Madison in the Sixties – the last week of January
— The UW Protection and Security Department hires its first female investigator, Nancy Marshall, a former member of the Madison Police Department’s Bureau of Crime Prevention. Campus police chief Albert Hamann says Marshall, a former home economics teacher in Sheboygan Falls, will handle investigations involving women and juveniles.
Teenage romance turns to trouble, as high school gangs rumble all over town. An Edgewood High School girl entices the Verona boy she’s dating and four of his friends into an ambush at Peppermint Park, the carnival area on the far west side, where they are severely beaten with clubs and rubber hoses by the West High boy she’s also dating and fifteen of his friends. Police thwart a rematch rumble, set for a Verona gravel pit, after getting an anonymous tip. Another girl with two suitors becomes a catalyst that week in the 2400 block of East Washington Avenue, where eleven pupils from East, La Follette, and Monona Grove High Schools battle with fists, clubs, and switchblades. Madison police also confiscate three switchblade knives from students at Central and West after a knife fight between two young teens at West, also fighting over a girl.
1965 — The council votes to start buying forty acres of land east of the East Beltline Highway (Highway 51) between Milwaukee Street and Highway 30 for the long-proposed east side hospital.
1965 Right- wing radio talker Bob Siegrist reveals that Daily Cardinal managing editor John Gruber rents a room at 515 W. Johnson St. from Gene Dennis Jr., the son of the late head of the Communist Party USA, and that another renter was both the son of the former chair of the state Communist Party and a Communist himself. And Siegrist claims to see a disturbing pattern of the Cardinal covering the same stories as the Communist Party’s Daily Worker. The next day, Republican state senator Jerris Leonard writes Regent president Arthur DeBardeleben that he’s “very much disturbed” to learn about Gruber’s rooming house relationship “with known political leftists,” a situation that “has reached the point of absurdity . . . clearly appalling.” Denouncing what he considers the Cardinal’s “left- oriented journalism,” Leonard calls on the regents to “investigate Mr. Gruber’s associations and intensively review the editorial policy” of the Cardinal and report to the governor and legislature. “If it is determined that Mr. Gruber’s reported association influences the political tone of the Cardinal,” Leonard writes, “it is clear that his removal must be sought.” As assistant majority leader and chair of the powerful State Building Commission, which controls major university construction, Leonard issues a not- so- veiled threat. The situation is of “such a serious nature,” he writes, that if the regents don’t investigate and report within two weeks, he will call for a “special legislative committee to study this matter and take appropriate action. This situation cannot be allowed to continue for even one more month.”
1967 — The council bans scooter and motorcycle parking on State Street and most of University Avenue, except in specially designated stalls.
1968— Extensive racial discrimination in Madison has caused black residents to lose hope in the American dream, Madison Redevelopment Authority community services director Charles Hill tells a First Methodist Church program on race relations. Hill, recently named secretary of the state Department of Local Affairs and Development, also says city welfare services are inadequate.
1968 — Chancellor William Sewell says he’s “distressed by the growing hostility” the community is showing to students and even faculty, especially over “protest activities which are offensive to community values and expectations”— even those protests which are “perfectly legitimate and carried out in a legal manner.” Speaking to a joint luncheon of twenty- one service clubs at the Field House, Sewell also derides those who treat students with “contempt, derision and censure” over their hair and dress, as though their appearance were “a major challenge to the very foundations of our society.”
Professor Maurice Zeitlin and the Citizens for a Vote on Vietnam turn in 8,140 signatures on petitions for a referendum on Vietnam, giving the council only two choices— adopt the statement calling for “an immediate cease- fire and the withdrawal of United States troops,” or put it on the spring ballot. Yet eight aldermen ignore the city attorney’s advice and vote against doing either. “I find it extremely repugnant to deal with this question in any way,” says Ald. Dick Kopp, on the losing side of the 13–8 vote to proceed with the referendum. Ald. James Crary even blames North Korea’s recent seizing of the spy ship Pueblo on “these same pacifists” giving “the impression that our country is divided.” Council president Ald. George Gill calls them out: “You objected to [student protesters’] acts of civil disobedience, you should support this legal action.” Having put the referendum on the ballot, the council then restores its patriotic self- image by voting 20–0 to urge the public to vote “no”; west side liberal Ald. Toby Reynolds abstains.
1968 Advertising and outreach have failed to persuade sufficient numbers of nonwhites that past discrimination has ended and that City Hall is truly an equal opportunity employer, city personnel director Charles Reott says. Reott’s pledge to “just keep hammering away” at minority recruitment may be paying off; with only twelve minority employees among the city’s 2,100 employees on February 1, the minority census jumps to twenty by the end of March.
— Legislative Council staff attorney James R. Klauser issues a forty- five page report recommending that the Madison Police Department be given control of the university campus because university police are incapable of dealing with increased campus disorder, drug traffic, and violent crime.
And the last days of January are tragic for two Madison families.
In 1966 Marine Lance Corporal Jean Pierre Dowling, twenty- two, East High class of 1962, whose parents live at 4509 Darby Ln., is killed by small- arms fire in Quang Ngai province in Vietnam on January 29. In order that Dowling can be buried in the soldiers’ section at Forest Hill Cemetery, the council quickly adopts an ordinance expanding eligibility from the World Wars and the Korean War, to any combat area or American police action.67
And in 1968 Army Private First Class Edgar Gerlach, twenty, a tank driver, is killed January 30 at the Pleiku base camp during a mortar attack. A 1965 graduate of Robert M. La Follette High School, Gerlach was a counselor at the Monona Grove YMCA and a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 150, where he received the God and Country Award and was elected to the Order of the Arrow. He entered the Army in October 1966 and had been in country since August 1967.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For the award-winning WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan