Thursday, March 29, 2012

A True Legend: I Don't Like Mondays

Before the Columbine School Massacre (1999, Littleton, Colorado, U.S.A.), The Ecole Polytechnique Massacre (1989, Montreal, Quebec, Canada), and Virginia Tech Massacre (2007, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.), there was Brenda Ann Spencer. It was Miss Spencer who said, "I don't like Mondays" as part of her response when asked by authorities why she opened fire with a .22 calibre rifle upon a school yard populated with Elementary level children. The horrific event happened long before the Columbine, Canadian Polytechnics school and Virginia Tech shootings, on January 29th, 1979. Miss Spencer was 16 years old. The San Diego, California, school-yard that Spencer riddled with bullets was the Grover Cleveland Elementary School.

As the news was breaking on this incident many decades ago, songwriter Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats read about it from a telex report via WRAS, the Georgia State University campus radio station. He was doing an interview at WRAS and was sitting beside a telex machine, so he couldn't help but see the news as it came through. This event so moved Geldof - with its senselessness and the "I don't like Mondays" explanation that he wrote a song related to the shooting. He has explained that he tried to write an equally senseless song for a senseless event, rather than try to exploit the event. In fact, the song wasn't intended to be hyped or promoted heavily and was meant to be a B-side cut, however, The Boomtown Rats began playing it and crowds liked it, and after its release, became a top ten hit. The song was on the Billboard Charts for four weeks, summer 1979.

The Boomtown Rats, "I Don't Like Mondays" - a Live performance, Dominion Theatre in London UK, 1985:



Some lyrics from the 3rd verse:

"And all the playing's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with the toys awhile
And school's out early and soon we'll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die [...]"

The chorus has background singers asking repeatedly, "Tell me why?"
and Geldof anwering, "I don't like Mondays."

Here's one of the breaking news articles from 1979:
The Milwaukee Journal - Jan 29, 1979 - Page 4 "Sniping Suspect Had a Grim Goal."

Miss Spencer caused the death of two people and injured 9 more, of whom 8 were children. Custodian Michael Suchar and the school's Principal, Burton Wragg died from Spencer's armed assault. Suchar died while trying to pull the school Principle away to safety.

Spencer was tried in the court of law as an adult because her crimes were so awful and severe. She pleaded guilty for murder on two counts and of assault with a deadly weapon. She received the penalty of 25 years to life in prison, and became eligible for parole in 1993.

Don't worry - Spencer is still locked up. At parole hearings, since 1993, she has been denied four times. She's not eligible to sit in front of officials to ask for her freedom again now until 2019. Her last parole hearing was in August 2009.

I found some decent documentary vids on youtube about the Cleveland Elementary School shooting and Brenda Ann Spencer.

Part one shows some clips from TV that were aired on the day of the shootings and shows interviews of some people in the San Diego community who remember the shooting, the victims - including Pricipal Wragg's family. These interviews are a contrast to Brenda Ann Spencer's mother in the filmwork. Part 1 of 5 below:



More details of the school shooting. Eye-witnesses and survivors recall what happened on January 29, 1979 at the schoolyard of Cleveland Elementary School. Part 2 of 5 Below:



Part 3 of 5 Below:



Part 4 of 5 Below:



Part 5 of 5 Below:



This was obviously filmed prior to Spencer's August 2009 parole board hearing because in the film, someone says her case will be heard in 2009, four years or within four years of the time in the documentary. Spencer did NOT get released in August of 2009. She still resides in Chino, California at the California Institution For Women.

Although this story of the Grover Cleveland Elementary School Shooting is from the past and is legendary in proportion - containing mystery and with a history that is hard to believe and take in - this is no urban legend. This one really did happen...

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