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In 1969, Fresno college students marched to Courthouse Park to protest war

Steve Brandt, left wearing a cap, and other Fresno Pacific students walked to Courthouse Park to join an anti-war protest in 1969.
Steve Brandt, left wearing a cap, and other Fresno Pacific students walked to Courthouse Park to join an anti-war protest in 1969. Special to The Bee

Q: I found a photo of my late father, Steve Brandt, in the October 1969 edition of then-Fresno Pacific College’s student newspaper. (He would later be the director of the college’s library.) My dad is on the left, wearing the cap. I can see a business sign on the right and I’m curious where the picture was taken.

Hannah Brandt, Fresno

A: The photo apparently was taken on the south side of Kings Canyon Boulevard just east of Maple Avenue. Lee’s Liquor, pictured to the right, was at 4630 E. Kings Canyon between Maple and Backer avenues, according to Fresno city directories. The shop was owned by Wash Lee. The building no longer exists.

Students at then-Fresno State College, Fresno City College and Fresno Pacific held protests against the war on Vietnam Moratorium Day, Oct. 15, 1969, according to Fresno Bee stories.

“Fresno Pacific College students today staged a protest against the Vietnam War that never once raised its voice,” one Bee story said. No classes were held that day. The peaceful vigil in Alumni Hall reflected “the non-violent tradition of the college.”

Following a speech by Fresno Pacific philosophy teacher Delbert Wiens, Steve Brandt, president of the Peace Club, asked the gathering to walk four miles to Courthouse Park to join the larger vigil, the story said.

The 90-minute Fresno State protest drew 1,500 people, another Bee story said. Protest organizer Vincent Lavery said, “It is simply to show that enough have been killed in the war, that we really want peace.”

About 60 Fresno Pacific students and a group from Fresno City College joined about 1,200 Fresno State protestors, who had walked nine miles to Courthouse Park.

A few days after the protest Brandt wrote in the college newspaper, “I think that the day did two things of great importance. First, it legitimized active protest of the war” and increased pressure on President Richard Nixon to end the war. The war ended in 1975.

JRW ASK ME 1
Leah Gill of Clovis holds a Merced Sun-Star photograph taken on Sept. 23, 1948, as she was held as a 6-year-old by President Harry Truman during a campaign whistlestop at Merced. She presented him with the floral wreath at right in photo. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

More about: After the answer to a question about President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 whistlestop train tour through California, including Fresno, appeared on June 10, Leah Gill of Clovis wrote to share her memory of meeting Truman during his stop in Merced.

“On Sept. 23, 1948, I was the 6-year-old girl who, while presenting a large bouquet of flowers to the president, was lifted up and held by him, to be photographed by the Merced Sun-Star, and to have my ‘15 seconds of fame’ on its front page,” Gill wrote in an email.

JRW ASK ME 2
Leah Gill of Clovis holds a Merced Sun-Star clipping of a photo taken on Sept. 23, 1948, as she was held as a 6-year-old, by President Harry Truman during a campaign whistlestop at Merced. She presented him with the floral wreath at right in photo. JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

“My parents, Albert and Ruby Pucci, were active in the local Democratic Party and were in charge of getting the bouquet to the president, using me as the conduit,” she wrote.

The caption with the front-page photo noted that her father was “a prominent labor official.”

“I remember getting up very early – the train arrived at 6:55 a.m. – on that dark, chilling morning to make the five-minute drive to the train station. Merced was a very small town then and we lived only four blocks from the station. We waited impatiently for the train to arrive. But, most importantly, I remember getting a new light blue coat with silver buttons for the occasion.”

“For many years after, I was asked, ‘Aren’t you the little girl who President Truman picked up?’ At least, until my long braids were cut off when I was about 10 years old.”

The newspaper caption said the white flower basket containing “mostly dahlias and zinnias were grown by Mrs. Stella Kreisa, secretary of the Merced County Democratic Central Committee.”

Gill said the framed newspaper clipping and a glossy photo of the event “have hung in all of my homes as reminders, and as conversation pieces, of a very special day in the life of a little girl.”

More about: After a “more about” John A. Poytress appeared on June 10 – the original question and answer ran on May 27 – Judy Westerlund of Clovis wrote to share more about Camp Sierra, which Poytress helped found.

“We have always been told that my step-grandfather, Arthur William Gray, was one of the founders of Camp Sierra,” Westerlund wrote in an email. “He was a Methodist minister from Visalia at the time. Later, when he retired, he was the caretaker of the camp.

“After World War II we lived with him at Camp Sierra while he and my stepfather built our home. We were the only family there in the winter for several winters, as I recall,” she wrote.

“Summers were filled with fun and many adventures for my sister and I. The different church groups that came up every week or two did not care if we participated in their evening events and campfires. We spent all afternoon at the swimming hole.”

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions toaskpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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