Sunday, February 08, 2009

MEMOIR: Settling in Washington, D.C.

Shortly after my college graduation in June 1948, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an editor and press officer for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish & Wildlife Service. I had been hired after the agency's information director, an ex-newspaper man, responded to my "situations wanted" ad in Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry's trade journal. It was a very unconventional way to obtain a Federal civil service job.

I knew no one in Washington. And except for three years in the army, this was the first time that I had ever lived away from my parents in New York. I was 23 years old.

Before I arrived in Washington, I had arranged to stay at the national headquarters of the American Veterans Committee, which was conveniently located in a townhouse on New Hampshire Ave., N.W. The organization maintained temporary sleeping quarters on the building's top floor for visiting members.

AVC has been extinct for about 50 years, but it was a much-publicized new veterans group during its brief but spirited existence. It was founded during World War II as a liberal veterans organization that would be an alternative to the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As a young guy turned off by what I regarded as the Legion's and VFW's support of reactionary political and social causes, I had joined AVC while in college.

Actually, I had briefly been an involuntary member of the VFW while still in military service overseas. My commanding officer, a World War I veteran who had evidently been active as a civilian in the VFW, had the unmitigated gall to sign up all the men in our outfit as new VFW members without our approval.

Among AVC's leaders were such celebrities as Richard Bolling, an influential Kansas City, Mo. Congressman; author-cartoonist Bill Mauldin; Merle Miller, President Harry Truman's biographer; popular radio comedian Henry Morgan; and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., the President's son who became a New York City Congressman.

The organization's idealistic motto was "Citizens First, Veterans Second." Its New York chapter went so far as to oppose a state veterans bonus. That was not the kind of political position likely to attract a mass membership of former servicemen.

AVC broke up about a decade after the war's end, following a bitter struggle between extreme left-wing and and moderate factions. I was saddened by AVC's demise, but I was grateful that the organization helped me quickly find a comfortable new Washington home.

My second day in town, I responded to a notice on a bulletin board in the AVC building, seeking room mates for a two-bedroom apartment. The notice had been placed by two former naval officers, both AVC members, who were sub-leasing an apartment on Adams Mill Road.

I was one of the men selected to replace two occupants who had moved out. The apartment was on the top floor of a five-story, walk-up building. It was modestly but adequately furnished for four young bachelors sharing two bedrooms. One memorable recollection of my stay in the apartment was listening to the nightly roar of the lions at the nearby Washington National Zoo when we kept the windows open during hot weather.

Once I had settled down in regular living quarters during my first few days in Washington, I was now ready to report to my new job with the Fish & Wildlife Service.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Chancy said...

"nightly roar of the lions at the nearby Washington National Zoo"

And now the "ZOO" in DC is at the US Capitol. Those monkeys keep fiddling while the economy burns up.

where is FDR when we need him?

Sunday, February 08, 2009 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Sylvia K said...

Always love your "look back" posts! You have had such a wonderful and interesting life! Thank you as always for sharing your great memories. Have a good week.

Monday, February 09, 2009 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I love it when you write about your youth. I don't know anything about military life except the stories I heard from the soldiers who rented cabins at our cottage court. (They were being mustered out and had their wives come to C. S. while they were being processed.)

It's always interesting to read how others lived during that time. And you write it so well.

Monday, February 09, 2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

The sounds of the street where you lived isn't it amazing how you can still remember and sometimes even smell your life from long ago.

Great story..


Dorothy from grammology
grammology.com

Thursday, February 12, 2009 10:38:00 PM  

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