The new Quad Cities Pride in Memory (PIM) will host a reception Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Putnam Museum & Science Center, 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport, for the first historical display of local LGBTQ artifacts.
In collaboration with the Putnam Museum, Augustana College, Sarah Robb and Fourth Wall Films, PIM will be unveiling a set of six history panels representing the lives of local LGBTQ+ residents from a variety of perspectives and relevant topics from the 1960s through the 2000s, according to a group release.
As Clayton Peterson, one of the original organizers of PIM, remarked, “Gay wasn’t invented in the 60s,” yet that’s where PIM basically starts due to lack of records of earlier queer life in the QC. The panels were produced after a series of over 20 interviews for PIM and created under the artistic direction of local artist Sarah Robb.
PIM and the Putnam are seeking donations of historical items for a more elaborate exhibit of LGBTQ history and culture being planned for the future. Items to be placed on temporary display include pins and T-shirts and memorabilia from a variety of contributors, most notably local LGBTQ activists Clayton Peterson (deceased) and Joyce Wiley (deceased).
Joyce Wiley founded Quad Cities Affirming Diversity, about which her husband Jack says, “Over the years, several thousand youth have come to QCAD events. Some say, ‘Joyce saved my life.’ The organization also helped support groups in local high schools. There was routinely a social gathering every Friday night for youth.”
Present to answer questions will be a representative of Moline-based Fourth Wall Films, which is collaborating with PIM on a full-length documentary film about Quad Cities LGBTQ history, as well as students from Augustana College — who are taking individual histories and producing multi-media presentations such as public radio podcasts made available online, a published booklet, and more.
Gary Lee Lawson is returning to the QCs for a few days soon. He was born in Davenport in 1941 and remembers first meeting with fellow gay people at the levee in Davenport in 1963, after returning to the QCs from honorable military service.
Lawson spoke with PIM about watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 at the gay bar “The Rendezvous” at the Fort Armstrong Hotel in Rock Island on Feb. 9, 1964. He was also a founding member of perhaps the first QC LGBTQ organization called “Society Advocating Mutual Equality” (S.A.M.E.) in 1966. “We started S.A.M.E. after gay people were being fired who worked at the Rock Island Arsenal,” he said.
PIM Steering Committee member Sara Myer says: “Coming out is difficult no matter what your age or time of your life. I was in my 30s before I finally figured things out. I worried about my children and how it would affect them. For years I worried that they didn’t love me. Something like this project would have made all the difference — understanding myself and in helping my children.”
“All of this fascinating history would be lost to us if not for PIM,” says Steering Committee member Rev. Rich Hendricks.
The public is invited to the Oct. 11 wine and cheese reception. There is no charge for this event, although they are always happy to receive any donations.