Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shank's Mare and Reaganomics

Ca. 1969-70—The IJ says Mon., Jan 11, but there was no Mon. Jan 11th in 1967, '68, '69, or '70.

During winter break, Sir Francis Drake High School took our Greyhound bus away so we had no way to get to school. We lived in the country, quite a ways from town. There wasn't any public transportation in our neck of the woods—other than the lone Inverness Greyhound commute bus that traversed the San Geronimo Valley around 5 AM and 7 PM. There was a bus route "in town," as we called it, but no Marin Transit, or Golden Gate Transit (until 1972) in West Marin.

In those days, most people living in the San Geronimo Valley were poor and didn't own cars. The Independent Journal article nade it sound like we had an option to ride the bus. But we staged a protest march, refusing to pay the 70-cent fee ($2.50 a week was a lot of money in those days. That's the equivalent of  $17.50 a week, or $630 a year, today's prices. My grandmother certainly didn't have any money to spare.), and so the Tamalpais School District jettisoned the Greyhound bus. Left us all hanging.

What the article failed to mention was that the cutback was due to Reaganomics. And if the San Geronimo, and Nicasio Valley residents were wealthy, abolishing the school bus would not have been on the cutting board.

It was a long eight-plus mile walk to Drake. Then home again up over White's Hill. How I learned to hitchhike. Yep. The stories I could tell. My friend Allison Lehman was holding the sign I'd made—making it look so easy.The Woodacre contingency was fantastic, as I recall. A real morale booster.  Richmond Young was the organizer. They were all fresh as daisies when they met up with us which undermined the dreariness of it all.

Allison and I had walked from Forest Knolls to Woodacre by the time the IJ showed up. So we were already tired. Part of the Woodacre contingency, Peter McConnell (in the plaid shirt) was walking in front of me—I was  dressed in a dark blue London Fog trenchcoat, in the back. Rain was predicted for later that day. Geoff Davis was walking beside me. From him I learned that a good story makes the road shorter. After a few days of walking, we were bone-tired. But I gained a good friend in the process.

And thus began my hitchkhiking phase. Thank Gawd, those who had cars would stop for us when they saw us walking. How I met Carlos Santana hitching to school. All the rock stars had moved out to The San Geronimo Valley, so it was always an interesting ride into town, but coming home was trickier. We met Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead,  Jefferson Starship (Airplane), The Sons of Champlin, Big Brother and the Holding Company, but never Janis. 

Janis Joplin lived on Arroyo Road at the Barbano's Summer Camp dorms. I remember the Larkspur house. But she still stayed in Lagunitas as her bandmates from Big Brother lived in the dorms. She had a hand-painted white Porsche, but she never gave us rides. 
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends...
We weren't complete strangers to hitchhiking. Once, on a lark, Sue Williams, Sue Barry and I hitchhiked to Yosemite to save the $20 Greyhound fee, but got busted in Los Banos. A CHP cop bailed us out. Got us on the right road home. Scared the bejazuz outta us. Thought we'd get busted for sure. 

For me, hoofing it to school was 8.7 miles over White's Hill, one way. That's 17.5 miles a day. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. was not set up for walking. It was quite dangerous going over White's Hill. No bike lanes then.

Walking for pleasure is one thing, forced marching to and from school every day that distance is another thing—especially during storms. Not to mention the time involved—all this because Ronald Reagan cut back back school funding. 

Good old Reaganomics. We were the first to feel the ramifications of it, as few families had cars, the Valley was poor. One time, about ten of us piled into Don Stanley's old white Ford Falcon station wagon (he founded the Pacific Sun). We sat on the tailgate, and rode over White's Hill watching the road whizz beneath our feet. So illegal.

But this was hitchiking in earnest—twice a day, every day, rain or shine. Which meant you never knew when you would arrive at school, or when you'd get home. You never knew where you'd be let off, so no matter what, you were walking a mile or two.

Then there were the weird rides where you didn't know IF you'd ever get home. (Does the Zodiac killer ring a bell?)

No transport also meant that there were also no extra curricular activities after school because the ride pool to West Marin dried up after 6 PM. Too hard to get home via shank's mare. Terrifying aft
er dark. And that inverness commute bus wouldn't always stop for us—even if we did have the spare change. Which we didn't.

This post is restructured from a Facebook thread.

Reaganomics: "Throughout his tenure as governor Mr. Reagan consistently and effectively opposed additional funding for basic education. This led to painful increases in local taxes and the deterioration of California's public schools. Los Angeles voters got so fed up picking up the slack that on five separate occasions they refused to support any further increases in local school taxes. The consequent under-funding resulted in overcrowded classrooms, ancient worn-out textbooks, crumbling buildings and badly demoralized teachers. Ultimately half of the Los Angeles Unified School District's teachers walked off the job to protest conditions in their schools.[5] Mr. Reagan was unmoved.
Ronald Reagan left California public education worse than he found it. A system that had been the envy of the nation when he was elected was in decline when he left. Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan's actions had political appeal, particularly to his core conservative constituency, many of whom had no time for public education.
In campaigning for the Presidency, Mr. Reagan called for the total elimination the US Department of Education, severe curtailment of bilingual education, and massive cutbacks in the Federal role in education. Upon his election he tried to do that and more.
Significantly, President Reagan also took steps to increase state power over education at the expense of local school districts. Federal funds that had flowed directly to local districts were redirected to state government. Moreover, federal monies were provided to beef up education staffing at the state level. The result was to seriously erode the power of local school districts.[6]
As in California, Mr. Reagan also made drastic cuts in the federal education budget. Over his eight years in office he diminished it by half. When he was elected the federal 
share of total education spending was 12%. When he left office it stood at just 6%." —The Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan 

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