The 1960s: an era when you could pick up a Ford Mustang two-door hardtop for $2,368 and fill it with gas for 25 cents a gallon. Seventy-three million viewers watched The Beatles play “She Loves You” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The Vietnam War waged on, and the nation mourned the loss of a president and a major civil rights leader. Girls wore miniskirts and leather boots, while guys donned mop-tops and velvet pants.
In between Swim Shows, fraternity parties, piano bashing, and playing bridge, Hamline students saw it all. Here’s a look back at Hamline in the ’60s.
I was halfway between Old Main and the Student Center when someone yelled out that the president had been assassinated. I vividly remember walking on that sidewalk in black slacks and a green shirt, carrying one of those three-ring notebooks and a hardcover book, Economics by Paul Samuelson. It was an era of turmoil when everything was changing and then, lo and behold, the president is shot. We all had different reactions, but we knew life as usual would never be usual again.
~Duane Benson ’67
Vietnam didn’t get going until after I was at Hamline, although the men were concerned about the draft. That was the foremost thing in our lives. If we didn’t do the right things—choose a certain profession or get married—we’d get drafted. It was a huge motivator to stay at Hamline because being a full-time student deferred the draft. We didn’t talk about it a lot, but it was a big deal for my younger brothers David Silliman ’68 and Paul Silliman ’70. By then the lottery was in place, I was working on campus in the late 1960s, and I remember the frat houses throwing big parties after the lottery went down. A lot of guys were happy as all get out. For the men especially it was a tense time.
~John Silliman, Jr. ’65
I don’t recall the women’s movements being that big of a deal at Hamline. I was definitely on the career track because my major was medical technology, but I wasn’t pressured one way or another by my family or the school about a career, versus homemaking. I was really social, so I was annoyed that I was always in the lab and didn’t have time to play bridge at the union. I had to work hard to maintain my grades. But I had a wonderful advisor, Dr. Simmons, who wouldn’t let me quit (even though I fought it sometimes), and I credit Hamline with my career success in life.
~Joyce Smith Williams ’67
From my perspective we were the last college class of innocence. There wasn’t a lot of radicalism on campus. Fraternities were active at that time, so they were an important part of the social life. And the Twin Cities was blessed with a ton of great local bands. The Trashmen were popular and had a Hamline connection—the drummer was a fraternity brother of mine—so they played a lot on campus. The Safari Club, the Bloomington Roller Rink…you’d go out and meet people and dance to local bands.
~Steve Kufus ’68
I was in a contemporary folk music group that did a fair amount of social commentary and political satire, which was popular in the 1960s. We enjoyed poking fun at the war and at political figures that continued to support it. Things were pretty somber as I recall. Hamline was fairly mellow compared to other parts of the country, but there was still a fair amount of unity among the student body and faculty. It was an anxious time, a lot of uncertainty and mistrust, but my memories of Hamline in those days are fond.
~Ed Holland ’71
Civil rights activist James Farmer, the founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, was a significant visitor to Hamline my freshman year. His speech heightened what we had seen on TV and read about the struggle for civil rights. Sitting in the dorms afterwards, we realized that we’d gotten a big eye opener—that even Hamline had racial divide.
My strongest memory related to the Vietnam War is of the mock Arlington National Cemetery two students mounted on campus after dark the night before commencement. They were from the group “Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War in Vietnam.” Families arriving for the ceremony the next morning found rows of white roses—each one with the name of a graduating senior male. The flag was at half-mast because Senator Bobby Kennedy had been murdered the week before graduation, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated on April 4, so most students were pretty numb.
~Duane Cady ’68
Freshman year I lived in Drew, which was the first co-ed dorm, but it was only co-ed to the extent that there was a male wing and a female wing with a locked door between us. It was unlocked once, when the guys came in for a panty raid, and then, of course, the girls had to retaliate with a reverse panty raid. I don’t know that we took much underwear, but we had fun getting back at the guys. It was a different, more innocent time. That year the women had hours and the men didn’t, which outraged me. Being a rebel at the time, I said in a dorm meeting, “I’m in a room on the end of the first floor, so if anyone gets locked out I’ll let you in—just tap on my window.” The resident advisor freaked out, but the next year there were no hours for the women. Things were changing radically, but at that young age, I thought the adults were doing things way too slowly.
~Mary Greiner ’71