Sunday, October 23, 2011

From 1936: Route Shift Disappoints Big Crowd

The following article is from 75 years ago today, published in The Hartford Courant on October 23, 1936. The Courant had an article the next day to follow up on the reports of disturbances by Wesleyan students. Read to the bottom for this.

Roosevelt Line of March Change May Have Been Due to Pro-Landon Wesleyan Students
More than 20,000 men, women and children packed Main Street Thursday morning to see President Roosevelt and hear him express sympathy for those who suffered during the recent flood.

But while the thousands who cheered him on Main Street went home happy that they had seen their Chief Executive, 3000 children in the City District Schools, Wesleyan University students and many others who lined both sides of High and upper Washington streets, ready to pay their respects to the President, were disappointed.

Secret Service men charged with protecting the President changed the route at the last minute and the presidential procession continued up Church Street right past High and went out to the Meriden Road by way of Mt. Vernon Street. While official information could not be obtained from the Secret Service men, it is believed by local police and those in charge of receiving the President here that a disturbance among Wesleyan University students caused the change.

It is definitely known that Secret Service men were stationed all along the route, planned two days ago, and that they must have witnessed the actions of the students along the street. Wesleyan students are said to have placed Landon posters on poles and trees all along the route, that a Communist flag flew, at least for a while, from the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house and a Nazi Swastika flag from the Psi Upsilon fraternity house. Witnesses of the affair say that some of the students, indignant over the showing of the Landon posters, proceeded to tear them down and that quite a scrap ensued.

President James L. McConaughy of Wesleyan University said that he stood in front of his home at the corner of High and Willis streets during the morning but that he saw no Communist flag flying and no trouble.

An investigation will be made by local police to determine just what did happen on High Street preceding the President’s arrival and what effect it had on the change in route, Chief of Police Charles Anderson said Thursday night.

In the meantime considerable feeling and adverse criticism is being directed toward the Wesleyan students. Although it could not be verified reports are prevalent that some students had firecrackers ready to throw at the President’s car.

In a poll conducted at the college by the Wesleyan Argus, student newspaper, the students voted 3 to 1 in favor of Landon and the faculty (30 of the 60 voting) favored Roosevelt 2 to 1.

High School on Strike

Many of the smaller children were so disappointed that they went home crying but the Middletown High School students converted their feelings into a strike. When the 1:10 p.m. bell rang for the afternoon session to begin, the pupils refused to enter the building and sent forth a chorus of cheers from Pearl and Court streets where they were assembled. Crude signs were hastily painted on “Vote for Hayes” and other signs, telling the world that “we are on strike.” Pupils interviewed said that they wanted to go to Main Street to see the President but that they were ordered to take places on High Street, where officials in charge said they would be safer. Superintendent of Schools Fred Shearer came out of the building and ordered the pupils to either go inside the school or leave the school grounds. He said that he understood the feelings of the pupils after having been disappointed but that there was nothing the school authorities could do about it.
The next day, the Courant reported that Wesleyan president McConoughy "regretted" that the president's motorcade was re-routed away from High Street. The Courant wrote:
Wesleyan's head, an outspoken critic of the New Deal, denied reported acts of students on High Street which the city's reception committee said were responsible for the change of route. "Wesleyan students take pride in hospitality, not boorishness," said Dr. McConaughy. "No President or simple citizen needs to avoid our campus."
Members of the reception committee remained convinced, however, that the re-routing was due to the actions of Wesleyan students.

The Courant also reported, "High school children who went on strike, protesting the change of route, returned to classes Friday."

1 comment:

Steadyjohn said...

Mayday Mayhem at Wesleyan: May 4, 1954 headline in The Wesleyan Argus of the events of the previous Sunday (Loyalty Day) when some Wesleyan students clashed with police and VFW members during a parade through town and onto the campus. The disturbance garnered nationwide attention...

...Officials of the VFW originally told the press that the students’ activities were well planned and “Red-inspired”…

The initial report in the Argus May 4 edition leads off:

False Charges Of Red Activity Caused By Spontaneous Action

"Wild accusations of Communist infilitration at Wesleyan, which were eventually retracted, resulted from a series of isolated incidents in which several students demonstrated marked discourtesy to participants in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Loyalty Day Celebration Sunday afternoon."

Read more: