Closet radicals urged BHS riot

Vietnam-era tumult didn’t skip Burlington. Police had their hands full with aggressive teens. The town museum, temporarily serving as the police station while the town built a new station across the common, was firebombed.

In the midst of the tension, two guest speakers at Burlington High School’s Ecology Day event in 1970 were actually agents of chaos posing as legit environmentalists. Here’s what happened:

Burlington News, April 23, 1970 — A Boulder Drive resident, Mrs. Maria Pekala, informed the School Committee recently that an Ecology Day program at the high school had been turned into a harangue on revolution by two of the 27 scheduled speakers.

It is alleged that when the teacher left the room, one of the pair began to exhort the students to riot and revolt. It was further alleged that the pair passed out copies of “Do It,” yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s latest book.

The incident took everyone by surprise. It was 2 p.m. and the men had spoken to at least four groups before the vice-principal became aware of what was taking place. He immediately escorted the two men from the school when he was made aware of the subject matter being presented. 

The School Committee chairwoman Joan Miles had been unaware of the incident until it was brought before the committee. However, Vice-Principal Perry reminded the committee that he had sent them all invitations.

Reportedly, many of the younger students, sophomores, rejected the message and did not take the speaker seriously, but some of the older students, seniors, left with the expelled speakers.

Among the more conventional speakers were representatives of county and state conservation, transportation and civic betterment groups. All of the speakers were fully accredited to speak on pollution control, even the pair who were ejected.


Below is the list of invited speakers, courtesy of a different paper, the Times-Union. The list contains 21 speakers, though the Burlington News article said there were 27. The Burlington News article refers to the culprits as male, but that might be wrong. So whodunit? We may never know.

  • Donald Dobal — Fish and Wildlife Biologist: BU Sport-Fisheries and Wildlife.
  • Carelton D. Boardman Jr. — Federal water quality administration, New England Basins office.
  • Terence Golden — BS Notre Dame, MS in nuclear science at MIT, MBA from Harvard Business School. Manufacturer of coal and nuclear boilers.
  • Alan R. Mitoff — BS Lehigh University, MBA Harvard University, member of the pollution committee of the Boston Sierra Club, master’s thesis on “Industrial and Government Response to Air Pollution Legislation in the Boston Area.”
  • Catherine Swatek — Member of the Sierra Club, Mass Audubon Society, Ecology Action. Teaching assistant and PhD candidate at Tufts University.
  • Michael Rival — PhD candidate in biology at MIT.
  • Auralie P. Slowey — Chairman of the Burlington Conservation Commission, graduate major in anthropology.
  • Larry Gordon — Works for urban planning area and with Boston Ecology in Action.
  • Dr. Clarence H. Roy — President of Aquatic Systems Inc., PhD in chemistry.
  • Sen. Ronald MacKenzie.
  • Robert Maynard — BA University of South Carolina, grad student at BU. Former vice president of the Burlington Chapter of Citizens for Participation Politics. Chairman of the governmental affairs committee for the Burlington Jaycees. Government and economics teacher at Concord-Carlisle High School.
  • Virginia Clarke — Harvard (Radcliffe) undergrad.
  • Roger Tippy — NE River Basins Commission, attorney, LLB Yale Law School, BA Stanford University, member of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
  • Al Barker — BU senior, marine systematics ecology major, BU energy action, Boston Zoological Society, New England Aquarium.
  • Paul D. DeMariano — Massachusetts Port Authority, member of Logan Airport Noise Abasement Committee, Boston Harbor Pollution Commission.
  • David LeBlanc — Airkem, a division of Airwick Industries, environmental sanitary engineer.
  • Marcia Camenker — Secretary of Urban Planning Aid.
  • Lee Tibbs — Refuge manager at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Monotomy Wildlife Refuge.
  • Jim Stephens — Ecology Action, BA biology from Grinnel College.
  • Laura McMurray — Biology grad student at Harvard.
  • Maxwell Alan Morfield — BA Harvard, MA Columbia, PhD Princeton, five years at MIT Lincoln Lab, active in “Science For The People,” Ecology Action, and MIT New University Conference.IMG_0738

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