William Treanor

Following the construction of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in the 1950’s, proposals began to emerge to turn Canal Road NW into a highway and to connect it to Virginia by building a bridge across the Potomac over a small group of rocky islets known as the Three Sisters.  Several different plans for the roads and bridges were discussed for a decade. In the late 1960’s citizens of Georgetown, students at the university and individuals from other neighborhoods in the city began to protests against the construction of the bridge and the highway plans.

William Treanor was a student at Georgetown University in 1969.  In his “eyewitness” interview with Cathy Farrell, he recounts his personal involvement with the several demonstrations that occurred in the fall of that year. Some of the demonstrations were violent. He vividly recounts confrontations with the police and a night when students and protestors occupied the Three Sister islands. Bill provides plenty of background information about individuals and groups who pulled together to protest the highway plans and he fondly recalls the Georgetown, Foxhall Village, and Palisades neighbors who became involved and supported the protests.

Interview Date:
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Cathy Farrell

William Treanor interview by Cathy Farrell Nov 1, 2014

William Treanor: When I was a journalist I once interviewed the president of the Ford Foundation who was my biggest funder.
Cathy Farrell: How fascinating.
Bill: The tape wasn’t working. It was most humiliating…
Cathy: I recorded a whole groundbreaking ceremony at Potomac School and didn’t turn the sound on. I had the video but no sound.
Bill: That was back in the silent movie era wasn’t it?
Cathy: That’s right! It was the silent movie era. Today I am interviewing Bill Treanor who was active in opposition to the Three Sisters Bridge. The date is November 1, 2014. We are at 4919 Palisade Lane. Mr. Treanor, start reminiscing as we look at these photographs and news clippings together.
William: OK. I have a cold so I have a little frog in my throat. OK so let’s see. I had been a student at Georgetown and then I was a civil rights worker. I worked for Martin Luther King…Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Cathy: OK…The year we’re talking about?
William: The sixties. In June of 1968, I started a DC Runaway House for runaway kids in DuPont Circle. Through all of these different things I had kind of gotten wired into civil rights people…Walter Francis White, Marion Barry, I don’t exactly remember how — There was something called the Emergency Committee on the transportation crisis…very important group in the story which was run by Sammie Abdullah Abbott, who later became mayor of Tacoma Park… a wonderful guy and fantastic public speaker. Their slogan was “White men’s roads through black men’s homes.” It’s a pretty good slogan too.
They had a big map of part of the city and it showed I-95 coming down the beltway through Silver Spring and Brookland and then coming down and linking up to the north leg of the inner loop. Are you familiar with where these roads were supposed to go?
Cathy: Mm-hmm.
William: You know that the Third Street tunnel that comes out onto New York Avenue…?
Cathy: Yes.
William: That was intended to hook up…
Cathy: No, I did not know that.
William: How funny it is.
Cathy: It doesn’t go anywhere.
William: That was supposed to link up to the north leg of the inner loop. That was going to run,
more or less, south side of U Street. They intended to knock down every building on the south
side of U Street, curve down through DuPont Circle.
It was going to be trenched, like it is on Connecticut Avenue, going to be trenched one way
down Q and, of course, knock down every house on one side of the street. Each of those blocks
would destroy DuPont Circle, after destroying U Street. Then it was going to go down Florida
Cathy: Really?
William: Yeah, and knock down a lot of buildings there. It would be a cross street from the Cosmos Club and whatever. Then, it was going to come down and it was going to be an interchange, at what we call the P Street Beach. You know, south of E Street.
Cathy: I know exactly where you’re talking about.
William: That whole area, of course, Georgetown is right in the bluffs above it, was going to be it. It was going to swing down and I think it was going to run under the Whitehurst, all the way down to the end of K Street, where it just sort of ends now. You get a little bit further, a quarter of a mile or so. If you get on the river bend, you can see the Three Sisters Islands out there. It was going to go across the river there. It was going to go and it was going to wipe out the spout run. You know that beautiful…

Cathy: That’s where it was going to go?
William: It was going to go straight up there and then it was going to hook on to 66.
Cathy: That entire area looked very different.
William: Oh my God. It would completely have changed the city. DuPont Circle would probably all be kind of commercial and whatever now because it wouldn’t be a very nice place to live.
Cathy: All those lovely old historic buildings…
William: All chopped up like that. If you’ve ever been to cities that have really got chopped up by freeways, like Milwaukee, you could just see how they do a job on a town.
Cathy: That area wouldn’t have had the same character now.
William: Well, no. It would have had a big freeway sitting on top of it…
Cathy: Was this before, during or after the federalization of the Canal of the Towpath area?
William: After. That was William O. Douglas and he died and left the court under LBJ. It would be before 66. It was really going to change the city and the south leg. You have the Three Sisters Bridge and the road under K Street and the south leg was going to go straight ahead. It was going to tunnel under the Lincoln Memorial, go down the Mall, and link up to what we call the 14th Street Bridge, 395, so that’s the loop, the inner loop.
Cathy: That would’ve been the inner loop?
William: That’s the inner loop, of which only parts had been built. No, I take it back. It wasn’t going to go straight ahead. It was going to go, and it was going to hook up where you see all that funny freeway stuff between the Kennedy Center and Foggy Bottom?
Cathy: Yes.
William: So much room, why is there so much room here? All these big roads all the sudden. That was part of the south leg of the inner loop, but it was going to go under the Lincoln Memorial.
Cathy: Under?
William: Under. Yeah, which of course would’ve vibrated the thing down eventually over time, all the trucks and everything. It was the end of the era of the “Freeways über alles,” you know? Freeways just were going to have everything.
Cathy: It started with Eisenhower and kept going therefore I guess into the ’50s and ’60s?
William: Yeah, he was…
Cathy: He did interstates.
William: He was a proponent of it, that’s for sure.
Cathy: Not freeways, interstates right?
William: Yeah. All they were thinking about was the inner-city part. They never considered they were going to turn into big commuter roads.
Hard to believe now because that’s their major use around the country… commuting from the “burbs” to the city, and our beltway certainly is our metropolitan area’s main street. You can’t live here without knowing where the Beltway is. Let’s face it.
Cathy: Nope, can’t move on them either.
William: That’s also true in Virginia.
William: When they built the beltway in Virginia, it only had two lanes in each direction, you know?
Cathy: I moved to Washington in 1968 and worked in Gaithersburg so I crossed Key Bridge, went out the GW Parkway, and onto what then was called 70-S. It was two lanes in each direction and that was it, and there wasn’t a soul on it.
William: Really?
Cathy: In 1968.
William: Yeah, it was a much smaller town.
Cathy: Well, there was nothing west.
William: Yeah, Gaithersburg was pretty rural then.
Cathy: It was very…It was the King farm and all of the dairy was still…
William: Mm-hmm. OK, so whatever you put together, my suggestion would be that you definitely include a map because people will have to see you’ve got…Here’s DC today or then, and then an overlay of where these roads were going to go.
Cathy: That’s an excellent idea.
William: The Three Sisters thing doesn’t make any sense unless you know this stuff. It’s like, “So what, a bridge, big deal” you know? No, if you look out of the bridge, you couldn’t do the other stuff, so you were actually fighting to stop the whole shebang.
Cathy: Would the boathouses along the river have been torn down, because if you’re saying it went under the Whitehearst?
William: Not the one down by Watergate and up by…I think that the bridge would’ve come very
close. I don’t know those buildings that are north of Key Bridge right on the river there.
Cathy: There’s the Potomac Boat Club.
William: The Potomac Boat Club.
Cathy: And then there’s another that is green
William: I really don’t know, but the bridge would’ve changed them because if you go over to Alexandria, you can see where you’ve got the sort of yacht thing and then you’ve got the Wilson Bridge right overhead. It would’ve been like that. Maps are essential to telling the story because even if you lived through that era, let’s face it most people now didn’t. You wouldn’t understand the story without understanding the geography of the story. Three Sisters is sort of the cork in the bottle. I got involved…I don’t really remember too much specific but there was a guy named Andrea, who was a student at Georgetown.
Cathy: A-N-D-R…
William: Andrea. A-N-D-R-E-A.
Cathy: OK.
William: He did work at the DC department of transportation. I’ve lost track of him…Very good guy, very feisty. We got plugged in. We, the younger people, into this emergency committee during the transportation crisis, and there was a parallel anti-freeway, anti-Three-Sisters-Bridge group forming in Georgetown, Foxhall Village and even here along Palisades. One of the people I met, something like Alstrom, the doctor, who was later murdered… [Dr. Michael Halberstam]
Cathy: He lived off University?
William: He was very active in all the stuff we are talking about. He was a great guy. We had the counter-cultural left, which I guess you could say — I was part of that crowd with Marion Barry, Willy Hardy and Walter Fauntleroy and David Clark – who became Chairman of City Council later.
He and the others were ladies of Georgetown and Foxhall Village, etc. In that case, they were mostly women.
Cathy: They joined your group as well?
William: I don’t want to say we were all bed-fellows, but we were different. It’s spanned one socio-economic demographic group in this broader thing. It wasn’t just a bunch of wackos from DuPont Circle.
Cathy: They all had a common goal.
William: Absolutely, all this mumbo-jumbo. No. Three Sisters rich is what this gets distilled down to.
Cathy: That became the focal point.
William: Correct. There was the cork in the bottle. If we had to stop that, we could stop the whole thing. I think the Georgetown Citizens Association was involved, if not — who’s the lady’s name that ran the citizen’s association that says “Mrs.” — I remember her from when I was a student at Georgetown.
I belonged to that fraternity on the corner of the 34th Prospect at the frat house, there. I was one of the guys who built a cinderblock wall along 34th Street. It was very un-Georgetown.
Cathy: Cinderblock in Georgetown…
William: She was nuts over that. The y let ivy grow over a lot of it. She gets stuck in traffic there on 34th Street, look over your right on Prospect and you will see the cinderblock wall. It’s probably the only one in the entire Georgetown area.
Cathy: I can look up her name, if you don’t recall it.
William: Others. [indecipherable 13:55] could probably remember she was there. She wasn’t particularly active in the freeway thing. She was into historic preservation, minding-everyoneelse’s- business type of person. A lot of the action was in the fall.
Cathy: That clip is from the Post in October, 1969.
William: October ’69. Look at the picture. This is one of the students in Georgetown. He is bloody and here is a cop arresting him.
Cathy: A demonstrator is arrested.
William: This shows you the whole demonstrations and I think I got more of this but…Here’s the photography of that scene. You see that guy?
Cathy: Oh, that is…
William: Yeah. That’s him there. Here you can see the cops all lined up.
Cathy: Where are you demonstrating? Key Bridge?
William: …Key Bridge. There were two ways to get there. One of course, is dead down
Wisconsin Avenue along Key Street. Other way there is a tunnel under the Canal Road. You know where that is?
Cathy: Yes, It’s Fletchers. Is it the one in Fletchers?
William: It’s right there at Georgetown, right below the University.
Cathy: Tunnel? I had…Yes. I have walk over there and it comes out under Key Bridge doesn’t it or just short of it?
William: North of Key Bridge.
Cathy: Yeah, just north of Key Bridge. Yes.
William: You cross that road and I can show you from Georgetown to the University, take your route down the back-side of the campus. Come out of the back where you could go down the…
Cathy: I know where it is.
William: …What you called? The…
Cathy: It’s almost the Battery isn’t it? Isn’t there an area call the Battery?
William: Yeah. That’s Battery Park.
Cathy: Yes.
William: Yeah, OK. So you get out of Canal Road and you’ll be able to walk down the hill, then one of the tunnels right to the construction site. You should walk this sometime. I think the cops blocked that one.
Cathy: They blocked that tunnel.
William: Yeah, they closed it. That’s why we’re walking out this way because… that’s the only way to get here…That’s the only way to get here. This looks like there’s a cop in the police car. In this report you can see is the car.
Cathy: Here you can see the little rocks of the bridge and the Three Sisters. Good looking policemen…
William: You really have to look closely. You can see the cops speeding somebody off, probably me. Here the cops and the demonstrators.
Cathy: Right there on the tow-path.
William: Here is the shot you can see the railway tracks here all the way towards the river. Here’s one the cops. I guess they were arresting people.
William: Here the cop with all the brass, I mean like it’s such a bullshit. They had 200 cops there.
Cathy: That’s a lot of policemen…
William: Oh my God. It’s ridiculous.
Cathy: Look at them with little hard hats on. I guess that was riot gear at the time.
William: Yes, exactly. It’s a pretty SWAT team. Now, they’re armed with a personal carrier of course.
Cathy: All in black.
William: …Absolutely in black.
Cathy: Let me ask you something?
William: I think I’ve got some other pictures that…anyway you can hold on to these. That’s very hot quality. I don’t want you to do anything with them.
Cathy: I would return them to you, but let me take them downtown and see if I can get someone to copy them, so that we get a little bit more clarity. Digitally, I think they can be enhanced as far as the color.
William: I think you can do a lot of things now. I might be able to find some better photographs. Mattie and Andrea would be somebody else
who might have some photographs, and his rendition of events would be equally valuable.
William: OK. We had a series of demonstrations.
Cathy: How did you organize yourself with these various different groups? What was the actual organization?
William: We had a cadre of supporters who were like Mat Andre and I think we both lived in DuPont Circle. We had support on campus. Remember this is 1968, this is when all these college campus are going bullshit. The guy who’s — you see the blood — this guy here…
Cathy: Do you remember his name?
William: I have no idea. He was a student at Georgetown. It was almost all Georgetown students, it really wasn’t the other schools…It hard to recall.
Cathy: Looks like there are some women in the photographs, but majority men.
William: Well one, a problem, my then girlfriend, Dorothy McGee. Do you know the McGee’s?
Cathy: I don’t know the McGee’s.
William: Marsha Carter, do you know Marsha Carter from Georgetown? She used to run the bookstore across the post office with Larry McMurtry.
Cathy: Yes, I’ve been in there many times.
William: Yea well that’s Marsha. Marsha still lives in Georgetown. Dorothy lives on Upshire Street.
Cathy: OK.
William: Other than her, I don’t really remember any women in particular. It would have been an era, for instance, where the Howard students would have said, “Well, that’s over in the white neighborhood that’s got nothing to do with us.” That’s kind of how they’re thinking was…
Cathy: …At that time?
William: Yes, very much so. I don’t think you’d find people being quite so racially parochial anymore. We had a couple of demonstrations, we had good grass roots neighborhood support from all along the Potomac River and the district from here all the way down to the end of the residential, which would be around the Kennedy Center and Foggy Bottom. We didn’t have any support from the political class of the day. Walter wasn’t he was just a Washington representative for SCLC and a minister of a church. David Clark, was — he was not on the city council or anything. Marion wasn’t…We didn’t even
have an elected school board. Marion hadn’t been elected to anything. We were definitely the outsiders. We were embraced by the white women of this strip along the Potomac River. The DC side, we were talking about. There were some really terrific women in Foxhall Village. I don’t remember the names but they were really good, OK? We had a couple of demonstrations…Concurrent to all this, there’s lawsuits going on and there’s the emergency committee and the transportation crisis going on in the community…Sammy Abdullah-Allah was a little short Lebanese guy. He would testify at these hearings and he would immediately climb up on the hugest chair and climb up on the table and deliver harangues — really good harangues too he was a very good public speaker — There would be a lineup of white guys with bald heads…
Cathy: He would just point at them and harangue them and…
William: Yeah, the highway lobby. Don’t forget this is “White man’s roads through black men’s homes.” The freeway was going to go through the colored park on the way to the beltway. There were a number of demonstrations. At one point we, “occupied the construction site” with a bulldozer — you can see it in some of these pictures I brought — You can see construction pipe. Not in these pictures but I do have pictures where you can see some of this.
Cathy: There are bulldozers there, aren’t there?
William: Let me see.
Cathy: What’s that behind them? I can’t tell. There’s a fence along here, along the river and there are objects in this picture. Looks like supplies of some sort. Those look like supplies.
William: Yes, it was definite construction.
Cathy: Look like they’ve cut down trees in this area. They started excavating in this picture. William: Destruction was imminent. Yeah, that whole area down there was just going to be obliterated. We occupied the site. Now with hindsight, I realized that it was a great tactic only because the cops and others and…William Natcher, who is a very important part of the story, a congressman from Bowling Green, Kentucky all turned up.
Cathy: N-A-T-C-H-E-R.
William: N-A-T-C-H-E-R. He was the Chairmen of the Appropriations Committee. He was big on these freeways. Bowling Green is where Ran Paul is, the senator from Kentucky. Of course now, he is a Republican but then they were Democrats, Southern Democrats. He was pushing, and I am sure he is the one who was pushing the cops — remember there was no home rule then at all. The cops would — look at the pictures — way overreacted. They came out
and then we had a march I think from the front of Healy building in Georgetown down through that tunnel…Maybe not down through the tunnel, maybe not through the tunnel. Maybe the stairs with a picture of here, the walk down the towpath. We got down there, I’m putting two events together here. There was a time we “occupied the site” whatever that meant and…
Cathy: This continued over a number of days or was it…?
William: Yes, a couple of months.
Cathy: Couple of months. What time of the year we’re talking? Spring? Falls?
William: Yeah.
Cathy: October?
William: October.
Cathy: Yes. That’s the date?
William: Right here. See, here’s the date right here.
Cathy: So this…
William: Yes. October 21st. The demonstration was October 20. Yeah. We occupied the site and myself and some other people. We went out and occupied the Three Sisters Island.
Cathy: You did?
William: Hoping…they got the biggest catch.
Cathy: They’re not too big. Depending on the level of the river.
William: We spent the night there.
Cathy: Did you really?
William: I was like 24 years old.
William: There is a…like a banner but I think it’s probably like a sheet, it’s probably spray-painted. It says, “Stop the Three Sisters Bridge” or something like that. We held that up and when people were coming from Virginia across Key Bridge they could see the sign. We got a lot of publicity.
Cathy: Which you needed.
William: Oh, yeah. We definitely needed it. We’d been ignored. I mean now we get much more media courage or something like that. We had the sign, “Stop Three Sisters Bridge”. I think we did a demonstration or maybe I wouldn’t stay at this occupied site…Whatever we did our little stunt and that was that.
A week later, might have been this march and then they did cops turned out in force. They bashed everybody. I got a picture with cops strangling me, fantastic photograph actually. You see a tear on my cheek? I worried about these people, the cops. I really did. No, no. he was choking…
Cathy: You thought that guy was going to choke you to death?
William: I thought he’s either going to choke me to death.
Cathy: Oh.
William: They arrested me, took me down to Central Cell Block. Then they were going to charge me as being a, I think that was a Chronic Offender or something like that. My lawyer was David Clark who began out of law school with no clients but me when I was broke. Now there is a David R. Clark School of Law out in Connecticut. Now meanwhile you got all the stuff going on in the court and there is a lawyer, Cleaver Park I think. I believe his first or last name was Craig. It is easy for you to find out. This is not going to be hard for your research. [cough] Excuse me. They are fighting it in court soon, whatever. This activeness mostly women, the only man that I could remember is Michael Halberstam. They were organized, I mean I helped, but “they”, all of those this women from Georgetown and Foxhall Village and Palisades. We had an election on Election Day. We had ballot boxes, white things in boxes and we put them outside the voting places all over the city. You would come in and you would vote. “You want the Three Sisters Bridge or you don’t.” I don’t remember the exact terminology, but that’s what it boiled down to. We did a poll for the city we did this to have this whole thing. When you come to me now you got to vote. You see all these people with the candidates there. We had people there with these all white boxes, cardboard boxes that were slotted on the top and you would get ballot.
Cathy: And you’d vote?
William: You’d vote, yeah. Of course, it was completely unofficial.
Cathy: Why?
William: It was better than taking out a poll, I tell you that.
Cathy: It was a very good way to demonstrate your point.
William: Really good. It got a lot of people aware. We really turned the people in the city against the freeways. There was another freeway that was in the planning stages, which was going to come down Wisconsin Avenue, probably take on this side of Wisconsin. It was going to hook up with these
other freeways that I was talking about. Did you ever wonder why we don’t have any freeways at this whole part of the city? That’s why.
Cathy: That’s why. You stopped them.
William: Stop them. Right? That’s why.
William: It wouldn’t be a freeway, it probably would have come down somewhere around the Cathedral and probably gone down Mass Avenue somewhere. I don’t really remember the route. It probably would have plowed through as much park land as possible. All those things usually do.
Cathy: I heard once there was to be some kind of a freeway through Battery Kimball.
William: That’s a…
Cathy: That would have tied into The Three Sisters.
William: That could have been the end of the road coming down that I’m talking about that was going to come down on Wisconsin Avenue, whatever. People lived here for 50 years and they never say, “Gee, every city I go to there are freeways all over the place. How come there are not any here?” That’s why. They were certainly on the drawing boards. A lot of the inner loop got built — the pie parks I was talking about earlier, that whole mass tunnel under the mall and everything from Southwest up to New York Avenue, the whole thing around the Kennedy Center. It wasn’t just somebody’s fantasy…
Cathy: It was in the works.
William: It was in the works, yes.
Cathy: Who was the controlling political organization that was moving these things along?
William: The Highway Lobby.
Cathy: The Highway Lobby, the federal…
William: No, no. Highway lobby would be the oil companies, the trucking companies, the contractors, that guys who were going to pour the cement and what we call the Highway Lobby today. The American Trucking Association moved to the burbs, but they were at 16th and P. They were a big part of it. They really liked, of course, the freeways because it was good for truckers. It was good for the country, too, as long it was in the rural areas or the suburbs.
It wasn’t really good probably if it was in the middle of historic cities, but anyway. I’m a fan of interstates. I use them. No one was against interstates, but they were against where they were put. Of course, they were all contributors to the powers that be in Congress in particular. Now a lot of them were Southern Democrats. There was one party south, and they were…
Cathy: It was the congress that was advancing this because there was no home rule or there was no real city structure to determine that these roads should be built?
William: There were three commissioners. We might have had an appointed city council by then. I can’t exactly remember when we got the appointed city council. Jay Turner was on it. Gilbert Hahn you might remember of the shoe company. He was a pretty good guy. Walter was on it, Sterling Tucker. This is before the elected city council.
Cathy: Walter Washington was mayor.
William: He was the appointed mayor. Right, like LBJ. Right, and Walter Washington wasn’t exactly very well-known. He was from Jamestown, New York.
Cathy: I did not know that.
William: He was from Jamestown, New York, along with Justice Robert Jackson.
Cathy: Justice Robert Jackson?
William: Probably one of the greatest justices, certainly of the 20th century. He was the presiding judge at the Nuremberg trials among other things, really the architect of all Civil Rights Law and whatever. A big one today. He’s from Jamestown, too. Anyway, that’s off the subject. I just read this. I don’t know the last time I read it, but certainly it would be 30 or 40 years ago. This is talking about the politics on Capitol Hill, which is also playing out there. The House had demanded that it be built in their appropriations legislature. This would be the District bill. We had our own bill in those days.
Cathy: OK.
William: OK? Then they ordered it to be built through Northeast Washington, through Silver Springs into Brookland. Senate conferee, John Sherman Cooper, a Republican in Kentucky. That’s when we had liberal Republicans once upon a time. Do you know what the study [indecipherable 36:25] that the 1968 provision to study the freeway and build The Three Sisters and other local products be rescinded. John Sherman Cooper lived on Dumbarton Street at about 29th, 28th, somewhere around there.
Cathy: Down near Rose Park?
William: Not too far away. It could be you grew up down the street from there on Dumbarton, pretty close to the East End. You may be a block or two in from the parks at the east end there. He was opposed. The biggest proponent was also from Kentucky particularly because the liberal was the
Republican and the Conservative was the Democrat.
Cathy: Interesting.
William: I think what he did was a little switcheroo because it’s the Civil Rights Act, right? We had this big vote. I think that there were some court victories. I think eventually — this is really testing my memory here but — “The Evening Star” and “The Post” and everybody turned against it against Three Sisters. It stunk. It was such a bad idea, and it was going to do such carnage.
Cathy: To many areas of the city?
William: To so many areas, right. Yes, because it was going to also be white men’s road through white men’s homes, too. Changes happened in the Congress, and I think there were some court victories. You have to ask others about this. It just got to the point where it was check-mated, and the construction equipment at the site sat there for years and years.
Cathy: It did?
William: Year and years. They took the bulldozers away, but big pipes and a bunch of other stuff. Maybe there were even a few fences. I don’t remember. You really should walk down there and…I haven’t been down there in at least 30 years.
Cathy: Was there an actual court action that dissolved it or maybe people withdrew from it?
William: I believe there was actual court ruling, but at that point, say, certainly the affected residents were opposed. Probably by then we had at least an appointed city council then elected. They were probably opposed, and I think Walter Washington might have been the appointed mayor. He didn’t lift a pinky to help us on that.
Cathy: When was it dead? Was it in…?
William: It was dead…
Cathy: …by ’70? ’69?
William: ’70. About ’70 I would say. ’70, 71, something in there it was dead. In a way certainly from a historical point of view, not a legal history, but these demonstrations here were the apex of the fight against the bridge.
Cathy: The demonstrators were probably the turning point and also the fact that shortly after that you had your ballot box. That was the last week of October, and the first week of November would have been election, right?
Cathy: No, I don’t.
William: Norman Mailer wrote about it, “The Armies of the Night.” It was flower power. We went to the Pentagon. We put flowers in the rifles. What’s his name? Allen Ginsberg was even going to levitate the Pentagon? Do you…
Cathy: I think [laughs] this is coming back.
William: Oh, my God. It was a riot. It was really a riot. It was this huge demonstration, and do you know the Wisners?
Cathy: Yes.
William: I went to the demonstration with beautiful Wendy Wisner and her beautiful friends from Sarah Lawrence. I could write demonstration.
Cathy: It’s like a social event.
William: This would be the youth part of this thing. We organized another march. We were rallying on the front lawn at the Healey Building on this university campus. The cops said, “You don’t have a permit. We’re going to arrest anybody who marches, and whatever. We had several hundred people there on the lawn. We got, of course, zero support from the administration of the university. Not surprising. We couldn’t go down under that tunnel I was talking about. We had to go all the way through Georgetown down Wisconsin Avenue. They had blocked everything else. Then, of course, as soon as somebody stepped off the sidewalk they would arrest them or whatever. We were either mature and nuanced enough in our thinking that we called it off, or we were chicken shit. I’m not sure which, but we…
Cathy: Maybe both. [laughs]
William: Maybe both because we had just gotten beaten to a pulp the week or two before. We called it off.
Cathy: This would have been in early November?
William: It would have been the day after the March on the Pentagon.
Cathy: The day after the March on the Pentagon?
William: Day after the March on the Pentagon, whatever that was.
Cathy: How far did you get when you walked?
William: We didn’t go anywhere.
Cathy: You stayed on campus?
William: I think, looking back, gosh, the bridge never got built. I’m not sure what we would have gained by having a couple of hundred people arrested and probably some of them beaten up, not just me.
Cathy: Because you already had done the demonstration?
William: Oh, yeah.
Cathy: The second one…
William: They made it clear that they were going to hurt us, yeah.
Cathy: Well, you said you thought your life might end right then and there.
William: We called it off. I’m sure it was the day after the march on the Pentagon. That’s really easy to look up. As to news coverage, The Star did more than the Post. Oh, I’ll tell you who The Post reporter was, a wonderful reporter, too. Paul Valentine, do you know who he is? He was their demonstration guy. He got beat up a whole lot of times by the cops, too. If there was a demonstration, Paul was assigned to cover it.
Cathy: For The Evening Star?
William: No, for the Post.
Cathy: For the Post? OK.
William: …For the Post, yeah. He worked for The Post in Baltimore. I’m sure he’s retired by now. Well, everybody is I know. Paul Valentine would have been there. It would be interesting to get his perspective since he was a reporter. He’s easy to find with a Google search, “Paul Valentine.”
You’d probably have hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of bylines in The Post. He also wrote a detective book, which I still have, called “Crime Scene on O Street” or something like that.
William: I’m not sure the O Street was in Georgetown or not. I don’t remember by reading the book, but anyway. He’d be an interest. It would be great if you could find any of these. There were three or four women who I think a lot of them lived in Foxhall Village. They were really hotshots.
Cathy: Were they young women at the time?
William: Yes, they were young women. Yes, they were older than me. I didn’t think they were young because they were probably in their 30s.
Cathy: They still might even be around.
William: They’re probably quoted in some of these newspaper articles.
Cathy: On a personal aside, how did you get involved in runaway children? How did this become your focus?
William: I’d like to tell you it was some grand plan. I had been working for SCLC at Resurrection City. I notice I have one photograph because it got in here somehow. Maybe that is Three Sisters. Let’s see. OK, I’m going to read you this thing because it’s hard to read. “DC has enough highways but
not enough homes. No more damn freeways.” Yeah, this is Three Sisters. I worked at Resurrections. I ran the student-and-youth part of the Poor People’s Campaign. It looked like it closed down. I met a Presbyterian minister at the Church of the Pilgrims at 20th and P right at the Peachtree Bridge.
Cathy: Yes?
William: Tom Murphy. We just decided to open a shelter for runaway kids.
Cathy: That’s how it started?
William: That’s how it started. I had nothing else to do. I was a rebel who needed another cause.
Cathy: You needed a cause, so you turned to children. How long have you been involved in this?
William: I did that for about five years, and I went to graduate school. I never finished high school or college, so I needed to go to graduate school. I had the GI Bill. I’d been in the army. I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, and I was in the army from basically my 17th birthday for three years in the infantry.
Cathy: Then you came back and went to Georgetown.
William: Then went to Georgetown, not because I was so smart but because my dad was so well-connected — just to be clear about that.
Cathy: All right.
William: [sarcastically] “Oh, I did it all by myself.” No, don’t believe that for a minute.
Cathy: Then you did graduate school?
William: I did graduate school. I had a GED in the army for high school, and I never finished college. I got a master’s degree from Harvard, so that wiped the slate clean. No one really inquires beyond that. Whatever. That’s the story. If I could find more stuff, and I think I can, I will either give you a call or maybe
I’ll just stick it in your mailbox now that I know where you live.
Cathy: Yes, and I’m going to start a folder. I need your address and make sure that we can get…
William: I’ll need a pen for that, I think.
Cathy: Shall we turn the interview off at this point? Anything else?
William: Let me just give it another minute’s thought here if anything that I’ve left out that’s…I
think that pretty well covers it.
Cathy: I like a quotation here. “William Treanor, who was arrested in an anti-bridge demonstration in the fall of 1969 said, “He and others who think like me will do everything possible by any means to stop construction of both the bridge and the North Lake connection.'”
William: [jokingly] Yeah, like we were going to dynamite Key Bridge. Yeah.