The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968

Marsha Aaronson

Interview and story by: Erin Barry
This story is based on one of a series of interviews conducted by South Kingstown (RI) High School students in the Spring of 1998. All of the interviews were focused on recollections of the year 1968. In addition to the student's edited story below, you can find on this site the electronic transcript of the interview and a quicktime recording of the encounter , as well as a table of cues and contents .

The Whole World Was Watching

Born on the July 11, 1946, Marsha Aaronson grew up in Centerdale, Rhode Island where she lived in a cold water flat with her mother and father and her younger brother and sister. Her grandfather, who was born in England, lived next door.

When Marsha was nine she moved to Greenville, Rhode Island. Greenville didn't have a high school, so Marsha went to Hope High School in Providence. Being on the honors track in high school, Marsha went on to be the first in her family to go to college. Marsha experienced the counter-culture of the '60s first hand. In her first year at URI, curfew was 9 p.m., but by the time she was a senior everyone had her own key. Marsha Aaronson is currently the principal of South Kingston Junior High School.

On January 23, of my senior year in college 1968, the Pueblo was captured in North Korea. My boyfriend called me form California on the 23rd and said, "I might have to go to Korea because the Pueblo has been captured. I'd like to go off engaged, would you marry me?" And I said, "Yes," and probably the next morning I knew that was a mistake. On June 6th, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, four days before my college graduation. With the assasination of Martin Luther King and Kennedy, one started to wonder if the whole world wasn't falling apart. We wondered if anarchy would be unleashed. I asked myself as the cities were burning down, "Who will solve these problems?" Then on graduation day, June 10th, my father had a massive heart attack. I didn't go to my college graduation, and I used the heart attack as an excuse to break off my engagment.

After June 10th, I felt that I was free. I could do what ever I wanted. I had a professor, a graduate teaching assistant, at school in a speech course who I loved. He got his driver's license here in South County by driving around the bowling alley, the same way as everybody does it to this day. The first trip he ever took driving was to Chicago. He freaked out. He just wasn't used to driving on highways and he called from Chicago and said, "If you know anybody who can fly out to Chicago and drive home with me to U.R.I. at the end of the summer that would be great. Otherwise, I don't know how the heck I'm ever going to get back with a car; I can't get back there by myself."

The Democratic National Convention was August 25-30. I had another friend Elisa from high school, and she was at Colby College. She got a press pass which she wasn't going to use. She said, "You want to go to Chicago? I'll give you a press pass." That solidified it for me. So I flew out, and I stayed with the teaching assistant at his parents" apartment, and I had this press pass. So, I went.

I was there on Tuesday when Abraham Ribicoff entered McCarthy's name as a candidate and by then, the demonstrations and the riots in Chicago were all over the place. They disrupted the convention, but that was their purpose. As things went on in the convention, the crowd outside was chanting " The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching," as the Chicago police and the National Guard clubbed and beat the protesters, most of whom were young antiwar demonstrators, college students, about my same age.

Inside the convention, the fire was also burning. Ribicoff got the stand with Chicago Mayor Daley sitting in front of him. I was right behind Ribicoff because I was in the press section with my friend's press pass. Ribicoff called out to Daley, "With McCarthy as President you wouldn't have police on the street as Nazis with their Gestapo tactics." And Mayor Daley, very clear, because they had the television cameras on him, muttered some expletives that can't be repeated. There was a lot of finger pointing and Daley had his cadre of men around him. At that time Dan Rather was a young reporter; he was on the floor. I saw him get knocked to the floor at the convention.

In the end, the nomination went to Humphrey. He won out over McCarthy, but because of everything that was going on in the streets, it was a bitter sweet victory for him. Hubert Humphrey was a very fine man and was really looking for his time in the sun, but it was totally overshadowed by everything that was going on in Grant Park and in the streets of Chicago.

Glossary Words On This Page
cold water flat
Richard Daley
Grant Park
Hubert Humphrey
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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