Madison in the sixties – August, 1969
When former Secretary of State Dean Rusk arrives at the Memorial Union for a speech to the summer session of the graduate school of banking, there are no university or city police at the Memorial Union present — even though the Young Socialist Alliance and other radicals had publicly vowed to disrupt the event. Which they do, about 200 demonstrators shrieking invective, and pounding on the theater doors, forcing Rusk to stop twice. It’s worse afterwards. When Rusk is spotted leaving through a rear service entrance, his car is pelted with a half dozen stones and a large stick. Then protesters swarm up Park Street to University Avenue, partially blocking traffic in front of Chadbourne hall for about half an hour, pounding hoods and cursing men trying to drive through as “fascist bloodsuckers.” Radicals scatter on the arrival of Madison police, who make no arrests.
Madison’s mass transit system teeters on the verge of chaos as the shareholders of the private Madison Bus Co. vote to dissolve the company and go out of business on November 10 – the day the ongoing city subsidy is scheduled to run out. But due to higher-than-projected subsidies over the summer, money that should have lasted until November runs out before the end of the month, forcing the council to pass an emergency appropriation. A majority of the common council wants the city to buy the bus company and operate the system itself – exactly what voters called for by approving two referenda in April, 1968. The council directs Mayor William Dyke to seek the necessary federal funds, but he refuses to do so, preferring to continue the city subsidy to the private company instead. Although the company can’t shut down until the Public Service Commission gives it permission, the council schedules a special meeting for early September to decide between private enterprise and public ownership.
Some startling testimony from the officer in charge at the Mifflin Street Block Party riot earlier this year. Yes, there was excessive police reaction, Lt. Donald Mickelson says, revealing that he reprimanded several officers during the disorders which rocked downtown the first weekend in May. Mickelson also tells the special three-man committee Mayor Dyke appointed to investigate the disturbance that he’s had second thoughts about the police response. “I have thought that if we had packed up and got out, nobody would have gotten hurt and they could have had their dance.” But police chief Wilbur Emery disagrees. “If we had let them have their dance, then what?” he asks the committee. “What’s next?” Emery also cites the riot that broke out during the demonstration against the Dow Chemical Company in October 1967 to defend the use of a large force, decked out in riot gear, to respond to a noise complaint. “I learned a very strong lesson” from Dow, he testifies. “To be sure I had enough men to carry out my mission.” And he flatly rejects the notion that such an overwhelming police presence might provoke, rather than deter, a confrontation. “An honest, law-abiding citizen should have no fear, but feel pleased, if there are 100 policemen standing out there instead of one,” he says. The committee hasn’t set a schedule for writing its report, but chairman George Currie, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice, hints it will not find the police without blame. says it appears some officers taunted and provoked the partygoers, “and hit back in a way not proper for policemen to act.”
The Police and Fire Commission ignores the city’s promise it wouldn’t punish firefighters after their three-day strike in late March and suspends Fire Capt and union president Ed Durkin for six months for leading the illegal action. The Commission, led by former Republican party leader Stuart Becker, says it doesn’t have to honor the amnesty agreement because it’s an independent body created by state statute, and wasn’t involved in the negotiations that settled the strike. The Commission decides it’s so independent it doesn’t even let city attorney Edwin conrad speak at public meeting to defend the amnesty agreed to by the council and former Mayor Otto Festge. “You are an interloper here,” atty Becker tells him. “You are entitled to be quiet.” The suspension, the longest the commission has ever imposed, will cost Durkin $6,500, which the union quickly moves to make up. Durkin begins his suspension as his attorneys plan the appeal.
Madison’s first and still only Black alder is back on the city council after a unanimous council vote reinstating Eugene Parks as alder from the Fifth Ward. Parks automatically lost his seat in July when he inadvertently moved across Brooks street from his district. Although elected for a 2-year term in April, Parks will have to run in April 1970, since he is now serving by appointment.
Madison’s newest mayor wants to preserve our oldest buildings. Mayor Dyke confirms he’s been consulting with the Taychopera Foundation, and will soon introduce several ordinances for historic preservation. City Attorney Conrad recently issued an opinion, which Dyke requested, confirming the city has the necessary legal authority. The Plan Department is publishing a walking tour booklet for Mansion Hill, entitled “Sandstone and Buffalo Robes,” prepared at Dyke’s direction.
Former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi becomes a rich man, thanks to Madison developers David and Jim Carley, when the housing development firm they founded, with Lombardi the chairman of the board, is bought by a company from Cleveland. Lombardi, now coach and general manager of the Washington football team, will net about $1.8 million from the sale, the brothers will split about ten million.
Thousands pack downtown sidewalks for the annual parade of the Midwest Shrine Association. There are camels, convertibles and cyclists galore, calliopes and marching bands and so many clowns it takes three hours for the parade to proceed from Capitol Square to the Milwaukee Road depot on West Washington Avenue. I don’t remember your name, but your fez is familiar.
And a Madison hero falls to an especially tragic death. Marine Corporal Charles Lay Boskay, recipient of two Purple Hearts, is killed by friendly fire in Quang Nam province, three months before turning 22. A platoon radio man who had been in country since February, Lay Boskay was a member of First Baptist Church and a 1965 graduate of West High School. He attended the university of wisconsin before joining the Marines in 1968. He is survived by his parents, who live at 2555 University Avenue, and his wife, the former Diane Thorstad, 4409 Cherokee Drive.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning listener supported WORT News team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photo : Madison Police mass on the 500 block of West Mifflin Street, about 5:00 p.m., May 3, shortly before the start of the Mifflin Block Party Riots. COURTESY OF CAPITAL NEWSPAPERS ARCHIVES