I cut class for the first and only time of my Oregon City High School career to participate in “senior skip day.” A cell had organized it for Milo McIver State Park, a 30-minute drive from Oregon City. There would be kegs.
How that was done in those days, I have no idea. I do know it certainly wasn’t sanctioned and chaperoned like “senior skip days” are today in many contemporary high schools. They go to water parks and zoos and take a school bus.
Seventy-five dissidents showed up at sunny McIver Park. When I arrived, the kegs were tapped and flowing, boys and girls drinking from plastic cups. Rock music was playing loudly from muscle cars. Hackey sack was going on. The smell of reefer drifted on the breeze. Oregon never produced a finer day for mellow teenage rebellion.
From my senior year journal:
Last Friday I participated in the senior skip day. What an absolute waste of time, money and energy. These lizards and jocks sit around on their ass doing nothing but drinking beer, listening to mind shattering music and it’s so senseless. I wanted to experience this phenomenon because I wanted to know what made seniors tick. Why they did this? I went in with an open mind but shortly after there was no substance—no depth. I’m not any better than anybody else but my priorities are so different (and I feel somewhat more mature). Drinking beer in a park is not my idea of a of a good time. There is no use of this mind. I could go on all day about the waste but it would accomplish nothing. Talking about it, and condemning it, it’s just like drinking beer in the park. It gets you nowhere and serves no purpose.
I cringe when I read that entry today. I should have just enjoyed the moment, drank a single beer, and rejoiced that only one week remained in my high school career. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know how.
While I was there, I overheard someone say that during the Vietnam War, McIver Park had hosted a free rock concert where thousands of naked hippies took a lot of drugs and the cops did nothing. Apparently Oregon’s governor put it on. It was called Vortex. For some reason, the casual mention of the rock concert at McIver Park intrigued me. I considered investigating when Sheriff deputies showed up and busted the scene. Apparently, the campus cop had ratted us out.
I will never forget a deputy telling one of the boys, who happened to be holding a full cup of beer, “Son, you’re going to have to empty that beer.”
The boy said, “Yes sir,” and drained the cup in a single chug.
Deputies wrote a few minor-in-possession tickets and confiscated the kegs. I didn’t get in trouble. I did remember the story of Vortex, and some 20 years later, would do something with it as a writer.
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