Charles Rouse was 23 and an Air Force vet when he transferred from Citrus Junior College in Glendora to Occidental College in northeast Los Angeles. His junior year at "Oxy" began on September 22, 1966. Now, half a lifetime later, he has endeavored to come to terms with the forces that shaped the age--the War in Vietnam; recreational drug use; the rise of the hippies--and with his own experiences. The story unfolds in "Two Years At Occidental College In The Late Sixties" ($14 in paperback from CreateSpace; also available in Amazon Kindle e-book format).
"This is not a young man's story," he writes, "or a young man's point of view or a young man's memory. This is me telling the story of more than forty years ago." Then, Rouse adopted the Objectivism of Ayn Rand (her work drew him to major in philosophy). Now, "I retain my civil libertarianism but have been for many years a middle-of-the-road pragmatic Democrat." The book is in part a meditation on the ever-changing patterns of life.
Rouse was recently interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio), 91.7 FM. The archived program is available at http://kchofm.podbean.com/2011/08.
Each academic term receives its own chapter, and Rouse begins by listing his classes and setting the context with reference to events in the larger world. He remembers the language: Folks were "freaked out" and everything was "amazing" if it wasn't "gross."
He was shy and awkward around others, yet eventually welcomed female companionship--only to have his heart broken when they moved on.
But it was the drugs that precipitated the biggest crisis. By the late sixties Occidental was no stranger to LSD, marijuana, and even meth. A "friend" gave Rouse some kind of hyped up dose of something, and that led to panic attacks, flashbacks, and years of therapy.
The book helps remind us of "the spirt of the time, the zeitgeist whooshing down the corridors of the dormitories, the awakening in the students, the young people wearing button-down shirts one week and paisley the next." The music was "Donovan, Dylan, The Beatles, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and it all sounds so dated now."
And yet, as events unfolded, maybe things were not so Occidental after all