Today, Sunday, January 25th, a reunion is being hosted in Detroit (Farmington Hills) marking some 47+yrs of the Truckers. This is the name that has evolved from a large group of counter-culturalists who at one time or another came together as Boone’s Farm, the Keep on Truckin’ Coop (KOTC) and Big Rapids Distribution Company (BRDC). (HA! I just learned the Reunion was yesterday, the 24th!!)
While many experiences since 1968 have involved such associations, the format of this article cannot represent more than a brief overview. Nevertheless, I thought I’d post a few personal thoughts and remembrances on my blog site for those who may be interested…
There’s always been a counter-culture in human society. America’s no exception. In fact, it’s axiomatic that those who opposed the mainstream during our colonial period led to the American Revolution.
One-third opposed as conservatives loyal to the British Crown and its licensed profiteers, and the remaining third did their best to stand on the sidelines. Of course, after the Revolution practically everyone was a Patriot all along.
It’s no accident of history that cultural revolutionists also opposed those crimes against humanity that drove colonialism: Indentured servitude, the theft of a “new” land, the genocide of the Native populations and African slavery.
Their opposition also led to the Civil War in order to complete the promise of the Revolution, freedom for all. But the Confederacy retained political power and has today spread their Jim Crow racist perfidy and predatory conservative rule from 11 to 33 states. Clearly, the Revolution is far from finished…
Examples of other Euro-American counter-cultures include Romanticism (1790–1840), Bohemianism (1850–1910), and the Beat Generation (1944–1964).
Even the earlier Salem Witch Trials (1692) can be perceived as a counter-revolt by Christian-male rule against counter-cultural women who were seeking equal status in society as business owners and operators, mid-wives, medical herbalists, and those who refused to “stay in their place.”
The propertied elite and financial manipulators assumed the helm of the Revolution and today continue their goals for total political and social power. At this moment, a mere 85 individuals on the planet own as much wealth as 3.5 billion others–half the planet. Some think that’s progress…
Rather ironic, since the Earth freely provides all natural resources and working class labor is what converts it into wealth. My opinion is much the same as many of the “Founding Fathers”: Who needs the (then-aristocratic) socio-political rule of worthless parasites? Does not the creative genius of producing humankind possess the attributes to rule itself?
Raised in Rhode Island, NYC and Long Island, at 17 I joined the Army (1959) and served stateside in the 101st Airborne Division. Married to a Nashville girl, I worked and was active in the Civil Rights Movement throughout the Old South. After a year on a chain-gang (and my wife having moved on), I moved North to Detroit in 1965.
I became a Quality Control specialist in the aerospace industry (Detroit’s UAW Local 212). That’s where my political education became refined by 1940’s union and military veteran activists.
I joined the YSA/SWP, was elected to the chairmanship of the DCEWV and co-founder of the Veterans Against the War. After 1967, when masses of vets started returning from the war in Vietnam, we helped in the creation of the VVAW.
In 1968 I was accepted to Wayne State University, which I attended on the GI Bill. (Over many years and other universities, I’ve completed a BS, a Masters and a Doctorate, all in Psychology [PsyD]. I had the potential opportunity to complete an internship thru WSU and the Detroit VA, but at my age and not seeking a clinical practice, I didn’t take it.)
To my knowledge, the beginning of the Truckers was in 1968/’69 when an ad was put in WSU’s student daily, the South End, calling for anyone interested in starting a Boone’s Farm Commune. This First Family moved into a house just east of the campus and later to the near west side.
In addition to an initial communal lifestyle and progressive political activism, it also evolved into a business distributing alternative comics, magazines and newspapers of the “underground press” and more. Buildings and trucks were eventually acquired and the business grew.
One of the central figures from the beginning in the ongoing developments of the Truckers was James Rowland Kennedy. Jim was always my main contact w/the Truckers.
Mass demonstrations in Detroit and across the nation brought together disparate elements and issues under the umbrella we all came together on: opposition to the war in Vietnam. This inter-association further radicalized our essential unity of purpose.
In addition to attending WSU, 1968 was also the year that I left the YSA/SWP and focused my politics with John Watson, Editor-in-Chief of the South End and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. This was a period of great activity on a number of fronts, including the SDS and the formation of the Weathermen.
As Managing Editor of the South End, my January ’69 front-page editorial for secular democracy in Israel-Palestine, created a firestorm of political reaction by both the right and even many liberals. (Israel remains virtually sanctified by the historical usurpation of Judaism by political Zionism.)
That led to my traveling to the Middle East as a guest of the Jewish Agency in Israel and the Palestinian Liberation org, Al Fatah, in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. I also returned in 1970 and ’71 as a free-lance journalist for a variety of newspapers, including the Fifth Estate and the Detroit and London (Ontario) Free Press.
By then, the Truckers had a commune over on Avery and I lived around the corner on Commonwealth, a few blocks west of Wayne campus.
In May of 1970, after the murders of four students at Kent State during a protest of the US invasion of Cambodia, universities across the nation exploded, including WSU.
A small group of us (students and faculty) called for a rally on Wayne campus and some 5,000 students and faculty responded. During the protest, an ultra-left group trashed the Engineering bldg and even stoned several classrooms at State Hall.
We called for a strike of the university and after a meet w/President Keast and campus security (and the very real potential for more violent reactions), we were given a free hand and organized our own security force, successfully keeping the provocation of campus and Detroit police off campus.
All of the local radicals, including Kennedy and the Truckers were active during those 10-days of protest. The campus, instead of being closed on strike, was open for classes (adding Viet Nam to their discussions) as the Indochina Institute. We had a democratic assembly, which met daily in DeRoy Auditorium. We fed some 5,000 activists daily on campus during those 10-days, and helped rally information and support at all of the local factories and high schools.
Another commune around the corner from the Truckers, Open City, got the franchise to provide food and health services for the Goose Lake International Music Festival held August 7–9, 1970 in Leoni Township, MI. An estimated 200,000 attended. I worked w/Open City during that event.
In late 1970, after returning from a Middle East trip, I moved into the KOTC commune over on Avery. The only room available was a second-floor closet big enough to fit a single mattress, but it was cozy.
After some months I moved to an apartment over Yono’s Market at 3rd and Hancock on Wayne’s Campus. I was active in co-directing the League’s film division, Black Star Productions, w/my then partner, Linda Novenski, as well as securing, editing and distributing a number of Palestinian films we had secured from Italy and the Middle East.
We also worked w/the NY Newsreel crew that came into town to shoot the League’s “Finally Got the News” documentary. The NY Newsreel crew formed another commune on the campus’s near west side for a couple of years during that period.
For a period in the 1971-73 time-frame, I was also active in the development of the campus drug scene. From at least 1966 on, when I experienced reefer thru my contacts at work, the use of reefer, coke, LSD, etc., became part of the campus cultural scene.
Its distribution progressed from several pooling their money in order for one to purchase a lid from a contact, to whomever had the best contacts finding a lucrative enterprise in the business. By ’72 I was handling a hundred pounds or more at a time.
As w/a number of other “underground” enterprises, such fund-raising became a significant aspect of the campus, commune, political scene, but almost always handled discreetly by certain members of the groups. Since drugs were an endemic part of the campus political scene, it made perfect sense to keep the profits w/in that community.
Given the counter-culture/political nature of the groups, as we came into contact w/others from across the country (and internationally, for that matter), such operations were directed to those persons who enjoyed a certain “security” acumen.
This universality of illicit drugs and the resulting profits included right-wingers and gov’t security/intel ops in their own endeavors. Later, during the early ‘80s and Reagan’s Contra-War against Nicaragua, Congressional Iran-Contra Hearings and certain media exposed the CIA’s dealings w/illicit weapons and crack cocaine in order to fund the war that Congress had refused to finance.
CIA contractors imported cocaine into a number of urban black communities, which was then converted to crack for smoking and an instant high. Given this marketing ploy, coke became available to these poor communities as $5, $10 and $20 rocks.Crack was far more devastating to poor communities. Those of us on the left were politically required to cease that business after 1983.
In 1973, I was busy w/a number of political activities. Coleman Young was elected to political power in Detroit. I worked as a campaign coordinator for Attorney Sheldon Halpern’s run for a judgeship and thereafter worked for him as an investigator for much of the next 17-yrs.
My partner in the drug trade, Paul Gribling and I traveled to East Africa, Colombia and other locales. One of the NY Newsreel guys was busted in Canada for importing hashish from Afghanistan (of which my responsibility was getting it into Detroit), and we had to effect an op to rescue that comrade. (Abbie Hoffman was a help in that one.)
In that period, the KOTC had moved their commune to Big Rapids, MI, and became the BRDC. I never visited there myself. I was also somewhat active w/Jack Forrest and the White Panthers across the Lodge Freeway from my Hancock apt.
For a period in 1977-78 I worked as a Trucker out of the BRDC warehouse on the SW side and the riverfront in Detroit after they moved back to Detroit. By then, the core Trucker membership had evolved from a commune into a coop with each family having their own residence.
In ’77, after flying three of the Truckers to Chicago for meets w/the Levy alternative distribution group there, Kennedy introduced me to a friend of his who was active in the coke trade. He needed a pilot to make discreet runs to the Florida Keys and back. After a few of those runs, Bobby A. was attracted to the ease of flying, became a pilot himself and purchased a Piper Aztec.
I later dabbled again in the coke trade, but by ’83 with the CIA/DEA competition and the devastating impart on the Black and poor communities, I quit the drug trade altogether.
(Kind of ironic, given that by ’85 I was fully back into criminal defense investigation work, the feds indicted me for cocaine conspiracy in ’89 and I was given the choice of “cooperation” or trial. They wanted the names and history of my former activities. I chose the latter and got 25-yrs in prison.)
While the relative short format of this blog leaves out far more than I’ve put in, I hope the links provide anyone interested w/more info. I currently live some 4-hrs north of Detroit in Grayling, MI, the Heart of the North Country.
Given this all-too-brief and tangential taste of Trucker lore, perhaps someone w/time, energy and real knowledge (Michael? Lee Ann?) would like to pursue a far more complete history of the subject?
I would only add that any Truckers who wish to make corrections and/or additions to this article, by all means feel free to do so by contacting me. Updates are quite simple.
So, all-in-all, my time and association with and as a Trucker was quite an adventure.…
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), January 2015…