By David Kinnamon
Jim Nay experienced 1968 through several roles.
Nay was an Oklahoma Army National guardsman. He was a full-time worker: a professional photographer. And he was a musician with a popular traveling rhythm and blues group called The Preachers, “Enid’s premier rhythm and blues show band,” Nay remembers.
Mostly through the latter two roles, Nay was plugged into Enid’s counter culture, such as it was in 1968, which wasn’t exactly a little San Francisco.
Nay kept his hair as long as he possibly could to still pass muster during his monthly drill formation at the National Guard armory, which was and is still located at 600 E. Elm. Sometimes he grew his hair longer than the Army regulations allowed.
“We trained in stomp and drag. You remember in 1968 the Democratic National Convention made stomp and drag a very popular activity for National Guardsmen. We didn’t go fight in Iraq, we were ready to go to the streets and take on activists and dissenters. Happily, I never had to do that, but we were ready here,” Nay said.
Nay described the stomp and drag as a military maneuver in which they would form a “V” formation or a line and in unison stomp and then drag one of their booted feet, as a unit, in order to create a fearsome audio effect designed to intimidate protesters.
Nay points to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, as a great example of the multifaceted nature of his personal roles in Enid and U.S. societies in 1968.
“There was a picture going about at that time of a line of Army troops with a hippy girl putting a flower in the barrel of a rifle. There were a lot of us in the Guard at the time who felt more like that hippy gal. We were long-haired weirdoes in 1968. We were the counter culture. I watched the news coverage of the protests and saw I could have been on either side, a National Guardsman or a protester,” Nay said.
Nay graduated Enid High School in 1962, at a time when the U.S. had just a couple of thousand U.S. military advisors committed to Vietnam and billions of dollars of U.S. military equipment. Nay joined the National Guard and made his living with his professional photography studio, a business he still runs, now mostly through word of mouth and through his web site: www.jimnay.net.
During the summer of 1968, Nay was staying very busy with his day job and also very busy with his night job as a guitar player and vocalist for The Preachers.
“I was on the road a musician, and I didn’t want a crew cut. I wanted long hair like a lot of the members of the band,” Nay said.
Momentous and action-filled are two descriptions Nay uses for 1968.
“1968 was a remarkable year. You felt it. There was so much going on in 1968. It had almost a personality, 1968,” Nay said.