When I was 12? 13? 14?–who knows anymore–instead of spending a week in Toronto after seeing six plays in three days at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, as we normally did, my family and I took a trip through Quebec City, Montreal, Boston, Salem, and New York City. If you’ve been following this blog it won’t surprise you to learn that while we were in the last location we made a deliberate stop outside The Stonewall Inn. Here are the photos I took:
Stonewall Inn complete shot

Stonewall Inn plaque

It’s possible, surely, to date the photos by figuring out when it was that the doors were painted red. I can’t find another photo showing them that color. Or from the business next door, and the clothing. Wow. Also, the plaque in the photo is different than the one that is there now. It was much smaller and rectangular instead of square and was placed lower on the wall. It’s impossible from the photo to tell what it said. Those were the days of snap the picture and pray you got the shot. You had to wait until you got home and sent the film for processing to find out.

Yikes, I feel old.

Anyway, I don’t know exactly what the plaque actually said, but I can imagine it was something like “Here, on June 28th, 1969, members of the gay community took a stand against police harassment and brutality during a raid in the middle of the night, thus giving birth to the modern gay liberation movement”.

Or maybe that’s just what my mom said to me while we stood there looking at the building, I don’t know. What I do know is that writing this post has called to mind this song:

You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well, their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of the tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix,the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

–Graham Nash, from “Deja Vu” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1970).