Sen. John F Kennedy begins his Wisconsin presidential primary campaign at 5:30 in the morning of February 16, shaking hands with about a third of the 1,500 first-shift workers arriving at the Oscar Mayer company plant gates. With neither hat nor gloves, his only concession to the frigid February weather, a topcoat and scarf and a pair of insulated shoes. After an hour, Kennedy goes inside for a cup of coffee and a brief reunion with plant IMB operator and fellow Navy veteran Dick Meyers, who had served with him on the South Pacific island of Rendova in 1943. Then a press conference at the Eagles Club, where he’s joined by wife Jacqueline, who had slept in on the campaign’s chartered plane. Afterwards, in a futile attempt at getting the coveted Capital Times endorsement, Kennedy pays respects to the paper’s editor William T. Evjue at his waterfront Castle Place home before heading to Ft. Atkinson and a whirlwind three-day swing bringing him to eighteen Wisconsin cities and towns. Kennedy vows a positive campaign and says he won’t attack his opponent in the April 5 primary, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey.
Also this week in 1960, Monona Terrace, the auditorium and convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Law Park is back on track as the city pays the FLWF $122,500 for work to date, and chief architect William Wesley Peters promises the facility will be finished within 18 months of the final bids being approved. That’s expected in early 1961 — meaning a grand opening in the fall of 1962. And at just this time in 1968, the council again calls for an auditorium and convention center at Law Park, voting 13-7 for a 2350-seat facility there as the first phase of the ambitious Monona Basin Plan, a ten-year project stretching from a boathouse at King Street to the Law Park auditorium and across the water to an amphitheater and boat launch at Olin Park. The auditorium should go out to bid in about a year, with a grand opening expected in the fall of 1970.
In 1963, civil defense officials finish affixing the distinctive black and yellow sign – three triangles inside a circle inside a square — marking 359 fallout shelters with 99,508 spaces, and start a public information effort identifying the 175 buildings where the shelters are located. And they get ready to receive supplies, trucked from the federal warehouse in Rock Island, Il. Unloading and stocking will be very labor-intensive, and ninth ward alder Gordon Reese, an employee of the state Civil Defense Department, suggests building janitors can help.
It’s a week for civil rights of all stripes. In 1964, Alabama Gov. George Wallace defends segregation and opposes the pending civil rights bill before an overflow Union Theater crowd of about 2000, as about 200 pickets from the Congress of Racial Equality, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and NAACP protest outside. About a dozen protesters who somehow scored front-row seats in the Union Theater rise when Wallace begins speaking and silently file out. The large crowd is generally respectful, but does laugh at Wallace’s statement that “there are good race relations in Alabama because of segregation.” Wallace, here for the “Discourse in Dissent” symposium sponsored by the Wisconsin Student Association, is also picketed the next day when he arrives at the Loraine Hotel to speak to the Madison Rotary club. And this week in 1968, WSA’s Symposium –“Crisis in Confidence – the Credibility Gap” brings Black comedian- turned- activist and independent presidential candidate Dick Gregory to the First Congregational Church, where he charms, chastises, and confronts an overflow crowd of white university students. Warning that America must end the injustices that cause revolution “because we will burn your neighborhood down to the ground, house by house, brick by brick, if you don’t.” Gregory, is frequently interrupted by applause, and receives a five-minute standing ovation when he’s done.
In 1965, the Public Service Commission approves a trial run for express bus service between the far east side and downtown. The private Madison Bus Company will run nine round-trips each weekday from Buckeye Road and N. Stoughton Rd to the Capitol Square, with no stops between the intersection of Milwaukee St. and N. Stoughton Rd. and the square. The express will cost adults 30 cents outbound and 25 cents inbound, a dime cheaper for students, each fare a nickel more than standard
1966. Two years after university president Fred Harvey Harrington predicted there would be a new four-year campus on the far west side, Chancellor Robben Fleming releases a report endorsing the idea as the university’s “best judgment” for handling campus overcrowding when enrollment hits the 40,000-student capacity in 1971. Fleming says the separate satellite facility will have its own faculty, admission standards, courses and student body. And be on its own socially. Students could “doubtless participate in central campus activities in exceptional situations like intercollegiate activities,” Fleming says, “but social and recreational life would have to be localized [through] a relatively self- contained campus life.” Legislators are not persuaded. Powerful assistant Senate Majority Leader and State Building Commission cochair Jerris Leonard (R- Milwaukee) compares the university to his three- year- old toddler asking for another piece of candy. Democrats are more respectful, but not any more supportive.
In 1967, the local Students for a Democratic Society and the campus University Community Action party announce plans to picket the upcoming visit by recruiters from the Dow Chemical Company because the firm makes the flammable jellied gasoline napalm, being used in Vietnam.
District attorney Floyd McBurney, twenty- nine, West High National Honors Society class of 1955, Phi Beta Kappa UW class of 1960, UW Law class of 1963, a brilliant and personable quadriplegic paralyzed since a diving accident at age sixteen, dies February 20 from a lung infection that set in after an operation for a bleeding ulcer – not quite four months since he became the first Republican since 1948 elected to a partisan Dane County office. Close to four hundred people (including three Supreme Court justices serving as honorary pallbearers) brave a snowstorm to attend McBurney’s funeral at St. John’s Lutheran at 322 E. Washington Ave., where he had been confirmed two years before his accident.
And that’s this week’s Madison in the Sixties. For the award-winning WORT news team, I’m Stu Levitan.