Swimming In The Buff

I was watching a PBS special recently with President Harry Truman taking the three networks on a tour of the renovated White House in 1952. He stopped at a portrait of John Quincy Adams (on the left) and smiled as he told the story of a woman reporter who wanted an interview with Adams.

Here’s the story.

President Adams had a passion of going for a swim before sunrise. The White House didn’t have a swimming pool in the early 1800’s and Adams would rise a couple of hours before dawn and walk to the Potomac river for a quick dip.

Those were the days when Presidents had a lot more freedom. They were not as protected as they are today which is probably the reason Adams would occasionally run into a little trouble.

He liked to swim in the nude.

Enter Anne Royall, a newspaper reporter who had been trying to get an appointment to see the President for some time. When the President’s secretary continued to put her off, M’s Royall decided to try to see him informally. She apparently watched the White House and observed that Mr. Adams went for an early morning swim.

She waited for an opportune morning and hiding near the spot where the President swam, she waited for him to disrobe and dive into the water and then she went a sat on his clothes.

Anne Royall then shouted to President Adams, “I am sitting on your clothes and you don’t get them until I get an interview on the State Bank Question.”

The President reportedly asked her to go behind the bushes while he dressed and then he would give her an interview. She refused and threatened if he tried to get out of the water and get his clothes she would scream and said that she saw three fisherman just around the bend.

She got her interview.

History does not tell us if President Adams continued his daily dips in the buff after that.

Press Girls

The inauguration of a new president is coming up so I will intermix a few stories about Presidents, the press and politics for the next couple of weeks.

You wouldn’t call them “Press Girls” today, but back in 1933, that’s what a group of women reporters were called who covered Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House.

It started out as a project by Mrs. Roosevelt to ensure that women reporters kept their jobs during the depression. In March of 1933 she announced she would hold regular news conferences in the Red Room of the Executive mansion, but only female journalists could attend.

Even though they were called “girls”, most of the ladies were beyond their “girlish” years. Maud McDougall had covered William Jennings Bryan and President Kckinley. The New York Times reporter, Winifred Mallon, had covered the Teddy Roosevelt administration some 40-years earlier.

Some male journalists of the time belittled ” the girls” as being little more than incense burners, but the ladies got their share of exclusive stories on the administration.

No story was quite as striking as the scandal of the Civil Defense Dancer. It was a stark reminder that no matter how comfortable the relationship between reporter and news maker, a story is a story.

After Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Roosevelt had taken a volunteer job with civil defense and she hired a friend at a salary of 46-hundred dollars a year to teach physical fitness. The Washington Post broke the story, charging that Mrs. Roosevelt’s friend was hired to teach dancing in air raid shelters. By the time Congress raised it’s collective eyebrows, both the dancer and Mrs. Roosevelt had left their civil defense posts.

Snow Thoughts

I watched it snow the other day. It was a heavy snowfall with intermixed large and small flakes that drifted, floated and swirled onto the already snow covered ground.

If you look very carefully at the floating snow you can choose one flake, among all the others, and watch it as it settles to the ground. Its individuality seemingly disappearing into sheet of white, but if you were able to take some tweezers and find that same snowflake and pick it up, extract it from the collective white blanket, it would still have its uniqueness, its individuality hopefully unaltered by the impact with the snow.

Snowflakes share only one specific need to sustain their individuality. Cold! Without it, their individuation transforms into a unifying drop of water whose only mission then is to join with others and ascend to the source by ultimately descending to the sea and starting all over again.

We humans also drift into being, but we maintain our individuality despite the climate of life. We do have another thing the snowflake does not have. We have conscious awareness and the sentient gift to make individual choices. We can love. We can hate. We can teach. We can create and we can destroy. Wow! What power and most of us don’t even know we have it.

We humans and the snowflake do have something in common.

In the end we too ascend to the Source and start all over again.

We can find profound introspection in all of nature if we go beyond the obvious. I once wrote poem about the roses unseen within the barren bush.

I saw a rose before its bloom
Within a bush of thorn,
Invisible, yet crimson bright
Hopeful to adorn,
A table vase or lovers heart
With grace upon a morn.

Until red bud unfurls forth
In aromatic rose,
Few will see the flower there
Ready to compose,
A blossomed stem of prickling points
And barbs sharp juxtapose.

But as the warmth of spring resumes
And the cosmic colors flow,
The scarlet of the silent stalk
Begins its sanguine grow,
And dabs the bush of nature with
Red roses in tableau.

Let it snow and then bring on the rebirth of spring.


Some thoughts on Potholes. I hit four or five the other day and they were big.

Did you know there is a National Pothole Day. It’s the 20th of March according to an organization called “The Road Information Program” or “TRIP” out of Washington D.C..

TRIP says they view the millions of potholes across the country with seriousness and a symptom of the overall repair and rehabilitation needs of roads and bridges in the USA, but they also suggest motorists have fun with this thawing and freezing malady.

TRIP suggests potholes are the one truly democratic institution left in this country. They say potholes attack with no prejudice to race, creed or social position. They reach out and touch large cars as well as small cars, buses and bikes and swallow the wallets of all motorists.

There is also a Pothole fact sheet available from the Washington organization. For instance, the average size pothole is 16 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep. There are 50.6 million in the road across America usually popping out like pimples in the spring. The average amount of “patch filler” needed to fill a pothole is 110 pounds. It takes 8 to 12 minutes to fill one pothole. And for you trivia fans: How many potholes per miles in the United States. 38.3 according to the pothole fact sheet.

Finally the strangest catches in a pothole. TRIP says in Maine a pothole captured a snowplow. In Kentucky, a garbage truck. In Boston, a mounted policeman and his horse and in Philadelphia, $1.2 million in cash. Have a great Monday.