Carbondale After Dark And Other Stories
“The following is not a fable — it all really happened and it has no morals.”
So begins H.B. Koplowitz’s “Layman’s History of ‘The Strip’,” a self-described “chronology of events that have contributed to Carbondale’s reputation as a party town, drug den and radical outpost.”
“The Strip” takes up less than half of “Carbondale After Dark And Other Stories,” a self-published anthology of history, essays and short stories centered on Southern Illinois University and Carbondale in the 1960s and ’70s. But it is what made the book memorable.
The history begins with Carbondale’s founding in 1852, and Southern Illinois University’s in 1869, up to 1982, when CAD was first published. But it focuses on the decades of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when Carbondale was invaded by hippies and freaks, and protest rallies and massive street parties became the norm.
The chronology provides a blow-by-blow account of the political and cultural upheavals that led to the May 1970 riots in Carbondale, and how protests evolved into street parties and a massive Halloween celebration. It also chronicles streakers, bands, bars, hangouts, protest movements and street people, and efforts by city and school officials to control the madness. In other words, all the things that get left out of official histories and Chamber of Commerce brochures.
Ironically, Koplowitz wrote “The Strip” only after he realized that the book he started out to produce — an anthology of his writings going back to high school — would never sell. By focusing on the strip in Carbondale he had limited his audience, but found one.
The manuscript was composed on a used typewriter in Buckminster Fuller’s former dome home in Carbondale. Deb Browne did the design, layout, typesetting and much more. Koplowitz also filled CAD with historical and contemporary photos and illustrations by the likes of P.S. Mueller, Dan Wood and Marvin Hill, who drew the cover art. The graphics are the other thing that makes CAD memorable.
The rest of CAD is what the original book started out to be — a collection of Koplowitz’s writings from what he calls his “Blue Period.” Included are such titles as “Kidnapped by Jesus Freaks” and “Kid Clyde: An Existentualist’s Horror Story”; rants on such subjects as women’s lib and “niggercommiekikes”; a new journalism treatment of the 1976 Republican National Convention; and a poem, “The Horny Blues.” Let’s just say Koplowitz’s instinct was probably correct — it never would have sold. But tacked on to “The Strip,” the stories continue to explore the terrain of teenage angst, and the illustrations are fun.
As Koplowitz says in the introduction to CAD, “the artistic endeavor is essentially an act of self-gratification.” And no one was more surprised than the author to discover that nearly a quarter century later, used copies were selling for 10 times the original asking price.
In 2007, Koplowitz and Browne collaborated on a 25th anniversary edition that is available on Amazon, and autographed copies are available here. Koplowitz is working on a multimedia e-book version, and has started a free public archive on Facebook of vintage multimedia from Carbondale and SIU in the 1960s and ’70s: FaceCAD.