I was finally allowed to work a real job over the summer and so I arrived in Boston with $750 in the bank. I thought that was a lot of money but it didn’t last long. I was in sensory overload and I had to sample everything.
I was the first to arrive at my dorm room. It was large, generally free of any furniture except a few bunk beds, desks and chairs, and it had a window that looked out over Huntington Avenue. Slowly kids and often their parents began arriving. There was some nervousness around but I think we all shared the feeling of freedom. We were all on our own, some, like me, for the first time. But we were all kids on a new adventure and that was exciting. There were five of us in this room. Everyone had their own story, their own backgrounds, and their own expectations. It seemed like they were from everywhere and nowhere at the same time, places I had only heard of or read about. Rod was an accomplished jazz drummer from Tucson, Greg was from Long Island and had just come back from Woodstock, and they all had the long hair you would expect for a college kid in the ‘60s. My father had insisted that I get a haircut before I went off to college. That would be the last one I would get for a long time.
Right away I sought out the Rifle Team coach and began practice for the coming year. This would be a nice refuge for me whenever things got out of hand. I could go and shoot a few targets and I would relax back into my comfort zone. But there was little interest at a University in Boston for a Rifle Team. The Rifle Team and ROTC represented the Army somehow. The Army was the subject of most of the protest marches. By 1973 the Rifle Team was disbanded and removed from the school.
Generally, we went about our business of going to college. That had little to do with attending classes or studying and much to do with discovering and experimenting. I started out going to all my classes but soon found this to be a useless exercise. My Psychology 101 class had 1500 students and no teacher, just a tape recorder that was turned on at the beginning of class. My Sociology 101 class had 350 students but a different tape recorder. Essentially the tape recordings were a regurgitation of the books we were required to buy. And yes, I said tape. Going to class seemed irrelevant.
What was relevant were all the things that Boston and my new friends had to offer. I’ve already written that I arrived at school with almost no musical acumen. But everyone else arrived with dozens, sometimes hundreds of records. The Harvard Coop in Harvard Square was the place to go for music of all types and we all spent lots of time and money there. You could get the latest album releases for $3.33 and then go for coffee in the square. The other place we went everyday was McDonald’s. Doesn’t sound like a good time now, but they had this brand new sandwich that was really terrific. It was called the Big Mac, you know, 2 all beef patties, special sauce, etc. The food at the school cafeteria was so bad that we all went down to the corner of Mass. Ave. and Huntington and ate at McDonald’s. It was the first time I had ever been to a McDonald’s and I just couldn’t believe how good it was. You could get a Big Mac, fries, and a coke for $1. Wow!
Then it was the parties. It was rare for a night to go by without someone wanting to have a party. Every party in Boston had at least two irreplaceable elements; the latest music and a healthy supply of any kind of drug you wanted to try. Interestingly, I can’t remember any of us ever actually buying any drugs the whole time we were there. There wasn’t much need since everywhere we went there was an ample supply. Sure, there were those that wanted to try everything, and try again and again. But we mostly did a little marijuana and enjoyed the party. I can even remember having a beer or two and a glass or two of Mateus Rose at some of these parties; imagine that. We always wanted to save the Mateus bottles because they made such good candle holders and a candlelit room filled with incense was an integral part of the culture then.
But it was the music that we had all wanted. This was the golden age of music. It was the culmination of Bill Haley, Elvis, Dylan, Motown, Stones, Beatles, Grateful Dead, and to this point in time Led Zeppelin. If you were going to have a good party you needed to have a great stereo and a great selection of records. I was shy about admitting it to anyone, but I had never heard any of it before and it was glorious. I had a lot of catching up to do and I was lucky enough to be around such an eclectic group of people. It would make my musical learning process that much easier.
It was a fascinating time to be alive but I think we all took it in stride. You see it was the war. Every night on TV it was the war. A war had never been fought on TV before. Films from that morning’s battles were shown that night. No matter what else happened around us it paled in comparison to the war. Hundreds of soldiers were killed or wounded every day in living color for all of us to see. Every classroom discussion always made it’s way back to the war. And we all knew that at some time very soon we would all be a part of it.
© J T Weaver