By Kevin Matthews
Twice in the late 1960s, classes were cancelled for the day so that hundreds of California Lutheran College students and employees could march down Moorpark Road in demonstrations with distinct messages.
In some retellings of Cal Lutheran’s history, the larger, second march for peace – which was Thousand Oaks’ part of the massive, nationwide Vietnam Moratorium Day protest on Oct. 15, 1969 – has been forgotten or conflated with a memorial march for Martin Luther King Jr. that was held a year and a half earlier, five days after he was murdered.
Now seems like a good time to repair the confusion and to jog decades-old memories, since this issue of CLU Magazine looks at a few connections between education and issue-oriented activism.
April 9, 1968, a day of private and public funeral services for King in Atlanta, was bright and “broiling-hot,” by all accounts, in Thousand Oaks. A racially mixed group of 300 people, mostly CLC students, left campus after lunch for the Conejo Village shopping center at Moorpark and Brazil Street, wearing shorts and carrying anti-racist signs reading, “God is Black too!”, “Not Black, not White, just Man as Man,” and “I Have a Dream” (also “I Had a Dream”). They heard speeches including a eulogy of King by religion professor James Kallas before taking motorized transport back to campus, where meetings continued until 5 p.m., according to the Mountclef Echo.
Fast-forward 18 months to Oct. 15, 1969. The activities began early with sign-painting, the writing of letters to President Nixon and Congress, and a 10:30 screening in the gym for 800 viewers of The War Games, a film about an English town in an imagined nuclear holocaust.
After lunch, 1,000 students from CLC, Moorpark College and Thousand Oaks High School formed a line more than half a mile long and marched to the post office to mail the letters composed in the morning. Then they crossed Moorpark Road to the Village Square parking lot to hear speakers, beginning with CLC President Raymond Olson. All evening, after a 7 p.m. film screening, students held an open forum with readings of protest poetry and frank exchanges of views.