Columbia strikers would remember me as Morris Grossner, as I used my stepfather’s surname through my Columbia days. I was one of the 6 students threatened with disciplinary action, leading to the 1968 Columbia rebellion. I recently learned from the Columbia 68 Homepage that the administration had informed the draft board that I was expelled and therefore eligible for the draft. I did have a physical, which I failed due to a hernia (which cured itself later on), but I was not expelled. In fact I finished my course work the next year and received a note in my blue diploma ‘envelope’ at graduation saying that my “diploma was being withheld pending disciplinary action against me,” action I had not been previously informed of, presumably for participating in more demonstrations that year. I never was notified of any hearing or discipline, but received my diploma the following June with my birth name, Morris Older, on it.
At Columbia I had edited the occasional SDS newspaper, Hard Core, and was invited by Mark Rudd to the Chicago national SDS office to edit New Left Notes, the national SDS newsletter. During this period the group that controlled SDS was transforming itself into what became the Weather Underground, and I soon moved back to New York, convinced that although the times demanded strong action, I couldn’t be that literally a warrior for change. Having discovered my hippie side, I started a moving company, Keep On Trucking, and with the help of friends as needed moved people in and out of apartments in the Columbia area while I continued my political activities, which included work with the December 4rh Movement and the Dienbienphu Family among others.
In 1968 I along with everybody else, believed that anything was possible, that not only could we change the world, but that change was just around the corner. I have not become more conservative as I have grown older—my world view pretty much unchanged—but have less confidence in our ability to affect immediate change on a grand scale. So much of what I have done since then has been focused on smaller stages where I have felt that I can make a difference. The only time I felt that late sixties rush again was in 2003, as hundreds of thousands of people assembled to prevent the invasion of Iraq before it happened—hope was truly in the air, but was smashed by the total indifference of those in power. As Dick Cheney recently said when asked about the huge majority that wants the war to end, “So??”
By 1974 my soon-to-be-wife’s child custody dispute moved me to Berkeley, CA. Here I became involved in the People’s Food System, which I wrote about in one of the chapters of The History of Collectivity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was the chief founder of the organic, whole grain Uprisings Baking Collective. Health foods were something new for most people then, and worker owned and managed collectives were a new way of doing business. We had a storefront for eight years, but most of our business was wholesale, delivering breads to farmers’ markets, health food stores and main-stream supermarkets all over the Bay Area. I started out as a baker, became a delivery driver and route organizer, and spent a lot of time in the office keeping things organized and the accounting straight. For well over a decade we included little label-sized leaflets in our loaves, which we called talking bread, advising buyers of demonstrations, forums and other actions by local political groups. I coordinated 3 rather small national conventions of the Whole Grain Education Association, an association of organic bakery cooperatives across the county, and contributed to their book of recipes, Uprisings: The Whole Grain Bakers Book. Although we never really prospered Uprisings was a presence until the hearty competition in a low-margin industry, with a multitude of bakeries suddenly offering whole grain and organic choices, conflicted with our disorganization and forced us to close in 1997.
In the late 1970’s my wife introduced me to horseback riding, which I have continued to this day. Up until a few years ago I participated actively in endurance riding, which involves rides of 50 or more miles per day, and I still volunteer at these rides. I have been President, Secretary and Board Member for the past 15 years of the Orinda Horsemen’s Association, a cooperative that leases, from the local water utility, 500 acres adjacent to regional parks and reservoirs, where we pasture 38 horses. For the last 13 years I have edited, designed and published the newsletter of our local equestrian trail advocacy group.
The last six Labor Day weekends I have organized a multi-day ride and camp-out in the East Bay hills, that over the last five years has raised $85,000 for Bay Area trails, 2/3 of which has gone to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a planned 550-mile ridge-top trail encircling the Bay, of which we have competed over 310 miles. This year, 2008, for the first time we have added a 5-day through hike of the Ridge Trail in the East Bay to our ride, covering well over 50 miles of trail from Castro Valley to Martinez. I have served on the Ridge Trail Board since 2004 and am Chair of the Trails Committee. Lately I have spent more time hiking than riding, this year completing the 21-mile Ridge to (Golden Gate) Bridge hike on the Ridge Trail..
I have also been very active in local volunteer trail building and trail maintenance programs for many years, working not only on the Ridge Trail, but also on the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail and many other trails around the Bay Area.
For about 4-years I actually earned some money as the Business Manager for a user-interface consulting firm, where I was involved in all areas of management, including accounting, human resources, visa procurement, retirement planning and project management. For the last year, 2007-8, I have been working part time with Inkworks Press, a collective Berkeley print shop whose clients include many of the environmental, solidarity, anti-war, union and feminist groups in our area. An original founder of Inkworks lived 2 doors down from my third floor on 115th street apartment when I was in New York, and one of the printers worked for Liberation News Service, mere blocks from Columbia when I was there. Going even more full-circle, for the last 8 years I have lived in a studio apartment owned by next-door landlords, who helped write the pioneering Who Rules Columbia? in 1967.
Five years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and I have learned a lot about nutrition in that time, and have in that time controlled my blood sugar in normal ranges. I have spent a lot of time advising others on the American Diabetes Association message boards, where I was the first person with 10,000 posts, and there is an army of people with diabetes marching for a “Meeting at Morris’ Home” from all over the country, a virtual gathering that has drawn just under 2,000 posts.
Along the way my marriage dissolved but my stepson, who I helped raise for many years, now has a 4 year-old daughter and a pair of 3 month-old twins, all of whom I am very much in touch with.- by Morris Grossner