Women In Journalism
Interviewees
Beth Campbell Short

[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

Page 44


Page 45

 

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

Page 45


Page 46

 

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

Page 46


Page 47

 

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

Page 47


Page 48

 

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.

Page 48


Page 49

 

Knight: That was mutual.

Campbell: Yes.

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.

Page 49


Page 50

 

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?

Page 50


Page 51

 

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?

Campbell: Yes.

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,

Page 51


Page 52

 

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.

Page 52


Page 53

 

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."

Page 53


Page 54

 

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: Joe?

Knight: Yes.

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.

Page 54


Page 55

 

Knight: Did Doris Fleeson?

Campbell: No, Doris never mentioned it to either one of us.

Knight: Interesting.

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?

Campbell: No.

Page 55


Page 56

 

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?

Knight: Boomerang?

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

Page 56


Page 57

 

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

Page 57


Page 58

 

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.

Page 58


Page 59

 

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.

Campbell: Yes.

Knight: You planned your life out?

Campbell: We hadn't planned how many we would have, but we did want to have more than

Page 59


Page 60

 

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?

Page 60


Page 61

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.

 

Page 61