Crawford Saga

Crawford Saga

This document below is the memoir of my grandfather, Kenneth Gale Crawford, born 1902. I remember the text as a comb-bound stack of photocopied sheets, the originals having been typed up by my mother from her father’s draft. Some two decades later, my mother typed up the document again, this time as the computer file that is the source of the present webpages. I myself have added sectional divisions and have edited some of the punctuation. I have added some explanatory links. I have also added anchors at some particular passages of note:

More links might be added; more sectional divisions might be made.

The memoir is quoted in my grandfather’s obituary in the Washington Post of January 14, 1983. The obituary had been written some time earlier, with the assistance of the subject. When it appeared in print, I remember my uncle’s disappointment over what had been edited out. The print obituary was illustrated by a self-portrait; this was apparently not retained when the Post digitized the story. The obituary still misidentifies the party of the senator for whom my mother worked.

The New York Times also has an obituary, which seems to be a rewritten version of a few sentences from the Post’s obituary. The Post gave my mother’s occupation, along with her brother’s; the Times chose only to give the latter.

I see that there is a website called Prabook that has an entry on my grandfather, written as if he were still alive. I find concerns on the web that Prabook facilitates identity theft.

It turns out that the first twelve minutes of a 20-minute Youtube video consist of a Longines Chronoscope interview of Richard Byrd by Larry LeSueur and my grandfather. LeSueur is comfortable in front of the camera; my grandfather is not. It seems that Byrd’s words in the video give encouragement to Hollow Earth believers: such is the surmise of the blog article by Dennis Simanaitis where I found the link to the video. Such is my grandfather’s legacy on the web! I did happen to hear him quoted once though, some time in the aughts, in a short BBC television feature on John F. Kennedy.

The Neglected Books Page has an article on the memoir of George E. Allen called Presidents Who Have Known Me and ghostwritten by my grandfather.


For the Information of Progeny and Progeny’s Progeny

The first car

I distinctly remember the first automobile I ever saw. I was playing in the yard of Grandfather and Grandmother Gale’s house in Wonewoc, Wisconsin. I was about five and costumed, I was told later, in Grandpa’s vest, which hung down below my knees. It was a great event for me. Wonewoc was, still is, a one-street village of about 1,000 population nestled between the Wisconsin River and overhanging bluffs. The Gale house was innocent of plumbing, central heat or telephone. But the proportions were good and it was set in a grove of assorted trees. Later the Gales moved to a gingerbread establishment on the edge of town with a big garden, flowers and vegetables, and backing up to a wooded hill.

The Gales came to Wisconsin separately via the Erie Canal and wagon train. Grandma Ellen Ketchum was a school teacher and Grandpa a Civil War veteran (he had been with Sherman on the march through Georgia). He never mentioned it until, in his dotage, he put on his kepi and marched in the Memorial Day parade. He operated a warehouse for farm produce, which is to say he was a gambler in the produce market. At one point he moved his family to Chicago with the object of cleaning up on the produce exchange. Failing in this, he returned to Wisconsin and his warehouse business. By this time there were four daughters, of whom Madge, my mother, was the second youngest.

The youngest, my favorite Aunt Florence, taught school and gave piano lessons. In summer the household often included, besides my mother and me, Aunt Maude, the second oldest and her son, Gale, and Helen, daughter of Agnes, the oldest, who had died when Helen was a baby. Both Gale and Helen were a little older than I.

Grandpa dabbled in farm properties and served as justice of the peace for the village. It impressed me that he had the power to put drunks in the two-cell village jail and to perform weddings. He never talked much, even when he took me by horse and buggy on trips to inspect his farms and collect rent. Grandma was a powerhouse. She kept chickens and milked the one cow always kept to assure fresh dairy products for the table. For Sunday dinner she killed a chicken, dressed it, cooked it and picked the vegetables and fruit. She churned the butter too. She provided three meals a day every day, kept the house without any help and had time left over to keep the Methodist Church going and to support its missionary society. Also to read the Chicago Evening News thoroughly and to express her opinions about the state of the world. She was rigidly moral. In later years she denied that I smoked, even as I sat smoking in the room with her. She saw only what she wanted to see.

Evenings at the Gale house were devoted to discussion. Cards could be played at the neighbors’ but not at home. When the talk ran down Florence might play the piano while Grandma produced apples and sometimes popcorn. The Methodist preacher was a frequent guest.

Birth and youth

I was born, so I have been told, in Sparta, Wisconsin, May 27, 1902. I have no reason to doubt it. My father, Robert, a dentist, was practicing there at the time. I remember nothing about Sparta except that it contained a lot of relations. Helen lived there with her father and her father’s sister. So did the Meyer family, Gale’s grandparents. We moved when I was a small boy to Burlington, Wisconsin, which was three miles from the farm where my father had been raised by a bevy of uncles and aunts, his father, Harlan, and mother, Sarah, having died of tuberculosis when he and his younger brother, Roy, were pre-school age. The Bell clan were children of a Scottish father and an Irish mother. Sarah was the youngest and the prettiest. Her older brothers were William and Robert. Her older sisters were Maggie, Mary, Agnes and Anna. The brothers were both childless and two of the girls were lifelong spinsters. Except for Robert and Roy, my father and uncle, there was only one other child of their generation, Cora, daughter of Anna. The Bells raised Robert and Roy on the farm, sending them to school in Burlington when they were old enough. They also managed to send Robert to Wayland Academy, a private school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, for high school equivalent.

There has always been something mysterious to me about the Bell farm. On it is a stately stone house set back from the road and reached by a long butternut tree-lined driveway. The farm is in the Fox River valley; the soil is rich, almost coal black. Yet my father remembered when, toward the end of winter, there wasn’t enough to eat. The place had been a nursery in Grandfather Bell’s time but a blight had ruined his stock and by the time I knew anything about the farm it was run by Uncle Horace Cocroft, Anna’s husband and Cora’s father. It was planted to grain crops and supported a small herd of cattle. The other Bells had moved by this time to Burlington, all except Uncle Rob, who was an engineer in the Case Threshing Machine plant in Racine, and Maggie, who lived in a nearby village with her husband, Uncle Luke. Not, however, the Uncle Luke who had become General Sir Luke O’Connor, brother of Grandma Bell, and the family’s pride and joy. The O’Connors came from County Roscommon.

This Uncle Luke had made it big in Britain’s colonial wars, an up-from-the-ranks soldier and possessor of the Victoria Cross. Uncle Will used to tell me about it. Luke put his boots outside his room to be shined, to the amusement of his nieces and nephews. He made no comment when the shoes remained unshined. Will showed him a shotgun he (Will) was especially proud to own. “Rotten old thing isn’t it?” Luke commented. Will himself was a grumpy old man when I knew him. We made trips together on bicycles when I visited as a school boy. Caught in the ruts he’s curse the road, the bike and the folly of such transportation. We fished all the fished-out lakes around Burlington, prejudicing me for life against fishing.

Another O’Connor brother was a more welcome visitor to the Bell establishments. I remember him as a florid, white-headed, smiling gentleman who handed out silver dollars to me and my friends. This was Uncle Daniel from Columbia, South Carolina, every inch the Southern planter, as notable in his way as his brother, Uncle Luke. Years later Cora gave me a picture of Uncle Dan as a captain in the Yankee Army and Dan’s daughter Maie (correct), on a visit to Washington, told me that, as a carpetbagger, he was always ostracized in Columbia. It didn’t seem to bother her. She came in style in a chauffeur-driven limousine.

The Bell family was musical—always had a family string quartet of which Robert, my father, the violinist, was the star. “He should have been a concert violinist,” Uncle Will told me. Instead he apprenticed to Dr. Meinhardt, Burlington’s leading dentist. He passed whatever examination was required in Wisconsin to qualify in dentistry and then struck out on his own. In later years he took short courses at the University of Chicago in anesthesia and other specialties but had no other formal professional training. He was said to be an excellent dentist. The only time I ever heard him play the violin was when he was trying by example to make a violinist of me, a futile exercise even though I took lessons for several years. The quartet carried on without him. Bill Beller, a contemporary of mine and a child prodigy pianist, told me when we were grown that the occasions when he accepted invitations to play with the Bell ensemble were agony.

Doc Crawford’s first independent practice was established in Wonewoc, where he met and married Madge Gale, the village belle. It apparently was a bustling little town at the turn of the century. One of the leading citizens was Dode Fisk, a showman, who owned a one-ring circus, a choral group, an orchestra and a theatrical road company. Moreover, Wonewoc was only a short distance from Reedsburg, then winter quarters for the Barnum and Bailey circus. Summers were livened by a big spiritualist encampment on one of the bluffs overlooking Wonewoc. Apparently the young marrieds had an active social life. I’ve seen pictures of some of their parties—everybody decked out in white tie and tails and in bustled evening gowns. It was a time of self-entertainment in the small towns. From Wonewoc my family moved to Sparta and then back to Burlington, where I went to kindergarten and, I think, to first grade. The next move was to Jefferson, Wisconsin, where I grew up.

Doc went on ahead and Madge and I arrived one mid-winter evening. Jefferson was a county seat town of about 3,000, heavily German in population and a great place, I still think, to have spent the school years. The Germans insisted upon good schools. My father was a Teddy Roosevelt enthusiast and it was a big day when Roosevelt’s special paused at the railroad station and the town band played, “when Teddy comes marching home again.” Father was a Bull Mooser the year Teddy divided the Republican Party and thus elected Woodrow Wilson. The First World War split the town down the middle—Germans who couldn’t turn their backs on the old country, and their offspring, who could. We were patriots, not quite but almost believing that the Huns had made soap out of the bodies of massacred Belgians.

I learned how it felt to have education shoved down the throat in the fourth grade, taught by a wonderful battle-ax named Laura Schenk. It was never quite that painful later. As I remember it now, snow was piled head-high all winter and far into the spring. High school was situated across the river from where we lived, so we could ski down one bank to the river and carry our skis up the other bank going to school and reverse the process coming home. Practically all the boys in the senior class enlisted for service in Pershing’s Mexican expeditionary force just before the U.S. got into the European War. That opened up places for us younger kids on the football and basketball teams. That and the presence of a lot of big farm boys in my class gave us a state Class B championship football team in my senior year. I was so well protected at quarterback that I scarcely ever got my uniform dirty. A good thing because I weighted 90 to 100 pounds at my heftiest.

Those were good years. Doc was chairman of the library board, master of the Masonic lodge and even went in for amateur theatricals. Madge had a lot of congenial girl friends. I worked after school and Saturdays in the Rexall store—$3.50 a week, plenty for spending money. On my ninth birthday I received a bicycle, which was wonderfully liberating. I sang in the Episcopal choir and became so religious that I insisted upon my father and mother being baptized. They were not religious and I didn’t want them condemned to hell. The religious phase didn’t last long. But the young clergymen who took on our small parish and doubled as scout master had some influence on me, as did Ray Fischer, the druggist I worked for, Bill Ballentine, superintendent of schools, a German socialist photographer I came to know and the local LaFollette partisans. I learned for myself, working at hard labor in a brickyard two summers, that such work was not for me.


By the time I was ready for college, Madge, always seeking greener fields, had nagged Doc into assuming a practice in Racine, Wisconsin, a bigger town. Beloit College was my choice because Jumbo, now Admiral, Sanborn, brother of my best friend, who had died of scarlet fever just before I contracted the same disease, had been a Beloit football player. He had misled the college into believing I might be good enough for the Beloit league. Grandma Gale gave me $1,000 to finance my freshman year and that was riches. After that I scratched out enough to finish in various ways: editing the school paper, which split part of its advertising revenues with the staff, stoking furnaces, working summers driving a Ford truck for a building contractor whose son was a school friend in Beloit, and doing for pay part of the job of buying groceries and doing other business for the Sigma Chi fraternity house. Also by borrowing from the Harmon Foundation [perhaps incorrect?].

Beloit for me was a magical place, a safe haven and at the same time a window on the world. It had less than 1,000 students in my time. We students were a mix of mature First World War veterans and kids. The Sigma Chi Fraternity, to which I had pledged the spring before enrolling (why I don’t remember), was as important as the college. Its chapter house, situated at a remove of almost a mile from the campus, was a world to itself. Most of the brethren were from Milwaukee and Chicago, pretty sophisticated to my eyes. With their encouragement, I went out for everything—publications, track (after being dismissed from football after the first practice) and campus politics. I was beaten for student president in my senior year but won for president of my class. Now and then I could sell a campus story to Chicago and Milwaukee papers. I was Joe College himself and loved it. I dreaded the day when it would be over.


I was, at best, a mediocre student. But I got something out of a quite remarkable collection of elderly eccentric professors closing out their careers—R. B. Way, a theatrical history teacher; Teddy Wright, an art teacher; Pa Calland, who made Latin interesting if not actually exciting. Roscoe Ellard, an alumnus of the Chicago Daily News, who tried to teach writing, which nobody can, was instrumental in getting me my first job—with the United Press in Chicago, pay $25 a week. It didn’t come through until fall, so I spent the summer as counsellor in a boys’ camp in Minnesota. Having no woodcraft specialty, I became the camp heliotherapist; I told the sun-bathers when to turn over. I also made a lot of good friends who were handy to have when later I was assigned to St. Paul.

Chicago was an adventure I didn’t much enjoy. The transition from the quiet world of academe to the tumult of Sandburg’s hog butcher to the world was too abrupt. However, the young assistant UP bureau chief and a tough old police reporter were kind and helpful. One of my first assignments was to cover the execution of a murderer. I sweated it and wondered if, after all, I hadn’t chosen the wrong kind of career. The murderer was saved by a last-minute reprieve and he couldn’t have been much more relieved than I was. Some years later I did cover a hanging in Southern Illinois, which was made bearable by the almost jovial attitude of Charley Berger Charlie Birger, the gangster victim. On the South Side of Chicago, near the University campus, I lived in a fleabag hotel with a group of Beloit friends who, like me, were working at their first jobs.

Added to my own uncertainties at this point were worries about my family. My father, whom I admired and loved, was obviously coming apart. His memory was failing and his hand was too shaky to continue practice. There had been family tensions before but now they were worse. What he had managed to save over the years had been invested in a Texas pecan orchard—probably a swindle. Doc’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Finally he and Madge retired to St. Petersburg, Florida, on God knows what. I helped as I could and continued to over the years, finally getting him to a nursing home in Vermont while Madge moved in with Aunt Maude in California. Maude was a difficult old lady. I never liked her and my feeling was reciprocated. Madge’s life with her was fairly heroic. She deserved inheriting from Maude enough to live on. When Madge died, I inherited some of the Maude money, an ironic twist which I appreciate. Maude’s husband, Uncle George Meyer, had a Midas touch. His son, Gale, a nationally-ranked tennis player, died young of an athletic heart.

The future spouse

The next three years were hectic. In early winter I was sent to Lansing, Michigan, as UP bureau manager and legislative reporter. I was over my head, knowing nothing about reporting and a minimum about writing. I took a room in the YMCA, which was all I could afford, and ate sparingly. Payments to the Harmon Foundation started coming due and the $25 didn’t seem as princely as it had in Chicago. At the Y I fell in with one Robert Brown, who had a state job and was taking courses at Michigan State. We seemed compatible so we took a small apartment together. One night he fixed me up with a blind date. He was courting Elisabeth Bartholomew and wished me off on Sally Hamilton. We met them at Kate and Ned Jobson’s house, where they were baby sitting. Presently Sally was shipped off to Europe to get over an infatuation, not with me, and something, I’ve forgotton what, happened to Brown. Anyway, Betty Bartholomew and I consoled each other. Fate! Fate!

The Bartholomew family—Dr. Harry, mother Maggie, and Uncle Will, a retired newspaperman—was hospitable and nothing if not interesting. I was permitted to don a dressing gown and press my only pair of pants in the kitchen. My wardrobe at the time consisted of a two-pants suit, one pair worn out, and a warm overcoat my mother had bought me in Milwaukee. Before Sally left, we got around. I remember best the Paul Whiteman concert featuring Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys and the full orchestra doing The Rhapsody in Blue. Also a house party at White Lake in the summer place of Lib Crandall’s family. Lib had been Betty’s friend at Chicago. Also a New Year’s Eve dance at the Elk’s Club from which Stan McCord, a college friend, and I were invited to depart for talking through a moment of silent prayer for the brother Elks no longer with us. Neither Betty nor Sally was there. They had better dates.

Dr. Bartholomew, I learned in due course, was a native of Lansing whose father, also a physician, had been mayor of Lansing during the Civil War and had established the Michigan State health service. Young Harry, an obstreperous youth, had been packed off to his grandfather’s farm in the St. Lawrence Valley of upper New York State, where he grew up. The Bartholomews, of Welsh extraction, had been established in New York since Revolutionary times. Harry studied medicine, part of the time in Germany, but had to interrupt his education when his father died. Returning to Lansing, he went to work for the Bement Stove Company, becoming its personnel manager. When the company failed, he decided to complete his medical education and enrolled, at the age of 40, in the Michigan University Medical School.

Mrs. Bartholomew, with her three daughters, Juliette, Kate and Elisabeth, lived meanwhile in a wing of a house built by her father, Judge Cahill, on Main Street in Lansing. Judge and Mrs. Cahill occupied the other part of the house. The Judge served by appointment on the State Supreme Court for a time, but maintained a private law practice through most of his career. He had been born in Kalamazoo of Irish Protestant immigrant parents, read law in a Kalamazoo firm and set up practice in Chicago. After the Chicago fire, which destroyed his records, he returned to Michigan and settled in Lansing. Two of his sisters, one in Chicago and another in New York, married into socialite families. One of the sisters financed Juliette’s education at the University of Chicago. Kate and Betty both followed her at the same university.

Juliette married George Stucky, a public health doctor, and Kate married Edward Jobson, a businessman who worked through much of his career in Latin American countries.

The family had several University of Chicago connections. Mrs. Bartholomew’s sister married Robert Park, who headed the Sociology Department. He, too, had been a newspaperman, but taught for a time at Tuskeegee Institute, made friends with Booker T. Washington, studied with Washington in Germany and collaborated with him on a book about the American Negro. One of the Parks’ daughters married Robert Redfield, another University of Chicago scholar and department head.

During the First World War Dr. Bartholomew joined the Army Medical Corps and served on several Air Corps stations in the far West. The Bartholomew girls attended school in California before returning to Lansing. Dr. Bartholomew’s last military post was in Southern California, where he was attached to a balloon school operated by the Army Air Corps. After the war he resumed his practice in Lansing, specializing in dermatology.

Midwest with the United Press

For the next three years, 1924 to 1927, I was shunted from bureau to bureau in the Middle West. I was single, cheap, easy to transport and therefore a good utility man for the UP, which was parsimonious. I can’t remember now what the order of movement was. Anyway it included stints in Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Paul and finally St. Louis. Sometimes I was merely a vacation relief, sometimes a temporary bureau manager and correspondent. In St. Paul I had friends and the stay there was fun even though I slept through an election I was supposed to cover and should have been fired but wasn’t. Indianapolis, still my nominee for America’s most dreadful city, was worst. At one point along the way I fell ill and recovered, but was left with yellow jaundice. A doctor told me I probably had TB. So I bought an insurance policy promising a small income in case of total and permanent disability after discovering that TB was considered total and permanent. Congratulating me, the insurance salesman assured me that my feet were now firmly planted on terra cotta.

The last Midwestern move was to St. Louis. That was a relay point for the UP and an important bureau, where I rated an editorial assistant as well as a half dozen dot-dash telegraph operators. By this time I had had enough experience to feel more or less competent. We were a point on the east-west trunk wire and relayed the national and international news to the South, which meant winnowing down the bulk of the trunk wire traffic to fit the Southern wire and taking news from the South for transmission on the trunk. We opened for business at 6 a.m. and closed in the evening. Again I checked into the YMCA. But shortly my assistant and I rented an apartment. In Cleveland, too, I had shared an apartment with a friend, in that case Stan Culp, who was eventually to serve as my best man.

All hell broke out in St. Louis that spring of 1927. A tornado ripped through the town, missing our office by a matter of two or three blocks. On several occasions the city was blacked out by smog, getting as dark as midnight in the middle of the day. Then one of the worst of the Mississippi floods inundated huge areas of town and country all the way to New Orleans. Meanwhile a Southern Illinois gang war was reaching a climax of murder and mayhem. All this was in the bureau’s territory. Days and nights ran together. Days were too short to accommodate the volume of work. The floods were covered by correspondents sent out from New York but we were responsible for editing their copy and getting it on the East-West trunk. Southern Illinois was covered by stringers, reporters on the small newspapers who took our service. We covered Charles Lindbergh’s departure in the Spirit of St. Louis and all such “local” events ourselves.

I had one disaster. A state patrolman named Lorry Price, a nephew of the Illinois governor, reported his wife missing. She stayed that way for several weeks. Then her body was discovered in an abandoned mine shaft. She had been murdered. One of our stringers promptly reported the discovery by telephone to the bureau. But my assistant, just moved in from Kansas City, didn’t recognize the importance of the story. He went on doing whatever he had been doing and the Price story slipped his mind. I had been away from the bureau briefly that afternoon buying a suit with money I had won in a horse race. (I had put $10 on Buddy Bower in the St Louis Derby and he won at odds of 30 to 1. One of the telegraph operators had given me the tip. Our bookie paid me off on the installment plan.) I needed the suit but I didn’t need to be beaten on the Price story. Several of our clients in Southern Illinois, who depended upon us for this kind of news, cancelled their UP contracts the next day.

The gang fighting eased off after the hanging of Charley Berger Charlie Birger, one of the leaders. But not before his headquarters had been bombed from an airplane by the Shelton Brothers, Berger’s enemies. This is said to have been the first air bombardment ever.

We gradually got our clients back and I was apparently forgiven. For in due course I got the orders I wanted—to join the Washington bureau. A few more months of St. Louis and I might have been carried out feet first. Maybe the UP knew that. I was glad to shake off the St. Louis smog and to close out what had been my social life in the gateway to the West. That life had revolved around the Kroeger family, whom I knew through the good offices of Betty. The Kroegers summered in Harbor Beach, Michigan, and one of its members, Bea, was Betty’s childhood friend. I squired her around to the Municipal Opera, an Al Jolson musical, etc. I even bought evening clothes with part of my horse winnings to be properly turned out for these excursions. But by the time I left my involvement with Bea had become a little sticky. She was an attractive enough girl but the world’s foremost snob. Her abuse of the waiters when taken to dinner was embarrassing.


At this point my mind turned back to Lansing and Betty. Also my heart. We had kept up a somewhat desultory correspondence. By this time she was in New York, working in a laboratory on Welfare Island. We agreed that I would stop off in New York enroute to Washington. Betty had been working in the State Health Department in Lansing while I was there. Now she had gone to New York to seek her fortune armed with two years of education at the University of Chicago, part-time study at Michigan State, and her laboratory training as a bacteriologist in Lansing. So I took a train to Chicago and there boarded the Twentieth Century Limited. I took advantage of all the amenities, the diner, the barber shop and the valet service. The UP was paying and my expense account was sly enough to cover up some of the luxuries. In New York I put up at Stan Culp’s apartment.

Betty turned up in a double-breasted navy coat, I think she called it a reefer, and a cocky navy hat looking cute as a button and full of lively chatter. This girl, I thought, is obviously for me. I confided that thought to her and, somewhat to my surprise, she pronounced herself receptive. We decided that it would be for better or worse, accent on the better. We dined joyously at Mama somebody’s in the Village and availed ourselves of the privacy of Stan’s apartment. I escorted her back to Welfare Island. We dawdled saying good night and when I got back to the ferry slip, the night’s last run was about to take off. A cop told me I couldn’t board it without a pass. Security was tight, apparently because Mae West was doing time on the island for obscenity. What to do? It was chilly. A night spent waiting in the cold for morning wasn’t an acceptable prospect. So as the ferry’s lines were cast off I dashed past the cop into the ferry. Nobody raised an outcry, so it worked.

That weekend Betty had a date to see the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, so it was arranged that I would meet her after the game. Plans for the wedding were discussed along with much else, and the next day she returned to New York while I pressed on to Washington.


I reported to Carl Groat, then the UP bureau manager, and was immediately assigned to the White House beat. I was impressed with myself until I found that the White House in the Coolidge Administration was the deadest end in town. The hottest story out of the place in my short time there had to do with the President’s exercise hobby horse. I lost no time asking for a transfer to something better.

I moved into a rooming house on Connecticut Avenue within walking distance of the office. Knowing nobody in Washington, I prepared for a lonely wait until Betty could join me. But I remembered one day that Jab Keisling, with whom I had played football in Jefferson, had a government job while studying at the Brookings Institute. Presently we rented an apartment just a half block from where the Newsweek bureau now is. The first or second night in town I wandered down to Pennsylvania Avenue, noted that something was playing at the National Theater, bought a standing room ticket and saw the first performance ever of Show Boat. Moreover, the piano player, on whose instrument Helen Morgan perched seductively, was a man I had known in St. Louis. So the rest of Show Boat’s run went swimmingly for me.

Soon I was assigned to cover the Senate as an assistant to Paul Mallon, the UP’s brightest star, notable for his ability to write fast enough to keep ahead of any running story and at the same time to write new leads for the afternoon editions. He did the big stories and I was expected to do everything else. If there were five more or less important committee hearings going on, I was supposed to cover them all. It was managed by syndicating with other reporters. I told a collaborator what happened at my committees and he told me what happened at his. Reports were dictated to typists in the bureau downtown. What the press associations do now with staffs or ten or twelve on the Senate we did with two—not as well, no doubt, but adequately.

The Senate was exciting then with men like Borah, Norris and Wagner making the news. “Sons of the Wild Jackass” they were called by the Republicans. We came to know them well.

The model A

Among the Senators I knew, having written a feature story about him, was Jim Cousens Couzens of Michigan, who had been treasurer of the Ford Motor Company and still owned a large bloc of Ford stock. The papers were full of stories about Ford’s decision to abandon the T-model and substitute a streamlined car with a stick shift and all the other improvements made on more expensive cars. I told Cousens I’d like to buy one of these new models to bring my prospective bride (who had been entertained at his house in Michigan though neither he nor I knew that ) back to Washington. “What color do you want and what model?” he asked. I picked a convertible roadster in what the company called Arabian sand. “Deliver it to my girl in Lansing,” I suggested. He agreed.

So it was done, to the astonishment of the dealer in Lansing and to the motoring public at large. Ours was one of the first A-models on the road. It was a good dependable car—the seats a little hard on a long ride, perhaps, and the mechanism for raising and lowering the top awkward but what could you expect at the price? Less than $1,000 as I remember it. T-models had once sold for about $400.

The wedding

The wedding was set for July in Harbor Beach and came off on schedule. My family and a few college friends turned up. Stan amused the Beach with one-liners. He walked into the Smith house and announced: “You people don’t look as important as I’ve been told you are.” Asked by Aunt Helena on the wedding morning how he thought the weather would be by afternoon, Stan said he didn’t know. “You refuse to prognosticate?” she asked. “No, I don’t refuse,” he answered. “It is just that I can’t find anyone to do it with me.”

Many of the Bartholomew kin, the whole population of the Beach and friends from Lansing assembled for the wedding. Sally, maid of honor, and the bride herself, dressed in white, cloche hats pulled down over foreheads and frocks with uneven hem lines in the manner of 1928 fashion, took their places in the Jenks patio. We boys, including Dr. Bartholomew, who gave away the bride, wore white flannels and navy blue jackets. The Bartholomews, having made a handsome profit from bank stock at the time when the big banks were racing to acquire banking chains, had bought and remodelled a Harbor Beach house for year-round living.

The doctor was an established village character. Stories of his wit and irreverence are still told there. He occupied himself with a big vegetable garden, extension language courses from the University of Chicago, bird banding, and the grocery shopping, which he worked in with a beer-drinking round of the pubs. Margaret Bartholomew, quick, busy and wise, was a sort of matriarch to the whole colony. They were extraordinary people. Years later, Maggie suffered a stroke, immobilizing the last person in the world who should have been thus disabled.

Betty and I set out in our shiny Arabian sand vehicle to the cheers of the multitude. A short way out of town a rain storm whipped up and I had my first tussle with the top, aided by expletives a bride should not have heard. We spent the first night in Lansing, the second in Toledo and, after a road accident, the third in Wheeling, West Virginia. A local cop investigating a side swipe on the road found that I didn’t have a driver’s license. Betty did but she hadn’t been driving. The cop, intrigued with our car and sentimental about our just-married status, handed down a Solomon-like decision. Since a crowd had gathered, he had to do something. He whispered that if Betty took the wheel the by-standers would be satisfied and we could go about our business.

In Wheeling we put up at a hotel on, if not actually over, the railroad tracks. We broke out a quart of whiskey given to us by Al Reidmayer, Cora’s husband, in Toledo. After a couple drinks we looked at each other and agreed that this marriage might work out all right. It was an important discovery, which probably said something about the uncertainty of our previous commitment. In Washington we moved into an apartment on the top floor of a house in Foggy Bottom lent to us by Betty’s friend, Douglas Bement, an English professor at George Washington University, who was on vacation elsewhere with his wife, Rita. The temperature was up in the nineties and the apartment, situated under a tin roof, was an oven. One sweated sitting still, by night as well as day.


Transcribed by Gale Crawford Pierce (1932–2013); HTML formatting by David Pierce

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