The Riots of 1964 — Chapter 10

August 11 – August 28, 1965

Project Director’s Report
Paul Estaver, Director

August 11 – August 28, 1965

The period August 11 to 28 was characterized by a long struggle and a series of reversals in a hope to establish a Labor Day program more extensive than that of July Fourth weekend.

On the 11th of August we were visited by a delegation from the Office of Juvenile Delinquency including not only Cy Rosenthal but Leonard Stern, Harold Eidlin and Israel Gerver. Gerver spent a major portion of the day conferring with Van Nostrand and one or two of the staff who were working on the research. Eidlin’s day was spent familiarizing himself with the program and with the area since it was his responsibility to produce whatever was the most appropriate type of documentation and coverage of the Hampton Beach Project. Rosenthal and Stern were on hand principally to review the program to date and to advise us where possible on the completion of the program, particularly that for Labor Day. The most important conference was with Chairman Cunningham, since he and Rosenthal had never had a previous chance to talk at length. Rosenthal at this time clarified the point concerning the use of federal funds under the conditions of our grant. While it was not possible, he said, to use these funds for entertainment, the term entertainment was construed to mean taking guests to lunch or for cocktails. However, the use of funds for our Labor Day show was construed to be program rather than entertainment.

On the strength of this and with an assist from John Dineen, we made a verbal commitment to employ the Prince Spaghetti Minstrels for the Labor Day show at a $100 reduction in price. At that point there was still an apparent possibility of obtaining Kweskin, although not a very good one. To do so it appeared we would have to pay an even higher price than anticipated.

Further CAVE Events at State Bathhouse Canceled

The TAR Committee meeting of August 16 was opened by Herbert Casassa’s announcement that Colonel Regan had asked the Parks Department to cancel further activities at the state bathhouse. Regan’s stated view was that the illumination at the last affair had been insufficient and that the area imposed an intrinsic problem of crowd control.

Needless to say, a vigorous debate ensued ranging over questions growing out of the previous beach party, the “new faces” at Hampton, the safety of rock and roll dances (and the “secret” training session in Boston), and the question whether the C of C had approved “dancing” or “rock and roll dancing” at the state park, and the more general question concerning who validly should set policy for Hampton Beach.

It is interesting to note that by this point in the season the TAR Committee had, in effect, undergone a third change. With the exception of Van Nostrand and myself, who as employees really should not have had voting privileges, the regularly attending members were now almost solidly conservative, although the committee on paper was still exactly as it had been in May when the extra three members were appointed. As chairman, Cunningham filled his role properly by seeking consensus to carry forward whatever program was possible within that consensus. Although present in person, Salomon took no active part now. Under the pressure of his businesses and other commitments, Preston was seldom able to be on hand.

Thus essentially the debates within the committee were carried on between Van Nostrand and myself on the one hand and Dineen and Lt. O’Leary on the other, and it was the latter “team” who carried the voting strength.

Since Colonel Regan’s decision about the state park would have cancelled our beach party for August 21, five days hence, and of course the Labor Day Saturday night beach party, Van Nostrand and I were most reluctant to accept it without seeking some modification. Particularly since the previous beach party had proven both safe and effective on the heaviest crowd weekend of the summer in less than perfect circumstances, we felt that some way should be found to continue use of the park. The counter argument was that, even though no direct relationship could be shown, the weekend of August 7 had seen unusually heavy arrests, and the risk was not worth taking another time. Further it was argued that lighting and controlling the bathhouse area was impossible, and in any event that the Colonel had already made his decision so that there was little point in further discussion of it.

We then asked whether we could approach the Colonel and the Parks Department to see whether, if lighting could be substantially improved, additional beach parties could be permitted.

One member’s response was that since CAVE had already accomplished so much this summer it would be better to allow matters to rest as they stood at present rather than risking failure in future programs. It was of little avail to respond that CAVE had been putting its neck on the line with every event it had run for the summer, that the whole purpose of the program was not to establish a good name for CAVE but to show, when the risk was within reason, that internal crowd control was a positive and reliable tool with which Hampton could meet its problem.

No specific vote was taken on the issue, but there was certainly general agreement within the committee not to have dances at the state bathhouse under any conditions but only at the Casino Ballroom. Several times during the course of the meeting attempts were made to deal specifically with the coming Labor Day program, but it was not possible to get the subject on the floor for discussion as such since so much time had been taken for a debate on a more theoretical level.

CAVE Beach Party Again A Possibility

The next morning I received a phone call from Howard Berry and the State Department of Parks indicating that Colonel Regan was willing to compromise; he would approve the August 21 beach party on two conditions – that the lighting be substantially improved and that no further events after August 21 would be scheduled for the state bathhouse during 1965. My immediate response was that the TAR Committee had already decided against any such events regardless of circumstances, but a subsequent call to Cunningham brought a hopeful response. Since, he said, no actual vote had been taken against future beach parties, he felt it was possible to go ahead with one more. Further he said he would personally clear the matter with John Dineen.

On Wednesday of that same week another delegation from Washington came to Hampton for a site visitation, this time including James Symington, newly appointed director of the President’s Commission on Juvenile Delinquency. A special luncheon with the Washington delegation was attended by most of the staff workers, by Walter Vanderpool and Wil Cunningham, and by the other project personnel. Additional members of the TAR Committee were invited, but none were able to attend.

At about this same time it was announced that a special documentary film on the Hampton Beach Project would be produced and that Eidlin and a cameraman from Boston would start to work on it shortly. Staff worker Don Murphy was detached to act as an aide to this project.

During this same period of mid-to-late August several other CAVE programs were discussed and subsequently abandoned. As a part of a staff-inspired attempt to involve townspeople more heavily in the Hampton Beach Project, it was hoped that a door to door canvass could be made in Hampton’s residential areas by staff and volunteers to leave off brochures explaining CAVE, to talk to the town’s citizens and, hopefully, to solicit contributions. However, it was discovered that permissions for such canvasses are generally not given in Hampton. At another point it was thought desirable to have a float representing CAVE in the Hampton Beach parade late in August, but after some discussion the CAVE Program Committee felt there would not be sufficient enthusiasm in the organization for this particular function.

The most vigorous debate centered around a proposed CAVE and Adult Arts Festival. Originally Linda Batchelder had conceived of this as a weekend event involving both the visual and performing arts, and drawing participation not only from CAVE members but from professional artists within a radius of 100 miles. The response of the TAR Committee was highly favorable, but within the project staff there was vigorous opposition, since a number felt that this would simply be a community showpiece put on by the project but in no way directly relating to it. It was felt by this group that only if it could be restricted to CAVE members alone should an art show or festival be produced. Subsequent attempts to solicit interest on the part of the young people failed to draw sufficient support, and reluctantly the project was dropped.

Unquestionably there was a certain amount of factionalism involved in this issue and in several others among members of the staff. For the most part it did not impede work progress, but it certainly provided grounds for plenty of talk, whether the subject was an arts festival or undignified horseplay at a staff party involving the throwing of various persons into the pool or plastering one another with Crazy Foam, a harmless substitute for shaving cream. There was talk of a Durham clique and a Hampton clique, which was ultimately at least partially resolved in laughter as various tongue-in-cheek signs were posted in the CAVE building. All of this would have been a matter of much greater concern had it not been for the fact that several excellent program events were successfully carried forward during these same weeks.

On the 12th of August another dance for CAVE was held in the Casino Ballroom, employing the Shadows, one of the beach party bands, and Tom Foley, who had also worked the beach party as M.C. Foley was a high school student who, although he had never been employed as a radio disc jockey, had the stage presence, the poise, and the rapport with young people to carry off a dance as effectively as had the professional from Boston.

There had been less advertising for this dance than for several others pervious and on this occasion we found ourselves in competition with the Seagate Ballroom. Nonetheless approximately 500 showed up to attend and the profit was in the vicinity of $100.

In addition to the regularly scheduled dances, parties, and folk music affairs, there came about in mid-August two other strong program elements, all the more effective because of their spontaneity.

CAVE Jug Band

The first was the birth of the New Original CAVE Jug Band. Strictly speaking, a jug band involves a single string washtub bass, a washboard (played with thimbles), sandpaper blocks, tambourine, banjo, guitar, and of course a jug, blown to produce recognizable tones – all these along with singers. That we came fairly close to the approved format can be seen by the photographs. The use of a conventional string bass wasn’t quite cricket, but it had to hold together an aggregation inclined more toward enthusiasm than precision. Besides, my house made a convenient place for rehearsals.

The naming of the band was intended humorously. In general, folk singing groups go in for elaborate titles – vis., The New Lost City Ramblers (whether or not there were ever any Original Lost City Ramblers). In our case, there had once been Original CAVE Jug, a plastic half-gallon Clorox container, unfortunately lost in CAVE’s moving from store to trailer to building. Thus the earthen jug now played by Bill Corser became the New Original CAVE Jug and the band was named for it.

The Band’s premiere was to be August 18th at the Onyx Room, and the program of eight or so songs were memorized and gone over until they were as little ragged as reasonably possible. One or two of the young people and staff worker Craig Little were musicians of some considerable skill and several had excellent singing voices, so that extra numbers were possible featuring duets or soloists to break up the program.

Big Brother Day

The other spontaneous program was Orphans’ Day (later named Big Brother Day out of consideration to our guests), conceived by Pete Mason and executed essentially under his direction. Some 32 state wards and orphans were brought in as special guests of CAVE from the Portsmouth and Dover area for an all-day outing at the beach. The youngsters ranged in age from seven to twelve and probably for every two of them there was one CAVE volunteer or staff member to act as big brother. Through the cooperation of beach merchants they had access to bowling alleys, miniature golf, etc. and cut rates were made possible through several restaurants so that there was a big feed of sandwiches and soft drinks at noon time. Money was taken from the funds earned by the CAVE dances to buy prizes or simple gifts, at least one to a child. In the afternoon there were games, races and horseplay on the sand in a special area roped off for the purpose. At the conclusion there was a songfest featuring a special sneak preview of the New Original CAVE Jug Band, and between performers and audience the CAVE building rocked with sound. Long after the day many of the CAVE members recalled it as one of the best in the summer, exhausting though it may have been. There were few of the big brothers who did not dip into their own pockets to buy candy or pop or a gift for one or more of the children.

The businessmen of the community too took pride in their contributions; of all the events held by CAVE through the summer few did more to cement relations between Hampton Beach young people and its adult community.

That was the 17th. On August 18th the New

Original CAVE Jug Band played to a packed house at the Onyx Room. Not only did the Jug Band members perform, but at least six and perhaps more other performers, some of them excellent, took part in an evening performance that was more or less arranged as volunteers turned up. In the very best sense of the word it was a talent night, yet with a spontaneity that would not have been possible in the self-conscious formality that the phrase “talent show” lends to a production with its implications of amateurishness. As a matter of fact, the concept of a talent night as such had earlier been rejected by a CAVE Program Committee group.

Second Beach Party

On August 21st the second CAVE beach party took place at the state bathhouse. For a variety of reasons it was not nearly as successful as the previous one had been. The fact of its being scheduled, then cancelled, then rescheduled did much to dampen the enthusiasm of the workers as well as the participants. There was, of course, no mass mailing as there had been before, and publicity was limited to the number of signs we could get out from Wednesday afternoon until Saturday. In actual fact, it was not until Friday night when state and local police came to inspect and approve our improved lighting system that the final approval was obtained.

Once the conditional approval for the party had been given, Hammond and I went feverishly to work to meet what had been described as minimum requirements. First we went to the fire department and were able to obtain the cooperation of Chief Perley George and fireman Howard Stickney in setting up for use the town’s civil defense searchlight. This was an anti-aircraft carbon-arc light designed to spot planes at a distance of five miles. It took a crew of three or four to keep it running and it had to be stationed at the far side of the field from the bathhouse to illuminate the parking area. The overall effect was to spotlight the building, and the thing was so bright that anybody emerging from the building was momentarily blinded. However, it did have the desired psychological effect for the street side of the state park area. For the ocean side, Hammond built two light poles out of 4″ x 4″ timbers, each with a cluster of four 150-watt flood lamps at its top. These were mounted on the two dunes on either side of the walkway from the bathhouse to the beach, and they were powered by a 2500-watt generator borrowed from Smith and Gilmore, a local marina. In addition we added other clusters totaling eight to ten floodlights, fed off the building itself. Friday night Colonel Regan, Chief Leavitt and their aides came down after dark to inspect what we had done and approved it subject to one additional cluster of lights.

Saturday turned out clear, but it was one of the coldest days of the summer and the crowd at the main beach and at the beach party were accordingly much smaller. Total attendance at the dance was not more than 350, including those who walked up the beach or sneaked in free. Gross income for the night was approximately $135, which represented a net loss to the CAVE bank account after payment for the band, the disc jockey, the lighting fixtures and bulbs, and one man from the fire department who was, under the agreement, to be paid by CAVE.

As in the case of the previous beach party there was no problem whatsoever with crowd control. Some of the older customers left in some disgust, complaining that there was nobody but little kids there – a similar problem, under somewhat similar circumstances, to that encountered at the very first CAVE dance at the Casino Ballroom. One happy discovery that night was a highly talented quartet of folk singers from Manchester named the Traveling Wayfarers who performed for an hour or more by the bonfire at the beach. They were good enough so that we hired them on the spot, both for an appearance at the Onyx Room and for the Sunday Labor Day evening show.

The morning after the beach party, the same bleary-eyed crew of volunteers turned out to clean up the area, the beach, and to drown the fire. This time we had enough foresight to bring more than one bucket.

Labor Day Sunday CAVE Show Approved

At a TAR meeting August 23rd, the Labor Day Sunday evening show was approved. By this time it was definite that Kweskin was unavailable, and a Dixieland group had been hired along with the Prince Spaghetti minstrels as the mainstays of the show. According to the Boston agency, the Dixieland group’s sound was similar to that of the Village Stompers, a currently popular group with young people who featured solo banjo rather extensively. Prior to this time, as soon as it had become apparent that the state bathhouse area would not be available for Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we had appealed to John Dineen to produce, in cooperation with CAVE, a special Saturday night dance on September 4th. If there was no way that an outdoor dance could be held, we felt that at least an indoor dance at the Casino Ball [room would have the effect of diminishing the crowds on the boardwalk somewhat. [edited due to blank space] At the TAR meeting Dineen said that as yet he had been unable to reach a final decision concerning this dance. In the event that it was to be possible, Dineen agreed to hire the band and keep the entire profits from the evening, and CAVE’s contribution would be to lend its name and help supervise the affair.

The bulk of this particular TAR meeting was taken up with a religious action group who had by this time received approval to conduct revival services through the period prior to Labor Day and including Labor Day weekend itself. Further comment on this particular subject will be found in the next section of this report.

Hope for Labor Day Saturday Dance

Following that TAR Committee meeting, the prime question for the demonstration phase of the project was whether or not any sort of CAVE function would be possible to establish for Saturday, September 4th, of Labor Day weekend. The end product of the project was, after all, to establish some sort of effective intervention technique which would contribute toward diminishing or eliminating the riot problem of previous years. If it was not possible to have a beach party at the state bathhouse, then perhaps the Casino Ballroom dance would be at least a moderately acceptable substitute, felt the Office of Juvenile Delinquency in Washington.

However, to make a decision in advance whether such an event would be safe and prudent was obviously a difficult proposition for John Dineen. When on August 25th we approached him to see whether a decision was possible, since time was short if an acceptable band was to be hired, he said reluctantly that he could not come to a decision soon enough to schedule a band and that therefore his answer must finally be that no dance could be held.

We were reluctant to give up on the project so quickly and began to cast around for other possible alternatives. One possibility presented itself the following night when the final CAVE dance at the Casino Ballroom was held. The band in this instance were the Trolls, who had been appearing regularly at the Onyx Room dances during the summer. We had anticipated that the use of the Trolls for a CAVE dance would bring poor response, since they could be seen so easily elsewhere on the beach, but we had overlooked the following this band had built up over the summer. Not only was there a slightly larger crowd on hand than usual, but many of the earlier CAVE members, including some of the older ones, appeared at this CAVE function for the first time in almost two months. Included was a sizable representation from the “C Street gang” along with the Onyx Room’s proprietor, Carmen Fichera, acting as manager for the Trolls.

At this dance, for the first time in the history of the CAVE’s events, trouble really did threaten. One “tough guy” was spoiling for a fight and apparently had two or three of his satellites ready to go along with him. However, thanks to the presence of Jack Derby, Carmen Fichera, and the C Street people, we not only knew that trouble was in the offing as quickly as the threat developed, but we were able to prevent incident. The boy in question was spoken to by a delegation of his peers and warned not to start any trouble. Not only that, but for the next hour until the threat was obviously diminished there were a dozen or more young people just as tough as he was posted around the floor ready to eject him at the first sign of an incident.

Out of these circumstances, in a conversation with Fichera, an alternative plan for September 4th evolved. Fichera’s plans for that evening were to keep business as usual at the Onyx Room with the Trolls. However, for approximately $200 he would be willing to close up the Onyx Room, have the Trolls appear at the Casino Ballroom, and he would gather enough of the C Street gang for a Casino dance to nip any trouble in the bud should there be another such threat.

It seemed an ideal solution since no decision had to be made until almost the last minute, allowing John Dineen ample time to assess the factors involved before scheduling or canceling such a dance. A few minutes later we had an opportunity to present this plan to Dineen, who agreed to take it into consideration – so once again a September 4th program looked to be at least a possibility.

Incidentally it should be noted that August 26th was an exceptionally cold and windy evening, that almost no one was on the boulevard or boardwalk, yet the CAVE dance drew over 600 people and netted the usual $100-plus profit.

Law Enforcement

During these same weeks of mid-to-late August, there were several items under the heading Police Activities that should be noted:

On the weekend of August 21st, a boy in his late teens, a CAVE member, was arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana. As it happened, the boy escaped by the skin of his teeth: chemical analysis of the drug found in his possession proved it to be not marijuana but a very similar substance, not on the Federal Narcotics List, which is taken medicinally by sufferers of asthma. The boy was able to show that he did have a record of such bronchial difficulties.

Nonetheless, it became quite apparent that marijuana was in use to some extent by some of the young people on the beach, and CAVE was able to be of assistance to the Hampton Police Department in supplying some facts in this regard. Fortunately it proved unnecessary for the police to take further action; the scare was sufficient to drive marijuana from the area for the remainder of the season.

Late in August, a dozen or more of the CAVE people and members of the Hampton Police Department met in an excellent interchange of ideas under rather unusual circumstances. At the request of Norman Kassoff of the IACP, a delegation of CAVE members banded together to act out an IACP script for the training course. The playlet in question cast two boys in the roles of policemen and the rest as beach kids. The incident depicted showed a slight incident which was expanded into a larger one because of tactless handling of the circumstances by the “policemen.”

This was followed by a discussion between the young people in the cast and 20-odd policemen during which, for the first time since June, each side had a chance to ask the other some blunt questions and hear some blunt answers. Perhaps such a discussion without a moderator could have gotten out of hand, but with Kassoff as chairman the dialogue stayed on topics of some importance and was not allowed to drift into trivialities. Both the police and the young people felt the session was most worthwhile, and had there been time the young people in particular would have liked to try it once or twice more. It would seem that in every instance where police and young people sat down in conference, a somewhat improved rapport was achieved, and that this type of function should be increased in future projects, particularly if an able moderator can be at hand.

It should also be noted that as August drew to a close and the Labor Day weekend approached, there was a significant increase in police activity by both local and state departments. Particularly this was true in the late night hours. In the period approaching Labor Day, the Beach Observations show only routine patrols in the weekend hours up to ten o’clock onward this activity increased significantly. At 9:00 P.M., for instance, there might be only one or two state troopers patrolling the boardwalk but by midnight there would be two squad cars parked at the front and as many as ten troopers on duty, checking automobiles and making it apparent to the young people that it was time to home and to bed. From midnight on, any group of more than three or four youths could expect to be approached by a policeman and be told to go elsewhere.