Monday, August 10, 2015

This article first appeared in the May 17, 1965 issue.
San Francisco

Last Labor Day weekend newspapers all over California gave front-page reports of a heinous gang rape in the moonlit sand dunes near the town of Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula. Two girls, aged 14 and 15, were allegedly taken from their dates by a gang of filthy, frenzied, boozed-up motorcycle hoodlums called “Hell’s Angels,” and dragged off to be “repeatedly assaulted.”

A deputy sheriff, summoned by one of the erstwhile dates, said he “arrived at the beach and saw a huge bonfire surrounded by cyclists of both sexes. Then the two sobbing, near-hysterical girls staggered out of the darkness, begging for help. One was completely nude and the other had on only a torn sweater.”

Some 300 Hell’s Angels were gathered in the Seaside-Monterey area at the time, having convened, they said, for the purpose of raising funds among themselves to send the body of a former member, killed in an accident, back to his mother in North Carolina. One of the Angels, hip enough to falsely identify himself as “Frenchy of San Bernardino,” told a reporter who came out to meet the cyclists: “We chose Monterey because we get treated good here; most other places we get thrown out of town.”

But Frenchy spoke too soon. The Angels weren’t on the peninsula twenty-four hours before four of them were in jail for rape, and the rest of the troop was being escorted to the county line by a large police contingent. Several were quoted, somewhat derisively, as saying: “That rape charge against our guys is phony and it won’t stick.”

It turned out to be true, but that was another story and certainly no headliner. The difference between the Hell’s Angels in the paper and the Hell’s Angels for real is enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for. It also raises a question as to who are the real hell’s angels.

Ever since World War II, California has been strangely plagued by wild men on motorcycles. They usually travel in groups of ten to thirty, booming along the highways and stopping here are there to get drunk and raise hell. In 1947, hundreds of them ran amok in the town of Hollister, an hour’s fast drive south of San Francisco, and got enough press to inspire a film called The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando. The film had a massive effect on thousands of young California motorcycle buffs; in many ways, it was their version of The Sun Also Rises.

The California climate is perfect for motorcycles, as well as surfboards, swimming pools and convertibles. Most of the cyclists are harmless weekend types, members of the American Motorcycle Association, and no more dangerous than skiers or skin divers. But a few belong to what the others call “outlaw clubs,” and these are the ones who–especially on weekends and holidays–are likely to turn up almost anywhere in the state, looking for action. Despite everything the psychiatrists and Freudian casuists have to say about them, they are tough, mean and potentially as dangerous as a pack of wild boar. When push comes to shove, any leather fetishes or inadequacy feelings that may be involved are entirely beside the point, as anyone who has ever tangled with these boys will sadly testify. When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, you can generally count your chances of emerging unmaimed by the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools. “I smashed his face,” one of them said to me of a man he’d never seen until the swinging started. “He got wise. He called me a punk. He must have been stupid.”

The most notorious of these outlaw groups is the Hell’s Angels, supposedly headquartered in San Bernardino, just east of Los Angeles, and with branches all over the state. As a result of the infamous “Labor Day gang rape,” the Attorney General of California has recently issued an official report on the Hell’s Angels. According to the report, they are easily identified:

The emblem of the Hell’s Angels, termed “colors,” consists of an embroidered patch of a winged skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. Just below the wing of the emblem are the letters “MC.” Over this is a band bearing the words “Hell’s Angels.” Below the emblem is another patch bearing the local chapter name, which is usually an abbreviation for the city or locality. These patches are sewn on the back of a usually sleeveless denim jacket. In addition, members have been observed wearing various types of Luftwaffe insignia and reproductions of German iron crosses.* (*Purely for decorative and shock effect. The Hell’s Angels are apolitical and no more racist than other ignorant young thugs.) Many affect beards and their hair is usually long and unkempt. Some wear a single earring in a pierced ear lobe. Frequently they have been observed to wear metal belts made of a length of polished motorcycle drive chain which can be unhooked and used as a flexible bludgeon… Probably the most universal common denominator in identification of Hell’s Angels is generally their filthy condition. Investigating officers consistently report these people, both club members and their female associates, seem badly in need of a bath. Fingerprints are a very effective means of identification because a high percentage of Hell’s Angels have criminal records.

In addition to the patches on the back of Hell’s Angel’s jackets, the “One Percenters” wear a patch reading “1%-er.” Another badge worn by some members bears the number “13.” It is reported to represent the 13th letter of the alphabet, “M,” which in turn stands for marijuana and indicates the wearer thereof is a user of the drug.

The Attorney General’s report was colorful, interesting, heavily biased and consistently alarming–just the sort of thing, in fact, to make a clanging good article for a national news magazine. Which it did; in both barrels. Newsweek led with a left hook titled “The Wild Ones,” Time crossed right, inevitably titled “The Wilder Ones.” The Hell’s Angels, cursing the implications of this new attack, retreated to the bar of the DePau Hotel near the San Francisco waterfront and planned a weekend beach party. I showed them the articles. Hell’s Angels do not normally read the news magazines. “I’d go nuts if I read that stuff all the time,” said one. “It’s all bullshit.”

Newsweek was relatively circumspect. It offered local color, flashy quotes and “evidence” carefully attributed to the official report but unaccountably said the report accused the Hell’s Angels of homosexuality, whereas the report said just the opposite. Time leaped into the fray with a flurry of blood, booze and semen-flecked wordage that amounted, in the end, to a classic of supercharged hokum: “Drug-induced stupors… no act is too degrading… swap girls, drugs and motorcycles with equal abandon… stealing forays… then ride off again to seek some new nadir in sordid behavior…”

Where does all this leave the Hell’s Angels and the thousands of shuddering Californians (according to Time) who are worried sick about them? Are these outlaws really going to be busted, routed and cooled, as the news magazines implied? Are California highways any safer as a result of this published uproar? Can honest merchants once again walk the streets in peace? The answer is that nothing has changed except that a few people calling themselves the Hell’s Angels have a new sense of identity and importance.

After two weeks of intensive dealings with the Hell’s Angels phenomenon, both in print and in person, I’m convinced the net result of the general howl and publicity has been to obscure and avoid the real issues by invoking a savage conspiracy of bogeymen and conning the public into thinking all will be “business as usual” once this fearsome snake is scotched, as it surely will be by hard and ready minions of the Establishment.

Meanwhile, according to Attorney General Thomas C. Lynch’s own figures, California’s true crime picture makes the Hell’s Angels look like a gang of petty jack rollers. The police count 463 Hell’s Angels: 205 around L.A. and 233 in the San Francisco-Oakland area. I don’t know about L.A. but the real figures for the Bay Area are thirty or so in Oakland and exactly eleven–with one facing expulsion–in San Francisco. This disparity makes it hard to accept other police statistics. The dubious package also shows convictions on 1,023 misdemeanor counts and 151 felonies–primarily vehicle theft, burglary and assault. This is for all years and all alleged members.

California’s overall figures for 1963 list 1,116 homicides, 12,448 aggravated assaults, 6,257 sex offenses, and 24,532 burglaries. In 1962, the state listed 4,121 traffic deaths, up from 3,839 in 1961. Drug arrest figures for 1964 showed a 101 percent increase in juvenile marijuana arrests over 1963, and a recent back-page story in the San Francisco Examiner said, “The venereal disease rate among [the city’s] teen-agers from 15-19 has more than doubled in the past four years.” Even allowing for the annual population jump, juvenile arrests in all categories are rising by 10 per cent or more each year.

Against this background, would it make any difference to the safety and peace of mind of the average Californian if every motorcycle outlaw in the state (all 901, according to the state) were garroted within twenty-four hours? This is not to say that a group like the Hell’s Angels has no meaning. The generally bizarre flavor of their offenses and their insistence on identifying themselves make good copy, but usually overwhelm–in print, at least–the unnerving truth that they represent, in colorful microcosm, what is quietly and anonymously growing all around us every day of the week.

“We’re bastards to the world and they’re bastards to us,” one of the Oakland Angels told a Newsweek reporter. “When you walk into a place where people can see you, you want to look as repulsive and repugnant as possible. We are complete social outcasts–outsiders against society.”

A lot of this is a pose, but anyone who believes that’s all it is has been on thin ice since the death of Jay Gatsby. The vast majority of motorcycle outlaws are uneducated, unskilled men between 20 and 30, and most have no credentials except a police record. So at the root of their sad stance is a lot more than a wistful yearning for acceptance in a world they never made; their real motivation is an instinctive certainty as to what the score really is. They are out of the ball game and they know it–and that is their meaning; for unlike most losers in today’s society, the Hell’s Angels not only know but spitefully proclaim exactly where they stand.

I went to one of their meetings recently, and half-way through the night I thought of Joe Hill on his way to face a Utah firing squad and saying his final words: “Don’t mourn, organize.” It is safe to say that no Hell’s Angel has ever heard of Joe Hill or would know a Wobbly from a Bushmaster, but nevertheless they are somehow related. The I.W.W. had serious plans for running the world, while the Hell’s Angels mean only to defy the world’s machinery. But instead of losing quietly, one by one, they have banded together with a mindless kind of loyalty and moved outside the framework, for good or ill. There is nothing particularly romantic or admirable about it; that’s just the way it is, strength in unity. They don’t mind telling you that running fast and loud on their customized Harley 74s gives them a power and a purpose that nothing else seems to offer.

Beyond that, their position as self-proclaimed outlaws elicits a certain popular appeal, however reluctant. That is especially true in the West and even in California where the outlaw tradition is still honored. The unarticulated link between the Hell’s Angels and the millions of losers and outsiders who don’t wear any colors is the key to their notoriety and the ambivalent reactions they inspire. There are several other keys, having to do with politicians, policemen and journalists, but for this we have to go back to Monterey and the Labor Day “gang rape.”

Politicians, like editors and cops, are very keen on outrage stories, and state Senator Fred S. Farr of Monterey County is no exception. He is a leading light of the Carmel-Pebble Beach set and no friend to hoodlums anywhere, especially gang rapists who invade his constituency. Senator Far demanded an immediate investigation of the Hell’s Angels and others of their ilk–Commancheros, Stray Satans, Iron Horsemen, Rattlers (a Negro club), and Booze Fighters–whose lack of status caused them all to be lumped together as “other disreputables.” In the cut-off world of big bikes, long runs and classy rumbles, this new, state-sanctioned stratification made the Hell’s Angels very big. They were, after all, Number One. Like John Dillinger.

Attorney General Lynch, then new in his job, moved quickly to mount an investigation of sorts. He sent questionnaires to more than 100 sheriffs, district attorneys and police chiefs, asking for more information on the Hell’s Angels and those “other disreputables.” He also asked for suggestions as to how the law might deal with them.

Six months went by before all the replies where condensed into the fifteen-page report that made new outrage headlines when it was released to the press. (The Hell’s Angels also got a copy; one of them stole mine.) As a historical document, it read like a plot synopsis of Mickey Spillane’s worst dreams. But in the matter of solutions it was vague, reminiscent in some ways of Madame Nhu’s proposals for dealing with the Vietcong. The state was going to centralize information on these thugs, urge more vigorous prosecution, put them all under surveillance whenever possible, etc.

A careful reader got the impression that even if the Hell’s Angels had acted out this script–eighteen crimes were specified and dozens of others implied–very little would or could be done about it, and that indeed Mr. Lynch was well aware he’d been put, for political reasons, on a pretty weak scent. There was plenty of mad action, senseless destruction, orgies, brawls, perversions and a strange parade of “innocent victims” that, even on paper and in careful police language, was enough to tax the credulity of the dullest police reporter. Any bundle of information off police blotters is bound to reflect a special viewpoint, and parts of the Attorney General’s report are actually humorous, if only for the language. Here is an excerpt:

On November 4, 1961, a San Francisco resident driving through Rodeo, possibly under the influence of alcohol, struck a motorcycle belonging to a Hell’s Angel parked outside a bar. A group of Angels pursued the vehicle, pulled the driver from the car and attempted to demolish the rather expensive vehicle. The bartender claimed he had seen nothing, but a cocktail waitress in the bar furnished identification to the officers concerning some of those responsible for the assault. The next day it was reported to officers that a member of the Hell’s Angels gang had threatened the life of this waitress as well as another woman waitress. A male witness who definitely identified five participants in the assault including the president of Vallejo Hell’s Angels and the Vallejo “Road Rats” advised officers that because of his fear of retaliation by club members he would refuse to testify to the facts he had previously furnished.

That is a representative item in the section of the report titled “Hoodlum Activities.” First, it occurred in a small town–Rodeo is on San Pablo Bay just north of Oakland–where the Angels had stopped at a bar without causing any trouble until some offense was committed against them. In this case, a driver whom even the police admit was “possibly” drunk hit one of their motorcycles. The same kind of accident happens every day all over the nation, but when it involves outlaw motorcyclists it is something else again. Instead of settling the thing with an exchange of insurance information or, at the very worst, an argument with a few blows, the Hell’s Angels beat the driver and “attempted to demolish the vehicle.” I asked one of them if the police exaggerated this aspect, and he said no, they had done the natural thing: smashed headlights, kicked in doors, broken windows and torn various components off the engine.

Of all their habits and predilections that society finds alarming, this departure from the time-honored concept of “an eye for an eye” is the one that most frightens people. The Hell’s Angels try not to do anything halfway, and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble, whether he means to or not. This, along with a belief in total retaliation for any offense or insult, is what makes the Hell’s Angels unmanageable for the police and morbidly fascinating to the general public. Their claim that they “don’t start trouble” is probably true more often than not, but their idea of “provocation” is dangerously broad, and their biggest problem is that nobody else seems to understand it. Even dealing with them personally, on the friendliest terms, you can sense their hair-trigger readiness to retaliate.

This is a public thing, and not at all true among themselves. In a meeting, their conversation is totally frank and open. They speak to and about one another with an honesty that more civilized people couldn’t bear. At the meeting I attended (and before they realized I was a journalist) one Angel was being publicly evaluated; some members wanted him out of the club and others wanted to keep him in. It sounded like a group-therapy clinic in progress–not exactly what I expected to find when just before midnight I walked into the bar of the De Pau in one of the bleakest neighborhoods in San Francisco, near Hunters Point. By the time I parted company with them–at 6:30 the next morning after an all-night drinking bout in my apartment–I had been impressed by a lot of things, but no one thing about them was as consistently obvious as their group loyalty. This is an admirable quality, but it is also one of the things that gets them in trouble: a fellow Angel is always right when dealing with outsiders. And this sort of reasoning makes a group of “offended” Hell’s Angels nearly impossible to deal with. Here is another incident from the Attorney General’s report:

On September 19, 1964, a large group of Hell’s Angels and “Satan’s Slaves” converged on a bar in the South Gate (Los Angeles County), parking their motorcycles and cars in the street in such a fashion as to block one-half of the roadway. They told officers that three members of the club had been recently asked to stay out of the bar and that they had come to tear it down. Upon their approach the bar owner locked the doors and turned off the lights and no entrance was made, but the group did demolish a cement block fence. On arrival of the police, members of the club were lying on the sidewalk and in the street. They were asked to leave the city, which they did reluctantly. As they left, several were heard to say that they would be back and tear down the bar.

Here again is the ethic of total retaliation. If you’re “asked to stay out” of a bar, you don’t just punch the owner–you come back with your army and destroy the whole edifice. Similar incidents–along with a number of vague rape complaints–make up the bulk of the report. Eighteen incidents in four years, and none except the rape charges are more serious than cases of assaults on citizens who, for their own reasons, had become involved with the Hell’s Angels prior to the violence. I could find no cases of unwarranted attacks on wholly innocent victims. There are a few borderline cases, wherein victims of physical attacks seemed innocent, according to police and press reports, but later refused to testify for fear of “retaliation.”

The report asserts very strongly that Hell’s Angels are difficult to prosecute and convict because they make a habit of threatening and intimidating witnesses. That is probably true to a certain extent, but in many cases victims have refused to testify because they were engaged in some legally dubious activity at the time of the attack.

In two of the most widely publicized incidents the prosecution would have fared better if their witnesses and victims had been intimidated into silence. One of these was the Monterey “gang rape,” and the other a “rape” in Clovis, near Fresno in the Central Valley. In the latter, a 36-year-old widow and mother of five children claimed she’d been yanked out of a bar where she was having a quiet beer with another woman, then carried to an abandoned shack behind the bar and raped repeatedly for two and a half hours by fifteen or twenty Hell’s Angels and finally robbed of $150. That’s how the story appeared in the San Francisco newspapers the next day, and it was kept alive for a few more days by the woman’s claims that she was getting phone calls threatening her life if she testified against her assailants.

Then, four days after the crime, the victim was arrested on charges of “sexual perversion.” The true story emerged, said the Clovis chief of police, when the woman was “confronted by witnesses. Our investigation shows she was not raped,” said the chief. “She participated in lewd acts in the tavern with at least three other Hell’s Angels before the owners ordered them out. She encouraged their advances in the tavern, then led them to an abandoned house in the rear… She was not robbed but, according to a woman who accompanied her, had left her house early in the evening with $5 to go bar-hopping.” That incident did not appear in the Attorney General’s report.

But it was impossible not the mention the Monterey “gang rape,” because it was the reason for the whole subject to become official. Page one of the report–which Time‘s editors apparently skipped–says that the Monterey case was dropped because “… further investigation raised questions as to whether forcible rape had been committed or if the identifications made by victims were valid.” Charges were dismissed on September 25, with the concurrence of a grand jury. The deputy District Attorney said “a doctor examined the girls and found no evidence” to support the charges. “Besides that, one girl refused to testify,” he explained, “and the other was given a lie-detector test and found to be wholly unreliable.”

This, in effect, was what the Hell’s Angels had been saying all along. Here is their version of what happened, as told by several who were there:

One girl was white and pregnant, the other was colored, and they were with five colored studs. They hung around our bar–Nick’s Place on Del Monte Avenue–for about three hours Saturday night, drinking and talking with our riders, then they came out to the beach with us–them and their five boyfriends. Everybody was standing around the fire, drinking wine, and some of the guys were talking to them–hustling ’em, naturally–and soon somebody asked the two chicks if they wanted to be turned on–you know, did they want to smoke some pot? They said yeah, and then they walked off with some of the guys to the dunes. The spade went with a few guys and then she wanted to quit, but the pregnant one was really hot to trot; the first four or five guys she was really dragging into her arms, but after that she cooled off, too. By this time, though, one of their boy friends had got scared and gone for the cops–and that’s all it was.

But not quite all. After that there were Senator Farr and Tom Lynch and a hundred cops and dozens of newspaper stories and articles in the national news magazine–and even this article, which is a direct result of the Monterey “gang rape.”

When the much-quoted report was released, the local press–primarily the San Francisco Chronicle, which had earlier done a long and fairly objective series on the Hell’s Angels–made a point of saying that the Monterey charges against the Hell’s Angels had been dropped for lack of evidence. Newsweek was careful not to mention Monterey at all, but the New York Times referred to it as “the alleged gang rape” which, however, left no doubt in a reader’s mind that something savage had occurred. It remained for Time, though, to flatly ignore the fact that the Monterey rape charges had been dismissed. Its article leaned heavily on the hairiest and least factual sections of the report, and ignored the rest. It said, for instance, that the Hell’s Angels initiation rite “demands that any new member bring a woman or girl [called a ‘sheep’] who is willing to submit to sexual intercourse with each member of the club.” That is untrue, although, as one Angel explained, “Now and then you get a woman who likes to cover the crowd, and hell, I’m no prude. People don’t like to think women go for that stuff, but a lot of them do.”

We were talking across a pool table about the rash of publicity and how it had affected the Angel’s activities. I was trying to explain to him that the bulk of the press in this country has such a vested interest in the status quo that it can’t afford to do much honest probing at the roots, for fear of what they might find.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Of course I don’t like to read all this bullshit because it brings the heat down on us, but since we got famous we’ve had more rich fags and sex-hungry women come looking for us that we ever had before. Hell, these days we have more action than we can handle.”

Hunter S. Thompson In 1965 Hunter Thompson was living in San Francisco. He had recently quit the National Observer and was dead broke. When Carey McWilliams sent him a query, enclosing a report of the California Attorney General's office on motorcycle gangs and an offer of one hundred dollars for an article, Thompson accepted. He later expanded his Nation article into his bestselling book, Hell's Angels. Thompson, the founder of "gonzo" journalism, went on to write, among other books, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and The Great Shark Hunt.

Closing Burlington Community College - Community or Commodity?

Community or Commodity?

The result of the sudden and abrupt merger of Burlington Community College and Rowan University without community discussion or input is the abandoning and closure of the Pemberton campus and the relocation of the school to the Mt. Laurel campus, leaving the area without the community college that it once had.
The excuse for doing this radical and uncalled for action is the factual statistic that the Mt. Laurel classrooms are utilized more than the Pemberton campus classrooms, a small percentage that has varied from year to year and should be changed by increasing the use of the classrooms, not closing the school all together.

By merging BCC with Rowan University they take the “community” out of the college, just as they tried to merge with Rutgers University Camden, and change their name to Rowan, but were prevented from doing so by the quick and responsible action by the faculty, students, alumni and the community who joined to together to preserve and protect their school and its legacy.

“BCC” is not a commodity, statistic or facility that can be shut down and moved on the whims of temporary administrators whose vision of grander is often not what the community sees or wants – a community college that is the hub of the community and serves the young students seeking to continue their education, adults seeking to change their careers, the military to train their soldiers, the hospitals to train their nurses and technicians, the athletes and retired people who use their athletic and aquatic facilities and retirees who use the library and pool.

It’s not just a piece of property that can be bought, sold, traded or merged like a town factory being put out of business when bought by a competing international conglomerate because it wasn’t profitable.
The community college is supposed to be a non-for-profit institution whose goal is to provide educational and recreational facilities for its citizens, not a financial statistic that makes the administrators look good.
Behind closed doors and in violation of the Sunshine Act, these administrators and politicians made a major strategic decision affecting the lives of everyone in Burlington County and South Jersey without discussion or debate and just announced that it was a done deal and there’s nothing you can do about it now.

When the President of Stockton University purchased the Showboat Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City his vision was to provide a new dormitory and educational facility for his students, but because he did this without the advice or consent of the faculty, students or community, and was prevented from using the facility for anything other than a casino, he was proud and honorable enough to admit his mistake and resign.
And that’s what everyone who has anything to do with the merger of BCC and Rowan and the closure of the Pemberton Burlington Community College.

Ironically, the honorable Mr. Rowan himself, an engineer whose work changed the nature of industry throughout the world, lives in Burlington County and is a resident of the very community that is being railroaded by power hungry temporary administrators acting his name.

William E. Kelly, Jr.
Browns Mills, N.J.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Legend of Chief Tawanka

                                                                   Chief Tawanka

There are two stories of Chief Tawanka - one steeped in historical legend and the other an urban myth that rings true. You decide which is closer to the truth.

Legend has it that Chief Tawanka was a Mohawk Indian warrior who as a young boy befriended Natty Bumppo - better known as Hawkeye," the Lenni Lenape Indian whose exploits are chronicled in James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans" novel.

Indian legend has it that a hundred years before the arrival of the white men from Europe the Lenni Lenape were recognized as the "Mother Tribe" of a dozen tribes that settled along the Delaware River basin and watershed, an area extending from lower New York State, eastern Pennsylvania, all of New Jersey and parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Tribal tradition has an oral history in the form of an history laden tribal dance called the Wallim Olum or Red Score - because the symbols were painted in red cranberry ink on birch bark - that recalls the tribes migration from Asia across the Bearing Strait and treck across America to the sea where they settled and made the Delaware River valley their home.

They lived peacefully for nearly ten thousand years until they were defeated in a decades long war with the Six Nations, a allied association that included Iroquois and Mohawks that defeated the Lenni Lenape and "made them women."

Tawanka - a Mohawk from upstate New York, near Niagara Falls, and Hawkeye from the Delaware, were from waring tribes but became lifelong friends after meeting in extenuating circumstances when Hawkeye traveled into unwelcome Mohawk territory.

Hawkeye and his companion Chimaachgook, who like Tawaka, later became respected Chiefs, saved Tawanka's life and they became close friends and traveling companions.

Although the Six Nations defeated the Lenni Lenape and made them subservient, they supported the French in their seven year war against the English, and lost, while the Lenni Lenape backed the English.

Years later, when the Lenni Lenape made peace treaties and sold land to William Penn and the Quakers near Philadelphia, legend has it that Tawanka came south to the land of the Delaware and visited his old friend Hawkeye.

Chief Tawanka, no longer the fierce young warrior he once was, warned his Lenni Lenape friends that not all of the Europeans were as good and friendly as the Quakers, and many were untrustworthy.

"We lost our freedom when we stopped fighting," Tawanka pleaded, but the Chiefs around the fire at the pow wow decided to accept the peace treaty and sale of lands to Penn and the Quakers.

The Lenni Lenape agreed to sell the land to Penn, live on the first reservation in the USA and eventually to move to a reservation in Oklahoma.

Legend has it that Chief Tawanka died while in the land of the Lenni Lenape and is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the South Jersey Pine Barrens.

Then there is the other story that Chief Tawanka never really existed and was a figment of the imagination of a Madison Avenue Advertising Mad Man who created the name, image and manufactured 70 cigar store Indians to promote a line of cigarettes that no longer exist.

Which story is true I can not tell you, and though the second rings true, the Indian legend also has mythical meanings worth reflecting on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walter McCall Oral History

Walter McCall – Oral History Project – Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center
Interviewed by Herbert Holmes

McCall:  My name is Walter R. McCall. I was born in Conway, South Carolina on August 23, 1923. I was taken to Marion, South Carolina as an infant; there I grew up around Marion….

In seminary we played pool sometimes until three o’clock in the morning.

Holmes: Have you participated in civil rights activities?

McCall: The first civil rights struggle that King had ever been in was with me. It was in Maple Shade, New Jersey, in 1950 I think. We went into a restaurant one night and to my amazement it was a discriminating type of place and the man refused to serve us.

The man shoved a 45 in my face while King and our guests were seated at the table. As a result of what took place, I brought a suit against the man. King and I served as our own defense. It was the first time that we had ever been in any kind of civil rights struggle.

The Attorney General for that section of New Jersey, Johnson, was a dear friend of mine. He provided counsel for us and we won our case in the preliminaries. Then it was taken to the Grand Jury. We couldn’t be our plaintiff and defendant at the same time. It just happened that the young white boys who were there and were to testify had brought pressure against them and they couldn’t appear. As a result, we just dropped the thing. I am sure that Ernie, who ran the place, was very happy as well.....

More details on MLK's Camden home


Details uncovered about MLK's former Camden home

 Kevin C. Shelly, Courier-Post10:47 a.m. EST February 18, 2015

Angels tend Camden home said to be visited by MLK

Patrick Duff peeks into boarded up window of Walnut Street home in Camden where MLK once lived.

Like a self-taught detective, Patrick Duff tracked down numerous leads, sharpening a new narrative about formative years of one of the most studied men in American history.

Duff contacted eyewitnesses, met with sources, verified information, wove known facts together, connected gaps, and came up with a surprising — but plausible and still evolving — tale about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Duff, who grew up in Delran and now lives in Haddon Heights, is focused on King's years as a seminary student, from the fall of 1948 to May 1951, at the now-closed Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, just outside Chester, Pa.

During two of those years, King lived with Walter McCall, his best friend and fellow seminarian from Morehouse College in Atlanta, in a borrowed room in the Bergen Square section of Camden.

They lived in a back room of a twin home on Walnut Street, owned since 1945 by McCall's cousin, Benjamin Hunt.

Though it stands battered, empty and now apparently on Camden's abandoned properties list — a city spokesman did not respond to a request for comment — the Hunt family owns the home to this day.
Jeanette Lilly Hunt, 83, the current owner, recalls seeing King exchange greetings and pleasantries at the house when she visited during her early 20s, so the news about King living there came as no surprise.

But Hunt, who is working on a graduate-level course in pastoral counseling, calls the rest of Duff's digging "enlightening."

Now she and her family are looking to have the building recognized as a historical site and eventually restored and preserved as a study center focused on King and civil rights.

Duff's central thesis is that Camden, South Jersey and the region shaped King, turning him toward his life's work.

King's local experiences set him on a path of resisting and defying the barriers of racism and discrimination. They include: being told by seminary leaders to break off his courtship with Betty Moatz, a white woman who worked at the school; having a fellow student, a white man, pull a gun on him; getting rousted from a Maple Shade bar by an owner who discharged a gun when King, McCall and their dates refused to leave after not being served; and working with Camden's Dr. Ulysses S. Wiggins to bring legal challenges to businesses that refused service to African Americans.

"This set him on a crusade," said Duff, a social activist himself who worked in the medical marijuana business in California.

Duff hopes Maple Shade will honor King with a plaque or monument at the long-gone site of the bar where an owner pulled a .45 caliber handgun on King and McCall, who were on their way home from the shore with their dates. 

The township manager, Jack Layne, is awaiting state approval of the memorial, but hopes to go ahead soon.
McCall later recalled the event at Mary's Place as "the first time that we had ever been in any kind of civil rights struggle."

The complaint, later dropped, that King made out in June 1950 against Ernest Nichols, the bar's owner, carries the Walnut Street address in Camden.

That address led Duff to Hunt through her son, retired Willingboro Police Det. Jay Hunt Jr.

"It was like the sky opened up," said Duff, making an angelic hum to accentuate the happiness he felt when he found the address.

Duff, escorted by Kelly Francis, a Camden activist Hunt has known for decades, showed up at Hunt's door on Pine Street, a few blocks from Walnut, about three weeks ago and simply asked if she knew King.
"I just had to say 'Yes,' because I did. But it was still a surprise."

Her children have embraced the news and the possibilities Duff's exploring has opened up.

"This is exciting," said Darlene Hunt Johnson, a music teacher in the Camden public schools.

"This is a memorable moment, exciting. Martin Luther King stayed at my grandfather's," said Shirley J. Hunt.

"This is wonderful," said Jacqueline Hunt, who is married to Jay Hunt.

"This is a part of history. We're blessed to be a part of that history," said the retired cop.

His mother hopes the home will be renovated and "used to boost the city."

Duff said he's happy to see the Hunts are so pleased.

Street-smart and a natural salesman, not a historian, Duff said his instincts as "a real person" have helped him to connect the incidents at the seminary to King's move to Camden — King had initially lived in Chester — and the Maple Shade incident that led King to a lifelong fight for equal treatment.

Duff's exploration began when he looked up an incident in Maple Shade where students were kept out of school due to unfounded fears about Ebola and their visit to Africa, but far from the epidemic.

Then, by happenstance, he discovered the King incident at Mary's Place.

But the more he read, the more the incident sounded like a fantasy — until he found the complaint King made out.

"I visualized what happened. When I found that police report, it was like it was signed, sealed and delivered," Duff said.

Sean Brown, a young Camden activist who had championed another nearby location as the likely home where King had lived, said he is happy to see any effort that ties king's legacy back to a place that helped to change him.

Reach Kevin Shelly at or (856) 449-8684. Follow him on Twitter at @kcshlly.


For more information about the tavern confrontation, click here.

Click here to see the formal police complaint made by Martin Luther King Jr. showing a Camden address.

Children of Camden resident Lily Hunt (L to R) Darlene Hunt-Johnson, Shirley J. Hunt, Jacqueline Hunt (Jay's wife) and Jay Hunt Jr. stand in front of the house on Walnut St. in Camden where Martin Luther King Jr. lived when he was a seminary student in Chester, PA. Their mother Lily owns the property. Monday, February 16, 2015. (Photo: JOHN ZIOMEK/COURIER-POST)

Camden resident Lily Hunt owns the house on Walnut St. in Camden where Martin Luther King Jr. lived when he was a seminary student in Chester, PA. Monday, February 16, 2015. (Photo: JOHN ZIOMEK/COURIER-POST)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Bar that Began a Crusade

The Bar That Began A Crusade

By Michael Capuzzo, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: January 18, 1988

The lunch rush is over at the Moorestown Pub, a smoky tavern full of stories on Route 73 in Maple Shade.
Flora Handler, 55, the new owner, who says her remodeled pub reminds her of the TV bar Cheers, "a bunch of characters sitting around telling stories," is wiping down the grill. Flora's ''characters" - a pipe fitter, a couple of carpet installers, an ex- prizefighter and a half-dozen other men - are retelling the most famous of the stories told at the bar by their fathers, Irish and Italian and German laborers whose sweat built this working-class town.

It's the kind of pub that doesn't forget a birthday, so last week, with the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. coming up (the nation observes his 59th birthday today), everybody recalled the Sunday evening in 1950 when the young Martin Luther King Jr. pulled up to the roadhouse in an automobile, went in and tried to order a beer. What the bartender served him instead, this small town remembers as its big moment in history.

"Yep," says the old prizefighter, draining a Bud, "ol' Ernie Nichols got his gun."

"You sure who got the gun, King or Ernie?" asks another man at the bar, Jim Welsch.

"No, ol' Ernie got the gun and chased him outta here," says the prizefighter, who wouldn't give his name.

Thirty-eight years later, Martin Luther King Jr. is gone, assassinated in 1968. Ernest Nichols, the bartender who got his gun, passed away 12 years ago, but the story lives on, as told to Maple Shade's sons by Maple Shade's fathers. The thing is, the bar has changed hands and names twice since then, and nobody today can agree on exactly what happened.

"I've been in town 27 years, and it's one of those things people talk about," said Jackie McVeigh, the township clerk. "It's becoming a fable. Of course it gets all bent out of shape. Whatever happened, it's not something people are proud of, to tell you the truth."

Whatever happened to the young Martin Luther King Jr., then a student at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, it had a profound impact.

In the early '60s, Dr. King would remember it as the incident that inspired his passion for civil rights.
In Philadelphia today, the memory of the civil-rights leader who died for his dream of freedom and racial harmony will be celebrated at pulpit and podium, in slide show and song. Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat began the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., will tap the Liberty Bell to begin a national bell-ringing ceremony. The Rev. Leon Sullivan, Dr. King's confidant; 80-year-old Bernard Segal, once Dr. King's lawyer; lawyer Almanina Barbour, whose family was close to him when he studied in Chester, and many others will remember that it was in Philadelphia that the young King was first inspired by the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas T. Gandhi; Philadelphia to which he turned again and again for money and support and ideas during the 1960s' civil-rights struggle. It was Philadelphia that answered Dr. King's call with the largest delegation of any city at the 1963 March on Washington; Philadelphia that has one of the strongest affiliates of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the Atlanta institution headed by his widow, Coretta Scott King.

Radio talk-show host Georgie Woods, who marched with Dr. King in Selma, Ala., and who was on his WDAS-AM show at 6:11 p.m. April 4, 1968 when he first got word of Dr. King's death, and cried on the air, remembers the man likened in his lifetime to Gandhi and even to Christ.

"He was just like me and you, just a normal person," said Woods. "But he had a dream for all people, black men, white men, all people getting together. . . . I don't hear that now, just once a year. But I don't think the dream is dead. It will rise again."

Mr. Sullivan remembers talking with Dr. King in the kitchen of his home in Atlanta, "trying to deal with the problems of America. . . ." He remembers getting Dr. King's support in 1957 for the 400 black preachers who organized boycotts against Philadelphia companies that discriminated against blacks. In an interview last week, he remembered the struggles of many who found a voice in Martin Luther King Jr.

"His dream continues on," Mr. Sullivan said. "Much of the work we're doing today in South Africa and around the world are attempts to carry out the fulfillment of his dream."

Flora Handler and her husband, Mervin, didn't know their pub's place in history when they bought what was then the Jade Tavern on June 8 from Bill Trainor, whose father had bought it 25 years earlier from Ernest Nichols, who called the bar Mary's Place.

Mervin Handler says he's not proud of, but is intrigued by, the King incident. Some of his regulars, however, said last week that King deserved to be thrown out. "King stopped in here and got wise and they threw him out," says Tim, a 58-year-old builder who refused to give his last name. ''It's a disgrace he has a national holiday. . . ."

Handler disagrees. He says he'd like to find an original newspaper account and hang it on the wall. His wife wonders if the bar can get a tax break as a historic spot.

"Somewhere on the wall behind there," Handler says, pointing to the new 25-inch color TV above the bar, "are the bullet holes, or so they say. . . ."

When he came to the Philadelphia area in 1948, King had rejected Jesus' teachings of "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" as unrealistic when dealing with racial segregation, according to Martin Luther King Jr. . . . to the Mountaintop, a 1985 biography. But in 1949, King heard Mordecai W. Johnson, president of Howard University, give a lecture on Gandhi during a visit to Philadelphia.

"His message was so profound and electrifying," King later wrote, "that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi's life and works. . . . My skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform."

On a Sunday night in June 1950, King came into Mary's Place with his friend W.R. McCall, a fellow seminary student from Camden, and their dates, Pearl E. Smith and Doris Wilson, who gave Philadelphia addresses, police records show. They had been driving through the countryside on an outing.

Ernest Nichols, the pub owner, was an immigrant who had served in the German army in World War I, and who is remembered by his friends as feisty and temperamental, but a loyal tavern-keeper who served the best draft beer in town.

According to The Trumpet Sound, a 1982 biography, King and his friends took a table at the roadside cafe, in which they were the only blacks. A waitress ignored them.

King went to the bar to ask for beer and four glasses, according to a statement given by Pearl Smith to detectives.

Nichols refused, saying he would not serve King beer because it was a Sunday.

Then King asked for four glasses of ginger ale.

"The best thing would be for you to leave," Nichols said, according to The Trumpet Sound.

Nichols refused; King's party held its seats.

Nichols became orally abusive, according to the police account. The barkeep pulled out the gun he kept, ran outside and fired three or four shots into the air, not aiming at King and his party but aiming to frighten them, the police report said. "I'd kill for less," the bartender cried as he fired his pistol, according to several King biographies.

Nichols was arrested and charged with weapons possession, intimidation and failure to serve patrons under New Jersey's then-two-year-old civil-rights law. But when the matter went before a Burlington County grand jury, several witnesses backed down, and the case was dismissed.

W. Thomas McGann, a retired Burlington County judge who acted as Nichols' attorney in the case, insists the incident was misunderstood. Nichols, he said, often served blacks at his bar. He says Nichols believed that the four well-dressed patrons were trying to entrap him into illegal package-goods sales on a Sunday.
A year later, in the spring of 1951, King graduated from Crozer at the top of his class, went on to Boston University, then back to Atlanta. The meaning of the night at Mary's Place didn't become clear to Maple Shade until the early '60s, when McGann was listening to the radio.

"Martin Luther King was testifying before a senatorial committee in Washington about civil rights, and a senator asked him how he ever became so very interested in the cause . . . and he answered by saying that when he was a young seminarian he was visiting with people in Camden and they were out in the suburbs in Camden . . . when they went into a place to buy a refreshment and the proprietor refused to serve him. . . . I thought to myself, 'I wonder if I had that case.' . . ." McGann called the Camden NAACP, which found on old police records one of the four complainants' signatures: M.L. King Jr.

A few years after the incident, Ernest Nichols moved from Maple Shade to Riverside, where he opened Ernie's Tavern. He died in January 1976 and was buried on the 15th - Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s South Jersey Connections

MLK’s South Jersey Connections – By William E. Kelly, Jr.

                                                MLK at Mary's Cafe 

If Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis 47 years ago he would be celebrating his 86th birthday, but even after his life has been documented in books, films and movies, we are still learning more about the preacher who made civil rights a cause, won the Nobel Prize and was murdered because of his beliefs.

Few of King’s biographies even mention the fact that he once lived in Camden, New Jersey and gave an important speech on non-violent social change to a convention of Quakers in Cape May.

 Especially ignored is the incident at Mary’s Café, before he was famous, filed a complaint in Maple Shade against a man who refused him service, an incident that may have sparked his interest in civil rights and taking it up as a cause.

It was June 12, 1950 when King and Walter R. McCall, a fellow Theological Seminary student and their dates Pearl Smith and Doris Wilson were out for a drive and pulled off the highway to a small roadside café called Mary’s Place.

A previously unhearled crossroads that some say was a pivital place in time that may have sparked King’s commitment to civil rights and was thus a significant event in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States.

They sat down in a booth and awaited service, which never came, and when they complained, the bartender took a gun out from behind the counter, went to the door and shot it into the air.

King and his friends went to the local police and filed a complaint, which led to the arrest of the bartender – Ernest Nichols, and a court date. When W. Thomas McGann, the Burlington County attorney who represented Nichols died, the event was mentioned in his obituary and caught my attention.

Mary’s Place was located within the clover leaf intersection at Route 73 and Camden Road, Main Street in Maple Shade, a small town between Pennsauken and Morristown.

After reading the lawyer’s obituary I took a drive to the location and found Mary’s Place still standing, a closed, boarded up roadside bar , and through its windows I could see the stools placed upside down on the bar and chairs on the tables, just as it was left year’s earlier. Now owned by the NJ Dept of Transportation, they soon leveled the place, unaware of its historical significance.

Now, Patrick Duff has initiated a movement of sorts to recognize the place by making it a park with benches and an historical plaque that would explain the sites significance, and he has garnered up some significant support from a local community that didn’t even know their hometown was the scene of such an event, however local reporter Daniel Nester and Philadelphia attorney David Larrson have both taken an interest and local officials are now supporting the idea of an MLK Park and historical plaque at the site where Mary’s Place once stood.

Proposed wording for historical marker:

This was the location of Mary’s Place Café, Maple Shade, New Jersey, where on June 12, 1950 Crozier Theological Seminary divinity students Martin Luther King, Jr. and Walter R. McCall and their dates Pearl E. Smith and Doris Wilson were refused service by Ernest Nichols. When they persisted Nichols shot a gun into the air, an incident that led to charges being filed against Nichols and is said to have inspired King to take up the cause of civil rights.

The formal complaint lodged by King indicates that at the time he lived at 753 Walnut Street in Camden, a row house that still stands, abandoned and boarded up in the heart of the South Camden ghetto.