reading through Observations - the interesting and too brief
memoirs of veteran Waco
newspaperman W. S. "Bill" Foster, we noticed mention of an incident
from 1953 that readers may find interesting considering the recent
discussion about gay marriage and its potential legalization.
Although something tells us that it was probably left off the official
chamber of commerce calendar of events for 1953, Waco
that year hosted what was described as a "homosexual convention" that
April. Perhaps it was meant to be a centerpiece of the convention
or maybe it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but in any event, two
men decided to get married during the gathering and so it was done.
Make that attempted.
The site of the ceremony (attendees could call it a ceremony - to
the police it was termed a raid) was a small house near LaSalle Street
in South Waco. For people familiar with the Waco
of 50 years past, it was in back of the Blue Arrow Lounge. Now you
The police interrupted the festivities before rings could be exchanged.
It is not known if the authorities waited for the clergy to ask "If
anyone has an objection why these two…" Since these were new frontiers
back in 1953 one can understand that details hadn't quite been worked
out. The groom wore a suit while the "bride" wore a long white gown.
All of the participants were arrested and fined $25. Many of the attendees
were local Waco
businessmen (even so, their fine remained set at just $25 - the 1953
Waco Police Department was firm, but fair). It was not mentioned if
the bride had to pay his fine. A slight scuffle ensued, for police
Lt. Bill Cornell received long term disability pay for a permanent
service-related back injury.
The Waco Citizen - the city's non-syndicated "underdog" newspaper
was the only one to cover the story and send a photographer. The paper
featured the couple on the front page and wire services took the story
nation-wide. It was a once-in-a-lifetime scoop for the Citizen who
really needed the boost. The edition sold out in Waco
and copies driven to Hillsboro
went for $1.00 a copy (slightly higher in Canada). People loaded bundles
of papers into cars and drove them to parts of Texas where the news
surprised some people and didn't surprise others.
The paper named names and since it was 1953 - some businessmen left
town. The photo was so popular that a master print was made and sold
well into the 1970s.
The Waco Citizen, a twice-weekly neighborhood paper whose slogan
was once "If you don't want it printed, then [you] better not let
it happen" continues to be published in Waco
as of this writing. A month and a day after the story appeared, Waco
was hit by the destructive and deadly tornado that changed the face
of the city forever. Despite the proximity of the events, most people
consider the two incidents to be totally unrelated.
© John Troesser
shoe horses, don't they?" December 1, 2003
Source: Observations: A Compilation of Events in Texas History by
W. S. Foster, The Waco Citizen Press, November, 1976