A fall-out shelter on display, a fraternity in trouble, and the greatest singer-songwriter since Homer back in town. Just some of the events going on in Madison this week in the early sixties.
November 18—Mayor Nestingen and Civil Defense Head Richard Wilson attend the dedication of a demonstration model of a federally funded fallout shelter at the home of Albert Hamman, head of UW Protection and Security, 457 Togstad Glen. The shelter, with provisions to sustain a family of five for three weeks, will be open for public viewing for two years.[i]
November 17—Phi Delta Theta is Wisconsin’s oldest fraternity; William F. Vilas founded the Wisconsin Alpha house in 1857, and its past members included Frank Lloyd Wright. But when the president of the fraternity’s general council declared that national policy bars “Jews, Negroes, and Orientals” because “many chapters do not regard them as acceptable,”[ii] the faculty voted to ban the fraternity – even though the local chapter had shown good faith in working to rid the national organization of discriminatory practices. On November 17, the Regents vote 7–1 to affirm the faculty decision, immediately banning the pledging of new members, and barring the Phi Delts from campus next September, “unless and until” it demonstrates compliance with faculty antidiscrimination legislation.[iii]
November 20—The Plan Commission approves controversial plans for a racially integrated fifteen-building apartment complex with 148 units, sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on Sherman Avenue, just north of Northport Drive.[iv]
Charles H. Gill, 49, developed the west side plats Arbor Hills, Meadowood, and Orchard Ridge. But in late 1961, he’s heavily in debt and in trouble with state regulators. He sells his showcase homes at 1222 Gilbert Rd. and in the Fox Bluff section of Waunakee, and moves with his family (his wife, Marcella, is a past president of the Madison League of Women Voters and active in local Republican Party affairs) to 1210 W. Beltline. The Wisconsin Real Estate Examining Board suspends, and then revokes his realtor’s license on November 17; on the 22nd—the day before Thanksgiving—Gill drives his 1960 Chevrolet station wagon into an abandoned gravel pit in the undeveloped section of Arbor Hills and kills himself with carbon monoxide.[v]
November 19—After consulting with the University Committee and the Athletic Board, President Fred Harvey Harrington says the university will accept an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl, notwithstanding the faculty’s ongoing opposition to the Big Ten Conference’s contract to participate. Nobody’s happy about it; the committee unanimously adopts a resolution stating that it feels “obliged to accept the invitation,” and Harrington tells the regents that “post-season games involve a type of over-emphasis that is undesirable.”[vi]
November 14—Mayor Reynolds, who has a Westport residence and other far north side holdings, casts the tiebreaking vote to start condemnation proceedings on 536 acres of marshland owned by Cherokee Park Inc. The city will acquire the area, plus another 190 acres, for conservation.[vii]
November 19—About 200 attend the dedication ceremony for the Philip H. Falk Elementary School, on the city’s far southwest. Falk, recently named chair of the Madison Redevelopment Authority, served as superintendent of schools from 1939 until his retirement on January 1.[viii]
That same day—Activist civil rights group the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) National Director James Farmer celebrates the new Madison chapter with a Park Motor Inn press conference and a speech at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where he pledges that the fledgling local affiliate will continue its testing activities to expose discrimination in housing and employment. A UW campus chapter of CORE had held an organizational meeting in early April but never filed as a student organization.[ix]
November 19—Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announces that all Air Force installations and operations at Truax Air Force Base will close by July 1968, leaving only a squadron of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. The city estimates the base—with 2,708 military and civilian employees—pumps about $20 million into the Madison economy, about a third of which goes to local businesses. The airfield, headquarters for the Thirtieth North American Air Defense Command, was named after Madison fighter pilot First Lieutenant Thomas L. Truax in 1942, shortly after he was killed in a training flight. Madison Municipal Airport superintendent Robert Skuldt says he expects the land and buildings to be turned over to the city. The closing will take about 800 students—and about $230,000 in federal aid—out of the Madison schools.[x]
And that night, Bob Dylan returns to Madison for the first time since the spring of 1961, drawing a less-than-capacity crowd and mixed reviews for his show at the Orpheum. In black leather jacket and pointy boots, silent between songs, he performs classics old and new, including three—“Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates of Eden,” and “It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”—not released until January. Guy Lombardo, personable in a black tuxedo, delights a sold-out show with sweeter sounds four nights later.[xi]
[i] “Officials to Dedicate Atomic Fallout Shelter Here Today,” WSJ, November 18, 1960.
[ii] Karl Gutknecht, “Phi Delts Face Suspension; Case before SLIC Thursday,” DC, September 19, 1961; “SLIC Asks Year’s Extension in Phi Delt Clause Question,” DC, September 20, 1961; Tom Peterson, “Fraternities Back Phi Delt Request,” DC, September 23, 1961; “Faculty Delays Phi Delt Vote,” DC, October 3, 1961; “SLIC Reaffirms Report Asking Phi Delt Extension,” DC, October 25, 1961.
[iii] Editorial, “New Field,” DC, November 4, 1961; Gutknecht, “Phi Delta Theta Banned,” DC, November 7, 1961; editorial, “Faltering,” DC,November 7, 1961.
[iv] Marcus, “148-Unit Project for Apartments Given Approval,” CT, November 21, 1961.
[v] “Brokers Suspend Gill’s License,” CT, November 10, 1961; Charles H. Gill Found Dead in Car; Despondency Blamed,” WSJ, November 23, 1961; Charles H. Gill Is Suicide; Business Tangles Blamed,” CT, November 23, 1961.
[vi] “U. Would Accept Rose Bowl Bid,” CT, November 19, 1962; BOR minutes, December 7, 1962; Hunter, “Bowl Games ‘Unfortunate,’” CT,December 7, 1962; Karlman, “President Hits ‘Emphasis’ but Favors This Bowl Trip,” DC, December 8, 1962.
[vii] Feuerzeig, “Cherokee Issue Heads Rough Council Agenda,” CT, November 14, 1963; Gordon, “Cherokee Lands’ Condemning OKD,” WSJ,November 15, 1963; Brautigam, “Condemnation of Cherokee Ok’d; Mayor Breaks Tie,” CT, November 15, 1963.
[viii] McCormick, “New School to Be Named for Falk,” CT, July 1, 1963; “Falk School Dedication Slated, CT, November 16, 1963; Bednarek, “Hailed at His School, Falk Credits Others,” WSJ, November 20, 1963.
[ix] “CORE to Organize University Group,” Daily Cardinal, April 3, 1963; Phyllis Berman, “Farmer Outlines Racial Conflicts,” Daily Cardinal, November 20, 1963; James D. Selk, “CORE Plans Drive Against Bias,” WSJ, November 20, 1963; Student Organization Registration files, University Archives.
[x] Maraniss, “Truax Air Base to Close,” CT, November 19, 1964; Newhouse, “Truax Will Be Stripped of All Defenses By ’68,” WSJ, November 20, 1964; “$20 Million Sum Flies Away,” WSJ, November 20, 1964; “Zeidler Views Closing as Opportunity for City,” WSJ, November 20, 1964; Wineke, “Truax Linked to Madison: An ‘Adopted Relative,’” WSJ, November 20, 1964; Maraniss, “Madison Seeks Methods to Offset Loss of Truax,” CT, November 20, 1964.
[xi] Robert A. Davis, “‘Folk-Poet’ Scores When Anger’s Lost,” WSJ, November 20, 1964; Gruber, “Bob Dylan—a Cry against Social Evil,” DC,November 20, 1964; Harrand, “Bob Dylan Songs Don’t Entertain,” CT, November 20, 1964; Harrand, “Lombardo Fans Love ‘The Sweetest Music,’” CT, November 24, 1964; Thomas Starkweather Facebook exchange, January 3, 2018
Photo: State Street, just west of lake street, November, 1963. Whi image ID 137853, photo by David Sandell