A Trip Down Memory Lane with Wayne Littrell

Photos of American presidents, ambassadors and even one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. line the walls of Wayne Littrell's office in Denver, Colorado. As the head of security at the University of Denver from 1952-1971, Littrell became acquainted with many significant figures visiting the University at this time, and also had first-hand experience of the events that unfolded on campus during May, 1970.

Littrell and his wife, Dorothea, invited Sheila and Mariel to their home this past week, and took the two on a fascinating trip down memory lane. As an avid collector, Littrell shared not only the well-planned toy-train city that filled a portion of his basement, but also memorabilia from his days at DU, including two scrapbooks filled with old documents and newspaper clippings from various events that occurred on campus during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

After serving in the Navy, Littrell, a Kansas native, decided that he wanted to attend DU for college. He had already spent some time in Denver years earlier when he visited for his honeymoon and had the urge to return to the mile-high city. Littrell started at the University in 1946 as the manager of the Pioneer and Buchtel halls. He later became the head of security on campus, and had many exciting stories to share about his time in this position.

Littrell brought to light many situations that occurred on campus leading to the May 1970 peaceful protests of Woodstock West (or 'Kiddieland' as Littrell refers to the encampment). After World War II, Littrell noticed that many students, particularly those who were members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) has formed a 'why' society, where they questioned and challenged everything. This became obvious on the DU campus, where students would find something they didn't agree with and voice their opinion in the form of a protest. One protest that was new for the filmmakers was the protest that resulted from dropping the DU football team.

In 1961, Chancellor Alter decided that academics were to be the school's top priority, and as a result, he dropped the University football team. This decision angered many of the students and they started protesting by causing a riot on the corner of Evans and University avenues. Though this obviously made quite a scene, to make more of an impact, the students pushed forward and moved up onto the Valley Highway (Interstate I-25 today). Littrell and his crew had to block off the highway, stopping traffic, to keep the students safe.

Though Sheila knew a lot about the 1968 student sit-in in the University registrar's office where 39 students were expelled as they fought for graduate students to be represented in campus government, this football protest was new knowledge and helped illustrate student activity leading up to the protests during Woodstock West. Littrell also had numerous newspaper articles covering this event in one of his University of Denver scrapbooks, which adds visual evidence to these events.

Another piece of the DU historical treasure trove present in Littrell's basement, is multiple roles of 16mm film labeled 'Woodstock West.' As a documentarian, Sheila understands the importance of obtaining visual evidence of the events that occurred on campus in order to create a true visual interpretation for her film. Without this 'found' footage, a huge chunk of her film would be missing. These reels contain footage that is different than the news station footage, and the amateur swooping images already obtained by the filmmaker. Discoveries like these reels of 16mm film are like gold for a documentarian, and combined with Littrell's first-hand knowledge of the shanty village will help to create a more truthful and historically accurate account of Woodstock West.

 

For more information on the film, please visit www.wwodstockwestthemovie.com, or check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/woodstockwest