The Log of “Jason” Glasscock
of His Voyage of Search
for the Golden Fleece
part 6

by Wilmer Newton Glasscock

Jan 1878 - May 1966

 

WEDNESDAY, May 2, 1934

  I watch the mail box off and on at the hotel office all day. I read and write these notes and walk about a little. As I go in and out I can look at the mail box without inquiring.

    President Roosevelt appointed General Hugh Samuel Johnson head of the National Recovery Administration in 1933. The NRA organized businesses under fair trade codes drawn up by trade associations. Time magazine selected Gen. Johnson as 1933 Man of the Year.

  At 6:30 I go down to mail a letter, and see a card in the lobby announcing that General Hugh Johnson will speak at the dinner of the A.T.A.E. in the banquet room. I find out that A.T.A.E. signifies Association of Trade Association Executives. Well, I am not a Trade Association Executive, but I am somehow connected with the California Land Title Association, and it is my duty to hear the General, even though I may not care about it personally! So I rush to my room, shave freshly, slick my hair, jump into the dark suit, and give myself the once over and saunter down determined to crash the gate somehow. I buy a dinner ticket at the door and am not questioned. Men look much alike. I lean against a piece of decorative furniture and wait the opening of the doors. A man eases up to me and asks some simple question, I forget what. His name is McCutcheon, from Portland, Oregon. He is here for the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Annual Convention. I tell him, “Mine is Glasscock, of San Bernardino California.” We decide to stick together since neither of us knows anybody. The doors open and we go in. Here is a table with two vacant seats. They are not reserved the lady tells us. The lady’s husband says that he is Mr. Adams, of Richmond, Virginia, and I am introduced to Mrs. Adams. Mr. Adams is a biscuit and cake manufacturer and is attending the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Convention. They say the General is mad and may not come tonight, but he may cool off and come later.

    Methodist bishop James Cannon, Jr., leader of the Anti-Saloon League.

  Mrs. Adams says that she is not a Virginian, but comes from Dallas, Texas. Her father for years was attorney and Santa Claus for the M. E. Church South. She says that she knows Bishop Cannon well, and that he is a trouble maker and obstreperous. She says that he probably deserves to be retired by the Bishops, and that she feels sorry for him as an old man. She says that she admires the President, but her admiration for the Roosevelt family stops right there. She says that wives who gad about and daughters who leave their husbands to live at the White House don’t look good to her, no sirree! She says she is plenty “modern,” but a woman’s place is in the home. I have some opportunity to talk, and take up Texas and music, in which she is interested. She likes Wagnerian music, but wishes Tristan would not take so long to die. I break in just as she starts her fork on its short journey, and say that while I delight to hear any of Brahms music, because I can understand it, I simply cannot see the why of Bach. “Oh, a musician only plays Bach to show his technique, that’s all,” she said. And so on. Her husband must have been used to it, for he did not glare at me for monopolizing her attention. Later I shook his hand and told him how much I had enjoyed the evening’s conversation with him! I told the lady, ----well----, I said all I could without it being too much. She was very interesting, and what one might call “a character.” She was lots of fun.

    Miss Frances “Robbie” Robinson, personal assistant to Gen. Johnson.

  General Johnson did come after all. About twenty minutes after eight the hand clapping started and men began to rise from their chairs and there he was; and omnipresent “Robbie” with him. He was wearing a wrinkled business suit and a blue shirt. He did not look happy, and he looked tired. “Robbie” looked fresh and fair.

  The General had not prepared an address. There had been a misunderstanding, he said, in announcing that he would speak at the hotel, but he finally concluded since they expected him he would come over. He talked along generally for awhile, including the remark that he had expected pop bottles and dead cats to be thrown at him, and he had not been disappointed. Newspaper photographers were popping up and down in front of him taking pictures. If they bothered him he did not show it. Must be used to it now. One cameraman stood stock-still for several minutes with his camera aimed. Folks behind him began to get restless, but he stood his ground. Evidently he knew just the gesture he wanted. The General raised his hand, “poof” and the cameraman dodged out. I saw the picture in the paper the next morning.

  There are no more flashlight powders used now. These cameramen have an electric battery and an electric flash bulb and a reflector fastened on their camera. They aim the camera through a squint piece, and when they press the button the shutter and the flash are synchronized in their action

    The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), created NRA to enforce codes of fair competition, minimum wages, and to permit collective bargaining of workers. Firms complying voluntarily could display its symbol, the Blue Eagle. NIRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935.

  The General said he was just an administrator of an Act which Congress had passed, and his personal views did not matter. He had some, he said. He reminded his hearers that although the NIRA dated from June 15, 1933, things did not really get under way until September; that since then about 400 codes have been worked out; that little else could be done; that he knew that there was much else needed doing; that it would be gotten to, and the new Blue Eagles were ready but he was going to distribute them from Washington so as to prevent graft working in. It appears when a code is adopted for an industry a code authority or administrator is setup. There are necessarily expenses to be met. Units of the industry are expected to pay their share. That is making much trouble for two reasons. Some code authorities have excessive expense budgets, the General thinks, and some units of the industry are unwilling to pay their share of the expenses. The General wants to be sure that these expense budgets are proper before he approves withholding the new Blue Eagle from anybody who is objecting. That sounds fair enough.

  He reminded us that the plan, the very essence, of the NIRA is that business itself shall propose its own codes, and that the dominant ideas shall prevail over all, subject to official approval and subject to some voice on the part of Labor and some voice on the part of the Consumer. He restated that industry and business held their future in their own hand and the Government was the Umpire. He said that it was sure that things could not have gone on the way they were going. He stated that the next few months will tell a lot, and that nothing can be made to work if the people do not want it.

  He said he preferred to answer questions, if he could, and invited them. The men were a bit slow starting, but they did begin and kept it up quite awhile. The crowd roared when he picked up a card from the table and said he had a card there with some writing on it that had not been intended for him, but for the chairman, but he found it in front of him when he sat down and had read it, and he would read it aloud. It read, “If Johnson does not show up, the man whose name is on the other side of this card will pinch-hit.” He turned the card over and said the name of the man on the other side of the card was Fred B. Mann, Sr. “I am glad I came,” General Johnson said. The man in question stood up and bowed to the General amid great laughter. It appears Mann is a member of the Darrow committee which is making direct to the President a report which is expected to be very adverse to Johnson and the NRA in certain particulars.

  There was much more, but I cannot remember very well. But I got two definite impressions at least: first, that General Johnson is a very good sport to stand up in a crowd, of which perhaps only one-third sympathize with him, and handle the questions and take the gaff the way he did; second, I began to get a national viewpoint as distinguished from a local one. I should say, of course, in addition to a local one. I am made to realize that one single aspect of our complex and very extensive economic set-up should not be mistaken for the whole. Many people are doing that very thing, unfortunately. I wish such people could have the opportunity I am having now here in Washington. Although I had no intention of having this opportunity when I came, and am still trying to get away from it as quickly as I possibly can.

  

THURSDAY, May 3, 1934

    James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist, bequeathed his estate “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

  This had been a day of patient (?) waiting. I have gone past the office desk time after time and looked at the mail box. I have been writing these notes and reading. But at noon I determine to visit the Smithsonian Institution. I recall that an Englishman by the name of John Smithson gave the original endowment many years ago (I would guess in the 50’s), for the purpose of spreading learning among the people. It is about two miles from the hotel, and I stop enroute at a drug store for lunch. I walk down along the east side of the Treasury Building and along the west side of the much newer Commerce Building. I go on past the Commerce Building onto what looks much like a college campus of about 40 acres. This belongs to the Agricultural Department, and the new Agricultural Building is located on the south side of this “campus.” I pass up this building, however, and angle over east toward the Smithsonian. On the way I walk along the greenhouses of the Agricultural Department. A lot of things are growing there. Outside the roses are putting on their Spring growth, and the tulips and pansies are blooming their fullest.

    James McNeill Whistler born in America in 1834, studied in France in the 1850’s, and spent most of the rest of his life in England.

  The first building I come to on the Smithsonian grounds is the new Freer Art Gallery. The display is rather small as yet. What interests me most is a large collection of Persian, Indian, and Arabic illuminated scripts. I should say “illustrated and illuminated” because the story which the pictures depict is written out in the original language. Of course, there is a translation in a book which is handy to use. The scripts were created all the way from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Of course, the later ones were the clearest. The stories were of love, and hunting, and fighting and feasting, and in compliment to rulers. I guess they were not so very different, fundamentally, then than we are now. There was more than one room full of pictures, paintings, etchings, etc., of Whistler’s. Most of them, it seemed to me, were “exercises.”

  Then I went over to the “old” building, which houses thousands of mementos of the past right down to the “Spirit of Saint Louis.” The original Langley plane is there -- that one of much controversy. The “John Bull” locomotive, old automobiles, old carriages, models of original inventions of many kinds, including a Ford engine, are there.

  The textile and mining industries have extensive displays, and so on. From a general interest standpoint, however, the historical objects lead. A Washington cabinet, including his camp kit which he used during the Revolution, his original surveyor’s instrument and so on. The display of military equipment extends from the Revolution down to the World War. Very interesting is the display of the original dresses, on dummies, worn by wives of Presidents. I like those from the 60’s back the best, from the viewpoint of artistry. (Is that the right word?)

  But I get very tired and anxious to know whether there is any mail from the office, so at 3:15 I start back, having registered on my mind some very interesting pictures. I am sure I saw some of these same exhibits at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893 [at age 15;. (Again I am speaking of something which happened over forty years ago. I am beginning to feel that I am getting up on a mountain top where I can have a buena vista.)

  No mail. Read and write again, and compose myself with patience.


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May 1, 1934
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May 4-5, 1934

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