Oldtimers Weigh In On 1969 Shooting


Last Sunday afternoon I posted a 1969 article from a Reading newspaper describing a racial incident in Parkesburg in which one “negro” man, Harry Dickinson, who the article noted was “peace-making,” was killed and eight others, all black, were injured.

I created a link to the post on Facebook‘s Parkesburg Local group run by Kathi Rendall, Lynn Thomas Guidetti, Patricia Smith, and Kerry Glenn, and asked people to share their memories from that fateful night 42 years ago this month.

And share they did.  Six days later 62 comments from 12 people take us back to that night and reminded us all of how turbulent, and sometimes violent, the the decade of the 60’s was.

  • Jack Mariano It really wasn’t as sensational as the news clipping would indicate.
    July 17 at 5:08pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall Really Jack? Why do you say that? It was pretty sensational for me 1/2 block away…
    July 17 at 5:09pm ·
  • Jack Mariano ‎”Irate groups of blacks and whites clashed”? I don’t remember THAT!
    July 17 at 5:24pm ·
  • Jack Mariano There were probably less that a dozen people totally involved.
    July 17 at 5:25pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Had the Pagans not been involved (an outside gang) there probably wouldn’t have been an incident.
    July 17 at 5:29pm ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker Interesting Jack. I stumbled across a clipping from Rome, Georgia last week. The story was more than a local incident.
    July 17 at 5:34pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Yeah, Ken… It was pretty much blown out of proportion.
    July 17 at 5:36pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall That is in fact what happened. There were many people shot who had been at a Labor Day party that came down to investigate an incident had happened earlier in the day.
    July 17 at 5:36pm ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker How old were you at the time Jack?
    July 17 at 5:37pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall Blown out of proportion? It was my 13th birthday and I had to crawl in my own house below the windows. I did stand up long enough to see a dead man in the street. My father, brother and another man were hiding in our bushes with guns. The town was under a curfew for quite some time, the store were looted, windows broken. It lead to years of racial unrest.
    July 17 at 5:38pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall ‎*stores
    July 17 at 5:38pm ·
    Jack Mariano Some of the folks at the Arms weren’t happy about a couple of the black guys from tha bar across the street. The Arms folks solicted the help from a couple members of the Pagans motorcycle group. Mysteriously, one fellow was shot and killed. I do not know if they ever proved who actually did the shooting.
    July 17 at 5:39pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall No, no one ever was convicted of murder. what a surprise.
    July 17 at 5:40pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Ken…I was about 15 or 16 and I thought the Pagans were “cool” in fact my dad worked with the Pagans local VP (Jack Anderson). One of my buddies and me rode our chopped up bicycles back and forth past the Arms several times that afternoon.
    July 17 at 5:41pm ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker I didn’t know the Arms played into the story.
    July 17 at 5:42pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall The “shooters” were in the Arms shooting from the windows.
    July 17 at 5:43pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Mr. Dickinson (although I didn’t know him personally) used to walk shirtless in the street, pounding his fists on his chest. That bothered a lot of people but really, it wasn’t breaking the law.
    July 17 at 5:43pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Racial tensions were already a ltille high after the killing of a young black man on Main St. – a few years prior.
    July 17 at 5:44pm ·
  • Jack Mariano I recall one of the defendants saying that he was asleep in his upstairs room and never heard anything.
    July 17 at 5:46pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Unfortunately, I had to leave the area to report for work at the Cathlolic Church for BINGO.
    July 17 at 5:47pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Kathy..of course you were scared! Did you see any cops around?
    July 17 at 5:48pm ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker Sounds like BINGO kept you safe that night Jack!
    July 17 at 5:49pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Actually, I walked down Chestnut St. to First Ave. and stood there watching. All of a sudden, this familiar brown VW rolls down first ave and turned to go back towards thre railroad station. “Familiar” because it was Mr. Anderson’s car. Also, there was a rather large man in the passenfger seat…all I could see was his shoulders and his “colors” I thought UH OH! and I returned to my job.
    July 17 at 5:57pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Sometime later, the church hall received a call that there was a “riot” downtown, make an announcement that all patrons should go home but not by way of First Ave.
    July 17 at 5:58pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Subsequently, Borough Council hire a full time Police Chief out of Chester, PA and five full time police officers (plus a couple of part time officers) which they later on discovered that the Bourgh could not afford.
    July 17 at 6:01pm · 
  • Jack Mariano Kathy, I do remember a story about a party, do you remember where this was held?
    July 17 at 6:02pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall Dixon’s labor day party, Lenover Hill Rd.
    July 17 at 6:03pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms
    I was there when this happened. I probably told this before. My brother’s band was playing in the lounge and my Mom was in there to listen to them. I was with Lee Mitchell and Lisa Stoltzfus and not sure who else. There were Pagans shooting from the sort of turret windows across the street at the black bar. Mom said they were beating the Dickinson man with pool cues inside the lounge. I don’t remember what started the fight. She said he crawled past her feet where she sat at the bar. My brother got her out the back I think and I was standing up on the old bank corner watching. I know Ray and Peg Pendyk (sp?) were in the lounge too. It was a big deal to me too.

    July 17 at 6:30pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms I remember the shots and noise and a black girl I knew from school said to me These negros are crazy tonight. And walking down and seeing bullet holes in the stores the next day. I was just scared for my Mom and brother. I and Lisa had gone into the Arms before this happened. We’d go into the door behind the bar to use the bathroom there. But we didn’t go into the lounge. We were trying to see the band.
    July 17 at 6:36pm ·
  • Kerry Glenn Legend is that Rev. Crane of the Baptist Church stopped the unrest.
    July 17 at 7:12pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms I don’t remember that happening but I can’t remember everything about that incident. I just know it was a wild night!!
    July 17 at 7:17pm ·
  • Bill Glenn
    Somehow the community knew that there may be an incident brewing at the Arm’s Hotel that evening. My parents forbid me from being in that area until farther notice. At that time period I was mobile on my bicycle and often rode it to the far reaches of the town limits. So where did several of us young boys end up that evening….?!??!?!…. In front of the old ACME building across from the Arm’s Hotel. I’ll try and remember who was with me: Scott Smith, Mark Smith, Greg Kellon & Ron Wiggins – I don’t think brother Kerry was with us. So, we just hung out there – sitting on our bicycles trying to be cool (because we had banana seats and high handle bars on our bikes) Suddenly the commotion escalated and before we knew it there were GUN SHOTS! We got out of there quick! I remember pedaling up the hill behind Butler’s Hardware – pedaling so hard that I thought I was going to break the spokes out of the wheel. We all kept riding as fast and as hard as we could until we all got back to 3rd Ave. There were probably 4 to 6 shots fired – it happened pretty quick – and as we were riding away.

    July 17 at 9:04pm ·
  • Deb Zwicker Wilson Bill – Storytelling must run in your family ….. You tell a story as well as your brother Kerry! More please . . . .
    July 17 at 10:25pm ·
  • Heather Thompson Kellon I graduated in 1998 and there was still racists. Blacks sat on one end of the cafeteria and whites on the other end. It was even worse when I was in second grade. They had to close the school several times, because of the KKK trying to scare off anyone who wasn’t white.
    July 18 at 7:17am ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms I think I’ll pick my brother’s brain to see what he remembers from inside. Dave Jones was the lead singer in the band and for some reason every time he would wear this one shite satin shirt he would somehow get blood on it.
    July 18 at 8:13am ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms White satin shirt. sorry
    July 18 at 8:13am ·
  • Kerry Glenn
    Mayor Graham Boice had died the week before this, and if memory serves me, Chief of Police Earl F. Shipman (“Shippie”) was ill and hospitalized. At the Boro Council meeting the following week, Council President William J. Findley was elevated to the office of Mayor (per State law), and “Shippie,” who was likely already well past retirement age anyway, retired. Not long before his death (late 1990s?), Bill Findley told me the first thing he did as Mayor was to call Jack Anderson down to the police Station for a face-to-face meeting, and Bill said he pointed his finger in Jack’s face and said, “I want those P____ns (biker gang) OUT OF PARKESBURG.”

    July 18 at 8:53am ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms Shipman looked old when we were kids! I thought he was scary! My Dad took him on a few times though!
    July 18 at 10:04am ·
  • Dave Tennant Sr. I always stopped at the Arms on my way home from work for a beer.That day when I walked in, all I saw was strangers & guns. Roy Skiles Sr. walked up to me & said Dave, you have a new baby at home,get out of here now. I left & drove to my home on fourth ave. As I stepped onto my porch the shooting started. Thanks Rima.
    July 18 at 12:53pm ·
    July 18 at 1:01pm ·
  • Kathi Rendall I think maybe you still can…
    July 18 at 1:03pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms YEP!
    July 18 at 1:05pm ·
    July 18 at 1:06pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms It’s not anymore! But they still rent out rooms!
    July 18 at 2:01pm ·
  • Dave Tennant Sr. Bob Stoner, The Arms was always a very peacful place to meet your friends, & have a beer. The mentality of some people in that era was certinally in question. Issues between blacks & whites at that time were certinally an issue. I truly believe that all of us have put it behind & together move forward. My humble opinion.
    July 18 at 5:41pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms Dave I think it sticks in my mind so well too because my Dad had passed away in November 1968. Had he still be living I’m sure I would have been no where near there. And it was a big event in my young teenage life.
    July 18 at 7:45pm ·
  • Jack Mariano Ken, any suprise that a sory like this was big news in GEORGIA during this period?
    July 18 at 10:47pm ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker Nope! Sounds like it WAS a big deal! Appreciate all who have shared their memories from that fearful night so many years ago.
    July 19 at 7:04am ·
    July 19 at 8:50am ·
  • Jack Mariano Just goes to show you what a stand up guy Bill Findley was. He was always nice and a gentleman – any other person whouldn’t have gotten into this hornets nest. Bill not only jumped into it but he helped solve the situation to get the Borough back onto a “normal” life style.
    Wednesday at 9:38pm ·
  • Kerry Glenn Jack Mariano – Bill Findley was VERY animated when he told me that. I have no doubt he knocked some sense into Anderson when he did that. He was an excellent Mayor.
    Thursday at 7:48pm ·
  • Debbie Reynolds Helms I would’ve gotten into it Jack if I was older!! LOL By the way , is mayor of the burg a paying job??
    20 hours ago ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker Debbie, the mayor as well as the members of Borough Council received a stipend of $250 a quarter.
    19 hours ago ·
  • Kermit B Wilson I see, this conversation is a bit one sided,very biased and without all of the facts. I grew up in Parkesburg. There where always underlying racial problems. The good citizens of Parkesburg used the motorycle gang as their own gestapo force. They were told to control the black population.
    18 hours ago ·
  • Ken Knickerbocker Kermit, I’m sure we’re missing a lot of facts. The conversation centers around what people remember from the fateful night some 40+ years ago. What memories do you have of that night?
    16 hours ago ·
  • Kermit B Wilson Ken, it is more about what led up to that late afternoon/early evening tragedy. It is ludicrous to imply that someone taking off of their shirt and pounding their chest is inciting murder. This is not the forum for ths dicusion.
    15 hours ago ·
  • Kathi Rendall
    While I agree that it is ridiculous that the chest pounding is a justification for murder, I disagree about the forum. If not here, where? It will never be discussed in any other forum, and if everyone can calmly listen and share their side, it fosters understanding in my humble opinion. It was a terrible time in Parkesburg history, sad and heartbreaking not even to mention terrifying. Raoul Cervantes told his memories of what happened when Preston Ferguson was killed and I thought it was very enlightening. I don’t think it is the place to “blame” or accuse, certainly but I think, it is just individuals recollections of what they saw and how they felt. I think this kind of thing breaks down the walls of racism (if it is done rationally), and I am all for that.

    15 hours ago 
  • Kathi Rendall I also think it gives relatively new-comers an idea of what “we” as original residents experienced. It may also explain why we behave the way we do in certain situations while we better understand each other at the same time.
    15 hours ago ·
  • Kermit B Wilson People are still walking around with shotgun pellets in their body from that night. The experience is relative.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Kathi Rendall I understand that, and some are walking around with misunderstanding in their heart. No one is forced to comment, just those that wish to share can. However, that may leave it “bit one sided, very biased and without all of the facts”, just sayin’…
    14 hours ago ·
  • Kathi Rendall These types of things are always done out of fear at some level. Fear comes from the unknown. If we can better understand each other, it breaks down those walls. Again, just my humble opinion.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Raoul Cervantes
    I left the town in 1968, so what I speak of is my experience at that time. I can believe that some in the black community felt a sense of hostility and even paranoia from their experiences with the white community. But there also was a serious lack of integration and communication in the town, which often results in false beliefs. I knew black people and white people and heard stories from both sides. There was race based anger and resentment in both white and black communities. There was also a subculture of young black men, few in number, but quite visible in town that scared a lot of white people. More than anything, the families of Parkesburg wanted a peaceful town, with no murder, violence, or trouble. Seeing gatherings of young black men, who were for the most part harmless, worried and even scared white people. I do not think the Pagans were welcome with open arms, because they also posed a threat to Parkesburg tranquility. So, although the problem in many ways stemmed from race relations, the bigger problem, I think, was young men, with little to do, white and black, looking for a way to vent their grudges and anger, and seeking approval from their peers through violent means. It was bound to happen one day. I think that it is a testimony to the civil nature of the town that it didn’t happen again, at least not to my knowledge.

    10 hours ago ·
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