Archive for Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daughter of 1970 acting mayor remembers the year well

April 20, 2010


1970: A year of turmoil

Forty years ago today, the Kansas Union burned. What followed was a year of violence and destruction not seen since Quantrill's Raid. While the unrest has long since dissipated, the memories remain.

Which story to tell? That's a hard one. I have so many stories of experiences in 1970 and so many memories.

My father and mother, J. R. "Bob" Pulliam and Alice Pulliam, were highly involved in all the happenings of that year. My father was acting mayor of Lawrence and a downtown business owner. My mother attended the Paris Peace Talks as a spokesperson for The American Friends Service Committee.

Both of my parents were active in the peace movement and the movement of racial integration and equality. And, we lived at 721 Tennessee, a central location for most all of the extraordinary happenings of the times.

A good neighbor

I would like to start with a story about our neighbor, Mr. Henry Johnson. The Johnson's lived behind our house on Ohio Street (Mr. & Mrs. Johnson still live there today). The Johnson's had a daughter that was a little older than I was. She was always so nice to play Barbie with her little neighbors. We were always welcome in the Johnson house to play or for dinner.

The Johnson's are African-American, or Black, as we said then. They also had relatives in Topeka. Some of the younger relatives were connected to the Black Panther Movement that advocated for Black Nationalism or autonomy.

As my parents were advocates for integration, they were targets of The Black Panthers.

Children in Lawrence in the 60s and 70s roamed their neighborhoods and played in their yards without fences or supervision. My sister and I walked home from school and played in our backyard and alley behind our house most every day. Our friends would join us and we ran back and forth between our homes.

Mr. Johnson seemed concerned about our freedom. He worried about the rumors he had heard about the possible attacks on our family from The Black Panthers. So, everyday, when Mr. Johnson came home from work (around 4:00 pm), he would sit on his back porch, watching out over us girls, with a shotgun in his lap.

Funny, we thought, so over-protective of Mr. Johnson. We'd wave at him and go over and talk to him. We knew he had his shot gun with him. We just thought it was funny. We never thought we were in danger.

Now, as an adult, I know what a special neighbor he was (and, probably not over-protective). That summer, the summer of 1970, after Rick Dowdell was shot and killed, The Black Panthers did come after my father. We were warned in time to get him protection. We were warned by the Johnson's relatives.

I still see Mr. and Mrs. Johnson around town. I always give them a hug. But, I don't think I've ever thanked them. Recently, my older sister passed away. They sent a card and a check as a donation. When I send a thank you card for their monetary generosity, I'll also thank them for protecting our family and for illusion of safety for the Old West Lawrence Girls to play.

Natural integration

My sister, Terri Pulliam, was Vice-President of the student council at Central Junior High School they 1969-70 school year.

Cathy Hamm White was the President. My sister was white and Cathy is Black, a multi-racial team. We didn't think too much about it, but others seemed to make a big deal about it with an article and picture in the paper. Years later, my Terri told me she didn't want to run or be vice-president.

Recently, Terri passed away. Cathy came to her service. I hadn't seen her since 1970, but recognized her from the newspaper picture. She told me they were talked into running and didn't really want to do it.

That same year, I usually walked home from school with a neighbor friend who was black. One day, we stopped at the "Train Park" which is now Buford Watson Park. She decided to swing. We were swinging the "Spider" (one person sits on the swing while the other person sits on her lap facing the bottom swinger). A college girl came by and took our pictures. She later won a national photo contest with a shot us spider swinging. It was published in the Jayhawker Yearbook.

Interesting - as teenagers and children growing up in Lawrence, integration was very natural to us. It was the adults that needed to make a point out of it.

A scare at Pinckney Elementary School

One day in the spring of 1970, we couldn't go out for recess at Pinckney Grade School.

We noticed that all the doors to the outside were chained and locked! We weren't told why until we were lining up to go home that day. Our teacher told us to go straight home and to not talk to anyone on the way home. She said that there was a group of people who were threatening integration of schools. We weren't quite sure what that meant or why we needed to be afraid. We just walked home the same way we always did: in groups of both white and black kids.

When I got home, my mother told me that a group of Black Panthers had gone to New York School and tried to pull the black children out of school. They didn't want the black kids in school with the white kids. And that they were one their way to Pinckney because it also was a school that was largely racially mixed.

I thought I had exaggerated that experience in my memory over time. So, I talked about this experience on my Facebook page. Many posted comments that their school doors in Lawrence were also chained shut that day for the same reason.

As mayor, father was a target

The spring of 1970, during the riots, we couldn't live at home.

My father was the acting mayor of Lawrence (John Emick was the actual mayor, but very ill during his year as mayor). My father was also a downtown business owner. My parents has weekly meetings at our house to discuss integration in Lawrence, something the Black Panthers were opposed to. This made my father a target of the Black Panthers. He was also a target as being a part of the establishment.

We lived at 721 Tennessee, across from the Municipal Pool and a block from the police/fire department. The Credit Union had been bombed, which was downtown. A police officer was stationed on top of the police/fire station at all times to watch for suspicious activity in the downtown area and around our house.

After school, we went to my grandmother's house on Emery Road. When it got dark, we had to pull all the blinds shut and couldn't walk in front of windows. My father spent the nights at the police station volunteering on dispatch. It was hard to sleep. All night we heard gun shots and sirens. I worried about my dad all night.

Rick Dowdell's funeral

The summer of 1970, when Rick Dowdell was shot, some old friends came to stay with us.

They were the Simons Family.

Marilynn and Bill were a mixed-race couple (Marilynn was Black and Bill is White). They had come back to Lawrence for Rick Dowdell's funeral. They had been his foster parents at one time. The Black Panthers did not want them in town. They were not allowed at the service. Only Black people were allowed to attend.

One day, we were all playing in the living room when some strangers came storming into the house (we never locked our doors). They were looking for my father to warn him that the Black Panthers were after him that day. I'm not sure what happened. We were never told.

It apparently didn't scare me too much. Our parents told us that the funeral procession would be going down Vermont Street and we should stay away. I'm not sure where our parents were, but I was in charge of all the kids.

I told someone I was taking all the kids to the park, but we went to Vermont to watch for the funeral procession. I remember it was very long and somber, everyone dressed in black and on foot. I remember the black carriage that carried the coffin.

Juana Simons and I are still great friends. I asked her if she remembered any of this. I wondered if it really happened - it seemed so unreal.

She didn't remember, because she was only 7. I was only 10. It's amazing how much freedom we had as children.

National Guard at LHS

The 1969-70 school year started very differently than most others. The National Guard lined the yard from one end of Lawrence High School to the other.

My mother drove my sister, Steffie, to her first day at high school as a sophomore. When they pulled up, my mother turned to Steffie and said, "You are not getting out of this car"! But, before she could stop her, Steffie grabbed her things and was gone.

Steffie went on to help start Headquarters Counseling Center that year and volunteered there. She participated in many protests and rallies. She continued to work with children with autism in college. After college, she worked with teen mothers, day care providers, elementary schools, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

She passed away, March 26, 2007 after a long life of service to many.

Peace march

I was awakened one night to sounds coming down our street.

I got out of bed and looked out my window. My parents were standing on the steps to our house watching a crowd of people walking down Tennessee Street. The crowd grew larger and larger and soon spread out of the street and onto our sidewalk as they passed.

They were calm, but talking to each other. My parents stood there and watched the crowd as they passed. As the end came to our house, my parents walked down the steps and joined the end. I had no idea who all these people were, why they were walking down Tennessee street so late at night, and why my parents joined them.

In the morning, my parents told me that it was a peace march. They marched to Iowa Street and had a Sit In on Iowa. But, my parents didn't sit on Iowa Street even though they opposed the war. They only stood and watched, because they didn't believe in committing civil disobedience.


independant1 7 years, 10 months ago

Good read, brings back memories.

Had girlfriend housed in dorm. The turmoil and Panther harrasment scared her out. Me? Clueless 18 year old. Didn't have a political bone in my body.

Was chided to get active about stuff going on but too busy working to pay tuition and studying (and consuming 3.2 beer, clueless, also bag of pot cost about the same as a pack of cigarettes today but who had that kind of money/$5?). College was the holy grail.

Integration? There were black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods in the 1970 I recall. Lived on the cusp.

Draft status 1A, not good at paperwork. Clueless never got drafted but went for induction physical once. My name didn't catch the eye of the county draft board till the war was ebbing.

Had family and friends from H.S. come home in bodybags from Vietnam, everybody did.

Many but not all teachers in H.S. and in college in 70 tried to get us involved in current events and gin up interest in the war and civil rights just like today.

ABC/CBS/NBC were all conservative news outlets in 1970 and the only ones except NPR but NPR only had stations in big cities.

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Donnie Mumford was one of my sister's best friends. He was a great musician. She talked a lot with his wife after he passed away. They stayed close up to when my sister passed away last month.

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Sorry - I mean to post this as a reply to the post below.

feetup 7 years, 10 months ago

As a Sandrat, we were integrated before we even knew what the word meant. Everyone went to Woodlawn and there was not a clue of what was going on on the "other side of the bridge". My brother and I both had best friends who are black. The Millers and the Mumfords were family to me as far back as I can remember. I was 12 at the time. Brother was 16. he played in what we now call a 'garage band' with his best friend who went on to become a world class drummer. his friend is gone, but my brother is still a drummer. we grew up down the street from the dowdell family. I'd walk by their house every day to and from school I always got a wave or a hey from whoever was outside. went to school with their younger brothers. When Tiger was shot, i could not understand why we didn't go to the funeral. Mom just said no, we weren't going and that was that. But I continued to walk to school the same way, every day, and was never once bothered by anyone. ever. That same year my brother went to a dance at the Thirsty Ear which was off 8th & Mass I think. Trouble broke out and mom and I went to pick him up. We drove right through the mayhem like we didn't exist it was surreal as i remember. Shouting and screaming, fighting going on all around us. some white kid was getting the crap kicked out of him right in front of us. I saw the faces of many big brothers and sister of the black kids i went to school with. They let us thru, but without recognition, without a word. As I said, it was very surreal.

Marty Olson 7 years, 10 months ago

LHS was certainly a flashpoint in that year as well. The socio-political climate was trying for many of us who enjoyed our associations with African-American friends.
I remember being on the fringe of areas being tear-gassed twice. I remember huge fights in the parking lot, hearing commotion in the hallway outside the music room and seeing hordes of my classmates racing outside to either join or watch the ensuing fray. I remember my friend Vanessa Collins. Strong, confident, and a commanding presence far beyond her teenage years. Vanessa stood for her rights firmly, yet offered a warm and inviting smile when it was appropriate. I miss her.
Marty Olson LHS '70

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 10 months ago

We'll touch a little bit more on the race relations in a second story that Christine is still finishing. We do have some photos and videos from LHS here though:


Jonathan Kealing Online editor

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Vanessa's sister, Lisa, was one of my good friends. I remember some of the neighborhood parents disapproving of my mother letting me spend the night at her house. Was it really just 40 years ago that we didn't let little girls be friends if they were from different races?

feetup 7 years, 10 months ago

edj, you said it better than i did, we were not exposed to the hatred and no one cared what color were were.

asbury 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Marty, and feetup....I was pretty much a sandrat too. Went to school at Woodlawn and Pinckey, and was friends with the people you both mentioned. You are right, feetup. Integration? What? We were all just friends! I was at LHS in 1970. I remember the riot police in their helmuts, and large gatherings in Veteran's Park. My mother had given me permission to leave school if things got really bad....but I don't remember feeling scared; just confused. Sad time. I also remember the city being under curfew.......we would sit on our grandparents back porch, and could hear the gunshots from East Lawrence. I remember the fire at the Union, and all of the "hippies". It was chaos, and still a very vivid memory. Thanks Cammie.

DB Ashton 7 years, 10 months ago

In June 1969, I was in a ferocious three-day, two-company battle in central South Vietnam on the bank of the Dong Nai River, site of a North Vietnamese Army jungle resupply depot. Among the items in that bunker complex were bags of Texas rice that still had bills of lading attached, showing that they had travelled from Houston to France to Phnom Penh. They had been packed in from the capital across the Cambodian border and far into War Zone C.

They were accompanied by boxes of throw-away medical syringes, in good form, still wrapped in plastic, each with the inscription: “A gift from the American Friends Service Committee.”

Hardly a year later, I was near Oread and the Gaslight when Nick Rice, a Kansas City neighbour, died from a gunshot.

Would your mother have seen the irony in this? Or was she earnestly post-ironic?

Clark Coan 7 years, 10 months ago

What's left out of the articles are the political goals.

The Black Student Union wanted more Black faculty, more Black students and a Black studies program.

Black students at LHS want more Black teachers, a Black history class, and Black cheerleaders and Homecoming Queen.

Black power activists in the community wanted (1) the end of residual discrimination in employment and housing in Lawrence; (2) end being treated as second-class citizens in Lawrence businesses; (3) hire more Black police officers and City employees; and, (4) and end police harassment of law-abiding Black citizens.

Clark Coan 7 years, 10 months ago

Antiwar activists and Street People (including the Lawrence Liberation Front) had these goals:

1) End the bombing of civilian targets in North Vietnam

2) Sign a Peace Treaty with North Vietnam and withdraw US troops immediately.

3) Stop the invasion of Cambodia.

4) End FBI and other governmental repression of antiwar and black power activists.

5) Divert police attention away from the Black communities in East Lawrence and North Lawrence who were experiencing considerable repression.

Clark Coan 7 years, 10 months ago

In July, 1970, LPD officer Pat Garrett threated Black Power activist Rick Dowdell and said he would "get him." A week later Garrett followed Dowdell after he left the Afro House and shot himin the back in the alley behind the Social Service League. A handgun was found near him but could have been a throw-down. Garrett bragged he was like the famous gunslinger with the same name.

Deputy Gale Pinegar shot former KU student Nick Rice who was merely an innocent bystander during a disturbance in front of the Gaslight Tavern (now the parking garage north of the Union). He later bragged about it.

ljpppp 7 years, 10 months ago

QuiviraTrail, I was only 8 at the thime but we talked about this time in detail at our house and you hit the mark with your 3 comments. The way you discribe the Dowdell and Rice shootings were exactly what I remember my parents saying. Thanks for filling in some of the blanks for the Journal World readers.

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Lisa! I'm glad you remember what mom & dad said.

I didn't remember exactly what mom & dad said - just that the shootings were controversial.

I also didn't understand why dad was a target of the Black Panthers when they both fought so much for integration. Now that I've read more about the political philosophy of the time, I understand a little more.

LadyJ 7 years, 10 months ago

I seem to remember a policeman getting shot, I think his name was Skinny Williams, but that might have been a bit later.

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Does anyone remember what year the teenage black boy drowned at the municipal pool? Was it 1970 or 1971?

The guards didn't want to open the pool that day, because the water was too cloudy to see the bottom of the deep end. But, they opened anyway, because it was the 1st day of Memorial weekend.

I remember: The boy had been dropped off at the pool, put an earplug up his nose, taken to Lawrence Memorial, and brought back to the pool. It took 2 guards to find him on the bottom of the deep end. I watched the guards pull him out of the pool and try to revive him.

Very sad.

Bob Forer 7 years, 10 months ago

Came to Lawrence in 1970 Graduated from Lawrence High in 1975. I distinctly remember a benign racism in the Lawrence schools. At Central Junior High, there were no African Americans on the A-team cheerleading squad. There were three African-Americans on the B-team, including Annette Morrison, a lovely, friendly, talented, and vivacious young woman who was qualified to be Captain of the A team. But such is life in a racist community. '

While the city pool had just been built in downtown Lawrence when we arrived, i understand there was a big fight over its ultimate location. The powers-that-be wanted it in South Lawrence, where all the new houses were being built. The black community wanted it downtown, so it would be accessible to the black kids. The black community won (thank God) and as a result, attendance was sparse, as the whites generally stayed away and joined the Country Club, the Elks club, or a swimming club near Kennedy school (can't think of the same of the club.)

Nanny Duver believed in playing the best player, and as a result, black athletes were well represented on the Central Junior High teams. Lawrence High School, now that was another story. The racism of the white coaches kept many black kids from trying. Example: Eddie Morrison (Annette's brother) started for Nanny Duver in junior high, but didn't bother to try out for the HS team. He was an amazing player. Only 5' 7", he could dunk a basketball. Probably had close to a 40 inch vertical leap, and that, my friends, is pure athleticism. The best high school basketball players in town were not on the high school team, but played at the downtown rec center. The best five would have opened up a can of whup ass on the Lawrence High team. There wa a kid named Jimmy Mack who reminds me of Julian Wright. He could do almost anything. I once witnessed a behind-the-back full court pass of his which was utterly unbeileveable.

Carol Braden 7 years, 10 months ago

Here's a post I did on the "1970: A year of turmoil" article about the pool:

Did you know that many in Lawrence wanted the pool built on the West side of town - on Iowa Street - that used to be the "West-Side" of town?

My father was on the planning commission at the time. We lived in the 700 block of Tennessee Street. We watched the Fire Chief go out with his boat to pull kids or bodies out of the river throughout the summer. My father fought to put the pool in Central Park (between Tennessee and Kentucky - 700 block). He said that the kids who needed a municipal pool the most would not be able to get to a pool on Iowa Street and would still try to swim in the river.

We, as kids, didn't really want a pool across the street from us. We loved the park the way it was. But, it was handy at 6:00 am when it was time to go to swim practice and at dinner time when my sister who was a lifeguard needed dinner brought to her.

Many of our neighbors, on the other-hand, were mad: noise, traffic, and all those kids cutting through their yards to get to the pool!

TheSychophant: I don't remember attendance at the pool being sparse. Neither does my sister. But, we were only 8 and 10 in 1970. However, we did live across the street and our older sisters were lifeguards at the pool. I remember it being so crowded during the day that you couldn't move around in the water. And, like edjayhawk, I remember it being pretty mixed Black & White. In fact, we dropped our private pool membership when it was built. I do remember that the swim team was almost all White. And, we wore awlful gold & green striped suits! Yuk!

LadyJ 7 years, 10 months ago

I remember being in the kitchen with my mother when I was a teen and was just goofing off and called her Mammy. Boy, she gave me one heck of a slap across the face and told me never to call her that again. And then the time my first son was born and took him to a restaurant I used to work at to show him off. One woman asked me what I named him and was totally horrified and said, "you can't name him that, every old ngr in the south is named that". Ah, Lawrence in the 70's. Multi-I might have worked with your mother. Boy, working at the Union the summer after that was something.

Clickker 7 years, 10 months ago

Anyone who thinks that blacks got a raw deal in sports at LHS is revising history. At least by the mid 70's ( cant speak for earlier) this was true. Jimmy Mack was probably the best pure basketball talent to come out of Lawrence..regularly beat Darnell Valentine to the hoop in pickup games, but the earlier writer was correct, he couldnt make his grades and dropped out of school. In fact, the LHS BB coach at the time was black, so I dont think there was any prejudice. Football was similar, although I dont think alot of blacks came out in the early 70's, by the the time Freeman got here, they did. Mike Coleman, Steve Jeltz, Ken Martin, to name a few. I fact, that is probably why Freeman was so successful....he effectively recruited the hallways and convinced the black guys to come out for football in the mid 70's.

Bob Forer 7 years, 10 months ago

Attendance was sparse compared to what it is today--overcrowded. And it was definitely multi-racial, with more whites than blacks. But I know for a fact that some whites stayed away because of black folks and the so-called "East Lawrence crumbs."

Jeltz didn't graduate until 1977. By then the residual racism at Lawrence High had pretty much been stomped out. But at the begining of the decade, most blacks, including the best athletes, didn't play for Lawrence High, and they weren't all because of grades.

And yeah, Eddie Morrison was a jack ass. But Duver kept him under control. Why couldn't the high school coach do the same.? And the black BB coach didn't come until alter on. Check your facts.

Clickker 7 years, 10 months ago

I said "mid 70's, and I think if someone graduates in 76 (Coleman) and 77 (Jeltz), then they went to HS from 73, 74 to when they graduated....clearly MID 70's.

And I said alot of blacks didnt come out for FB until Freeman recruited them.

BTW, there is a HUGE difference between what a Junior High coach ( who effectively rules the male population of the Jr Hi) and a high school coach can do as far as discipline. I dont doubt a guy like Morrison checked out in HS.

Clickker 7 years, 10 months ago

And I did check my facts. Lang was BB coach in 74-75

I think thats mid 70s

kujays4 7 years, 10 months ago

I remember the opening of the Municipal Swimming Pool and there were 2 men, one black and one white, that were responsible for making sure EVERYONE at the pool followed the "rules". I can see their faces but I can not remember their names.

I was raised in Old West Lawrence and my parents made statements to me that it was okay to go to the Michigan Street BBQ but I couldn't have the owners daughter to my house! We used to go there on the weekend and I saw my friend each time. They had the best cole slaw!

I remember my older brother had a poster in his room similar to the black panther fist but it was white with the middle finger up and the name Vern Miller on it. I used to sneak into my brother's room to look at his stuff and I always wondered why he disliked Vern Miller.

My sister was dating Paul and had talked me into double dating with HIS brother Keith (yuk, boys!) and we went to the Union and at some point Paul was attacked in the elevator. My sister looked at me and said, "Run home, don't stop and tell dad to come here!" I remember running so fast and being so scared! I made it home and told my dad and he and Bob wen to the Union.

I remember Haas Hardware so vividly that at times certain smells of incense or perfume take me back there. The woman who ran the store was so kind, we bought our christmas decorations there one year! I loved that store, it made me feel grown up!

I remember the 70's in Lawrence with many smiles and many misunderstandings. I loved ALL my friends at Pickney and Central and I NEVER felt afraid until the adults in my life made me feel it. I still, to this day, remain friends with my grade school buddies, ALL of them!

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