Sunday, April 19, 2015

Four-twenty and so on and so forth...

Back in the 1970's, there was a group of teenage high school friends who were known as The Waldos. And it came to pass that they heard tell of a secret abandoned field of marijuana. It was determined that a search for this pot of gold might provide an efficacious result, so they determined to set out upon such task by congregating by a local statue at 4:20 in the PM. The meeting time became a slang term which eventually found its way into the general population. For many years now, April the 20th has been the date of "smoke ins", celebrations of stoner age culture, and protest marches seeking legalization of cannabis sativa and various things hemp.

Smoking pot used to be one of those things that was just there somewhere in the background of the culture, often found in the circles of hot jazz and swing musicians. Hemp had many uses and was an excellent (and renewable) source for making everything from paper to rope and clothing.

In 1917, a young man by the name of Harry Anslinger married the niece of Andrew Mellon. His connections helped him acquire employment from military and police organizations, traveling the world with a mission of shaping international drug polices. In 1929, he became an assistant commissioner in the US Bureau of Prohibition.  In 1930, he became the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a position he held for 32 years, until 1962. He immediately began a campaign to destroy hemp as a feasible crop. Publisher William Randolph Hearst had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain. Hearst lost 800,000 acres of timberland to the Mexican Revolution, and needed to protect the rest of his investment. Hearst pushed the anti-hemp crusade. Both men hated Mexicans and African Americans; they began spreading the worst kind of lies and distortions to create negative stereotypes of our neighbors. They were soon joined by the Dupont company, which was about to release synthetics such as nylon. Pharmaceutical companies joined the fight. Hemp production had to go. Marijuana was portrayed as an evil, connected to the dastardly poor Mexican rabble. In 1937, a tax act was used to effectively prohibit hemp/pot. To pass it, Anslinger and Co. distorted and lied about the position of the American Medical Association. Their friends in Hollywood were pressed to join the crusade, and the "Reefer Madness" era began.


By July 1939, the local paper here in Vermont carried a few stories like this one:
From the late 1920's through to about 1939, jazz musicians created quite a few songs about the joys of pot smoking, the 'reefer man' and etc. Soon such recordings were outlawed, as was their use in the movies. For my radio show of April 18th, I played some of my collection of such songs.

Also in this week's radio show was a too short nod to the events which started late in the evening of... well, as a poet once put it, " 'Twas the 18th of April in '75, hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year." It's part of a poem we once knew as kids. It starts, "Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere...."  The poet, Mr. Longfellow, writing close to 100 years after the fact got a lot of it wrong. An earlier poem by Mr. Emerson started:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
One of these days I should really get back to regular posting and tell that story. There's parts of it elsewhere in the blog, but suffice it to say that on April the 19th the colonists fought back and really did change the world.
It was another fight that was the underpinning of the rest of the radio show. It was April, 1945. President Roosevelt had died (see last week's show post). The Allies were descending on Berlin. Here in Brattleboro, it was time to start the yearly Victory Garden. On the radio the night of April 21st, the Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands featured Johnny Long and His Orchestra....

The organization which registers and tracks the breeding of Holsteins is located in Brattleboro.





As always, I hope anyone who listens enjoys the show.