A few famous days
This article is about the 1967 Johnson-Kosygin Summit at Glassboro—but it isn’t about the headlines in The New York Times, cover stories in Newsweek or live television broadcasts telling the improbable account of the Cold War super powers’ visit to South Jersey. While professional journalists told the big news around the world, hundreds of regular people helped make history in their hometown and thousands gathered in the streets to watch it happen. These are their stories of a few famous days 40 years ago.
I grew up in Glassboro and lived near campus with my wife, Lorraine ’63. On June 22, we were eating ice cream and watching news around 6:45 p.m., when it was announced that President Johnson and Premier Kosygin were going to hold a Summit meeting in Glassboro. It sounded odd to hear of Glassboro as being the site of such a meeting. All of the news programs were alive with this news and the community became the center of world attention.
Television and communication trucks, newspaper reporters, Secret Service agents and all types of police were going throughout Glassboro. A man representing a Toronto newspaper interviewed my mother and our neighbor, Mrs. Straga. Last night a man from an Atlantic City newspaper called Uncle Stan for his reaction to Glassboro’s role as a Summit meeting place. Neighbors who live close to Hollybush said they saw both [Johnson and Kosygin] up close. Lyle Garofalo was staying on campus but had to leave. No one was allowed to stay on campus while the two leaders were there. Lorraine and I took a walk past campus this evening and observed TV cables, cameras, etc., and things pretty well stirred up. It is funny to watch local and national TV reports and news programs proclaiming the “Glassboro Summit,” the “Hollybush meeting,” etc. On TV, we saw Dr. and Mrs. Robinson. Glassboro is really on the map; we are excited and find it hard to believe.
A TV crew from a New York ABC station was preparing to videotape our service at Glassboro United Methodist Church. After Sunday School we walked to the college to see if we could see President Johnson. Several thousand people had gathered and just as we were in front of the house President Johnson, his wife and daughter came to greet the crowd. Later, we walked to the ball field and saw Mrs. Johnson and the other ladies leave for Gov. Hughes’ summer home. The Glassboro Summit is over and maybe nothing will really come from it, but it certainly enlivened Glassboro for about 72 hours. After they flew from here, there was a mammoth traffic jam in town.
David O. White ’69
My memory of the Summit is tied to the following year when Johnson gave the Commencement address at graduation. As a music major I played in the orchestra that day. The Secret Service searched our cases, looked inside our instruments—as if a violin could contain something dangerous—but I guess you never know.
After graduation, a bunch of us piled into a car and headed for the ocean. We were stopped by a cop for speeding. He looked in the car at all of us and said, “Where are you kids headed in such a hurry?” We said the beach. He looked uncertain as to whether he would issue us a ticket. Then I spoke up from the back seat. “Officer,” I said, “We were just all playing in the orchestra for the president of the United States.” “Really?” he said, smiling, “Go ahead. I was there as security and you guys sounded great. Have a good time but slow down.”
To this day when someone asks where I went to college, I say, “Glassboro State in New Jersey—do you know its claim to fame?” And quite often they do.
Carol Wucher Dole Wolff ’70
I was writing for The Whit and was invited to cover the Summit. The Whit, at the time, was published biweekly and never in the summer.
I was at a wedding and the dancing was interrupted to announce that I had a phone call at the bar. My father was calling to say that Ben Resnik, my journalism professor and advisor for The Whit, had called with an invitation to attend the Summit. I spent two weekends under a network camera platform about 30 feet from the front entrance to Hollybush with journalists who had just finished covering the Six-Day War in the Middle East. I’ll never forget it. I framed my Presidential Trip Press Pass with the Time Magazine cover reporting on the Summit.
Jim Dufford ’70, M’73
The Summit began on my ninth birthday. As a child growing up in central New Jersey it always seemed that New Jersey or anything good that happened there was overshadowed by New York news.
So when my mother and I were listning to the radio on June 23, 1967, and heard that President Johnson was coming to Glassboro, N.J., to meet with Premier Alexei Kosygin, we were both very excited. That neither of us knew where Glassboro is did not matter—our home state was in the spotlight!
The Summit and the coincidence of its scheduling on my birthday seemed to foreshadow my coming to Glassboro as a student in the late ’70s. By that time, I knew where Glassboro was.
Susan Morgan ’82
I remained in Glassboro after my sophomore year to work at the Glassview Diner. We had a really busy two days as we supplied lots of sandwiches for the news crews. The diner buzzed with activity and chatter about the event happening in our small town. The excitement was infectious. Working extra hours was a delight.
Diane Lisa Mazzei ’69, M’80
The media crackled with danger that June of 1967. Israel had just defeated six invading Arab armies. The Vietnam War, in its third year under President Johnson’s leadership, was looming toward a cataclysm. Suddenly came the words: President Johnson and Premier Kosygin were going to confer at Glassboro State College! My college! What did this portend for the United States and the world? Growing up during the Hitler years and maturing as a teenage soldier in World War II, I had known few years without war. Would there be peace at last?
I left my campground vacation to offer President Robinson any service I could perform. As I entered Bosshart Hall, I noticed a State Trooper posted on the roof, the only sign of anything unusual as I proceeded to my first floor office. Waiting for a return call from the College president’s office, I glanced down the road. I saw a long, black limousine approaching from the west. The driver hesitated, looking for the road to enter the college. Suddenly, there was Kosygin himself! He looked out of the back window as if to wonder: “Where am I?’ He gazed directly at me! He looked exactly as he appeared in the newscasts, high on a platform in Red Square, iron-faced with bristling short hair, as he reviewed his troops and his missiles! My bones went cold as I realized I was in the exact spot where I heard the news of Kennedy’s assassination. I thought to myself, “My parents were immigrants who fled Russia. If I could speak to Mr. Kosygin, what would I say?” The car made a right–hand turn past “Checkpoint Charlie” near Bozorth School and proceeded toward College Hall.
The days were stifling. The reporters dribbled out reports of the townspeople’s hospitality, the candlelight vigils, the comings and goings at Hollybush. Then everyone was gone and quiet descended once again upon South Jersey. But that was not the end of the story of Glassboro State and President Johnson!
The next year was a sea of troubles for the College and the nation. The assassinations of Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy, urban riots, and the anti-Vietnam protests brought an announcement from the President that he would not seek office again. Still, Dr. Robinson invited Johnson to address the College graduation exercises in 1968. It was the only site where Johnson could address young people again without danger or embarrassment. Among his remarks he said:
“I am glad to return to Glassboro. I shall always remember this town as a place of warm friendship and hospitable people. The world will remember Glassboro, I hope, as a place where understanding between nations was advanced by the United States and the Soviet Union…”
Historians may say that the results of the Glassboro Summit were negligible, but that does not matter. What does matter is that the eyes of an anxious world were locked on what President Robinson liked to call “the Glassboro family.” We met that challenge with dignity, pride and honor. Those never to be forgotten days in June were a transcendent time in the history of the old College.
Sidney H. Kessler
The weekend of June 23, 1967—Carol Hirst and John Lewis (both ’66) got married, President Johnson and Premier Kosygin met at Hollybush and Dave Griffin asked me to marry him—a memorable weekend to be sure!
When the news broke that a meeting between the two most powerful world leaders was going to be held at Glassboro State College, the excitement in the community was palpable. Hearing Walter Cronkite talk about the tiny college hamlet surrounded by towns like Pitman, Clayton and Mantua made my WWII veteran father and most of the other “grass roots” South Jerseyans surge with pride and excitement.
I was teaching second grade at Barclay School in Cherry Hill but somehow managed to be on campus
Friday when the presidential helicopter and its two escorts landed on the field behind Bozorth School right next to the railroad tracks where I had illegally parked as a commuter for the past four years. I didn’t really get a good look at any key players that day but that night at the wedding rehearsal dinner, I became a “celebrity who had already had a first hand view” of this amazing event.
Saturday was the wedding, and although the bride was beautiful and the day perfect, much of the conversation at the reception revolved around the amazing fact that Glassboro and the surrounding area were being talked about on television. You have to remember that 40 years ago news was not as pervasive as it is today!
Saturday night Dave took me home in his not-yet-classic, yellow-and-white, 1957 Chevy hardtop convertible… (which I wasn’t at all impressed with since I was a newly rich teacher making $5,000 a year and paying GMAC $62 a month for a brand new turqouise Pontiac Tempest!). In the living room of my parents home, the shy farmer from Mullica Hill told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. Fortunately I had the good sense to say yes!
Sunday was the most memorable day of the weekend. Dave and I arrived on Whitney Avenue early and stood shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people waiting for a peek and even a picture of this historic occasion. After we heard the helicopters behind the big oaks, President Johnson, Lady Bird, Lynda Bird and Governor Hughes came over to the edge of the lawn above the street, and they smiled and waved to the crowd before entering the majestic old mansion for the final hours of the Summit. People cheered, waved American Flags and snapped Kodak pictures and it was hometown America at its best.
My “Summit memory” was not yet complete however, for I had yet to meet my future in-laws, and long before the Summit was announced, Sunday was the planned day. When we arrived at the farm after the Glassboro celebrations had ended, much to our surprise, Dave’s father had his own “Summit memory.” Dad had heard on the news that the Russian Premier was being driven down the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 2 and across Route 322 to the college. Dad, being a proud American who had come through Ellis Island in 1923, walked up Griffin Road to 322 and stood in front of Shelmire’s peach orchards in hopes of getting a glimpse of the world leader. What a thrill when the driver of the big black limousine actually slowed down and Premier Kosygin himself rolled down the window and waved to the humble American farmer proudly holding the small American Flag.
It’s hard to believe that it has been 40 years since that weekend. The only tangible evidence I still have is a black-and-white snapshot, a commemorative mug and my Cushman dining room table which was proudly sold to us several years later by a salesman at Robert Weir Furniture on Delsea Drive who told us, “It is the exact model table that Johnson and Kosygin sat around during the Hollybush Summit.”
Yes, local residents clung tightly to the pride of Hollybush for many years, and 40 years later, I too am thankful I was part of that historic occasion. It is said that the Summit didn’t really change the course of world history. Well, perhaps that is true; but in my life it was a memorable weekend foundation for a 39-year marriage and our family.
Elizabeth Moll Griffin ’66, M’71
The night before, I was babysitting for my cousin’s two children. I was watching television when they announced the big news. When my cousin and his wife returned they did not believe me when I told them. Of course, I was there in the crowd the day of the Summit. I was on campus that summer attending a workshop for new employees of Project Head Start. We were informed during a group session that we would have to leave the College immediately. My friend and I decided to walk across campus toward Hollybush to see what was going on. We were stopped by a group of reporters outside Bunce Hall wanting our reactions to the big event. It was a very exciting time and I remember feeling very proud that our school was selected to host the Summit.
Jeanne Ferrell Jablonski ’69
I was an associate professor at Glassboro assisting administrators Stanton Langworthy and John Dwyer. I had traveled to Oneonta, N.Y., to prepare for my June 24 wedding. On Friday morning I was watching TV, finding out that there was news about the Summit at Glassboro. Rhama and I continued our wedding plans and after a small reception dinner we packed and took off for Glassboro. We arrived at our apartment in Mansion Park about midnight and were able to watch the press conference in front of Hollybush. When I returned to my office in Bole Administration Building after the weekend, I learned the Secret Service had used it.
My wife and I graduated [just before the Summit]. In November 1963 I stood outside Bunce Hall and someone said that the president had been shot. I thought that it was a joke; sadly, it was not. People all over the campus were crying in a state of shock. Then, when we where seniors in June 1967, someone said that the president was coming to Glassboro State. Again, it was a state of shock and disbelief. It wasn’t until I saw State Troopers with rifles on top of the dorms that I believed.
Robert ’67 & Cora Ellen Ramberg ’67
I was stationed in the U.S. Navy in Argentia, Newfoundland, when word of the Summit reached us via the Armed Services Network. I helped keep track of Russian submarines coming from Europe. No satellites were in operation then so it wasn’t until some time after that we found out any information about the Summit. Being in the active military, we were very concerned.
When I was a resident of Evergreen Hall, we would sneak out at night and “break in” to Hollybush. We would get a real thrill sitting in the chairs that Johnson and Kosygin sat in for their talks. Each chair had a brass plate on the back that had their name and date. We thought that was daring! It most likely was, but by today’s standards it’s a pretty benign prank.
Janet Sclafani Lovesky ’70
My fondest memory of the 1967 Summit is one which I had a chance to witness personally. I was at my family’s home in Mantua watching the events unfold on television as LBJ’s helicopter took off from Philadelphia International Airport. We were in the flight path of the airport and seconds later I heard aircraft sounds and ran out to the backyard to see the chopper carrying the Secret Service advance fly over our house ahead of the President’s arrival at Glassboro. Four years later I entered Glassboro State College as a freshman and had many opportunities to visit and walk by Hollybush prior to graduation and afterwards.
Glenn Ware ’77
The Pitman Hobo Band played both the national anthems of the United States and USSR in front of Hollybush. I played drums in the band and trumpeter Ralph Miller (grandfather of Shawn ’97 and Brian ’03 Salvatore) was one of the original members.
Dan Davis ’83
I was a Trenton State student who needed to reduce my fall semester so I took a summer course at Glassboro State. Glassboro in the summer was a sleepy sort of town in those days. I lived about 6 miles away in Barnsboro. Before the Summit, I happened to be home and needed to drive down Route 322 to see my grandmother. What a mess! There were police cars, vehicles that had something to do with television or radio and just a lot of folks milling around. On Monday the place was still jumping with cars, campus police, trash haulers and interested people. I had to go to class and the discussion was lively about the previous days and the story of little old Glassboro hosting a world wide Summit.
Barbara Harris-Para M’72