Ben and Judy Sidran's "Madison Reunion," commemorating those 50-year-ago crazy and tumultuous 1960s, promises to be a huge hit when it takes place at the Memorial Union next month.
The paid programs of the June 14-16 event have already been sold out and thousands are expected for the free panels, talks and discussions that will relive the days when UW-Madison was the epicenter of the anti-Vietnam War movement that marked a sea change in U.S. history. Many of those now-50-years-older students who sparked the protests, called for the teach-ins and staged the sit-ins will be on hand to share stories with younger people who know that decade only through history books.
The year 1968, exactly 50 years ago, was perhaps the most significant in that decade. It not only saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, but it was the year a sitting president decided to bow out of politics and the Democratic Party virtually imploded at its national convention in Chicago as it tried to replace him.
The Wisconsin delegation to that convention wound up playing a key role on the floor of the Chicago Amphitheater while many from Madison and the university joined in the protests in downtown Chicago, protests that resulted in indescribable violence remembered to this very day.
In our book on the 100th anniversary of The Capital Times, John Nichols and I describe how the reporter covering the convention for the newspaper was nabbed by police and thrown in jail while then editor and publisher Miles McMillin, who was also at the convention, datelined his story from the convention's headquarters at the downtown Hilton Hotel "Fortress Chicago."
McMillin went on to chastise newspaper publishers and labor leaders for turning their backs on the protesters while they were being pummeled by Chicago cops with cover from the city's mayor, Richard Daley.
Just how severe — and life threatening — this all was some 50 years ago is captured in a recently published book called "Chicago Yippie! '68."
It's written by a fellow named Justin O'Brien who was a 17-year-old high-schooler growing up on the north side of Chicago when he got caught up in the anti-war movement and wound up in the thick of the demonstrations and the "police riot" that marked convention week in August of '68.
O'Brien retired in 2016 and moved to Mineral Point, the southwestern Wisconsin small town that he came to know through friends who had frequented it through his years working in Chicago. His book, incidentally, was published by Garret Room Books in Mineral Point late last year.
The book is filled with vivid detail of the violence that occurred in Lincoln and Grant parks in Chicago's downtown and along the streets as young people and many older supporters marched to show their solidarity to oppose Vice President Hubert Humphrey's nomination over peace candidate Eugene McCarthy.
O'Brien does an excellent job, both with words and pictures, to describe just how dangerous the protests became as the convention week wore on.
Those interested in exploring those legendary days of 50 years ago from a perspective of one who experienced the knocks on the head, the handcuffs and the tear and pepper gas can get a copy by contacting Garret Room Books, PO Box 124, Mineral Point WI 53565.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.