High drama over high stakes for Monona Terrace, cheers for Fidel Castro, and applause for entertainers from South Africa, France, and Kenosha, and an iconic store branches out. Just some of the things going on 58 years ago this month.
Madison, October 1960
October 1 – South African singer Miriam Makeba, who has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the apartheid government since the Sharpeville massacre in March, closes the second annual Wisconsin Union Jazz Festival with an exhilarating set.
October 3 – A 14,000 volt circuit breaker blows at 8:38 p.m., plunging much of Madison into darkness for about 10 to 30 minutes. Calm prevails throughout the city, except on Langdon Street, where a group of about 50 young men try to enter a women’s private dorm but are rebuffed. Soon, a boisterous crowd of about three thousand has gathered, blocking Langdon from Henry to Frances, singing Varsity and the Mickey Mouse song. When the lights go back on a few minutes later, police plead with the crowd to disperse; some respond with eggs and water bombs. Wisconsin Student Association President Ed Garvey uses a police loudspeaker to urge the crowd to disperse, which it does after police declare an unlawful assembly. There are no arrests, but police report several young men for possible university discipline.[i]
October 4 – The faculty’s all-powerful Student Life and Interests Committee holds a special meeting and strongly reprimands the Wisconsin Socialist Club for sending and publicizing unauthorized speaking invitations to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and Yugoslavian president Marshal Tito, and suspends its right to present speakers for two months. Club president Ron “Ronny” Radosh calls the discipline “fair.”[ii]
October 7 – The remaining residents of the area bounded by Proudfit, W. Main and W. Washington – the Brittingham urban renewal area, the city’s first such project – have only two more months to relocate, under a construction timetable approved by The Madison Redevelopment Authority, which is not yet sure what it’s going to build there. Most of the buildings have been razed, but Negro tavern owner Zachary Trotter still has not found a place to relocate to.
October 11 – Close to 10,000 citizens signed a petition over the summer asking for a referendum to “terminate all plans” for Monona Terrace and find another site for the auditorium and civic center. More than a thousand —the year’s largest political gathering other than for a presidential candidate—come to the city council public hearing on the request, overflowing the auditorium at Central High School. After a tense six-hour session, with speakers about evenly split pro and con, the council rejects the request, 13–7, and refuses to schedule the referendum. “A slap in the face from the city council,” the anti-Terrace Wisconsin State Journal editorializes, calling on voters to express their disapproval at the coming spring election, which they do, and at the election after that, as well.[iii]
October 14-19 – A city-sponsored door-to-door voter registration drive adds more than 5,000 new names to the voter rolls. The program uses more than 300 volunteers selected by City Clerk A. W. Bareis, who opposed the project when it was proposed by Mayor Ivan Nestingen.
October 14 – Carrie Lee Nelson, wife of Gov. Gaylord Nelson, hosts members of 22 social welfare organizations at an Executive Residence tea arranged by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to observe Jane Adams Centennial Week, honoring the pioneering reformer and first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
October 17 – An overflow crowd gathers in Great Hall for French literature Professor Germaine Bree’s first lecture as a faculty member on her friend, the late Nobel Laureate Albert Camus.[iv]
October 18 – Kenosha-born Daniel Travanti wins raves as the stage manager in the Wisconsin Players production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town, by Madison native Thornton Wilder. A future two-time Emmy Award winner for his work on Hill Street Blues, Travanti is a first-generation Italian American who turned down scholarships to Harvard and Princeton to attend UW, where the small theater in the Memorial Union, until recently the Fredrik March Play Circle, should be renamed in his honor.[v]
October 25 – Pantomime Master Marcel Marceau as Bip the Clown captivates a capacity Union Theater audience with a series of silent performances that speak volumes about the human condition.
October 27 – The city council votes to sue former Police Chief Bruce Weatherly for damages to the squad car he wrecked in January 1959, after an afternoon of drinking with his secretary, the incident which led to his dismissal three months later.
October 30 – It’s “Fidel, Si!” as an enthusiastic, standing-room-only Tripp Commons crowd welcomes back former UW History Teaching Assistant Saul Landau, now a national spokesman for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, for a presentation praising Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. Over the Christmas break, a group of nine students will take an FPCC tour of the island, with seven coming away very supportive of the revolution.[vi]
October 31 – The sophisticated and picturesque Manchester’s Department store at Westgate Mall opens for business, oozing charm and elegance. The two-story red brick structure resembles a stately home, with bay windows and a large lantern blazing above the front door. The suburban store has all the departments of the downtown flagship, except for rugs and drapes.
[i] “City Stays Calm During Blackout,” WSJ, October 4, 1960; “Can’t Study, So Students Hold Rally on Langdon St.,” WSJ, October 4, 1960; “Crowds Form as All Lights Go Out,” DC, October 4, 1960; “City Blacked Out by Short Circuit in Power Plant,” CT, October 4, 1960.
[ii] “Socialists Face Possible ‘U’ Action on Tito, Mr. K Bids,” DC, October 1, 1960; editorial, “Is One Warranted?,” DC, October 4, 1960; “Socialist Club Is Reprimanded,” DC, October 5, 1960; Ron Radosh email to author, May 27, 2017.
[iii] Williams, “Council Refuses a New Vote on Monona Terrace,” WSJ, October 12, 1960; Hoffman, “Terrace Foes Lose Battle,” CT, October 12, 1960; CC minutes, October 13, 1960; editorial, “A Council Afraid of the People,” WSJ, October 13, 1960; editorial, “Who Was Deprived of a Right to Vote?” CT, October 13, 1960; “Terrace Opponents to Keep Up Battle against Project,” CT, October 13, 1960; Hoffman, “Council Affirms Refusal to Bow to Terrace Foes,” CT, October 14, 1960.
[iv] “French Literature Expert Lecturing,” DC, October 12, 1960; Bob Jacobson, “Love of Camus Universal—Critic,” DC, October 18, 1960.
[v] “Travanti to Play Manager in ‘Our Town’ Production,” DC, October 5, 1960; Bob Jacobson, “Overall Excellence Marks Players’ ‘Our Town’—Critic,” DC, October 19, 1960; Bill Doudna, “Players’ ‘Our Town’ Generally Excellent,” CT, October 19, 1960; http://www.thorntonwilder.com/about-wilder/biography/
[vi] Dan Drosdoff, “Cuban Revolution Defended,” DC, November 1, 1960; Hunter, “7 Students Who Went to Cuba Unanimous in Praise of Castro,” CT, January 10, 1961; Saul Landau, “From the Labor Youth League to the Cuban Revolution,” in Buhle, ed., History and the New Left, 107–112.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brittingham and Triangle Urban Renewal Areas. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society Press/Wisconsin Historical Society Archives