Letter to Governor McCall in Praise of Vortex

(What follows is an extraordinary letter written to Governor McCall in the aftermath of Vortex I.)

Mt. Angel College

Mt. Angel, Oregon 97362

(code 503) 845-2234

September 3, 1970

Dear Governor McCall,

You may recall that I wrote to you in support of your decision to open McIver Park to Vortex I and to offer my services in a counseling capacity to the youngsters attending the festival.

It is, I suppose reflective of my academic background to feel a compulsion to make a “report” of my experiences there.

I would like to tell you about . . .

Don, the ex-convict medic who went four days without sleep attending the emergency first aid needs of all who came;

Kim, the veterinarian’s assistant who set a broken toe and mother three little boys who appeared late one night;

Stu, the medical student who slept for a few hours and then only because of his 102 fever;

Whitey, the motorcycle gang leader who ran escort for emergency vehicles night and day;

Mark, who walked the rounds of the park each day bandaging cuts;

The endless round of people who came to offer their help at the first-aid center.

I would like to tell you about the absolute absence of litter in the park; of the cleanliness of the outdoor toilets; of the care taken with the campfires.

I would like to tell you of the pride in the voices of the Oregon youths as they told out-of-staters that their state and their governor were in support of the festival.

I suppose, too, that I would tell you about the drugs and the bad experiences many suffered from them. I might even have to mention a certain degree of informality in dress on the part of many.

Some bad things did happen . . but by and large, it was a good experience for most. It might be best summed up by a remark I overheard as I made the rounds early one morning; a young man said to another, “I think you did that on purpose, brother; but I’m here to love everyone, so I won’t kick the shit out of you.” And indeed there was a good spirit of love, of sharing, of friendliness, and of good times in the park.

The people there did not feel that they had sold out but rather that their way of love and kindness was more appealing and more genuine than the spirit of confrontation and violence suggested by some.

In future I would suggest that more careful consideration be given to the scheduled staffing of the first-aid center–there might be an R.N. on duty all the time, and to the staffing of the psychological services.

As far as I know, I was the only one there in the latter capacity. The drug overdoses were given over to my care which of necessity was minimal. I would suggest in future events one might solicit volunteer hours from counselors, social workers, psychiatric interns, etc. to help with this aspect of the work.

Traffic control, food service, camp cleanliness, and water safety were all [sic] taken care of by volunteer staff. The state police were of great assistance in the traffic control and were well thought of by those who worked with them.

I think that your decision to open the park to the festival and to lend it your official support was a wise one. I am sure that you will receive an endless amount of criticism in this regard, and would suggest that you not let it bother you . . . Vortex was a good thing.

I deeply appreciate your acceptance of my offer of help. If another such festival is ever in the works I would like to be a part of it again.

In the meantime, if there is anything that I can do to lend you support in your work with the youth of the state, I hope that you will feel free to call upon me.


Thomas P. Sullivan, Ph.D.

Dean of Students