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Stonewall, Poor People’s campaign and foreign exchange in 1969
Out of the Morgue
A photograph of the Stonewall Inn, famed and widely recognized after the events of June 28, 1969, which would change the public conception of LGBT peoples in the United States - photo by Courtesy

Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police in New York City’s Greenwich Village carried out a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a known gay bar, which resulted in the 400 to 1,000 patrons rioting for three days.  While they have come to be considered as the start of the gay liberation movement in the United States, like many historical moments, its importance was not felt at the time. Outside of, perhaps,New York, the story was not widely reported. 

A report in the New York Daily News of June 29, 1969, reported the police had targeted the bar (it was under the ownership of the Genovese crime family since 1967) to gather evidence because it was suspected of selling alcohol to the public without a license. The June 28 raid followed a similar raid on the establishment a week earlier, which “went off without a cinch,” the News reported. But the reason for the raid is far removed from the results, as at that time and place, it was the catalyst for a movement destined to begin. 

According to Wikipedia, within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, LGBT Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall National Monument was established at the site in 2016.

National stories this week that did appear in the Tribune concerned extradition hearings for James Earl Ray from England, where he was captured after escaping federal authorities and fleeing the country after assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Also, the Poor People’s Campaign, organized by King before his death, was celebrating approval of a House bill for a $300 million, three-year program to provide extra free and low-cost school lunches for needy children which would require the distribution of the lunches in such a manner that “recipients would not be identified to their schoolmates.” 

The problem of stigmatization continues to the present day. Some school districts throughout the country, including New York City, are trying a “free school lunch for all” program that provides lunch for all students without the requirement of paperwork for means testing. 

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Luci Johnson Nugent, circa 1969, holds her son, Patrick Lyndon Nugent, on the White House lawn. - photo by All photos courtesy of Holy Family School

One amusing article concerned the former first daughter, Luci Johnson Nugent, who, at 21 years, granted an exclusive interview to Helen Thomas of the United Press International.

“Labels can be terribly confining,” she said. “A lot of people maintained I have a sibling rivalry with Lynda. To my knowledge we have not. They labeled Lynda as a bookworm. Until she met George Hamilton, she was convinced she was.”

“I was labeled as a domestically oriented person. People thought I was a dum-dum, pretty, but frivolous and scatterbrained. Even I became convinced. We are likely to believe our own publicity.”

“Fortunately, we discovered I had an eye problem and afterwards my studies began to improve. 

“I might easily have turned into a hippie. I did not feel at home. I was only 15 when I went to live in the White House. That’s awfully young to be compared on how I lived up to my responsibility.”

“I even had to convince my mother I wasn’t a flibbertigibbet,” Luci said. “She thinks I watch TV all the time or play with dogs. She was surprised when I told her I like to read historical novels.”

“We all do this to each other. You like your image to be favorable but you like it to be true and not a bunch of malarkey.” 

Her advice for those fighting labels: “Do not bitch about it. Solve it.” 

She added she was sad to have not had an opportunity to vote for her father at least once. According to Thomas, her complaints influenced Johnson to seek the vote for 18-year-olds. Today, Luci Johnson Nugent has become Luci Baines Johnson, mother of four and administrator of her father’s presidential library. She divorced Patrick Nugent in 1979, and five years later remarried to Ian J. Turpin, a Scottish financier. 

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Luci Bains Johnson, circa 2019, hosts a luncheon at the LBJ Presidential Library. - photo by Courtesy
International experience

At the end of June, 1969, Great Bend was gearing up to host 40 international students taking part in the American Field Service program. 

“Thirty-four Great Bend families will be hosts to American Field Service students from 23 countries this coming weekend. The students have been attending high schools during the past year in Nevada and California and are enroute to Washington, D.C. for a large meeting of 3,00 students who have spent the past year in the United States,” the report in the June 27, 1969 Great Bend Tribune stated. 

The students would arrive Friday afternoon at the high school where they would be met by their host families and given packets with Kansas information , and later entertained at small get-togethers throughout the city. A basket dinner for families and their foreign guests was planned at the elks Lodge Saturday evening, featuring an international talent show and a dance. The local chapter of the American Legion would prepare box lunches for the students to take with them on the bus when they departed Sunday afternoon for Kansas City. Photos of the student’s arrival, some candid shots during the weekend, and their departure were featured in the Tribune. The AFS Intercultural Programs, headquartered in New York City, is still operating today, and continues to provide exchange opportunities for students between 99 countries, according to the website. 

New library site determined

It was this week that the USD 428 Board of Education received a proposal from the Great Bend Library Board of the transfer of approximately one half-block of ground on Forest between Williams and Stone Streets for use as the site for a new library building. 

“The library board contends the proposal will save taxpayers the cost of land for a new library site, and adds that the library governing unit will assume the expense of razing the present library building plus the two school buildings to the west,” the report stated. The site was the library board’s first choice, due to pedestrian traffic and the area’s location in a non-flooding area. 

It was hoped the library construction would be underway within the year, and would be funded up to 50 percent by the federal government. 

Today, it is the location of the library building, and the headquarters for the Central Kansas Library System. 

Just for fun

Humorist Hal Boyle’s column listed “Remarks that Hippies get tired of hearing.” 

“You don’t look like such a bad sort, young fellow. Cut that mop off your head, and I’ll give you a steady job.”

“Here come the cops!”

“He’s just another flower child that has gone to seed.” 

“Jason, the lady in the white house across the street said someone picked all her flowers last night. It wasn’t you, was it?” 

“When I was your age, son, I was demonstrating too -- but I was demonstrating vacuum cleaners for a living.” 

And one editorial cartoon depicted a professor presenting a “Diploma” for college protestors to a hippie with the following text:

“To unemployment office: this certifies that a campus rioter is a finished student who stopped studying to “get involved.” Please involve him with a job so he can get involved in carrying his share of the tax load.”