By Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer
Newsday (retired)
During the 60’s and 70’s the war in Vietnam created ample photo opportunities and they weren’t all in the war zone. This war created almost as much divisiveness in this country as the American Civil War. There were “Hawks” and there were “Doves” and each side had its’ own agenda which they tried to get across to the American public through the media.

As the war in Southeast Asia intensified there were daily demonstrations; Stop the war and bring our boys home, or support our boys and increase bombing in the north.

The anti-war faction started a sure-fire photo-op stunt that drew a lot of media attention. A group of young men would publicly burn their draft cards while chanting “Hell no, we won’t go” to the assembled cameras and microphones.

As the war wore on, their card burnings became trite and and drew fewer and fewer cameras. So, new stunts were devised.

One morning when I reported to work, I was given an assignment to cover one of these anti-war protests. This group was going to feed their draft cards to the seals at the zoo. Hmmm, that’s a novel approach and not only will it draw some attention from the usual law enforcement agencies that were always in attendance, but it should also stir up the animal protection activists.

I left for the Bronx Zoo a little early to make certain that I could park near the seal pond, which was near the main entrance to the zoo. I found plenty of spaces available and since I had a lot of time to kill before the announced 12 noon event, I walked over to the monkey house to amuse myself. At 11:30 AM, I poked my head out in the direction of the seal pond, to see if any media had arrived. I saw no activity. Strange. Usually the tv crews arrive well ahead of time to set up their equipment. But, the area around the pond was almost deserted. I went back inside to watch more monkeys. At 11:45 AM I took another look and the result was the same.

“Damn! I’ll bet they gave me the wrong time or even the wrong date on this assignment.” I pulled out the assignment sheet and took a look. “Nope. The time is noon and the date is correct. At noon,” it read, “protesters will feed their draft cards to the seals at the Central Park Zoo.”

Uhh oh! Wait a minute! Central Park Zoo! I’m at the Bronx Zoo. That’s in another borough. It’s gotta be an hour’s ride with traffic and lights and I’ve got fifteen minutes to get there. Crap!!

I jumped in my car and started heading south. Even jumping red lights wasn’t going to give me enough time. My mind started turning over excuses to offer my editor explaining why I missed the job. “I got a flat.” “There was an accident that tied up the Expressway.” “I had a minor heart attack.” Ok, that’s a little extreme, but I was as good as dead anyway.

I don’t know how, but I got to Central Park and I was only about ten minutes late. As I neared the entrance to the zoo on Fifth Avenue, I saw that the curb was lined with tv trucks and cars bearing special NYP (New York Press) license plates. There was no room for me anywhere near the entrance and I didn’t have time to waste looking for a legal spot, so I ran my car into the curb at a bus stop. If worse came to worse, I’d have to pay to get my car out of the NYPD towing impound yard. But, maybe I’d still be earning a salary to pay for it.

I saved a few precious seconds by not going down the block to the entrance to the park. Instead, I vaulted over the low wall. Hey, I was still a young man then. I listened for the chanting as I ran the last hundred yards to the zoo entrance, half expecting to see the media mob surging out of the gate with their story done.

But wait! I heard chanting, but it wasn’t coming from the zoo. It was coming from one of the park meadows leading to the zoo. I started in that direction and the chanting grew louder.

“ Hell. no. We won’t go. Hey, Hey, LBJ (President Lyndon Baines Johnson). How many kids did you kill today?”

Suddenly I saw the mob of long haired protesters and the accompanying media horde striding across the meadow. In the van was Tom Collins, one of our reporters. As they drew near, Tom detached himself and ran over to me. “Cheeze, Dick. I’m sorry we’re so late. These people decided to march around the fountain at Columbus Circle before marching over here. I’m really sorry that you had to wait so long.”

I was magnanimous. “That’s ok, Tom. I don’t have any immediate assignments right now. Let’s get to work.”

Dick Kraus





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