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Welcome > Charlie's Life > Washington DC

Washington DC

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"A few days later, Roosevelt closed all the banks in the nation.  It mattered little to Joe or me as we never used them.  The day they closed we were taking a long walk in a warm rain storm to kill the time as we waited for the ride to the colony site.  Our walk took us by Constitution Hall where the posters announced Toscanini was to conduct a symphony of Wagner’s music that afternoon.

A long line of limousines were pulling up to the somber marquee and well dressed woman and men were filing into the hall.  One would have never guessed the sullen state of the nation’s financial purse by the appearance of the people in this particular spot.

My interest in classical music is rather ordinary.  When I am alone and in certain moods I can listen to good recordings for hours and enjoy every minute of it.  This day I entertained no desire to attend the concert.  I did imagine it would be a pleasant place to go to get out of the rain. 

We stood under the marquee and watched the people go in.  Joe said he would be the happiest guy in the world if he could afford a ticket to hear the concert.  I knew Joe really liked music, so, with all the bravo of youth, I told him to wait by the door and I would see about getting some tickets. 

Joe was aware that I did not have more than a dime in my pocket at that time as we had run out of cigarettes on the walk.  I told him they would have to wait until I got a letter from home.  He looked at me as if I were nuts as I left the join the line at the ticket office.  A few minutes later he started at me as if I were God putting in a public appearance when I held two tickets for the best seats in the hall before his face!

I kept Joe guessing for several weeks how I obtained the tickets, but it was really simple.  I merely told the clerk in the box office with my best reserved and cultured voice, that I had been caught with insufficient cash when the banks closed.  He asked me for identification and I showed him my name and address on a telegram addressed to the Arts Club.  The club was an elite address and its members were not artists, but mostly art patrons who were in the dough.

I did not lie or tell the clerk that the club was my permanent address, but the girl back in Indiana thought it was, and she sent her little messages of amour there.  I told the clerk he might just as well send my bill there too.

Joe was so eager to get to his seat that he ran down the long marble hall to the door that lead to our box seats.  While we waited for the usher, we both realized at the same time that all we had on under our wet raincoats was our underwear as neither of us wore a shirt or coat!


The usher looked disgusted as we sat down in the soft plush seats with our slickers buttoned up to our chins.  I smoothed back my rain soaked hair with my palm and looked down on the sea of faces below us and was startled to find everyone on the main floor looking up at us!  I did not think we looked that much out of place, and I was sure we had done nothing to attract that much attention.  I turned around to see if there was a policeman standing behind us, but there was no one but the puzzled usher.

It was then that Joe nudged me and pointed discreetly at the lady with whom we shared a box.  It was Eleanor Roosevelt and she had just taken her seat a moment before we arrived.  Her first appearance at a concert in Washington as a President’s wife could not have put Joe and me in a more conspicuous spotlight with our outlandish attire than if we had hired the stage.

During the symphony, Mrs. Roosevelt would steal short glances over her shoulder at us.  Now she will know, if she reads this story, why two young fellows never once unbuttoned their raincoats during an entire symphony in a hot auditorium back in 1933. 

She was wearing one of her famous hats for the occasion and during the intermission I made a sketch of her and the hat on the program about Arturo Toscanini’s concert."

I saved the program.  It was a good drawing.

 Words from Charlie's autobiography written in 1957 about his time in Washington DC

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 17:09  

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