Mary Travers was there.

Ole Miss in 1962, with Luther King Jr.'s "half the Army." Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, "Free at last! Free at last!" in 1963. Marching in Selma in 1965, Marching on the Pentagon in 1967. Getting clean for Gene in 1968.

"That," says Mary, of Peter, Paul & Mary, "is the function of pop art. To be at the center of the energy."

She was there, at the beginning, the middle and the end of the '60s, one third of Peter Paul & Mary, which was the second folkie group to make it big. THe Kingston Trio came first, then PP&M, in 1961, with their first hit, "Lemon Tree."

PP&M helped pave the way for Dylan - who with the Beatles was the most powerful musical influence of the '60s. PP&M introduced many of Dylan's songs, were on the political front lines politically longer, perhaps, than any other singing group. They were the prototypes of '60s protest singers - even as Elvin or Dylan were rebels. But can't you just see Elvis holding hands with Big Daddy King and singing "We Shall Overcome?"

If Elvis was about sex, if Dylan was about the poetry of protest, Peter, Paul & Mary were - as she says, in her '50s-bred, Greenwich-Village-black-stockings-Jules-Feiffer-wacko-earnest way - about gestlt .

Maybe the '70s are low on it. "Seventies young people are acting like old people," Travers says. "College kids are beginning to assess their positions. There are no jobs. The universities are slashing their budgets. The kids are put into a position of having to behave conservatively. If you've worrying about a job, you act conservatively." On a college lecture tour recently, $1,500 a talk, one students asked Travers where all the heroes of the '60s were.

"Where," said Mary Travers "are the troops?" and she had a flash, a vision of Mel Brooks galumping into the plaza at high noon on the sort of horse that kept falling asleep in "Cat Ballou," and yelling, "Troops! Troops! Where are the troops?

Take Mary Travers to lunch and she'll skip down M Street, in her fur coat, holding her daughters' hands. Erica is 18, 5 feet 9 1/2 and, like Travers, blond, blond, blond. "I still have a half and inch of parental discretion," says Travers, who is 5 feet 10 and 41 years old. Alicia is an 11-year-old fireball who has a Star Wars watch, a Star Wars T-shirt, wants to make a movie Skywalker for Halloween, and has seen Guess-What 22 times.

Travers spent Christmas in Washington with her kids and her friend, Richard stand last night at the Cellar Door. Of Ben-Veniste, she laughs ruefully, "We are the Formerly-Of Twins." He, formerly of the Watergate prosecution. Her act crumbled in 1971 as Peter was sentenced to 90 days in D.C. Jail for improprieties with an under-age female fan. "terrible for our image," says Travers. Paul bemace an evangelical Christian and moved to a farm in Blue Hill, Maine.

"Terrified I was," says Travers. "I had never been a solo performer. I had no idea about what was translatable to solo performances." She grew a cystic polyp on her vocal chord, "totally cause by anxiety." Her marriage dissolved, as pairings sometimes do when careers change, or vice versa.

And she found, ingenuous after all those years in all those hotspots, that she, Marry Travers, had power. Her parents - writers, '30s organizers of the Newspaper Guild - didn't raise her to be a soldier.

"It's hard to be fighting power and then to find out that you have it," she says. "It's like a pretty girl who knows it intellectually and refuses to deal with it emotionally. I have a terrible Puritan hangup about it. It was a terrible shock when I realized I cold manipulate people when I started singing alone. When you're in a group, you say "we took a shot at power," I didn't; we did . It's something people who study World War II know a lot about."

It is hard to believe that anybody standing in front of a quarter of a million people on the steps of the monument of the Great Emancipator here, in August 1963, and singing songs about hammering justice out, and about love in the morning and in the evening, had no sene of personal power.

"It is going to sound very naive," says Travers. "It was a gift. It was a gift we were able to give and that's different from using power as politicians do. I don't think we thought about power in the civil rights movement. We thought about power in the antiwar movement."

Kids would come up to them after concerts then, says Travers, and ask what they should do about the draft. PP&M wrote "The Great Mandala" in response. "In the middle of acid rock, the position I was holding onto was not the position to hold onto," she says. "I may have been Cassandra-esque. When I saw the Greatful Dead flirting with the Hell's Angels, I said. 'What are you guys, crazy? You could end up with somebody killed.' Altamont was no surprise to me. It was the logical conclusion."

And in the activist tradition, Travers says she thinks "the Beatles were tremendously irresponsible to advocate new concepts - drugs, Eastern religions - dangerous to Western civilization." It was, she thinks, the beginning of the move inward, where, faced with the apparently endless Vietnam war, people said, "If I can't change society, I'll change myself."

Travers is working on a new career now. She'll soon have a new manager. She has a new producer - "I ask him who Child was, he asks me who Little Richard was" - a new record company, a new album, Pter Yarrow, now a record producer with "Torn Between Two Lovers" with Mary KcGregor to his credit, Paul Stookey and Travers are getting together again in May to record a new PP&M album and to tour.

Meanwhile Travers lives in New York City. She'l never leave it, she says, for L.A., which is a company town. She works her causes - the ERA ("I'd never sing 'I Am Woman.' Who wants to say, 'I am invincible?'"), the hospital workers' union - and she takes long, long walks. She likes to watch the process of life in th city, the potholes, the way they decay, grow and slowly, the way they decay, grow and slowly, in full view of all the walkers on the city streets, regenerate, and heat.