Monday, April 21, 2014

Miss Duncan Goes to Washington, Part 2 of 7

January 7, 1941
Which brings us to the job. Of course I was terrified when I pattered into that great big marble building all by myself on Monday morning at 8:30. I remained terrified all day. Old Gwin started me off with ten letters, and I spent the rest of the day typing them up, with numerous carbons. But today things solidified down a bit. I am part his stenographer and part Mr. Leverenz' secretary. The idea is that eventually I work only for Mr. L. He is the Assistant Director of Civilian Relief. (The first letter I typed for him I signed as the Civil Relief, and it didn't go over so large.) That means that he corresponds with all the local Chapters about what they are doing for the relief of people whom the other authorities can't take care of, like people who move to new places and can't go on relief because they haven't got a residence.  

Red Cross HQ, Washington, D.C., 1941
The biggest thing that they are worrying about now is what to do with a lot of Americans who are coming back from France. They are mostly people who have lived over there all their lives and resent having to return, and they haven't any money at all and probably very few friends in this country. The idea is to apply pressure on the civil authorities to make them be a bit more lenient in the residence requirement for relief, and to get them jobs when possible, and to lend them enough money to get to friends who can take them in. I imagine them all as disgruntled Henry Jameses. 

The work itself is pretty darn hard and I'm not too good at it. I'm dreadfully slow and about the best that can be said for it is that I haven't made the same mistake on two different days. I came up with a whole new batch this morning. Mr. L. is very gentle with me, but he uses such dreadful words; he came out with 'expatriation' and 'rehabilitation' in one sentence, and even in my wildest dreams I never saw those two in shorthand. But I seem to get along somehow. Mr. Gwin's secretary is very nice to me and helps me out and explains things twice for me. Taking letters from J. Blaine (Gwin) is a snap because they all say the same thing. 'We're very sorry that we have nothing to suggest just now, but we will file your application blank for future reference and if anything should come up etc.' Lord, I'm glad I never got one of those! But I typed two telegrams for him today, asking people to come to Washington at his expense to be interviewed. 

Rosalind Robb and (fiance) Richard Salant
So you see I am making out. We are still as enthusiastic about our house as in the first letter. It really is perfect, except for a few small technical matters. I would like to somewhat revise the list of requests, though. Frannie's father brought us andirons, but if you had that old Cape Cod fire lighter lying around, I bet we could remember to keep it full. Our table is 2½ by 5½ (kindly admire fractions; I have a ¼ -sign too, not to mention * and ^) when it is all open out, meaning when Rosalind's Dick and Frannie's Otto come to dinner, and we haven't one single table cloth. Also how about a half dozen of those colored napkins that don't need to be ironed, for best? Any old bureau scarves? Dish towels? The china is adequate and we're making Rosalind buy the silver to use in her kitchen after she's married, so that's all right. We do need candlesticks, though. And how about a blanket? The one that is provided on my bed has a label guaranteeing that it is at least 5% wool, but that isn't much wool. 

We are hoping that Papa is still planning to come down here sometime this coming weekend and that he will have dinner here. How funny, me inviting Papa to eat dinner in my house! Which brings me to the Bad News. We had to pay our January rent before we moved in, and the bill at the 18th Street place came to a bit, so I am at present fairly flat broke. No one has mentioned when pay day rolls around. So, unless you want me to starve after about this Friday--. Of course I have a roof over my head, which is something. 

Really, Mother, you should have seen us getting breakfast this morning. We set the alarm for 6:30, because Rosalind insists that she have fifteen minutes to get up strength enough to greet the new day. Then we all leapt out of bed, and I put the coffee on and we all squeezed oranges while dressing. But now we are going to squeeze the night before instead. We were all dressed, beds made, and breakfast on the table by 7:15---porched [sic] eggs, toast, juice of the orange, toast, (sorry) Shredded Ralston, and coffee. We decided that it would be more economical to eat a good breakfast and dinner, and then have only a 20¢ lunch, than to leave off the eggs for breakfast, and we have such a nifty little porcher [sic] to porch [sic] them in. 

Oh, I forgot to ask for a cook book. That's one thing we really need because we refuse to always eat out of the frying pan. Do write and give us some suggestions for what is cheap and easy to get and fairly substantial. 

Come visit us and sleep on our day bed and eat our porched [sic] eggs. Also admire our gate.

Love and kisses, 

Copyright 2005 by Curt Taylor

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