Though a highly pivotal moment in American history, the political and social momentum created by Woodstock five years earlier had lost a bit of momentum.
Oh, sure, you still could walk onto most any campus and witness a large crowd of students listening to some politico shouting over loudspeakers about how the “man” was out to get us, even though the Vietnam War had been over for approximately a year.
Male and female musicians, wearing psychedelic shirts and beads around their necks, would filter through the crowd strumming flat-top guitars and singing Joan Baez and Bob Dylan tunes.
Now, what I’m about to share with you, indeed, was a trendsetter and – by far – got more attention and drew greater enthusiasm than any other single event I can recall during my years at Middle Tennessee State University.
In was spring 1974, and it didn’t matter where I went on the MTSU campus, everyone was discussing this one particular subject. However, I figured what I was hearing had been embellished to the point there wasn’t any validity to it. People can’t behave like that and get away with it, I concluded to myself.
So, it was this on this pretty spring day as I was lounging around outside the Keathley University Center between classes with some of my friends, when from out of nowhere there was tremendous roar.
After the initial roar lowered a few decibels, the students in the immediate area rushed en masse to an area in front of the KUC. There were so many students running in the same direction, as quickly as their feet would allow, that it sounded like a cattle stampede.
Though I had my back to the general location of the action taking place, I must admit I was swept up by the excitement, and in just a matter of seconds, I was churning grass and dirt with my own two feet.
Before arriving at the scene – where I would have visual access to what was actually going on – I heard this loud cheer of, “Go, man! Go! Run!”
And when I did arrive at the scene, I had to elbow my way through the crowd to see what was going down, and here is what I beheld: a 20-year-old sophomore completely naked except for a paper bag over his head running across campus, as an overweight MTSU security officer followed in hot pursuit.
Like I mentioned, I’d heard everyone talking about it, but this was my first live encounter with the then-popular trend of streaking. I’d even heard Ray Stevens sing “The Streak” on the radio, but again, it didn’t register until I experienced it in the flesh – to pun a bit.
Having observed the streaker, I remember thinking: Now, if a well-known personality had been standing outside the KUC offering to teach, for free, an advance course in life-saving first aid, reckon he or she would’ve been stampeded by a large body of interested students? Probably not.
Still, what if a world-renowned agriculturist, that same day, had announced he would instruct, for free, all interested in breaking ground, planting, cultivating and harvesting vegetables, so they could survive if forced to live off the land? Someone probably would’ve jumped in his face and told him to shut the hell up.
I don’t recall another event getting the same amount of attention as the man streaking across campus. For a couple of minutes, there was electricity in the air, and the collective mood was at a feverish pitch.
It’s sad that we can’t seem to muster the same enthusiasm in 2012 as could one man running around naked as a jaybird in the ‘70s.