Mar 31, 2016

Sun, Mar 31, 1946: the girls' apartment

"It's a quiet Sunday evening -- not much different from one at home.  We're sitting around the girls' apartment downstairs reading and writing letters after eating popcorn and popcorn balls.  The party is waiting for a banana pie which Ruth cooked up a while ago.  The pie has to cool enough for eating -- it was sort of runny at the last attempt."

--Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, March 31, 1946.

Mar 26, 2016

Sun, Mar 26, 1946: Eddie Condon

"Monday night...Eddie Condon and his jazz mob was in town.  Eddie had intended for the jazz concert to be held in Constitution Hall, but the D.A.R. had different ideas on the subject 'because of the nature of the audience which would be attracted' (Where does that put me?)  This is the same DAR which barred Marian Anderson, one of the best contraltos in the country, from the hall on the grounds that she is a Negro--nothing else.  Biggest star of the Condon show was Sidney Betchet, Negro soprano saxophonist.  So Condon among his other cracks at the DAR announced 'Sidney and I are going to throw a little party down at Constitution Hall after the show'.  It was interesting to note that the Willard Hotel ballroom where the show was finally held was decorated with a huge American flag.  'The music we play is as American as popcorn' said Condon in noting the DAR slur at it and the color of its performers. (It might be best if Aunt Estella doesn't read this one.)  Star performers were Joe Sullivan, pianist, on 'Room with a View', Bechet on 'Summertime', Joe Dixon, youthful clarinettist, on 'The Man I Love', and Davey Tough with his sensational drumming."

--Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, March 26, 1946.

Mar 21, 2016

My father in front of U.S. Supreme Court building, 1946.

Mar 20, 2016

Wed, Mar 20, 1946: famed cherry trees

"Down in Franklin Square the magnolia trees have blossomed out in white and the newspapers report some blossoms on Washington's famed cherry trees -- the Japanese gift which some 'patriots' wanted to remove at the war's start."

-- Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., March 20, 1946.

Mar 17, 2016

Sun, Mar 17, 1946: Ellington

"This morning Bob Nave, John Howes, and I attended the St. Thomas Episcopal Church just around the corner from here... Franklin D. Roosevelt belonged to this church.... In peacetime FDR was a frequent attender but after 1941 the secret service wouldn't allow it.  Even when he did attend, SS men surrounded him - in front, in back in the pew we occupied and to the left in the Roosevelt pew.  Also they were scattered over the church.  Roosevelt being a cripple, a truck brought a special ramp to the side door at 10 A.M. to obviate the necessity of the difficult trip up the front steps.  Even so he walked with the assistance of some one else and with a cane down the center aisle to his pew....
"I dropped over to the Joe Turner Arena to hear Duke Ellington in person. He played for a negro dance (about 30 whites were scattered among the 2 or 3 thousand colored spectators).  It was the funniest sight I've seen in years -- a sea of black faces -- everyone bouncing in rhythm -- dudes in zoot like clothing shouting -- jitterbugging couples moved around in very small openings in the crowd.  The men worked hard -- Ellington scarcely stopped for the 2 hours I was there -- with his piano chording between pieces on the old beatup upright job.  Lawrence Brown, trombonist was the best part for my money -- I stood beside him for 30 minutes.  During that time he didn't bother to take out any of the arranged music.  Al Hibbler, blind vocalist, was the crowd favorite."

-- Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his sister, Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., March 17, 1946.  In a letter my father wrote to his parents and brothers three days later, he described many of the same events that Sunday, but left out the Ellington concert.

Mar 13, 2016

My father lived in this apartment building near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C., from March to June 1946, long with three other Navy language officers.  His doorway was the leftmost one in the red brick building. He wrote his family soon after moving in: "The rather modest looking apt. rents for $150 per month.  Mrs. Dick, the landlady, tells us that the last renters were a colonel and lieutenant-commander and before them a congressman.  It must be a classy neighborhood, although the houses are all old-fashioned three story brick buildings.  Ours is not over 25 feet wide with no yard on either side and a pitifully small one in front.  Across the street lives Raymond Gram Swing, the famous news commentator.  We are fixed up with a bedroom, living room, kitchnette, and bath. Bob and John sleep in the bedroom; J. O. and I in the living room." (March 13, 1946; photo: March 2015).

Wed, Mar 13, 1946: work is secret

"Officially the work is secret; but even if I told you about it there wouldn't be much of interest.  The Library of Congress is receiving thousands of books, documents, and pamphlets from Japan.  They have to be classified; so we are assigned to the job of writing brief synopses of the contents.  The variety is unlimited. I've handled things ranging from the church records of the Nishinakachō (Catholic) Church in Nagasaki to a Japanese French dictionary. We don't have time to read - just scanning - and it may get very boring after a few months.
"My new home is an apartment with three other boys from Boulder... So far I’ve done all right on my turns at cooking (We rotate on the evening meal and fix our own breakfasts.) However, I'd like to spring something different sometime; so maybe you can give me some tips, Mother.  You can't cook much on a hotplate -- but maybe you can give some ideas besides hamburgers and canned foods warmed.... Do you have any bacon or other hard-to-get stuff which could be sent from home?"
-- Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., March 13, 1946.

Mar 7, 2016

Thu, Mar 7, 1946: a fabulous city

"I finally got here... Washington is a fabulous city.  All of the places I've read about and which have appeared in geography and history textbook pictures can now actually be seen.  Last night as my taxi pulled out of Union Station I caught my first glance of the capitol building with its peacetime halo of light.  This impressive sight seemed very familiar -- as if it were a place I had known long ago....
"Cmdr. Steele seemed pleased when Bill McKeon and I asked for overseas duty; but he wasn't overly optimistic about the possibilities Six months ago there was a crying need for Japan bound language men - now things over the Pacific are being wound up and Gen. McArthur's army men are handling the situation in Japan."
--Letter from my father, Washington, D.C., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Thursday, March 7, 1946.

Mar 1, 2016

My mother, upper right, as a sophomore at Southwestern College with the Wesley Fellowship group, 1945-1946.  Her roommate, June Winchester is back row, center.