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Document 4 – A Klan Victim Remembers a Parade

 

“During the summer of 1924 the Ku Klux Klan carried out four distinct aggressive actions in the northern Indiana town of North Judson . I was a lad of ten years at the time; I watched two of these events unfold before my eyes and I witnessed the results of all of them in the days that followed. A fiery cross, a public parade, a homemade bomb, and open vandalism—these vicious acts threatened all of the Catholics in our community. They left permanent scars in my memory that have not been erased in the intervening eight decades . . . .

“I knew these people; I delivered newspapers to their doors; I went to high school with their children. In face-to-face encounters I never felt threatened by them. Yet these acts were committed acts behind a veil of secrecy. It has been said of Indiana 's Klan-marked past that ‘You can't burn history.' You cannot wash it away with your tears either. My own feelings at this late date are somewhat ambivalent, possibly modified with time. I present these incidents here not to condemn anyone, but only to record a bit of history not previously put to print . . . .

“The town's only newspaper, the North Judson News , used the word ‘orderly' to describe the Klan's next act--an impressive parade routed down the extent of Lane Street, the principal buisness street of town. Beginning after nine o'clock p.m. on Thursday, July 24, 1924, it was more or less typical of such shows of strength used to intimidate the targets of the Klan. I watched it from the corner of Adair and Lane Streets with my classmate, Ralph Dolezal. I remember companies of marchers in white robes topped with the conical white hats and masks that covered their faces. These were preceded by numbers of similarly costumed members mounted on horses. Many were carrying flaming torches that added emphasis to the eerie and threatening spectacle. More than anything else, however, the most striking and impressive part of the parade was a float of a ‘Little Red Schoolhouse'—a public school. The attached labeling left no doubt as to what was being targeted—our parochial school! To a ten-year-old schoolboy this was a body blow.”

(Excerpts from an unpublished memoir, in preparation for publication in the Indiana Magazine of History )