Madison in the Sixties – the third week of November, 1965
There’s a serious pocket of poverty in South Madison, according to a report prepared for the Madison Redevelopment Authority. Of the 202 households in the area east of S. Park Street and south of Wingra Creek, 27% have annual incomes under $3,000, the federal standard for being impoverished; countywide, the figure is 12.8%. The unemployment rate is 24%, more than ten times higher than the countywide rate of 2.3%. There are a few bright spots. Thirty-eight percent of the homeowners report owning their properties without any debt, the rate of substandard housing – 10.8 percent – is the same as the countywide rate, and most residents have lived in the area long enough to have established strong ties. Two-thirds of the 721 area residents have lived there more than five years, and fifteen percent have lived there all their lives or more than 25 years. But even that stability brings cause for concern – more than a quarter of the residents said they moved to South Madison because it was the only area a Black person could find a home, with another 15% reporting that living there was all they could afford. 59% of the area residents are persons of color. The survey, conducted by a Chicago firm and analyzed by personnel from the University of Wisconsin, also reports high satisfaction with the South Madison Neighborhood Center and St. Martin’s House, and low marks for streets, sidewalks and the distance to children have to go to get to school. A clear majority think the redevelopment authority’s proposed urban renewal project is a good or very good thing.
Judge William Buenzli finds five antiwar protesters who attempted a citizens’ arrest of the base commander at Truax Air Field in October guilty of loitering in the street and orders them to pay the maximum fine of $20 plus $5 in court costs – the same penalty assessed five other protesters arrested during the October action who pleaded no contest. The five defendants who took the case to a three day trial – Mr and Mrs Stanley I Grand, Bourtai Scudder, Carl Bayer and law student Robert Cohen – argued they were petitioning the government to withdraw from Vietnam and not loitering, but Buenzli doesn’t buy it. “Any sit-in, lie-in or other demonstration which interferes with the orderly and free movement of your fellow citizens cannot be tolerated,” he tells the quintet, adding, “In the words of our late President John F Kennedy, ‘Americans are free to disagree with the law but not to disobey it.’” Buenzli offers an alternate penalty of ten days in jail – but when Sheriff Vernon Jack Leslie gives the bearded, long-haired Cohen five minutes to decide whether to pay “or come to jail where we’ve got haircuts and shaves waiting for you,” the group decides to pay.
The Madison board of education is covered by the city’s anti-secrecy ordinance, City Attorney Edwin Conrad rules, and can no longer hold meetings in the homes of its members. The new city ordinance requires that all governmental meetings be held in public buildings or places accessible to the public. But after board vice president Mrs. Ruth Doyle recently advised her colleagues that the ordinance did not apply to them, board member Arthur “Dynie” Mansfield scheduled a meeting of the policies and procedures committee at his home. That’s when Conrad steps in, declaring “when the city council says all boards are covered, it means just that.” Among the topics Mansfield’s committee will discuss when it meets at a proper location – Mrs. Doyle’s proposal that the agenda and meeting materials provided to members also be sent to reporters the week before the board meets.
The city attorney isn’t the only one speaking his mind to the school board. More than 250 parents and interested citizens attend A public meeting of the Central – University High School PTA in the school’s auditorium and send the resounding message not to close the venerable facility. Students chime in as well – 670 sign a petition calling for the school to remain open. The school board is considering closing the school because of declining enrollment, its outdated physical plant, and the pressing need by the Madison Vocational, Technical and Adult Education school for more space. Four of the board’s seven members, and eight alders, are present at the PTA meeting.
And the board has a more pressing and troubling crisis on its hands – Carl Liebig, principal at Lapham elementary school on E. Dayton St., is arrested and charged with indecent behavior in the school washroom with a ten-year-old boy. Liebig, who pleads innocent and is released on $1,000 bail, is placed on leave from the job he has held for about three years.
The Madison traffic commission wants the city to ban bicycles from State Street and the Capital Square as a safety threat. “The bicycle problem is still with us,” Police Captain Walter Rendall tells the commission before it votes to recommend the city council adopt an ordinance restricting where the two-wheelers can ride downtown. “I’m crossing my fingers in the hopes we don’t have a serious accident,” Rendall says, because slow bicyclists create a serious hazard, especially at rush hour. The bike ban proposal is the first commission action to implement recommendations by a special study committee on bicycle control. Other proposed regulations include mandatory education and licensing of bicyclists before they can operate on public roads, registration of bikes owned by university students, and creating bicycle safety routes by providing special pavements and markings on the principle bike lanes through the downtown.
Night janitor Peter Kavalinus narrowly escapes death or serious injury as an early morning explosion at Millards Bar on E Wilson Street does about $35,000 in damages and sends a pool table crashing into the ceiling. Firemen believe the blast, which rocked the 500 block at 3:30 AM, was caused by a malfunction in the gas-fired boiler in the basement.
And it’s a loud and raucous welcome for Sonny and Cher – he a funny fellow with floppy brown hair in a leopard skin vest and Madras trousers, she a black-haired beauty in red turtleneck and hip-hugging bell-bottoms — as the top pop duo delights an Orpheum Theater crowd with their summertime number one hit I Got You, Babe and other favorites.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For your award-winning, mask wearing, hand washing socially distant WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan