This poster from one of Paul Soglin's early mayoral campaigns came to light over the weekend. I was sorting through a bunch of old stuff, clearing some of it out to make way for new stuff that will, itself, become old stuff someday.
Laying eyes on it took me back to 1971, when I was 11 years old and going door to door, delivering Soglin campaign brochures on the near west side.
Madison voters rebuffed Soglin in that 1971 primary. They weren't quite ready to elect a shaggy 25-year-old alderman to the mayor's office. They would reverse themselves two years later, when Soglin unseated incumbent William Dyke - in effect, clearing out the old stuff to make way for new stuff that was itself destined to become old stuff.
The poster, with the counterculture icon Mr. Natural urging voters to RUSH RIGHT ON TO THE POLL - was aimed at UW students. It was authorized and paid for by the Students for Soglin Committee, 458 W. Gilman, Molly Berigan, treasurer. This got me to wondering....
Now 54 and married, Molly Berigan Spira is the deputy city recorder for Sandy, Utah - near Salt Lake City at the foot of that state's majestic Wasatch range. When the current recorder retires in a year or two, Spira is next in line to manage Sandy's records and coordinate its elections.
That first Soglin campaign made an enormous impression on her life. "I've been a public servant ever since," she says, citing Soglin as an inspiration for her career path.
Born and raised in Madison, she lit out for the territory ahead in 1976. "I just needed to leave Madison," she says. "To spread my wings. I became a Californian for 15 years."
Until sustaining a back injury, she says, "my husband was a ski bum." This accounts for their move to Utah's spectacular mountains, in the 1990s.
"I'm always comparing where I live to Madison," says Spira. Her hometown doesn't always come out ahead. Back in 1993, she wrote a letter in response to Money magazine's ranking of Madison as the second-best place in the U.S.
"You must be kidding," she wrote. "With six months of deep-freeze winter and killer property taxes? Tell me about that clean water; last time I took a dip in Lake Mendota, I developed a nasty rash. And how 'bout all that culture? There's only so much oompah one can take."
But she still has family and friends here, still makes it back to visit, most recently last August. She adds that she last saw Soglin about five years ago, during another visit home. "A great guy," she calls him. "A wonderful human being."
Spira doesn't remember the actual poster. "God, that was a long time ago." But she does have vivid memories of that first Soglin campaign. "I was at West High School," she recalls, "and on a very chilly December night we met with David Clarenbach, some Vietnam veterans and some other people and pulled together the Students for Soglin Committee."
Spira remembers Genie Ogden being present and having a hand in the poster. Ogden confirms this. "I'm an artist," says Ogden, who still lives here. She remembers silk-screening posters for several Soglin fund-raisers mounted by local musicians, including Fat Richard Drake and Ben Sidran.
Like Spira, Ogden says those early Soglin campaigns helped shape her continuing political involvement. She met her husband, Mitch Nussbaum, during one of the early Soglin campaigns. The couple have two grown daughters. The family are devoted WORT-FM volunteers.
After working on Soglin's campaigns in 1971, 1973 and 1989, Ogden supported rival Bert Zipperer in the crowded 2003 mayoral primary. Newcomer Dave Cieslewicz won that primary, with Soglin polling second and Zipperer third. Cieslewicz went on to defeat Soglin in the general election - in effect clearing out the old stuff to make way for new stuff that is destined to become old stuff itself.