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Oral History of Harassment of San Antonio Gay Bars (1993)

Happy Foundation

Sound | 1993

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  •  Happy Foundation Director Gene Elder recounts the opening of San Antonio Country in April 1973 and the harassment from military personnel that followed 
  •  “They do not want the military associating with homosexuals.” On December 21, 1993, just a month after Elder taped his account, the Department of Defense issued Directive 1304.26. Instituted by the Clinton Administration on February 28, 1994, the official US policy prohibited discrimination against closeted LGBTQ service members and applicants but barred openly LGBTQ persons from military service. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” as it was commonly known, remained in effect until September 20, 2011.  
  •  Elder reads excerpts from a 1973 court report detailing observations made by military personnel 
  •  The strategy of opening the Bonham Exchange 
  •  More about Arthur “Happy” Veltman, the namesake for the Happy Foundation 
  •  Elder relates other instances of harassment against local gay bars 
  •  On the impact of the San Antonio Country case and the place of San Antonio in the national gay rights movement 
  •  Kay Ford recounts military harassment against her bar, The Jezebel 
  •  According to an article in the gay publication This Week in Texas, the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board sent Ford a letter on January 8, 1987, threatening to make the Jezebel off-limits to military personnel should she not take “satisfactory measures to eliminate homosexual activity on the premises.”  
  •  Ford describes the scene preceding her arrest on July 2, 1987 
  •  On fighting against the charges 
  •  Police surveillance 
  •  Opening The Circle 
  •  Police raid on The Paper Moon 
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Taped on November 22 and 23, 1993, this home video captures a pair of oral histories recounting the police and military harassment of gay bars in San Antonio from the 1970s through the 1990s. Gene Elder first recounts incidents at San Antonio Country following its opening in downtown San Antonio in April 1973. The following day, Elder talks with local businesswoman Kay Ford about the harassment she experienced at her lesbian bar, The Jezebel. Elder recorded the accounts to illustrate San Antonio’s place in the national gay rights movement.
The Happy Foundation is a non-profit archive dedicated to the preservation of San Antonio’s LGBTQ history. Founder and curator Gene Elder began collecting materials in 1988, ultimately moving the collection to a back room of the downtown gay nightclub Bonham Exchange. The organization is named after Arthur “Happy” Veltman, a San Antonio entrepreneur who died of AIDS in 1988. In addition to owning multiple gay bars, including Bonham Exchange, Veltman was also involved in the development of the San Antonio River Walk and Blue Star Arts Complex.