Back in the 1966, I was a relatively young woman with a 14-year old-daughter and 8-year-old son. That was a momentous year for us because that was the year that Minden schools were integrated. We had read of the violence associated with the integration in other big cities and we were so worried about it coming to Minden.
In my son’s room that January of 1966 Beverly Hampton was one of the first black students to integrate E.S. Richardson School. Her desk was right across the aisle from my son. Near the end of the school year she came down with chicken pox. Later, my son broke out with them on the morning of his birthday party, June 3. Party had to be cancelled since most of his friends came down with chicken pox, too.
It was a year of adjusts for both the white and the black communities. I know that little girl must have been frightened, but so where the white children apprehensive, too.
Miss Audrey Hortman was John’s teacher and she was so frightened over integration that she had her phone number unlisted, and she would not answer her door. I don’t know if she was afraid some parent would harm her or what. She was just petrified with fear.
Integration brought no problems and life went on. That autumn my son entered the third grade, and my daughter entered Minden High School.
My daughter was the “Student of the Year” that year at Lowe Junior High School. She had been the head majorette at Lowe that year, too. So many memories of the sixties.
Integration came that year to the Election Commissioners also. For the first time in our knowledge there were black people listed as Election Commissioners.
1966 was a year of front line news for Minden. The trials for two murderers attracted a lot of attention in 1966. One was a trial for the killing of a black man in 1965 in front of the First Baptist Church by a white man. My husband, J.C., was called a prospective juror. J.C. was questioned by the defense attorney along the lines that he had been advised by the pastor of our church to vote a certain way. This was not the case and my husband told them so. He was not accepted. The man who was being tried for the murder was found “Not Guilty.”
The other trial was for the murder of a local businessman and his wife was tried for his murder. This was a family that we knew well. The man operated an automobile parts business in downtown Minden. Their son was the age of my daughter. Two of the little daughters were in my Sunday School Department and I had visited in the home. When the new baby girl came in the family, the mother added “Suzanne” to her name because of my daughter, Suzanne. My feelings about this case were ambivalent. When I had visited the little girls in the home, I watched the mother as she sat sewing lace on little dresses and socks for the little girls.
The children were huddled on the floor around her feet. Such a scene of domesticity, a loving mother and children. I could not believe that she was guilty, but there were so many things that brought out in the trial that almost made me change my mind. Eventually the case came to a close and she was found “Not Guilty.”
In 1960 the paper sponsored a contest for the best slogan advertising, “Buy in Minden.” I entered several times and so did my husband. We both won one week and the paper came out, made our picture and it appeared on the front page of the paper.
The papers that year had plenty to justify a daily newspaper and in July of 1966 it became a daily newspaper. Gibson’s opened their store here on July 19, 1966. The opening day prices seem unreal. A carton of six Coca Cola costs 18 cents. A 9-piece set of Teflon lined cookware was $7.97. A 50 ft. garden hose was $1.12. A steam/dry electric iron was sold for $5.97. Piece goods for ladies’ dresses were price from .21 cents to .47 cents a yard. The Minden Press-Herald carried a full-page ad listing many, many similar prices.
And that was the year John Botzong hung up his cab keys after driving a cab for 45 years and driving over 2 million miles, wearing out 20 automobiles. He was 80.
The autumn of 1966 saw the election of the first Republican Mayor in Minden’s history and he was also the first Republican Mayor since Reconstruction. Changes, changes!!
There were so many things I remember from those years, but the thing that I remember best was that I could walk, I could work, and I stayed busy. Happy memories!
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935.