U.N. Gang & Monrovia Youth Baseball League

Even children – at least teenagers – were changemakers during the late 60s and early 70s. Prominent among them were a group of boys who referred to themselves as the ‘U.N. Gang.’ Even before high school and the U.N. Gang, the early sixties had seen interracial mixing through the Monrovia Youth Baseball League (MYBL) -- “a place where race did not matter.” Lois Gaston’s three sons, Harold, T.K. and Bruce, Todd Hooks,

Fred Terry, Andy Bourne, Larry Spicer, David Carter, Doug Hopper, Chipper Johnson, Bobby and Johnny Price, Arnie Willett, Tony Oberdin, Larry and Jim Stavrolakis, Chuck Ochoa, Ricky Price, Dale Smith and Bobby Vance and many others all participated.

 

A few of these went on to become adult changemakers and most continued interracial friendships throughout high school and into adult life. One cannot withhold credit for the fact that MYBL was the place where many racially mixed personal relationships started -- from the sponsoring organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and A&W Root Beer and such coaches and recruiters as Theodore and Calvin Bourne, Woodrow McCormick, Mr. Nyland, Mr. Perry and Mr. Steve Balber . In fact, MYBL was the only fully-integrated group at the time including all - the players, the coaches and the business sponsors. Since the MYBL experience had been shared by many junior high and high school students -- along with dramatic and sometimes violent events at the national and state level and frustration at the slow pace of integration in their own community---it is not surprising that the existence of the U.N. Gang on campus met with a mixed response from their fellow students.

 

Later, an informal group of students became know as the U.N. Gang. It was made up of two Blacks -- Marcus Lewis and George (Butch) Gadbury, two Japanese-Americans – Marvin (Oka) Inouye and Gary Morishita and one Caucasian -- Dan Gephart. They spent some of their time at the Sandford house because they felt comfortable there and because there were always girls there -- the two Sandford daughters and their friends as well as their Italian exchange student sister.

 

The boy’s experience at Monrovia High was mixed. On the one-hand, Marcus and Butch were disparaged by the Black Student Union for being “Uncle Toms” and their parents felt it necessary to intervene. On the other, they were able to bridge the different social and political groups on campus. They had friends in student government among athletes, cheerleaders and members of the marching band, as well as members of such clubs as the Monarchs, Madquins and even the BSU. The fact that Marcus was elected President of the Monrovia High Boy’s League in his senior year is a fitting conclusion to this part of the story. 

 

But all of these people were individuals and several played separate changemaker roles. During their senior year, Mike Murphy, Stephanie Harris, Randy Sandford and Marcus Lewis interviewed School District officials and put together the film, ‘Crisis in Monrovia Schools.” A few years later another Sandford daughter, Leslie, worked on Mimi Mency’s campaign for the School Board. Pictures of Dan Gephardt, Marcus Lewis, Oka’s father-Kaoru, Butch’s father -George, Leslie Sandford’s friend, Lisa Boulton, and future husband, Cisco Lobaco, appeared on the major promotional piece for the Bartlett, Ostrye, Faith Campaign for City Council and Gary Morshita worked on Bob Bartlett’s campaigns for Mayor. Beginning in the 60s, many young Monrovians of various races and religions devoted their time and talent and recruited their family and friends for achieving integration in the schools and city of Monrovia

 

They showed that no one is too young to fight against bigotry and segregation.

Written by Betty Sandford

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