Beth Campbell Short was one of the first women identified by the oral history committee as a "must" interview. Of particular interest were her early reporting jobs in the Midwest as a "stunt-girl" reporter and a columnist in the late twenties and thirties. She also was a reporter for AP from 1936-1940, one woman among 88 men.
She left to raise a family and upon her husband's unexpected death worked as correspondence secretary for Harry S. Truman and later had a long career as a congressional press secretary.
These interviews took place in her home although her health had forced her to actually live, by turns, with her son and daughter. I picked her up for each interview and drove to her house in Alexandria, Virginia, where the interviews were conducted amid her considerable memorabilia.
She died in January 1988 soon after these interviews were completed.
Beth Campbell Short's papers will eventually be in the National Women and Media Collection which is part of the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection of the University of Missouri at Columbus, Missouri.
In the indexes of the Washington Press Club Foundation oral history collection, she is listed primarily as Beth Campbell, the name by which she was known as a writer.
Margot H. Knight
March 29, 1990
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Knight: First, I want to say that I am very honored to begin this series with you. I think this is going to be fun. I've been looking forward to this.
Campbell: Oh, I think it will be fun, too, but you don't need to be honored. My goodness, I'm honored to have you come interview me.
Knight: It works both ways. Let's start today with your early life. I'm very interested in how it relates to what you later did, how you thought about writing, and the influence your parents had—that kind of thing. Maybe we can start with your folks.
Campbell: Oh, I love to start with my mother.
Campbell: My mother was the wittiest and cleverest, most intelligent, most compassionate person that I ever saw. She also was 4'11", red hair, and was so full of fun. [Laughter.] My sisters and I—I had twin sisters, just three years younger—always talked about how much fun it was to work, and our friends thought we were crazy. When we described doing the floor, the hardwood floor in the living room, on Saturdays, you know, polishing it, and at that time we hadn't any equipment. We had bricks that we wrapped flannel around after we put the polish on, and we shined with them. And the reason it was fun is because although Mother wasn't working on the floors, she was doing other more important things. She was in and out all the time, and occasionally might sit down at the piano and play something funny, and just saying things. She didn't tell jokes, but as she spoke about whatever our problems were or activities, past or present, she made us laugh, just the way she phrased things, I guess. I can't do it myself, so I don't know exactly what it was, but we all—I have a younger brother, too—just thought it would be so great if we could be as funny as Mother was, and none of us ever were. But I do think we all have a sense of humor, and maybe she helped with that.
But she was a very good writer. She had been to college, which nobody else in Elwood, Oklahoma, had—no other woman. There were men, I suppose. And then we moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 25 miles away, where the Phillips Petroleum Company was, and there were a lot of people with lots of money, but not much education. So Mother was always being the president of whatever—Waukegan Club or Tuesday Club, or what have you. She had me—this fits into your question, I hope—recite "By my troth, Nerissa," when I was five years old at the Tuesday Club. People still say, after I was grown and gone and everything, but I go back sometimes, and they'll say, "I've never forgotten that you knew Shakespeare when you were five." [Laughter.] But that was Mother. She had gone to the University of Arkansas. She used to say, "Fayetteville's built on 11 hills, Rome on only seven." You know, just her
conversation would make you smile. So she was very intelligent and very much fun to be with.
Dad was dignified and direct, a good businessman. He and Mother somehow managed to get together on the discipline for the children, and it was pretty good, pretty strong. Mother could do it usually in a much more easy-on-us way, even if it was the same thing, because of this humor thing. But at any rate, that was a lot of my beginning.
I don't really remember my early childhood. I mean, individual things come back to me when I'm reminded of them, but when I try to think about it, other than reading, which I did all of the time, and Mother kept buying books, and we'd go to the library. I don't remember the library in Nowata, no, not really. But in Bartlesville, where we moved when I was 12, it was almost like home. I spent a certain amount of every day there on my way home from school or something like that. I loved to read. If I had any trouble understanding anything, Mother could help, and so could the teachers, of course. I made very good grades. That was just because, I guess, although nowadays people don't always want to teach children to read, for instance, before they go to school. I remember one of my children's first grade teachers said she preferred that children didn't know how to read. The pre-school that all three of the children went to did not teach reading. If anybody asked questions, they answered them, and that's what I did at home.
Knight: Your own children, when they went to school?
Campbell: Yes, when they went to pre-school, they didn't. Some of them knew how to read and some didn't. Sandy did, Steve didn't, Vicki did. [Laughter.] But as I say, they hadn't been taught it. I didn't teach them.
Knight: Did your mother teach you to read before you went to school?
Campbell: Well, I just learned. She answered my questions, and that's how I was able to recite Shakespeare at age five, before I went to school. But you know, that was one thing I knew. I knew lots of poetry—Longfellow, Tennyson, other romantic people.
The first time that I remember thinking about writing myself, I'm almost sure that I thought about it before, and that I wanted to write novels, because I was very interested in novels, and I did write poetry occasionally, but I didn't think anything of it. It was part of reading, you know. You'd see an idea that interested you, and write a little poem. It wasn't a very good poem. [Laughter.]
Knight: Do you still have them?
Campbell: No. I didn't save them at all. Then I moved to Bartlesville when I was 12, and there I do remember getting interested in the newspaper, for instance, as a reader, not any other way, particularly, at 12. But I wrote a good many papers, you know. Teachers had you write an essay or a story, whatever they called them at that point, and I was better at that than other things. But I also got good grades because I'd just been taught that you give everything the best you have in you. [Laughter.] And if it's harder for you to do math than it is English, you just work harder, and, you know, you can do it.
Am I starting along the line that you're interested in?
Knight: This is exactly what I'm interested in. I think it's very interesting to find out how your parents raised you affects how you think about your life as you grow up, because it does affect you. It chooses your career, it chooses the way you think about your career.
Campbell: In spite of the fact that I was so lucky, I knew people whose parents had chosen their careers for them. Mine did not. They did not tell me what I needed to do to work.
Knight: What kind of things would they say? What do you think their expectations were? Were they ever voiced in any way?
Campbell: Never, except for many compliments, Mother particularly. Whenever I did anything well, she said so, or mentioned whether I did it well or not. I'm never sure. [Laughter.] I think so. They would have seen that I was on the track of some kind of writing, I think, because by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had tried out for the paper, the Nautilus, and got on the staff. I was co-editor of it my junior and senior years. This was very exciting, but it was no more exciting than the debate team, which I got on, too, my junior year. We travelled around the other little towns in Oklahoma. My senior year, another girl, Margaret Stewart, and I were the two-man debate team for Bartlesville High School. We won the state prize as the state's best high school debate team. We went down to Norman, where the university was; that was pretty exciting.
In the meantime, the teacher had a lot to do with helping me. I say "the teacher"—that leaves it a little hung over, but she was Fay Marie Bonjour, and taught not French, which she might have very well, but she was the advisor to the paper. She also taught English. She was, I'm sure, the reason that we won that prize, because she was a marvelous advisor. Margaret Stewart and I didn't know anything about debating, but we did know about—and this was our teachers and our parents, I'm sure, in many years, all the years we were growing up—finding out about things. When you're on a debate team, you have to find out about everything, or your opponent will bring it up in the last rebuttal, and you won't have a chance.
I think that, actually, my debate experience did more for me in preparing me for journalism—I don't like the word journalism, but for working on newspapers. I remember after I worked on a paper and found out how lowly a reporter was, I met Dorothy Thompson, who was the most outstanding newspaperwoman in the United States at that time. I met her through her husband, Sinclair Lewis—Red Lewis—who was a friend who wrote a play in which my sister appeared as the star. They got to be friends. So when I had gone to New York to see her, I had gotten acquainted with him, and he took me up to see Dorothy. They were divorced then, but he still called on her. Three of the young men who were apparent assistants or working with her on her column for the New York Herald Tribune were there, so the six of us, she and the three young men, who were just about my age, my sister, and Red Lewis, sat there and argued all kinds of subjects. Oh, you can imagine how excited I was when I went home! Oh! But she didn't mind being referred to as a journalist. I had learned, probably learned it from my city editor or somebody, that journalist was a bad word.
Campbell: Well, because they're "pompous asses." You know, that's what I was told. I didn't know what either word meant at the time. [Laughter.] But at any rate, a lot of newspaper people feel that way about it, especially in the Middle West. The word
is used here in Washington much more than it was in Oklahoma City or Springfield, Missouri, where I lived, or in St. Louis or in Kansas City, where I spent a great deal of time.
Knight: How would a journalist differ from a newspaper person? Is it an attitude?
Campbell: Smart-aleck. Maybe that isn't the word. Not necessarily more aggressive, not as aggressive. Oh, I don't know. They're just out there somewhere. They're not real. Reporters and editors are real, and even columnists. I was a columnist when I was 21, but it was really a lie. As a matter of fact, I got the paper into a lot of trouble, and I had to preach a sermon, which, you know, is not exactly the thing to do.
Knight: Had the term "journalist" come from the East, or was it associated with the East?
Campbell: Yes. In Oklahoma at that time, when I was growing up— it's changed a good deal now, I'm afraid—but it was a very adventurous sort of state still, in the early 1900s. It became a state in 1907, and there was a great deal of openness to new ideas and willingness to take chances that I didn't find to the same extent when I came East. Then from here—remember, I've been here over 50 years—I watched Oklahoma get more conservative year after year, and Oklahomans make speeches in various places, back in Oklahoma and on the floor of one of the houses of Congress, that I couldn't believe, because they didn't admit there was another side, even if they believed in one.
I was taught that there's always another side; you have to learn what it is, if you're going to make your views win. Except that, of course, as long as I was in the newspaper business, I was taught—and I believed, and I still believe—that a reporter does not take sides. Of course, this is part of what I was talking about. Every human being with a brain has to have a feeling about something, as to whether this is good or bad, and often it takes years to go through finding out what your opinion is. But as far as being a reporter on a newspaper, you don't let that opinion get into the picture.
Knight: Let me go back to your folks. You mentioned your sister was an actress.
Knight: What happened to the other kids?
Campbell: The twin sisters. When I went to college, business was fine, and Dad, I remember, wrote out the check. I went to a girl's boarding school, Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, my first year. Daddy wrote out the check in advance for the whole year. Of course, I think it was about $500 or something like that, because I had to write them out for a lot more than that when my children went to college. [Laughter.] But at any rate, I went in '25, and Flo and Dottie came along in '28 to go in '29, and things had gotten a lot worse. My dad was having a real trouble. So he just couldn't see how he could finance sending two children to college the same year. But he and Mother were both trying to figure it out, how it could be done. Whenever we needed a little money, Mother could always teach music. Her mother had taught music, and she had, too—piano and organ, I guess. [Tape Interruption.]
Campbell: Here is a housewarming picture when Flo, the actress one, that's she, and Ben finished rebuilding this barn into a very lovely house up in Darien, Connecticut,
they had a housewarming. Mother had died, but Dad was still alive. He must have been 70 or something. Then this is the young brother who is 11 years younger than I am, who was a professor at the University of Illinois, old English, and was at Princeton, teaching there for a long time. His wife and three children.
Knight: Flo was the actress.
Campbell: Yes. Then Dottie is the other twin. Here she is with her husband and one son, a lawyer, the other works for Campbell Soup. Her husband was with Owens [Illinois] Glass Company. She went—well, I'd better go back a little bit. Flo said to Mother and Daddy, "Look. I am going to be a violinist. There's no use worrying about sending me to college. I'm going to Chicago and study under Leopold Auer, and somehow I'm going to do it. I can get a job up there."
That was preposterous, Daddy said; she couldn't do it.
Knight: He said she couldn't?
Campbell: That's right.
Knight: How come?
Campbell: Well, a girl, mere 16 or 17 years old going to Chicago by herself in 1920-whatever it was! Almost every man in town agreed with him. I mean, you just didn't let things like that happen. But Flo just went. [Laughter.] So I wrote to Dottie. I was working in Springfield at the time. I had a sort of a big one-room apartment that also was an efficiency. It was in a house, and it had been the living room of the house once. She could come live with me and go to Drury College, which was an excellent school. So that's what we did. She came to stay with me, and she had her room and board as much as she wanted, and Daddy and Mother could send her something, and I think I loaned Flo a little money.
But anyhow, Flo was in Chicago at the Chicago Musical College with Sametini and Leopold Auer. But they were in touch, naturally, twins, and Flo was lonesome for Dottie, and Dottie was lonesome for Flo.
Knight: Were they identical?
Campbell: No, no. Flo is taller, for one thing. They looked very different when they were real little. Flo was sort of a tomboy. She liked to wear shorts rather than dresses. Mother made the mistake once of buying them twin clothes—never again, because they never wore them on the same day. Even when she dressed them in them when they were little, one of them would go back in and change. [Laughter.]
But at any rate, so Flo talked Dottie into coming to Chicago, and she shared an apartment with her and another girl, Bea Churchill, and she went to the Goodman School of Dramatics, at the Art Institute, to learn to be an actress. So that's what I needed to tell you about them.
My brother, Jack, has just retired. I talked to him the other night. He's been at the Huntington Museum right out of Los Angeles, for two months, writing some kind of a learned article on old English.
This picture was after Joe died. With me is my oldest boy Sandy, 12; Steve, 3 years younger and Vicki, four years younger than he. Here's a picture of Joe.
Joe was president of the National Press Club, and President Truman was congratulating him.
Knight: Do you think that your brother was raised any differently than you were?
Campbell: Oh, yes
Campbell: Oh, Mother wrote once and said, "I don't know whether Jack's going to make a little boy out of me, or I'm going to make an old lady out of him." [Laughter.]
Knight: What did she mean?
Campbell: Well, you know, there was so much difference, really, it seemed to her. He was after we were all gone, and when she became ill with cancer, he was nine. She was very lucky in that she had an operation, and it [the cancer] did not return for five years. So she was so thrilled that she had that extra five years with Jack. You know, the difference between nine and 14 is a great deal.
[Laughter.] Oh, I remember another thing. She wrote wonderful letters. I got a letter from her saying that they had been out in the oil field, and Jack got acquainted with some of the boys. When he came in, he said, "Mother, do these boys have to use cussing for a language?" [Laughter.] So you could see she was still teaching him to read and to write and all the things, just like she did me and the other girls.
Knight: How did your parents respond to the choice of you three girls' careers?
Campbell: They just sort of accepted them, really. Let's see. At the time my sisters had both gone to New York. Flo won the Eva Le Gallienne which gave her a year at the repertory theater in New York, free. So Dottie went along. By this time, Daddy was making more money again. I mean, the Depression was letting up a little bit, so they were able to have help from home. In the summer, I guess, Dottie—not Flo, who became the actress, a rather famous actress with her name in lights on Broadway—but Dottie, the other sister, met Ray Moore, who was the owner and supervisor of the Cape Playhouse at Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. She and Flo went to see him, and the upshot of it was that he said, "Why don't you both come up?" In the meantime, Dottie's married to a very successful young man, but he hates for her to be in New York in the summer, and he has to stay there. So he thinks it's fine if she wants to go to Cape Cod. So they become a part of what was called the actors group of students, and they learn to do everything from moving furniture, you know, to do the sets, and fixing, pulling the things up and down for running the play in progress. And also Flo, almost immediately, she was a maid once, but she's the one who's the non-actress, the violinist, who, very soon, was the ingenue. They had people like Helen Hayes and Ruth Gordon and John Barrymore. There would be one great actor or actress every week to put on a show that had gone on Broadway. But their cast there did the other parts. So she got wonderful experience. Dottie, in the meantime, she had to do a few more maids, and eventually she did the most wonderful performance of "Gaslight." You know that play?
Knight: Oh, yes, very well.
Campbell: "Angel Street," I guess, was the name of the play that I saw. Her son said, "Aunt Beth, I didn't want to go. I must have made Mother feel terrible. I said I'd
go, but I wouldn't take Marcia [his girl]. I didn't want to see Mother act. I thought I'd be embarrassed, and I shouldn't. It was the greatest acting I've ever seen in my life!" [Laughter.] He was a senior in high school then. But anyhow, she was good, too. When they lived in New York, she directed plays for the New York YMCA, which was not too far from where they lived. Then she was in the Little Theater in Bryn Mawr, outside of Philadelphia, and also when they had to move to Toledo she was in their little theater, too.
But in the meantime, Flo had been moving up—not easily, not easily—I went to see her one time. By this time, I'm making a pretty good salary, not that it was a very good salary compared to a lot of other kinds of salaries, but as far as the newspaper business was concerned, with the Associated Press here in Washington. I met her after whatever each of us had to do that morning in New York City, to go to lunch, and she said, "I hope you won't mind. We're really having a very special lunch. Normally we only have hamburgers, but today we're having peas as well as hamburgers." [Laughter.] She and three other girls were living together, and I went up there to have the lunch. She's the one who ought to have her story told. She was just really—I remember this very good friend of hers came in, and everybody said, "Did you get a cigarette?" They couldn't afford to buy cigarettes. [Laughter.] These are four people trying to get into the theater, you see, auditioning every day, getting turned down. But they all made it one way or the other. Flo was the only one who made it to a real success. Janie Bancroft, whose father owned The Wall Street Journal at that time, got into a character part and did a very good job with it. Dottie Bailey was an artist, after she got a play, not on Broadway, but she got something. "Peach" Parsons, a Baltimore debutante worked several months in a department store to stretch the year in New York which her father had permitted.
Knight: These are all your sister's roommates?
Campbell: Yes. These are the four girls I had lunch with, who don't have cigarettes even. So when one of them has a date, you know, hopefully he'll offer her a cigarette, and she'll bring it home, and they'll split it. [Laughter.]
Knight: Looking at your family, it seems extraordinary. I mean, you've got women that made some risky career choices as a group, just the three of you.
Campbell: Yes. Yes, we did.
Knight: I'm curious what your folks thought about that. They obviously—
Campbell: I am sure Daddy was just really awfully upset about it when Flo went to Chicago. He was about ready to go after her, I'm sure. I wasn't home. I was working on the Springfield paper. But I'm sure what happened was that Mother just persuaded him that there was no sense in trying to stop Flo; she was going to study to be an actress. She had never been in so much as a high school play. Dottie had been the lead in both the junior and the senior plays in high school, but Flo won the violin contest for the best violinist in the state at the annual university thing, like this debate thing I went to.
Knight: So did she go to Chicago to study violin or to be an actress?
Campbell: She went to Chicago to study violin, and she didn't study to be an actress at all in Chicago. She had very good training. I don't know whether it was Sametini or Auer—they were the two top people there—who told her, after a year and a half or two years that she could make a good living with her violin, that she already was
ready to go into a symphony orchestra and soon would be fine for concerts all over the country, but that she wouldn't ever be a—who was that boy? Heifitz?
Campbell: Well, he was, you know, very young, and he was the star all over the country and making a lot of money. He said, "You'll never make money like he does, because you're—" I've forgotten what he said. "You have genius, but you don't have—"—something else. But at any rate, so that's when she decided, after she won this—well, to even enter this Le Gallienne thing. Dottie couldn't do it because she was married. She didn't want to go off on her own. But Flo entered through a coupon in the Chicago Tribune and won.
Knight: Getting back to you—
Campbell: I'd rather talk about my twin sisters.
Knight: They're wonderful! I can understand that. You're obviously proud of them. You had mentioned earlier that your dad was in business for himself?
Campbell: Yes. At one point he had a grocery store, owned it, you know, and ran it. At another point, he added what we called then a dry goods store. They sold, between the two of them—they were right next to each other—about everything anybody could buy. It was right when the Depression came, right after the supermarket business hit. What did they call—gee, I thought I'd remember that, like we do now, like everybody does now, you just go pick out your own groceries.
Campbell: Yes. There were names for these places that came in. But the kind of service that Daddy had always provided, he had plenty of people to wait on everybody, and whether it was hats over in the dry goods department or meat in the butcher shop, they were service. But the Piggly Wiggly, that was the first one. They came into town, and although Daddy still had the richest people. I remember Mr. L.E. Phillips, who was a friend of mine's father, came in to tell Daddy one time that, "It upsets me, because I understand a lot of people are going to the Piggly Wiggly, and you have the best business I've ever seen." [Laughter.] "The kind of service you've given, it just isn't fair." But it was true. So Dad always had more service than the typical self- service place does. But anyhow, he managed to make a good living and lived til 82, without having to call on his children to support him.
Knight: So when you all moved, you lived in Alluwe. And you lived there til you were 12?
Campbell: No, no, I lived there until I was seven months.
Knight: Oh, just a little bit, then you moved somewhere else.
Campbell: Then my dad bought a little farm near where my mother had gone down to teach from the University of Arkansas. She'd taken this job near Alluwe and was teaching in a school there. Dad met her, and they decided to get married. His father and mother had a farm, and that was what he was doing. But that wasn't going to be enough money for him to separate and go, so he got a job as a tool dresser on an oil well, and other things like that.
So then he bought this farm when I was just a baby, and I don't know what the dates were. But at any rate, the grasshopper scourge hit, and every single growing thing on that farm was eaten up by grasshoppers. Well, through the years, since he had been there and his family had gotten a boarding house for him to stay in to go to high school in Nowata, because Alluwe wasn't big enough to have a high school. [Laughter.] So he'd gotten acquainted, and then we had lots of uncles and aunts around, too. So he knew a lot of people in Nowata, and he decided to go into politics. He only did it for, I guess, two years or four, maybe. But he ran for Registrar of Deeds and won, so he sold the little farm and moved into Nowata. That was when I was, I think, two years old.
So after he had been Registrar of Deeds a while, he went to work for an uncle who had a store, grocery store, in the center of the town. That was the biggest business in this little tiny town, and then gradually saved money and bought the store from him with another man. He couldn't do it all by himself. He went up from there. By the time we moved to Bartlesville when I was 12, he not only bought a store over there, but he bought a house, a nice house, and so he was doing fine.
Knight: Were your parents very politically involved?
Campbell: No, not at all.
Knight: Did you ever talk politics around the house?
Campbell: Oh, not in a sense that I'm used to, where regardless of whatever job I had, I kept up with whoever the candidates were for everything. So my children have always heard the pros and cons and this kind of thing discussed at the dinner table. But I don't remember Mother and Daddy talking about it. They knew everybody, but I don't remember their running. Like, for instance, my son now, this past Sunday had a reception for whoever's running for mayor of Baltimore. [Laughter.]
Knight: Your mother worked as a teacher before she got married.
Knight: Then she stopped teaching?
Knight: And did she ever again work outside the home?
Campbell: No. She taught music inside the home, and she could always get as many pupils as she wanted, so she did just as much as we needed, or as she needed. But she had enough contacts with other people; I don't think she had the need for a job outside. But, for instance, when I went there [Bartlesville], if I hadn't seen Mrs. John Kain, who was the wife of the counsel of the Phillips Petroleum Company, for 20-some years—she was the best friend of Mother's that I could think of left in Bartlesville—because everybody seemed to have moved away. I couldn't find anybody I knew. [Laughter.] I called her up, and oh, she was so glad to hear from me. She said, "You know, I think of your mother so often." She said, "She was the smartest woman we've ever had here in Bartlesville." I don't know how big it is now, but it was then not a very big town—15,000. Nowata was 5,000; Bartlesville was 15,000. I think it's 65,000 now. But at any rate, she said, "You know, I didn't go to your church, but everybody talked about that time when they invited her to take over the young married Sunday school class, because it had gotten down to about four couples
or two couples or something." She said, "I don't know how long it took, but everybody in town knew about it, because pretty soon there were 100 people there every Sunday morning." [Laughter.] And said, "And there were single people who weren't married who were asking if they couldn't go, too." [Laughter.] But, of course, that was the humor again, I expect. Well, humor and intelligence and good teaching skills. But teaching is something she could do. I've never seen a Sunday school class, you know, in a small church that big. It had to be that the humor was the thing that really pulled people out of their beds on Sunday morning.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Campbell: Well, at any rate, you asked about politics. If they were, they didn't talk to us children about it.
Knight: They didn't talk about a career specifically. Did you ever get the impression that there were things that you couldn't do?
Campbell: No, no, no. There wasn't anything I couldn't do. [Laughter.] We all felt that way. I think that would be Mother. Daddy would just live it, you know. If he got knocked down by Depression, he'd build it up again. But Mother just always talked that way. It was just like I could win the debate or, of course, the paper would be all right. I remember somebody said to her, in my presence, something about, "Who do you suppose will be the valedictorian at the high school class this year?" And Mother said, "Well, I think that Beth and Margaret Stewart will share it." She was the girl I was on the debate team with and also on the paper with. And they never had had anybody share one before. So, you know, I didn't pay any attention to it.
But some time or another, I said, "Mother, do you really think I have a chance?" She said, "I don't think there's any question. You've made the National Honor Society, and you made top grades in all your classes." She went on, not to be particularly proud of it, but it was just inevitable, if you do your work.
Knight: Did you feel like it was expected of you?
Campbell: No, no. No, I don't think. I don't know. It's so hard to know too much about your parents when you're little.
I got so mad at my dad sometimes, I didn't know what to do, because he wouldn't let me date when I got to be in high school. When I was a junior, even, and was invited to go on a picnic, and the brother of one of my friends, who was five years older than any of us were, was going along for chaperone, and Daddy knew Paul, but I had to tell them when they came by that I couldn't go. And I almost died. [Laughter.] It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to go on a picnic with a group of boys and girls that I knew very well, with a chaperone, even Paul, though he was only 22 or something. But anyway, he was a strict father, and things like that made me get awfully mad at him. I don't ever remember being awfully mad at my mother. If I ever had been, she would have said something funny. [Laughter.] I would have laughed out loud, and that would have been it. [Laughter.] But it was the same with all of us.
Of course, Jack, I think, had a special relationship—even though Mother was ill toward the end of his five years that he had, that God gave him and gave her. I went home. I quit my job, even though I'd been there five years, and, you know, there wasn't any question that the paper liked me and wanted me. But this was still soon
after the Depression. It was the summer of 1934, and I'd gone to work on the paper in '29. This was Springfield. And Mother, by this time, is in Oklahoma City with Daddy and Jack. So she had refused to let me come to the hospital five years before when she'd been first operated on. She realized that I was just starting a new job, and I didn't think about that at the time; I thought she was being real mean to me, not to let me come. But I later realized it probably meant an awful lot that I didn't quit then. But when she got sick again and she wrote and asked me to come, that was the greatest honor anybody could have done me, for Mother to want me, you know. So when I asked for a leave of absence, George said, "We just can't give you one." They'd already cut salaries 40%, some 25, and I had never had mine cut. I went to work at $25 a week.
But at any rate, so I just said, "I'm going to have to resign, because my mother is sick."
When I got home on the Fourth of July, Flo and Dottie didn't get there until August, as soon as they were through at Cape Playhouse, and they cut it off just as fast as they could. So all four of us children were there until October, when she died— October 31st. Oh, we had such a wonderful time. I remember once we'd all been out of the house for something. Jack wasn't there at the time. But Flo and Dottie and I had. Suddenly, here's Mother, sick in bed, has been for months, and she is at this point all swollen, how some people get, depending on where their cancer is. But we heard this music coming from the house, and it was our piano, we were pretty sure. It didn't sound like anything on a record. And we all went in, and there was Mother. She'd gotten up somehow, by herself, this fat little somebody we'd never seen, she'd never been fat before in her life, and was on the piano stool, and this was Sousa's march. That's a hilarious kind of a thing like this. [Laughter.]
But you know, another time we'd go in, one of us, and she would start reciting one of the most rarely heard Shakespearean plays, do maybe a couple of scenes, and all by heart, just lying there in bed. Then there was the one time when she called us all in. She said, "Flo, you're the one that asked me about this, but I want Beth and Dottie to hear, too. You were asking me, you said that you wanted me to teach you how to cook basic things."
And Flo said, "All I said to you, Mother, was that all you ever gave me or Beth or anybody was just stuff we could catch a beau with, good desserts to serve a guy at ter we've been to the movies." [Laughter.] "But I don't know how to cook rice! Not good like you do."
So Mother said, "All right, everybody get a notebook and get ready." And she said, "We'll start at the beginning. Way to warm up leftover vegetables. Place vegetable in a vessel, on a tray, go outdoors into the sunshine, hold the tray parallel with your diaphragm, and stand there for 35 minutes." [Laughter.] "And then it will be fine."
We went on to rice and lima beans and navy beans, these things that it's true, I heard later from other girls my age, that their mothers had never taught them to do that kind of thing, too. Everybody just kind of took it for granted you knew. We had, I think, done it at home, but we didn't know why. And when we got away from home, and cookbooks—well, for one thing, we didn't have any money. My daughter-in-law has about $200 worth of cookbooks. My daughter has, I don't know, somewhere near that many. But at any rate, that was the kind of thing Mother did when she was sick. [Laughter.]
Knight: That's a special time.
Campbell: Oh, boy. We were just so lucky that we could all be there. Just wonderful. And then it turned out with me that it was a good time. It would have been hard to just quit the Leader and take another job. I had been offered a job in Cleveland and had even gone up there on a little short vacation and taken a look at it, but I decided I couldn't live in Cleveland; it's too cold. [Laughter.]
Knight: Going back, tell me about the high school paper.
Campbell: Oh, it was so exciting.
Knight: How did you know you wanted to be on it? When did you make that decision?
Campbell: I don't remember the occasion, except that in this school, I guess, I don't know any other high schools around there that had journalism. But it was something like a two-hour course a week that most anybody could fit into their schedule somehow, if they wanted to. I had done so, and so had Margaret, who was co-editor and a good friend. We had a teacher who gave us jobs to do when we first started in this, to work on the paper. Of course, they were the simplest jobs that you had, but it wasn't very long until we were writing stories and covering stories and writing headlines and so on. In the first place, both of us, it wasn't as if one of us was an expert on this and one on that; we both were interested in the whole school, in what everybody did, in what everybody was like. So we just worked the whole business. And by the next year, we were joint editors.
I don't know what I liked best about it, but I think it's a kind of selfish like, but I did enjoy knowing everything that was going on. That's a good feeling. You could do it in your home, but in a school—why, I was proud as could be! Of course, that was why we were pretty good editors, because we insisted on knowing everything that was going on. [Laughter.] And it was a good paper, and it should have won a prize.
But at the same time, we were both working on the debate team. Oh, I remember one day, I was so upset. I woke up with a cold, and it was the day we were supposed to go to Vinita, which was 50, 75 miles away, to debate, and we didn't have trains to Vinita; you had to go in a car. The coach had arranged cars or a car, I guess—only two of us. But anyway, I told Mother, "I can't call up the school and tell them I can't. There's no way anybody could take my place. It would just mean we would lose out." We'd won all our debates so far, and I didn't want a loss. [Laughter.] I could hardly talk. Well, Mother told me to keep my mouth shut at home; I didn't need to talk to her. She got me some hot water, and I gargled. Fortunately, I had gotten up quite early, so I had a couple of hours. She called the school and told Miss Bonjour what should I do, that I was willing to try, but that I could hardly talk, you know, much less make a speech. [Laughter.]
So Miss Bonjour said, "We don't have anybody else. If you think it won't hurt her to come, to go on the trip over there, then if she can talk by the time we get there, participate." So that was about as much pain as I think I've suffered in all my high school career. I was thinking I couldn't, but when I got there, somehow I was able to debate, and we won. [Laughter.]
Knight: Anything else about the paper that you recall?
Knight: You became editor. Was that elected, or were you willing to serve? How did it happen?
Campbell: Well, the staff discussed it. I don't remember any election. And the teacher recommended it. I think that was how it was. I don't remember any contest.
Knight: But you were editor for two years?
Campbell: Yes. Most people didn't want to compete with us. They didn't want to spend that much time. You know, it takes time after school, a good deal of it. Of course, the debate, mostly you can do that at home, writing speeches and reading. But the paper, you just had to go see people and talk to people and write things, and then talk to somebody else to get the other picture. So I think that's why nobody tried to push us out or get rid of us.
Knight: How many people worked on the paper?
Campbell: Oh, 15 or so. We did have a good staff, good help.
Knight: At that time, when you were in high school, were you still interested in writing novels and writing like that?
Campbell: I don't remember thinking of it, because I just had my mind on the paper. As soon as I finished high school, let's see, that first summer I had a job figuring the charts for the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company.
Knight: Was that a summer job?
Campbell: A summer job, figuring charts for the ITIO—Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company. It was part of a great big oil installation, and these charts had a zigzag showing how much oil and how much gas was produced every five minutes or half an hour or something, and you had to put numbers to show what it was. So that isn't very important. But at any rate, the next summer I got a job on the city paper.
Knight: This is a summer when you were in high school or college?
Campbell: No, this is when I—
Knight: When you started college.
Campbell: I didn't have a job until I—oh, oh, I had one— [Laughter.] until I finished high school. Then that first job, the real job I had was ITIO, and I loved it, because I bought my mother a brown winter coat with fur on it. But what I had done, I did make some equivalent of money. I had had six years of piano, starting at age six, and I just got so interested when I got to junior high and high school in other things at school, that I told Mother—and this did disappoint her very much, she didn't want me to. She kept up her music all her life, her mother had, and her sister had. And Flo, my violinist sister turned actress, practiced four hours every day—two hours in the morning, from 6:00 until 8:00, and two hours in the afternoon, from 4:00 until 6:00, in the dining room. And boy, we shut the doors. [Laughter.] But that's an awful lot of violin practice to listen to. But anyhow, she did it. Of course, even after she was with Le Gallienne, she played some—oh, "Ave Maria" or something like that backstage for some play they were doing, and after she really got
into the theater, she didn't get to play very much. But every once in a while, she got to play, and she would play in some quartet or something like that, just to keep her hand in.
Knight: You said you had taken six years of piano.
Campbell: And then I quit. Mother was unhappy, but I wasn't unhappy. But my senior year in high school, I suddenly realized that what I had done was throw away something good, because at first, when I quit, I could still play "The Lovely Month of May" or whatever my last piece had been. [Laughter.] But I had gotten to the point where I just couldn't play anything, really. So I didn't think, after all that money had been wasted on me, that I ought to let my parents pay for lessons. So I went to the best piano teacher in Bartlesville, where Dottie—Flo was taking violin lessons at the same studio, two women, Mrs. Brezeale and Mrs. Durnell, and Dottie was taking from Mrs. Durnell, the piano, too. So I said, "I haven't taken any lessons since I was 12 years old, and I am now 15. I want to see if I can get some of it back, and I don't want to ask my folks for the money. But if I made you a cake every Saturday, would you teach me piano?"
"Oh," she said, "I've love it." [Laughter.] She said, "Neither one of us likes to make cakes. What kind of cakes can you make?"
And I said, "Angel food, coconut, chocolate, a whole batch." I had won a prize at the county fair with a cake once, and I told her that. [Laughter.] So she did let me, and so I took piano lessons my last year in high school. It didn't bring me back to where I would have been, but I still can sit down over there and pick out something, you know.
Knight: So you went off to Christian College.
Knight: How was that decided?
Campbell: Well, I don't know. We belonged to the Christian Church, and so we heard more about it. I did hear more about it than others. I think Daddy was the one who didn't much want me to go to a university my freshman year; a smaller school, where I'd get better care would be better. And Mother just liked everything she heard about the school. So I think that was why, and I liked it.
Knight: Did you get involved with the paper there or any activities while you were there?
Campbell: Well, yes. [Looking at bookshelf] I don't see it.
Knight: Is that a yearbook?
Campbell: Yes, that's the Sooner down at the university, because I went the next year to the University of Oklahoma. But I did something for the annual of the college, but I don't think we had a paper. I don't remember being on it. Margaret Stewart, the same girl that I had been with on the paper and the debating team, also went to Christian. It's now Columbia College. They changed the name somewhere along the line. I got mad as could be at them, not for that—I don't think that was very nice either, because it had been Christian College for so many years, and I thought that was a lovely name, but they came to me, after I was—I know I was sitting at a big
desk somewhere. I guess that was with Social Security. This man from Christian College made an appointment and came to call, and what he wanted to do was to try to get me to talk President Truman into letting them rename the college Truman College. And I blew up. [Laughter.] I thought that was just—I thought Christian College—I only went one year. I didn't really feel like a graduate. But I did feel a pride in the college, and thought it had given me a wonderful year. And to go, just trying to get somebody important to use the name, I thought it would be so unfair to President Truman to use his name to pull people in with, when that really had nothing to do with it at all. They were just trying to get more students. So they changed it to Columbia College, in spite of my blowing up about their changing it to Truman. I still get mail from them, which I promptly put in the wastebasket. [Laughter.]
Knight: Why did you decide to leave there?
Campbell: Oh, I had wanted to go to the university before.
Knight: So you had always wanted to go. You had had it in your mind to go to the university, and your dad said no.
Campbell: I don't know that I ever made a direct request, but the idea had gotten through. And I had loved the idea of going up into Missouri to go to Christian, I enjoyed all the material that I had. I had very good professors. Oh, I wrote my—now there's where I did some writing. That was fiction. When I was at Christian, in my English course, the freshman English, the teacher had us write a full-length short story on any subject that we chose. I remember having a terrible time thinking about a subject, but the more civilized people at school, fellow students, always thought of me as a little kind of wild, coming from Oklahoma, not quite civilized yet. [Laughter.] So I thought, "I'll show them." So I wrote a story about being gored to death by a bull— [Laughter.] —in a rodeo down in Oklahoma. No, not by a bull. That's over in Spain, they do that. This was in roping a steer. I had seen lots of rodeos, so I could remember that. But it did take a bit of research, so I felt like I was on the debate team again, because when you actually write a story, you have to know a lot of little details, and when you watch a rodeo, you don't necessarily collect. So I did a bunch of research and got an A on my paper, so I decided I was really a fiction writer. [Laughter.]
But that was the last fiction I wrote til I was on the Daily Oklahoman. They had had an Associated Press weekly continued story. Lots of papers did then. I don't know if you've ever seen them or not. But at any rate, it wasn't any good, and they'd been getting a lot of fuss about it from readers. So they decided that I should do a continued story once a week, and it was to be fiction, and it was to be placed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but the people were not to be real. [Laughter.] Well, anyhow, that was my next piece of fiction, and really had something to do with my coming to Washington, because nobody ever knew about it. I certainly didn't mention it to anyone. But when I was on the Oklahoman, and twice—no, that comes later—but I was on the Oklahoman when I had a vacation, and I had a two weeks' vacation on the Oklahoman, which I had never had but a week on the Springfield paper. So I made my trip to New York, but that's where I always wanted to go to see my sisters, or Chicago at first, before they went to New York. But at any rate, I don't know if I remember enough about this or not.
Well, what happens, I was sent to Philadelphia to the Democratic Convention, to cover the Democratic Convention in 1934. No, wait—it has to be '36. I took a job, when Mother died, after Mother died, I went to work on the Daily Oklahoman, and that was why it was pretty good that I had quit, instead of taking a leave of absence from
the Springfield paper. But at any rate, I had a wonderful time. They sent to chaperone me an editorial writer who was 80. [Laughter.] So he was wonderful. He would say, "I didn't see you dancing last night. You don't know any of these boys around here, do you?" I had just arrived, and I didn't. Then he introduced me to some, and I had a great time. But at any rate, I met a number of very famous people, mainly writers. I guess that was the first time I met H.L. Mencken.
But at any rate, I did go to the convention, and I met some of the people from AP in New York, and I already knew Sigrid Arne, who had been a reporter in Oklahoma City, when I had been a student at OU. She's the one I told you about that I thought was really the most important newswoman who finished her job at the AP. She was with Feature Service, not the general staff, the news staff, but she was in charge of the U.N. coverage for about six years, I guess.
Then the AP had a rule at that time—stupid!—55. Men could work til 65; women had to be retired at 55. And you had to have, of course, been with the AP your whole life, practically, to get very much of a pension. I lost every pension. I had a pension free of charge at every paper where I worked, but as soon as I left—gone. I remember getting so upset about Sigrid. She immediately went home to Cleveland, where she'd come from, and got a job on the Cleveland News, the one on which she'd worked when she first started out. So she wasn't hurt financially, but it was just the idea that was so wrong. They've changed it now. But if you're a woman, you're getting first on things. I think any woman who does anything much, finds something that she's the first one who's ever done it.
Anyhow, I was there in Philadelphia, and I was going the minute it was over to my sisters in New York, and I didn't have much time up there, about two or three days. I got a call from Dottie. I guess I was going to stay with her. She said, "The Associated Press's vice president, Mr. So-and-so, wants you to call as soon as you get to New York. I just thought I'd tell you you might see somebody who would know about it down there, but I don't think you would want to mention it. I just thought as soon as you get here, you're to call him."
I didn't know him, but when I got to New York—I mustn't leave that convention, but I slapped a senator's face. [Laughter.]
Knight: Tell me about that. Then I want to go back and talk about college some more. But tell me about that.
Campbell: Oh, I shouldn't tell you for anything if it's going to be public. I never told it to anybody for press or anything. But, you know, this was my first experience with a senator just being fresh. That's all it was. He just kissed me, but he had no business to kiss me. [Laughter.] It was in front of a whole lot of people in a great big room there in Philadelphia, where they were having something to do with the convention. His wife was there, too. But, you know, I just couldn't stand it to have this perfectly strange man grab me and hold me tight and kiss me. And I just involuntarily— [Laughter.]— only 75 people saw it. [Laughter.]
But at any rate, when I got to New York, I can't figure the man's name now, but I did know it very well for a great many years, and I'll probably think about it. At any rate, they wanted me to have lunch with him, he and somebody else, and talk about a possible job on the Feature Service. So I quickly made my plans to go join him for a talk. The thing that made me think about it was writing that fiction for the Daily Oklahoman, because the job that he offered me was fiction editor of the Associated Press Feature Service. [Laughter.] It was to write a continued story. Apparently a
lot of papers had them, and they must have heard that I had taken this one on. I said, "I am not a fiction writer. I don't know anything about it. You don't want me. I don't know who you are, but you don't want me." Well, yes, they did. They wanted somebody with a news background, who would let the current world come through the fiction somehow, if that means anything to you. [Laughter.] And the salary sounded pretty wonderful. Washington was where I would be based. I decided. I said, "Well, I have to call my boss in Oklahoma City first." They'd been so nice to me.
And I did, and Skipper said, "Oh, well, we knew this was going to happen sometime," or something like that. "Go ahead. I think you're wise to take it." I really did want his judgment on the call, as well as telling him and getting permission.
So I went back and told them that I would take it, except that I had to leave for Washington, to come down and spend a day. My first trip to Washington. I'd never even seen the Washington Monument or the Library of Congress, two of the things I wanted to see most. So I made the arrangements with them about when I would do what, and resign, and come, and everything.
I had just gotten to Washington, gone with Sigrid to her house, and I got a call from the vice president of the AP Feature Service. And he said, "I am so sorry. I don't know how to say this to you, and I just don't have it happen very often, if ever before."
But Kent Cooper, who was the general manager of the AP, over all news features, everything, had gotten back to town from wherever he'd been, and he said, "We cannot have a feature service. We are not going to fool with that fiction anymore. I'm sorry you hired somebody to do this. We can't do it. We can't hire anybody right now, and certainly, if we could, we would hire them to do the story."
So he said, "There's nothing I can do but cancel it. I feel terrible to tell you that."
Now you wanted to go back somewhere in my childhood or somewhere.
Knight: Your college days. I want to return to it, because you did get another opportunity later on. I like to kind of follow chronology, but I don't mind if we get off.
Campbell: Well, you're smart enough to take me back, you know.
Knight: We can weave our way back and forth. After you went to Christian College, then you went to the University of Oklahoma. What did you do that summer, the summer of your freshman year? Did you work? Did you get a job?
Campbell: I'm sure I did, but I don't know what I did. I went back home. Oh, that was when I got a job on the local paper, the Bartlesville Examiner.
Knight: Tell me about that.
Campbell: Well, that was fun. Oh, that was nice. They had had a society editor, and that was all they had ever had in the women's field. Peggy wanted to go to Europe. She had never been to Europe. She had been society for 15 years or something. So they were going to have to replace her, and they were really shaky about it. But
maybe, you know, for a summer, they wouldn't get too involved. [Laughter.] So they gave me a job at a very small salary, but at any rate, it was a job on a real paper. They started me with very simple news stories, but after a while, you know, I had had enough experience that it was easy.
But then they wanted me to do features. The one that I remember—I mean, I must have done lots more interesting things, probably, but at that time, hitchhiking had become interesting—a lot of people hitchhiked—and also dangerous. My mother and father picked up a hitchhiker who tried to steal the car from them; he didn't succeed. Daddy kept hold of it. But at any rate, they wanted me to find out how many people really would still pick up people. I don't know why they thought I was a good thing to try it out on, but I was to start in the morning. Dewey, Oklahoma, was 4 miles from Bartlesville. I was to start at Dewey and come back to Bartlesville. So I had my dad or somebody, Mother, take me to Dewey, and I started walking. Well, it was important that the time was kept, because everybody who passed offered me a ride. [Laughter.] I got up to 104 or something like that! [Laughter.] They had some sort of an idea that this was going to show that people didn't pick up hitchhikers anymore. [Laughter.]
Knight: Did you write the story?
Campbell: Oh, sure.
Knight: What did you say?
Campbell: Just exactly what I—I did describe some of them, you know, in more detail than I've given you, but the interesting thing was that they almost all stopped.
Knight: Well, we've been at it an hour and a half.
Campbell: Have we?
Knight: It's hard to believe, isn't it?
Campbell: It really is.
Knight: I think we'll stop for the day and leave us both wanting more. I'll see you again when you get back to this neck of the woods.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Knight: Good afternoon.
Campbell: Good afternoon.
Knight: We are ready to go. Last time, we got through high school and college, and you skipped ahead a little bit into your work with the AP. Let's start at college and go to your first job at the Springfield Leader. You got a certificate in journalism from University of Oklahoma in 1929?
Knight: How important, in looking back, do you think a college education was?
Campbell: Oh, absolutely important. I knew some good reporters who had not gotten a degree, but there were just so many things that you'd run into, that you might not have ever expected to, where some course you had taken gave you the information you needed to make a wise decision. So I think it's terribly important.
Knight: Were there people that didn't think it was? Did you find any, when you were out in the workplace?
Campbell: [Laughter.] Well, I remember my publisher, who was a really great man, I was crazy about him, but he told me once, my certificate in journalism meant nothing to him at all. You know, I was doing very well, and he was glad he hired me, but he certainly didn't do it because I had gone to journalism school. His father had been the publisher of the St. Paul, Minnesota, paper, and one of his brothers had a paper somewhere, and they hadn't all gone to college, certainly hadn't gone to journalism school. I think that was why he was thinking that.
Knight: Was there a special school within the college? Was it a regular college degree? Was it a separate kind of program?
Campbell: It had to be both. O.U. had not gotten final approval of the separate journalism school. When I went to my freshman year in college at Columbia, MO there was, at the University of Missouri, a journalism school, and a very fine one. O.U. had started one, but the degree had not yet been approved. In 1929, you had to get a certificate that required the same courses as the degree in journalism approved for the next year.
Knight: So you only went for three years?
Campbell: Yes, to the University of Oklahoma.
Knight: In other jobs, did the degree make a difference? Was the degree a respected degree in the field?
Campbell: I think college was, at that time, assumed, but journalism degree, no.
Knight: Tell me about how you got the job at the Springfield Leader.
Campbell: [Laughter.] Oh, partly, first of all, Sigrid Arne, oh, the loveliest woman reporter I ever knew, worked on the Daily Oklahoman, which was just a few miles from Norman, where the University is. She had come down to talk to our class in the journalism school. I had gotten acquainted with her, and liked her. I went to see her once in Oklahoma City, and she came back to see me. So when I was looking for a job, I asked her, "Who was the best editor you had when you first started out? Who taught you the most?"
She said, "There's no question—George Olds," who, at that time, was on the Muskogee paper for Edson Bixby. "He now is with Bixby on the Springfield Leader, the afternoon paper, in Springfield, Missouri."
So I immediately wrote to George Olds, because it was good training and a good beginning that I wanted. She'd convinced me that that was important, I guess, because I didn't hear very many people talking that way. But anyway, I got a letter saying that they had a job—or maybe it was a wire; I think it was—but it didn't say a thing about how much it would pay me. So forgetting that we were in the beginning of a Depression, I was just fresh and coming out of college, I sent back a wire, "Have other offer. How much?" Well, people thought I was crazy, and that I would never hear from him again. But I got a telephone call that time, saying it would be $25 a week, and they wanted me to come immediately—when did I graduate? "The first."
"Well, we want you here on June fourth." [Laughter.]
So I went to work three days after I graduated from college, at $25 a week, and I was just a reporter on the general staff. That's the way it worked. Before I got through, I'd been everything on the paper; I'd even been sports editor once, and covered a wrestling match. Don't ever do that on the front row! [Laughter.] Blood spurts all over you. But the sports editor had gone on vacation.
Knight: You didn't actually interview for the job; it was by letter?
Knight: Just by letter.
Campbell: They may have called Sigrid, because I gave them her name in my first letter, since she knew me.
Knight: Do you remember the first day on the job?
Campbell: No. I can't. I remember everything about my first day here with AP, but I don't remember what I did on the Springfield Leader, except that I just know that I had—well, I remember one thing about it. I was two minutes after eight o'clock arriving, and George Olds said, "You see that clock? If you ever come in again after eight o'clock, you'll be fired. And I mean fired." He said, "I'm not teasing." And he did it to somebody else. I never came in after eight o'clock after that. [Laughter.] I really got there before 8:00.
Knight: Now, did you know before they hired you what your beat was going to be, what your job would be?
Campbell: No, no. Just whatever they needed on a general news staff. And that's what it was every place I ever worked. They didn't promise me a thing. [Laughter.] But in Springfield, I covered the—just every time they had a meeting of anything at the City Hall or a trial or anything, if they needed me, I covered lots of trials, and some of them were pretty nasty. I'll never forget, one was over at Joplin, Missouri, miles away, and the man had been charged with rape. His attorney I knew, and there wasn't a chair left when I got in. I had ridden over on a bus from Springfield, at five o'clock in the morning. [Laughter.] He said, "Take this chair," or something, so I was very close, and I could hear what went on between the defense counsel and the man who was being tried. None of this is particularly important; there are thousands of cases of this, I'm sure. But when it was decided, and the jury came in, and the judge asked them what they had decided, they decided that he was guilty of rape in the first degree. And he said, "Oh, no," and the judge, in the meantime, had gone on and said, "He will hang by his neck until he is dead." First time I'd ever heard that, you know. And this man's face just—he just couldn't believe it.
He said, "And that'll be a lesson to me." [Laughter.] You know? He really just wasn't conscious of the fact that if you hung by your neck til you were dead, you didn't take lessons much. [Laughter.]
But then the wonderful thing about the paper, the Springfield paper, George Olds at that time was their city editor and managing editor, and Bix [Edson Bixby], the owner, was the [publisher]. But they did all kinds of special kinds of things that everybody didn't do, and if a reporter could think up something different to do, you usually got to do it. Well, I remember, once I went around, I had been impressed with how almost everybody I ran into, for any reason, when I was able to talk to them, had a story of some kind. It may not be what I'd gone about, but, anyhow. So I said to Mr. Olds, "You know, I think that practically everybody in Springfield probably has a story. Why don't you send me to go get them?"
And he said, "Well, that's a very good idea." And he said, "You can go in the evenings, so that you'll be able to get the men home from work, as well as the women home from work, and the whole family. The children might be interesting."
So that's what I did. I'd go up to a door and knock, and say that I was Beth Campbell of the Springfield Leader, and that I thought everybody had a story, and could they tell me a little bit about themselves and let me decide whether they had one or not. And they did! All except one. I mean, the first time I got invited in to every place, and I went—oh, we had decided this between us, Mr. Olds and I, that I would go to a different kind of neighborhood every night—poverty, wealth, the works. And I did. And the only time that I was not allowed to come in—and it was put like this—I could have gotten in there, the man said, "Please don't come in." He said, "I can tell you don't want the kind of story that I would have to tell you. I was falsely accused of being communistic in my last college." "But I proved to them here that I'm not communistic, and I have a job, and I'm enjoying it very much, and if you interview me, and it's on page one of the Leader, it will bring it all up again."
And I said, "Goodbye. I won't stay." [Laughter.] But that's the only one.
A photographer came and, wherever they would let us, took a picture, though we
didn't force anybody to take a picture. And it made a story for 20 nights, called "Read Folks at Home".
Then another thing, I remember it was on New Year's Day—oh, cold, it was very, very cold. I decided I would splurge and have my breakfast at the Kentwood Arms. Well, there was George Olds, having his breakfast, and he invited me to sit down with him, so I did. We were just talking generally, and I said how cold it was, and how awful it was for people who didn't have any money. I had written some stories about girls who worked for a produce company—I think it was either eggs or chickens they dealt with—the week before, and I said, "They only make $10 a week. How can they get enough to eat, by the time they've gotten a room and have enough clothes to cover them?"
He said, "That's what you should find out, starting tomorrow."
And I said, "What do you mean?"
"Well," he said, "I want you to do a story. You took, as I recall, a bunch of foolishness like home economics when you were in college, didn't you?"
And I said, "Yes."
And he said, "And carbon chemistry, didn't you take that?"
And I said, "Yes."
"You know about vitamins and calories and things. Well, that's good." So he said, "Start tomorrow. Don't eat a bite except what you report for the paper, and we'll call it the 'Ten-day, Two-bit diet.' You're not to spend more than a quarter a day, because as I figure it, I don't think those girls would have more than a quarter a day for food. So we'll see whether they can get enough to eat. But be sure and come early to work, and I'll arrange for a doctor, because you need to have a doctor's examination before it."
Well, I did, and the doctor examined me, and I went out to get breakfast. I had an idea for the first one, because somebody had told me the night before that out at the YWCA, they had a breakfast where you could get oatmeal for ten cents a bowl if you had cream on it, but if you just had a pat of butter in it, it would be seven cents. [Laughter.] So I had a bowl of oatmeal for seven cents that first morning, and then other times. Some of the other things were very crazy. The college was of help, though, because they had a special on sandwiches, and I remember one day I was able to get a nice sandwich. But you could only do that once, and the next day there wasn't any such special. The only day that I really got enough to eat, I think, but it would have been terribly dull if I'd tried it every day, and I couldn't have written a story about it, because I had a photographer coming around behind me to get pictures of me in the line and everything, and what I got the day I got enough to eat was a loaf of bread and a very small jar of peanut butter. [Laughter.] And I ate it for all three meals, as I recall. But that was an interesting feature. At the end of it, I hadn't lost a pound, maybe a half a pound or something, but what I had lost were red blood corpuscles. I knew enough to count my calories and vitamins and minerals, but I didn't know enough about whatever you get—white blood or red blood corpuscles. [Laughter.]
But things like that cut into the routine nature of reporting. Of course, much more exciting were the—it's not very nice to talk about them, but the criminal kind
of things that came along. I was there to cover the biggest story that came while I was in Springfield. There were two young brothers who killed six peace officers, and two of the peace officers, the sheriff, Marshall Hendrix, and the Chief of Police, both were good friends of mine. And it was just awful. I had located, as I recall, the address of their mother, after they had killed a couple of people in Texas, and the officers there thought they had come home to their Springfield home, wherever it was, four miles out of town, on a farm. The sheriff and the police chief and four other officers went out to arrest them, and, as I say, there was a massacre, really, and they got away. Eventually, I've forgotten for sure, but I think they killed each other in a Fort Worth, Texas hotel. At any rate, they both did get killed; they didn't have to be tried. They realized what they'd done or something; I don't know. But that was exciting, because, of course, nobody was there but the Springfield staff to cover it at the beginning. But after two days, we had people from New York. [Laughter.] And after one day, we had two St. Louis papers, you know, a lot of other people came in, and they were all trying to interview us, who had been on the story all the time. I met a lot of names in the newspaper business, whose bylines I had read.
Is that what you want to know?
Knight: Yes, it's very interesting. It was your first job. What was the hardest thing for you to learn? What surprised you, I guess, about the job that you hadn't anticipated?
Campbell: I don't think anything surprised me very much, because I had known enough newspaper people, and had worked on the paper for three years in college. I had been on the staff. And by the time I graduated, I had one summer on the Bartlesville Morning Examiner in my home town. The only way they had a job for a woman was as society editor. I told them I wouldn't work as society editor only. If I could cover regular stories, too, for my $25 a week, while Peggy Carmen was in Europe, I would be glad to work. Well, that's what I did. So I had had a summer.
Knight: How did you handle getting emotionally involved with stories? Was that ever a struggle for you?
Campbell: Oh, yes.
Knight: Did you have to make rules for yourself? How did you work that out over the course of your working life?
Campbell: I don't think I had rules, except the general rule, that you couldn't do your job if you were crying or sobbing inside, you know, just so very involved that you couldn't think. But that was just part of doing the job right, to me. I don't think I made a rule about it; I just knew I couldn't do it. But I did. [Laughter.] You know, you do get upset about people. You find tears in your eyes occasionally, but I didn't ever break down. That I stuck with.
But I suppose the hardest thing was—I'm sure all through the years that I was writing for newspapers—was getting every word right, getting every person's name right, getting every job they did right, being exact and not ever saying, "Well, I asked him, and now I've forgotten what he said, but I think it was—" No, I couldn't do that. I had to get everything right, and that's hard to do. I mean, to most of us, I think—am I wrong?—in society, generally, they have things right most of the time, but they don't really feel guilty if they don't have everything right, but I did.
Of course, that was made very dramatic for me by George Olds, the wonderful man who taught me, and I hated him all the time he was doing it. [Laughter.] He made me feel so small and dumb. But I remember, particularly, when—I've forgotten how many weeks I'd been there, six, eight—he said, "I think you're ready to handle a death notice." To heck with it! What's so special about a death notice? He said, "You know, the one time in a person's life that it means the most to them, whether this is the person, the mother or the father or the wife, whoever is left of the person who's died, is that person's name appearing properly in the paper. And so I never let anybody cover a death notice until I think they can be absolutely accurate." Because he said—and he never seemed to have any emotions—[Laughter]—but he said, "You know, people just get so upset if something's wrong." They'd been in protesting to him, I guess, and that kind of thing through the years. So I did the death notices for quite a long time.
I don't know how long it was before the stock market went kerflouey. It couldn't be too long, because September '29—
Knight: And you started in June.
Campbell: In June of '29. Soon, he said that he thought I could be trusted to go get the closings. I didn't even know what a closing was. I guess this is the hardest thing I ever had to do, because it was so strange to me. I didn't know enough about the stock market. It was something my family hadn't gotten involved in. But anyway, I was sent to a broker's office every afternoon, to be there at two o'clock, and to take down for a certain list of stocks, the entire list that they got the reports on, from New York, whatever a stock had closed at that particular day at two o'clock. And I had to get them right, he said. He pointed out that there had been one person who died as a result of what the stock report said. Well, it happened that one had been right; it wasn't wrong. But he said, "You wouldn't want to be the first one to get it wrong and have somebody die." So I was very careful about taking down the numbers. I took them back to the office, and we put them on the teletype machine, and I did this day after day after day after day. There were plenty of people, I'm sure, who wanted to jump out windows. We had one person jump out of a window in Springfield. I guess there were lots of them in New York.
But that kind of thing, too, it's like the two bit diet that I was on, 25 cents a day, or going around to find people who were interesting in their lives. That kind of thing breaks into your regular things which happen on every newspaper in every town, where someone did something special, and they come in to report it, or you go out to them to get it reported, or the police court. Of course, police court could be interesting, too. We had a police reporter who didn't go to college, but who was a very good police reporter. He could get things right. He didn't write at all. He was awfully good to dictate things to you over the phone, but not like some people dictate, expecting you to take it word for word, you know. [Laughter.] That's what I had to do when I went out and had to dictate a story. But he just told you what happened, and he said, "Well, this is going to be hard. I don't think I better give you anything on it until you ask George."
I said, "Why?"
He said, "Well, this prostitute got up on the stand in police court this afternoon and said that our publisher gave her the fur coat she had on." [Laughter.]
I asked George, and he said, "Well, what would you do if it was anybody else in town?"
I said, "Well, I'd say so."
So he said, "Say so."
So I wrote it. [Laughter.] And Bix never said a word about it. Whether it was true or not, I don't know. But anyhow, that's what she said.
So there are always bright things or different things, whether they're bright or blue, in a newspaper job.
After I'd been there about six or eight months, when they gave me a column to write—"The Very Idea." I got to choose the name of the column. I had had a big argument with them over using my own name. They wanted to give me funny names. Every other reporter on the whole staff had a funny name that wasn't his own or her Own.
Campbell: Well, the paper owned the name. If the people left, the name stayed on, and somebody else could go into the job, except they had given Sigrid Arne—her name was Agnes Holmquist, and when she'd worked for them earlier in Muskogee, they had given her the name, or she'd chosen it, but they had given it to her, Sigrid Arne, and that was her byline. When she left there, they gave her permission to take the name. It fitted her so well. She was a tall, attractive, blonde Swede.
Knight: So that wasn't her real name.
Campbell: No. Her name was Agnes Holmquist.
Campbell: But she went clear through. She was the Associated Press Feature Service reporter at the United Nations. I think I told you about her once before. She just was one of the most outstanding newspaper women there ever was. She had to leave the AP, though, because at that time, thank goodness, they changed it later, but the AP had a rule that women reporters had to be retired at age 55. She got a job immediately on the Cleveland News, where she'd worked in the beginning [Laughter], and had it for a number of years.
Knight: But in your column, they let you use—
Campbell: I just refused to choose any other name.
Campbell: Well, it seemed silly to me. I had a name, and it was my own, and if they wanted to use a name, I didn't see why I had to have a different name. I'd been writing there for a long time without a name, no byline. Why couldn't it be my own?
Well, the first time, that was all there was. I just didn't get a byline. About six months, they tried me again on some story that he liked real well, and that time, he didn't say any more, after he'd proposed some names and so on, and I said,
"No. I'd just rather not have a byline." And that time, I was on it. And anywhere else I've been, I've always had my own name—Beth Campbell.
Knight: With a special slant on the column? How were they different from the regular news stories you were covering?
Campbell: They were on the editorial page, and they were wider, instead of however many—eight columns, it was six or something, so that they were wider, and the headline was different up at the top—"The Very Idea" in great big letters, by Beth Campbell.
Knight: That was the name of it, "The Very Idea"?
Knight: And did you have specific topics you were more interested in?
Campbell: No. I chose whatever I wanted. That's how I got into that mess about the sermon. I suppose I told you about that.
Knight: No, you didn't.
Campbell: I didn't? Oh, my
Knight: You haven't talked about the Springfield Leader yet.
Campbell: Oh, really? It was a mess. I was church editor, and I go to church myself, and I believe very much in Christianity. But we had 65 churches in this town of 65,000 people, and some of the preachers were great, and some of them were terrible, and some of them were lovely, nice people but just couldn't preach sermons, you know. I didn't like to say that about any one of them. They all wanted their sermons in the paper. They brought them down themselves, generally, traipsed in to the paper on either Sunday afternoon or Monday with whatever they'd preached on the Sunday before. So I read a great many sermons, and I thought, "Well, it can't be this bad. I'll go listen to them." So I went from church to church, every Sunday, listening to the sermons.
So then one day, it was Sunday afternoon, it was time to write the Monday column, so I sat down at the typewriter and wrote, "Something ought to be done about sermons. They're terrible!" And then I said, "Religion deserves a better presentation than it's getting in Springfield, Missouri." I said, "Some of the ministers are great, but there are others who read every word of a typed sermon without ever looking up from their notes, there are others who don't ever write a sermon, who just talk, wander generally around some given subject, without your ever knowing exactly what it was," and then I went on with all kinds of things that were wrong. There were just a lot of them. And somewhere in there, I was going too fast, I guess, because I wrote, "Even I could preach a better one."
And I didn't even worry about it. Nothing happened Monday; nothing happened Tuesday. Thursday, the Reverend G. Bryant Drake, who was the minister of the Congregational Church at Drury College, the best minister in town at that time, without any question, in my belief, called and said, "You didn't think you were going to get by with that 'Even I could preach a better one,' did you?" He said, "As I read this column you wrote last Monday, it says that you said that, and I want you to occupy my pulpit this Sunday night, 7:30." [Laughter.] Oh!
"I can't say no, after I said that in the paper. I have to do it, but I don't think you'll be very glad afterwards, you know." [Laughter.] "I don't think I'll be so great."
He said, "Well, I'm going to count on you for Sunday night."
So I was scared to death. That, I guess, is the most scared I ever was. I walked over to the desk and said, "Mr. Olds, I've gotten the paper in terrible trouble."
He said, "You have? What did you do?"
I said, "Mr. Drake of Drury has challenged me to preach a sermon in his pulpit on Sunday night." This was Thursday, about noon.
He said, "Really? Docia, come interview Beth, please. Somebody get hold of Charlie Werner. We want a picture." [Laughter.] He didn't think I'd gotten the paper in trouble at all; he thought it was a great story! [Laughter.]
So I thought, well, if he thinks it's so great, when he got through with whatever he had to say, I said—you know, this is Thursday, and this was my night to work on the church page. I started as soon as the afternoon paper was out, usually, and I used to work until 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. in the morning, because it was writing eight columns of copy and putting all the headlines in. I said, "Could I have a little time off between now and Sunday to write the sermon?"
"I'm sorry," he said, "I can't do that. But you don't need any time off. You can do a sermon." [Laughter.] Well, I didn't get any time off. Every minute that I could get, except to eat, occasionally, I wrote something on the sermon. I finally got one written, but, of course, I couldn't use it verbatim. As it was, I couldn't read it, because that was one of the things I had criticized; I had to do it by heart. So I started memorizing, and at some point along there, at the office, not at home—I didn't have a typewriter at home—I took some cards and made some notes of different sections of the sermon that would remind me, in case I did forget. When the time came, I had a date. I had told him I was sorry, I had to go preach a sermon. Well, he said, "I can take you there and bring you home, can't I?"
I said, "Sure." So he came to pick me up at seven o'clock—Eddie Ellis, I think his name was—and had a cab. He didn't have a car. I said, "Before we go out to the church, I've got to go by the office and get those reminder cards I did."
So we went downtown. It wasn't far—three or four blocks from where I lived. And I went up to get the cards. When I came back downstairs, because I was the only one who knew where to look for them, there was Eddie with the hood up, and no driver for the cab. I said, "Where's the cab driver? We need to hurry. Hear those bells?" They were the church bells ringing for our 7:30 service, and we were going to be there early.
And he said, "Well, he said he was sure we'd do better and get there faster if he went to his cab headquarters and got another cab, than if he tried to fix this one, because he hadn't been able to do a bit of good." But he said, "I've got it started now, so let's go." So I jumped in, and he started the engine, and off we went. We kidded a little bit about stealing a car. He said when I got out of
church, "When you get through preaching your sermon, come down and get me out of jail." [Laughter.]
So I went on in. Oh, the church—Mr. Drake said, and other people who had been there longer than he had, said that the crowd was the most people that had ever been in that church. They opened up all the Sunday school rooms, and the choir staff. Where the choirmembers usually sat, was my publisher.
Knight: Had they done a story in the Friday paper?
Campbell: Oh, sure. They'd announced it, you see. We carried their announcement. I didn't write anything about it. [Laughter.] But then, afterwards, the AP and UP carried 1,500 words on it, apiece. And that was the beginning. I got letters, more than 1,000 letters, from Colorado, Texas, Kansas, everywhere.
Knight: What kind of letters?
Campbell: People saying that I was the most sacrilegious, horrible, awful newspaper reporter they'd ever heard of, and people saying, like one woman, "Oh, my dear girl, you've just simply made my life. I can die now. I had nine boys. And all but one of them joined the church, as they were growing up, at various ages. But one of them just never would join, never would go to church, never would do anything. I just felt like I wasn't the right kind of a mother. But he read your sermon in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and he joined the church last Sunday. And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart." There were others. Nobody quite like that, who said that somebody who'd resisted for 42 years had joined the church. [Laughter.] But others just as complimentary, and others on the other side that just thought that it would take scum to get up in a church pulpit and pretend to preach a sermon. Whichever was right doesn't matter now.
Knight: What was the sermon about?
Campbell: The text was "Rejoice in thy youth." See, I was 20. [Laughter.] Oh, dear. Ecclesiastes. I can't remember the rest of the verse. I've got a copy somewhere of the sermon, but I haven't found it for years. Betty Beale of the Washington Star got hold of it at the time I went to the White House. She was writing a personality piece. I got all these requests. I could have quit my job to go all over the country and preach the sermon again. And they didn't even ask me to write a new one! First, I did nothing about them. Bix called me up to his office one day, and he said, "Why, if you wanted to go and preach a sermon somewhere else, couldn't you have done it in our trade territory? I've got a copy of a letter to you, asking you to repeat that sermon, but it's from Oklahoma City. You know, nobody buys the Springfield Leader in Oklahoma City."
Well, I said, "You know, I was going to come and ask you. The others, I haven't done a thing about. I have a lot of them. I have a whole pile you can have. If you want all of your trade territory, I won't be able to work for you for quite a long time." [Laughter.] But I said, "This one is from Oklahoma City, and I haven't been back there since I graduated from college, and Oklahoma city is just 20 miles from Norman. It's just the same sermon; I wouldn't have to do anything new. I would like to go down there."
Well, he kidded around a little bit, and finally said, "Okay. I don't like your attitude, but you can go to Oklahoma if you want to." And so I did, and saw people I hadn't seen for ages.
Knight: You really put yourself out on the line.
Campbell: Oh, I really did. I really did. And I wasn't sure I wasn't wrong to have done it, but I didn't think I was a rapscallion or a skunk or anything quite as bad as some of the people said I was. [Laughter.] But some people just think that, you know, a newspaper reporter—or they did then; I wonder if they do now—you probably know, being outside—they thought newspaper reporters were bad, that they weren't honorable.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Knight: You were talking about some of the people on the paper, your co-workers on the paper—Max Boyd.
Campbell: And even George Olds, the managing editor, wrote a column once a week, the same place where I went, and he wrote as Edward Eddy. I think George Olds is a lovely name; Edward Eddy seemed strange—and Felix Flanigan for Max Boyd just seemed so silly to me. Then we had Allen Oliver, his name was Dick Terry, and he wrote a humorous column once a week. He went to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and stayed Allen Oliver.
Knight: Did the women hang around together and the men hang around together?
Knight: Were you all reporters together?
Campbell: We were all reporters together. On a given story, George sent whoever he thought could cover it, depending on who was available. If people were already busy, he might send somebody that he wouldn't have normally thought was able to handle the story, but he had to. At the beginning, Max and Docia were the ones who could handle anything and do it beautifully, and had done lots of stuff for the AP and the UP and the various big feature services and that kind of thing. But the rest of us were getting to be in shape, too. Well, actually, Celia Ray (her real name was Lucille Morris, now Lucille Morris Upton) could do it, too. She'd been our specialist on the Ozarks. Springfield is the queen city of the Ozarks.
We had Congressman Dewey Short, who was from Galena, which was about 35 miles down into the Ozarks from Springfield, and we all got stories from him. He could quote Shakespeare, an hour at a time. Not very many congressmen could do that. [Laughter.] But it didn't take George very long to get everybody able to handle most of the stories. When they assigned me to be sports editor for two weeks, I thought they'd really found one that couldn't work, but when I was somehow able to go to the office the next day, after that wrestling match, I decided I could do anything. [Laughter.]
Knight: Did you ever get a sense that either you were sent or weren't sent on a particular story because you were a woman?
Knight: Did it make any difference at all?
Campbell: No, no. Never, ever. I mean, or they wouldn't have sent me on that rape story.
Knight: Did you think that was unusual?
Campbell: Yes, yes, I do. Very unusual. I was lucky all my whole way through, because I went from Springfield, after five years, to the Daily Oklahoman, which was a bigger paper in a bigger city, a bigger state, which also—well, it didn't have near as many women, but it certainly had had respect for its women reporters. Sigrid had worked there. That's where she was when I heard her speak. And Walter Harrison—the managing editor respected women just like he did men. Now, I don't think my city editor did quite. I loved him. He was a great, big fellow. But he came over to me one day. This was when I smoked—thank goodness, I don't anymore—but he came over and said, "Beth, I wondered if you would mind, if you insist on smoking, would you mind going down to three and a half?" Three and a half was the ladies restroom.
And I said, "Look. If I sit here at my desk and smoke, I can work while I smoke. If I go down there, you lose my time. Why? Why? Everybody knows that I smoke."
"Well, I'm not sure Mr. Gaylord does." (He was the owner of the paper, and he was a millionaire, and had a lot of other things, later a TV station, and certainly the golden guernsey cattle, who made milk, and other businesses.)
And he said, "Well, you'll just have to quit smoking."
I said, "You didn't tell me that when I came here to work. You were very anxious to have me." So I just went on, and the managing editor never mentioned it. When I left, two years later, Mr. Gaylord lighted my cigarette at the dinner he gave in honor of my leaving. [Laughter.] Oh, dear. So what I was trying to say was that women were respected as reporters on the Oklahoman, too, the Oklahoman and Times. I was on the Oklahoma City Times, really, the afternoon paper. But I think it's only the Oklahoman now, and it had been the Oklahoman at the beginning, and the afternoon paper was a later addition. But that fit better. I had been on an afternoon paper in Springfield, and, you know, you learn the hours and that kind of thing.
We had a regular team. This was on the Daily Oklahoman—I'd left the Springfield paper now. Dick Pearce, later, was the editor of the San Francisco—the Hearst paper out there, because he wrote me, I remember, when he first went, that he was getting used to being a "Hearstitute." [Laughter.] But at any rate, he was only a reporter then, but he was promoted. He and I used to be sort of a team. When a big trial was going to last, you know, for a week or two, you needed somebody not only to cover all the testimony, but also there were features popping up all over the place. Well, I was there to pop up the features, but also to be able to take Dick's place when he went to lunch or when he went to see somebody about something in connection with a part of the testimony, the district attorney or somebody like that. But the two of us would cover it. I mean, they'd always had men doing that before, but the—I'm trying to think if there was another woman. There were a lot of other women on the paper at various times, but when I was there, I didn't have this little group of other women, like in Springfield. I had an assistant, when I was school editor, who helped every day. She was a girl. I can't remember. In society and places like that there were women. But I don't remember anybody else on the general staff, but I think that it didn't make any difference. I never had any feeling from the people that I worked under that I was any different than the men on the paper.
Knight: As far as you know, were the pay scales the same for men and women?
Campbell: Yes, except they weren't classified that way, because this boy who came from my home town of Nowata, Oklahoma, and who went to the same journalism school, and whom I knew very well, had just left the Oklahoma City Times, as I recall, when I went there to work, and I saw him in the next three or four days. We went out to get coffee or something. He said, "Well, I hope you did better than I did on the paper." He'd been on it for two years.
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Well, I'm only getting $15 a week." He had a college degree and a journalism certificate. When I went from my $27.50 job in Springfield to Oklahoma City I got $35 a week. And the managing editor, Walter Harrison—"Skipper," we called him—in Oklahoma City, oh, what a darling he was. He was a bright, good editor. But he came to Washington or New York all the time, because he was not only the chairman of the AP managing editors committee or convention or what have you, but he also got to be president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Then later on, he was president of National Sigma Delta Chi. But anyhow, he called me over to his office one day—he didn't have an office, but to the corner of the newsroom where he was—and said, "Beth, how would you like to go to Washington to work for the Associated Press?"
And I said, "Well, can I have a couple of minutes to think about it? I'm not absolutely sure, because I have a young brother who's in high school, and my mother just died." I didn't say any more; I just was quiet, thinking. And I figured out ways I could do it, and I spoke up and said, "Yes, I would like to go."
"Well," he said, "I'm sorry I made you think so hard, because you can't go. I told them you couldn't." [Laughter.] It seems he had seen Byron Price, who, a very short time after that, was the second man to Kent Cooper, in the whole AP, over the world, but he was at that time the bureau chief in Washington. I had twice spent just one day in Washington, so I could go call on bureau chiefs and editors there. I had done the same thing in New York, I'd been to see the city editor of the New York Times, the World Telegram and the Herald Tribune. But at any rate, he said, "They wanted you for the Washington bureau, and I said you couldn't go." He said, "I didn't think you'd want to, for one thing, and I didn't think we could spare you, for another. But I'm sorry, since you really think you could have gone." He was not very sorry. [Laughter.] A lovable fellow, though. But at any rate, that was all there was.
About—I don't know how much later, two months maybe, he had been to Washington, to a meeting of managing editors, and he was on his way to Dallas, where the Sigma Delta Chi national convention was going to be, and whenever he had things like that, he had somebody, usually one of the police reporters, bring his mail to him out at the airport, and bring back any messages he had. Jeff went out to the airport to meet him that day, and when he came back, he said, "I am sorry, Beth. I can't remember exactly, but the Skipper said to tell you that he'd sold you down the river, but somehow I didn't make him tell me what he meant."
I said, "Well, I certainly don't know. It either means he's told them I can come to Washington, or he's told them I can't come." [Laughter.] "I have no idea which." Well, he came back two days later and told me that I could go this time, if I got the Times' Christmas baby off my hands before then. He also had insisted they pay me $65 per week, which saved my life.
Every year, the Oklahoma City Times had adopted, in a strange sort of sense, the first baby born after the New Year. So by the time I got there and was made Christmas Baby editor, among other things, we had a dozen of them over the country, maybe more. Then we each year had one coming. So one thing I had to do was raise either money or clothes for a baby, you know, for a new baby, to give to whoever the new one was, but I also started pretty early writing to all our earlier Christmas babies in Kentucky or Alabama or somewhere like that, and finding out what had happened to them. By that time, some of them were up in high school, some of them were playing football, and it was all very interesting. I enjoyed it thoroughly. But it was a split-second kind of thing, but I managed to get it done, and I managed to leave. As a matter of fact, I managed to leave—I knew somebody else could write this story about the new baby coming on December the 31st, at whatever time, so I left and got to Washington on the morning, eight o'clock, of December the 21st, 1936. Because '37 was when President Roosevelt was going to be sworn in as the new President, and this was the first time on January 20. It had been March the fourth all through the years, until Congress had changed it.
Knight: Let me go back to when you were in Springfield, because I want to save the whole AP experience for the next time we get together.
Campbell: Oh, all right.
Knight: But let me go back. Did your social life revolve around people at the paper? What was your personal life like?
Campbell: Well, it was very nice. It had so many different angles. In the first place, I was lucky that I had a cousin, a younger cousin than I, who was a student at Drury at the time I went, and one of the first things she did was arrange a date for me for a Drury College dance. He was a very attractive young man. He had just finished his college at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and he had specialized in script writing and that type of thing, and had gotten a job in Hollywood at the same time I got mine in Springfield, writing screenplays and things like that for people. So we had a lot of fun, not only dancing—he was a very good dancer, and I loved to dance, that's my chief—it was for many years—hobby, outside of the newspaper business. But at any rate, we had dates.
But then I must have started awfully soon, because I think it was that first year—no, it must have been the next Christmas, but he had gotten home. I didn't tell you. [Laughter.] This is not going to hang together very well. He had gotten a job in Hollywood at the same time I got my job, but he went along for, I've forgotten, six months, seven months, so I had been in Springfield some time before I met him. But then he lost his job about then, and he went around other places and couldn't get one. Finally, the only thing he could do was come home—his folks had a home there in Springfield—and look for jobs there. Of course, he couldn't get any writing scripts, but he was wanting to write anything. But at any rate, we had a few dates before this happened, which I am about to tell. We had, almost next door to the Springfield Leader, there was a bookstore. Oh, a wonderful bookstore, where you could browse, where they even had chairs for you to sit and browse in! I was browsing in there one time, and I found this little book, which, I think, cost 75 cents. It was Nietzsche, I believe. And I glanced at it a little bit and thought, "I've been trying to figure what I could give Bennett. He might give me something, he might not, but if I did give him something, it had to be something very little, or he'd feel embarrassed, whether he gave me something or not." So I bought this little book for him and wrapped it up. It must have been practically Christmas Eve when I
did it, because I didn't ever read it all, and that's a rule that I've never broken since! I don't ever give away a book that I haven't read! [Laughter.] But at any rate, I did give it to him. I guess I had a date with him that night or something.
But anyhow, the next morning, he called around noon, I guess, and said, "Do you really want me to commit suicide?" [Laughter.] Well, I got the book back, and I saw what he meant. [Laughter.] I hadn't read enough Nietzsche philosophy.
But anyway, then he just didn't have money to take me even to a movie; he didn't have any money. His mother had a job, but not a very big job, and his father had died. But he was so talented, I knew he was going to make a good deal of money some time, and he made a great deal more than I did before too long. But at any rate, we figured out once, after I moved in with Hope Schwab, Irving, her date, came over every Sunday night, and they usually went out someplace. He had more money. Lawyers did, even in the Depression, a lot of them. And so I've forgotten who suggested it, it could have been Hope, could have been Irving, "Why don't the four of us write something?" That would make it unnecessary, you know, Bennett could just come over, and we could all four have fun and talk, and we could write something. Well, we took it up with Bennett, and he thought that was fine. So for a year, we had a date, the four of us, every Sunday night, over in our apartment, Hope's and mine, and we wrote a play. It was a wonderful play. It was a political play. We had a guy running for President, who was just like Will Rogers, who, at that time, had a column on every front page of practically every paper in the United States. It was this long [5 inches], and I read all of them, and picked up all the Will Rogerisms that we could. But at any rate, we thought, finally, we revised, and we were all kind of particular about what we wanted, and I think it was good. I don't know whether I still have a copy. I may have gotten so mad, I threw it into the trash. But when I got to New York, my sisters had a blind date for me for the first night, and we went to this play, and it was the same play as ours. There was no way they could have gotten hold of it; it wasn't plagiarism. It was just the same idea had burst in Springfield, Missouri, and wherever the author of this play was. It was the hit. It had just opened, but it stayed the top hit on Broadway all that year and the next year.
Knight: What was the name of it?
Campbell: I can't think of it. It wasn't "Of Thee I Sing," or maybe it was. And the second scene in the first act was just almost word for word. It was in a hotel room, plotting how they were going to go about the campaign. It was very interesting. Even words, whole paragraphs, practically, were the same. But my mother had told me a long time before, so that I wasn't as suspicious as a lot of people were, that she took, when I was a child, growing up, she had all these women's magazines, Delineator, Women's Home Companion, Ladies Home Journal, along with Harper's and Atlantic Monthly, but she said that every so often, there would be the same story in the same issue of several magazines. She was the one who figured out that certain ideas just hit the country, and people with good minds or minds along a particular line would feel the same way about them and put them into some very similar words. Some of these stories, I remember her telling me, were just almost like they were identical. So when somebody else had our play almost identical, I could be mad, but I couldn't be surprised. [Laughter.]
You were asking about social life. That was one kind of social life in the Depression. I never heard of anybody else doing the same thing, but we had a year. It was very pleasant. Then I also saw Bennett and saw other people. I didn't date him steadily. But I met other people. I never dated anybody on the paper. I made
it a rule. That's one rule that I made, that it wouldn't be a good idea to date people on the paper.
Knight: Why did you decide that?
Campbell: I don't know. I just thought that—you asked me about mixing up emotions with working for a newspaper, and I didn't think—you couldn't ever tell when something would turn out to be something affecting your emotions. And it might affect your job, and so you just were better not to mix them up. It worked for me. There were people who asked me for dates on the paper, and I just told them that I had this rule, you know, and thanked them very much. We could have coffee together some morning or something like that, you know. As far as I know, it didn't cause me any enemies. As a matter of fact, we had dates almost every afternoon when the paper went to bed. There was a place just half a block—the Ontra—which was a tearoom. The whole afternoon paper staff went up there, almost everybody, George Olds and Docia and Max and Celia and Dick Terry and I, and just talked for 40 minutes. It was a good way to finish your day, and to get your problems, if you'd had any, out in the open. It was a great way, and it was so easy, because it was close.
But then also, I met some other young men who were going to Drury, who were about my age, not quite, because I was kind of young for getting out. Movies were about all the things people did for dates in those days, that I knew about.
Wait! Oh, and dancing! We had—oh, the most wonderful place called Half a Hill, about 5, 6 miles from town, huge ballroom. We just don't have them anymore; it's a great loss. But at any rate, it was huge, and people went, dozens and dozens. You met people out there, because they had the business of tagging people, and you didn't have to know people to dance with them. Well, we hadn't had to in school, in student council dances. But if you liked them and they liked you, you were apt to dance together, especially if you danced well together, you were going to see them again some time. Oh, this was so wonderful! A young man, I don't know whether he just cut in on me, or whether somebody introduced me to him, it doesn't make any difference, he was the best dancer I ever danced with in my life. We just danced all over that big auditorium. They had all these marvelous orchestras that were the big, famous ones in the United States and on the radio all the time. Well, my roommate, Hope, said, "You haven't mentioned this boy that you dance with all the time at Half a Hill, but somebody told me you were practically going steady with him."
I said, "Oh, if he asked me to dance, I couldn't dance with anybody else; he's so much better."
And she said, "Who is he?"
I told her his name, Eddie somebody, and she wanted to know what he did. Well, I was ashamed. It's the only time in my life I've ever been ashamed to tell anybody what I did or what anybody I liked did, but he worked for a company that sold the kind of thing that you use on bodies after people are dead, you know, get them ready to bury.
Campbell: Yes, embalming fluid. He was a salesman for embalming fluid. Now, how can you tell your best friend that you're dating—I didn't date him any time except for the dances—but I danced with him every minute I had a chance to dance. He was a salesman for embalming fluid.
Knight: [Laughter.] Did he ever ask you for dates?
Campbell: For other dates? Yes. But dancing was the only thing. We couldn't have any conversation. We didn't have any. [Laughter.] We tried sometimes. Actually, maybe we didn't try hard enough, because it was just such fun to dance with him.
Knight: At that time, what were your expectations for yourself, for both your career, your future work, and for your personal life?
Campbell: I wasn't thinking about getting married yet. I always intended to get married. I thought marriage and family was something I'd like. I liked the family my own family had, and I wanted to have it, too. But I was too young to begin thinking about that. I kept putting it off all the time, and got to be older and older. I didn't ever, you know, think, "It's time I got married now." I did get—oh, dear, I've really forgotten about Springfield. I was half engaged to a guy there once. [Laughter.] He was going to make me—he and his friend were going to make me the best woman tennis player in the state of Missouri. I couldn't play at all, never had played tennis. But they were just so sure that their talents as teachers would be so good, that they could make me into the best the state had ever had. So we had just started the lessons, and I had finally learned, so that I could go under instead of over to return a ball, when I came to Washington. So I'll never know.
Knight: You were engaged?
Campbell: I was engaged to him, sort of half engaged.
Knight: What does that mean?
Campbell: Well, he didn't know when he—he, too, he was a Harvard graduate, with a Ph.D., and he was having to earn a living. Anyway, he was making a living in the Depression. He had enough money to take me places, to dinner—gosh! He bought me my first cocktail, I remember. But at any rate, he was earning this money by restringing people's tennis racquets. You know, there are the most amazing ways to earn money if you go out and look. But I just knew that was over. I was in love at the same time, whenever I came back East in the summer, which I did several years, with a guy who was a teacher at Dartmouth. He was wonderful. [Laughter.] I liked him, too. We weren't ever formally engaged, I guess, but you know, in both cases, we were serious about it. We wanted to get married. But you know, you can't get married to two people. So that didn't ever work out. The first one, the one that lived in Springfield, who made the tennis racquet strings, we lost contact. I have no idea what's happened to him. But I've stayed friends with Dean, and he married a lovely girl, who I got to be very fond of. They live up in Maine, in the same town where L.L. Bean is, Rockport, [Freeport] I think. I had visited him up there, or rather, to be nice, I visited another faculty couple that invited me on his behalf, so I could have a place to stay, without going to a hotel, so it would be proper.
Knight: What about work? How did you think about your work? You told me you knew you would always get married. What did you think that your future in journalism would be?
Campbell: I didn't think about it. You know, whether I would go on with the journalism after I got into the family, I had no idea. I was maybe not very serious-minded or something. [Laughter.]
Knight: And yet you took your job very seriously.
Campbell: Oh, yes! It, at that time, was more important than any of the sort of half-love affairs I was having, thinking I was in love with a guy when I couldn't really be. I mean, he thought he was in love with me, but he couldn't really support me if we got married, one of them. The other one could have, but I just never could be absolutely sure. I couldn't see him enough, and my mother was sick. This was right before she died. I remember writing to both of them that we'd just have to cancel our alleged engagements, because I couldn't think of whether I loved anybody or anything, because Mother was too sick. So I just cancelled out all of the social engagements, and then I went to work in Oklahoma City after she died. With this one guy from Maine, I've kept up the friendship all through the years, because he was a very close friend to my two sisters, too, and that makes it a little bit different. He'd be seeing them, and I'd come out to take them to the theater when I was visiting them in New York or something, you know.
Knight: After your mother died, you told me the story of having to leave the Springfield paper. How did you decide on Oklahoma?
Campbell: Well, the managing editor there, Walter Harrison, I had met back in college, and had seen him a number of times since I'd been there in Oklahoma City with Mother. Not a number of times, but three or four. And he knew that I was around. Oh, there was another woman reporter—Virginia Nelson, on the paper. She covered things just about like I did, no difference, and a very good reporter. But anyway, he wrote me a letter and said that he understood that Mother was very critically ill, and that he didn't know whether I wanted to work while she was so ill, but that if I did, that he would like me to come see him, and if I didn't, I might come anyway, because if the opening was still possible, if she did die later, he wanted to be sure to stay in touch with me, or something like that. So I did go in to see him and made this temporary kind of thing. This was about the point where she was unconscious most all the time, and both my sisters and my brother and my dad were there. So I actually went to work before she died, but not more than a couple of weeks. That made it very nice, because then we got an apartment for Daddy and Jack and me, and Flo and Dot went on back East. And there was a new life.
Knight: So you lived with your dad and your brother when you lived in Oklahoma City.
Knight: Not the bachelorette any longer.
Campbell: That's right. No. Then one of my cousins, whose mother had died and who didn't really have a good place to stay for high school, she'd been going out in the country, where she was visiting some relatives, but she came and stayed with us. She went to the same high school Jack did, so that worked out fine. And thank goodness that we had that kind of a family, that we are still good friends. I got a letter from my brother just the other day. He'd driven back from California, where he'd been at the Huntington Library, writing a book, and on his way back, he said, "I stopped to see Marg." And I thought, gee, some people just don't know the joy of having had a continuing relationship with relatives. But we did, and we have.
Knight: How was the Daily Oklahoman? Was it much different from the Springfield paper? Did you feel comfortable? Did you like it better?
Campbell: Skipper was just as wonderful a managing editor as George Olds, I think. A very different paper, much bigger. But the fact that the owner, unlike Mr. Bixby, who was the owner and publisher of the Springfield paper, was very, very wealthy, a multi-millionaire, and who stuck his nose in wherever he took a notion, I mean, if I were really honest and told you what was the difference in the two papers. It didn't come out very often, as far as I was concerned. It did in other places.
I'll never forget, when we had the dust bowl, Irving Hearst, who was the city editor of our morning paper, the Daily Oklahoman, took off and went out to the part of Oklahoma where the dust was raging and rampant. The next thing we heard, he had dust pneumonia. That's what his mother or father or wife or somebody told us. I think he was married, though. But at any rate, he had to be brought back, and was very, very seriously ill. The Oklahoman never mentioned that there was such a thing as dust pneumonia. In fact, at one point, it quoted some doctor that nobody had ever heard of, saying there wasn't any such a thing. Well, Irving had come so near death with it, that, you know, maybe there isn't such a thing, but you can imagine what we all thought on the paper staff. But that was very rare, you know.
The only time it ever affected me was when the people who did bacon—Armours or Swifts or somebody else, but anyhow, there was a big—you don't call them factories, but at any rate, it was where they made all this stuff. They had a strike, and I went out to cover it, because it hadn't been very satisfactorily covered. There had been a bunch of letters to the editor and what have you. I discovered that the reason that they were still producing whatever they were producing—bacon or sausage or what have you—was because they had such a big staff of workers who had not gone out, and the reason, they'd been afraid to go out and try to cross the picket line every day and come in, so they were living inside. So that was why—well, no real damage to the company was being made by the strike. I wrote all this in a story, who did what on it, and I never had any trouble with anything like that before in Oklahoma City, and the story did not come out the next day. I eventually, of course, mentioned it to Skipper, and it was the only thing he ever was embarrassed to talk about.
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Knight: This is an ethical issue that you ran into.
Knight: It happened in Springfield once, too?
Campbell: Once. And it also was a strike. Here's one I can't immediately remember as to what the story was, but it didn't get printed. It was the same thing. Once in each town, and each in connection with a strike. One was important, the Oklahoman one. I mean, I'm sure it meant profits to people. The one in Springfield was not particularly important. I don't think it made any difference to anybody.
Knight: Did any other reporters on the paper have that experience? What did you do?
Campbell: Well, I told other people on the staff, and tried to get them excited about it, and everybody said, "You know good and well that they're not going to change whatever has had to have been the policy of the paper for a long time." So there was no use getting yourself all stirred up, and I never did do anything. I later joined the Guild, as soon as it was going, but at that time, no. I joined the Guild here in Washington, I guess.
Knight: There was no union or trade association activity at either of the papers?
Campbell: No. But the American Newspaper Guild is what I meant, that I did join as soon as I could. I can't remember the details at this moment, but they will come back to me. I don't really have any trouble remembering things; this is trouble at the moment, of whatever went on there at Springfield. As I say, it wasn't nearly as important as—I had a page-one story out of that, all these people locked in, you know, being fed, and all that kind of thing. I can't remember what it was in Springfield.
Knight: Did they ever talk to you about why they didn't run it, or it was just not run, and there was no mention made of it?
Campbell: I went to see the editor. [Laughter.] There was nothing until I did, but heaven knows, there are a lot of stories that you write that don't get in the papers just because they're not any good, or because the paper's too full. You can't use everything. And you don't worry about them, you know; they're not left out on any particular principle. But both of these cases had to be principles.
Knight: What else did George Olds teach you?
Campbell: He taught me that hate can turn into love. I thought I hated him, because he said if I didn't get there at eight o'clock, I'd be fired in two minutes, and I knew I would. And it's so unfair, so awful! And also because of his—well, I don't think I told you, or maybe I told you before, about how he taught me to be accurate. Oh, boy, that took about a year. I thought I was pretty darn accurate already, and he had thought I was enough that he had let me do the death notices and the stock market closings. But somewhere along the line, he said, "You really need to learn to memorize everything in here that might be important." And he said, "You don't do that. Nobody on the staff does." He said, "I'm going to send you. You have your evening free, you don't have any children or anything." He didn't care about my social life. [Laughter.] He said, "I want you—I'm going to send you to evening meetings, where people speak, like the University Club or the Rotary Club, and some of them will be worth stories in the paper, some won't. At the moment, half the time, the morning paper doesn't cover them, because they aren't usually worth anything from a news standpoint. But they are from your learning standpoint. So anything that you can quote in direct quotes, you can get in the paper. But anything you cannot, you can't say, 'Dr. James Jones told the Kiwanis Club last night that the United States would run into trouble if it did so and so.' You can't say that. It has to be direct quotes."
So the first week, I got through about one paragraph every night that I could know by heart, and I would write a little story. And if it was news of any kind, they'd print it, and if it wasn't, George would talk to me about it, and be proud that I was doing better. Well, I thought I was doing terribly. But I kept at it. Before we got through, I had been able to write a news story and get it published—it happened to be worth printing—and I had written a whole column, all in direct quotes. [Laughter.] But that did more for me, you know. I just didn't have to worry, really, about whether I could remember things or not. By that time, I knew I could remember things and put the quotes around them. Once in a while, I didn't remember exactly everything, and I didn't use it. Of course, you don't need to most of the time; he gives you a copy of his speech. [Laughter.] But that was another thing with George, that every time I didn't get to go to a movie and had to go to some fool convention of the podiatrists, I was pretty mad at him, but I did find out,
when it turned over in my mind, that I was thinking of him so fondly, what a really great guy, and how much he meant to me, and I didn't hate him at all. It helped me with a couple of my personal relationships, too, where I thought I hated people. Once you realize that you can think you hate people and realize you don't, then you can set about trying to change any of these other hates. So at the moment, I don't hate anybody.
Knight: What else did you learn from him?
Campbell: Well, I learned what's important in—how do I put it?—in a convention or even a University Club meeting. Actually, I learned that you could stay a whole hour and write it all down, and none of it's important for the rest of the people in the world. It's directed at the people who are in that room. And I also—oh, I know. This is different, but that's one of the ones that I learned, but this one, I think it was when I was in Oklahoma City that I realized how valuable it was. It has been the most important thing in almost all the other jobs that I've had, except for newspaper writing, and that was if you went to cover a convention, a special kind of convention, that everybody couldn't understand, and everybody didn't get to go to them, that there are some of them that are very important to the public, but they have to be translated. And you are the person who has to translate, and you have to know what that stupid doctor up there is talking about when he uses language that you've never heard before. So it really means your vocabulary increases, and it means that if you're going to cover a medical convention—and that's where I realized it most—you have a read a lot, before the convention comes, in medical journals, so you do get familiar with the terms that they use, so that you can translate them into something that somebody can understand. If you, with a college education, and a few experiences thrown in besides, can't understand something a man says up on the floor, then he's wrong and you're right, and you've got to find out what to say, so that people who are not doctors can understand. And whether it's doctors or whatever it is.
I remember when I went to work for Senator A.S. "Mike" Monroney as press secretary, he said, "I don't handle press secretary's job like most senators do. The main thing I want to do is get to the people of Oklahoma what's going on in Washington." He said, "All the departments up here sent out press releases all the time, but the editors of Oklahoma papers get them, and they have no idea what to do with them, except put them in the wastebasket, because they're not written in a way that they can understand them, and they know their readers wouldn't. So I want you to send out to all the weeklies, as well as the dailies, the dailies will probably have had it already because of the wire service, but anything that's important that comes to us from Agriculture, from Treasury, or anywhere, you translate it and send it, for me, to the people and these editors." And my goodness, it didn't necessarily mean that Mike Monroney's name got used as much as a lot of senators who were running for office would think they'd like to have their names used, but it certainly—well, it convinced the editors. He got more editor friends out of it, so that would have been a political plus. But the main thing was what he was after in the first place, that farmers in Oklahoma would know what the Agriculture Department was doing! So that's the same thing, exactly, as my medical convention story.
Knight: It sounds like Sigrid Arne was right about George Olds.
Campbell: Being the best teacher.
Knight: Did you stay in contact with her and give her a hard time?
Campbell: Oh, I gave her a hard time! But I also was in contact with her when my kids went to college. She lived in Cleveland, and Vicki, the last one to go to college, went to Ohio Wesleyan, which was in Delaware, not too many miles. It was as easy for me to come back to Cleveland on big highways as it was to go down through Columbus. So I usually spent a night with her. I was able to tell her, you know, how much I had appreciated her telling me what she did about George Olds, and whatever she had done, (she never admitted she did anything, about helping me get a job with him) because I had a job. I had a job with the Austin American—I mean, at the time I got this letter.
Knight: I didn't know that.
Campbell: I didn't say that. I said, "Have other offer. How much?"
Knight: So you really did have another offer.
Campbell: I really had another offer, also for $25 a week, from Charlie somebody, who had come up to the journalism school. He had gone there. I guess they didn't have a journalism school then, but at least he had gone to the university. He came up to look over the current crop that was getting out. I think the Austin American, of course, it's in a college town, too, you know, was about the same size paper, about the same kind of circulation as the Springfield paper was. And he may have been very good, you know, I don't know, but I met him, and I liked him, and I appreciated his offer, but I had it up in the air. I told him I'd let him know by such and such a time. When this came, I let him know I couldn't come, and I went to Springfield.
Knight: Who were some of the reporters whose work you admired at that time? You said Sigrid Arne, but were there others?
Campbell: Dorothy Thompson. Of course, she was writing, at that time, for a much more difficult audience than Sigrid was, because she was older. She was on the New York Herald Tribune, and had been sent to France and Germany and everywhere, practically, and had written columns about all those places. This was before the Second World War.
Let's see. Who else? Well, when I was in O.U., we each had to subscribe, in journalism school, to a newspaper personally, you know, pay for it and get it yourself. I took the Baltimore Sun, which, at that time, was a really great paper. Well, it has been most of its life. I don't think it's been as good lately as it used to be. Joe was on it from 1943-1950. I got interested in 1930 in Henry Mencken. Later on, I lost my interest in him. He became so much more conservative as he grew older, and quirky.
Let's see. I was trying to think of men reporters. There were several that I really admired. I guess Walter Lippman. But I'm not telling you, and I guess I haven't thought about this enough—oh, yes, I have another one, Tom Stokes. Are you aware of him? He worked on the paper here. Well, he was on the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain staff, but we saw his column in the Washington Daily News. He wrote a book, a wonderful book, on what should be watched over in the sense of our water and our forests and our land, a marvelous book, and died too soon. His wife is 89, and I see her. One of my sons is very crazy about her, and she about him. We always go to her birthday party at the Cosmos Club. [Laughter.] Let's see. I guess maybe he was my favorite.
Knight: When you admire something about somebody else's reporting, what is it that you find most compelling about other people's work?
Campbell: One, a feeling that it's true. I think you always get that feeling about something, whether it is or isn't. Whether it's true or not. The second thing is style—very close is vocabulary. I love somebody who can write and really use the English language, and some of the columnists we've had have been able to do that. I don't think there are as many now as there used to be. I worry a little bit about, well, these people who go on television—and I watch the shows with great interest, like Paul Duke—he has one every Friday night, and four other people with him.
Knight: I've done some reading about women in journalism, and the '20s and early '30s were kind of characterized by the young girl reporter who would go out and do pranks. What was your feeling about those people? They were your contemporaries.
Campbell: Oh, well, I was it.
Knight: Were you identified as one of those?
Campbell: Well, everybody thought that girl reporters were stunt reporters, and that was what most editors—I started to tell you about being on the Bartlesville paper, when I was between college years.
Knight: The hitchhiking thing.
Campbell: The hitchhiking thing. Well, that was that kind of thing.
Campbell: And then when I got on the Springfield paper, of course, they had a great deal more sense to them than most of the stunt things—the one with the diet, because we did follow up with the fact that you wouldn't have enough red blood corpuscles, and that the salaries ought to be raised. And the same way, there was a point to the people that I went to call on in the evenings. But then I also—where was I, in Springfield or Oklahoma City?—Oklahoma City, I believe, I ran an engine, a train engine, got a picture of me sitting up there, a big old engine. It was in Springfield, I guess, though, that I flew a plane. That's kind of crazy stuff, but it was interesting to do, and I actually did fly the plane. I'd been interested in aviation. I turned out to be aviation editor of the paper, met Lindbergh and Anne. [Laughter.] But those were mainly the people's ideas, that girl reporters—never women reporters, and never men, or never boy—the girl reporters did all these crazy things and got their pictures taken doing it. I've done quite a lot. [Laughter.]
Knight: Did you think of yourself as one of those?
Campbell: Oh, no, but I knew that people did, and I did if they did. I wasn't trying to be moralistic about what people should think. If I could entertain them, I did. There were others that I'm not thinking of. A lot of these I haven't thought of for years until—I may think of some others.
No, it wasn't exactly that, but I did go on a TWA plane, a Ford tri-motor, that's how old-fashioned it was, to fly from—it didn't come by Springfield yet, it did a little bit later; we were right in the middle of negotiating at that time, but anyhow, I went to St. Louis some way, either by car or by train, and got on a plane up there for New York. I was seated right next to Irene Rich. I don't know whether
you ever heard of her or not; she was one of the real stars of the movies at that time, like Gloria Swanson and like that. Very pretty. And we talked, and we went a little ways, and she said, "Do you like buttermilk?"
"I love it. Nobody's mentioned buttermilk to me for years, but I do like it very much."
And she said, "Do you like pumpkin pie?" "I really do. It's one of my favorites, not just Thanksgiving, other times, too."
She said, "Well, when you get off at the next airport with me [because they had to have longer stops at airports then, and you had to wait quite a little while], we'll go in and get some pumpkin pie and buttermilk." Well, sure enough, all the way across the country, I had pumpkin pie and buttermilk at every airport with Irene Rich, the movie star. [Laughter.] I think I used that in a column some time later on. It certainly wasn't a news story, but it was a kind of interesting thing to have happen.
I guess you'll have to think of some more questions. But there's one about the silly—but the overall picture is what you're really interested in, I guess, and I had wanted very much to mention it to you, because I thought about it this morning, or yesterday, that at the time I went into the business, the majority of people, I think—I never knew—thought of girl reporters as sob sisters. That was the word that often was used. But they also—I don't think I ever had to do anything sobby, but it went also for these unusual kinds of things, you know.
Let's see. What else did I drive besides an engine and an airplane?
Knight: But it sounds to me that even though people thought of you as doing those things, you also had a lot of other story responsibilities that weren't of that kind of story.
Campbell: The majority of my work was other work.
Knight: But the perception by the public about women reporters, you think?
Campbell: I think I helped change it, other people and I. This girl Virginia Nelson, I thought of, who worked at the Daily Oklahoman, she did the same thing I did. She was very good at the stunt stuff, too, but she also could write a serious story as well as anybody.
Knight: And you were given the opportunity.
Campbell: And she was given the opportunity,too. Now, some people have told me—you asked me this, I guess, and I don't remember answering—that they were not permitted to cover those serious stories on the paper, that the only way they could do one was to do something that would cause a kind of sensation. But I never had that attitude toward me. I mean, they thought of these things for me to do, or sometimes I thought of them to do. The ride in the airplane was my own idea. [Laughter.] Cliff Stanley, my teacher. I didn't have a regular course and lessons in an airplane, but I think he gave me about a half an hour several times before I actually did it by myself. I don't mean that I did it by myself; there was somebody else in the plane, dual controls. I didn't have to have them used, but it was there. I was safe enough.
Knight: We'll finish up for today, and I'll start with the AP next time.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Campbell: —Sigrid Arne met the train, and I expected her to reach up to get my suitcase, she said to me, "Do you know 'Silent Night?'" And I broke out laughing, wondering why it mattered at that particular time in the world, the 21st of December, 1936. [Laughter.] And I said, "Everybody knows 'Silent Night.' Why?"
She said, "You're going to sing it at the White House tonight."
And I said, "Look, I've never even been at the White House." [Laughter.]
And she said, "That doesn't matter." By this time, I had gotten off and gotten the luggage. She had gotten my luggage, and we'd arranged for others to be put in a car.
Anyhow, she said, "I have to take you to the office right away, because you're due. This is your first day at work." [Laughter.] I hadn't thought I had to work that first day. She said, "You're supposed to be there at eight o'clock, and it's already 8:15." So we trooped off to the office.
When we got up there, she took me around the rim. The AP, at that time, probably all the time, had a circular spot, and various editors at various places on the rim. The first one that I met was the day editor, Chris. Then she said, "And I would also like you to meet the assistant day editor, Joe Short."
And I said, "Hello, how do you do?"
And he said, "Hello, how do you do?"
And then I walked on around with her. And she said, "And this is Ray Crowley, the night editor. Our new' reporter, Beth Campbell."
And he said, "Oh, I'm awfully glad you came in. I want a night lead on the Gridiron Widows' story by two o'clock." And he said, "So you'll have to—" You know.
I said, "You mean is this what I'm covering?"
He said, "Tonight they're having a dinner at the White House." I had heard of the Gridiron Club, but I really didn't know the Gridiron Widows. [Laughter.]
As we walked on, Sigrid whispered to me that those were the wives of the Gridiron members, and because Mrs. Roosevelt was now one, she had invited them to come to the White House for the first time. So that was where I was going to sing "Silent Night." And since they had asked the Washington Press Club—then the Women's National Press Club—to be in charge of this program, and since they were going to
have me be a member, I had time to sing things. [Laughter.] I was going to be in it. So she said, "I'll tell you more later." So we met the rest of the people.
Then when I did actually sit down, I wanted to relax. You know, I'd been on the train, I'd gotten up in a hurry to get straight and ready to get off, and all this. I suddenly remembered that the belt— I'd sent my trunk out to her apartment, at her suggestion, by cab, when we came to the office, because we had to hurry so fast, and I remembered that the belt to the evening dress that I would have to wear to go to the White House that night, when she told me we had to wear evening dresses, was in the trunk and not in my luggage. I began to figure out how I was going to get home and get dressed and all that sort of thing.
But anyway, in the meantime, she also told me about what the Gridiron Widows were and who would be at this party and what we did to sing "Silent Night," where you marched and who with and so on. So that was the beginning of my social life—very quickly, you see, in Washington.
Although the Joe Short part started at the very beginning, I couldn't do anything about it that night; neither could he. But at any rate, very soon thereafter, he did ask me for dates, but he always asked on the wrong day, when I had a date with somebody else. Oh, and I liked him very much. But finally, February was coming. See, I came December 21st. He asked me out on nights when I couldn't go, whatever it was we were supposed to go to, which was just great, and I couldn't go. Something happened at the office, I think.
So then, two days later, I had a free time, and I asked him if he possibly had a free time, since I'd always had to say no. And fortunately, he was free. But that was unfortunate, too, because all during our married life, he'd say to other people, "Beth asked me to marry her. She asked me for the first date, as a matter of fact." [Laughter.] Oh, he was wonderful.
Also, what I had come for, the reason they wanted me to get there as fast as I could, in spite of the Times' Christmas Baby, which I'd left at home, I had to know all the people. Byron Price, who, the next week, was going to New York to be the assistant to Kent Cooper, the editor of Associated Press, he was a bureau chief at that time, and he called me in to welcome me and to say, "Now, I know it's going to be difficult for you to handle, since we have only so many tickets, we're giving you one for the principal platform for the inauguration, where all the Supreme Court justices and their wives, senators and their wives, friends of the Roosevelts and their wives. So you'll have to know them somehow before the 20th of January." [Laughter.] That's pretty close, pretty quick. I didn't know whether I could do it or not, but he said, "I can help you to this extent. I'm having a party. People have been entertaining me a lot, preparatory to my going to New York, and so I'm having a party on New Year's Eve at the Willard. Almost all of the people you'll need to know on that platform are going to be there. So if you will come early, you can stand behind Priscilla and me, really behind the announcer, so the names will be plain to you, and hear everybody introduced, and take a good look at them. It doesn't matter whether you speak to them or not, if you see them." So that is how I started to prepare for my first principal assignment. Of course, I'd done Gridiron Widows. [Laughter.] At any rate, it was true! All these big-shots came through that receiving line to tell Byron and Priscilla goodbye, and I was trying to memorize the faces and the names.
The thing that really knocked me for a loop was that the next morning, on Sunday, as I was going down to the office to see if I had had any mail or
something—I didn't have to work that Sunday; I had already written stuff from the night before—a big man was walking toward me as I was walking down the block between 12th and 13th on Pennsylvania, just a block from my office, also just a half a block from the post office, and as I passed this man, he said, "Hello, Beth, how are you today?" You know, this man I think I'd never seen before in my life. I, of course, said a very friendly "hello." And fortunately, I figured out, before I was past him, that he was the postmaster general. [Laughter.] And he, of course, did have this reputation for knowing everybody's name the first time he heard it. I was knocked out. [Laughter.]
Then on the 20th, when I got up, the AP had not only given me my ticket to this particular balcony overlooking the main platform, but I had a ticket to get into the Senate, so I could go to the press gallery and write a story, I had one to take a taxi that would get me past the police, to get down in front of the White House to watch the parade when it came by. I had one to get into the White House to a tea at five o'clock, the White House proper. Someone gave me the idea that if I went across on the little car in the basement to the Senate Office Building, that a streetcar went by over there that I could get, that would take me down to Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House, where the parade could be seen. So I did that. But there wasn't any bus coming or any streetcar, and it was beginning to rain, and the taxi came by, and I remembered that I had something to help me get on taxis. Not the money, but something else. So I called him and got in, and he was very pleasant, but when I reached for this thing to show him, I said, "I don't have it. I don't know where it went."
Well, I don't need to give you the whole story, but when the rain started, I had started taking my notes, and as soon as I finished a page, I stuck it in the envelope that they had given me, a big, heavy envelope [with all the tickets in it]. And when nobody was talking or doing anything, I had looked down on both sides, where I was standing. It wasn't on the floor around me. I had asked all the people anywhere around me; nobody had seen it. Nobody had seen anybody take it. We were all in there crushed tight together. At any rate, he [the taxi driver] said, "Don't worry about it, lady. Don't look for it anymore. I had an arrangement with a photographer to meet him here at six o'clock this morning, and I came and I waited for over an hour, and he never came. So then I thought maybe it was wrong, and I went to the other entrances, and I came back and waited again. But I've given up on him now, by this time." It was noon. Everybody was going into the Capitol for lunches and things, but me and the cab driver. [Laughter.] So he said, "I'll just use these things." He gave me a thing to put in the window that let you go through the police line. So he did, and I got down and got a fine seat on the front row, right directly across from the President and Mrs. Roosevelt.
In their box, they had built a copy of the Hermitage from Tennessee, and they had various members of the Cabinet and friends and so forth there, and friends of Mrs. Roosevelt. One of the best stories I got from picking out people from this crowd on the inaugural platform. When it started to rain, Mrs. Roosevelt rushed from her place of honor to the edge of the platform and waved at two women who were standing over there in the rain, and had them come up, and had somebody help them to get up on the big platform where she was, and took them back and gave them seats. They were two women that she'd been in a school with—Todd Hunter, I believe it was—in New York City. That was typical of Mrs. Roosevelt, of course. It was the first time I'd gotten to see her in operation.
Then there were a lot of other people, of course, that were very interesting, that I'd seen that day. And watching across the street was fun, except when I
realized that I had to go into the press room over there, which was in a separate building, on the west side of the White House, to get the telephone and call in all the stuff I had up til then from the parade, and how was I going to do it? Well, it was raining, raining, and I had what we called then yellow slickers, kind of stiff things. Finally, when the time came that I just had to get over there and get to a telephone, I got across the street all right in between parade performances that were moving along, and started climbing the fence, not right where the Roosevelts were, but down a few feet, but, still, you couldn't get over the regular White House fence. It had things in the top that would stick holes in you if you went on top of them. But they had built this Hermitage thing, and there was a place, although it was high, and climbing it was something for me, at my height. But at any rate, I did. I remember thinking, as I climbed, "Well, this is my 20th or 22nd day with the AP, and they'll find out they have to buy me a raincoat." [Laughter.] I had paint from the Hermitage all over this yellow slicker. But I did get on over the other side, and as I went back to follow the sidewalk up to the White House, to get over to the press room, you go toward the front door for a while, and someone from behind caught up with me and said, "Aren't you Beth Campbell?"
I said, "Yes." And I said, "You're—" I've forgot now his name, but he was the lieutenant governor of Oklahoma. He said that the governor couldn't come, and they sent him to represent the state, and he wanted me to go in to the reception with him. I said, "Well, I'm awfully sorry, but I'm not invited until 5:00, and you apparently are invited to the four o'clock session."
He said, "Come right along with me. I'm the governor of Oklahoma. We'll go in now."
I said, "I think I'd rather go on over and write my story."
No, he just took hold of my arm and led me up the steps. Ray—well, the chief usher was there. By this time, I knew him; I'd been to the White House a good many times. When the visiting lieutenant governor said he was bringing me as his guest, he said, "We don't have guests. I'm sure Miss Campbell has an invitation."
And I said, "Yes, but it's lost, and it's not until the five o'clock thing."
And he said, "Well, I'll see about that before five o'clock, but you can't go in now." The [lieutenant] governor was furious. Well, I went on over to the place and dictated my story, came back at five o'clock, and sure enough, he'd checked up, and I was on the list, and it was all right. I got in there.
So that was the day that President Roosevelt was inaugurated for the second time, and I had nothing to do with his speech. I guess you'd say that was the social side. [Laughter.] I covered lots more important things later on. Is that what you wanted to know?
Knight: Yes. When you were at the Daily Oklahoman and Springfield, you said you made it a point never to date men at the office. Obviously, you—
Campbell: I changed that. [Laughter.]
Knight: What happened?
Campbell: Well, he was just very special. You know, sometimes you can just look at somebody and know they're the kind of person you like and that you have a lot in
common with. From that very day, he felt the same way I did. I went through a lot of foolishness when he asked me to marry him in late February. I hadn't really known him very long, and I said, "That's an insult." He never got over that either; he reminded me of that.
He said, "What do you mean, an insult? That's the greatest compliment I've ever paid anybody!"
I said, "But you don't know me well enough." [Laughter.]
Anyway, time went on, and Mrs. Roosevelt had a party at the White House for the press, the first time there had been one, so I heard from people who had been here longer. Later, she had one every year. But at any rate, Joe and I both got invitations to bring guests. We both were titled, as correspondents. So I said, "This is just too wonderful. We can each take somebody else." Well, no, we didn't want to take anybody else. Well, I said, "You know, there are just so many people who have never been in the White House, and certainly never to a party. I think we ought to." Well, I won the argument, but it was foolishness, because I invited a very attractive lawyer whom I'd met, and who had asked me for various dates. And he invited a girl named Jeanette somebody, who was very attractive, and I just couldn't even have any fun at all, because every time I saw,them go by dancing, I was so jealous. I'd never been jealous before in my life, not really. But somehow, I mean, this is part of the special thing about Joe Short and me, I couldn't stand it. When we did dance together—he finally broke down a long time later, and came over and asked me to dance—he asked if he could take me out for supper or something after I got home. I said yes, yes, yes.
So after this other guy took me home, I had a late date. That's when the date is in this ring. [Laughter.]
Knight: You said yes.
Campbell: I said yes. I decided it wasn't as big an insult as I thought. [Laughter.]
Knight: When was that?
Campbell: That was in May.
Knight: So there were several months in there.
Campbell: Actually, we were married on the day after Christmas, the 26th of December, which was a year and five days from the time I had arrived in Washington.
Knight: Did you and he ever talk about your working situation, whether you would continue to work?
Campbell: Oh, sure, we did talk about it, but it was great, because I'd heard so many single girls who were working, and had been working like I had, for—let's see, I'd gone to work in 1929, and this was '36, '37. Apparently they'd had great trouble with their husbands-to-be, who didn't want them to work after they were married. But we talked about it. I can't remember there even being an argument. It seemed sensible to both of us. Of course, we didn't make an awful lot of money. He made $5 a week more than I did, but at any rate, we should work for a while, but not longer than three years. We thought we'd better put a limit on it, which we did. And three years from then, I resigned.
Knight: That was mutual.
Knight: What was the reason?
Campbell: Well, just that we wouldn't plan to have a baby for three years, to have me have that much longer a very exciting job which I was enjoying. And also, that we would earn some more money. So I don't know when we decided that, but it was before we were married in December of '37. We had Sandy almost immediately. So it worked out just like we'd planned. Also, we had discussed the work at the apartment. He suggested that as long as I had to work a full day and he had to work a full day, and we couldn't afford to eat out all the time, that we'd have to take turns with dinners—not all the time, we could eat out some of the time—and that we also would take turns with the cleaning up after meals and that kind of thing. But I had already gotten a wonderful woman for one half-day a week for cleaning, and we would keep her. Elizabeth—oh, she was great. So all that was really solved before we were married. [Laughter.]
To talk about social things, I don't know how long it was after we were married that we had a party for John Joseph Matthews, who had written a book called Wakunta, which had won one of the Pulitzer Prizes for literature that year. He was the president of the Osage Nation Indian tribe, and he also was a brilliant person, delightful. He had gone to Oxford, and had been studying right before he came to Washington, in Germany, at the university in Bonn. So I had invited him to come to our apartment for a party to meet our friends and his old friends. Walker Stone had also come from Pahaska, which was 25 miles from Bartlesville, my home town. I've forgotten how I knew Joe [Matthews], but I did, and liked him tremendously, and wanted everybody to know him.
But this was our first party, and so many people had given us parties at the time we were married, that we had a lot of people to invite. That particular night, I remember, we had forty. So at some point, I realized that it was just too late, that people ought to go home. Well, there was an interesting story. [Laughter.] Talk about arrangements between husbands and wives, about when you have a two-newspaperman family! In Washington at that time, parties were almost all afternoon parties, 4:00 to 6:00, but they never started til 5:00; they always were 5:00 to 7:00. So Joe, who hadn't given any parties, asked me, and I said, "That's what everybody told me, that it would be really 5:00 to 7:00."
So we'd been struggling along, both of us, cleaning up the apartment. At one point, I was in the kitchen making hors d'oeuvres, little sandwiches or something, and he was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor, probably, and I remember he had on an undershirt and shorts. I had on a little bit more for the kitchen, but we were both just really hurrying and paying attention to nothing else. And suddenly, a door banged at four o'clock exactly! Well, I grabbed something and put it around me, and went to the door, and there was Joe. You know, where he came from, if the party was at 4:00 and you were the guest of honor, you went then! Well, I, of course, had him in, had him sit down, introduced him. First I talked to him for a while, then Joe came out, and I introduced them, and I went back to see what needed to be finished in the bathroom, and found out that Joe had even done some of the stuff in the kitchen.
Then the two of us had this wonderful time with this fascinating man, you know, for an hour before anybody else came. [Laughter.] But very many interesting people came after that, and when they got there, they would not leave. Finally, it was about 10:30 or 11:00, and Walker Stone said, "Beth, you've got to do something to get people out of here. The party should have been over hours ago." And he said, "I'm as bad as any of the rest, but at least I didn't bring my supper. Some of them have been sneaking off into the bedroom in there and eating." [Laughter.]
I said, "I didn't see how anybody could eat any more than these little tidbits I've been putting out. You have no idea."
He said, "Of course, so and so and so and so have gone out to dinner and come back." Well, that was brand-new to me, too. [Laughter.] In the society where I came from, you didn't do that—in Oklahoma or Springfield. But at any rate, it was true; a lot of people had. So eventually, though, they went home.
Knight: I was going to ask about your hours. How did this work out?
Campbell: Well, it worked out fine, mainly because he [Joe] was flexible, though, because he had to start on the day desk at seven o'clock in the morning, and go through til 3:30 in the afternoon. I was supposed to go in about 9:00 and stay til about 6:30 in the afternoon. So that was not working at all. If we had a date, he got sleepy, and I expect he did go to sleep sometimes; I don't remember. But at any rate, what he then decided to do was to go home as soon as he got off, and go to sleep, and then pick me up at my apartment. [Tape interruption.]
Knight: We were talking about hours. He had decided that the best thing for him to do was to go home and sleep.
Campbell: That's right, and then come and pick me up. That way we were able to have normal, ordinary dates, except that he was so sleepy in places. I'll never forget, one time we went someplace that lasted a long, long time, and it was 1:30 a.m. when I got home. The next day was Sunday. So we had a date for four o'clock in the afternoon, and he said, "I'll call you before I come over," because I had a reputation for sleeping indefinitely. So, sure enough, at four o'clock, he called, and I thought I got up. [Laughter.] But the next thing I knew, there was pounding on my door. I lived in what I called "the other world," the first apartment I had up here, where you couldn't tell whether it was sunny or raining outside, the buildings were so close together.
Knight: Where did you live?
Campbell: On Lamont Street. As I say, a little apartment on the second floor, which was "the other world." But it worked fine until I found a much better one, which was so good that we both kept it after we were married.
But anyway, there was Joe, yelling, when hitting the door didn't do any good, and I told him as soon as I was dressed, I would come open the door. So I quick, quick, quick, got dressed. He said, "I called you at four o'clock." Well, I just had lost it completely, didn't know I'd ever been awake. But at any rate, most of the time, this system worked out very well, so that in spite of our strange hours, this went on after we were married.
Knight: You were on the same schedule?
Campbell: Yes. Well, the kind of things that were more likely to be my stories, although there wasn't any rule, particularly, about what stories I got and which ones I didn't, they were apt to be noon or afternoon, whereas he often had stuff—well, getting the report started first thing in the morning, you know. Somebody just got killed or the news came about something Congress had done something and it hadn't slipped out yet. [Laughter.]
Knight: The hours were fairly regular, though?
Knight: You weren't called upon to do a lot of overtime?
Campbell: Oh, not like I had been. Not 80 hours a week, like I had sometimes in Springfield, or 70, like in Oklahoma City. It was really generally from 9:00 to 6:30, but if there was something like the King and Queen, I worked two days and a night without a stop on that, when they came over the first time. Well, a number of other things—I can't remember what they were. I remember. Yes, I did a story on the King who didn't stay King, who married Wallace Simpson. They had been scheduled to come over, the first time since he had withdrawn as King, and they'd been living in Paris, somewhere in France, but the French Embassy had announced that they were coming to visit Washington for the first time, and that there would be a press conference to arrange their schedule and so forth. So I was assigned to keep up with that, and I did, except that it was quite evident after at least a couple of press conferences, that I don't remember the details of this, and I don't want to get into any trouble about it, because I don't have any of the clippings. Some people keep all their clippings and have a scrapbook, but I don't. So I couldn't swear to it, but I know that there was something about whoever was financing this trip, some big firm in France, and so it was part of the stuff that came out at the press conference, and all of us wrote it and so forth. Well, somehow they cancelled that trip. I've forgotten how much longer it was before they announced another one, and I also was assigned to cover that. I remember that they came to a Women's Press Club function that we'd arranged for them at the Willard Hotel, and I think that was where I interviewed both of them. That's about all I remember.
Knight: How long did you actually work with your husband at the AP? He went on to another job. How long were you there together?
Campbell: He stayed there, although he was sent with the President whenever he went out of town, as long as I was there.
Knight: Did that ever cause any problems, or did you like that?
Campbell: Well, I don't know. I remember deciding that I thought he ought to see if he couldn't stop it sometime, so I got some statistics; I made my own, of course. But it figured out that although he never was away for long, except one trip when he went to the Galapagos Islands—-well, he didn't go there, but the President did, and he had to go to Panama, he and the two other Washington newsmen who covered that, AP, UP, and INS—at that time, it was weeks, four, maybe, but all the other times were short. They were normally weekends, long weekends. Three nights, four nights, and once in a while, it would be once across the country. He'd [FDR] go to annihilate sortie senator who was running, and who he didn't want to get elected again or something. Anyway, it was the same as if he had gone on a trip that was as long as the nights that I had counted up; it would have been a fourth of the year, three months. And when I got my statistics all ready, I decided not to present them,
because a fourth of a year, if they changed it and he was gone that long, it would have been so much worse than having these short trips. This was after the children were born, as well as before, to have him just be gone on Friday and Saturday nights, or Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights was something that could be borne, if it didn't happen every single weekend, which it did sometimes. But that other thing I could remember, oh, dear, that seemed so long when he was gone—four or five or eight weeks or seven, whatever it was. So I didn't argue about that. [Laughter.]
Knight: Did you have assignments that would take you out of town?
Campbell: Occasionally, but very good luck with them, because one of them, for instance, I went to Swampscott, Massachusetts, to make a speech to the Theta Sigma Phi convention, which was being held there. I realized that I was going up past Hyde Park, and Joe was at Hyde Park that weekend with the President at the Nelson House in Poughkeepsie. So I wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt and asked if I could do a story about what her whole summer was like. I knew that we were not supposed to [the people in the press conference, we had shut down for the summer] try to cover her every time she moved in the summer, but wasn't it possible for a feature story just on what her summer was like, and could I come and see her and get one. Yes, indeed, could I come to lunch on such and such a day. I told her about the weekend I was going to be up there.
Well, sure enough, it was just fine. I had my expenses paid for the speech I was making, and I came back to Poughkeepsie. Joe wasn't there. None of the reporters were there; they'd gone out to the big house to interview FDR. So I went on out to her house, got a taxicab, and did my interview with her, and came back to the hotel, and they still weren't there. So I sat down, borrowed a typewriter from Western Union, because Joe had taken his with him, and wrote a story about my talk with her, which turned out to be a very good story, because she revealed that the King and Queen—well, first, there were a number of other royalty who were coming over. Princess Martha of Norway and her husband. I've forgotten titles and names. But at any rate, there was another couple coming, and then the King and Queen of England, and for all three of them, she had decided to have hot dogs up at Hyde Park the first night they came. Then they were bringing them down to Washington to the White House for the big formal things. Well, you know, I said, "Mrs. Roosevelt, that hasn't been in the papers, about the hot dogs."
"Well," she said, "I haven't really given it out, because I've had a little trouble with my mother-in-law about it. She said, 'Eleanor, if you must have something of that size and shape, couldn't it be little pig sausages?'" [Laughter.]
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Knight: So some of these trips worked out. It sounds like you were very busy.
Campbell: Oh, heavens!
Knight: And then when you had time together, what would you do?
Campbell: Well, when I went back to the hotel, Joe was there, and he wanted to know everything I had done, and I wanted to know everything he had done, and he said, "We've been invited to go out swimming," It was at Nancy Cook's cottage, I think, not Mrs. R's at that time. "At such and such a time, the bus is going to take us." So I had to hurry and find swimming clothes that, fortunately, I had brought. And off we went down and got on the bus.
Campbell: We got on the bus, and Doris Fleeson was the only other woman who was covering the President that weekend on that particular trip, and she was on the bus. We had hardly gotten on before someone came to the door of the bus and said, "Mrs. Fleeson is wanted by Western Union," so she went down and went inside, and asked the bus, before she left, to wait for her. When she came back, she went up and down the whole aisle of the bus, and spoke to everybody else except us. Joe and I were sitting together, naturally. But both of us knew her very well, you know, and I wondered what in the world was going on.
So we went on out to the swimming pool, and when we went over, the only three of us went to the ladies' changing room were Doris, Mrs. Roosevelt, and me. Almost the first thing Doris said to Mrs. Roosevelt was, "Well, I hope you saw the morning papers from almost everywhere, and saw that Beth here wrote a story that told about the big fight you had with your mother-in-law." I had not done any such thing. I'll tell you in a minute what I did do. She said, "I'm sure it must have been very irritating." She said, "My paper didn't carry it, because they called me. I got a call-back on it, wanting to know why I hadn't had the story." Well, she said, "Why did you do that?" or something like that, to Mrs. Roosevelt.
And Mrs. Roosevelt said—and I didn't even know she liked me. We never were close personal friends at all, but she said to Doris, "Well, you know, I'm sure Beth wrote just what I told her." And she said, "I didn't say there had been a fight. Did you say there had been a fight, Beth?"
I said, "No."
And she said, "What I did say was that my mother-in-law thought we should have little pig sausages, and not hot dogs. Did you write that?"
And I said, "Yes."
And she said, "Well, I don't know why I should be so angry with Beth, Doris," and went ahead and put her bathing suit on, and off we all went to swim.
The next day, early, the President's party was leaving Hyde Park, where the train came through, to go on to the West Coast, and then on this trip, to the Galapagos Islands eventually. It was going first to the northwest, to Montana, Washington, then down all of the West Coast, and get on a U.S. destroyer at Los Angeles, and ship off down to the Galapagos Islands. But there was room on the train for me to go as far as Gettysburg, and then get a bus from there to Washington. I wanted to stay with Joe as long as I could, so that's what I did.
We went in to breakfast pretty early, and Marv McIntyre, who was appointments secretary, I think, then, but he was acting as press secretary on this particular trip, he was a very good friend of both of us, particularly Joe. He was very cool as we walked into the diner, you know, spoke, but as if we barely knew each other. Pretty soon, Joe got up and went over to him and said, "Marv, what in the world is wrong with you? We've known each other for six or eight years [or whatever it was], and you've never talked to me like that before. Something's wrong."
Well, Marv said, "I guess you know when Doris came back to the bus yesterday, she told everybody that Beth had broken the rule about not scooping other people in the White House press team."
And Joe said, "Well, she wasn't with us. I didn't see her until six o'clock or something."
"Well, Doris said that she had broken the rule and had scooped everybody." And they did have an arrangement on these trips, apparently, that if somebody got missed or something, that they'd pull them back in. Having it said to them in that way, apparently, had irritated a lot of people, so they had decided that they'd get even with Joe, because they had no way to get even with me particularly. He would just be excluded from all the stories that they could keep him out of. Marv said, "You know that I wouldn't have liked that. Of course, I'm not going to keep you out of anything, but you might as well be warned that a lot of people are going to try to."
Well, Joe went back to his—he and these two other wire service people had a parlor together, a drawing room. They were awake by that time, and they didn't speak to him. [Laughter.] And they'd been going on these trips for ages and things like that. But anyway, that's the only time that anything like this ever happened, that I ever knew it happened, before and after I covered anything in Washington. But they didn't speak, and this kept on going. A lot of people didn't speak.
Then they stopped at a Colorado town, where the United Mine Workers had a convention, and they came in a group to the back of the train, a whistle stop, and the next thing Joe knew, the reporters were not allowed to go out. Sometimes, if there was time, they could get out and listen with the people; other times, they had to listen on radio in the press car. This time they had to stay in the train. So Joe didn't get out where the people were, and neither did anybody else. But the next thing he knew, he got a call-back from the Associated Press, saying, "UP and INS say that United Mine Workers have endorsed FDR for a third term." Well, somehow—-I won't go into all the details—Joe found out how to get the story himself, and did get it, but he was beaten on that story, all because I interviewed Mrs. Roosevelt, she gave me a story, she said I could use it, I did. He knew nothing about it; it was written and in type in New York when he found out about it. I was going to say that's very unusual. I never knew it to happen any other time, and he didn't either. And he covered the White House a long, long time.
Knight: Did it ever occur to you that you were breaking the rules?
Campbell: I knew I wasn't. I knew what the rules were. I mean, I knew that the actual group who traveled with the President had that kind of thing, but I wasn't. I had had my expenses paid to do a story for the summer on what Mrs. Roosevelt was doing, and it just never occurred to me that I was tied to them for anything, any more than they had to tell me whatever they got when they went out to the big house to see the President.
Knight: It sounds like he supported you.
Campbell: Oh, of course.
Knight: So it didn't cause any trouble or anything.
Campbell: Oh, no, not with us. Actually, all the trouble with other people, eventually, almost everybody who had refused to speak told him how sorry they were.
Knight: Did Doris Fleeson?
Campbell: No, Doris never mentioned it to either one of us.
Campbell: She's bound to have known that we found out about it. She had been a top reporter for a long time and even had a column with her husband at the time this happened, and she didn't need to do that, you know. She did. Fortunately, it didn't really hurt either Joe or me, so I think we were both lucky that our employers had trusted us and believed whatever we said, but they did, so we weren't hurt. That one story, Joe felt angry, furious about, but before he got through, he thought, "You know, it could have happened in a different way, and I wouldn't have been angry about it. Everybody loses a story now and then."
Knight: In the reading I've done and in some of the other interviews, some women have talked about jealousy, especially when there are very few women, where women feel like if they're the only woman, or they're one of a few women, that other women were more jealous of them and the kind of stories they would get. Do you think that was a factor in this?
Campbell: The only thing I could think of was—I'm not sure it was jealousy, because she was so much better known than I was at that time in her career, that I don't think anybody, her editor or anybody else, would have worried about my having that story first. But I think that there is that business of jealousy. I mentioned, though, that Hope Ridings Miller and I knew each other very well, and covered Mrs. Roosevelt's press conferences together time after time after time. I never felt any jealousy toward Hope, and I don't think she ever felt any toward me. Frances Lide, on the Washington Star, she got the first Washington Star job because of Mrs. Roosevelt's press conference rule—it had to be women. We were very good friends, still are to this day. But I know that it exists with some people.
Knight: I want to talk next time about the Eleanor Roosevelt coverage. Getting back to you and your husband, what did you do when you had time together? Did you talk work?
Campbell: We talked books, for one thing, and we talked work. Oh, yes, we each stayed very conversant with what was going on in Washington, he from wherever he saw, whatever he saw, wherever, and I from the same thing. Of course, he had so much richer background than I in AP, before I came, but he also had had similar but earlier experiences with—let's see, what was he, five years older than I, I think—and he had been in New Orleans when they had a strike, and when they broke the glass in the windows of the streetcars, and all kinds of exciting things that I could be told and loved to hear from him. Also, things that had happened to both of us long before we met. Isn't that what everybody talks about? [Laughter.]
Knight: When people have the same career. Did you read each others' stories?
Campbell: Oh, no.
Knight: Help each other at all in your work?
Knight: When you were on the job, were you separate?
Campbell: Separate. Absolutely.
Knight: Is that something that happened because you made a rule about it?
Campbell: I don't remember. It just happened. I don't remember ever making a plan or a rule about that.
Knight: Did you ever comment on each other's work?
Campbell: Oh, yes! Oh, my
Knight: But after.
Campbell: After. Oh, there were marvelous stories that he wrote that I certainly told him about, and it was wonderful to have him like mine, because here I was in a big city, and it could have been discouraging in the beginning if nobody had noticed that the stories were different or better, but he did. But other people did, too, so it wasn't—I didn't have to depend on him, but I cared more what he thought than other people, so that was good.
I can see why some of my friends had troubles with marriages and going on with their work, but somehow, either our situation was just better, the ages we were when we met or married, the things that we believed in, but we just didn't have all those arguments. It sounds really silly, because we almost always worked things out.
I remember my oldest boy saying, when he was like ten or something like that, pretty old, "Mother, this morning was the first time I ever heard you and Daddy argue." [Laughter.] "You sounded like you were mad at each other, and I've never heard you sound like that before." Well, it was true. We had gotten mad, but before we separated, we both had had, I guess, before we ever met each other, the sort of a rule with everybody, that whenever there's a big—you don't leave it until you settle it, or least if you try, anyway. So when we had our big argument—I've forgotten even what it was about, but at any rate, we had settled it before he went off to work. That was when I was staying home.
He was very proud of the work—this was the later period, when I was staying home with the kids, but when I did things for the community, he never had time to do them, and he was so glad that I could and did. That kind of thing.
Knight: Did you ever collaborate on any work?
Campbell: Yes. What did we write together? It's a magazine article. I've got it, so it must be. [Laughter.] That was hard. It was awfully hard, I remember. We had to really set up the things that he would—-oh, it was about Henry Wallace, who was then the Secretary of Agriculture, and he also threw those things that came back at you. What do you call them?
Campbell: Boomerang. That was part of the title, I remember. But Joe interviewed all the Cabinet members and people like that in Washington, who worked with him here. I interviewed the people, when he'd been editor of a magazine for I don't know how many years in Iowa, and had done a lot of other things out there at the University, and
had brought the first seed corn, you know, did a different kind of corn. So I talked to the people out there. That's in general how we—and once we had divided up the research, that was the hardest part. That's the important part. If you do that, then the rest of it works out all right. But we read each other's stuff and correlated it, so that it worked, changed it often to fit in a different place than we thought it would, or something like that. So we had a joint byline on that, I remember.
Knight: When would that have been?
Campbell: Sometime between 1940—oh, dear, I don't know. 1945, '46.
Knight: After you were home?
Campbell: After I got home. But, of course, there were a number of times when I had to turn down really good stories, because one of the children got the mumps or the chicken pox or something right when I had asked the magazine if they wanted it, and they said yes. [Laughter.] But there is just a limit to what you can do, and a sick child with a contagious disease, particularly mumps, when your husband hasn't had them, is something you have to work out. [Laughter.]
Knight: If you had been a reporter that had looked at both you and your husband's life at that time, when you were at the AP, how would you describe that relationship and that life in those years from '36 to '39, '37 to '40?
Campbell: [Pauses] I don't know that I would have ever described it. I don't know whether anybody else ever did. It didn't seem to me that people—you know, our colleagues, they seemed to accept us as other writers, as other people, just like they were. There wasn't much talk about us as a couple. If there was, I have forgotten it.
I remember people coming up to me and asking me about things, about how I learned to do this or that or the other, but it had nothing to do with Joe. Then I don't remember that on that story about the trip to Hyde Park, that we told other people about that. Neither one of us ever was much of a gossiper or anything, and it didn't seem like anybody's business. We weren't trying to damage Doris or anybody else on the train. So I don't remember there being talk about that. There could have been. I don't remember it.
Knight: Was it unusual? Were there other couples like you?
Campbell: Yes. Not very many in the same shop. There were Doris Fleeson and John O'Donnell, both the same paper—the New York Daily News, wasn't it? I think so.
Ruby Black, who covered Mrs. Roosevelt, and her husband Herb Little, he was involved with her bureau. She had a news bureau before she started covering Mrs. Roosevelt; I mean, she covered her, but she wasn't doing it with the press conferences. But Herb had another job of some kind, but he did write stuff for the bureau, too, and he was a good reporter. The two of them got along beautifully. As far as anybody knew, I thought they seemed fine.
Hope Miller, I don't know. You'll probably find out, or somebody else is going to interview her, but you will talk to her. I just never knew how she got along with whoever her husband was. There were several people who got separated or did separate
from their husbands, and whether their work had anything to do with it or not, I wouldn't have known. I don't ever remember hearing any.
Well, of course, there were a lot of people who felt awfully sorry for Sarah McClendon when she came to Washington. Her husband had run off and left her with a baby. That's how she got started up here. You can imagine how sorry people were for her, and this helped her get started, really, but it also caused some very bad times. One time, I think she told me, there was no other way, except to take her baby with her over to a press conference or an interview or something that she had to do across the street. She lived very close, right across the Library of Congress. But I didn't ever meet him [her husband]. She had already come to town when I came, and was alone with the baby.
I've thought of all I can think of. There may have been others, but I don't remember. My attention would have been drawn to them. I would have thought about other couples, I'm sure. I told you, I think, about Ruth Montgomery, who was with the New York Daily News as a reporter once, and she went into spiritualism later, and somehow she and her Navy husband got separated. He was very attractive, and we went out with them a time or two.
Knight: What did you do for fun when you weren't working? What did you do in D.C. during that time?
Campbell: Well, we liked the Mayflower cocktail lounge; that was a nice place to go in the afternoons. But that was a little difficult because of Joe's hours, when he went home and slept and came back. But before that, before he decided on that and had that bright idea, we had gone there a number of times. Oh, there was a wonderful place—-I don't know whether it's still there or not—nobody's taken me there lately, if it is, upstairs, right near the New York Times. The New York Times is probably in another place, too. They were on 15th Street, on the second floor, across from the Treasury there at one point. This place was a Spanish restaurant, I think. But at any rate, it was a delightful restaurant, with a big dance floor. It was the only dance floor in all of Washington, D.C., that I could stand. I came from a part of the country where dance floors were big enough to go around and around and around for ten miles.
Knight: And you loved to dance.
Campbell: And I loved to dance. And here, the Mayflower cocktail lounge, for instance, you really needed pliers and a screwdriver to get through the place. [Laughter.] But there was this really one nice place, and that was a kind of a place that you could go to anytime, after a movie or for the whole evening, after dinner, so it was nice to do.
Then once in a while, our jobs led us in to very attractive parties. I remember one evening we spent out at the Shoreham with Walter Winchell. I mean, we were not in the party with Walter Winchell, but we were at the very next table to Walter Winchell. And who was with him? It was scandalous. [Laughter.] I've forgotten. But that was the kind of thing you could run into, you know, even if you just decided to blow your all and go to the Shoreham, because we didn't have, in those days, the Washington Hilton or the Sheraton or Statler. We had the Willard and the Shoreham, the main ones. I don't know whether Joe ever would have done that. I occasionally—maybe he was doing something else—went over and sat in the Peacock Alley part of the Willard Hotel, and just watched Washington go by. Very much fun.
Knight: A popular pasttime of the day.
Campbell: Yes. Or went to parties. There were a lot of parties. I remember—that has a Mrs. Roosevelt story on it, though. I better save it.
Knight: You can tell a Mrs. Roosevelt story now; that's okay. [Laughter.]
Campbell: This was a party that was the Gridiron—I've forgotten if it was a party before the Gridiron or the night after, but at any rate, there's a repetition. You could get invited to it, and Joe and I were a number of times. So this one particular time, it was at the Willard, upstairs, and the very same day, Westbrook Pegler had written a column, in which he just said awful things about Mrs. Roosevelt. I've forgotten what they were, but they weren't any of them true, and they were just unkind and unscrupulous. So I went up to him and told him. It was not in the main room. This was in the period before the show started. I'd never even met him, though I knew who he was. I just thought somebody ought to tell him, so it's a wonder he didn't ever write something terrible about us, but he didn't. [Laughter.] There were some people that you couldn't do anything about—not that I could do anything about him, because he didn't write out of Washington most of the time, anyway.
We spent evenings with other couples. Tom Stokes and Hannah were good friends of ours. He was the outstanding columnist in the country on environmental care of resources that we inherited, and also a top newspaperman. He came from Atlanta, Georgia, and he was a member of the Cosmos Club, one of the few newspapermen who ever was a member of it. That was for his learning as well as for his newspapering. But he was a delight. He wrote Chip on my Shoulder, a book that he wrote, a very good one. His son, who was named Tom also, was always called—and still is—Chip, from the book. And Hannah is still alive. She's ten years older than I am. She's 88 or 87. There's always a party for her birthday at the Cosmos Club. She's one of their famous widows. And she's crazy about my son Steve, the one who's disabled. She always invites him, so we go to those parties and enjoy them. But we used to, long before there was any Steve, we used to go. I remember having dinner, a late dinner, when all of us got off of our jobs, with them and Senator Ball and his wife, from Minnesota or Michigan, in the backyard of the Stokes' house at that time. Fun, like anybody else, to have a summer dinner, but more interesting conversation, quite likely.
We went dancing. We went to movies at that time. I haven't seen any movies since. [Laughter.] We both liked movies, and you could pick out better ones then. I think there were better ones. I have a terrible time going down the list of all the possible movies now, and finding one I want to see. But I often wanted to see one then. We went to "Gone With the Wind," for instance, which was a rather long thing, but we enjoyed it. I think the business of going out to dinner with people and having them over to our apartment for dinner took in all the rest, except what I mentioned.
Knight: So you had this life, and you planned your first child.
Knight: You planned your life out?
Campbell: We hadn't planned how many we would have, but we did want to have more than
one, and it worked out just nicely. There's three years' difference, and then four years' difference before the girl came.
Knight: How long did you work after you discovered that you were pregnant?
Campbell: Oh, that's a funny story. That's another AP story. [Laughter.] Bess Furman, whose place I took, had been covering Mrs. Roosevelt, and had gone with her out to Kansas City for a speech she was making out there. Somehow or other, Bess had to take a cab alone to wherever the speech was going to be, and was in a taxicab accident. They took her to the hospital. So when the AP, which naturally was notified and so forth, found out that she was pregnant—she didn't know then she was going to have twins—but at any rate, they decided that they had to have a replacement real quick, because it wasn't safe to have anybody who was pregnant covering Mrs. Roosevelt. They didn't tell me. That was the impression they gave her.
Knight: Safety was their concern?
Campbell: Safety for her or protection for the paper covering Mrs. Roosevelt. I don't know which. [Laughter.] They both were mentioned. So when Joe and I decided to get married, and I went in to tell Milo Thompson, who was by then our bureau chief, that we were going to get married, and that I would like to go on working, that we did not plan to have children immediately, and that both of us thought that was a good idea, well, he finally said, "I'll have to talk it over with Kent Cooper," the top man up in New York. "But I think what we will arrange with you is that you must let me or Kent Cooper know the moment you are going to have a baby, before you tell anybody else." Well, this eventually was what I was supposed to do, and this is what I did do, and this got chuckles from Joe, too. I said, "I'm sorry, I wanted to tell you, but I had to tell Kent Cooper first." [Laughter.]
But that worked all right, too. What he meant was that he was going to fire me as soon as I was pregnant, originally, but by that time, three years had gone by, and apparently, they didn't want to be quite so fast about it, because I was still well as could be and covering everything just as usual. So they said, well, could I stay on for a while. I did. I think I told him on the first of January, the end of December, something like that, but then I kept working all through January, and went out to visit my sister for Valentine's Day, which would be the 14th of February. So that's about how long it was.
Knight: Then when was your first baby born?
Campbell: In July. So if the nine months isn't in there, it was nine months and a little more. [Laughter.] There wasn't any hurry about it.
Knight: So were you fired, or did you leave?
Campbell: No, I just said I was giving them my notice, and that I would leave immediately. That was what I had understood was the situation. But they asked me to stay on. I forgot—somebody was coming from Europe or something big was going on, something that I had been covering, and they wanted me to stay on to do it, which I did, and it worked out fine. I had a good time, because I was still strong and able. [Tape interruption] —that I had resigned.
Knight: You were glad to have resigned?
Campbell: Well, when this business of having—I wouldn't have liked to have fainted in the middle of a story someplace.
Knight: At the time that you resigned, did you think that you would have liked to have worked longer?
Campbell: No. Well, yes, sure. I did and I didn't. I thought, "This is perfect. This is the time that I should." And I also thought, "Oh, dear, how can I manage without having a story to cover?" But then, of course, when I got home, and we moved out here almost immediately, it was first, getting the house furnished, finding out how to operate, you know, find new places to take your cleaning, this, that, and the other. It was a very busy time, especially when you had a baby in a crib upstairs. But I loved having a baby. Oh, Sandy was a darling! Such a pretty baby.
Oh, the day we moved, three or four or five blocks up the way, another AP man, Curtis Lyman and his wife Betty, they invited us to come to dinner that night, feeling that we'd be tired after moving all day. Joe and Tommy Miller had used their large station wagon to help us move, because we didn't really have any furniture. I had some things which were not too big to put in my storage place at the Argonne Apartments. So any of the little things we brought. I don't know how many trips we made with this station wagon. But at any rate, we got over to the Lymans' for dinner. I forgot to mention that Sandy was born on the day he was supposed to be born, but we were supposed to move in on a different day. So instead of moving in before he was born, which was our plan, we moved in and he'd already been born. I had already had the nurse come to the apartment for two weeks. My doctor at that time—you always had to have two weeks in bed after a baby. So I had the baby, whom I took over with me to the Lymans' house. They gave us a little bit of time before we sat down to dinner, so we were sitting on the couch in the living room, and different people wanted to hold the baby, and they were holding him. The next thing I knew, they'd all had dinner. [Laughter.] I had slept through it, and somebody else had put him [Sandy] to sleep, and he was sleeping there, too. We both were tired from the move, and we slept. But poor Joe, he had to stay awake and represent us at the party.
Knight: I'm going to stop for the day.
Campbell: All right.
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Knight: Today we're going to talk about the AP. I've even cut you off on stories in the past, when you started to talk. So tell me the story about how you came to work for the AP on the Washington bureau.
Campbell: The morning that I arrived in Washington to work for the AP—and I had never worked for a wire service before—the train arrived at eight o'clock. I started to go down the steps, and there was Sigrid Arne, this wonderful newspaperwoman that I had known in Oklahoma City. And she had become a feature editor for the AP and head of one of their big bureaus in New York City. Anyway, I wanted to say hello and welcome her, you know, and what she said to me was, "Do you know 'Silent Night?'" [Laughter.]
I said, "Well, I think everybody knows 'Silent Night.' Why?"
She said, "You're going to sing it at the White House tonight."
"I've never been in the White House, and I can't sing, but why?"
"Well," she said, "the Gridiron Widows always meet when the President goes to the Gridiron Club, and this year they've invited Mrs. Roosevelt to join them. Of course, whoever is the President is always the guest. But at any rate, Mrs. R. is going to invite them to come to the White House, and they always do a—" Well, no, I guess they didn't always. They were going to do a stunt party that night, like the Gridiron puts on a show. And one of the things, the Washington Press Club—then the Women's National Press Club—was going to do was to sing "Silent Night," and I was going to be in the chorus or the choir or what have you. So I accepted that.
But then I was shocked again, because she said, "We'll have to hurry, because you're supposed to report at the office right away." Well, nobody told me that. That I should go to work that very first morning at eight o'clock, you know, seemed a little odd and strong. But at any rate, I hopped in her car, and we went off to the AP office, which was in the Washington Star building on 11th and Pennsylvania at that time. When she took me up to the third floor, I believe it was, where the Associated Press had very much like a newspaper office, with a circular table, a half-circle, anyway, and people sitting around, working hard, either a typewriter here, editing here, and she took me over. First, she took me and introduced me to the bureau chief in his separate little office. At that time, the one I had known once, Brian Bell, had gone to New York with Kent Cooper, and so this was Milo Thompson.
Then we came out, and she started around the room with me. After a couple of people, well, after one, I guess, she said, "And this is Joe Short, who's the deputy day editor." And that was the Joe Short who I later married. [Laughter.] I didn't know it, of course, then, but he looked mighty nice, I thought.
Then we went on to Ray Crawley. That was really bad, because he said to me, "Miss Campbell, I'm going to want a night lead on your Gridiron Widows story at two
o'clock this afternoon." I guess I had to swallow or something, because I really didn't know anything about the Gridiron Widows, and I didn't know anything about the White House, and I didn't know what a night lead was. I'd always worked on an afternoon paper in whatever town I was in. You know, I didn't know all these Associated Press descriptions, but I didn't ask him. When I got away from there, I found somebody who could tell me what a night lead was, which meant that although I had to write it at two o'clock, I had to write it as if it had already happened, because it was going to be in the morning paper.
And so a lot of other things happened that day, but I was at the White House my first night working for the AP in Washington, and covering it. [Laughter.] And it turned out I wasn't too wrong on too many things, so that was the way it went.
I forgot. It was very feminine of me, I know, but the only evening dress I had was in a trunk, and I finally had a taxi driver help me open the trunk. We found the evening dress, but I couldn't find the belt. I was so embarrassed, meeting the woman I was going to cover for I didn't know how many years in the future, without a belt. I didn't have any belt, and it didn't seem to hurt our relationship. It had been hard for me to think of just covering Mrs. Roosevelt, because, however, the job was lots more than that, fortunately, or I wouldn't have wanted to take it. But I had read that she was very close friends with the newspaper women who covered her and sort of palsy-walsy, that kind of thing. And I never had been close—I didn't believe in being close to any of my news sources. You know, I wanted to be just as friendly as I could without ever being too close. So I had decided that if I got invited to one of the Sunday night—you stirred up a chafing dish or something, scrambled eggs—I was going to say, "No, thank you." But I didn't get invited, so I didn't have to worry! [Laughter.]
But at any rate, I had a very good experience with Mrs. Roosevelt. I didn't ever see this partiality, this leaning towards certain members, women, in her press conference. She had decided that there were going to be only women in her press conference. Of course, there had never been anybody who discriminated for women. There had been plenty of people who might discriminate against. But at any rate, the AP, I was proud to be working for, because it was the only news organization that had a full-time person who covered everything, not just Mrs. Roosevelt. Now, the United Press had hired Ruby Black to cover Mrs. Roosevelt's press conference, and there were a number of organizations—Mrs. Herman Gash for Universal Service, but most everybody just had a special somebody, a woman, and they hired her just—well, Frances Lide, a good friend of mine here, worked for the Washington Star. That's the reason she got her job, they told her, that they had to have a woman covering Mrs. Roosevelt's press conference. She was a good reporter and got to do other things later. But from the very beginning, they sent me to hearings, they sent me to interviews, all kinds of things. It wasn't just Mrs. Roosevelt. However, whenever she went anyplace, I went, too.
Knight: Did you know, when the job was described to you, that you would be doing more than just covering Mrs. Roosevelt?
Campbell: Oh, yes.
Knight: How did they describe the job to you before you took it?
Campbell: Just general assignments, and that's what I'd been on on the papers I'd been working for, so I thought that meant, you know, just anything they wanted to get rid of, they send you out on. But I liked it. I liked the variety of covering—well, in
Washington, that meant that sometimes I covered congressional hearings, sometimes I covered what would have been society in a smaller town, but here it would always be officials, senators and Supreme Court justices, and people like that.
Oh, that was one of the things, too, that caught me when I first came. You don't want me to jump off of Mrs. Roosevelt.
Knight: Please go on.
Campbell: Well, this was Byron Price, who had been chief of the bureau for a long time, was still here. I said he moved. He was leaving that next week, and there was a party for him on Saturday night. He invited me into his office and said, "I know this is going to be hard, but you're going to cover FDR's second inaugural." They had just changed it from March 4th, which it had always been, and this was the first time it was to be on January 20th. So he said, "You know, you'll need to know practically everyone. You're going to have the ticket for the inaugural platform, where he will be, and where Mrs. Roosevelt will be. So you'll need to know these people. And the only way I can help you is that they're having a party for me tonight at the Willard," I guess it was. And he said, "There will be an announcer who will stand right by me and Priscilla (his wife) to say who everybody is. You'll get the name as the couple, or person, is introduced. You know, you can learn 500 people in one night, can't you?" [Laughter.]
At any rate, maybe I couldn't, but the very next day, I met Jim Farley, the postmaster general, on Pennsylvania Avenue, on my way to work. His office was right across the street. And he said, "Hello, Beth, how are you today?" You know, there had been all these stories about what a name-rememberer he was, but that out of all those people—well, anyway, I didn't remember. I knew sort of who he was, but I couldn't think of his name. Oooh
!So actually, the inaugural came along in those few days. I got here on the 21st [of December], and the 20th [of January] was the inaugural date. The President and Mrs. Roosevelt were up at the Capitol on this special stage that was built out there in front. I wondered how in the world, if anybody moved or had to say, "So and so did this," or "So and so did that," how I would know who he was or she was! But the first thing that happened, it started to rain, and Mrs. R. went to the edge of the platform and reached down to a couple of women who were down there—maybe there were three—and told them to come up on the stage. And some Secret Service men or some policemen or somebody helped them get up on the stage, and she took them over, and somehow there were seats for them that probably hadn't been there before. They were old friends of hers with whom she ran a school in New York City. So I didn't know their names then, but I found them out somehow. Then who else? Well, there were all these Supreme Court justices and senators, and I had learned a lot of them, and I was pretty good then. Oh, boy, I'm terrible now, but I could really learn the names of a lot of people quite rapidly, and I did.
So when it was time to go, I mean, when the thing was finishing, I realized, right before that, I had this envelope, a big brown envelope, where I had put my notes in it as I wrote a page, so the rain wouldn't—I was using a pencil, and I knew I wouldn't be able to read a word if I didn't cover them up, so I had everything in this, including the tickets that the AP had given me, five of them, I think. There was one for this stage I was on, up above the inaugural platform; the next one was to get into the Senate Office Building and Capitol Building, where I could write my story, dictate it over the phone in the Senate press gallery, which was new to me, too; and then the next one was to get a taxi to go down so that I could watch the
inaugural go by, right across from the White House, where the President and Mrs. Roosevelt would be. Then the next one was to get into the White House grounds, to go write a story, and then another one to go to a tea at five o'clock in the White House personal part.
And just as I was leaving, when I realized it was breaking up, I reached for this brown envelope that had been tight under here, and I'd been putting stuff in it all the time, and it wasn't there anymore. And nobody around me had seen it; it wasn't on the floor. So there I was without my notes or without my tickets. I'd read a story in the paper—oh, it was in our own; it was an AP story by Eddie Gilmore, which was so funny, about how you couldn't go anywhere in Washington that day unless you had a special piece of paper. And here I was without any special pieces of paper! [Laughter.]
But I looked to see how far it was down to the platform, where all the big-shots were, and I figured it was about 9 feet. I figured I was pretty strong then. Let's see. I was 28 then, something like that. So I jumped. Well, fortunately, there was a young police officer down there, who caught me. You know, I might have gotten a pretty strong push on the feet if I had landed on my own feet, but he caught me. I thanked him and ran for the door where people were going into the Capitol, where they were going to have lunch, you know, except me; I was going to find that Senate press room. But there was Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, and I recognized her from her pictures, and I spoke to her, you know, as if I'd known her always, because I had seen that people did that in Washington. And sure enough, I just said, "I'm Beth Campbell of the AP, and it's nice to see you. How many of these have you seen since your own husband was President?" And we walked together into the Capitol. Then she went off to her luncheon place. I went off this way and found the Senate press gallery and dictated my story.
Then I decided the best thing to do would be to go across through the building. I had already found out about the little car down in the subway, between the Capitol and the Senate Office Buildings. So I got on that and came off, and got as far as I could away from the traffic that would be coming from everywhere. And sure enough, I got a cab. And I said to him, "We'll have a terrible time, I'm sure, because I've lost my ticket that tells you you can go anywhere, tells the police you can go anywhere."
"Well," he said, "you're just the person I've been looking for, because a man hired me at five o'clock this morning, who had all these tickets and gave me." And he showed me. He had them on his windshield. "But then he went off someplace and never came back, and I waited an hour and a half for him. I think it's time for me to take another passenger." So he drove me, sure, down right through everywhere, so that we got across from the White House. I don't know how I got in there, where you're supposed to have seats, you know, but anyhow, somehow I did, so that I could sit there and look right across. And the President and Mrs. Roosevelt, naturally, were greeting people, and people were coming up and congratulating him. It was a marvelous thing to watch. Then the parade was going by, too, which was interesting to watch—people from every state in the union.
Well, then it was getting time now I'd better go write a story, so I thought, "How will I get into the White House grounds?" And I thought, well, the only thing I could do, I mean, I'd been over there, I knew how they were protected, was to climb the fence. I had on a yellow slicker, which is what we wore in those days. It was raining still. So over the fence I went, and I, fortunately, made it, and got inside the White House without the policeman doing anything to me. Then I saw the
lieutenant governor of Oklahoma—-you see, I'm from Oklahoma originally—walking from the place where they watched the parade go by, towards the White House proper. So I said, "Hello, Governor! How are you?" You know.
And he said,"Hello, Beth. How are you? What are you doing up here?" He said, "Come on and go to the party with me."
I said, "I'm not invited to this one, Governor. I'm sorry." But at least I walked with him up to the White House.
He said, "I insist that you go." You know, very important.
And I said, "Well, I just know they won't let me in, because I have an invitation for five o'clock, but not for now. Or I'd had an invitation for five o'clock." [Laughter.]
So we went up to the door, and Ray Muir, I think that was who was the usher then, said, "I'm sorry, Miss Campbell, you must have the wrong time, because you're coming at 5:00."
And the governor said, "She's with me, though. I'm So-and-so of Oklahoma."
And Mr. Muir said, "I'm very sorry, Governor, but she'll have to wait 'til five o'clock. You must come on in," said he, welcoming him. So I slipped off and went over to the U.S. building, where I could write a story, and I called up. After I dictated everything that had happened after what I had already dictated at the Capitol, I said, "And don't forget, you owe me $13.95 for a yellow slicker." [Laughter.]
Knight: It sounds like you were pretty much on your own.
Campbell: Oh, I was.
Knight: You were learning the ropes. How different was it from the newspapers that you'd worked on previously?
Campbell: I don't know how to say any answer to that, really. It seemed very different to me in a lot of ways, but trying to convince somebody that you have a right to be somewhere, when you know you do, it's not as if you were trying to fool somebody and were cheating. I think if you really believe what you say, that most people, whether they're in Oklahoma City or Washington, and whether they're police or not, are apt to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Knight: But the job itself, did anyone help you learn the ropes? Did anyone realize you'd come from a print background and not a wire background?
Campbell: Oh, yes, everybody helped me. Oh, that lovely Rags Ragsdale, who wrote a book about Presidents, a wonderful book, had the desk right next to me, was a lot older than I. And he just answered any questions that I had and knew everything there was to know and was just a delightful, lovely man.
Well, I think that there wasn't too much difference, but I may be wrong. I don't know everything. I didn't then, and I don't now.
Knight: You were the only woman there, when you got there.
Campbell: Oh, yes, when I came. I had not been the only woman on the papers that I'd been on. As a matter of fact, on the first paper in Springfield, Missouri, I was one of four or five. But here I was, 55 men and me in this AP office. I didn't ever feel discriminated against by the men in the office. I had a little trouble with some of their wives at parties. I think they just didn't like having just one woman down there at the office or something. [Laughter.] But several times, things were said to me that were not very kind, but never by one of the men. And that in spite of the fact that very soon after I went there, there was a sign on the bulletin board that said that every reporter who made $50 or less must restrict "himself" to a 40-hour week.
Knight: Fifty dollars a week or less.
Campbell: Yes, 40 hours a week. And several men on the staff did say, "Look, your name wasn't on there." And they said, "Himself." I couldn't very well tell them that I really owed it not to my competence, I don't think, but to the fact that the publisher who had twice turned me down, turned the AP down about my coming to Washington, without even asking me, had told them that he'd let me come if they'd pay me $62.50 a week. No, wait. Sixty. Sixty. I later got that up to $62.50. It took about three years. But that was way higher—I don't mean way higher, when you're down there in the $10 group, you know. But it was higher than a lot of people made in the office.
Knight: What was the general rate?
Campbell: Well, out of 56 employees, including me, there were, it seemed to me—I knew at the time; I counted it—but it was something like 20 who were $50 or under. Of course, they had to restrict the hours, and that's, oh, so hard on a newspaper, so very hard, you know. Later on, when the King and Queen came, I worked two whole days and nights, and when I was in Springfield, we had a couple of murders, a lot of murders, six of them, and I worked 48 hours in a row. You know, you just almost have to. Nobody can pick up from you on a really hot story.
Knight: What was the rationale for not allowing people that made under $50 to work more than 40 hours?
Campbell: Because the American Newspaper Guild had just signed a contract. I mean, AP was just one of ten employers. Time magazine and a lot of separate newspapers were together in this. This was the first time AP had ever had a contract with employees.
And of course, when I started at $25 a week in Springfield, Mo., Hugh Johnson—I hope that's his name—came along as the NRA administrator, and that was National Recovery Act, I guess. This was to stretch employment out. It required that anybody who flew an NRA flag over their place of business had to restrict their employees to 40 hours a week. So that had spread very widely over the country; it had even spread to the publisher that I had. I was working about 72 hours a week when they hung up that flag. [Laughter.] And they did cut me down some.
Knight: Explain to me more about why it was the publisher who had to give you permission for you to work for the AP. How did that work?
Campbell: Well, the AP, you see, is a cooperative with member papers all over the world now; I don't remember then whether it went over the world or just over the country.
And the Daily Oklahoman, and earlier than that, the Springfield Leader, both of them, were Associated Press papers. I mean, they were in this cooperative. So you couldn't have the guy who was chairman or president of the cooperative able to tell everybody what they had to do, but if he got permission from a publisher or a managing editor—I think the rule was managing editor—then he could take the person.
Knight: But he didn't necessarily have to discuss it with the reporter first?
Campbell: No. Well, the first time, I didn't know anything about it at all. [Laughter.] But about a month after this happened, or two months, Skipper called me over to the corner, where his desk was, and said, "Beth, would you like to go to Washington and work for the Associated Press?"
And I said, "Well, I'd have to think about it, because my mother just died, and my brother's here going to high school, and I'm keeping house for my dad." And you know, I was thinking aloud. Then I just thought quietly for a little while, and I said, "Yes, I want to go." I had figured out how I could arrange things.
And he said, "Well, I'm sorry, you can't. I told them no." And that was that. But then they asked again in another couple of months later, when he went to another—he was in both the Associated Press managing editors' convention and the owners'. He wasn't an owner, but he went to a lot of those conventions, too, and he was president of the Sigma Delta Chi, which was an honorary journalistic fraternity in college. So he knew a lot of newspapermen, and he went to meetings all the time. So the next time they asked him, he said, okay, I could go.
Knight: Did you know who was wanting you, who "they" were?
Campbell: Yes. That had happened. Oh, dear. When I was on the Oklahoman, the convention in 1936, I guess—would that be a presidential convention? Philadelphia. And they were sending Luther Harrison, who was an editorial writer and about 78 or 79, you know, young like me. And they decided that it would be nice if they had me go, too, and that since Luther was going to be there, he could sort of chaperone me, you know. So they assigned me to go to the convention, and I did. It was just, oh, so much fun. I'd never done anything like that before. And when I got to Philadelphia, I met all sorts of big-shot newspapermen. This was before TV, of course, but a lot of them in radio I met, radio people.
And I went on from there to New York City to see my sisters, and one of them said, when I arrived, "Oh, there's a man at the AP who's been trying to get you, and he wants you to call the minute you arrive." But it was too late for them to get me in Washington or in Philadelphia. So I called him, and he asked me to go to lunch. He was the assistant to the general manager, Kent Cooper. And when we had had a bite to eat, he said, "This is really a business lunch. We've decided that the AP's regular weekly fiction continued story is no good, and we would like you to take it Over."
And I said, "I don't know anything at all about fiction. I couldn't possibly write you a continued story."
"Yes, you could, because we want you to use people like live in your town." Well, live in my town. He was talking about in Oklahoma City. "So the people really will read it. Sometimes the reason that people don't read these is that there's just no connection with themselves or any kind of life they've ever lived. And if you make it, even if you aren't a great fiction writer, that's what we want you to do,
because you'll have two small-town experiences behind you." And that's what the AP papers are, you know, altogether.
Well, I thought about it, and I finally called up Skipper, the managing editor, and told him that they'd offered me this job. I was very questionable about it. And he said, "Well, Beth, I don't want to lose you. You know that. But I think probably this is too good for you to turn down." And so I went back and told this nice man that I had talked to Skipper, and I would like to take that job.
Well, four days later, I got a call from him. Mr. Cooper had come back to town and decided that the AP didn't really need a fictional series running every week at all, and they didn't need an extra person on the staff, and he had to cancel it, embarrassed as he might be. Well, it was embarrassing to him, but it was embarrassing to me. [Laughter.]
But at any rate, I had met one person in the New York office, but for the last two years or three, I only had a week's vacation. You didn't have much vacation in those days. But since I had two sisters in New York, I'd go to visit them, and I always stopped. I went to New York to call on the editor of the New York Times, the city editor, and the city editor of the New York Herald Trib[une], and then when I had come down to Washington, just dropped by to talk politics or farm situations back in Oklahoma or Missouri or something, you know. I didn't ask for a job, ever, but I went in to meet these people, so I did know the bureau chief, Bryan Bell, and I knew some other people that I never got to know any better, who didn't have a job for me. [Laughter.] But that worked out.
Knight: So this was basically Kent Cooper at the very beginning, that your name surfaced when they needed somebody?
Campbell: Probably, I think, Sigrid Arne, this old friend who had worked on the Daily Oklahoman when I was in college and journalism school, and we'd gotten to be friends. I think that—I don't know. She never said it, you know; it would have seemed like bragging or something. But at any rate, I think that she probably recommended me. Then I think the fact that I had been in to see Mr. Bell, you know, on my vacation, even if we didn't know each other real well, was better than if he'd never seen me at all.
Knight: While you were there, how long were you the only woman there?
Campbell: Oh, in the AP?
Knight: The whole time you were there?
Campbell: Oh, I was the only woman the whole time, but instead of being one out of 55, I was one woman out of 127 when I left.
Knight: Did they ever consider hiring any other women that you knew of?
Campbell: They hired a woman or two on the regional staff, but I was on the general staff, covering all of Washington. The regional staff were people who covered, you know, South Carolina and North Carolina, or two or three states, and they had a different editor and different responsibilities. But on the general staff, it was true. The men on the staff were always wonderful to me, and I even had one ask me one time, "Beth, who taught you how to be a newspaper reporter?"
I said, "A man named George Olds, my city editor when I first started."
He said, "I wish I had him." So that was one of the nicest compliments I ever had, I thought, because he was a better reporter than I was, the man who said this.
Knight: Tell me about covering Mrs. Roosevelt. Tell me about one of her press conferences. What were they like?
Campbell: Well, they were always very natural and friendly. She made you feel as if you were her friend she'd invited over for a cup of coffee, except you just didn't have a cup of coffee. She always had [reporters] aside from the regular members here in Washington. At that time Emma Bugbee came down from New York and Kathleen McLaughlin, so we had two New York members who just came for that one day, and they were good reporters. It was good for me to see them and watch them work. She was,you know, we'd just say she was open for questions. We asked her whatever we could think of, and she always answered the best she could. She didn't always know the answers to questions, and that's always a problem, I think, with the first lady. She came to really know them better than most, but that isn't her business.
But she did get excited about the kinds of things that were going on in the United States at that time. For instance, down in West Virginia, the miners had had terrible times, and she helped with a furniture factory or something that they started down there. She got interested in why couldn't—she read someplace, I guess—-that it would be possible, if the scientists just knew how, to grow chicken with bigger chicken breasts, and to grow pigs with bigger hams. [Laughter.] And doggone it, when I was there covering her, I don't know when she'd gotten this interest, but she'd passed it along to the people at Beltsville, which was fairly new at that time. So the next thing we knew, the press conference went to where she said she was going, so we said we were going, too. We went to Beltsville and saw these chickens that they had grown with bigger breasts and pigs that had been grown with bigger hams, and they were healthy and doing fine, and pretty soon, they were on the market. She wrote about it—I mean, she told us about them, and we wrote about them, so there were stories about them all over the country. She did things like that quite often.
I remember once when she said she was going to a settlement house here in Washington. I didn't even know we had any; I thought that was New York. But at any rate, there was a settlement house here, and she was going to it on a given morning. And when I went there at the proper time, I was the only reporter who happened to come. That very seldom happened. But at any rate, her questions were so good. And I'd been with her on quite a lot of other trips she'd made to one organization or another, where she'd had to ask pretty general questions, because she didn't really know the details of how an operation worked. Well, my goodness, she knew lots more than I did about how settlement houses worked, and she asked wonderful questions. And the woman who was running it commented on the fact that she had been so helpful and had asked such good questions. Mrs. R. said, "Well, you know, there was a time when that was the only activity outside the home my family thought was decent for me to engage in." So she had worked in settlement houses for a long time.
That was the time when, going back to driving, she said, "As long as you're alone here, drive with me in the car." And so she went to the White House first, naturally, and then sent me on to my office. But while we were going, she didn't talk or chat; she just went through the mail, and she'd mark it for Tommy—Malvina Thompson, her secretary, and say, "Yes," or say, "No," or, "We'll have to investigate
this one. Let's call So-and-so at the Agriculture Department or the Treasury." And I said, "Do you do this all the time?"
She said, "I couldn't ever get through the mail if I didn't. Whenever I'm in a car, I try to take advantage of the time to get some of the mail out of the way, because I like to give every letter consideration." And she did. Of course, she had such a good secretary in Malvina, whom she had had for—well, more than 16 years. I don't know exactly, but I think it was more like 26, all through the campaigns in New York, when he ran for governor, and a lot of things. And she had come to know everybody, and she was accurate, and she was kind, and she was a marvelous secretary. But that story reminded me of riding in a White House car, if I could stick in a story of my own.
That first week that I was there, I remember I got here on the 21st. On the 24th, on Christmas Eve, there was a tradition that at the White House, there was a party where the President—-I don't know whether he dedicated or praised or what, but anyhow, the big Christmas tree on the Mall, right there out from the White House, and sure enough, they had this great big semi-circle of people sitting around this table, around this semi-circular table, and all of them looking down the Mall at the beautiful Christmas tree. Oh, it was beautiful. But somehow or other, I had to figure out who they all were. I had done a little background work on looking up pictures and that kind of thing, because you couldn't always understand who they were introducing. The President was usually introducing. He did some of it, and Mrs. Roosevelt did some of it. But I remember one, when she said, "This is Elizabeth." She'd been saying, "This is my daughter-in-law." But then this very pretty girl stood up when she said, "This is—" Oh, dear what is her name? Anyhow, she was Elliot's first wife, and Elliot was there with his second wife, Ruth Gugans. Oh, Elizabeth Donner; that was her name. And she had, I think, two children, one or two. But the Roosevelts invited all the family for Christmas, you know, whether they were ex or current. [Laughter.] And it made people feel awfully good, I guess. I don't know why they would come, if they didn't. Of course, the President read them Dickens' Christmas story every Christmas Eve. That would be a nice thing to go for. But here were all these people. And Franklin—by this time, I had met all the children that were around. Franklin was in college, but he was so good-looking and so friendly. So I just saw him there that day.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Knight: What was the most memorable? You travelled with Mrs. Roosevelt on some of the trips that she made.
Campbell: Oh, not very many. I wasn't supposed to really go with her on long trips, because, usually, the long trips, the President went, and the White House guy covering FDR covered him, and that was my husband. [Laughter.] The only way I could see him was meet him up at Hyde Park or something on weekends.
But anyway, the time that I really travelled to see her—this might be a good story you'd be interested in. I thought, since she had always said no on any of the people in the press conference covering things that happened at Hyde Park, and just said that was where she went for her summer, so I said, "Well, could I come and see you long enough just for one story, a feature story on what you do with your whole summer, not just that day or one particular thing? But I'd like to get a story about all the kinds of activities that you have." I knew she went to the church, but what other kinds of women's or men's or political or unpolitical things did she go to?
And she said, "Well, I'll be glad to give you that kind of a story. If you want to come, you may come to lunch. When would you like to come?" And she set a date.
I said, "I'm speaking at Swampscott, Massachusetts, at a convention on such and such a date, and if I stopped here on my way back, I could see my husband for that weekend." [Laughter.]
She said, "That's just fine. You come to lunch," on whatever day that was going to make it right for me.
So I got up there, and the newspapermen were out at the big house with FDR. So I borrowed a typewriter from the Western Union. And I called her first to see whether I could come out then, and she said, "Yes," and lunch would be at such and such a time. So I got a taxi and went out to Hyde Park, and went to lunch, and it was just delightful, just the two of us. She was as real as one of my aunts or somebody, but never this familiar kind of thing that there had been indications in those first years. I never saw that in her at all, with me or with anybody else, except she had this business of calling everybody "darling" and "love" and "beautiful." [Laughter.] I don't know, it was just like Miss Hallidan, who lived next door to me when I was a little girl, always put nice names in front of the people, men and women. And she did that. But at any rate, we had a good talk on whatever was going on.
It turned out, she said, "Of course, we've had quite a discussion lately, but the King and Queen of England are coming, you know, this late summer, and we've invited them to come up here first, before coming to Washington. And I thought it would be fun (I'm not quoting her directly, of course, just the idea) if we had hot dogs, because it's so American. I don't know anybody in England who has ever had a hot dog," or something like that, you know. So apparently, other people thought it was a grand idea, but she said, "The only trouble I had is with my mother-in-law, who thinks that that's a little too informal. She suggests that if I want to have that kind and shape of meat, that it would be better to have little pig sausages." But she said, "I'm holding out for hot dogs." [Laughter.] "And we're going to have hot dogs."
I said, "Well, I think that's a grand idea."
She said, "Before the King and Queen get here, Princess Martha of Norway and her husband,"—I've forgotten; King Olan or somebody—and anyhow, there were there different countries with royalty coming, and two of them before the King and Queen of England. And she said, "We'll have them all come here first and all have hot dogs, and then we'll go to Washington and have the usual formal things for them, so they won't think we're
Anyhow, so I said, "Well, that is a news story, Mrs. Roosevelt. I know that I didn't come up here to get a news story, but that's not what your summer's about. I'd like to write that just as a story, saying you've decided to do that."
And she said, "Well, that's all right."
So I said, "Just what you've told me now."
So when I got back to the hotel, before I even looked for Joe, I put that on the wire, because everybody had been wondering what was going to happen with the King and Queen, but nobody had ever thought of hot dogs. [Laughter.]
So then they were back, the newspaper people, and he said, "We're going out to the Nancy Cooke cottage, near Mrs. Roosevelt's cottage, half a mile from the big house," where FDR's mother lived. "She's invited us out, Mrs. Roosevelt has, for a swim." And so we all went out and got on the bus.
Knight: The whole press corps?
Campbell: The entire press corps for that, you know, just the people who had covered Roosevelt. I was the only one that was sort of extra. There weren't too many, you know, maybe 25, 22, something like that. But at any rate, when we got out there, there was one other newspaper woman besides me, and Mrs. Roosevelt said, "You girls come and change. I'll show you. I have to change, too." So we went into the room that they had there for people to change clothes in when they were going swimming.
Suddenly, this other newspaper woman said, "Mrs. Roosevelt, I hope you read what Beth did to you this morning in the Associated Press stories."
Mrs. Roosevelt said, "I don't know what you mean," or something like that.
She said, "Well, she wrote this real mean story about how you're going to serve hot dogs to the royalty, and that you had a fight with your mother-in-law in order to do it, that she wanted little pig sausages, and you wanted hot dogs. Sounds like it's sort of undignified, as a matter of fact." She said, "And I'm sure it isn't true."
Mrs. Roosevelt looked at her and said, "From what you've told me, it's exactly right." [Laughter.] "That is what I told Beth." [Laughter.] Now, how could you have a better news source than that?
Of course, you had to do things to her now and then, because I remember another time I was covering a speech she was making in the Labor Department auditorium, and I've even forgotten what it was about, but she was making it. I was sitting down on the front row, you know, right under the stage. Suddenly, she said, "Well, off the record—" and she started to go on.
I stood up and said, "Mrs. Roosevelt, I'm with the Associated Press, and you can't have things off the record with 400 people listening!" [Laughter.]
And she said, "You're right, Beth. I can't." She went ahead and told whatever it was on the record.
So those are two sort of samples of what kind of person she was to cover.
Knight: Had you gone to the coal mine with her?
Campbell: No, that was before I came. She did go down there another time, but she didn't take newspaper people that time. Usually, she went places here in Washington all the time, or like the one out to Beltsville, just close by. And normally, the whole press conference went. Each one made their own arrangements, but we got a bus and followed her.
That business I told you about of covering the Christmas Eve service, it was as soon as the Christmas Eve program was over, Mrs. Roosevelt went out to her car. We'd all seen her schedule. She was going from that to the alleys. They were having a number of programs in Washington, in the D.C. alleys, for Christmas, and she was going to talk at whichever one she went to. So when we got outside, where the cars were, everybody else had called their offices and was told, "Well, skip this. After all, it's Christmas Eve." [Laughter.] But the AP, we always covered everything. So when she saw I was the only one, she said, "Why don't you ride with me in my car?" which was nice. We did go to these alleys, and she was very nice to everybody. This one Negro woman came running down the steps, with her hair in curlers, and wearing a robe, which she apparently had hastily pulled together, and she—"Oh, I'd rather see Mrs. Roosevelt than anybody in the world!" And she, you know, thanked her for all Mrs. Roosevelt had done for people like her, she said.
So then we went out and got in the car, and she left at the White House, and I went on back to the office. I told the editor that there was one other thing, a service at a church on 16th Street. I've forgotten which one. But at any rate, at eleven o'clock. So I went and got a cab and went out to the service at eleven o'clock. I kept looking all around, looking for Mrs. Roosevelt. She was so tall, you could always find her. And I didn't see her anywhere. The service went on, and she didn't come in. And it was over, and I hadn't found her. I thought I just was blind and it was my fault. I went outside and looked at the people who came out, and she didn't ever come out.
So when I went back to the office, I said, "I'm afraid I've failed you completely, because I didn't find Mrs. Roosevelt at this church service." [Laughter.]
And the early editor, whoever was on duty, said, "Well, Beth, that's not unusual. We just had on the wire that Mrs. Roosevelt is in Albany with Franklin, who had an emergency appendectomy." [Laughter.] She must have just gone, immediately got on a plane after I left her, and gone up there. Anyway, she did go and take care of her children when they needed her, and she was very, very generally easy to work with.
Knight: Was there any tension between reporters who covered just Mrs. Roosevelt and reporters that had the broader beats?
Campbell: Oh, not really. I don't think so. Ruby Black was a good friend of mine. Of course, what she did, in addition to covering Mrs. Roosevelt, she had her own bureau and was covering all sorts of other stories, just like I was for the AP, but not with the same boss. It was much nicer, too. And there wasn't anybody else but me who had that kind of a setup.
Knight: Who did both.
Knight: Because Doris Fleeson was covering almost completely the President.
Knight: I ask the question because Esther Von Wagoner Tufty had said in her interview that she always felt that Doris Fleeson was a little "snooty" towards some of the women that only covered Mrs. Roosevelt, and I wondered if you had ever sensed
any kind of tension between the women that only covered Mrs. Roosevelt and the others.
Campbell: Well, there certainly was tension between Doris and me at times. I'll just say that. [Laughter.] In general, I think, there wasn't any difference much between, but Doris, of course, she was writing a column with her husband. She was very, very busy. She just didn't have time to fool with other people, I think, maybe, or something like that.
Esther Tufty was a very special person. I hope you get her on this, because she was—
Knight: She passed away last year.
Campbell: Oh, that's right.
Knight: This was an older interview that I had of hers.
Campbell: Yes. You know, she was on TV, had her own program in the mornings, every morning for a long time. She was good, too.
Knight: She had her own service, as well.
Knight: One of the things that she also talked about that I meant to ask you, you kept your Beth Campbell, even after you were married, didn't you?
Campbell: Yes. [Laughter.]
Knight: There were a few other women who did that, too.
Campbell: Well, I didn't. I tried to change. It didn't do any good. I said to the editor, "You know, Joe and I were married last week," or whenever we got back from the honeymoon. "And I guess you want to change my by-line." And I put Beth Campbell Short on whatever I was taking over to him.
He looked at me like—he said, "What in the world do you think we are? Do you realize you have 30 million readers? Do you think we're going to change your name suddenly?" [Laughter.] I don't know whether I had 30 million readers or not. The AP claims an awful lot more than that now, but that is what they said at that time. So they kept it Beth Campbell all the time. But whatever work, as soon as I quit, any freelancing that I did, I always used Beth Campbell Short, because with three children, I just couldn't think of having them not have their mother and father with the same name. So that's why I did that.
Knight: Ruby Black always kept her same name.
Campbell: Yes, I know she did.
Knight: And Esther Tufty told the story that Ruby Black had even refused to cash a check that was written out with her husband's name on it; she insisted that she was Ruby Black, and that she wasn't going to change her name. But that sounds unusual. Was it?
Campbell: There weren't too many of us that were married, newspaperwomen married to newspapermen. But I always thought Joe was a lot better reporter than I was. I think that Ruby probably thought Herb was a better reporter than she was—I mean, she was a better reporter than Herb was. [Laughter.] That was the only reason I could think of that anybody would want to keep her name the same.
Knight: You did join the Women's National Press Club as soon as you got to town?
Campbell: That night. I sang "Silent Night" with them.
Knight: How was the association with them? What value was it to you to join that group?
Campbell: Oh, great! It was the Women's National Press Club then. Very soon—I don't think it was the first year, but maybe it was, because it seems it was almost immediately, I was the guest chairman. So that meant getting a guest. We had meetings—at that time, luncheon meetings—once a week, and the guest had to be somebody pretty important that would be a news story, so that editors would let you go. [Laughter.] So I don't know, I got Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, and I can't remember whether I did Helen Hayes or somebody else did. I remember getting to talk to her a good deal. You know, we had people, not only the ones I happened to mention in the entertainment world, but a lot of them were serious scholars, too. Of course, lunch was just 75 cents! [Laughter.] If you can imagine that! You really could go to lunch once a week and enjoy it very much.
But what else did I do with the Women's Press Club? Oh, I participated in all the shows. [Laughter.] We put on these shows, and one year—I won't tell you about all of them, because they all were sort of silly—but this one was really funny. I was half of the time Mrs. Roosevelt, very tall and distinguished—imagine me being tall; they didn't have any stilts for me—but I also was the second half, Cleopatra. It was Cleopatra that I had the trouble with, not Mrs. R., because they didn't worry about my height, and they didn't worry about the way I said my lines. But they fussed about—I remember whoever was the director said, "Beth, has anybody ever taught you how to slink?"
Well, I said, "I thought I was slinking."
"Well, you're not slinking! You better learn to slink!"
Well, I went home. My brother was visiting from Yale at the time, and my husband—both thought it was awfully funny. They said, "We'll teach you to slink." We were going up to somebody in the neighborhood that night to see them, and they didn't say anything about it on the way there, but on the way back, after we'd had a drink at the Beavers—apparently this had all been planned between them—they started, one on one side, one on the other, very tight, with their arms around me, and like this [back and forth]. [Laughter.] Well, pretty soon, Jack said, "Beth, you're really slinking!"
And Joe said, "I don't know whether I want a wife that slinks or not." But at any rate, they taught me to slink. And when I went to the next rehearsal, everybody just praised and screamed about it.
Oh, what else did I do in the Press Club besides slink? I think I had some other offices. I don't remember what they were. I never was top office. I certainly went to almost every meeting.
Knight: What was the value of the group?
Campbell: Well, at the beginning, I think we lost that part as time went on. The speakers were such good stories that for a newspaper person, man or woman, they were just really top. Later on, I think, well, there was some difference between the Women's National Press Club and the American Newspaper Women's Club. I think that was the way the name went. But at any rate, it [ANWC] was more social. They had members who were senators' wives and all that sort of thing; we didn't. So their parties were very fancy. But our annual party, our congressional dinner, was as good a party as was given in Washington every year. We had congressmen who had to be funny, and they managed, somehow, to be funny.
Knight: It's still true.
Campbell: [Laughter.] Then, also, I think the value of the club, a great value of it, is that if you're a member, you have a challenge to do as good writing as somebody else does, as other people do. And people who may have started out rather vaguely, you know, I find that they go along with somebody else on covering a story or something, and pretty soon, I think they're stronger.
Knight: Do you think there were women consciously helping other women in that way? Or would it happen more by example?
Campbell: I think it's by natural. [Laughter.] That isn't good English, probably. But if you're with somebody else and you can help them, you just do it. I don't think you do it because they're a woman or man. At least I didn't. I used to work with men, too. I covered hearings up on the Hill. Oh, there's a good story I haven't told you about—Mrs. Roosevelt on the Hill. She every so often had somebody who was her latest interest, somehow, that she wanted to help. And sometimes that person would be one kind of a person, and sometimes another. Sometimes they were social service people who were, you know, trying to make the schools better or help poverty out of the way. But then every so often, there would be an entertainer. And one time, this girl, who was—I don't know, I think she could sing. I've kind of forgotten the details of it. It's probably right in that book there, Joe Lash's book. What's the name of it?
Knight: A World of Love.
Campbell: A World of Love. Well, Mrs. Roosevelt had it. She'd help this I thought, rather crude—I'm not going to tell you her name, not after I've said that. But at any rate, it was a girl who could sing some, and Mrs. Roosevelt brought her and introduced her to the Press Club at the press conference once. So that was one person.
And another time, Joe Lash, who wrote that book, (and I have three or four others of his around). He was very good on Mrs. Roosevelt, the best person that has written about her. But we would never have known that at the time, because he was a student. He was president of the American—let's see. I can't remember whether it had "Liberal" or "Communist" or what in the title, but it was a college organization, and it was definitely very extremely liberal, if liberal is the right world. Liberal doesn't mean that, but red. Communist, I guess, is what they used. Anyhow, she brought him to the press conference once. Oh, my goodness, the editorial writers went crazy! The idea of these horrible feet on the sacred White House grounds! [Laughter.] And criticized her. When we asked her at the press conference once, at
the next available time, how she felt about that sort of thing, she said, "Well, it seemed so very absurd to me, because we know that we have the best government in the world, and if there are college students who are trying to somehow make government better and finding it not as successful as we did, it's because we're not doing enough of a job to teach them what the United States is about. And not only did I bring him to see you, but I've also gone with him to his own meetings." [Laughter.] Of course, that got another bunch of people mad at her.
But at any rate, he was due to testify before the committee which was investigating both fascists and communists at that time in the United States. So I found out—I don't know whether other people did or not—but at any rate, that she was going up to hear him. And so I, of course, was going up to hear him, too, and I went up and sat a couple of seats behind her. She got a seat right on the front row. When he was called to testify, she was right there and smiling at him, urging him to do a good job, I'm sure. You couldn't have done a better job than she did, it seemed to me. She showed her support of the need for him to have a fair chance, by just being there. And she won. I mean, he became not only a good American citizen, but a very outstanding one. I thought that her decision with this boy, who was quite young, still in college, to try to make him learn what our Constitution is for, was very, very good. Somebody should help Ollie [North] find it. [Laughter.]
Knight: Not being able to join the National Press Club, what did you think?
Campbell: I thought they were meanies. [Laughter.]
Knight: How did you feel? How did other people feel?
Campbell: I thought it was very unfair. I didn't want to be in a separate [group]—I had always felt that it was important to be on a newspaper as a reporter, just like a man reporter. And if they had to go do things that were hard in the middle of the night, you went and did things that were hard in the middle of the night. I never asked for any special treatment. So I didn't think what they were doing was fair. Fortunately—I was awfully glad, because I would never have tried to influence him—my husband, who became president of the National Press Club, wanted women admitted, but it got turned down. That's about the only thing he lost, as I recall. He was a president of a great many things. He had important things, I remember, in the campaign to be president [of the Press Club]. He was for keeping the same kind of plates that they had at the time, where they had both a sprig of parsley and—[Laughter.]. Oh, and on the dessert, a cookie. There was a group in the National Press Club who claimed that the same parsley was used on every plate, every day, at every meal. And the same with the cookies! [Laughter.] That was very funny.
Knight: Did you ever talk to your male colleagues about not letting women in?
Campbell: Oh, sure.
Knight: What were their reasons?
Campbell: Oh, some of them just thought it had started as a men's club, and there was no point in changing it. President Taft or somebody had done this or that. Although they voted as if it were a real deep-set belief, in normal conversations, they never
seemed to be feeling that way. So I was very pleased when—and you know, because I was the wife of a president of the National Press Club, they made me a member separately and continued my membership after Joe died, and treated me just like any other member. [Laughter.]
Knight: Do you think that affected your ability to be a good reporter?
Campbell: Oh, my goodness, no. Well, it would have at one point, where they wouldn't let you in—oh, this, I thought, was scurvy. They had a rule. At first, they wouldn't let women come to anything. But when they began having pretty important—really important speakers, like the head of the United States this or the World Bank that, and stuff, there were so many protests, not only from women reporters, but from their editors, that they decided that women could come if they'd sit up in the balcony. [Laughter.] The men sat down below and ate, and the women didn't get any lunch that day; they sat up in the balcony, and they couldn't ask questions, but they could listen. And that is what I said was scurvy. I said that was terrible, just awful. But they got over that, and somebody was able to join different ideas together, and we're now one club. I think it's great. Of course, I'm curious at the fact that there is—I thought the National Press Club Foundation, the National Press Foundation, which I joined when it started, was for everybody. Now, the Washington Press Foundation is it.
Knight: The Washington Press Club Foundation is sponsoring this project that we're doing today, and they're separate.
Did you also belong or know women who belonged to the White House group of Eleanor Roosevelt's press women, the White House correspondents, the group of women who just joined together because they had covered Eleanor Roosevelt?
Campbell: I didn't know there was such an organization. We were all together at the Smithsonian. Not all of us, but there were eight, I think, who were left, about 12 years ago, who had all covered her, and that was the only thing we had necessarily in common. Some of us were good friends; some of us weren't. But is there now an organization?
Knight: Not now. There was for a short period of time.
Campbell: If I were you, I would check up on that, because I don't really believe. Of course, every time anything has been brought up about Mrs. Roosevelt's press conference, remember, I joined it in—
Knight: You were one of the later starters. Some of the women had started in the early '30s, when she first started.
Campbell: So I can't swear they did or didn't.
Knight: What about your colleagues at the AP? Tell me about some of the people that you worked with at the AP that made a particular impression on you.
Campbell: Oh, there were lots of them. One of them was Ben Grant, who later became the managing editor of the U.S. News & World Report. Then Dave Lawrence, I guess he was the editor of it for a while. But anyhow, he [Grant] was marvelous, friendly, able, a marvelous person. He had come from Florida, and one of the interesting things about Ben, I think everybody's been interested I ever told it to, is that when he went to college, he was about 5 feet tall. But then his folks had already
started with some medicine. He had doctors that were working on this. He wasn't tall enough for anybody of his other characteristics. And by the time I met him, he was 6'1". It just shows all sorts of things can happen, except I can't get taller now. I'm getting shorter all the time. [Laughter.]
Knight: Ruth Cowan Nash followed you at the AP?
Knight: You had followed Bess Furman?
Campbell: Bess Furman.
Knight: Was that a woman's slot, do you think, at the AP?
Knight: They knew they were going to hire a woman for this slot?
Campbell: Yes, I think they did.
Knight: Did you feel that that paved the way for you in any way?
Campbell: Yes, I think so. She [Furman] was a good reporter who could do anything, and I hoped I was. I didn't know Ruth before she came. She was in Chicago, as I recall. But I did know Bess, because she stayed here. Her husband, Bob Armstrong, was a correspondent for a St. Louis newspaper, and she started doing her own stuff, her own bureau, sort of, after her children—she had twins—were born. I was always very, very fond of her. I suppose—I don't think I ever talked to anybody about that—but I think that she had covered Mrs. Roosevelt for so many years. I saw a news story that she had sent me, that she wrote years later, but it mentioned how many years she had covered Mrs. Roosevelt, but I've forgotten what it was, but it was a lot. She covered it and went up to New York and covered her.
Knight: When you were replaced by Ruth, did you have any hand in selecting her?
Campbell: Oh, no, none at all.
Knight: None at all? Did you work with her for a little while before you left?
Campbell: No. No, I had told them that I had a baby coming, because they insisted that I must tell them. [Laughter.] They didn't want another surprise like Bess had given them, and if I was pregnant, I should notify the managing editor, the bureau chief. And I did. I told him. I asked them when they wanted me to leave, you know. I would leave that day. If they wanted to know when I was pregnant, I was pregnant already, and I'd just quit. And they said, no, no, they needed me a while longer, please. And so this was February. Maybe it was January; I don't know. Anyhow, the date we set was in February, about the 12th. I flew out to Toledo, where a sister lived at that time, and so I mean, it was all set. They knew when I was going. If they had wanted to bring her in, they could have, but they didn't. But she was a very experienced person like I was. She didn't really—and as you asked me, and I told you, all the men in the office were wonderful to me, to help me get used to things when I was new, as far as the things that were different in a press service.
Of course, there was one thing that was very wrong, very mistaken. The Sunday before I left Oklahoma City, I had a call from a boy that I had had some dates with, who worked for the Associated Press in the state office, and a friend of his, and they asked if they could come out for just a few minutes, and they did. My little brother was there—little brother, he was in high school, 14. And my dad was there. And they said they wanted him in this conversation, too, that what they'd come to tell me was that they had voted—I don't know who "they" were—that I shouldn't come to Washington, that in Washington, there were just all these women and no men for them to marry, and that if I came up here, I'd just turn out to be an old maid. And they didn't think that was right for me. [Laughter.] So they pointed out that in Oklahoma City, I not only knew a lot of people when I first came there from the University of Oklahoma, but I went to all the university parties and things like that, and they just named all kinds of reasons why, if I stayed in Oklahoma City, I would be married very soon. And I said, "Well, I've been here for three years, two years, whatever, and I'm not married yet. So I'm not going to let that decide me." So I told them no, and came on, the 21st of December 1936. And I was married the 26th of December 1937. [Laughter.] And so happy about it, and stayed happy about it the whole time. So lucky.
Knight: I think we'll finish up for today.
Campbell: Good. I've enjoyed it.