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Sam Dolgoff

After investing a good part of my political life in the struggles of the Socialist Party since 1952, and being one of the architects of its reconstituting itself as the SP-USA after the long factional battles that marked the period of the negative Shachtmanite impact on its fortunes, I was losing my faith even in our most radical variation of social democracy. My interest in social anarchism had been growing instead. As many of my IWW Fellow Workers in which I’d been a dues-paying but relatively inactive member since 1969, identified as anarchists, I was intrigued by their thinking more and more. By this time, I had read historian Richard Drinnon’s biography of Emma Goldman, and Emma’s own autobiography in both parts. One of my favorite books influencing my changes in political direction was George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia in which he glimpsed the vision of a workers’ self-managed society in seeing life for an all-too-brief period in anarchist Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. He himself fought in the ranks of the independent Marxist POUM militia against Franco’s fascism at the front but reserved for the anarchist revolutionary army of the Confederation National del Trabajadores (CNT) ( Spanish anarcho-syndicalist labor federation) his greatest accolades. I also read my IWW Fellow Worker anarchist Sam Dolgoff’s (1902–1990) edited classic The Anarchist Collectives: Workers’ Self-Management in the Spanish Revolution (1936–39), with an introduction by social ecologist Murray Bookchin (1921–2006), among other works. So when the 1976 Socialist Party National Convention rolled around in Milwaukee, my ideological dream world was already shifting gears.

Frank Zeidler

When I arrived in Milwaukee, the Convention was already abuzz with talk of running an SP Presidential candidate in 1976. I can understand the feeling, as since the Hoopes-Friedman endeavor twenty years before there had been none since the Shachtman-Harrington organization we had parted company with was more interested in immersing itself in Democratic Party politics. There was now a hunger to do our own thing again in presidential campaigns by our small reminted SP. My own idea was to forget the Presidency as we had only been reborn in 1973, had little money and although we were beginning to grow again, we were still too feeble organizationally to even run a decent token campaign that ambitious. My idea was for our Locals to run their own campaigns for city councils, mayor or boards of education like we did in 1973 in our San Francisco Supervisorial campaign, and develop a base for our electoral politics from the ground up for the foreseeable future. But the convention thought differently. Our national chair, Milwaukee’s ex-Mayor Frank Zeidler agreed to run for President as our best-known member with a background in successful municipal politics of a large city. I didn’t take part in this debate for a campaign, although I co-chaired at least one convention session. Frank approached me later during the weekend and asked if I was willing to be his running mate for the Vice Presidency. I politely demurred although I had enormous respect for Frank as a sincere, principled Socialist. Although he was not present at the Convention, the SP selected J. Quinn Brisben, a Chicago school teacher and veteran SPer as his running mate. Quinn was a good candidate although I was not in favor of that ambitious a campaign. As it was, the Zeidler-Brisben ticket was only on the ballot in ten states with a recorded vote total of 6038 nationally, with 4,298 of them from Wisconsin where Zeidler was better known. But it was slightly more than the 1956 Hoopes-Friedman vote of 2,044, down from their 1952 total of 20,065. Worth it? You call it. The SP has run Presidential campaigns every four years ever since, which may have some educational value for a limited number of people they’re able to reach. Even at this writing in 2016, the SP-USA is running Mimi Soltysik of California for top job in a token effort. I generally don’t vote for Presidential candidates of the two major corporate US parties. In 2012, I voted in protest for Dr. Jill Stein of the Greens who had ballot status in 22 states and received a half-million votes or so. A bit more bang for the ballot among minority left parties.

I left the 1976 SP Convention disappointed although I loved all my comrades with whom I had similar values. It was only a matter of time now for a major transition. As an old Third Camper against all military blocs, I couldn’t stomach the participation of so many European social democracies affiliated with the NATO miltary bloc dominated by the American capitalist empire, no more than I could the Moscow state capitalist-dominated Warsaw Pact. And the steady slide of these social democracies toward market economics with a weakening of their welfare state policies toward privatization I found disturbing. So shortly before leaving for a vacation trip to the British Isles in the summer of 1976, I wrote a painful letter of resignation to the SP-USA. I could formally leave the SP but the SP has never quite left me, although I declared myself an anarchist. My family and political legacy has been democratic socialist and I still share its humanistic values. If I was a pure anarchist I wouldn’t be voting in public elections which I continue to do if only in protest. So I really consider myself as a libertarian socialist and in practice am not as anti-statist as a pure anarchist.


I turned 50 on March 18, 1976 and now deep into marathon and longer distance running I began to explore the alternative of race walking from time to time as a relief from knee pains I was developing from constant pounding on hard pavement which marked the courses of most urban running events I was doing every weekend. I’d read the race walking technique was relatively injury free in comparison. I remember seeing my uncle Otto Saikkonen in mile race walk competition at the Finnish Fall festivals in Worcester. MA as a youngster. Occasionally, I’d see racewalkers compete in Golden Gate Park on Sundays when I’d be biking home after a DSE run on the park roads. They were a brave little band of athletes dwarfed by the mass pandemonium that distance running had become in the 1970s to which I was severely addicted myself. Yet a preferable addiction to my old alcoholic habits. I read in “Northern California Running Review” edited by elite distance runner Jack Leydig, a back-of-his-van running shoe enterpreneur, that the West Valley Track Club had a race walking offshoot that sponsored races a couple of times a month. So I called the contact number of Wayne Glusker, a top national class walker who was Northern California Race Walk Chair of the Amateur Athletics Union about the possibility of competing in this weird-looking sport. Wayne invited me to a 10K race they were holding on a Sunday on the San Francisco State University track. It was a judged race in which one could be disqualified for infractions of its two rules that distinguished it from running: A straightened knee of your supporting leg as your body was passing over it, and continuing ground contact with one foot or the other as you were moving. You could have good or bad technique beyond that but as long a you were “legal,” avoiding a bent knee in the supporting leg or losing ground contact with both feet with air underneath them at the same time, you wouldn’t be “DQed.” Wayne gave about ten minutes of instruction to me and another neophyte from Sacramento before the start of the race, and we were “off and walking.” I was in good physical shape from my running program, so I didn’t do badly, copycatting the more experienced competitors in their 90-degree arm swing and standard hip rotation. There were two veteran judges on the track, the late Art Smith and Phil Mooers. but neither of us “newbies” were shown the red disqualifying paddle. And my time was quite respectable for the 10K: 68 minutes plus change. From then on I was hooked in this “ruptured duck waddle” and it became my best competitive sport.


In the summer of 1976 I made about a six-week trip to the British Isles. Purpose of the trip was two-fold: (1.) To participate in a program of running events sponsored by the British and Scottish Masters (or Veterans) Athletics Associations to which American masters athletes had been invited as well as those in Europe and elsewhere in the world. And, (2.), To acquaint myself with the British and Scottish anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements to educate myself in my new political orientation. I had first seen the historic British Anarchist newspaper Freedom in the 1950s in Chicago when it was circulated in Hyde Park by the noted black anarcho-pacifist veteran Joffre Stewart. In San Francisco I was able to pick it up in City Lights Books, operated by anarcho-pacifist poet and artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti which he still owns in his nineties. Later, Freedom and other anarchist literature could be purchased at Bound Together Books in the Haight, San Francisco’s still-leading anarchist book collective. I used Freedom’s contact list to find housing and introduction to comrades in the UK. My exploration was successful and I was able to make freinds and accomodations everywhere through this means. I was able to find an available flat in Central London where its anarchist tenant, a writer, was away on vacation, with his only request of me being to feed his cat for which he had left plenty of food.

I made an early bee-line to Freedom Press, which had been around since Kropotkin’s time during his long London exile. There I met Mary Canipa, a part of the Freedom collective, who operated its book shop, a diminutive charming older comrade with whom I spent some delightful hours at their headquarters at 846 Whitechapel High Street. I ordered a number of anarchist books through her, shipped to my San Francisco address to make an excellent starter set for my anarchist library.

Vernon Richards

Marie Louise Berneri

Albert Meltzer

Mary told me about prominent anarchistwriter Vernon Richards, an Anglo-Italian, originally Vero Ricchioni (1915–2004), who was also a leading activist at the Press I never got to meet. Richards had had a beautiful young Italian anarchist wife, Marie Louise Berneri, who was a significan editor and author in her own right, who tragically died giving childbirth in 1949 at age 31. Her father Camillo Berneri had been murdered by the Stalinists in Spain around the time of the Civil War. I recall reading a book by Richards about Spain in which he denounced the Spanish anarchist leaders who collaborated in the Popular Front government, with its Communist members having blood on their hands of anarchists who didn’t play footsie with the Popular Front. Richards also made his enemies within the English anarchist movement, particularly with an old Freedom Press writer Albert Meltzer (1920–1996) who had tried to merge his Wooden Shoe Collective into Freedom Press over the former’s objections. This caused an irrevocable split from then on between them, with Meltzer founding Black Flag magazine with a young comrade Stuart Christie to rival Freedom. Black Flag was more proletariat-oriented than the former which was more generally intellectual. So this caused Meltzer to attack Richards as a “liberal” rather than a horny-handed navvy. (Actually Albert’s day job was as a copy editor at the bourgeois London Daily Telegraph.) Talk about factionalism! Where have we heard this before? I called up Meltzer and he invited me to dinner at his flat, where we spent a most convivial evening, with Albert being a most warm and friendly host with whom it was easy to talk shop. I ended up subscribing to both Freedom and Black Flag for a number of years.


Maurice Brinton

Maurice Brinton, pen name for Christopher Pallis (1923–2005), an Anglo-Greek libertarian socialist was a most momentous occasion of my political life on this trip. He was the founder of a relatively short-lived group named Solidarity which published a number of important books and pamphlets of which I’d read two by Brinton in the States, “Bolshevism and Workers Control, 1917–21” which I still consider the best libertarian revolutionary analysis of why the Bolshevik Revolution failed and “The Irrational in Politics–1974” in which he leaned considerably on Wilhelm Reich why the sexuel revolution for gender equality was near impossible in rigidly patriarchal societies as in Russia. Brinton also translated considerably of his then comrade, the Greek writer Cornelius Castoriadis, founder in Paris of the group “Socialisme ou Barbarie” from French into English. So I looked up Solidarity’s contact person Ken Weller in London. After a couple of hours of animated discussion, Ken gave Brinton a phone call and said he’d just met an interesting Yank who wanted to meet him. So I wandered over to Brinton’s house and spent several hours talking politics with him, before returning to my lodgings. His day job was as a medical internist and he described himself as a libertarian socialist rather than an anarchist as he found both Bakunin and Kropotkin somewhat dated. Workers’ self-management was his comittment and his battle cry was that “the liberation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves.” Comrade Brinton visited me a few years later in San Francisco, where he’d lectured at the University of California medical school on some of his research on heart disease.


Now for my bus trip through Wales to Holyhead at its northwest point for ferry access to Dublin which marked this initial end of my trip north. I rented a bed and breakfast in the Welsh port to prepare for the trip very early the next morning across the the Irish Sea. After a few hours of evening sleep I walked to the port for the noctunal transit to Dublin’s Fair City. As soon as we boarded I was quizzed by two detectives about my US passport. Seems there had been some bombings by Irish revoluionaries they wanted to talk with me about.. I was cleared in no time and we arrived at the gray of dawn at the Republic’s capital. I wandered the city all day long, even joining its famous James Joyce pub tour, limiting myself to a few glasses of grape juice. I don’t remember whether the legendary Abbey Theatre was shut down for the summer or totally booked for the matinee. After seeing the historic Book of Kells at the university, I enjoyed a delicious pub supper and boarded the ferry back to Holyhead. My next bus destination was Manchester where I had registered as an American guest runner in the British Masters Athletics Championships. Actually, my lodgings were in Oldham, a number of train stops east beyond Manchester. There I was the guest of British IWW member Graham Moss who had invited me to stay with him and his American partner Elaine Godina from Chicago and their little son Sasha, where I would address the Oldham IWW Branch about what we were up to in the USA. All went as planned except for my mediocre performances in the 5000 and 10,000 meters on the track at Manchester.


Since I would probably never pass that way again, I took a long bus detour to see the beautiful tourist destination of Edinburgh, before my next full stop in Glasgow where I was scheduled to take part in a popular 5-mile run in an amusement park during its annual summer fair, and where I had booked lodging with an old Glaswegian anarchist family which I had found via their son Bob through a notice in Black Flag, as I remember. I had some rich dialogue with Bob’s parents at their home. His father was a retired shipyard worker from the Clyde Shipyards in Glasgow who would regale me with stories when they had had a powerful blue-collar anarchist movement at the yards during his working years. Both parents were committed lifelong anarchists with colorful personal backgrounds. Bob, who was living at home then was a big fan of Joan Baez whose LPs he played for us on their record player. Joan’s father had been Mexican and although I didn’t know until her recent 75th birthday celebration in 2016 that her mother was Scottish. This may have been one of my host family’s reasons for their love of this marvelous vocalist and antiwar and human rights activist. She’s never missed a beat with me, either.

Alex Comfort

There was no sizeable number of anarchists still active at the now more quiescent Clyde Shipyards but my host family urged me to look up a Andy Maclachlan, a young anarchist worker employed there before I left Scotland. He and his wife Veronica and their three young children lived on a windswept semi-rural suburb up the hill from the Cyde River and the shipyard. So it may have been the Monday after the amusement park Sunday race that I took the bus to vist the McLachlans. (Incidentally, my five-miler was fun with the informality of one of my DSE runs at home, in which I did a decent performance.) Andy was a big strapping young man with a serious demeanor who showed me the mimographed newsletter he edited for his anarchist fraction of his trade union at the shipyard. Veronica again was a cheerful woman with a bubbly sense of humor who was fun to be around but as committed an anarchist as her quieter husband. I wasn’t their only foreign visitor that day, as we were joined by a young German comrade spending his summer abroad in the UK like I was. Both MacLachlans were on the Black Flag side of its dispute with Freedom. As I remember, I never met any of the Freedom Press writers and luminaries although I’ve read some of their great books and articles over the decades such as pacifist Alex Comfort, a WWII C.O., famous for his hugely read “Joy of Sex,” Nicholas Walter, Colin Ward, and, of course, Vernon Richards. Before I left Glasgow, Bob gave me the phone number of a young Scottish comrade, now living in London with whom I shared a most adventuresome day, on the eve of my return to the States. But first things first.



    Royal Shakespeare Theatre

My next major bus stop on my way south back to London was at Coventry with lodgings assured at a popular anarchist commune, where I was already booked to run in the World Masters Marathon Running Championships on roads mostly in the nearby countryside. I looked up my Coventry contact, a student anarchist at the nearby University of Warwick where the anarchist student bloc had just defeated a “Broad Left” slate of Labor Party and Communist Party youth for the control of the Student Council in a major upset. Apparently, a rebellious student body had voted for the motley slate of scruffy anarchists over the ambitious “proper bourgeois” of the BLP and CP who were using the student council to advance later as Labor Party bureaucrats. My Coventry contact, a natural comic, walked me over to the house which served as a live-in commune for anarchist students and community hangers-on. So this aging Yank was taken in whole-heartedly as a comrade for my Coventry stay and made most welcome and occupied the spare bed of a token British Trotskyist of the Tony Cliff school, who was away for part of the summer. Cliff, born as Yigael Gluckstein (1917–2000) was the Third Campish guru of the British Socialist Workers Party whose basic difference with the American Shachtmanites in their most revolutionary early period, calling the USSR system “bureaucratic collectivism,” while the Cliffites saw it as “state capitalism.” Cliff was a prolific author and in the latter 1950s I had read his book “Mao’s China” (1957), written as Y. Gluckstein, as a reference in a talk I gave to the Los Angeles Socialist Party. So while staying at he commune I read Cliff’s “Party and Class (1971)” left lymg about by the SWP vacatoning tenant, which did an effective job in dissecting the compromising opportunism of the Brirish Labor Party but which lost me when it agitated for the necessity of a disciplined Leninist vanguard party to guide the destinies of the broader workers’ movement which politics I’d long ago tossed into the dung pile of history.

Along this long bus journey I’d read Ursula Le Guin’s (b. 1929) excellent 1974 utopian anarchist science fiction novel I’d probably bought at Freedom Press, The Dispossessed, which had won the Nebula Award for the year’s best novel of that year and in 1975 the Hugo and Locus Awards. One of the best anarchist novels I’ve ever read, in which Le Guin doesn’t consider anarchism as a perfect society, as the human condition does have inescapable inherent flaws but the anarchist world of Annares in The Dispossessed comes close to it. I left the book with my comrades in Coventry, and half the commune had read it by the time I left and thought it priceless. For readers of these Memoirs who have never read The Dispossessed, which probably has had countless editions since 1974, do pick up this fantasy sci-fi classic.

I made friends with all the young radicals of this commune who shared a free and easy anarchic life style. I’ve forgotten their names but for a few. John England had been part of the Labor Party Youth when Aneurin Bevan had been had been the Left Wing leader of the BLP and a champion of nuclear disarmament. However, as he became foreign miniister under the Clement Attlee Labor Government, his tune began to change. When John and other BLP youth urged the government to unilaterally divest itself of all nuclear weaponry, a patronising Nye told the youth that he needed to retain the status quo as a “bargaining chip” to bring about a “multilateral” disarmament. Whereupon, John England and a number of other Party Youth quit the BLP and became anarchists. I used to hang out with John and his comrades around the working class pubs around Coventry where we had some of the best original laboring class music and song I’ve ever heard in my life, Whether they were original ballads of working life, or satirical ditties, they were tops. The favorite pub for all this was named Dyers’ Arms. While my comrades who all smoked and downed a few ales for their weekday evening fare, I toyed around with my insipid grape juice. Nobody thought of singing The Internationale or The Red Flag and probably didn’t even know them. Except some of my British printer workmates at the SF Chronicle would sometime satirize with: “The working class can kiss my ass for I’ve won the football pool at last!” This was a parody of the original: “The ruling class can kiss may ass for I’ve got my union book at last.”

My mileage training prior to the marathon was on roads leading to the University of Warwick campus, sort of a proletarian answer to Oxford or Cambridge. The Student Union hosted a pub on campus through which it raised money to finance Union expenses, and since the anarchists composed the majority of the Student Council that summer semester they were theoretically the mnagement of the pub. But since this did not fit their organizational way of thinking, policy decisions were made by calling a general assembly of all Warwick students who would discuss and vote as a whole on Student Council businees including the pub operation. It was a mixed bag though only in its beginning stages. One of the problems was that not all that many students came to the Assembly so only a minority ended up making the decisions anyway and left a susceptibility of a well-organized faction exercising undue influence in its operations. I don’t know how this eventually worked out as I left Coventry the day after the marathon but it shows that democracy doesn’t always work that well per a simplistic formula as there are so many problematic variables involved.


Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and gardens

William Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire was an easy bus commute from Coventry so on the Saturday before the World Veterans Marathon I did a touristy thing of visiting the Bard’s historic community on the banks of the Avon River, a busy inland commercial tributory for commercial shipping. One of the first things I did on hitting town was to walk to the majestic Royal Shakespeare Theater to see if there was a matinee performance that day for which tickets were available. Fortunately, the Royal Shakewspeare Company was staging “Winter’s Tale” but the only seats available were way up in a crow’s nest balcony, where the actors seemed like little matchbox figures far below. But I’d never have this opportunity again to see a Shakespearian play perfomed in Stratford so the gallery it was. Next I wandered around this historic market town to see the sights before show time, which included Shakespeare’s birth place and his wife Anne Hathaway’s pre-marriage cottage. Hundreds of tourists were wandering the streets and pathways of the town, so I fitted in just fine on this beautfiul day. Showtime I ended up in an uncomfortable seat with my sightline obstructed by a large post directly in front of me around which I had to crane my neck. I’ve seen some great Shakespeare in my time, but I was too cramped and uncomfortable to really enjoy this one. But I could always tell people I ‘d seen a production of The Master on his home turf. Afterwards, I had supper in a large outdoor cafe overlooking the Avon River where one would never tire of watching the traffic flow by whether passenger or freight shipping. Great way to relax after the play as my joints were stiff and sore from the cramped seating. Since I had a marathon to run in the morning, after unwinding I took the bus back to Coventry. Getting back to the commune, the place was alive with a big drunken Satuday night party with plenty of revelry and music. But I was the party pooper as I needed to be ready for the road run early Sunday morning. The only other person sober in the place was Tom, a serious gay anarchist student from London who neither drank or smoked.


Next morning I headed for a gym locker room to get into my running gear and store my street clothes into a locker, ready for the early morning marathon start.The place was crowded with runners from all over the world. I was not surprised to see several Finnish masters athltetes among them. One of them was Matti Rutanen from Espoo in his early forties with whom I became good friends later. Two others were the Laiho brothers from Lahti in their 60s who were a hardy pair of distance men. After talking with Matti in my American Finn, he informed me about the World Masters Track and Field Championships that would be held the following year (1977) in Göteborg, Sweden, and urged me to plan for them. When I told him I was a racewalker as well as distance runner, he encouraged me to sign up even more.. Sounded good to me and I was already excited to attend before he even finished his sentence.

Thousands of us men and women toed up at the start line in the early morning mist when the gun went off. There was a huge contingent from Japan who brought their families to cheer them on standing along the roadsides with their Rising Son flags. But the English fans on the sidelines on the English country roads were the quietest I’d ever heard, compared to the rowdy reception we got on the American marathon running scene. Instead we were the recipients of polite applause with modest conversational calls of: “Well done” and “Keep it going.” We appreciated the support but needed to expect that English cultural responses were far different from our own. I moved at a sensible pace and for a long time ran besides the Laiho brothers. I don’t recall where Matti Rutanen was in this mix. I enjoyed the pastoral atmosphere of this run watching dairy cows munching away in their pastures as we passed, blissfully ignoring us. It was a beautiful sunny day after the morning fog cleared away and one of my most pleasant running experiences. Nearing the outskirts of Coventry again, I picked up my pace a mite and left the Laiho brothers behind. As we edged toward the finish and passed the WWII bombing ruins of Coventry Cathedral I felt as fresh as ever. I accelerated my pace looking for a quick finish. Practically at the line, I surged past my final competitor who turned out to be my new friend Matti as I learned in seeing the final results. It was my second fastest marathon time ever at about 4 hours and 46 minutes plus sccs, my fastest being in 1975 at the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in the redwood groves of Weott, CA in 3:45:44. Family and friends were awaiting the finishers in large numbers as we crossed the line. I expected no one, but surprise upon surprise, the entire commune-load of my ragtag Coventry anarchist comrades had come down to cheer me in! I was in tears. A perfect end to a wonderful weekend!


John Olday

Notting Hill Riots

As soon as I returned to London, I phoned Glasgow Bob’s comrade who I’ll call Duncan. He invited me to join him at the annual West Indian Caribbean-style carnival at Notting Hill in West London. (In an earlier Memoir chapter I had cited that this colorful festival had been founded in 1959 by Trinidad native and journalist Claudia Jones, after she was deported to London from the United States for her Communist Party politics.) But first, Duncan suggested we visit a prominent ailing Scots-German anarchist elder named John Olday (1905–1977) at his London lodgings on our way to Notting Hill. Olday was one of the most colorful anarchists I’ve ever met. Although he had the pallor of a dying man, his eyes and positive demeanor were bright and shining enough to light up the world. So were the vast number of his huge splashy proletarian paintings that adorned the walls that showed his radiant spirit of a revolution that would never quit. In his early years in Hamburg as a street youngster in 1919 he was an ammunition holder for Anarchist-Spartacist machine gunners in a failed armed revolt, and managed to survive. In 1923 he was a guerrilla in another aborted revolt in Germany in which he also escaped being shot. But he managed to get by as a queer street entertainer in Hamburg’s squalid post-war Bohemia. His enormous talents as an illustrator, cartoonist and visual artist were discovered early and for a number of years became successful in the mainstream newspapers. He was a celebrity now in Hamburg’s upper social circles and when the Nazis came to power he was fully accepted in their party-going crowd. But he led a double life. He was also a part of a revolutionary anarchist underground which led a perilous existence under Nazi power. He saved many lives of left activists by informing them when the Gestapo was about to arrest them. But this could work for only so long when the Nazis caught on to Olday’s game. In 1938, he escaped in a gun battle over the Hamburg rooftops as the Gestapo came to arrest and shoot him. He managed to kill one of his pursuers with his own gun as he fled, as he told me. He used his own anarchist undergound network to escape to London. He wrote and used his artistic skills in England to survive and worked with anarchists like Vernon Richards and Marie Louise Berneri in their writing pursuits. He married an anarchist named Hilda Monte in London who made forays into Germany as a courier to the German anti-Nazi underground through Switzerland. Until at one border crossing into the Third Reich, the Gestapo apprehended her, whereupon Hilda immediately swallowed a poison pill she carried hidden on her person and died. In the 1950s Olday moved to Australia for some years where he was a huge success as gay cabaret entertainer until his return to London. (Considerable material can be found about the fascinating life of John Olday in for those interested further.)


After leaving John’s digs, it was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the West Indian Carnival which was going full blast. I suggest readers to Google “1976 Notting Hill Riots” to get a full accounting of that day’s ensuing disaster that shook all of British society. I will limit my story to how these events impacted me personally. It was a joyful scene where hundred of thousands West Indians and their families from all over England were celebrating the festival’s final day. Fantastic music, singing, dancing, colorful parades, children playing and excellent food offerings were being enjoyed by all. The one disturbing element to us was a massive presence of 1300 uniformed London police sternly marching in formation through the crowds with batons swinging from their belts. All white, with no black faces among them! This could only mean trouble in a tinderbox situation. Though it didn’t manifest itself openly, a seething anger was building within the crowds whose daily lives were darkened by the impact of white racism in Britain.

According to later accounts, it all started around 4 pm when the cops tried to arrest a black juvenile for alleged theft. Reportedly the police were immediately pummeled by fusillades of bottles and stones that kept up for hours forcing the gendarmie to retreat. The pent-up anger of young men in the crowds literally exploded. Our first inkling of what was happening was when hundreds of people charged screaming into the intersection where we were standing. Duncan and I were separated not to see each other again! I was due to fly out of Gatwick to the States early the next morning. But would I even survive the day? Scared shitless, yes! I ducked and hid inside the service entrance of a corner pub nearby for safety. And watched the angry young men yelling and running by. I was the only white face in sight, but was totally ignored. I was not their uniformed enemy. Soon a contingent of Bobbies came into sight, swinging their clubs and protecting themselves by garbage can lids as they carried no riot shields, now a ubiquitous sight at mass demonstrations. The projectiles kept flying! I couldn’t stay at the pub passageway forever so I screwed up my courage and inched into the swirling crowd toward an overhead Metro Station much further up the block. I avoided the white police forces as I didn’t want to be identifed with them, My safety lay within the mass of the Caribbean crowds who paid no attention to me. So inch by inch, I worked my way toward the Metro which seemed to take hours, Finally, I and hundreds of others were trying to get in through the gates to the supposed safety of the trains. I saw well-dressed Caribbean children crying holding on to their mothers also working their way into the station, their beautiful holiday destroyed in the turmoil.

Finally, we were packed like standing sardines on the Metro as the train began to inch forward on the elevated tracks away from the maddening scene. Passengers were terrified. Many crying, women, men and children. A little further down, we were stopped by a crowd of angry young men blockading the track. Finally they broke ranks and let us pass. And we were able to descend into the Undeground toward the center of London. I got off the train at Piccadilly Circus and immediately tried to phone Duncan to see if he was OK. He had extricated himself earlier from the scene and was at his lodgings. So we bade each other so long after brief comments about the day’s disaster. By all accounts it was the overbearing presence of the police that triggered the violence in a volatile situation as English racism showed its ugliest side. The Caribbean Carnival is till a popular event at Notting Hill these days without the violence. Next day I was safely off to San Francisco.


This may seem like a denouement to an eventful fiftieth year, but I capped the year 1976 in the fall with running my longest ultra-marathon, the Lake Tahoe 72-miler, starting and ending at Tahoe City in California, passing the South Shore gambling resort area, and toward Carson City, leaving that highway to proceed down to Incline Village in Nevada, and up and around the lake back to the starting point. We were not allowed to enter the race without a car and handler available as a support team. So I paid a San Francisco Art Institute student to be my driver and handler, paying for his food, motel lodging and $100 in cash for his services. We started in the dark at 6 a.m. fully clothed, which I would shed in stages at places where we agreed to take a break, which in my case was every five miles. My start line partner was DSE’s Len Wallach. an army reserve major in his late forties who had served in Vietnam. We were much alike in our running speeds (not much), but he soon grew impatient with my pace which was more in the spirit of the Dolphin Club’s tee-shirt motto: “Start slowly and then taper off.” As he forged ahead, I warned him, to be careful about his pace as 72 miles was not a slouch distance. I slogged along in last place, liking my chances of finishing. As it worked out, I caught up with Len close to the 50-mile point. He was cramping and in agony. I slowed down even more to stay with him until about the 52-mile point when he collapsed and rolled writhing into a roadside ditch. Shortly, his then wife and handler Sharon drove by in their VW bug and I told her to pack up her old man and take him home. “He’s a gone goose.” I then continued on, alternately jogging and race walking the hilly course, taking a break every five miles to meet my handler, eat, drink and do some yoga shoulder stands, rotating my legs up in the air, bicycle fashion. With the delays caused by trying to stick with Len I finished in the wee morning hours in 21 hours 40 minutes. But this stubborn Finn toughed it out, heedless of any intensifying knee damage. Like an idiot I vowed to return in 1977 and set my own pace from the get-go.

End of Installment 25