May 16th, 2012:

INTERSECTIONS WITH MODERN HISTORY By Victoria Giraud

I enjoy dealing with the news that creates our history by watching Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Not only is he extremely intelligent and funny, but he’s a fellow alumnus of the College of William and Mary. When he recently interviewed author Robert Caro about his latest volume on President Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power, I recalled my own observation of history in the making back in 1959.

I was a high school student in Alexandria, Virginia, when my friend Barbara and I decided we needed a lesson in government. Since she was dating a page in Congress, we could easily get passes for the US Senate. We hopped a bus, crossed the Potomac River and were exploring the Capitol in no time. Seated in the visitors’ gallery, we had an excellent view of the Senate in action. Wayne Morse, the feisty senator from Oregon, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois.

 

President Lyndon Johnson -- LBJ

The two men who drew our attention the most were already famous but no one had any idea of the tragedies still to come. Lyndon Johnson, an imposing Texas Democrat and Majority Leader, was presiding over the Senate as he lounged at his desk on a dais in the front of the room. He seemed very much aware of his position of power. To Johnson’s left was a large table with several seated senators. Not everyone was paying attention to the debate, especially a very attractive and young-looking man with a head of thick chestnut hair who was reading a newspaper.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying the scene. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him. Though we were serious students, we were still girls interested in the male sex.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

As college students a couple of years later, both Barbara and I had summer jobs working for the government as typists. By that time Kennedy was President and he had initiated a special program to familiarize college students with government, which was to take place several times during the summer. We saw JFK one morning on the lawn of the White House as he kicked off the program by giving us an inspiring speech I no longer remember. We all came in buses from our various jobs around the Washington area and walked across the deep grass and past Carolyn Kennedy’s playhouse in proper working attire, which meant heels for females.

I had seen Robert Kennedy, by that point Attorney General, previously when he was campaigning for his brother. That same summer this Kennedy brother was speaking to the assembled college student workers at Constitution Hall in Washington, and Barbara and I were also there. When it was over, we happened to walk by RFK’s limousine and were treated to a huge smile and a good look at his sparkling blue eyes. The Kennedy brothers certainly had great magnetism.

My last college summer job was at Washington National Airport, another chance to witness a part of history. I hadn’t paid attention to the upcoming March on Washington, but the fellows I worked with in Operations asked if I wanted to see some movie stars. I accepted immediately and invited my friend Harriet. We dressed in heels and hats and were taken to Butler Aviation’s private lounge to mingle with the stars as if we belonged there. I observed Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Dihanne Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Baldwin, and James Garner in action, but never talked to any of them. I stood in-between Sammy Davis, Jr. and author James Baldwin while we looked out at the landing field. I was in high heels, which made both these short fellows only about breast high!

Before we left, there was a plane from California landing, and many of us went downstairs to the field to welcome them. It was noisy before the propellers were shut down and I had put my hands over my ears. A tall handsome man leaned over toward me and commented, “Loud, isn’t it?” I grinned widely: it was actor Charlton Heston! I recognized him right away and remembered seeing him in “Ben Hur” not many years before.

 

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button