Madison in the Sixties – October, 1961
About 5,000 homes in the greater Madison area already have some sort of fallout shelter for protection after a nuclear war, a civil defense official tells a neighborhood group On the third. Don Heimlich, the assistant civil defense director, tells a gathering in the Hill Farms area that thanks to the widespread use of such shelters, future generations “will regard dangers from radiation about the same as we regard dangers from cold weather.” And Heimlich demonstrats a set of instruments to measure radioactivity, so people will know when it is safe to go outside after a nuclear war. The instruments come in a kit which will soon be available here for 19.95.
Building permits are still required for all fallout shelters, but no fee is charged and a property tax exemption is given for shelters which meet government standards.
The Madison board of education is still waiting for guidance, however, on whether it should evacuate children in the case of nuclear attack, or keep them in school. But the school board is still planning for happier future, buying thirty-five acres of the Monona Golf Course from the Parks Department for $105,000, for the new, as yet unnamed, Twenty-Second Ward high school. Parks will use the funds to buy land beyond the East Beltline for a future golf course.[i]
In urban renewal news, the director of the Madison Redevelopment Authority pleads with realtors to let Blacks being displaced by the Triangle project look at homes throughout the city, and not just in the so-called traditional neighborhoods. Roger Rupnow says realtors should not take it upon themselves to steer Blacks towards the areas where the realtor thinks they should live, but show them all houses they are financially qualified to buy.
In a related development, a coalition of church groups called the Coordinating Committee of Social Concerns proposes a voluntary list of people willing to sell or rent housing to Blacks and other minorities. The Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights says it will study the idea.
And Zachary Trotter, whose Tuxedo Café on West Washington Avenue is the only Black-owned tavern in Madison, finally gets his building permit for a new bar at 1616 Beld Street. Forced to move because he’s in the way of the Brittingham urban renewal district, Trotter has been trying for more than a year to relocate. The council, bowing to neighborhood pressures, rejected two earlier attempts.
In other civil rights news, The UW Student Council for Civil Rights presents $1,150 to James Farmer, the national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, to pay the fines and bail for Freedom Riders arrested and jailed while trying to desegregate interstate buses in the Deep South. The council raised the money, which Farmer says is the largest donated by any college organization, in a two-week campaign that found its sole success on campus. “We tried to reach the Madison area but couldn’t,” council chair Ron Corwin says.[ii]
The burgeoning crisis in Berlin hits home as a troop train pulls out of the Milwaukee Road depot on the 24th, taking Madison and area men in the Thirty-Second Infantry Division of the Wisconsin National Guard – the fabled Red Arrow Division — to Ft. Lewis, Washington, and into at least a full year of active military duty in the United States Army.[iii]
Cases of venereal disease are increasing so rapidly, City health commissioner Charles Kincaid says on the 25th, that the rate is now up to about one a day, compared to 30 last year and 22 in 1959. Kincaid says he has no explanation for the increase, and that the cases are scattered throughout the city..[iv]
In an unrelated development two days later, The Wisconsin State Journal announces it will reject certain movie advertising that “a large number of our readers find salacious and prurient.”[v] Area clergy, and many readers, applaud the move.
It’s a notable month for roads and highways. On the sixth, the fifty-two-mile, $29 million I-90/94 highway from Madison to Wisconsin Dells opens October 6.[vi] And five years after city planners proposed a divided expressway from Proudfit Street to Midvale Boulevard, the council takes its first action to build the road. On the 26th, it sets a sixty-six-foot setback on College Court to create a matching one-way road with Regent Street from North Murray Street to Monroe Street, where cars will connect through a roundabout with a freeway to be built on the old Illinois Central rail bed. The same night, a big win for Mayor (and trucking company president) Henry Reynolds as the council votes to designate Midvale Boulevard for heavy truck traffic. Citywide, 20 percent of the 379 miles of streets remain unpaved.[vii]
On campus, great artists from two generations and disciplines. On the 6th—Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson headlines the university’s third annual jazz festival, which also features local trumpeter Doc DeHaven and another showing of Jazz on a Summer Day.[viii] And on the 16th, our most beloved poet, eighty-seven-year-old Robert Frost, captivates a capacity crowd at the Union Theater with anecdote, observation, and poetry, especially “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and his closing piece, “Birches.”[ix]
The Daily Cardinal names three-sports star Pat Richter the Sports Badger of the Month. An All-American candidate at left end, Richter is 1st in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation in pass receptions, and has scored the Badgers’ only touchdown in their first two games.
Halloween brings a night of malicious mischief as police respond to more than a dozen complaints of vandalism, property destruction, and hooliganism. At the McDonald’s drive-in, 3317 University Ave., more than two hundred youngsters throw firecrackers, eggs, and vegetables at cars—even the squad cars sent to the scene. The restaurant closes at the cops’ request but reopens an hour later; when it does, the barrage resumes, and it continues until police return and threaten the troublemakers with arrest.[x]
And a more disturbing bit of fright night deviltry, as someone spray paints swastikas and the word Jew on the walls and windows of the kosher delicatessen and meat market at 301 S. Mills St., owned by Selig Iwanter, the only survivor of a family wiped out by the Nazis in Vilna, Lithuania.[xi] Police say the anti-Semitic vandalism was probably the work of neighborhood teens.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the sixties. For your award-winning, vaccine-taking, mask-wearing, listener-supported WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.
Photomontage of proposed IC Freeway by City of Madison. John Newhouse photo for the Wisconsin State Journal courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, WHI-33732
[i] “City School Officials Ask Civil Defense Directions,” WSJ, October 17, 1961.
[ii] Patricia Lange, “Farmer Speaks, Cites CORE Gift as Largest,” DC, October 17, 1961.
[iii] “City, Area Troops Depart,” CT, October 24, 1961; James D. Selk, “Hurry Back!” WSJ, October 25, 1961; Hunter, “Madison Area Soldiers Reach Dakotas,” CT, October 25, 1961.
[iv] Bednarek, “More VD Cases Reported in City,” WSJ, October 26, 1961; Newhouse, “Madison Hospital Use Lags; Lacks Facilities,” WSJ, October 28, 1961.
[v] Bednarek, “City Movie Ad Policy Wins City Praise,” WSJ, October 30, 1961.
[vi] Newhouse, “Happy Throng Takes I-Road,” WSJ, October 7, 1961.
[vii] Willenson, “Monona Causeway Urgent,” WSJ, March 26, 1961; Marcus, “See City Reaching a Population of 170,000 by 1968,” CT, April 19, 1961; editorial, “Now Mayor Reynolds Says Trucker Reynolds Isn’t Interested,” CT, October 26, 1961; “Monroe St. Library Unit Approved,” CT, October 11, 1961; Marcus, “Midvale Truck Route Approved by Council, 14-6,” CT, October 27, 1961; “Mayor in Clash on School Law,” Capital Times October 27, 1961.
[viii] Michael Comer, “Wisconsin Swings Peterson ‘Brilliant,’” DC, October 7, 1961.
[ix] Hunter, “Robert Frost Is Given Ovation at Union Recital of His Poems,” CT, October 17, 1961.
[x] Sanford Moss, “Halloween Tricks Keep Police Busy,” WSJ, November 1, 1961; “Police Defend Clamp on Youths,” WSJ, November 3, 1961.
[xi] Irvin H. Kreisman, “Madison Swastikas Bring Grim Reminder to Horror Survivor,” CT, November 1, 1961; Sidney Iwanter Facebook exchange[with author?], December 1, 2017.