[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Currie: I wonder if we can begin at the beginning, when and where you were born.
Mosby: I was born July 27, 1922, in Missoula, Montana, at St. Patrick's Hospital. My father at that time was an electrician. I don't know when he started doing that. Then he started selling electrical appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves and so forth, in Missoula. I think my mother worked with him in the store. I had a sister two years older than I, named Mary Jane. That was the family.
We lived on University Avenue, which is right near the University of Montana, in Missoula. I don't know how old I was when my father began to build a radio station. Being an electrician, he had all the catalogs and sent away for all the material and so forth. He was very much a self-made man. He built the radio station, which was called KGVO, and it was the first radio station in Missoula and only the second in Montana. The first one was in Butte. My father opened his station in 1932.
My father was definitely a self-made man. His parents were immigrants from Denmark and they opened a small hotel in the town of Eureka, which is almost on the Canadian border between Montana and Canada. He managed to get through grammar school, but he went just a couple of years to high school, secondary school, and then decided he wanted to be an electrician in the town of Kalispell, and then he moved to Missoula. In other words, he was full of energy, initiative, and doing things.
I remember the radio station when I got older. My mother was the bookkeeper for the radio station. I remember being on the radio station, singing with other children and acting in radio plays and so forth.
Currie: What fun!
Mosby: Then later on, the station got bigger. I remember it moved to another place. I'm not sure when he started that, but he built the television station in the late 1950s. That was, again, the first television station in Missoula, which was a town of about 20,000 people. But by the time I was in university, it was probably up to 30,000. They claim 75,000 now, but I think that includes the outlying ranches and so forth. It's probably more like 55,000 or 60,000. Anyway, he built the television station. In other words, [he was] very energetic.
He began to acquire real estate in Western Montana. We always had a country home on Flathead Lake. He had a Swedish man build a little log lodge on the lake. The southern half of the lake is on the Flathead Indian Reservation. That's where the house is. I still go there.
That's where I'm going. In two weeks I'll be there. That was great, part of the outdoors and so forth.*
Getting back to my education, I grew up being exposed not exactly to the news business, but in a way, because, of course, there were always newscasts on the radio, and I knew the newscasters, announcers, and, of course, newscasters on the television. Then one of my father's brothers, whose name was Eck, was a reporter on the San Francisco Chronicle. My father's name was Arthur. My father was always very strict with me. When my uncle would come to visit us from California, he always gave me nickels and dimes. He was very pleasant and easy. My father never gave me any money. My father was always quite stern. My father always said I should be in the radio business, but I decided, at the age of eight, that I wanted to be a newspaper reporter like my uncle, because I really liked him. [Laughter.]
Currie: Did he talk to you about the newspaper business at all?
Mosby: My uncle? Oh, yes.
Currie: What did he tell you?
Mosby: Oh, I don't remember, but I remember he was just talking about the stories he wrote and the stories he covered. I don't remember that. He got out of the newspaper business later on (I don't remember whether it was when I was in high school or university) and became the public relations man for the California wine industry. Unfortunately, he died. I don't remember when, but I wasn't too grown up when he died, when I was in university, maybe. Anyway, he was the one who inspired me. My father was always very upset about this. He said, "Newspapers are no good. Radio is the only thing. You have to work in a radio station and then eventually take it over, and you must be in the radio business." But I just wanted to really be in newspapers.
Currie: Can you put your finger on what the allure of newspapers was?
Mosby: I think it was just because of my uncle.
Currie: Why did your father decide to build a radio station?
Mosby: As I said, he sold electrical appliances and he was an electrician. He was interested in all these wires and things. Radio was just a burgeoning thing, and one fit into another. A radio station involves that electrical equipment, so it just was a logical step for him.
* Mosby had the following addition after checking dates with her sister: "My father opened Missoula's first radio station January 18, 1931. In 1935 the station was accepted as a CBS station. He used the local newspaper and a bit of reporting to broadcast local and regional news. In 1943 he bought the hill upon which he built his home and several model houses to sell. On July 1, 1954 he opened Missoula's first TV station and bought the UP service. (The local newspaper, the one and only, had AP for many, many years.) He challenged the monopoly that ASCAP had on playing music on radio and TV and his rebellion was one of the reasons (he claimed) for the formation of BMI by other composers. He challenged ASCAP because they demanded a high price from stations to play the music of their member composers. In 1954 he spearheaded efforts to rechannel the Missoula River (real name Clark Fork River) which bisects the town, in order to build a park on a small island in the river. It finally was done after his death in the early seventies.
Currie: He wasn't necessarily interested in news-gathering?
Mosby: No. No, no, he wasn't interested in news-gathering. He was just a very lively go-getter, and Missoula didn't have a radio station, and Missoula was full then—and to some extent, still now, though it's livelier now—with very conservative people who just didn't see any reason to change anything and thought that my father was a little crazy.
I remember that the Missoula River, the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, we call it the Missoula River, but that isn't its real name, runs right through Missoula. That's where Lewis and Clark went on their exploration and walked by the river, and there are some small islands in the river. I think my father bought one of the islands or he wanted to, and he wanted to build something there. I forget what it was. I could look into that when I go to Montana. Everybody just said, "You're crazy. You can't do that."
Well, long after he died, this was in the thirties this happened, something like that, and in the 1980s they finally realized, of course, he was right, so they put it up there. I forget what it is, but it was done. [Mosby later consulted with her sister, who said their father wanted to build a park on the island.]
My parents were divorced when I was a junior in college, which was a terrible blow. Later when I was working first for UPI [United Press International] in California, I remember my father came to visit me, and I was living in the western part of Los Angeles, in the Hollywood area where it's all on hills. You've been there; you must remember.
Mosby: Everything is on hills there. Of course, when there's a rainstorm, as you know, sometimes the houses slide down, which is a disaster, but most of the time it's all right. But Missoula is in a valley surrounded by mountains, and some of them are low enough that you could put houses on them, but there was never a house on them because everybody said, "Of course you can't build on a hill."
My father said, "That is ridiculous. They do it in California." He bought great tracts of this land and started a housing project called Farviews. He had a beautiful house built by a very famous California architect. Then he built a few other houses for speculation and had a hard time selling them. He had a very difficult time getting permits for building and everything, because everybody in the city council and the government and in the town said, "You can't build a house on a hill. It will slide down! How are you going to get water up there?" Ridiculous questions. To make a long story short, now the whole hill is covered with houses, as are almost all the hills around Missoula. That's what I mean when I said he was a go-getter. He was a pioneer. Maybe that's a better word. He saw these things as a means of making money and doing things and helping the community. It would never have occurred to him to ever go anyplace else. He loved Montana. He loved Missoula. Everybody else just sat around and said, "Ah, you can't do that."
Currie: But he also persevered.
Mosby: Yes! Yes, that's true. I would say I learned perseverance from him. He just would keep doing something, no matter if somebody said, "You can't do that." He would just do it.
Currie: You were telling me that the radio station turned into the TV station, and your father had a brother named Eck. He was the one who inspired you.
Mosby: Because of my determination, from the age of eight years old, to be a reporter, when I was in high school, in Missoula County High School they had a journalism course. I think it was one year, when I was a senior, I took that, and worked on the school paper.
My plan was, from the time I started secondary school, that when I was out of that, I would go to the University of Montana, which was four blocks up the street, and go to the journalism school, which at that time was rated the fourth in the United States. It was quite good. There weren't that many journalism schools then in universities. It didn't occur to me to ever do anything else. That was just it. So that's where I went to university, was at the University of Montana, and I was in the journalism school, majored there.
Currie: What were the other major journalism schools at that time?
Mosby: Columbia and the University of Missouri. Where is the University of Missouri?
Currie: It's in Columbia.
Mosby: Columbia. That's right. Columbia, Missouri. But also Columbia University in New York. Northwestern University. What is that called, the school there?
Mosby: Medill. Oh, I almost forgot. When I was a junior in high school, there was a contest by Northwestern University in the Medill School for journalism students my age to win a scholarship to study at the summer school at Northwestern. Oh, I'd forgotten all about that! So I won. There was either somebody else from Missoula High School who was with me, or else from another state nearby. I remember there were just a couple of us from that part of the world. We went on a bus to Chicago, and I had never been out of Missoula before, and there I was, going without parents on a bus to Chicago. At that age I was a year younger than everyone else in my class because I started grammar school in the second year, instead of the first, because I was very envious when my sister knew how to read and write. She was two years older. So I made her teach me how to read and write when I was about four or something. So I started grammar school earlier than the others.
Anyway, so there we were in Northwestern. The man who was head of the school, he was very well known then, the dean. There were students there from all over the United States. I don't remember how many we were, but we lived in the dormitories, I think. They had journalism classes for us.
I can remember one story I wrote. [Laughter.] The professor told us about a woman coming back from someplace in Africa, bringing a lot of snakes with her, a great shipment of snakes for zoos or something. We were supposed to cover it, and we were supposed to write a story about it. I don't remember if we really saw her arrival. It could have been, because the university is near the Great Lakes. It could have been something on the water. But anyway, my lead was that whatever her name was, Josephine Smith, or whatever her name was, snake-hipped off the boat at whatever the port was, with this load of snakes. That was my lead. [Laughter.] When the professor read this to this class of journalism students, everybody roared with laughter, but the teacher was very disapproving of it. She said, "You shouldn't have written something like that." [Laughter.]
Currie: Did she say why?
Mosby: No. I don't remember that. It was frivolous. I'd forgotten all about that.
I wonder what happened to all those other students. We learned quite a bit. I think it was a six-week course. I'm not sure. I remember we stayed in Chicago overnight after this bus trip. When I think of us going, I must have been either fourteen or fifteen, going alone with these two other students. I remember we stayed in a hotel, and I couldn't sleep all night for some reason; I forget what. But for somebody from Missoula, Montana, a town of fifteen thousand or twenty thousand, to go to Chicago!
Currie: It must have seemed like the big city.
Mosby: Oh, it certainly did!
Currie: You said you learned quite a bit at this course. Do you remember what it is that you got out of that?
Mosby: Offhand, no. I'd have to think about it some more. When I go to Montana, I have my scrapbooks there.
Currie: Oh, great!
Mosby: And childhood things like that. I'll look that up.
Currie: That would be great. This was in addition to working on the school paper?
Mosby: Yes. I should maybe check on that Missoula High school paper. I'm not sure what year the Chicago trip was. I think I went back to high school for a year after Chicago, before I went to university, though I'm not positive about that. I think so. I'll have to check on that.
Currie: Do you recall the kinds of things that you did on the school paper?
Mosby: No. The Kaimin was the name of the university paper.* Actually, in the last year or so, people do this. Maybe you might find this true when you get older. The people you went to school with, after you get out of university or high school, everybody spreads in other directions and maybe you still might see one or two of them down the years, especially if you move around a lot. Only when you get to be so-called retirement age do all of a sudden you start remembering your childhood and see these people again. It's interesting that now I'm getting letters from people with whom I went to high school and grammar school that I had not heard from and haven't seen since then. Everybody begins to think, when they're approaching the end of their life, they start remembering all of this.
Currie: Also maybe there's more time to remember.
Mosby: Well, that's it, yes. Yes, that's true. More time to remember. But anyway, one of them will be in Missoula, and I will ask her. People who are still living there would remember a lot more than I would. I don't even remember the name of the school paper.
* The name of the high school paper was Konah, an Indian word. I cannot remember the meaning. The same for Kaimin, the name of the university newspaper, which was and is a daily.
Currie: That can be looked up. I wonder if we could go back a little bit. You described your father quite vividly, but how would you describe your mother?
Mosby: My mother's name was Edna Mae, and her parents were Irish immigrants from Northern Ireland. Not real Ireland; Northern Ireland. She was pretty and had dark hair, and she was very willing and helpful to work with my father. In those days, women didn't work that much, so when I look back on it, [I think about] how she took care of a big rambling wooden house, which is still there, looks still the same on University Avenue, and brought up two children—fortunately, only two—two females, and worked with my father and cooked at the same time, and my sister and I, I don't think helped very much, and we feel guilty about that. [Laughter.] In other words, she was willing to work very hard and was a very sincere, good person.
But my father was, as I said, full of all this energy and also a bit of a flirt and a bounder. Looking back on it, I think he was probably having an affair or two with the secretary at the radio station. As I said, eventually he wanted a divorce, so my mother was crushed by that and really never recovered. She went to Los Angeles to live. She just felt she couldn't stay in Missoula. My father remarried, a marvelous woman who came from a very old Montana family, which, of course, my parents weren't, neither one of them. They were children of immigrants. This was a very old, established, wealthy Montana family, and my stepmother was a marvelous person, a different kind of an influence. My stepmother's family was prominent in both the lumber and mining industries of Montana.
Currie: What was her influence?
Mosby: Her first husband was German, and she had traveled to Europe in the days when people didn't travel to Europe very much from America. Then when the war started—I forgot what happened to him—she returned to the United States. She lived in Paris for a while, and I still have a lot of her antique furniture that she had bought in Paris that furnishes my apartment here. Where am I? I mean, furnishes my apartment in Paris, a lot of the pieces.
But anyway, my father really dumped my mother. I felt sorry for her. She never really recovered from that. Her influence would have been, I think—well, I don't know. I'd have to think about that.
Currie: Did she have any ambition for you? I know your father clearly thought you should have stayed at the radio station.
Mosby: Yes. That's a good question. Yes, she did. She wanted me to be a concert pianist, and I started taking piano lessons when I was five years old. Yes, I studied piano for sixteen years until I was about a senior in university, and I wasn't very diligent at it. To be a real musician, as you must know, you really have to love it so much that you will practice eight hours a day. You really have to do that. I would get bored. I remember taking music lessons, I don't remember how much a week. My mother played the piano a little bit, but I think she was sort of self-taught. Also I was really just very upset at the concerts that I was involved in. I remember just being simply terrified. [Laughter.]
Currie: And you never felt that way about journalism?
Mosby: No. It was really very frightening. When I went to university, I studied on an electric organ instead of a piano, and the last concert I gave, as a sophomore, was at the university in the auditorium, and I was playing Sibelius, "Finlandia." Hardly anybody was there.
The whole auditorium, my parents were there and maybe a couple other people, maybe two other people, and that was all, because that was Sunday, December 7, 1941. Of course, everybody was home listening to the radio and terror-stricken, and it was just horrible. But I went, of course, to do the concert. I felt I should; my parents came. But, of course, everybody else was at home in hysterics. Nobody came.
Currie: You grew up during the depression.
Mosby: Oh, yes.
Currie: What was that like? Do you have any memories of how the depression affected your family or your community?
Mosby: My father was a self-made man. He had his own business. He did very well selling electric appliances. In those days, all those things were new. The town, as I said, was only about fifteen thousand, eighteen thousand people. Of course, I guess that's why my mother worked with my father. He wasn't paying her anything, I'm sure. He was always very stingy with money. Everything, the capital and all that, had to be accumulated.
I just don't remember. I should ask my sister some of these things about the depression. When you live in a small town, your expenses are much less than if you were born and brought up in New York. You walk to school. Of course, he owned the house, but I suppose in those days houses didn't cost very much. He owned the house that I was born and brought up in. I just don't remember. The whole nation was affected, but whether it would have been in a small town, I don't know. There are lumber mills right outside of Missoula. Lumber is the big industry. I guess it probably would have been affected, but there weren't homeless people sleeping in the streets or anything like that.
Currie: It didn't affect your life in any significant way?
Mosby: No. My father owned his own business, so it wasn't a question of being fired.
I remember the first job I had was when I was fifteen. My father, as I said, believed that you shouldn't pamper children. Looking back, I always thought he was tough and he really frightened me. I was a bit terrified of him. But I think he was right. He said, "You have to learn to make your own way," and he just didn't throw money around. He'd give us a quarter now and then, I think, our weekly allowance was pretty small. Of course, in those days, you remember, hamburgers cost five cents. [Laughter.] I finally decided I was going to get a job. I wanted my own spending money.
So for one summer, when I was still in high school, I remember I went to the department store downtown, Missoula Mercantile, to apply for a job selling ice cream cones, which were maybe three cents or something. I remember there was a little outdoor window that led to the street. You could stand on the street outside and order ice cream cones and they'd hand them out. But there wasn't any opening, and I couldn't think of what else to do, so [although] I didn't tell my parents I was doing this, I went to the theater, the Wilma Theater. There were two movie theaters, cinema houses, in the town. I went to the Wilma, which was the biggest one, right on the river, it was very nice, and I applied for a job as an usherette, and I got one. I got my first Social Security card. I lied and said I was sixteen and I wasn't, but I got a Social Security card.
Then I came home and announced I had a job, and my father almost fainted. My parents were very upset because they didn't think it was a very cultured, elegant thing to do to work in a movie house where you're there because you're a young female. I can see their point of view. Sort of a snobbish thing. But I didn't offer to quit. I don't remember what happened, but he didn't order me to quit, so I just kept working there. I mean, it wasn't really a very dignified job, but I wanted spending money. I think I worked every evening from seven till nine or something like that, and I think I made $15 a week. I'm not sure. That was a lot of money.
Currie: Yes. Wasn't that also the days when they had uniforms?
Mosby: Oh, I wore a uniform. I remember the theater furnished uniforms and there were trousers that you put on and some sort of a top with a high neck and long sleeves, and you were supposed to stand at the doorway that leads directly to the seats. You weren't supposed to look at the film, because you were supposed to be waiting for customers to come. You had a flashlight and you led them down the aisle and showed them to a seat. I tried to concentrate on doing that and not looking at the movie. [Laughter.]
Currie: You probably got bored seeing the same movie all the time.
Currie: Did you ever work for your father at his radio station?
Mosby: Yes. My sister and I were on the programs. Of course, we did that for nothing. Then when I was in university, I answered the phone at the station and typed letters, did secretarial work. I'm trying to remember. After my parents were divorced, I still had one more year to go, and part of the divorce agreement was that my father had to pay for my living in the sorority house on the campus and for my expenses, but my father, I think rightfully so, said, "I'll give you the money, but you have to earn it." I don't remember when I managed to answer the phone when I was at university. Maybe it was on Saturdays or something like that.
Currie: You said that the University of Montana was one of four places where you could study journalism at that point.
Mosby: No, it was rated fourth among journalism schools. I'm sure there were several others, but it was regarded as very good. The program of the university was that you took what they called survey courses then, where you took a course in every department of the university, not every one, but most of them, so that you would have a little bit of knowledge about everything. That's what the idea was, what a journalist should know. So I remember studying political science under a teacher named Mike Mansfield, whom I'm sure you've heard of by now.* [Laughter.]
Mosby: I still am in touch with him now and then. I just wrote to him when he retired, and he wrote back. He's a very terrific man, just really marvelous. I saw him in May when he spoke at the new Mansfield Center at the university.
* U.S. senator from Montana.
I remember we had to take economics and the humanities, political science, literature, everything. I don't know what journalism schools do now. I should find out, at the University of Montana, if they still do the same thing. That was, I think, for the first year, when we actually then started taking journalism. I think maybe we took journalism courses, too, but they didn't get intensive until our junior and senior year. Then I remember everybody had to work on the university newspaper, which is called the Kaimin, which is an Indian word. I don't know what it means.
Of course, in those days there weren't computers. It's completely different now. So you learned how to set type. We would go to the basement of the journalism school. The journalism school was in a separate building. In other words, that's one reason I guess it had a good rating. It was a separate college. Forestry was in another building. Forestry, of course, is a big school there, with the lumber industry.
We learned how to set type and to proofread, and we would help put out the newspaper. It was very practical training. You learned a lot about Montana history. I remember Dean Stone was the name of the dean, and he was quite well known. I forget his first name. Even then he was very old.
Currie: How often did the newspaper come out?
Mosby: I think it was a weekly. I could ask about that. I think it was a weekly. [Mosby later corrected this. The paper "was and is a daily."]
Currie: What jobs did you hold on the paper?
Mosby: I don't remember. I think we all covered stories and wrote them and did copy reading and helped set the type. I think everybody did everything. Did I have a column? I don't remember.*
You mentioned the local newspaper, The Daily Missoulian. Did they have two editions? That's not possible. Oh, they couldn't have had. However, it and most of the press at that time in the state of Montana was owned by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which had big mines in Butte, which is 120 miles away. One of the evils of capitalism, I guess you'd say, they owned the Missoulian and they owned some other newspapers. It was just the same thing as the Pravda in Moscow; there wasn't any difference. They censored everything. They were furious when my father opened a radio station and did everything they could to stop it, because, of course, people would listen to radio news. He fought them bitterly most of his life. I remember that for many, many years, the radio was never mentioned in the newspaper, they never published the hours or programs or anything, and for years they wouldn't even print anything about my father or his family. It was a big deal when I finally got any picture in the newspaper, I think it was for winning that scholarship to Northwestern; I'm not sure.
Currie: I'm going to turn the tape.
* Mosby later wrote in an addendum that she was "a reporter, not a columnist" on her college newspaper. "The university yearbook that I edited was called The Bitterroot (after the state flower of Montana). I was editor-in-chief, the first woman to hold that position," she wrote.
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Mosby: This is very interesting for me. I haven't thought about this for all these years.
Currie: See how much you remember that you didn't think you would?
Mosby: Oh, yes! It comes back once you start. When you asked why didn't I get a job on the local paper, I'm sure they would have just dropped dead and wouldn't have hired anybody related to my father. [Laughter.] The ACM [Anaconda Mining Company], as it was called, got out of that after I had left Montana. I forget what happened. The copper industry caved in, practically, in Montana when the South American copper got to be such a good price. A lot of the mines have been shut and still are shut, actually.
Currie: Where did your father get his broadcast news?
Mosby: When the radio station started, I wonder what they did for news? I'll ask my sister that; maybe she'll remember. When the television stations started, or maybe later on, my father became a client of United Press, which he would have because the newspaper was AP [Associated Press], of course. AP ran everything then. That's how I got my first job at UPI.
Currie: Because your father knew some people?
Mosby: Because he was a client. [Laughter.]
Currie: So even though your father was a broadcast outlet, he was still cut off from AP? As I understand it, AP had a rule that if they went to one paper, that the other paper in the area couldn't take it.
Mosby: Yes, that's so.
Currie: It's interesting. It sounds, from what you're saying, that your father was an independent news voice, whereas the paper wasn't.
Mosby: The paper wasn't.
Currie: It's interesting.
Mosby: I don't know what he would have done for local news. I'll find that out.
Currie: As you were growing up, what were your hobbies?
Mosby: We had cats. I was very interested in cats.
Currie: And still are.
Mosby: I still am. I kept a scrapbook, learned how to swim, took tennis lessons, but I was too timid to be good at any sport. My father liked my sister better than me, which is probably another reason why I liked my uncle better. I remember he taught her how to play golf. He wasn't too interested in me. My father always complained that I hadn't been a boy, that I should have been a boy, because he wanted a son to take over the business. He was very bitter when my mother just had two daughters. After that, she couldn't have any more children. In fact, I was called Peter for the first few years of my life. I remember my grandmother, my father's mother,
came down from Eureka to visit once and screamed and yelled and said, "You've got to stop that [Peter name] instantly!"
Currie: That could confuse a child.
Mosby: Yes! I had a Peter Rabbit doll, but my father might have encouraged that because it was a masculine name. I remember that.
Currie: Why do you think he favored your sister?
Mosby: Because she was prettier than I was and had lovely bosoms and I didn't. [Laughter.] Probably why.
But anyway, about the AP and UPI, I remember that it was UP at the television station and probably at the radio station by the time I was in university. Then I was editor of the university yearbook when I was a senior, probably because by then the war had taken away most of the fellows of the university. The University of Montana was down to something like four hundred students when I was a graduate. They had a big ROTC. Do they still use that?
Currie: They do.
Mosby: The ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps] contingent at the university, there always had been a small one, but it was a huge one by then. So almost everybody was in uniform and it was an army atmosphere. There were hardly any men students left.
Currie: What year did you graduate from the University of Montana?
Mosby: In '43.
Currie: Really well into the war.
Currie: What difference did you see the war bring?
Mosby: The fellows just disappeared from the campus, and I remember my boyfriend, who was from New Jersey, I always looked upon him with awe. There were hardly any out-of-staters there. I don't know why he came out there. I remember he wanted to marry me. I don't know. I wanted to have a career, in the first place, and also he wasn't really a great intellectual. I don't know. His name was Jack Ferris. He went off with the marines, and then my first year out of university, I felt very guilty for having spurned him, because he was killed on Iwo Jima. I can't remember what year Iwo Jima was, but that's where, I remember, he was killed. He was a marine. So it did make a difference. Then the boyfriend I had when I was a senior, the other boyfriend who I liked better, he joined the army.
What other differences? You know, Americans don't really know what it's like really to suffer from a war. I realized that when I began to live in Europe. I feel sort of protective now of Europeans when Americans start to complain about what they do. Americans just don't know what it's like to have your cities bombed and so many people killed and your whole government and everything disrupted. Americans have been very lucky.
Currie: That's true.
Mosby: Just the absence of men and, of course, schoolmates being killed and so forth. But let me think. There were ration cards. I remember silk stockings were very hard to get.
The first year, when I worked in Seattle, it seems to me, we had ration cards to get butter and things like that. They should have just told us that butter is evil for you, and that would have solved the problem, wouldn't it? [Laughter.]
Currie: They didn't know then. [Laughter.]
Mosby: Of course, it was very easy to get jobs, too.
Currie: Had you ever thought of going to any school other than the University of Montana?
Mosby: No, because they had a journalism school that was rated so high.
Currie: That was the deciding factor?
Mosby: And also my father would have never paid for me to go out of state when there was a university two blocks away. Even then, I don't remember if he complained about the tuition then at the University of Montana. I earned my own tuition. I learned to be independent very young. I don't know whether it's because I was afraid to ask my father for money or I knew he didn't want to pay it or what. Oh, yes, I remember once he said I shouldn't go to university, I should get married. But he sent my sister to university. She was studying nursing. She studied to be a nurse. He didn't want me to go to university.
Currie: Did he say why he wanted you to get married?
Mosby: "You should get married to somebody who will take over the radio station." All that.
Tuition wasn't very much then. I remember it was only about $25 a quarter. They still are on the quarter system there. So I got a job just helping with the registration, when people would come to register. I would get paid $50 or something, so I could pay my own tuition. I paid my own way.
Currie: So that really is establishing your independence.
Mosby: Yes. Even though at the time I thought my father was pretty rough, but maybe it's a good idea for parents to be a little more stern with their children instead of paying all the bills. Or maybe it's better, maybe families are closer. I don't know. But many people I know now have children who have gotten out of university, not only in their twenties but their thirties, and they still live at home, some of them, and still show up now and then and just move right in and raid the ice box, you know.
Currie: They call them "boomerangs."
Mosby: Maybe a lot of your friends are like that, or maybe you were like that, I don't know.
Currie: No, I was never like that. Most of my friends aren't. But there is that phenomenon, I think with people slightly younger than I am.
You said something which was interesting to me, which was that you wanted a career. This young man had asked you to marry him, but you wanted a career. Did you always want a career?
Mosby: Oh, yes! I mean, there was never any doubt of it. I wanted to get married, too, and have children, but that man I didn't particularly like. I vacillated, because then I was quite in love with the one named Dean, and he was sent off to the army. I guess I just didn't want to marry. I don't know. I definitely wanted a career. I wanted to be a journalist, but I also wanted to be married. I was torn between the two.
Currie: Did you think you could have both?
Mosby: Oh, yes. Then I decided, when I was in university, I got sort of bored with the whole newspaper thing and radio thing, and I decided that I wanted to be on a magazine. So I entered a contest on Mademoiselle magazine. Do they still have it?
Currie: I think they still do. The "College Editor" program?
Mosby: Yes. They choose a dozen every year or ten or something. I won, and I was the first person to ever win west of Chicago, except for females from Los Angeles and San Francisco, from California, which, of course, are big cities, but nobody had ever won otherwise. They regarded me as quite an unusual thing. I won, and I went. I was a senior when I won, so right after graduation I went to New York to do that, and I had decided by then that I wanted to be a New York career woman and be on a fashion magazine. Of course, then, in the back of my mind was always meeting some glamorous man in New York and combining the two. I never thought of it that much in detail; sort of one step at a time.
So I went to New York and was on Mademoiselle magazine, and I didn't like the whole fashion world. These women in the office wore hats while they worked. I don't know, the whole thing turned me off.
Currie: What turned you off about it?
Mosby: The idea that they sat around in an office in their hats and talked about all these clothes and fashion things. Then I decided, "Oh, to hell with the fashion world. I'm going back to news." Actually, they offered me a job on the magazine.
Currie: After the guest editing?
Mosby: After the guest editing. It was a beginning job, but they did offer me a job. I wasn't interested, and I went to Time magazine. At that time they were desperate for workers, because there weren't any males around.
Currie: How did you get the job at Time magazine?
Mosby: It was sort of a thing they called College Girl Office Girl, CGOG.
Currie: That was the title?
Mosby: That was the title of this group. Again, it was like winning a contest. They picked ten girls or so. You were supposed to do errands and do apprentice work in every department in the magazine. We sat in at the editorial conferences and so forth. Then you were supposed to
interview the heads of these departments and write up something about it. No, I don't think you had to write anything; I think it was to learn. I didn't like Time magazine very much, either.
Currie: What didn't you like about it?
Mosby: They would all sit around in the editorial conferences, discussing what they were doing, and I was just bored. So then I thought I really should go to work on a newspaper. I remember asking around. I don't remember how I did this. A newspaper across the river in New Jersey was desperate for reporters. There just wasn't anybody. They offered me a job there. After the Mademoiselle thing was over, they had put us up in a women's hotel. I forget the name of it. It was very nice.
Currie: The Barbizon, maybe?
Mosby: Yes, I think that was it. After we got that issue out, that was a lot of fun.
Currie: So you actually put out an issue of Mademoiselle?
Mosby: Yes, you put out an issue.
Currie: As guest editor.
Mosby: As guest editor. Your name is on the masthead as the editor. I think I still have that magazine.
Currie: Do you remember what you worked on, what you did?
Mosby: I edited things and gave people assignments. Oh, I can't remember now. I wrote something. Betsy was the editor. I saw her many years later. She was very nice.
Anyway, I decided not to do the paper in New Jersey, and I took this Time magazine job. I lived for a while in a friend's apartment. It was on Forty-second Street, this dark red brick building. It's a big apartment. There must be 100 apartments, 150. It's between the Daily News building and the United Nations. It's well known. Anyway, I remember staying in her apartment while she was gone for a while. I lived there for a while, but then I was down in a women's apartment-hotel on Catherine Street, in the Village.
Currie: So you had decided to stay in New York?
Mosby: Yes. I took the subway up to Rockefeller Center. You never even went outside, because you were just underneath the ground and came up inside the building, you know. I seldom saw the sky. And I didn't know many people. To make a long story short, I got homesick. I just couldn't stand it. The whole thing just terrified me. When the girl in the room next to me committed suicide at the Catherine House and they took the body out, I just couldn't stand it.
So I called up my father and I said I was coming home. I called up my mother. My mother was right; she said, "That's temporary. It will go away. You should stay in New York."
Currie: Good advice.
Mosby: Yes. My father was so staggered, because we hadn't been that close before, and I never appealed to him for anything. I just did my own thing, earned my own way. He told me to come back to Missoula. He was just so pleased that I called him. He shouldn't have said that, because for a couple of years afterward I wallowed in self-pity and regret that I didn't stay in New York, because if I had stayed, I thought I could have gotten a good job on Time magazine and found some interesting man to marry, you know, and I should have stayed there.
Currie: So you went back to Missoula?
Mosby: I gave up Time magazine and I went back to Missoula. I remember on the train I thought, "I'm probably doing this wrong." I was admitting defeat and I was really furious at myself for doing that.
Currie: Could you have decided to go back to New York?
Mosby: One reason I went back to Missoula is that my father called up UPI—or UP, it was called then—and got a job for me. He called me in New York.
Currie: In Missoula?
Mosby: No. Oh, no, they didn't have any bureaus in little towns like that. He called me up and he said, "You can work for UP in Seattle." So off I went to Seattle. I remember after spending a few months in Missoula and feeling very—oh, it was a horrible period in my life. Then I thought, "Oh, I should just get married." I was really just frightened. The big city just terrified me, and the world of work. I don't know. Big city work.
Currie: How old were you at that time?
Mosby: I was twenty when I went to New York. I graduated from the university when I was twenty. So I was twenty when I went. Isn't that strange? This is like being psychoanalyzed. I wonder what would have happened if I'd stayed on in New York. In a way, as it turned out, I wouldn't have had such an interesting life.
Currie: It's hard to tell. But you didn't stay in Missoula long.
Mosby: No. I remember I was there briefly. (My father later married. They lived in this beautiful mansion on the river that was the family mansion of my stepmother. It had a swimming pool and horse stables and everything.) I remember I just clung to my old schoolmates there. I should never have done that. That was terrible. I was there briefly before I reported to UPI in Seattle.
As it turned out, two of my schoolmates were already there, so I wasn't so lonesome. We rented a house for $50 a month near the University of Washington. [Laughter.] There were five of us. One young woman whom they had met wasn't from Montana, she was a Seattle-ite or Washingtonian or something. There was Prudy and Mary and myself. I guess maybe there were four of us. Later on, another graduate from the University of Montana came there and lived with us for a while, too, so there were five of us. Four of us had been schoolmates at the university. No, I certainly wasn't lonely then. [Laughter.] Then I still shouldn't have admitted defeat. If I had stayed in New York a while longer, I would have gotten over it. But it turned out for the best. That was my first job with UP.
Currie: For the record, what was your stepmother's name?
Mosby: Ruth Greenough. The Greenough family is very well known in Missoula. There's a town called Greenough. They were in either lumber or mines.
Currie: Did your father call someone and fix the job at UP for you? Did you have to interview?
Mosby: Oh, no. He called the man who was the business representative, who traveled around to all the clients in the Pacific Northwest. I can't remember his name. I had met him before, because he would come to Missoula to see my father, being a UP client, when I was in university. They were desperate for people, too, so they sent me to the Seattle bureau. There were two men. That's where that man was based, he was the business representative, and then there was one correspondent, who was the bureau manager. He worked in the daytime, and then I worked on the night shift. I began at five and worked till midnight.
Currie: This may be a good place for you to describe what the bureau was like when you were there.
Mosby: It was tiny. It was in the building of the Seattle Star. There were three papers. There was the Post Intelligencer, the Seattle Times, and this was the number three paper. I'm not even sure it's still in existence.
Currie: I don't think it is. I think it's just the Post Intelligencer and the Times.
Mosby: Of course, the other two were AP clients, and UP often has the smaller one. Cater-cornered across the street was the Seattle Press Club.
So I was on the night shift, going home on the bus. Sometimes when I would work too late, I would miss the bus. I guess I went in a taxi and they paid me for that. But in those days, crime wasn't so rampant. I wasn't afraid. It never occurred to anybody there was anything wrong with that. I wonder if they'd do that now. I don't know.
Currie: How was the bureau actually set up?
Mosby: I remember there were two small rooms, or was it one room? I think it was two small rooms, but they were very tiny. I remember there was a desk, a couple of desks, a couple of typewriters. I think this business manager had a separate office, and then there was a row of teletypes. One UP wire would have been the local wire for Washington State, would have been a different wire, and then the national news wire.
Bill Eberhart was the name of the general manager. I wonder if he's still alive. I don't think he is. Then I think I heard that this man who was the business representative died a few years ago. I don't remember his name. But they were both very, very nice.
I had to read the newspapers and rewrite stories from the newspapers. I guess we wouldn't have had any other sort of a teletype there. Then columnists came on a different wire, and I had to drop those columns off at some place like the post office terminal or something like that, where they had to be shipped out around the state to various clients. I remember that's when I had to walk at midnight through the strange area of Seattle, but I wasn't afraid. Isn't that interesting?
Currie: It was a different time.
Mosby: Just drop it off, then go home. I got home about one, and then I would sit down and eat dinner that my friends had cooked. They were all in bed asleep, and I sat in the kitchen. I remember there was a mouse. Mice were always running around the house, this old house, a small house. [Laughter.] We slept on bunks in two bedrooms. I remember there were two bunks. I always crawled to the upper bunk. Of course, you sleep better when you're younger, I guess. I always went right to sleep, and they all got up and went to work. They were working, I forget where, but they all had good jobs.
Currie: Were they journalists?
Mosby: No. One of them had a pretty good job in an office. Was it a doctor's office? Her father had been a doctor. Where did Prudy work? Isn't this terrible? I can't remember. I don't know. No, none of them were journalists. They were all working, but, as I said, there just weren't any men around, so it was very easy to get jobs. There was never any problem.
Currie: What were you actually responsible for doing at UPI?
Mosby: Writing and putting on the wire everything. I had access to the Seattle Star's copy. Rewriting the Seattle Star copy and putting it on the wire, or going out and covering things. What did I cover? I also had to do the sports, so I got to know the Seattle Star sports writer. His name begins with an E, and he's still on the paper. He's gone up in the world, and he's either on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Times, and he's a very well-known person there. He's a big star. So he helped me. We used to go over to the Press Club for a drink after I got off duty, or maybe it was during my dinner hour or something when things were quiet. I ate dinner at home. Maybe I ate downtown sometimes with him; I don't remember. He was a great guy. He writes a column that's very well known in Seattle.
Currie: So you'd take Washington State sports stories and rewrite them for the wire?
Mosby: Yes. Let me think. Did we have a bureau in Spokane? No, I think there was a person in the bureau in Spokane. I don't remember. I don't know how they work it now. I might have had to take the Spokane stories and edit them and put them on, because maybe we were on the main wire and they were just on a state wire. I'm not sure about that. Then we had correspondents around who would call in stories of two people killed in an automobile accident, or something like that, take dictation over the phone and write that. I wrote a feature story about sports that got some attention in UP. I can't remember what that was. Something about sports. Maybe I've saved these clippings and you can see.
Currie: That would be great.
Mosby: I remember covering some news stories in Seattle, but I don't remember what they were.
Currie: It sounds like you did a little bit of everything.
Mosby: Yes. Then for a while, for a few months, I don't remember what I was making, but it was peanuts, and I got a job in a department store in Seattle helping with window dressing.
Currie: Was this to supplement your income?
Mosby: Yes, and I did that just a couple of hours in the afternoon for a while. I was there just two years. During that period I was sent down to San Francisco to help with the organization of the United Nations. That was in 1945 when the United Nations was organized.
Currie: What did you do in covering that?
Mosby: I don't remember.
Currie: How many people were at the Seattle bureau?
Mosby: There was just two of us doing news. The bureau manager was the chief correspondent. Then the business manager had nothing to do with news; he was selling the service. So there would have just been the two of us.
Currie: Wow! So whoever was there was covering everything.
Mosby: Yes. I was the only one on duty at night. It seems to me sometimes when things happened that he would call me to come in early. I can't remember, though. I remember being at the Boeing plant. I just don't remember.
Currie: Was there an AP bureau in Seattle, too?
Currie: I was just trying to get a flavor for how much competition there was between UP and AP.
Mosby: Yes. I don't remember. I can't remember some of the stories that I covered or who else was there.
Currie: You've covered a lot of stories between then and now. Was it particularly important to you to work for UP, or did you just want a job at that point?
Mosby: I was very thrilled to be with UP. By then I was furious with myself for having left New York, and my plan always was, one thing good about a wire service, you can move around from one bureau to the next, so I'd wind up in New York one day. [Laughter.]
Currie: What kind of reputation did UP have?
Mosby: They were the number two news agency. The AP was bigger. Still is. There were three agencies then. There was INS [International News Service]. That was the Hearst chain. But UP was bigger than INS, because INS, I think, just mainly covered for the Hearst newspapers.
Currie: Then at some point UP and INS merged.
Mosby: That was many, many years later. That was when I was in Europe. I can't remember if there was an INS bureau in Seattle. There may have been. I remember the United Nations thing, but I don't remember what I covered in Seattle. The capital is in Olympia. I wouldn't have covered anything there.
Currie: What did you learn from this two-year stint at UP in Seattle?
Mosby: I don't know. [Laughter.] I'll have to think about that a while. The only story I can remember writing was something to do with sports, but it wasn't a real sports story. It was something sort of amusing to do with sports.
Currie: A feature, maybe?
Mosby: Yes, a feature story. I can't remember what it was.
Currie: How did you know you were doing a good job?
Mosby: I don't know that, either. I guess maybe the bureau manager had no complaints.
The war in the Pacific was still on then, and they were short of people over there. I was asked if I wanted to go out there.
Currie: To cover the war in the Pacific?
Mosby: Yes. I can't think where would it have been, where was the United States Army at that time.
Currie: I'm going to change this tape.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Currie: UP asked you if you wanted to be a war correspondent in the Pacific.
Currie: They must have thought highly of you, because I think there were other women fighting to cover the war.
Mosby: I don't know. Anyway, I decided I didn't want to go. I can't remember why, but I decided I didn't want to go. I should have gone; it would have been interesting.
Currie: You told me in Paris that you were too timid.
Mosby: That probably is what it was, yes. I remember years after that, when I was in New York, I was asked if I wanted to go out to Vietnam, but I didn't want to do that either. [Laughter.] Sounds pretty awful.
Currie: Do you know why you didn't want to go to Vietnam?
Mosby: I don't know. It just sounded awful. I wish now I'd gone, but I didn't want to go then.
Currie: How did you leave the UP Seattle bureau after two years?
Mosby: I wanted to go to the San Francisco bureau, because I liked working there when I was working there when the United Nations was formed. So I asked to be transferred to San Francisco. They didn't have an opening there, but they needed somebody on the radio wire in Los Angeles, and my mother was living there then, because she was divorced, and my sister was also there. So I went to Los Angeles instead.
Currie: About what year would that have been?
Mosby: I don't know. Maybe about '46, I think. When did the war end?
Mosby: So the war was over then.
Currie: What can you tell me about the UP bureau in Los Angeles?
Mosby: I worked on the radio wire for a couple of years, and that isn't reporting. That's rewriting, to write in radio style, take the news stories off the news wire and write in radio style. It has to be done in a more conversational way, cutting it down, and so forth.
Currie: Did you actually broadcast yourself, or did you write it for others?
Mosby: No, it was for the UP radio wire. They had, and still have, a special wire for radio and television use only. I think they do. Or do they? I don't know. Maybe times have changed. I wonder if they still have a radio wire. I don't know.
Currie: So this was a wire that basically was the same news, but it was written in a radio and television style.
Mosby: That's right.
Currie: So they could rip it off and read it on the air.
Currie: Had you ever done that before?
Mosby: No. That's easy. It's just editing. It's just rewriting. You just have to do it in a more simple style and put in pronunciation for difficult foreign names or something in parentheses. You always put how to pronounce it. Of course, you had to watch the news wire very closely, because for radio, bulletins are very important, and if there was a bulletin story, you had to rip it off and instantly get a bulletin out.
Currie: How would you define a bulletin story?
Mosby: Somebody declares war against somebody. On agency wires it still would be a bulletin. A bulletin would be "George Bush rushed to the hospital with heart fibrillation." That would be a bulletin. Or anything to do with the Gulf war.
Currie: So you'd be essentially in the bureau.
Mosby: Yes, you wouldn't go out and cover anything. It was an editing job in the office.
Currie: How did you like that?
Mosby: Oh, I didn't mind it. I wished I were back in San Francisco, but I didn't mind it.
Currie: How large was the bureau in Los Angeles?
Mosby: It was quite big. There was the radio section, and I remember there was a sports section, then a news section. Then after a while, they wanted to expand the film coverage. There was a woman named Virginia MacPherson. I just got a letter from her recently. She married the bureau manager and she wrote to say he had died last year. I didn't know he had died. The last time I heard, he was heading the whole southwest UPI department, but he died, and she moved to Palm Springs. She saw an article that the Los Angeles Times asked me to write, which was just recently published, and sent me a clipping of it. It's interesting, hearing from all these people you knew.
Currie: You said they wanted to expand film coverage.
Mosby: Film coverage, yes. So she was writing for the day wire and I wrote for the night wire.
Currie: On the film industry?
Mosby: Yes, the film industry.
Currie: That must have been interesting.
Mosby: Yes, it was interesting, but I don't know. It was interesting, yes, but not nearly as interesting as the reportage that I did in Europe. I mean, no comparison.
Currie: Tell me what covering the film industry was like.
Mosby: They wanted interviews with film stars. You'd have to call up the studio or a press agent, make an appointment, or if there was a story about a film, the film itself was interesting, go out and watch them shoot on the set for a while and talk to the director and producer and do something about that.
Currie: Was it easy to get these appointments?
Mosby: Yes, because they were dying for publicity. [Laughter.] So I did that for I can't remember how many years, till I really didn't like it anymore. I quit UPI then, because I wanted to go overseas, so I went overseas myself. The vice president for the whole European division, Tom Curran, was someone whom I had known for years in UPI in the States, and so he hired me in the London bureau to work there briefly before going to Moscow. So that's how I got abroad.
I'm getting sleepy. What time is it?
Currie: Yes, we've been at it a while. [Tape interruption.]
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Currie: How did you cover the film industry in Los Angeles?
Mosby: You just cover the industry and read the film industry trade papers and things like that. There would often be requests from client newspapers to interview this person or that. I can't think of any better way to explain it. It's just like covering a special field. If you're science editor of a paper or have the science beat for a wire service or something, you read all the science trade magazines, looking for ideas.
I remember covering the Academy Awards was always a big story every year, and sometimes the film companies would take the journalists out when we would go out on location in the desert or something. But I wouldn't say it's particularly interesting or I enjoyed it that much. Usually actors and actresses aren't very interesting people, I don't think. I'm trying to think of something memorable. I was much more interested in the films of the past and the silent movies. I remember becoming a friend of Mack Sennett—he was still alive then—and walking down Hollywood Boulevard with him in the evening, discussing his early films. There was another film pioneer who lived out there.
I met more interesting people outside of the film industry. I got to know some artists, and I met Man Ray and his wife Juliet, who became close friends. Juliet just died a few months ago, and I, fortunately, was in Paris for the funeral. She was buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery right in her husband's grave. That's the custom they have there, that to save space, because it's very little, right in the heart of Paris, in the fourteenth arrondissement, the Montparnasse area, so to save space, if some spouse wants to be buried in the same cemetery with the dead spouse, then they put the coffin right on top of the other one. At the burial, they had a hard time getting it in, kept fitting it over and over again. Finally, her brother, who was there, said, "Well, that's Juliet. She certainly didn't want to die. The gods aren't getting her to go to sleep." [Laughter.] I saw quite a bit of her in Paris. When he was alive, I used to see quite a bit of them. I wish I had bought some of his works, but everybody always says that when it's too late.
Currie: I've certainly read a lot about the lock that the film industry had on the press, and their control of information in the film industry. Did you find that to be a problem?
Mosby: No, not necessarily, but then the press agents were usually there, unless you'd get a private conversation with somebody. If you interviewed producers and so forth on the state of the film industry, of course, they stretched things and said they made so many billions of dollars when they didn't really. That's hard to tell. In any business, any field, someone can get away with that. Of course, actors and actresses want to say something that's going to help their careers along, so it's hard to say that it's very objective reporting. As personalities, some of them are interesting and a lot of them aren't.
I remember I did a story on Marilyn Monroe's calendar. I heard about that. I found the calendar company that made it. I don't remember who told me.
Currie: Was it a calendar of Marilyn Monroe?
Mosby: It was a calendar showing Marilyn Monroe, as I recall, in the nude. Nowadays you see calendars of everybody nude all over the place; it means nothing. But in those days, that was quite a surprising thing.
Currie: Was that a story that you originated?
Currie: Do you remember how you got onto that story?
Mosby: Somebody told me. I can't remember who tipped me off to that. I don't remember. I remember going to the calendar company and they confirmed it. She later told me that she was sort of alarmed at first when she read the story, but then she thought it over and realized it was good for her, which it was, of course.
Currie: Were there any other stories that you did during that period that you remember?
Mosby: I can't remember.
Currie: Someone told me that there was a rumor for many, many years that you were the woman in black at James Dean's funeral.
Mosby: Oh! [Laughter.] No. I didn't go to his funeral. I don't remember. Maybe I did. Maybe I covered it. I don't remember. But I had a very close friend, a photographer named Sanford Roth, and his wife, Beulah Roth, just died, unfortunately, about four or five months ago in Los Angeles, and Sandy died in Rome many years ago. She was the sister of a well-known film writer whose name is lost in my mind. Anyway, Sanford was a very fine photographer, an art type photographer. I have a book of his in Paris of pictures that he took of Man Ray and Picasso and the whole scene. I remember the second time I ever came to Europe, I was with Beula. We went to Paris together. By then Man Ray and Juliet were living in Paris. We spent an evening with them.
Sanford Roth, the photographer, had been photographing James Dean. I don't know whether it was on location for a film or whether it was some other event, but Sandy was driving right behind him, and jumped out of his car when he saw the accident. Like any photographer, not thinking whether a picture could be used or not, of course, pulled out his camera and took several pictures of the wreck and the body and so forth. But then he decided not to ever release them for publication, although it seems to me that now it's been so many years since James Dean was killed, that maybe his widow did release them, but I'm not sure about that. He's dead, too, and I can't ask him. But was I at the funeral? Where was he buried? I don't remember.
Currie: But you weren't the woman in black?
Mosby: No, unless I happened to have something black on. I don't know what the woman in black means. Some female mourning him that was in love with him or something?
Currie: Evidently there was a woman in black, a woman all in black, who was all covered, and attended James Dean's funeral.
Mosby: It's a big mystery woman?
Currie: A big mystery woman. There was a rumor in United Press that you were the woman in black at James Dean's funeral.
Mosby: [Laughter.] Oh, it's a UP joke! If I was there, I guess I was covering it, but I don't remember.
Currie: How big was the UP bureau in Los Angeles?
Mosby: We had teletype operators then. Oh, I don't know. I'd say maybe a dozen, maybe more. I'd say between twelve and fifteen, something like that. The AP office was probably bigger. AP has more people.
Currie: Did you ever think of switching from UP to AP?
Mosby: No. UPI was always much more relaxed and much more friendly than AP. It still is. That's about the only good thing about UPI when you work for them, because they don't pay extremely well, and they expect a lot of work. But it's always fun. I always knew all the executives from UPI when they would make the rounds of the bureaus, you know, and they always asked me out to lunch. It was that way in the European division, too. Anytime the UPI president from New York came into Paris, he would always ask me out to dinner, or when I'd go to New York, they'd always take me to lunch or something. UPI people, the correspondents together are usually friendly, and people don't try to beat their colleagues on a story or cheat them out of it or something, which does happen in other agencies and on newspapers, jealousy and bitterness and so forth. But all the UPI bureaus I worked in were never like that. There was always a spirit of camaraderie, which, according to AP people, did not exist in most AP bureaus.
Currie: How do you account for that?
Mosby: I think because UPI was number two and it wasn't quite as dignified as AP. Of course, AP is a cooperative. The newspapers are members. Radio stations are members of the AP. It's a different thing. UP is a private company. Because they tried to do things on a lower budget, they would ship out staffers much more easily to other countries than the AP would.
If you applied for a job at the AP in Paris, of course, they would say, just like the New York Times bureau would in Paris, that you'd have to go to New York and apply there and work for AP or the New York Times in New York for a couple of years and then ask to be sent overseas. By that time, there are so many people waiting in line, you might not make it. But with UPI, they didn't go through such formalities or have that kind of a budget. You could walk into a UPI bureau in Cairo, and if they desperately needed somebody, they'd hire you on the spot. They'd save a lot of money. They wouldn't have to send you to New York to be educated properly, and it's much cheaper that way. They also would pay you less money, but then you would probably get more experience, because almost everybody with UP always had a chance to cover stories and do this or that, while the AP would be more departmentalized. UPI was always easier to work for in those days. People didn't make as much money as AP, but they had more fun and enjoyed it more, I think. Now, of course, it's different. There's hardly anyone left with UPI whom I knew.
Currie: You mean after the breakup?*
* In 1982, UPI was sold by the Scripps family, starting a chain of events which led to, as Mosby says, "the disintegration of UPI." See Down to the Wire: UPI's Fight for Survival by Ronald Cohen and Gregory Gordon (Mc-Graw-Hill, 1989). [Ed.]
Currie: The disintegration of UPI.
Mosby: Yes. I talked to the Paris bureau man before I left, and he said that they apparently have a buyer and they were just about poised to make an announcement. Maybe they've announced it by now. He said, "We have the impression that we have several buyers." They'd gotten about ten people to chip in. So I don't know, but it's just a completely different company.
Currie: I've heard this term "Unipresser."
Mosby: Oh, yes.
Currie: What's a Unipresser?
Mosby: That's just an abbreviation. Unipress would be an abbreviation, just used in conversation or informal notes. I don't think they used it officially. That would be the word, a Unipresser.
Currie: So you would have been a Unipresser.
Mosby: Yes, that's right. AP, I don't think ever had anything like that.
Currie: Did you feel particularly competitive with the AP?
Mosby: Oh, yes! And the AP feels—still feels—competitive. Yes, the competition was bitter. I mean, that was the main competition, because the two had so many of the same clients. Now Reuters, the British agency, sells to some clients in the United States, but they don't do much local coverage. They just concentrate on the main stories in big cities. Actually, in recent years that's what United Press has done since they've cut down the staff so much. I think that at least last year (maybe it's changed by now) they didn't have anybody at all in the entire state of Montana. They've cut down in a lot of areas like that, which I think is right. They can leave the local basketball scores to the AP and just concentrate on the big stories the way Reuters does and the way INS used to.
Currie: So United Press or AP, when you first started working, really covered such things as local basketball scores?
Mosby: Yes, the AP would do more, many more than UPI, because they always had a bigger staff. But there are a lot of clients like the clients in Kansas or something, they will hold up an edition waiting for a basketball score. To an agency, those things are very important, and they have to run all sorts of local stories about what the governor is saying, various state projects for a dam here and a new road there, all of that. That's very important to small town newspapers. UPI did a lot of that, but not as much as the AP did, and I don't even know if UPI does that now, whether they have the manpower or womanpower.
Currie: How many women were working at the United Press, would you say, when you joined?
Mosby: I mentioned Virginia MacPherson in the Los Angeles bureau. They had one woman overseas in Europe during the war.
Currie: Ann Stringer?
Mosby: Ann Stringer. Yes. She wound up at the United Nations. I'm not sure if she's still alive. If she's still alive, she'd be a good story for you. It's hard to say in all the UPI bureaus. During World War II or right after the war, there would have been a lot of women because there just weren't men, but not all the women necessarily stayed on.
Currie: Do you know why the women didn't stay on?
Mosby: Maybe they got married. They got married or got a better job elsewhere, I suppose.
Currie: I had heard from someone that people that she knew who got jobs during World War II had to sign agreements that they would lose their jobs at the end of the war when the men came back. Did you ever hear of that?
Mosby: No, but that's very possible. You mean on a newspaper?
Currie: Yes, on newspapers and some of the wire services.
Mosby: I met a woman recently who worked as a UPI reporter during the war. When the war ended, UPI told her she had to quit because male reporters were returning from the war. She said many women were let go from UPI.
Currie: But that wasn't your experience?
Mosby: Oh, no.
Currie: Do you know if women were paid the same rate as men?
Mosby: In the States, the American Newspaper Guild had these standards on prices, unless you got a merit raise, which wasn't too likely all the time. You got that; you couldn't get beneath that. But in the European division, they don't have that. There are no unions. So you would just get stuck. It's just ridiculous. After I went back to Europe the third time, in '68, I went for years without a raise!
Currie: Did you ever ask for one?
Mosby: For years I was too timid to ask for one. I kept thinking they should give it to me. Finally, I wrote a letter asking for one, but the London headquarters said, "Well, we can't afford it this year." [Laughter.] But I never really was interested in money or I wouldn't have been in the newspaper business, and I certainly never would have worked for UPI.
Currie: Do you know how UPI compared in salaries, other than the AP, to other newspapers?
Mosby: I don't know for sure. I've never seen an official layout on that, but I'm sure that the big newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post and the New York Times pay a lot more than the agencies do. I imagine that's true. I don't know. Somebody at the American Newspaper Guild could tell you that, if it still exists. It does, doesn't it?
Currie: Yes. Sure. Was there anything that you learned from your stint in Los Angeles? You don't seem too interested in it.
Mosby: No. What did I learn? I learned—it took me a long time—I learned not to get too involved in areas like that because it isn't really journalism. It isn't really journalism, and when it comes down to it, it isn't worthwhile.
Currie: Can you tell me what you mean by that?
Mosby: You're not really covering world events. Real people are so interesting to talk to, to find out things about. There are a few people in the film industry who would be regarded as worthwhile, contributing something to the arts, but most of them not. A writer would be a more interesting person, really, to interview. I interviewed Robert Graves on the island of Mallorca once, and that was memorable. Or when I interviewed to write stories about Man Ray or Marc Chagall, the artist who died in the south of France. I interviewed Marc Chagall down there a couple of times. With somebody like that, it's fascinating and intriguing.
What you get mostly in talking to actresses or doing stories on films, you're just really doing publicity, free publicity, for those people. I think movie reviews are very needed. Of course, UPI never did anything like that, but film reviews in newspaper are very useful to people and very well needed. I think an occasional personalty piece on an actor or actress is worthwhile if they're interesting enough people. Like Madonna, that rock singer, she always does some curious things and she's almost an example of the modern society that makes her worthwhile to talk to, but otherwise I don't see the value of it; it's really just doing publicity.
I got stuck doing fashion stories in Paris, too. I was the first woman in the European division since they had this Ann Stringer there in World War II, and the Paris bureau gave me that beat instantly, because then they could fire the freelance stringer that they were paying money to do the fashion stories. [Laughter.] I did it as just part of the job. Of course, I covered real news, government news conferences, UNESCO, the OECD, which governs Western economies, strikes, visiting presidents, terrorist attacks, everything, plus fashion. Women like to know what are the styles and which houses are doing great and all that. But sometimes I think those stories are a bit overdone, too. Those are sort of tips on what people buy and what people want. Do you ever look at them?
Currie: I sure do.
Mosby: Do you read all these interviews with film actors and actresses?
Currie: It depends. Not always.
Mosby: It depends. Some of the unusual ones are interesting.
Currie: Did you learn anything there?
Mosby: Yes, that's what I learned.
Currie: Did you learn anything that would help you mechanically in doing your job as a journalist?
Mosby: I don't know.
Currie: For example, like ways to conduct an interview or how to develop sources.
Mosby: No, I guess I didn't. I really can't think of anything.
Currie: How important was it, do you think, that you had a university background in journalism, in helping you to do this job?
Mosby: Very important.
Currie: As opposed to someone who got a degree in the humanities. You had actual university training in journalism.
Mosby: I think it helps in any field to learn the background of the field you're working in, its history, how it developed, in any field. On the other hand, I have met journalists who did not major in journalism in university, just majored in English or archeology or something else, and quickly learned to go out and report on a story and write it. Have you met some like that, in all the people you've interviewed?
Currie: Yes, all over. People have very different experiences and different attitudes about how valuable a journalism education is. I was just wondering how valuable you thought your journalism education was.
Mosby: I think so. It would have been more valuable if I had, say, stayed in Montana and worked on a newspaper there, because the wire services are a bit different. No, I think it's very valuable. We were always preached at to be accurate and not let your feelings get in the way and don't use loaded words that are really editorializing, which you do see, even in some New York Times stories, and to be an observer, not a participant.
Currie: I understand, too, that the United Press was known for the style of its writing.
Mosby: That's true, just because of the whole attitude and ambiance. They like colorful stories and more casual stories, more than the AP did. When I was sent to Moscow, I guess I had become known for feature stories. I remember that the head of the European division said to me at the time—how did he phrase it? The Moscow bureau manager then was Henry Shapiro, who just died about three months ago, a very famous foreign correspondent. I remember the European division manager said, "Don't worry too much about writing about politics. What we want to find out about is what the people are like, what the people eat for breakfast, and how they live and so forth."
When they first sent me there, I worked in the London bureau for about six months before I went there, taking Russian lessons and talking to Russian people, reading Russian history and all that, and I was very interested in all that, too.
Currie: You quit the UP in Los Angeles and went to Europe.
Currie: Just on your own?
Mosby: Yes. Paid for my own plane ticket.
Currie: But you didn't have a job?
Mosby: No. Did I have a job? No. Some people talked to me about doing things. I don't remember. The main thing was that I went over for that reason. I went over to go to the Brussels Exhibition in '57 or '58, a big celebration, the big Brussels fair.
Currie: The Brussels World's Fair?
Mosby: Yes. When I was over there, I met some Russians, some Soviets who were there, and it was very, very helpful to meet people outside the Soviet Union. Otherwise, they're afraid that you've been sent to Moscow by the CIA or something, or the KGB. They were very helpful to me in Moscow when I got there. Then in Europe I still saw the UPI people, because they were all friends. Tom Curran, who was then division manager, asked me to go to Moscow. So then I went back to work at UPI. I was not working for UPI only about six months, something like that. Then I was working in the London bureau for six months taking Russian lessons and reading up and so forth.
Currie: Were you taking Russian full time?
Mosby: I remember every day. Not full time, because I was working in the bureau, but I was taking from an elderly woman who was an emigrée. It must have been two hours a day, at least, very intense Russian lessons. Now, of course, in the media, they don't want anybody unless they really are Russian speakers, but in those days there weren't very many journalists who were Russian speakers.
Currie: So they were willing to give you the Russian.
Mosby: Yes. I remember the AP in Moscow, the correspondents knew getting-around Russian, but they weren't fluent. We had a great advantage because Henry Shapiro was super fluent. He was married to a Russian, Ludmilla. She wants to come visit me in Paris. I called her after he died. Their daughter, Irina, teaches at the University of Minnesota. I have to call her, too, when I get to Montana.
Currie: How did Tom Curran get the idea to send you to Russia, do you know?
Mosby: I think it was his idea. I'm trying to remember if I mentioned something about it to him. I'll call him up and ask him. [Laughter.]
Currie: Had you ever thought of becoming a foreign correspondent?
Mosby: Oh, yes. That's why I wanted to go to Europe. Tom Brady of the New York Times, who covered films for the New York Times, the film industry, when I was in Los Angeles, I remember that he would say, "What are you wasting your time here for? This is something ridiculous. There are so many more interesting stories abroad." He didn't like being posted in Los Angeles, either, in that. He finally was able to get a transfer and he went to India. I wonder what happened to him, come to think of it. I haven't seen his byline for years. I wonder if he's still alive. But he was the one who inspired me to go abroad. Since I didn't have a family and none of the romances had worked out, I had never married, so I was free.
Currie: How old were you at this point? Would this be about 1957, '58?
Mosby: I went in '58. I was in the Soviet Union in 1959. I went in the beginning of '59. I was thirty-seven.
Currie: You said none of these romances had worked out.
Mosby: No. I was thirty-seven. I thought I was younger than that. I guess I wasn't. [Laughter.]
Currie: You just felt younger. [Laughter.]
Mosby: Yes. So I packed up my suitcase. At the time I went to Russia, the Western news bureaus were only allowed two correspondents. Henry wanted to make me a case for being the third. I think I went in on a temporary visa and then he was able to wangle a permanent visa, so that set a precedent. So the AP instantly demanded a third person.
Currie: So when you went in, they weren't sure that you'd be able to stay?
Mosby: I don't know exactly how Henry wangled it, but he could certainly wangle things. I don't know if he was able to get it made permanent before I got off the train or after. On the way I stopped en route to buy a fur-lined coat in Paris, it's so cold in Russia, and I still have that coat. Unfortunately, the moths have gotten into it. No, I think I just dumped it last year. I kept it in my summer place down on Menorca Island. I think I dumped it last year. The moths had really gotten into it.
Currie: I'm going to turn this tape over.
[End Tape 3, Side A; Begin Tape 3, Side B]
Currie: So you stopped along the way.
Mosby: I stopped in Paris to buy a coat. I can't remember when I bought that car. What did I do with that?
Currie: It was a white MG you bought, right?
Mosby: Yes, but that was later, I guess. I don't remember if I bought it for when I went to Moscow the first time. I had an MG when I lived in the States, a TD. Then when I was in Europe, I bought an MGA and I think I left it in a garage in Frankfurt. I think I did. I had old friends in Frankfurt, who are still there, an American journalist married to a lawyer. I remember that I went to Moscow the first time by train, taking all sorts of supplies for the office and for Henry and myself, because it was even worse than now for buying things. I was in Berlin for a while. I remember somebody there was telling me a lot about Russia. I was there for a couple of days. Then I went on the train from East Berlin to Moscow and had to get the proper visa and all that to go through that way. I must say that it was a very exciting trip, to get on a Russian train.
Currie: Can you describe that?
Mosby: In those days, in each car they had a big samovar at the end so you could get your tea. I remember looking out the windows at the snow and those little troikas prancing along, the carriages with the horses, and the horizon. It was incredible. Of course, we went through the rest of Germany. What was the first city I would have stopped in? I got off the train to look around. What would that have been? I'd have to look on my map.
Currie: The first city in Russia?
Mosby: Yes, after Berlin, from Berlin. Oh, heavens. I think it was Minsk. Anyway, it was quite a shock to get off the train, of course, a lot of people staring at me, because there weren't very many Westerners around then. I don't remember whom I talked to on the train. I remember taking the pictures. I still have those photographs. I stopped in Warsaw. The train stopped there briefly. A young woman who was teaching school at the American Embassy in Moscow, and who had helped Henry Shapiro out a few times, she didn't have a visa as a correspondent or anything, but he hired her privately on the side to write stories for him. She wound up marrying a big Soviet expert, Shulman. Now she writes under her married name. I think she writes for either the Washington Post or the New York Times, because I saw one once in the Herald Tribune. I remember that she came down to the station to meet me and to give me something to take in to the Shapiros.
Currie: In Warsaw?
Mosby: In Warsaw, yes. I can remember what I was wearing on the train. I just recently gave that suit away. I keep clothes forever. [Laughter.] It was a camel-colored straight skirt, very warm, and the top had a high collar, and a slit here, cap sleeves to here, and it hung straight so that you wore a sweater, a turtleneck sweater. It was very warm that way. I bought it in London. Anyway, then when I got there, Henry met me at the station.
Currie: Was this the first time you met Henry Shapiro?
Mosby: Yes. Oh, yes.
Currie: Can you give me your first impression of him?
Mosby: He was very, very dignified and very correct, very professorial, but, nonetheless, had a twinkle in his eye and would make amusing remarks. I remember we were riding in the office car to the office where I would be living. I lived in the UPI bureau. I was looking at the people, and I somehow expected to see them as you see in the propaganda movies, you know, all sort of very young and vigorous and marching onward to communism, and people bustling around, looking very busy. But I saw these babushkas* and everybody with very heavy, stolid, dull clothes, sort of plodding along. I remember saying, "They just look like ordinary people." Henry said, "Yes, they don't have any horns." [Laughter.]
Currie: How were you getting along in your Russian?
Mosby: Oh, fine. I continued to take Russian lessons there. I don't know how often. But I wanted to keep up. I moved into the office which was the name of a book, which I later wrote on, "Number Thirteen People's Street," and in Russian, Trinadsat Narodnaya Ulitsa. When I was back in Russia last December, I went there to look for it and to look for Tonya, the femme de ménage who had cleaned for me.
Currie: What did you find?
* Russian colloquial term for an old woman. It means "grandmother."
Mosby: A small Asian country had its embassy there. The first part was the room which was our bureau, a tiny room, was his office. No, it wasn't an embassy. He was from an Asian embassy, but this was his apartment, because there was living room furniture. No, I take that back. I think it was his office. Anyway, there he was installed. I think that was his living room. He and his wife and their two kids were there, and there was laundry hanging all over the place. Upstairs there were other diplomats and foreigners living there, and still the same policemen out in front in the little house. Tonya, the cleaning woman, had moved on. She wasn't there anymore, not in that neighborhood. Anyway, that's where I was set up to live, in the UP office. There wasn't anyplace else.
Currie: Can you describe what your impression was when you first arrived in Number Thirteen People's Street in 1959?
Mosby: I remember it was cold and there was snow, and it was as if I were on the moon. It was just incredible to see Russian soldiers in the streets and the Russian "militia men," meaning policemen, guarding the door, and to go in this sort of dreary, really dreary, falling-apart building, and there was a really dreary, tacky office. I'm trying to think. Where was our third correspondent living? I know I didn't live in a hotel room. I'll have to get out the book I wrote on this.
I was the third correspondent, and the number two correspondent was Anthony Austin, who later went on to the New York Times. He was not getting on very well with Henry. I had been warned against that when I went in, so I was not about to compete with Henry. I forgot where he and his wife were living. I was living in the office apartment from the very beginning, and there was just tacky furniture that had been left over by another correspondent. I ordered some draperies and tried to spruce it up and make it a little more livable. It was dreary.
Currie: Did you have a separate apartment? How did that work?
Mosby: The office was in a small, slightly rectangular room with desks in the two far corners, one on each side, one for me and one for the number two correspondent. Then facing the number two correspondent next to the wall would have been the translator's desk, whoever was on duty. We had two at that time, I think. Then there was just a very small entry hall in which there was a Tass machine clacking away in Russian.
Currie: So you got the Tass wire.
Mosby: Yes. Then if you turned to the right, coming in off the street, without going into our very little office, you went to the right, there was a long, long hall going down the apartment. There was a small kitchen, a decent-size kitchen. It seems to me there was some shelf in the hallway for film or something. Then down the hall, the next door to the right was the bathroom, and it had a big old-fashioned bathtub and a sink. The toilet in that apartment was in a separate room—it usually is—in the Russian apartments for foreigners. I think it was before you got down, off the hallway someplace. Then at the very end of that hallway, there was a fairly decent-size living room on that side. Then on this side was a fairly decent-size bedroom. Then a back door that went into the bathroom.
Currie: So you lived in the living room and bedroom down the hall.
Mosby: Down the hall. And the bathroom down the hall. Of course, the translators and the photographers and everybody who came in used the toilet, too, and they also used the kitchen to
develop photographs in the sink, and the translator cooked his meals there. I would cook meals with Tony Austin, the one I mentioned. It didn't last long. Only a couple of months after I was there, Henry had him recalled to the States. Tony was not happy. So he wound up with a very good job at the New York Times, and life worked out fine for him, very successful.
Then the number three man, the next one to come in, was Robert Korengold, who had worked for UPI briefly in Paris. I forget what city he was in when he was transferred to Moscow. He was a very cheerful, terrific guy, and we had sort of a brother-and-sister relationship. He still is a close friend, and he now has a minister's ranking at the American Embassy in Paris. He's in charge of public affairs. He left UPI when he was still in Moscow. He stayed in Moscow a lot longer than I did, because he married a French woman from the French Embassy there and he got a very good job at Newsweek. He was the one and only Newsweek correspondent for many years in Moscow, then with Newsweek in London. Then he went with the American government and has been with them ever since.
Currie: Were you the only one who actually lived in this bureau?
Currie: Was that by choice?
Mosby: No. There wasn't anyplace else. When Korengold came, there wasn't any housing for him, so he lived in a hotel room. Which hotel was it? The National Hotel, I think. Yes. Henry Shapiro, because he had been there since '36 or whenever it was, always had been allowed to live in a private apartment, not in one of these diplomatic ghettos. These are one of the things guarded by the police for foreigners only. He was living really in Moscow as a Russian, in a private building, with his Russian wife and their daughter, Irina.
He and Ed Stevens, who was there for various U.S. media, he was American, too, also married to a Russian, as Henry was, and Ed lived in that same neighborhood. It's near what they call the Arbat. Otherwise, it's like the sixth arrondissement in Paris. The old houses are very nice. There are some little shops and it has, in other words, a bit of charm to it, which a lot of Moscow doesn't have. Ed Stevens lives in a big house, just like a mansion. He got that by wangling something or other. He also had been there since the thirties. Ed Stevens is still living there. I went to see him, but he wasn't home.
Currie: Who did Ed Stevens work for?
Mosby: I can't remember. I think it was Christian Science Monitor, but I'm not positive. Later he did things for Look magazine or something. I can't remember. They didn't have enough housing for foreigners, so most were in hotels. Korengold lived in a little tiny room in the hotel for quite a while. Then finally they finished, way on the other side of Moscow, quite a ways away, across from the Ukraine Hotel, they built a huge building for correspondents, another one, because there were just getting to be so many diplomats and correspondents. So UPI got moved into that. The AP stayed behind, and maybe I'm wrong, but I think they're still at that old place. They couldn't be. Maybe they are. I'm not sure. When I went there, there were two old buildings for foreigners and diplomats, and AP still might be in that one on People's Street. The other one, where I remember the New York Herald Tribune was there and New York Times is there now, Reuters is in that old one now. Then in the big new one, there are dozens of other correspondents. They have so many now, they let practically anyone in who wants to come in. [Laughter.]
Currie: We've been talking quite a while. Do you want to call it a day?
© 1992, Washington Press Club Foundation.
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