Looking Back to a “Better Time”: 1970 and Lincoln Junior High

by Scot (cross-posted from Duke City Fix)

Ah, the “good ‘ol days.”

In this pestilent year of 2017, it is so very pleasant to hearken back to a simpler time, one in which we were not bombarded on an unceasing basis with stories of hatred, oppression and battles among our fellow humans.

Instead of obsessively refreshing that Twitter feed this morning, let us all revel instead in that halcyon period of good times before it all went to hell and you know who. Specifically, let’s return to April 17, 1970 and the front page of the good ‘ol Albuquerque Journal:

Reviewing the headlines for that day we have stories including:

  • A heavily damaged Apollo 13 and really cold crew desperately trying to make it back to Earth alive (this is what turned out to be the “happy story,” worthy of a movie and whatnot);
  • “Hundreds Shout Opposition to Closing Lincoln Jr. High” (more about this one below);
  • “UNM Disciplinary Hearing Disrupted,” covering a meeting devoted to possible charges for two UNM students who heckled noted racist (and former presidential candidate back in ye even older “good ‘ol days”) Senator Strom Thurmond. At this meeting, UNM President and, well, let’s just look at page two of this story:

Yes, by the way, that is an ad for the lady’s garment know as a “slip” on the right side of the story. Quotes about trying university presidents for racism were placed directly next to slip ads back in the “good ‘ol days.” Getting back to the front page, we also have stories about:

  • Pete Domenici, then running for Governor, being accused as receiving a “political payoff from a city land developer” while serving on the ABQ City Commission; and, another bit concerning then-Supreme Court nominee Harry Blackmun allegedly not recusing himself as federal judge in three cases involving companies in which he held stock.
  • University Blvd. being widened from two to six lanes from Lomas N.E. to Hazeldine S.E. because, and I am making this quote up, “Goddamnit, humans simply have to pave more lanes for cars, beautiful cars, all hail cars!”
  • And, in what serves as comic relief looking back (and maybe even in 1970), “How to Tell a Pot Smoker,” the riveting analysis by unnamed APD officials that “the most common symptoms are loss of appetite, nervousness, absent-mindedness, sudden need of extra money, change of normal habits, etc.”

Maybe they had marijuana confused with meth back in the good ‘ol days.

Then there is the Lincoln Junior High story, the original reason for this look back at the “good ‘ol days” this morning. I’m not from here, as they say, and while I grew up during this era (I was eight going on nine on 4.17.70), I was doing so back in Dallas-Fort Worth (another “good ‘ol days” I’ll save for other posts).

So, moving here in 1993, I didn’t know there was ever a Lincoln Junior High in ABQ, even as a schoolteacher myself, only that I sometimes wondered why mediocre guys like Hayes and Taft got middle schools named after them, while arguably our greatest president did not.

Strangely enough, I found a tantalizing and disturbing story regarding Lincoln JH via a middle school literary journal. Usually we only think of such publications as being the source of horrible poems, but lodged amid all the horrible poems of the Jefferson MS “Tower” for some year in the late 90s/early 00s was a series of “fond” remembrances by former Jefferson students.

I don’t have that copy of the “Tower” in my possession, and can’t remember precisely the quoted remembrance, but the upshot was that:

  • Lincoln Junior High closed;
  • As mentioned in the 1970 Journal story, students were bused to Jefferson and Wilson Junior High; and,
  • Jefferson students (and maybe some parents? I can’t recall) lined the corner of Lomas and Girard (site of Jefferson) threatening the incoming Lincoln students with epithets and promises of violence.

Having read this, I followed-up with a request to the very kind folks at the ABQ/BernCo Special Collections Library to research any old news stories about the closure of Lincoln. Staff there provided the Journal editions shown throughout this blogpost. That was three years ago, and I’ve held off posting anything about this, until now, as it seems germane to some current research I’m doing regarding the effect of I-25 on South Broadway neighborhoods and the surrounding area. You can catch up with where I’m at, so far, with the concept of I-25 as “Border Wall” over at Better Burque.

Getting back to the “good ‘ol days” of 1970, let’s look more closely at what was then a public meeting regarding the proposed closure:

and on Page 2:

and here is a larger version of the striking photograph atop the news report:

So, to summarize all this:

  1. Albuquerque Public School officials and its Board sought to close Lincoln Junior High, ostensibly because of its dilapidated condition and declining enrollment;
  2. Many neighborhood residents protested, preferring that a new school be instead built for their community and that racism was behind the idea of closing Lincoln to bus its students elsewhere, instead of doing the opposite to increase Lincoln enrollment.

There’s more to it. Hell, there’s a lot more to it, all leading to the eventual closure in 1974 and what must be a huge number of societal repercussions ever since. Because the “good ‘ol days” have an influence, even now, decades later.

And it is that influence, as well as community impacts of countless other public policy decisions, including the eventual alignment of Interstate 25 through the area, that fascinate. Which leads me to ask:

  • If you are an “old-timer” who grew up back in the “good ‘old days” circa-1970 in the neighborhoods surrounding land federally granted to Albuquerque Public Schools way back in 1901 (btw, this grant is why I-25 has the infamous “S-Curve” between Coal and Avenida Cesar Chavez), I would LOVE to speak with you.
  • I will buy you coffee.
  • I will buy you breakfast.
  • I am not kidding.

Meanwhile, as we continue to obsessively refresh our Twitter feeds and debate whether the latest news story is fake, real, or merely depressing, let’s keep in mind that, as horrible as it seems now, and it is horrible, the “good ‘ol days” were just as much hell-in-a-hand-basket as 2017. Yeah, the specifics change, and we can argue degrees of horror (btw, 1942 has quite a number of things “going” for it in any contest of horrible), but innocent ‘ol 1970,  a year with top-selling hits like:

  • Jackson 5: “I’ll Be There”
  • Carpenters: “Close to You”
  • B.J. Thomas: “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”
  • Ray Stevens “Everything is Beautiful”

and only months away from a commercial sweetly and multi-culturally intoning that “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” was no great shakes, either.

Even in good ‘ol multicultural Albuquerque.

P.S.: Just in case you’re wondering what the 1970 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board thought of developments surrounding Lincoln Junior High, here is their piece on the matter from the April 22, 1970 edition:

Yeah, an APS Board Member uses the term “segregated school” to describe the situation. Ah, the “good ‘ol days.”

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