One thing I like about being a story teller is that when you enjoy history as well as I do, you never seem to have a shortage of topics. Unlike fiction, history is — or at least should be — based on truth and facts. I also realize that history is not always factual, and that as far as education goes, many facts are often omitted from the history books, perhaps properly so. I'm curious, though. Did George Washington really chop down a cherry tree?
I don't know, but perhaps I didn't need to be informed in junior high school that Washington and other past presidents not only kept slaves, but also fathered children by some of them. And, I guess my generation at the time did not need to know that Thomas Jefferson, often referred to as the author of the Declaration of Independence, supposedly sometimes sat on his veranda at his Monticello home in Virginia and smoked marijuana. "Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see." — Thomas Jefferson has been quoted as saying.
Although Jefferson, like Washington, fathered children by some of his slaves, the truth is that there is nothing in historical records that can verify that Jefferson or Washington smoked marijuana, although both grew the "vile weed" extensively for its valued use as a hemp commercial product. The fact that both former presidents wrote in their diaries of separating male and female plants (which I understand is a way of producing more powerful stuff for recreational purposes) makes some historians and others believe that these two leaders may have been "pot heads." If this is ever proven true, may I suggest sending a pound or two to Washington, D.C., via Charleston, West Virginia? And, of course, make sure it is of the Mexican variety.
All joking aside (not really), I guess it's time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the craziest summers that many people still living today can remember: the summer of love in 1969 — WOODSTOCK.
In so doing, I will first list the former presidents of the United States who either did or are believed to have smoked marijuana at one time or another. Besides Washington and Jefferson, there was the second president of our country, John Adams, who as a huge proponent of industrial hemp, was quoted in 1763 saying, "We shall by and by want a world of hemp more for our own consumption."
James Madison, the fourth president of this nation and hailed as the Father of the Constitution, once claimed that hemp "inspired him to create a new democratic nation."
Rounding out the last of the first five presidents of America, James Monroe, when he served as ambassador to France, openly smoked hashish and continued to do so until his death at 73.
Prior to running for president, Franklin Pierce, our 14th listed president, was just a soldier in the Mexican-American War during the 1840s when in a letter back home to New Hampshire he wrote "marijuana smoking was about the only good thing" regarding the war. Pierce, a heavy drinker, later died of cirrhosis of the liver. Maybe he should have stayed with the Mexican stuff.
Through both documentation and research, it can be concluded that at least four modern former presidents used cannabis, including George Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and even John F. Kennedy. In the book, "John F. Kennedy: A Biography," it was revealed that Kennedy used marijuana for his ailing back problems.
Of course, the one president who drew the most snickers was Clinton when he said publicly that he experimented with marijuana "a time or two" and didn't like it. "I didn't inhale it, and never tried it again," he once stated.
Even though there were few people who believed him, it turns out ole' Bill might have been telling the truth, at least about the inhaling part.
In a memoir written by Christopher Hitchens, who attended Oxford University about the same time Clinton did, Hitchens wrote "He (Clinton) preferred, like many other marijuana enthusiasts, to take his dope in the form of large handfuls of cookies and brownies." I guess that explains why the former president is always smiling.
I can't say for certain, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he and his flower child wife, Hillary, just might have been among the 400,000 who showed up for that historic three-day Woodstock event. Shucks, Bill just might have been playing saxophone for one of the many bands that played day and night to those crazed fans who would become Woodstock Nation.
One year later, Delbert McCloud, who would be my brother-in-law if he were alive today, a few other friends and I watched the movie "Woodstock" when it was shown at the old Monitor Drive-In, which was located in the vacant parking lot on Route 44 that now only serves as a flea market area but used to be the location of Ames Dept. store; and before that, the Logan Indians' home baseball field.
To me, it was more of a documentary than a movie and it featured about 60 percent music with the remaining 40 percent being about the young people who slopped through the mud and rain with not nearly enough portable toilets for the unexpected and overflowing crowd.
Dwight Williamson is a former writer for the Logan Banner. He is now a magistrate for Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.