with the committee because this was an important event; anything going on that included a speech by Senator Edmund Muskee and such luminaries as Allen Ginsberg and Ralph Nader, was a big deal. On the right is the younger , pre-trunk murderer Ira Einhorn hosting the Fairmount Park Rally. (Right, Senator Muskee speaking to the Fairmount Park Crowd.)

This was Earth Week, April 16-22, 1970, in Philadelphia, which culminated on April 22 with the very first Earth Day.
If you should watch the video, as I think you should, you will find there was a student committee, mostly from Penn (gee, Donald Trump missed his opportunity to lead; he graduated from Penn in 1968),  that was responsible for Earth Week. This committee needed funds to pull it off, so they struck a Devil’s bargain with their enemy, the industries they had named as the 10 top polluters in Philly. The industrialists, which actually included the city, ponied up funding and Thatcher Longstreth (future Philadelphia Mayor) handed them a big check when the committee agreed there would be no embarrassing demonstrations or protests at the student's targeted industries, especially since the events in Philly that week were going to receive network TV coverage.

The committee did not fully live up to that agreement, even though the business and city did fork over the money. There was protest and demonstrations at various pollution sites across the city and Lois and I were along for the ride; quite literally. This was the Philadelphia Pollution Trail Bus Tour, which brings us back to where we started, standing on a gravelly back lane at such places as Philadelphia Coke Works with an eclectic group of college students, Yippies and blue-collar neighborhood hausfraus singing at dusty hard working men,

Once there were trees and a river

Once there was grass where you stand…

We, my wife and I and several dozen others, stood atop a flattened mound of crushed cinder pretending to be a road. It was as black as Ira Einhorn's soul. Six feet from us rippled a brown puddle of water twice that distance wide. Beyond the cinder and puddle was a rusting wire fence eight feet high holding the public out. Men were busy working inside the fence. They were black men mostly, I think. They were so caked with the dust about them it was hard to tell. They were working in the soggy discharge of a society they did not belong to. They were sweating on a beautiful spring Saturday morning at a job you or I would never want or ever seek. And we stood on the gravel lane singing at them, as if they were responsible for the waste in our land. We sang:

So copulate to populate,
God bless every birth,
Don’t lose your soul
Through birth control,
And you’ll soon lose the earth.
This was a new version of “America the Beautiful” concocted by the Philadelphia Earth Week Committee. Two carloads of teenage boys drove through the puddle and splashed we singers. The cameras and the mikes of the CBS News crew following our bus caught it all.
(Left is Allen Ginsberg at the Philadelphia Earth Week events, 1970. )

A little later, several Pollution Trail buses and trucks pulled to a stop behind each other outside the boundary of Philadelphia Coke. Rose Owens, resident of Bridesburg, gave a brief speech. Housewives milled about hanging signs on the wire fence.
“Does your baby smoke?” asked a sign. “It might as well.”
The housewives cheered for Rose. Rose welcomed everyone and asked for support in the battle to clean-up Philadelphia Coke. She is a brave woman out fighting the filth in the air. She had been threatened, and threatened, and threatened.
But some stayed on the buses. “I feel exploited,” said one such man. “This thing is like a personal campaign for Bridesburg. It’s too narrow.”
I cannot agree with all of that. It is good the people of Bridesburg are willing to fight for pure air in their community. If communities everywhere would stand and fight all our problems would be licked, or so we believed then.  And if it was housewives from Bridesburg no one could yell about outside agitators. (Bridesburg is a section of Philly to the North near the Delaware River, down from Frankford.)
But thinking of the singing and the paper masks across our mouths,  (these were handed out on the bus at the beginning of the tour) the trip took on the aspects of a game. The game rolled around the block, three spaces forward, while the breeze behind kicked black dust into the hair of the Bridesburg children playing on the playground.
“We have to make people aware,” was the stated purpose of the Pollution Trail tour. It was to show the people the dustbins and sludge pots of our city and tell how the courts had stalled, and how the city fathers have stalled, and how the industry leaders have stalled. It was to show the people the hypocrisy of the top ten polluters in Philadelphia, who had cleaned their lots and worked double shifts the day before the tour so they would not be pumping poison in our air when we came to see it.
But the people on the buses were already aware. Some had a cause, like the ladies from Bridesburg. Some were camp followers, like the boys who kept pushing through the crowd toward the TV cameras. Yet some were concerned and felt silly, rather than informed, after the tour. The long-informed did not come to sing ineffective song parodies to men who have suffered more than they. Those long concerned wondered where everyone had been before Earth Week. Where were the politicians now touting clean air and water and the preservation of our flora and fauna a few years ago when conservationists were called softhearted liberals? Where were the Pollution Trail leaders and Bridesburg ladies and aroused students in 1958 when Mayra Mannes wrote More in Anger? Where were they in 1960 when Vance Packard wrote The Waste Makers? Where were they in 1962 when Rachel Carson was being smeared as un-American for writing Silent Spring?
We were all there this week, gathering in masses in the parks to hear the politicians, and riding buses to blame our problems on the industries. True, the industries are to blame. But so are we. We support the industries. In fact, we demand the industries. And attacking the industries will not solve our problems, for in truth, we need the industries.

In the beginning I quoted a song called “The Time of Man”. It was popularized by the Limeliters in 1961 and became something of a theme during Earth Week. Our problems are not new. Nor is the prophecy of the song new.
No way to hide my little baby’s eyes
From the damage the dead have done.
They didn’t know in the old time
The earth and the sea were to share.
They didn’t know in the old time.
Once there was grass where you stand.
I wonder where all these concerned people will be in 1975? Will they be singing? Or choking? Will our question be left unasked? Will the question be: Where is man? And somewhere on that tour I began to break away from the whole underground and protest scene.
Once there were songs about rights
Instead of wrongs.
Once was the time of man.

Parts of this account were written immediately after Earth Day 1970. Many of the opinion I held then, I no longer adhere to. It is called "growing up".

As a side note, if you watch the video's you will find our society was similarly split along racial lines then as now. The Black leaders and communities generally refused to join the students and others during Earth Week. They felt it would take away from their own protests and that the blight of their own Philadelphia neighborhoods was enough pollution to deal with.  In a sense, then, Earth Day became a White Man's burden.

I was being turned off by all the bickering and self-serving attitudes I saw developing. This was the beginning of turning me to a darker world. 

If The Pollution Trail was a tigger, several months later a second event sealed my growing skepticism and made me grow restless with the city. I had noted this particular instance earlier, mistakenly thinking it occurred in the heat of summer not long after I went to work at North American Publishing, which would have placed the whole affair back in 1969; however, I have since found documentation that corrected that view and in a way made more sense, giving that in the next year the Mayoral race would be in full swing. It was actually in October 1970 that they accused me of falsely registering to vote and tried to disenfranchise me. I was still living at The Commodore, but then working at Lincoln Bank. Here is the contemporary account of that I wrote to Joe Rubio on October 11, 1970:

Dear Joe,
This is proving an interesting week. My former party, the Republicans, is attempting to take away my right to vote. I’ll give you the background.
I came home Friday and got the mail. There was a “Petition for Cancellation of Registration”. It was sworn out by Joseph H. Keenan of 4260 Chestnut Street (died 1977). I went over to that address, but there doesn’t seem to be any Keenan there. The witnesses were Helen Ida and Richard McNamee. They claim I am not a permanent resident at this address. I am supposed to go to the hearing on Thursday, October 15.
In my opinion this is an irresponsible act, and in today’s mood, a dangerous one, and I hope there can be criminal charges brought against these people. According to the sworn statement, they investigated my registration and I am not a permanent resident. Since I have lived here since April 1969 and my lease runs to September 1971, and that the residency requirement for the state is 90 days and for the district is only 60 days, that I voted in the primary in May 1970, which is over 60 days ago, that I have worked in Philadelphia since 1959, that I go to night school in the city, that I need five years to get my degree, that I have a promising job I wouldn’t want to leave, I can’t see how they could even claim they investigated, for how more permanent must one be?
Actually the story is this. Keenan is a Republican committeeman, who in cahoots with something called the Old World Organization, has filed 200-odd petitions on registered Democrats in my area. They have aimed mainly at students. I would not doubt that they also picked unemployed people. They did not petition Lois, which they should have if I am not eligible. We registered together. I believe this happened; they, these traitors, for what else could you call them, probably just scanned the voter lists and picked out students and other strange occupations. You see, when I registered I had just left North American Publishing and not went to Lincoln. I was doing freelance writing so gave my occupation as writer, which is an honorable business, I think. Besides, you have a right to vote no matter what you do for a living.
People wonder why students and young people revolt. They say we should not protest because there are open channels to make our feelings known. Yet they try to prevent gathering to petition our government, they ignore our spokesmen, and then these people try to take away our vote.
The Democrats have lawyers working on it. I hope we can really get these people. I have offered my services. It makes me mad. I must take off work. As you know, I think, I get an extra work day’s pay if I’m not absent for ninety days. I would be collecting my second such reward in the first week of November, but now I must take off to go to court to keep something I am entitled to in the first place. These bastards are costing me money! They are a disgrace to our nation, much more than any war protester, and yet they are firmly within the establishment, probably respected and will probably escape with less vindictiveness than the mildest protester against the war or for civil rights.
Keenan does not reside at the address he gave by the way, and the Democrats have filed against him in counter. McNamee lives in a shabby apartment where stated.  Ida, whose statement address turned out to be a vacant lot, is the wife of a Raymond Ida, a real estate dealer, who probably won’t sell to Negros or those he considers Hippies; perhaps seeing my address and profession they think I’m just a Hippy. Anyway, you can see I am incensed about this. How dare they! I am eligible to vote and yet if I shouldn’t go to the hearing, I lose my vote, and perhaps will have trouble registering in the future. If I do go, I lose money and the first day I’ll miss since working at Lincoln. These people should be jailed! Who the hell do they think they are? I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I got my transcript from Temple for the last two semesters. I have a 3.73 average over them. What a year this is for work. Well, write soon.
One more thing about this voting business, it is no good to be among the silent. You might as well fight from go, because I have not been involved publicly in anything political and look at what happens. You must fight for what you believe in, no matter what, otherwise everyone loses.

I described how the hearing went in an earlier chapter and what a farce it proved to be. (See Post of 7/11/16 called "Toward Last November". I now had other matters on my mind, like a term paper due in English Intermedia Composition and in the beginning of the year Lincoln Bank was moving the operating center to a new location.

One more thing, I wrote a short story based on the voting thing also  called, “Toward Last November”. It is included in my book of short stories based on my life during the ‘sixties titled, “Keep All the Animals Warm”. Although in the story this voting scam causes “Frank March”, the main character,  to feel ready to leave the city, not quite so much with his real life counterpart. We didn’t consider a move from the city until the Summer of ’72, and it was for an entirely different reason.

1 comment:

WARPed said...

Thanks for another interesting chapter.