As we gathered in the gazebo, sitting on the hard white benches with the paint peeling off in strips, nursing Marlboros—the girls wielding cigarette-holders, like scepters—we decided then and there who and what was the main obstacle to our goal. Sheryl called it the “Marshmallow Conspiracy,” and of course we didn’t need a translation, although perhaps you do. It was, in short, the liberal Establishment embodied in the school administration, which would soon yield to our demands for “student power.” We knew they’d yield: After all, weren’t liberal school administrators capitulating before triumphant student mobs all over the country? Yes, they were soft and squishy—like a marshmallow.
The year was 1968, the country was divided into opposing camps, and the whiff of gunpowder was in the air along with talk of revolution. Riots in the streets, with those damned college students always in the thick of it. The Black Panthers. The war in Vietnam. On college campuses across the country, self-described Marxist revolutionaries had launched an insurgency; the New Left was all the rage.
But not at my school.
Admittedly, Cherry Lawn School, in Darien, Connecticut, wasn’t a college, but it felt and functioned like one. Most of the students were boarders, with a few token Townies thrown in for the...