2013–01-19 Unwritten history – until now
ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
April 14, 2016
This is a mail-merge letter to our friends –
Unwritten history – until now
Now 83 years old, I was 34 in 1963, ten years into marriage, three years out of graduate school and well into building a career in industrial sales and manufacturing management. Cameron Iron Works, Houston, Texas, had me spend a year learning the “aron bizn’s” in the forge shop. In ’61, they moved Fran, the two kids and me to Connecticut (CT). I called on customers from Georgia to Maine. We were selling exotic steel forgings to military contractors. I call it, “my post-education education!”
A steel worker gave me a paperback copy of, “Conscience of a Conservative” by Sen. Barry Goldwater (GOP Presidential nominee – 1964). I had (apparently) slept through civics classes. This little book made lots of sense. I suggest you google it and read:
Bottom of the Hill, 2010 –
For a huge number of Republicans, Goldwater’s book, The Conscience of a Conservative was must reading. I believe it is just as vital today as it was then, and Senator Goldwater addresses many topics that could be torn from today’s headlines. In this book, Goldwater offered a clear warning about impending dangers to the survival of our American freedoms with recommendations of appropriate action to avoid those dangers. Had Goldwater been elected, we might find today’s political …
So impressed was I, that I distributed a case of them on our street in Infield, CT. Understand – I was inexperienced and unaware about politics. The north-east was little better aware (it appeared). Three radio networks (no TV yet) and a few newspapers filtered all the news. The era of mass political mailings had not begun. I recognized the shift away from sound principle and wanted to do something. What follows is a bit of unwritten political history.
On my sales trips, I met Ed Hunter (He first coined the word, “brainwashing.”), a journalist friend of my dad’s. I asked him to crash-course me in politics. Another was Sen. Strom Thurman, a true American patriot. In the Hartford area, I found a man who shared what little he knew of local political mechanics. I learned there were 360 towns in CT, each butt-up against its neighbor. I learned that each town had a Democrat and a Republican “caucus”. Often these caucuses were chaired by lawyers, who just happened to be law partners! When there were state or national elections, delegates to the state conventions (where all the decisions were made) were chosen by those attending these town caucuses.
An idea dawned. I had a form printed. Folded in half, it was the size of a dollar bill. The front had Goldwater’s picture and “Goldwater Clubs of Connecticut” (GCC). Inside were lines for people to add names and addresses of supporters they wanted to be on our mailing list. They were to include a dollar bill for each name. Recall, bulk political mailing was rare then. Copy machines were just “upgrading” to Thermofax. (Xerox was in the future).
Big doors swing on little hinges! As I write this, I googled “Goldwater Clubs of Connecticut” and discovered a columnist had found a NY Times article about GCC. He had printed that my employer had started a Goldwater group in CT. I was unaware Cameron Iron Works even knew, or cared, what a political unknown was doing on his own time. They had nothing to do with it!
Within weeks, dollar bills began flooding in. No one even suspected there was such hidden support for conservative politics in Connecticut. In the evenings, I compiled the contacts into 2 card files and Thermofax master sheets to make labels. I used 3-part carbon paper sets and a typewriter (remember those?). One card file was alphabetic. The other was sorted by town.
After a few mailings (bulk postal rates were a few cents) we began building clubs in all the CT towns! I told folks about their town caucuses. They turned out. In many cases, they became delegates to the state convention. George Bruhns, another beginner, came alongside to become the perfect sidekick.
As the Goldwater campaign for President (vs, incumbent, Jack Kennedy) the political power brokers moved onto the wagon “to help steer”. In their view, it appeared, the conservative movement in CT was of no consequence – until – there was a campaign event in Hartford which our newsletter wrote about. Establishment Republicans were stunned! CT voters came out of the woodwork!
Suddenly, they wanted control of that mailing list. It could generate an enthusiastic crowd in hours! Something told me not to share it. As a result, this “dumb nobody” (me) had to be included in political strategy meetings so he would share campaign news. Gordon Reed, Austin Colegate, Bill Middendorf (later Sec. Navy under Bush-1) and others were in communication. In the back room meetings, after the Kennedy assassination, they were making plans to resurrect Nixon. I told them Nixon would embarrass them. The king-makers paid no attention.
Which is background for the fun part of this account.
There was much wholesome enthusiasm. A photo-graphics idea man in Hartford (I think his name was Charles McArthur of Endicom Graphics) was a “closet conservative.” He developed the ability of making very large photo enlargements. The GOP State Convention was coming up in Hartford. The establishment GOP leadership hired Charles to prepare two large pictures (Lincoln & Eisenhower) to hang above and either side of the speaker’s rostrum. Goldwater’s primary opponents were Scranton & Rockefeller. State GOP leaders wanted anybody but a conservative. (sound familiar?)
GCC had recruited and trained a dozen “Goldwater Girls” (local housewives) who could defend conservative principles. They wore western hats (Goldwater was from AZ), white blouses and yellow (i.e. gold) skirts, plus a “Goldwater” sash. During the weeks prior to the Hartford convention, the GOP offices across the state were handing out convention tickets to anyone BUT Goldwater supporters. GCC college kids pinned on Scranton or Rockefeller buttons and collected tickets.
Charlie printed hundreds of Goldwater photos the size of business cards. On the day of the convention, GCC high schoolers spread out across the capitol with them. They went into coffee shops, opened the napkin dispensers and put photos in each napkin! The glass covered signs in all the hotel elevators sported a photo of Goldwater! One lady reported that she was trying on gloves in a department store. There was a photo in each finger of the glove!
The night before the convention McArthur rowed out to the middle of the Connecticut River, beside the commuter bridge into the capitol. He dropped a brick attached to a long cord attached to a large helium-filled balloon. Hanging over the morning commuter traffic – a giant picture of Goldwater!
Charlie had also used a blueprint machine and a roll of paper about 18 inches wide. The whole roll sported a photo then big block letters “Goldwater” about every 15 feet. GCC had borrowed a dozen late model convertibles. We taped these “bumper to bumper Goldwater signs” on both sides of the cars. Then we cut and taped the sign, so the doors would open. GCC sent a letter to each convention delegate. “Welcome to Hartford. There will be courtesy taxis cruising the city. You will recognize them by the Goldwater sign. Just step to the curb and they will be pleased to take you anywhere in town.”
Not mentioned was that there was a “Goldwater Girl” in the back seat of each convertible. GOP leadership saw their liberal delegates riding around town in our “taxis”!
The day of the convention, volunteers in the second floor rented Goldwater HQ were busy blowing up gas filled balloons. In the park, between the convention center and our HQ, we had a giant plastic elephant with a set off Goldwater-type glasses. Someone hired a Scottish bagpipe band to play in the park an hour and a half before the convention. (Great photo op.)
Across town the Hilton was hosting an outdoor delegate dinner. The Goldwater Girls rallied there along with two guys and a broomstick through the giant roll of “Goldwater signs”. Each Girl took the sign at the picture and walked away. As the sign unrolled there was a banner held by a supporter every 15 feet. As it snaked through the crowd and out onto the sidewalk, passers-by wanted to join. Soon the banner was snaking across town and stopping traffic. Lots of enthusiasm and good will.
As we passed our HQ hotel the volunteers with the gas-filled balloons lead the snaking sign into the park, where the marching band took the lead. Lots of noise from the bagpipes and drums. As we marched up the street past the convention center (well before the building was to be opened for the public) the leaders inside came out the stage door to see what was happening.
They watched and the band, followed by volunteers with balloons lifting Goldwater signs, passed by the center and up the street into the residential area (all the time adding people to help unroll the sign). Party leaders returned inside to continue preparing for the convention.
The parade did a U-turn, back into the alley. The band lead the parade through the stage door. As the band continued to play, the noise and surge of kilted marchers created momentary confusion on the stage of the empty hall. The volunteers went to the front of the stage and released their balloon signs which were on long strings that dangled dozens of Goldwater signs (just out of reach).
Naturally, in the confusion, the sign continued to snake through the stage door. The people carrying the sign made their way up the empty aisles to the foyer where a “Pinkerton guard” blocked the stairs to the observation balcony. Eventually someone sent a guard to tear the sign and shut the door. It “happened that the other exit doors were unlocked and the sign began snaking through succeeding doors. Soon there was a happy chanting crowd packed into the foyer.
The band was evicted, and moved around to the front steps of the hall to add to the enthusiasm of the delegates and ticket holders gathering outside the hall. George Bruhns and I had hands full of tickets to the balcony. We gave them to the first ones in line. Then to every few after that. When the time came to open the balcony, the line of “ticketed” revelers rushed past the ticket-taker. He was overwhelmed. Around the corner on the stairs above, a volunteer was collecting the tickets and passing them back into the crowd in the foyer. Soon – the balcony was packed with happy conservatives.
The Goldwater Girls were equipped with rolls of tape. The convention walls were soon plastered with our signs from the parade. Newspaper photographers could not possibly take a convention picture without “Goldwater”! George and I were convention delegates and took seats on the aisle. We gave floor passes to the Goldwater Girls and arranged for one or another to walk down to our seat on the 3rd row every 5 minutes. We would exchange slips of paper, some blank, some with messages. In politics, image becomes reality.
The convention opened. We pledged and the lady sang the anthem. As the state Chairman stepped to the rostrum, he said, “Well! It is certainly NOT going to be a boring convention!” The delegates began to laugh and point, confusing the Chairman a lot.
As he was speaking, the Lincoln and Eisenhower signs were slowly lifted out of sight and a picture of Goldwater replaced them over his head!
I passed a note to the balcony, “When I stand up, create a wall of sound. When I sit down – quiet.” As the convention business continued, this gave opportunities to demonstrate that the people supported conservative principles.
Soon, it appeared that we could take the delegates any direction with our enthusiasm. The “establishment” had negotiated to give Goldwater only 4 of its 16 delegates to the national convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I received a note that the radio was reporting that candidate Scranton was about to pay a surprise visit to the convention.
I surmised they hoped to stampede the Goldwater delegates. I sent a message to bring the stick signs from HQ and stack them (in plain view) under the stairs from the aisle to the stage. Were there to be a demonstration, we could mount the signs and make it into a Goldwater demonstration and perhaps capture all 16 delegates.
As I contemplated bidding for all 16 delegates, a rumor reached me that Bill Middendorf had a telegram from Goldwater refuting the effort. We will never know if it were true, or if the telegram was valid. At any rate, I believe the opportunity was there and very possible.
A while later, an enthusiastic GCC delegation was at the airport to see the delegation off to San Francisco. When they landed in SF another GCC delegation was there ahead of them to welcome them! Both Goldwater and Scranton convention HQ were in the Mark Hopkins. McArthur had an eight story sign rolled up. As Scranton arrived at the hotel he let the sign unroll down the front of the hotel from the upper floor, “Barry says – Welcome Bill”.
Lastly – a summary of my campaign observations. The appointed leadership in the state campaign seemed to have no clue about what activated the conservative movement (much like today’s Tea Party movement is not understood by the political establishment.). The same situation appeared to me to infect the national campaign lead by Clifford White. The paperback was the root of Goldwater’s initial support – yet – Cliff would not even acknowledge it in the campaign.