A firefighter falls, new housing for migrant workers, a new gun registration ordinance, and a twin tragedy in Vietnam. Just some of the events making news this week in Madison in the Sixties.
The second week of January
January 8, 1966 – Fireman Daniel P. Parkinson Jr., 33, dies of smoke inhalation when a falling timber knocks him unconscious and dislodges his oxygen mask as he is fighting a fire on upper State Street. Native of the Greenbush neighborhood and graduate of Central High School, he is the first Madison fireman to die in the line of duty since 1947, and the fourth in the city’s history, Parkinson was a combat medic during the Korean War, and a big, athletic fellow, but was so soft-spoken they called him “Monk.” Along with his wife, Christine, Parkinson was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic jazz aficionado; after a 1959 trip to Ripon to see pianist Dave Brubeck, they developed a friendship with his saxophonist, Paul Desmond, and were eagerly awaiting the upcoming Brubeck and John Coltrane concerts. Hundreds of Parkinson’s friends and family, and firemen from around the state fill St. James Church for the funeral on January 11; among the pallbearers is his boyhood friend, restaurant owner Tony Lombardino, who gave Parkinson his nickname. Since survivor benefits from the city end after fewer than 8 years, a scholarship fund is established for Daniel P. Parkinson III, age four, and his two sisters, ages seven and five. The council adopts a resolution that when a new central fire station is built, it will be dedicated in his memory. Fire chief Ralph McGraw blames faulty wiring for the fire, which does a $250,000 damage and destroys Sergenian’s carpets and a hearing aid store at 227–229 State St.
January 8, 1968 — The Madison Housing Authority (MHA) seeks to solve housing problems faced by the city’s growing number of Spanish-speaking migrant families by reserving up to 20 public housing units for their use. More than 30 migrant families, most from Texas, have arrived in Madison since last fall.
January 9, 1967 — The school board approves a contract with Madison Teachers Inc. that keeps teachers among the lowest-paid in the area but establishes the union’s right to compulsory arbitration of grievances.
The board also approves $400,000 for an athletic facility and grandstand at James Madison Memorial High School, which veteran board member Arthur “Dynie” Mansfield extols as a year-round multisport complex to be available for public use. Deviating from its standard practice, the board lets Roberta Leidner (future chair, Dane County Board of Supervisors Highway and Transportation Committee), representing the Capital Community Citizens, raise questions about the proposal. “A citizen can’t just stand up and ask to be heard,” Superintendent Robert Gilberts says, but the board lets Leidner speak before overriding her concerns and agreeing with Mansfield; the legendary university athlete, in his 13th year as the Badger baseball coach, advocates forcefully for the facility, which is named in his honor after his death in 1985.
January 9, 1968 — Former UW student Steve Miller, who left Madison in 1965, made his way to San Francisco, and in 1967 became the first Bay Area musician to sign a huge record contract, returns to play the Factory, 315 W Gorham St.
January 9, 1969 — Council expands the gun registration ordinance, extending to individuals the requirement already borne by businesses, to notify the police within 24 hours, of the make, model, and serial number of any firearm they sell or donate.
January 9, 1969 — The council votes 17–5 to empower the mayor to “impose a curfew on all or any part of the city” in the event of “an actual or imminent emergency,” requiring all persons in the area to leave, closing any street or business, and calling on “regular or auxiliary law enforcement agencies and organizations” to keep the peace. Prior to the council’s action, Milwaukee was the only Wisconsin city to have provisions for a curfew.
The next day, January 10, 1969 — Madison Police Chief Emery tells police cadets graduating from the training academy that “We are in a period of unlawful conduct bordering on outright rebellion and anarchy,” and the courts are “building legal curtains around the criminal while restricting the police officer.”
January 11, 1960 — The Madison Council of Parent-Teacher Associations stops sponsoring Saturday movies at the Strand and Eastwood because the children keep misbehaving.
1967 — Major Charles Thoma, 30, East High 1954, UW class of 1958, dies on January 12 after being shot in the head by a sniper while leading a search-and-destroy mission of the “Black Lion” Second Battalion, Twenty-Eighth Infantry, First Infantry Division, in the jungle northwest of Saigon. The son of retired Army Colonel Henry C. Thoma, 4182 Nakoma Rd., and Mrs. Clifford Engle of San Francisco, Major Thoma was captain of the cross-country team, a member of the track and wrestling teams, and a member of Phi Kappa Sigma at UW. Recipient of the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, he is survived by his parents and his wife, the former Beverly Hubbard, and three sons.
That same day, Army Private First Class Thomas E. “Pete” Matush, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph J. Matush, 1959 E. Washington Ave, is killed when the truck he’s in goes over a land mine. Matush, drafted soon after graduating from East High in 1964, had been in country about four months.
January 13, 1969 — The Mifflin Street Community Cooperative opens at 32 N. Bassett St., with first-day receipts of $130. To underscore community ownership, the cash register is periodically turned around for members to ring themselves out.
January 14, 1965 — The council ignores the advice from city attorney Edwin Conrad and adopts an ordinance, 14–7, barring the issuance of a bartender’s license “to a member of the female sex, or to any person afflicted with a contagious or venereal disease.” Mayor Henry Reynolds, longtime trucking company president insists “This is not discrimination. It’s setting qualifications. You’re saying a woman isn’t qualified to be a bartender, it’s a class of work a woman shouldn’t be doing.” Ordinance sponsor Ald. Harold “Babe” Rohr, leader of the painter’s union, references the council’s gender exclusivity. “I think we’re all men enough on this council to take the position that a woman’s place is not behind the bar,” the south-sider says to his all-male colleagues. Not necessarily so, according to railroad switchman Ald. Leo Cooper, “Any woman behind the bar won’t cause half as much trouble as some on the other side of it,” he says.
Photo: Mrs. Christine Parkinson, with daughters Anne and Linda; to her left fire chief Ralph McGraw, Captain Ed Durkin, and other mourners, St. James Church, January 11. COURTESY OF CAPITAL NEWSPAPERS ARCHIVES, PHOTO BY EDWIN STEIN