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1966: Celebrities and labor disputes - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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75 years of the Odessa American 1966: Celebrities and labor disputes

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Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2015 5:30 am

Celebrity appearances: In July, entertainer Dean Martin visited Odessa to play in the Odessa Pro-Am golf tournament at Odessa Country Club. Martin and his partner, Don Cherry, helped to attract the largest crowds ever for the tournament.

More than 7,300 people attended on the final day.

Another star, actor Michael Landon, who played Little Joe Cartwright on the "Bonanza" television series, visited Odessa later in the year as a guest performer for the American Junior Rodeo Association’s national finals.

Casualties of war: The war in Vietnam touched home for the first time in 1966. Seven Odessa servicemen lost their lives in fighting, the first Odessans to die in the conflict.

The young men were among 5,008 U.S. troops to die in Southeast Asia that year. By the end of 1966 almost 400,000 U.S. soldiers had been sent to fight, double the total of the first of the year.

Ambulance crisis: In August local funeral homes announced plans to halt ambulance service after Sept. 15. City and county officials held a series of meetings in an effort to resolve the problem. An arrangement was reached to pay a subsidy to a firm which would agree not to charge more than $25 per call. At the last minute, one funeral home owner declared that he would postpone the deadline for a "reasonable length of time," and the issue moved to the back burner.

Labor disputes: After months of discussion, Odessa approved a $68 per month pay increase for the city’s 95 policemen. The City Council voted unanimously to dip into the "general unappropriated fund" to finance the salary increases. Mayor Preston Parker, in announcing the council’s decision Sept. 27, cited the difficulty of maintaining a full staff of police officers. While the police force was satisfied, the firefighters were not. On Oct. 25, they organized the Odessa Fire Fighters Association, which was affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The group demanded a raise equal to those received in the police department, but the City Council refused. The firefighters hired a Lubbock advertising and public relations agency to help assist in a campaign for the pay hikes. By the end of the year, the situation was not resolved. Odessa nurses also wanted pay increases and revealed their demands to county officials Sept. 17. However, they said they had no plans to strike, like many nurses across the country had threatened. On Oct. 11, hospital authorities appeased the nurses by announcing merit raises for most employees. Medical Center Hospital raised its room rates a week later to finance the pay increases.

Bond issues fail: On June 11, county voters defeated a $3.6 million bond proposal, 1,815-1,332. Among other things, the bonds would have funded construction of a planned vocational-technical school.

School officials, who blamed the defeat on "bad publicity," scheduled a new bond election on Nov. 22, calling for $7.3 million in spending. That issue was defeated resoundingly.


>> On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that poll taxes were unconstitutional because they posed an economic barrier to voting. On June 13, the court makes its famous "Miranda" ruling, which requires that crime suspects must be told that they have the right to have a lawyer present while they are being questioned.

>> On Aug. 1, a 25-year-old Austin man, Charles Whitman, barricaded himself atop a "tower" on the University of Texas campus and began firing at people below. He killed 13 and wounded 31 before police killed him.

>> Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California.

>> Ford Bronco is first produced.

>>National Orgainzation for Women is founded.

>>Steve Spurrier wins Heisman.


Information is drawn from news accounts, archives and other historical records.



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