The photos were taken in August 1964 in the Cape County Courthouse in Jackson. The sleeve says “Jackson Primary,” so the workers must have been counting ballots while the candidates chewed their fingernails. I would have been working at The Jackson Pioneer at the time. In the background are name plates that seem to read Rada Lou Kamp, Rusby C. Crites and Marie H. Bradford when I blew them up.
Covering elections fun, frustrating
Covering election night could produce some good images, unfortunately, the best pictures often didn’t run because they were of minor candidates or of relatively insignificant races. Photographers would be frustrated because they wasted a lot of time and editors were frustrated because they didn’t have key photos.
We finally came to a compromise at The Palm Beach Post. We would determine in advance what races we wanted to focus on, then reporters were responsible for finding out where the candidates were likely to be when the results came in. (The good old days when everybody gathered at election central had given away to elaborate parties.)
I played air traffic controller
Each photographer was given a master list of candidates he or she was responsible for covering, along with the size and shape of the photo that had been laid out in advance. (We could make a limited number of changes on the fly, but tight deadlines meant we had to stay to the script most of the time.)
I coordinated moving the shooters from place to place based on results that were being relayed to me from the newsroom. I also arranged for film to be picked up so the photographers wouldn’t have to come back to the office. We’d have been lost without two-way radios. I handled the logistics of getting the photos taken. Chief Photographer John Lopinot edited the film and saw that the pictures got in the paper. It wasn’t unusual that I would realize that I had juggled bodies all evening without seeing the results until the paper came off the press.
Wife Lila key player
Wife Lila was a staff favorite because she’d brew up a huge pot of her special chili to fuel the staff before they headed out to chase candidates. We joked that it was not only filling, but that about two hours into the evening, it would produce gas that would keep the TV crews from getting too close to you.
The negative sleeve said “1964 City Election.” When I looked at the film, I couldn’t figure out why cops featured so prominently in the photos until I saw the sign “Vote YES Policemen’s Firemen’s Retirement Fund.” They must have been campaigning.
The last half of October and the first part of November 1964 was missing from the Google Archives, so I couldn’t get any details about the election. In the absence of real news, let’s look at some interesting things that show up in the backgrounds of the pictures. Click on them to make them larger. (I can blow them up larger than you can, so you might just have to take my word for some of the observations.)
The house on the corner of Themis and Caruthers has a sign in the front yard that says “Leible.” Scope out the car to the right of the policemen. It has an old-fashioned gumball machine on the roof and a big fender-mounted siren on the right side. There is no indication of what department it might belong to.
Paging Kent Verhines
Mr. Goddard wants to see you in his office RIGHT NOW. Signs on the door say “Polls close 7 p.m. Central Standard Time;” “City Election” and “School Election.” If you look just above the boy’s head (I think it might be Mike Seabaugh), you can see “KENT VERHINES” scrawled on the brick. Handwriting analysts are being dispatched to the scene to compare handwriting samples to see if Kent is the vandal or if he’s being framed.
A view up Themis Street
This is a pretty good look up Themis Street. At least one house has a tall, tall TV antenna. I guess they needed it to see over the surrounding hills.
Here’s another view of the unmarked police car. The driver looks like he has a uniform cap on, but all of the passengers look like high school girls. A pickup truck with L.R. Seabaugh on the door is parked on the right.
Could it be the Folsom Twins?
I can’t be sure, but the two girls in the car look a little like Linda and Laura Folsom. Or, it could be their twins.
Track team practice?
These guys don’t look heavy enough to be football players.
Election Day at Franklin School
I also made a pass by the polling place at Franklin School. You won’t see this view long. A new Franklin School is being built behind the existing building. When it’s finished, the old building will be torn down. Here are a couple of links to stories about the school and the construction:
I really miss the day before PACs and big money took over political campaigns. There was a time when you could put on a campaign rally with a few convertibles and a handful of locals folks willing to don sashes and straw hats and wave at their neighbors. This Goldwater parade is headed north on Sprigg, passing the Ford dealership. The signs, of course, had to sport the union “bug.” Click on any photo to make it larger.
A couple of boys on bicycles with “Bury Goldwater” signs offered a counterpoint to the Young Republican floats in the 1964 SEMO Homecoming Parade. You had the feeling in those days that folks could support a candidate, but still have a cup of coffee with someone who backed the opposition.
I’m not sure whether to count Barry Goldwater as the first presidential candidate I covered or the second. Barry was in Cairo on Oct. 2, 1964, but I had covered Ronald Reagan stumping FOR Goldwater in Sikeston earlier for The Jackson Pioneer. To be honest, I think I was more impressed by Reagan than Goldwater.
I was prepared when I went to see Reagan. I had a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera, a 35mm camera and a Polaroid camera. I’m sure I had a dozen backup pencils and, maybe, even a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Find the Central students in the crowd
[Note: click on the photos to make them larger. There are a lot of interesting faces in the crowd. Once you get into the gallery, you can click on the left or right side of the photo to move backwards and forwards to the other images.]
I haven’t run across my film and clips from the Sikeston Reagan speech, but I’ll never forget writing the story. I’ve probably recounted it before, but, that’s what happens when you get old.
I was sitting at the typewriter churning out pages and pages of copy. Since we were a Republican newspaper, I was given a lot of latitude.
One more word about Reagan….
Just then, the double doors separating the newsroom from the composing room slammed open and a burly, ink-stained wretch came charging at me with my copy wadded up in fists that were short a finger or two. “Kid, you type one more F-‘ing word and I’ll break your fingers.”
Mother didn’t raise any fools. I quickly typed – 30 – which is newspaperspeak for The End, and handed him my last sheet. He snatched it up and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
I had just met the new Linotype operator. The Jackson Pioneer was an unusual place to work. If the Linotype operator didn’t agree with an editorial, he’d simply refuse to set it.
The universal media scowl
Maybe all these newsmen and women started out at small papers like I did. That would explain the carefully cultivated squint and universal scowls on the faces. Or, it might just be that they had heard Barry’s standard speech a hundred times before and they were wondering where they were going to end up for lunch.
Central High Tiger represented
Jim Stone, Shari Stiver and Sally Wright covered the rally for the Central High School Tiger. Jim had the school’s 4×5 Crown Graphic camera and Shari and Sally shared a byline on the Oct. 23 front-page story.
Despite their expressions, the story said “The impressions of the two editors who covered this story for The Tiger was mainly one of pure excitement. ‘We had our own press passes and sat in the very front of the press box, and they even fed us,’ said Sally Wright, 12B.
“‘And we saw every detail,’ added Shari Stiver, 12B.”
The Tiger story and photos
The editors weren’t the only ones excited. They quoted Pat Sommers as saying, “I shook his hand twice – I’ll never wash my hands again!”
Barbara Nunnelly sounded less impressed. “He’s different from what I expected, but he’s a very good speaker,” she said.
Access to candidates
Something that strikes me today is the access the press (and the public) had to a presidential candidate in 1964. You can tell from the variety of angles that I was all over the place. You have to remember that John F. Kennedy had been shot less than a year before. When I looked around the Cairo High School football field where the rally was held, I saw all kinds of places where a sniper could be hiding, and felt distinctly uneasy.
I love crowd shots
That ability to move around and pick your own photo angles was quickly quashed in the coming years. By the time Jimmy Carter was elected, you had to submit requests for media credentials well in advance of the visit. You had to provide a photo, DOB, place of birth and a whole raft of other info before you got your credential.
What that was mostly good for was so they could herd you into a tightly controlled spot where you could shoot only what they wanted you to shoot, from the angle they wanted you to shoot it, when they wanted it shot. It irked me no end to go through all those security checks only to be kept farther back than the general public and have to deal with a stage-managed photo op. (Can we say, “Mission Accomplished?”)
Not every PR idea works
I don’t know if the concept of Goldwater Girls was a local idea or one cooked up by the campaign folks, but it has to go down as a really bad idea. I can just see the girls saying, “You want us to dress up HOW? And be seen in public?”
Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl
Holy Cow! It WASN’T a local idea.
I just Googled “Goldwater Girl” and the first story to pop up was an account of a Charles Gibson interview with Hilary Clinton that quoted her as saying, “My best friend and I became quote ‘Goldwater Girls. We got to wear cowboy hats. We had a sash that said, you know, I voted AUH2O. I mean, it was really a lot of fun.”
Relatives spinning in their graves
I was an ardent Barry Goldwater supporter. My grandmother, Elsie Welch, was in the hospital before the 1964 election. She said, “I know you wish you were old enough to vote for Goldwater. If you get me an absentee ballot, I’ll cast my vote for him for you.”
I went to the Clerk of Courts, picked up the absentee ballot and took it to the hospital. She made a blue X to vote a straight Republican ticket and said, “I can hear my relatives spinning in their graves because I just voted for a Republican.”
I knew she wasn’t registered to vote, so I didn’t file the ballot just to have it thrown out. I’ve held on to it for all these years as something to remember my grandmother by.
Unless she’s reading this over my shoulder – and I wouldn’t rule that out – she never knew that her vote didn’t count.
Goldwater Rally Photo Gallery
As mentioned earlier, click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.