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1970: A year of turmoil

A year of change

For the young and idealistic, 1970 shaped who they would become. For others, it didn’t change anything.

Union fire unsolved crime 40 years later

The Kansas University Student Union was set ablaze 40 years ago. To this day the crime is unsolved. The crime was part of a violent and destructive year in Lawrence.

Daughter of 1970 acting mayor remembers the year well

For the past few weeks, we asked our readers to share their thoughts on the events of 1970. Cammie Braden had so many, we thought she deserved her own story.

Readers share stories on 1970

Some were children. Others were students. And, one was a Vietnam veteran and another one wasn’t even born at the time. But all shared there stories with the Lawrence Journal-World about what they remember about 1970.

1970 KBI report on violence in Lawrence

The Kansas Bureau of Investigations released a report in August of 1970 documenting the violence in Lawrence from earlier that year, including the firebombing of the Kansas Union and the death of a KU student that summer. The Lawrence Journal-World published the entire report when it was made available.

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Comments

independant1 4 years, 8 months ago

Never have I been stopped, vehicle searched and frisked more than in 1970.

BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

After all the violence, destruction, death threats, chaos and martial law by the hippies in the '70's.......they all grow'd up and elected the so-called "progressives" to run City Hall in the '90's. So in essence, they ruined our city twice.

georgiahawk 4 years, 8 months ago

It has been my experience that most of the hippies became disillusioned, eventually selling out to the corporate God of wealth. They turned into conservative money pigs, convinced that their childhood disillusionment was a life changing lesson not to be forgotten.

OmegaMan 4 years, 8 months ago

If they ruined 'your city twice', then why are you here? Who's forcing you to live here? And how can you call it "yours". What have you done to impact the city- other than criticize it? Seriously?

BigPrune 4 years, 8 months ago

I've done more than you'd think, but to reveal would only out myself. I grew up here - I remember those times. I also remember my father carrying a pistol in his glove box and a shotgun in his trunk at the advice of the police. Why might you ask? Because his life was threatened daily because he ran a business. If only you had an open mind OmegaMan.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 8 months ago

Big Prune, as you also know, ex-hippies like these are currently running our government in Washington. God help us.

Keith 4 years, 8 months ago

Oh boo hoo, the last election didn't go our way, now we're crying the end of the world. What ever happened to the grown ups that supposedly inhabited the Republican party?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 8 months ago

You guys should write a comic book distilling all your vast knowledge of how the hippies ruined the world.

Oh, wait, you already did that in two short posts here. Never mind.

Phase 4 years, 8 months ago

I had an old house in the oread neighborhood that had been converted into five apartments. It seemed that a lot of the people participating in the various mis-deeds lived in that area (a couple of them were my tenants). After the union burned, I spent several nights on the roof of the front porch with a 12 guage---even with insurance, i figured that if they torched the place it would break me --- scary times!

Alia Ahmed 4 years, 8 months ago

There was an excellent article in the UDK back in December about some of these events as well as how activism has changed in the 40 years since the unrest.

http://www.kansan.com/news/2009/dec/04/activism/

rtwngr 4 years, 8 months ago

I remember the night Tiger Dowdell threw down on some police in an alley downtown. The racial unrest exploded after that.

Yes, Cato, the inmates are running the asylum now.

Kate Rogge 3 years, 5 months ago

I remember that night too, and I am still not convinced that Dowdell did anything more than be young, black, and running away from frightened police. Check out LJW's 2002 story about that: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2002/jul...

grammaddy 4 years, 8 months ago

I wish I would see the passion of those days in our youth today. Not so much the violence, I'd like to think we've evolved a little. Nobody seems to care about anything any more. They'd rather whine.

sgtmag 4 years, 7 months ago

The youth of today are taking a stand as did the hippies of the 60's and 70's, almost too well. As a US soldier I have been called a baby killer, murderer, spit on, and trated like a second class citizen by the youth of Lawrence KS. Times like these have made me are ashamed of calling my home for alomost 37 yrs, lawrence . The youth today are making a stand even though it is hurtful to people sworn to protect their civil liberties.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

Having grown up in South Carolina and Florida during the 60s, I never once saw any examples of racial unrest or riots. I've also never lived under martial law.

My old boss that grew up in Lawrence during the same period told me stories about riots in schools and being subject to martial law and curfews.
.

K_Verses_The_World 4 years, 8 months ago

The rifleman’s stalking the sick and the lame, Preacherman seeks the same, who’ll get there first is uncertain. Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks, Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain

Bob Dylan - Jokerman

Ralph Reed 4 years, 8 months ago

@rtwngr. I've always believed Rick was setup by outside agitators who left town immediately after his death. There was a couple (man & woman) who came into town with the specific goal of firing up more racial unrest. The woman was with Rick when he was killed. As I remember, both she and the man who came into town with her left shortly after Rick's death.. Yes, I remember that night also. // Not related to Rick's death, but it was about this same time that Green Gables (I think that was the name) closed. (Does anyone have anything on that?) // @Logan72. Good link to the UDK article. One thing wrong with it though, the young man who was shot wasn't a student. He had been, but wasn't at the time. /***/ @BP & cato. It's easy to place blame from the distance of time.

"And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you " // Anyone remember Vern Miller? // Yes, I remember that time all too well.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 8 months ago

Doesn't surprise me Mac. It's interesting though, Vern was a "stand-up guy" as long as he was busting druggies in Lawrence and 'cleanin up that hotbed of drugs and sin.' However, he stepped on toes and got voted out when he started busting back room slots in central and western KS. I've always found that interesting. I remember him saying at the time, "If you don't like the laws, change them," when people complained about his busting slots.

grammaddy 4 years, 8 months ago

I STILL have a poster of Vern putting the cuffs on his Mother. Remember how he used to jump out of the trunk? Damn, you really brought back some old memories.

asbury 4 years, 8 months ago

I remember it all too.....Rick Dowdell, Nick Rice, Riots at LHS, and on campus. Helmuted club bearing LPD at LHS, Vern, of course, curfew and gunshots in the night. Pretty ugly time, and it amazes me that many of the "troublemakers" of the 70's have turned into right wing conservatives.....Only those of us who lived it would believe it....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 8 months ago

"Anyone remember Vern Miller?"

I remember a speech he gave to an unfriendly college crowd during his unsuccessful run for governor. This was the early seventies when streaking was the big fad, and two streakers, with bags on their heads and nothing else, ran up to the podium and attempted to shake his hand.

His composure was completely shot, much to the delight of the 1000 or so students in attendance.

myvotecounts 4 years, 8 months ago

I experienced these events through the eyes of a Lawrence grade schooler--I remember them locking us in our grade school for safety, and I learned what "martial law" and "curfew" meant. I assumed until I was an adult, that peace marches and demonstrations had occurred in towns all over Kansas. (haha) For that reason and a lot of other things I saw and heard in Lawrence at that time, I particularly hate the expression, "If you remember the 60s you weren't there." The people who make that tired joke still don't get it; the fact that they weren't and aren't the center of the universe. They were making a lasting impression on even younger citizens who do remember and have had to grow up in the burned out wake they leave behind.

I think during the late 70s and early 80s, Lawrence, and particularly my generation in high school and college, went out of its way to try to erase the 60's and 1970 from its memory. It was so forgotten, that I started thinking much of it had been my imagination. In the 90s, hippies (the look) started being cool again, and now the details of 1970 are being recalled as "historic."

asbury 4 years, 8 months ago

Great Little Man!! Used to sit ouside the "Varsity Velvet" ice cream shop near 8th and Mass. near where "Tellers" is now. (Back then it was First National Bank----hence the name). He probably ate more ice cream than anyone else in town! I know he always got a cone from my Dad when we went there!! Unfortunatly I also remember when he was beaten and robbed one night. The 70's. Yeah. Like I said on another thread, if you didn't live it, you probably don't believe it. But it's all very, very true.

asbury 4 years, 8 months ago

Great Little Man!! Used to sit ouside the "Varsity Velvet" ice cream shop near 8th and Mass. near where "Tellers" is now. (Back then it was First National Bank----hence the name). He probably ate more ice cream than anyone else in town! I know he always got a cone from my Dad when we went there!! Unfortunatly I also remember when he was beaten and robbed one night. The 70's. Yeah. Like I said on another thread, if you didn't live it, you probably don't believe it. But it's all very, very true.

somedude20 4 years, 8 months ago

Smoke it up hippies at least your 1970 was better than March 5, 1770.

grammaddy 4 years, 8 months ago

Somehow I knew you would show up, and I see you brought your usual tired rant with you. If you keep repeating it to yourself, it will eventually be true,huh. I wish I could fine this "silent majority" you speak of.

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

Maybe if you looked you would fine them. It's called the silent majority for a reason. Most of them don't go around to protests or candlelight vigils, they just do their duty and vote. I know a few working people and they are all fairly angry right now either because of the economy, or in the case of the more politically savvy, the corruption surrounding the insurance mandate reform.

In general, people are getting sick very quickly of government intruding into their lives, be it taxes, health insurance mandates, HRS or laws/regulations.

If you are among the 22% that still trusts the government to take care of you, then goof for you. I hope you find solace in their care.

georgiahawk 4 years, 8 months ago

But, Liberty, they are silent, how do you know what they think? The silent majority is only a majority in that they all don't voice their opinions, after that no conclusions can be drawn about their political leanings. You fringers use the term to help justify your opinions, it has no meaning beyond your hope that someone else thinks like you do. Even though they are silent, you are pretty sure they think like you do. Weak!

Liberty275 4 years, 8 months ago

They aren't literally silent, they just don't go out to protests or idiotic candlelight vigils. If you talk to them, they will generally talk back about what they are thinking. 90% of the people I talk to are unhappy with the direction the country is going in, former obama supporters aren't anymore and small business owners hate him passionately. This bodes badly for the democrats in the fall.

As for being on the fringe, I'm to the left and right of most people in Lawrence. There is no fringe where I am, only me.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 8 months ago

Tom, Get some new material. I know you are the antithesis of everything left of O'Reilly, Beck, et al and you enjoy saying so. But really, you do need some new material - not just a cut and paste from another thread.

smagic1 4 years, 8 months ago

Politics aside, do you really believe that us "Liberal dissenters" of 1970 weren't referred to as terrorists? I was pepper-gassed by the National Guard and shot at by "America-loving" vigilantes. Believe me, we were considered terrorists.

countrymanwillsurvive 4 years, 8 months ago

This time was chaotic for some of the local merchants. Many groups congregated on downtown Mass. St. And the fear of roits and possible looting did make some business owners hire protection. There was a hamburger stand called "Henrys' on 6th street that was having trouble with people gathering there and getting rebellous. The owner hired 2 security men with dogs. On an occasion when they were forced to bring the dogs out which was dangerous for them as they were not armed, only the dogs. They did get control and the crowd left without any damage to the business. But it was tence. Fear and anger is a powerful instigator. Lawrence is a melting pot of many ethnic, political and moral views with the University drawing many here. I am proud of Lawrence that it does get along so well with this much diversity. Maybe not as much as some would like but is ever changing with student coming and going on with there lives elsewhere. I love this town.

sgtmag 4 years, 7 months ago

Yes I agree Bring me home now this country sucks. Just dont spit on me when I do come home. I have been treated poorly by the youth of Lawrenc KS just because I wear a uniform of the US Military. One thing I do have to say is that things in Iraq have imporved. The people are voting for their leaders, the infrastructor is returning and almost all of the schools in Baghdad are open and operating. There is still viloence in the streets and killings happen but those are being carried out by extremists that want the Government of Iraq to fail. It is not my palce to speak on foreing policy and I will not say weather the US involvement in Iraq was warrented or not. The people of Iraq that I speak with are happy that Sadam is out of Power and are not only willing but eager to go it alone without any further US involvement. Weather you see it or not we {the military} have done alot to improve the living conditions in Iraq. Just because the liberal news broadcasters dont report that part doesn't make it any less true.

Skan 4 years, 8 months ago

In 1970 the municipal pool was in its second full year of operation. It was built to give all people a safe place to swim. Despite the racial strife in Lawrence, the integrated management of the pool, along with Parks and Recreation kept the peace there.

cammieb 4 years, 8 months ago

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!

Belinda Rehmer 4 years, 8 months ago

Those times of turmoil deeply affected this high school student. Never have I understood why the color or one's skin or the length of one's hair would make a person less/more intelligent, or human, so I didn't understand why I was being beat. Nor did I understand why that group of kids trapped that young man in between the doors of the cafeteria and beat him so brutally. Why my brother carried his baseball bat in the car beside him. Why I did not WANT to go out after dark. But I did understand why my father set us down and gave us instruction as to how we were not to go anywhere alone and if people wrere blocking the road you are on, to not stop, (no matter who/what is in the way) but to drive directly to the police department.. Because we were scared. And I was glad we had that baseball bat when the log chain was being hurled at my head in my high school parking lot. I didn't understand why I couldn't talk to my classmate, whom I admired, because of her fear of retribution. She feared "they" would burn her home or beat up her younger sibblings if she were to be seen talking to me. These were not "hippies" burning and looting or jumping strangers because of the color of their skin. These were us. WE were doing it. I believe outside influences instigated the hate. But those "outsiders" were gone in the end and we were left to pick up the pieces. This was mob mentality and it wasn't somewhere else. It was right here in River City. Yes, many of those in Lawrence's leadership today are products of Lawrence in late 60's and early 70's. But they are not the instigators of this evil or even "hippies". They are good upstanding citizens who at that time were caught up in a very freightening and embarrassing part of Lawrence history. These great leaders today perservered this tumultuous time and learned it is not up to others to better our world, it starts with me. Anger and scare tacticts don't work. Love and compassion moves you to wanting to make an impact on your world. I don't know about the others, but I have tried to put this ugly behind me and move on, but it's always there and this horrendous time left me bitter and untrusting. I learned drugs and alcohol only mask the pain and suffering for a short while but the Peace that passes all understanding can clean your soul so you can walk again. So I can stand up and make a difference for my children and grandchildren. I love the new me and I never want to go back. I suggest there are others in this forum that could benefit from that teaching. If you want to make a difference in this life stand up for what is right in peace, love and understanding. Think of OTHERS more than self and reach out to our Lord to lead you.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

Wasn't this during He Who Must Not Be Named's double naught spy career?

ChristineMetz 4 years, 8 months ago

Hi Everyone,

I'm the reporter with the Lawrence Journal-World. We had several references on this thread about martial law in Lawrence during 1970. While I never read or heard anything about actual "martial law" being declared in Lawrence, I do know that curfews were in place, the National Guard was called in to assist law enforcement and emergency orders were enforced about the transporting and purchasing of weapons, ammunition and explosives.

So my question to all of you is - even though the city wasn't technically under martial law was it under military enforcement in reality? As all things pertaining to this year, I'm sure there are many varied opinions on this.

Thanks everyone for your comments. I've enjoyed reading your stories and (literal) different points of view.

Christine Metz Special Projects Reporter Lawrence Journal-World

riverdrifter 4 years, 8 months ago

Christine, I worked evenings in east Lawrence at the Stokely VanCamp beanery in 1970. I remember that when we got off work there were guard troops stationed here and there at intersections around town, mostly just sitting around and being a presence, I guess. Often we would be followed across town until we got to 23rd st. We never knew who they were. We were in an old Jag sedan that could flat-out fly and we did. The Dowdell shootout seemed to be the end of most of it. My recollection is that by the end of that summer, things hand changed. People had tired of the tension and wanted a return to normalcy.

riverdrifter 4 years, 8 months ago

Don't you just know that HWMNBN is agonizing right now that he cannot blog-on here and regale us all with his feats of derring-do, like jumping out of the trunk with ol' Vern. And thank God for that!

grammaddy 4 years, 8 months ago

I kinda miss HWMNBN. I never agreed with him on anything but a good argument was always welcome.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't miss his threats at all.

"HeWhoMustNotBeNamed says… Enjoy YOUR stay, snap_soon_to_be_outed_pop_no_crackle! It won't last long! 1. 27 November 2007 at 7:58 a.m.

HeWhoMustNotBeNamed says… Tell you what snap, I got a $5 bill that says changes are coming to your internet life and another $5 bill that says you won't like those changes! 1. 27 November 2007 at 8:34 a.m.

HeWhoMustNotBeNamed says… Snap; you will notice that in my precedding post I did not say or imply that the upcoming changes to your internet lfe have anything at all to do with me, will have been insitigated by me or istigataed by anyone with any connection with me but I confess, it was interesting to see you go there right off the bat. I just listen to the occasional little birdie sing and catch the direction of the wind."

Still having a wonderful internet life.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 8 months ago

I thought I heard the sound of grinding teeth from the direction of Wyandotte County.

Bill Lee 4 years, 8 months ago

The biggest urban legend in Lawrence is that the Kansas Union fire in 1970 was politically motivated. It may have been, but no one knows because the case was never solved, and no one ever claimed credit for it. I've always felt it was someone Frank Burge had fired or some other disgruntled student. While we had a National Guard unit in town and a curfew, we did not have Marial Law imposed on the city. The Guard was here to support local law enforcement, not to supplant it. As the overnight disc jockey on KUOK, the student radio station at KU then, I had a curfew pass so got to see a lot of things others didn't. As I went home one evening, I remember seeing two black guys with shotguns standing on the SE corner of 14th & Tennessee. I was coming downhill from campus, made a right turn onto TN, and kept my eyes glued to my rearview mirror. A few blocks later I lost sight of the two guys on that corner. I kept my curfew pass for 35 years, but lost it in the Boardwalk fire five years ago. 1970 was certainly one of the most interesting times of my life.

Don Whiteley 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe the Union fire was unsolved, but there was no doubt what-so-ever that the bombing of Summerfield Hall was politically motivated; the Weathermen claimed responsibility. Now you can say that a duck is a pidgeon, but when it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and smells like a duck, even the most convervative would have to say it's a duck.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, Nixon talked a lot about the Silent Majority. And then, what do you know, they elected Jimmy Carter.

workinghard 4 years, 8 months ago

berehmer (Belinda Rehmer) " I believe outside influences instigated the hate" In 1970 I was going to school in Manhattan and would go back and forth from home by bus on the weekends. Many times when we stopped in Topeka, youths going to or coming back from Lawrence would get on or off. I would listen to them talk about the trouble they had or planned to start in Lawrence. So yes, there was outside influences.

igby 4 years, 8 months ago

Your coconut brain after 40 years of liberal thinking!

...and then one day you have a sudden realization of reality!

Don Whiteley 4 years, 8 months ago

These were the children of America's greatest generation trying their damned hardest to be America's worst generation; and I was one of them. One thing I learned in 1970 was that Hippie stands for Hypocrite: those who were willing to kill for peace, those who thought escapism through drugs was the way to a Utopian society, those who degraded work and money, but lived on government handouts and what they could steal from others, and those who thought that having sex freely was the same as lovingly freely. We were the shame of 250 years of American society; the blight that marked our country and set us on the path of drug abuse and sexual diseases in epidemic proportions. We were the ones who said marriage was a passe' institution and raised a generation of thugs and drugies on our own. The only thing good to be said about 1970 is that it's over and most of that generation learned the damage and destruction it caused. But teens, being always teens, look at these times and want to be exactly like us; the disease of the teen mind.

igby 4 years, 8 months ago

Who will be the next Dem President to lead?

This is how they pick them !http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHFXG3...

You must pass the splotch test of course

!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qybUFn...

igby 4 years, 8 months ago

Who will be the next Dem President to lead?

This is how the pick them!

You must pass the splotch test of course! Lol.

blackfox1945 4 years, 8 months ago

Yes I remember the Green Gables era and the riots lived it . I remember going to Woolworth when it was at the corner of 10th and Mass and not beng served only from the back door. Blacks were not aloud downtown to go in and sit at any restaurant. Lawrence is still racist just suttle now. Everydy you put up with some form of smug remarks. I am fed up now and fed up then. This is not the south we are educated people here. We can do the jobs you have and excel to the highest. So tell me why is the black race so hated , we are the ones that have been misused and abuse just because of the color of skin. would you not have a little concern and frustrations? You know when it comes down to it we all bleed red blood and we all die sooner or later so tell me what is the difference.

Stu Clark 4 years, 7 months ago

Hairy, I am one of what is called the silent generation. Graduating from college in 1958, we preceded the tumult that was to follow in the '60s. I remember my younger brother noting that his classmates tended to tbe more boistrous than mine. So there was a progression from acceptance of the status quo to a move to force change among those coming of age in that time frame. One beneficial result of this upheaval was the success of the civil rights movement . Another was the end of the Vietnam war.

About the silent majority, I think that some conservatives think that because their case is not attracting enough popular support, they are suggesting that there is a large pool of non-vocal individuals who believe in their cause but are too timid to speak out.

Well...maybe.

sgtmag 4 years, 7 months ago

This happened 3 yrs before I was born but I do remeber my dad telling me about them. He was a teacher at Lawrence High at the time and would have to literally fight his way through the halls at times.

yankeevet 4 years, 7 months ago

I was in the Ashau Valley; Vietnam; during this time; fighting a war that should of never been; so i had no part in demonstrations; or burning down college campus...etc. It may of been an unjust war; but at the time I was an american soldier; and we obeyed our orders. I was never a hero; but i served alongside many of them.

hurlingchunks 4 years, 6 months ago

I was born in 1970, I have never lived in a time of hate or violence against my fellow Americans. I'm sorry my generation could not settle our differences by burning buildings down or rioting in the streets. 40 years is a long time, I hope my son can enjoy 40 years with out it also.

LHS1980 3 years, 11 months ago

yankeevet - thank you brother for serving, and welcome home.

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