Madison in the Sixties. May, 1962
Mayor Henry Reynolds scores two big victories on the night of Thursday, May 10, as the common council casts historic votes that will define the city for decades to come. First, the alders vote 16-3 to end any hope of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed auditorium and exhibition hall overlooking Lake Monona at Law Park by terminating the contract former mayor Ivan Nestingen and Frank Lloyd Wright signed in 1956. And right when the council is voting, Eugene Ormandy is conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at a facility Monona Terrace was intended to replace – the U.W. Stock Pavilion. The following Monday, Reynolds calls an auditorium committee meeting to consider a big new question: “whether it’s going to be built downtown or in some outer area,” such as across the lake at Olin Park. Reynolds wants to have the internationally renowned consultant Ladislas Segoe pick a site, and by the end of May, the city has hired Segoe and also retained a team from an industry trade group. Reynolds repeats his vow to build a facility as big as the building Wright designed, but within the $4 million budget authorized by referendum in 1954.
And that night the council also votes 17-4 to approve Reynolds’ plan for the Madison Housing Authority (MHA) to build 160 units of public housing. The MHA will own and operate sixty units on Regent Street between Murray and Lake Streets, for elderly residents of the Greenbush neighborhood displaced by the Triangle urban renewal project, thirty- six units near the Truax Park apartments, thirty- six units on Webb Avenue, and twenty- eight units in South Madison, in a three- block area just north of Penn Park.
The Truax Park residents may be on the front-lines of the Cold War, as Airport superintendent Robert Skuldt reveals on May second that Truax Air Force Base will soon house nuclear weapons in a warehouse that is quote “virtually foolproof.” The weapons will be for potential use by the F- 89 fighter jets stationed there. Skuldt tells the Citizens Advisory Committee that the Air Force will likely remain at Truax “for years and years,” and that the airport’s highest priority is a new terminal.
Troubled by reports that the Madison Club has discriminatory membership practices, the United Community Chest decides to stop paying the dues for its executive director to belong. Although there are no formal discriminatory provisions in the club’s by-laws, it has never had a Jewish, Black or female member, and reportedly recently rejected the application from a distinguished Jewish attorney. The move to delete the $150 dues payment from the director’s expense account is pushed by Ruth B. Doyle, a member of the Community Chest’s budget committee.
As the month begins, the dream of a University of Wisconsin Art Gallery becomes a reality as the Brittingham Trust Funds present a $1 million gift for its construction. The fund was established several decades ago by Thomas E. Brittingham, Sr., a pioneering lumberman-philanthropist and one-time UW regent, and his wife., Mary Clark Brittingham, a UW graduate in the Class of 1889 and later member of the UW Board of Visitors. The art galleries will be the first in a $3 million art complex.
University guest speakers validate Dean of Students LeRoy Luberg assurance to the board of regents that “extremists from both sides” are welcome on campus. On the seventh, American Communist Party general secretary Gus Hall draws a skeptical but respectful overflow crowd of about eighteen hundred to the Union Theater. A week later, John Birch Society leader Clarence Manion delivers a right-wing rebuttal to a crowed that is much smaller and even more skeptical than the crowd than heard Hall.
May 20 – the Varsity “W” clubs names Madison native Pat Richter the Badger athlete of the year. The East High alumnus, with two years on the varsity teams in baseball, football and basketball, could become the UW’s first nine-letter athlete since 1923
Good news on Friday the fourth – the strike by teamsters local 695 that shut down $120 million in construction projects – including work on the Hilldale Shopping Center, the Van Vleck Mathematics Building, and an addition to Madison General Hospital — ends after 24 days. From a starting hourly wage of $2.65, the union had sought a 66 cent an hour increase in wages and benefits over a three-year period, while the employers group offered a straight 50 cent an hour increase over that period. The settlement, mediated by UW Prof Nathan Feinsinger, sets a 3-year contact with an increase in wages and benefits of 56 cents.
On May 27, more than a thousand people visit the new Monroe Street Library open house, as the street has a branch library for the first time since October 1960. The $75,000 building holds eleven thousand volumes and will add about four thousand through the year.
Wednesday, May 30— An estimated twenty thousand people— one of the largest crowds to gather in Madison since the end of World War II— jam the Capitol Square as fifty marching units and a series of bands mark Memorial Day. “We are dedicated to the principle that we shall be neither dead nor Red,” US Representative Robert W. Kastenmeier (D- Watertown) says during a solemn ceremony featuring a wreath- laying tribute, a reading of the roster of Madison and Dane County wartime veterans who died over the past year, and patriotic proclamations. An early-morning tribute is paid at Forest Hill cemetery at the Veterans Memorial and the Civil War-era Union Rest and Confederate Rest. At a later service at the Memorial Union terrace, flowers are strewn in Lake Mendota to honor military personnel lost at sea.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Grover L. Broadfoot dies at age sixty- nine on May 18, setting in motion events that will change Madison’s political future. Governor Gaylord Nelson first offers the vacancy to his friend James E. Doyle, a highly respected attorney and the former chair of the state Democratic party. When Doyle declines, Nelson taps State Senator Horace Wilkie (D- Madison), who is quickly confirmed. With Wilkie leaving the legislature, State Representative Fred A. Risser— who only days earlier had opened his campaign for a fourth term in the assembly— declares his candidacy for the seat. Risser is elected easily in November and will continue to get reelected well into the twenty- first century.174
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
David Sandell photo for the Capital Times of the Philadelphia Orchestra and its audience assembling at the UW Stock Pavilion, May 10, 1962. Courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, WHi Image 136607