D.C.

500 BLOGS TO CELEBRATE!

It’s been almost 5 years since I started my blog, Words on My Mind. I’ve now posted 500 blogs – HOORAY!! At this point, judging by the statistics, I’ve had at least two million people check in.

I used a poem to begin my efforts. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Birth pains were negligible,

A little wine helped,

And some chocolate with nuts.

Since the Baby Blog

Has shot into Cyberspace,

It’s no telling what it

May eventually weigh.

Does anyone know

The Weight of Opinions?

I started the blog to promote my editing business and to sell my historical fiction novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade. Since then I’ve written 6 additional books (Ebook format) that are also for sale on Amazon. An Army Brat in Libya, Discovering the Victor in Victoria, Colonels Don’t Apologize, Angels in Uniform, Pink Glasses, and Weird Dates and Strange Fates.

Victoria Giraud

Victoria Giraud

As a consistent chronicler of my interesting life, in notebooks and eventually on computer, I’ve reported my personal history, ups and downs! I had written plenty of tales of growing up as an Army brat, my long career as a newspaper and magazine editor/reporter in Los Angeles, and life as a single woman. Since 2010 I’ve written about living in Bavaria right after World War II, living in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s, and residing in the Washington, D.C. area during John Kennedy’s presidency. For the past 50 years (alas, I’m no longer a youngster), I’ve enjoyed experiencing Southern California life.

The fun of getting older is looking back to the hurdles and successes of life and all the people you’ve known or seen in one way or another. I’ve written about most of it. I saw John F. Kennedy twice (when he was a senator and then a president), Robert Kennedy twice, shook hands with Richard Nixon in Libya, and observed Lyndon Johnson in the Senate. These experiences have been chronicled in my blog.

I observed Hollywood stars at Washington National Airport during the March on Washington in 1963. I stood at a window between Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Baldwin (the author), saw Paul Newman, James Garner and Sidney Poitier, and spoke with Charlton Heston. I lived through some of the repercussions from the Suez Crisis in Tripoli in 1956. I enjoyed the fun of a 1958 Mediterranean Cruise courtesy of the US Navy, landing in Athens, Istanbul, Naples, and Gibraltar, to name a few.

Since I knew and had interviewed character actor, Strother Martin, I attended his funeral at Forest Lawn in 1980 and saw Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. I wrote a blog about the experience. Living in SoCal, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with James Whitmore, William Shatner, Peter Strauss, Ellen Burstyn, Robert Stack, Valerie Harper, Kelsey Grammar, Della Reese, and Sally Kellerman, to name a few. While I worked at the phone company in Hollywood, I observed Dean Martin on a motorcycle,  saw Cornel Wilde and Mitzi Gaynor at the Brown Derby, and had a lovely chat with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in Santa Monica. When I edited and wrote a magazine for the Beverly Hills Country Club, I interviewed athletes Rafer Johnson and Jack Kramer (my first tennis racket had his name on it) and TV star Barbara Eden. I’ve written about all these experiences as well as the sometimes crazy times of being single and dating.

One of my most entertaining interviews was with Jules Sylvester, an animal trainer born in Kenya. He was my neighbor for a while and invited me out to see his Komodo dragon (in the Marlon Brando/Matthew Broderick film “The Freshman”) and all the spiders and insects he trained for all sorts of films (“Snakes on a Plane” not too long ago).

I’ve written about the powerful 1994 LA earthquake, and about my genealogy on my mother’s Motley side, which included John Motley Moorehead, a governor of North Carolina before the Civil War. I’ve told my personal story of surprising my birth father at his office in the Pentagon in 1964. I was too young to remember him when he left to fight in Italy during WWII. Three days after we met and spent time together, he said I was his lucky charm: he had been promoted to Brigadier General.

When I’m not writing my blog, I’m spending time editing books of all types and have written/promoted many of them on my blog. So far, I’ve edited about 130 books in all genres: from historical fiction, memoirs, romance and action adventure, to self-help and children’s books.

I’ve tooted my horn enough. If, dear Reader, you’re intrigued, check out my archives after you read today’s blog. Thank you!

 

 

SUMMER JOBS–WORKING FOR US GOVERNMENT

Dulles Airport Terminal by Eero Saarinen

Now that summer is in full swing and college/high school students are looking for summer employment, it brings back many memories of summers in Washington, D.C. My military father insisted that typing was an admirable and necessary skill. What a prescient suggestion or should I say “order!” It’s not exactly rocket science, but my fingers have been flying over keyboards of various sorts ever since senior year in high school.

When I was accepted at the College of William and Mary, my father made it clear that I would work during summer breaks and contribute to my college expenses. Typing skills meant I could qualify for one of the most basic jobs: clerk-typist, known in government parlance as a GS-3. I haven’t checked to see if it’s the same designation.

The summer after high school graduation I found a job with BuWeps (Bureau of Weapons) in the Navy Department located on the Washington Mall in a grassy area near the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.  These multi-story  wooden buildings dated back to WWII and are now long gone.

I remember typing fourteen copies of documents on manual typewriters. A mistake required erasing (remember erasers?)  tiny or large portions on all fourteen copies. When the document was done, all the carbon paper had to be placed in burn bags because it was classified work regarding Navy missiles—I still recall the Terrier and the Tarter. I even looked it up to see if my memory was accurate and it was!

Boring work for the most part but it was good pay. Many of the girls working there brown-bagged it and we could go out onto the grassy area around the reflecting pool to eat. My mother believed in keeping trim: hard-boiled eggs and Triscuits were my usual lunch. I had my first glass of wine at a restaurant: a very sweet Mogen David when most of the office went out for some kind of celebration. A few sips had me polluted for hours! It wasn’t a habit I cultivated until much later in life when my taste buds matured.

Things picked up the summer after I started college when I got a job working in the office of the manager of Washington National Airport. Mr. Steiner, a longtime civil service employee, was a considerate, gentlemanly boss and his secretary, Helen Brewer, who could sense I wouldn’t need constant help and could follow directions, was the perfect supervisor.

The work wasn’t very challenging; I remember mostly typing arrival and departure reports and filling in by answering the phone. I had the time to type some exotic poetry from Asia from a library book and plan a school year abroad, perhaps at the University of London. The year in England never came to fruition—perhaps a reason I moved to Germany right after college graduation.

During the 1961 summer, a new airport, to be named Dulles Airport, was being constructed in lovely Chantilly, Virginia, 26 miles south of Washington. The architecturally unique terminal building was designed by Eero Saarinen, who described his design as “a huge continuous hammock suspended between concrete trees.” As I recall, the terminal was essentially finished by that time and it was gorgeous, in my eyes.

Passenger transportation was the most unusual factor for the new airport: mobile lounges were being designed to carry people from the terminal to special airplane parking areas and from the airplanes to the terminal. My boss thought the idea of using mobile lounges was not only stupid but costly.

I was excited when I learned the Federal Aviation Agency was going to use employees to test out these enormous lounges, and I was going to get an exciting field trip out of it. The lounges, over fifty feet long and equipped with very large tires, had room for 100 passengers. Originally, ramps led from the lounges to the airplane doors. Since the heights of airplane bottom floors were not uniform, we were going to test how well the ramps worked.

After a few ramp tests, the mobile lounge driver decided to give us a thrill and off we went on a fast drive down an empty new runway.  Years later, when I flew with my family to Virginia via Dulles Airport, I could brag how I had been one of the first to ride in one of these huge portable lounges. Apparently, most of them are now being phased out. Maybe my boss was right!

MARCH ON WASHINGTON – 48 YEARS LATER

Martin Luther King Memorial

 

Today marks the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and the 1963 March on Washington. It was also supposed to be a special occasion: the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall.

Hurricane Irene canceled the dedication plans for now. Martin Luther King’s spirit has a great deal of power, apparently, and it’s still at work! It’s odd that a powerful hurricane interfered! It made me remember another disaster, especially since I experienced it. A major Los Angeles earthquake occurred on January 17, 1994, which was the Martin Luther King holiday.

In late August of 1963, shortly before Martin Luther King’s March on Washington event, a retired Navy pilot asked me: “How’d you like to see some movie stars?” The summer before my senior year of college, I was working for Operations at what was then Washington National Airport on the Potomac River in the District of Columbia.

I was the only female among six retired Navy and Air Force officers, all former pilots, and our offices were on the field level of the airport. Even though the men had done their twenty years in the service and were drawing their retirement pay, they were only in their forties.

The fellows in Operations, who were all cocky and full of charm and humor, would make sure takeoffs and landings were going smoothly. They were in charge of monitoring aborted flight departures or problems with arrivals because of engine trouble or whatever else might go wrong and did. Potential mishaps, depending upon the severity, were labeled either “Standby at the station” if it was mild—as with a plane coming in with less than all engines operating—or “Standby on the field” if it looked more serious—faulty landing gear, for instance. These competent but seemingly relaxed men were privy to what was going on around the airport in general.

As a lowly clerk-typist, GS-3, I was responsible for answering phones and typing whatever documents needed typing—monthly reports of the flights in and out of the airport, for instance. Our oak-paneled offices were nicely appointed and were historic, having been used by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his long presidency, and on our wall there was a photo of him sitting in this office. I enjoyed the job because my flirtatious but well-mannered bosses were fun to work for; there was never a dull moment if they were around. I was their built-in audience and they let me in on their little jokes. One of the them, who resembled old-time movie actor Robert Taylor, would request that I bring him his coffee just like his women—“hot, dark and sweet.”  A former Navy pilot, whose crewcut was getting sparse on top, claimed his hair was guilty of mutiny—they were all deserting the ship.

I was only dimly aware of the growing civil rights movement, which was beginning to heat up at that time. I attended William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and we had no African-American students. Although integration within Virginia schools was mandatory, it had yet to become widespread.  In 1963 Viet Nam action consisted of American military “advisors” and was very much an unknown factor; it was August 1964 before the US began a substantial military build-up, which escalated into a war.

Washington National Airport was a hub of activity in those casual days before extensive security checks and terrorism. Getting on and off planes was easy; no one cared what a traveler had in his luggage. If my bosses, who seldom stayed around the office except to have coffee or tell me a joke, spotted anyone famous in the airport, they’d tell me, especially if there was time for me to go sneak a peek. Renowned Spanish painter, Salvador Dali, with his distinctive long curling mustache, was once spotted in time for me to look him over. One of my bosses was very excited when he caught sight of NBC  television news anchor Chet Huntley, who had probably flown on the Eastern Airlines Shuttle—their gate was close to our office. I enjoyed my peek at the handsome, bushy brown-haired Huntley, who was based in New York City; his co-anchor, David Brinkley reported from Washington. Their famous Huntley-Brinkley Report was a highly popular news program of that day and broadcast from 1956 to 1970, when Huntley retired.

None of these celebrities compared to the mix of stars who were coming for the March on Washington, a massive protest for jobs and civil rights headed by Dr. Martin Luther King and his supporters.  Since then I’ve learned much about that milestone and about King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At that time, all I knew was that King’s celebrity supporters would all be gathering at the private aviation terminal, not far from the main terminal. My bosses didn’t know who would be there, but they’d be delighted to drive me and a friend to the Butler Aviation Terminal. We just had to act like we belonged there.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria Giraud

Author – Melaynie’s Masquerade, historical fiction adventure

listed on Amazon Books

Editor    — Over 85 books in all genres

Blogger –  Words on My Mind

REMEMBERING JFK – 50 YEARS LATER

John F. Kennedy

Fifty years ago today, January 19, 1961, the Inaugural Gala was held at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C., for President-elect John F. Kennedy. The next day, January 20, the new President of the United States was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol.

Many of us remember President Kennedy’s immortal words from his inaugural address to the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia that January and only saw news reports of the momentous event. Televising important  events was not as common then, but ironically, it was President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963, which changed TV’s place in history. I was still at William and Mary during that tragedy and remember watching as much as possible as events unfolded on a small TV in my college dormitory lobby.

I was lucky enough to see JFK twice in person. In the summer of 1963, he had initiated a special program for college students working for the government, a sort of introduction to how government works. Kennedy gave an inspiring speech to us on the back lawn at the White House, emphasizing how valuable a career in government could be. We college kids were tramping around the play area for Caroline and John-John, the Kennedy kids.

US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

During the summer of 1959, before my senior year at Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia, I had my first Kennedy sighting in the U.S. Senate. I had no idea at that time who he was.

My friend, Barbara, and I took the bus into Washington, D.C. and decided to see Congress in action. Since she had a boyfriend working as a U.S. Senate page, it was easy to get passes. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. Her boyfriend had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

After getting the passes, we got seats in the Visitor’s Gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate while lounging in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I don’t believe I was paying attention to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there watching it all.

Both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, young-looking man with a nice head of chestnut hair at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

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.

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

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