The first Quaker House,
on Ray Avenue in Fayetteville.
A Poster for a
Fayetteville show by Jane Fonda and the troupe of insurgent entertainers.
An issue of Bragg Briefs from 1971.
YES To The Troops. NO To The Wars. The Story of Quaker House:
3. 1970: Jane Fonda
and the Fire this Time
Ask anyone who lived in Fayetteville during the Vietnam era what
happened here then and the first thing they’ll say is, “Well, Jane Fonda
The May 16, 1970 rally was planned to coincide with,
and challenge Fort Bragg’s observance of Armed Forces Day, and was
coordinated with similar protests around the country. The momentum of the
plans increased after May 4, when four white college students were killed by
National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio, and two black students
were killed a few days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi. A
wave of outrage and mass protest welled up across the nation among the young
and restless. And the stars came out to join them.
In Fayetteville, this meant actress Jane Fonda, who
accepted an invitation to join the May 16 march and rally, along with Rennie
Davis, a member of the Chicago Eight, a group of activists facing trial for
notorious protests at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention.
In the face of the looming protest, post
commanders canceled their Armed Forces Day ceremonies and confined most of
the troops to their barracks. Even so, hundreds of GIs somehow evaded the
ban and gathered with several thousand others in Rowan Park. Fonda and
others then took their protest right on to the un-gated turf of Fort Bragg,
where they engaged soldiers in “rap sessions” about war and dissent. They
were promptly evicted from the post, but then the soldiers, released from
their confinement at nightfall, flooded into town, and according to one
observer, Quaker House was completely swamped with visitors.
“When we came back we heard there had been the usual
threats,” Honeycutt remembers. Quaker House staff had become jaded about
anonymous callers who threatened to “come over there and kill you” which
usually followed high profile events. It had gotten to the point where
Honeycutt would reply merely, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll be lookin’ for you” and
In the past the threats had always proven meaningless.
This time would be different.
One such threatening phone call had come the previous
week, in the days leading up to the big protest and action at Fort Bragg.
The call was answered by Private John Vail, one of the lead organizers of
GIs United ,who happened to be at Quaker House at the time. The caller had
asked Vail if the insurance on the house had been paid up and then said
ominously, “It had better be” and hung up.
The next Tuesday night, GIs United had their regular
weekly meeting at Quaker House, and reported the largest attendance ever.
Afterward, soldiers hung around to talk until late, and one of them, Michael
Ralston, who had been discharged from the Air Force that same day, decided
to crash for the night on a couch in the entertainment room, while Gary
Horvitz and J.C. Honeycutt slept upstairs as usual.
The serendipity of Ralston’s presence may well have
saved the staffers’ lives. He could have gotten a lot closer to his hometown
of Salinas, California if he had wanted to, but he ended up at Quaker House
instead. Presumably because it was a place that felt safe to him. He was
awakened at 2:30 am by fire and smoke so threatening and unbearable that
instead of heading for the door of the room, he leaped through the
George Goodman, a neighbor who lived at 319 Mason
St., looked out a window and saw the rear of Quaker House engulfed in
flames. He saw Ralston running up and down the street and quickly headed
outside and pulled a fire alarm.
“Gary [Horvitz] ran into my room and he screamed ‘JC
GET OUT!’ Honeycutt remembered. “I thought he had ... just gone psychotic,
but I wasn’t about to argue with him in that mood.” She raced to the stairs
and halfway down smelled the smoke.
“I got out the side door and when I got out I saw that
the back of the house was on fire.” According to Honeycutt, Horvitz ended up
stranded on the sloping roof above the front door until the firemen came.
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