Washington Press Club Foundation
Sarah McClendon:
Interview #2 (pp. 21-43)
May 27, 1989 in Washington, DC
Margo Knight, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Knight: Last time, I asked you some of the reporters that you had admired, and I said I would concentrate on some of your work on papers this time. We had done a little bit of that.

McClendon: That's right.

Knight: You started to tell me about working on the Tyler paper. We never mentioned the name of the Tyler paper.

McClendon: Tyler Courier Times and Tyler Morning Telegraph. I decided I'd better work on both of them.

Knight: So you did.

McClendon: So I did.

Knight: You also had wire service.

McClendon: I was wire service correspondent for the Houston Post, the Dallas Times Herald, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and the Shreveport Times, which circled our area. Then I did some trade publications, published, I think, in Atlanta, which serviced a shoe retail trade all over the country and other organizations. I was able to go interview shoe salesmen and all that. [Laughter.]

Knight: How did you get the wire service work?

McClendon: I did the International News Service from Tyler for a while. I just applied, and one of the men who was up there on the bureau knew me. He had worked with me before and gave me the job. That meant I was their representative in that area.

Knight: How did that work in terms of getting stories?

McClendon: It had to be a big story. It had to be something of wide interest, certainly over a wide area, national interest. Like the man we found. I think I told you about the man we found. This is just one of them. We had lots of pretty big stories that had to be covered, because we were a center for business, national and international business in the oil boom at that period. But this one story we had, that we sent all over, was this old man who had amnesia, a beautiful, lovely, old man with a beard and lovely face, just looked lovely, and he had no idea what his name was or where he came from or what. He was in the hospital, and all he could say was, "Goddamn." We took his picture and sent it all over the country to try to find his family, but we didn't. He died. Anything, if there was anything of national or local appeal. Sometimes there would be a terrible accident, some pretty bad murders.

Knight: Would they pay you on a per-story basis for the ones they took?

McClendon: They would pay you on, I think, a story basis.

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Knight: Do you remember how much?

McClendon: I don't remember how much it amounted to in a month, but it was about $125, sometimes about $150. When we were so low paid, to pick up that much from an outside two or three stories was pretty good. It was a help to me. Then I'd pick up about the same amount from each of these other papers or maybe more. Sometimes one paper, I had to submit inches to get paid, which I hated.

Knight: Would these stories be their ideas?

McClendon: Oh, no, they would be news. Of course, I would probably query them to see if they wanted a story first, and they'd say, yes, they would. They might be short stories, they might be long stories. They were not feature stories; they were news stories.

Knight: Were you able to do that out of the office at the paper?

McClendon: No. In the afternoon, after we got through with other things, I could do that, or maybe I would take the same story I'd written for the local paper, just copy it over, and send it to them by wire.

Knight: Were a lot of the other reporters able to get that kind of moonlighting extra work?

McClendon: I don't know that they did, but on nearly every paper there's one person who does it. Nearly every small town, there's one person who does it. I did it. It meant a lot to me. They didn't mind, because if you worked for the afternoon paper, the afternoon paper was out. If I was working for the morning paper, that was more or less what I volunteered to do, because I wanted to keep my name in and keep my business in, or I wanted to follow the same story, or maybe I wanted to be able to go out and get more stories so I could maybe have more stories to send to other people, as well as use locally. So it all fitted in.

Knight: There was no objection to your being a woman by the news services at all? I'm thinking of Ruth Cowan Nash's experience.

McClendon: I never experienced that, but I know she did. It was terrible. It was awful. I never worked for UPI, though.

Knight: Did you know her then?

McClendon: No, I didn't. I only knew her in Washington. She had a terrible time, and I had the same experience many years later on radio in South Carolina. I was fired from a good radio station down there because I was a woman.

Knight: When was that?

McClendon: This must have been about '70.

Knight: I'll ask you about that when we come to the 1970s. Tell me a little bit about your social life on the job.

McClendon: Well, that's interesting, because I lived in that town and I knew a lot of people, and I'd always gone socially—our parents, and we had a little group that we were very social, and we had boys that we knew who planned the dances, paid dances, and we went to them. I met these geologists on the job. I was covering oil news, as well as other things, and they were charming and they were new, and we dated now and then. But one geologist was scared to death that you'd

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be telling his secrets to another geologist. If it would get around the circle that you were going with a geologist, the rest of them would hate him or hate you, so you had to keep it secret.

Then I covered the agents in the Federal Building. That got to be my beat. I was very enamored of some of the agents up there. I very seldom dated an FBI man, once or twice. But I dated the alcohol-tax men, the men who were revenuers, the special agents. One of them I fell very madly in love with, and he had to keep it secret that we were going together, because if the other men in the office would know about it, they would think that he was telling me secrets about cases, or they were thinking that he was getting ahead in some way, that if he hadn't told me already, that he might tell me. So we had to keep that secret. We had to go out and dated secretly.

You know, I could date and all that business, but that was kind of bad when you had to do it secretly. There was a limited number of places where you could go in a small town like that.

Knight: Where would you go?

McClendon: It was very hard to do that. You almost had to go to another town. We frequently went to another town to the cafés. Then there were a few nightclubs to go to in the oil field, but we didn't particularly care about going to that. We'd try to go where we wouldn't see people. But that made a little difference always in the way you did it and how you did it. It was sort of a disadvantage for the woman, I thought.

Then when I was going around with my regular circle of young people that I'd known all my life, we'd have dances in our homes. One or two of us had large homes. We had dances in our homes, and we had lots of fun. But one night I recall I was at a dance in a home, and every time the ambulance went or other sirens went off, I checked it to see what it was. I called. I was dancing, and I found out that they just had a murder at a motel near the city, and I said, "Oh, I've got to go. I've got to go to Alamo Plaza and see about something." Well, that was a place where a woman just didn't go unless she was a prostitute. She didn't go to Alamo Plaza.

So they said, "You want to go to Alamo Plaza? Why?"

I said, "Well, there's just been a murder out there, and I want to go cover it."

"Oh, come on. Let's stay here. Let's don't go there. We don't want to do that."

I said, "I've got to go." [Laughter.] So it kind of interfered with my social life.

Another thing, I was always late for a date, always had to cover a story at the last minute, always had to finish a story, always had something to do, and I was always late. I'd have to call him and say, "I'll be late. I'll be late." They didn't like that. [Laughter.]

Knight: Did you ever run into any conflicts with the men you dated, in terms of stories, the things you were covering?

McClendon: Of course, I got a lot of stories from my friends when I dated them. I got stories and angles and things. I'd write the story trying not to let anybody know where it came from.

One time my boyfriend got very, very mad at me because I had covered this court trial of this man that day, who was a bank robber who was a pal of Clyde Barrow, his best friend. He was put down in jail, and they put him down at the end of the day when it was just after meals—they had been fed in the jail—and he wasn't going to get any supper. So I took him a couple of hamburgers down there, and my boyfriend thought that was utterly silly for me to take this bank robber some hamburgers.

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Then another man I covered, that I got to be real good friends with, he was sort of a pathetic case. He got to Alcatraz, and after he got to Alcatraz, he trained to be a lawyer in their library, and wrote out a petition for his own case to get a rehearing, and cited me as a witness, because he knew I'd been in the courtroom and knew I had heard the fact that he had not been appointed counsel for his sentencing. In that case, a new Supreme Court ruling had come out that he could get a counsel, so he appealed this. It meant that the United States attorney and the judge had to go to California and have a hearing, and they didn't want to go. They were mad, they were furious at me, because they said I caused it all. [Laughter.] He had used the date and place that I'd written the story in the paper for the hearing.

Another lawyer came to me and said he wanted to make it good with the judge, he wanted to get along well with the judge, and he said, "Look, Sarah, I'll give you some money or a fur coat if you will say, 'Just forget this.' Say it just didn't happen. Then none of them will have to go."

Knight: What did you say?

McClendon: I said, "Hell, no, I won't forget it!" [Laughter.] Oh, dear.

Knight: Sounds like you had an active social life and dated a lot.

McClendon: Yes. Of course, there were some people who didn't invite you because you were a reporter. They kept you out of their social life or kept you out of their parties, or didn't want you to know they were having a party, so they tried to keep that secret from you. I would invariably find out and call them up and try to get the story. If they wouldn't tell me, I'd try to get it from someone else. They didn't want it in the paper, and that made an enemy.

Knight: Did you feel like you were always a reporter?

McClendon: Oh, yes.

Knight: Wherever you went, you had a responsibility?

McClendon: Well, I just felt like I had a great need. I loved it. [Laughter.] It wasn't so much that I felt I had a responsibility to cover a tea party or something like that, but I just thought it was news and interesting people, and their names were news, and we ought to have it in the paper.

Knight: I ask because this has been an issue recently. Can reporters go as private citizens to parties or to famous persons' homes and not tell what they learned or not say what they'd seen?

McClendon: I think it becomes a part of you, and if anyone asks me to come as a private citizen and not a reporter, I would not like it. I might go, but I wouldn't like it. I wouldn't report on that particular thing if she asked me not to, but I would absorb a lot of stuff from the party, I would meet a lot of people there, talk to them or get friendly with them and maybe get two or three other stories on other subjects later. So you can benefit from it. But I don't like that sort of thing. I think it's pretty silly when somebody is egotistical and says, "Don't write about me." It's pretty egotistical when they think they're so important, they don't want themselves written about. Stupid. Maybe nobody cares, you know.

Knight: What about socially among the journalists? Did other newspaper people hang around with one another? What was the climate like?

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McClendon: Somewhat. We tried that a time or two. We had one or two, several Sunday parties. We found out that was all right. We talked to each other about shop, and their spouses were there and we were not interested in the spouses. One editor's wife had a Sunday-morning brunch for us, and she served—I'll never forget; it was delicious—creamed chicken and waffles. But it's not ever too much good to have those parties. They were kind of stiffish, and you were watching each other and you really weren't happy at that kind of party. To this day I don't spend much time socially with other reporters.

Knight: Why?

McClendon: I just have other things to do. I'm not seeking them as social company. If I'm thrown with them, I'm delighted to talk with them, but when I go to cover a meeting downtown, I never go to the press table and sit at the press table with other reporters. I don't want to talk shop. I go and try to mix and mingle with the people there, the guests, meet some new people and talk to them. I've always held to that rule.

Knight: Did that just come about as your experience?

McClendon: Well, it just comes about as my thinking that we're wasting time talking shop to each other. Why should we be talking about some silly little thing? Why aren't we over there talking to this big man, who is president of a company, about his problems? We can get a lot more stories that way. So I just didn't care about it.

Knight: Was there much competition between newspaper writers?

McClendon: Somewhat. Quite a bit. Somewhat, yes. Some to get the good story, some to get the best story, and some to get a story.

Knight: Did you feel like the feeling of competition was equal for the men and for the women?

McClendon: That's one reason why I worked so hard on it, because I would not have been known or noticed, given an assignment. I worked on getting my own assignments and suggested to them that they let me work on something or other, because that's the way I could get noticed and that's the way I could get my byline in the paper. You had to do that. If you didn't, you were going to be just relegated to nothing.

Knight: What about other women at the paper?

McClendon: There weren't usually very many other women at the paper, but we managed to cooperate in the office. I certainly never sought them out as social companions or somebody to go out and drink coffee with. I thought that was a waste of time.

Knight: Likewise for the men? Did you have a rule about dating fellow newspaper people?

McClendon: No, I didn't have a rule. I fell madly in love with one man who came to work on the paper, and he was very nice. We went together. He and I went together for years, and then he was transferred to other cities. We kept meeting on weekends. I was very much in love with him. It was funny, when we had this terrible disaster near our town, and I went to cover that, he came up from Houston. I was down there covering, and we got to see each other. So that thing was going on all the time.

Knight: You were at the Tyler paper until when? From 1931 until when?

McClendon: 1939, I think it was. Maybe '38.

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Knight: That was your first real journalism job after college. What are the things that stand out that you learned while you were there?

McClendon: Oh, my. I learned very much that you can make big-town citizens mad right away by treating them as anybody else. Some news happens to them and you go and try to cover it, and they try to keep it out of the paper. First thing they do is try to keep it out of the paper or keep you from getting the story and don't want to talk to you. Then they call your boss right away and say, "I don't want this girl writing this story. I don't want her down here," and all that business. We had to get all those problems out. Chances are, eventually they'll agree and decide to publish the story in some way or other, so you have to have it.

Then I learned an awful lot of good things about covering hospitals and covering patients. When you go out and cover a story, I was always so disgusted. There was somebody who would come up. You'd be interviewing someone, and someone else would start talking and interrupting the conversation and tell you how things really happened, and you're interviewing somebody. That was an annoyance to me. I learned that I could get an awful lot by talking to the individual person who had the experience, and I would go in the hospitals, go to their bedside, and interview them and talk to them. I got in thick with the nurses. The nurses would often let me read the charts on patients. [Laughter.] I think maybe I told you that they used to give me the job of telling the family the bad news.

Knight: Yes.

McClendon: Oh, I learned many, many things. I thought, "Well, I don't know a thing about oil and it's here, it's a big thing. I'd better learn it." So I started studying oil. I did the same thing with agriculture. I really didn't know anything about farming, so I went out about once a week with the Home Demonstration agent. She worked maybe for a local county or she worked for a wide area. I would go with her to the communities, to her meetings with these farmers' wives, go into their homes and see their demonstration project. The first thing I remember was a girl took an orange crate and made a little vanity dresser out of it for her room. Things like that they did, that were really practical. But I always enjoyed it, enjoyed the people, and felt like I learned a lot from going with her, because she would teach me all about the problem, what the family could or could not do. She knew all about the family, and she would tell me. All those little details made a big story, but it also made me understand agriculture more.

So to this day I have this great love for agricultural people, and I'm doing a lot of work with the farmers' wives, an organization called WIFE, Women Involved in Farm Economics. It's a national organization of farmers' wives. They have made me their lifetime member, honorary, and they have given me about four or five invitations personally to meet with them for dinner and different things when they come here. They ask me to recommend where they should eat and where they should go. So those people are coming in next week.

Knight: You had pretty good training in college, because you went to one of the finest journalism schools that there was.

McClendon: That's right.

Knight: What didn't you learn in college that really surprised you when you got into that first job?

McClendon: I walked right into the job. I felt thoroughly at home because of my training. We really worked on a newspaper. We worked Saturdays and Sundays—not Sundays, but Saturdays and holidays.

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The thing that I think got me most—I had warned about it—was people trying to keep things from getting to the newspaper, trying to keep things out of the newspaper. I was warned about that, and I had to, tactfully as I could, meet that situation. It was not always possible to do it tactfully.

Everything I learned at the journalism school I could apply, really, actually, and had to apply it. But I had a boss who was very sensitive to the bankers and very sensitive to the big, influential people in the town. He was married to a woman who owned the paper, and she didn't like to get phone calls at home, complaining about things we had written or things we hadn't written.

One of the things, I think maybe I told you this story, writing the story about the baby that died. I covered the hospitals and I wrote a little routine thing about the announcement that this baby was born.

Knight: You didn't tell me this one. You told me another one.

McClendon: Well, the baby died before the paper could come out on the street, but it was already in there and printed. He [the father] was getting congratulations all over from people. He was so broken-hearted, he came down to the office and practically cried, and told me how awful it was to have the baby die and have people still think the baby was alive and speak to him about it, and how it had hurt him. It hurt me very much to think that that happened. I knew exactly how he felt. But that was the thing.

Then at Christmastime, they would have me handle the Christmas baskets. They always had a program through the newspaper. You could get a coupon, send in a check, and that would pay for a basket for the poor. So they had me handle that project every year on the paper, and, oh, it was a miserable project. I hated to do it. We found out what they were going to put in the baskets and who was going to get them, picked names of people. We'd have people call us up at home or see us on the street and hand us names and addresses that this family should get a package. It always struck me as poor that we did it only at Christmastime. These people must be hungry at other times, too. You see what I mean. So today that carries over with me as I work on news stories today about homelessness and poverty. I always wish that we had long-range programs worked out better, that it wasn't spotty charity.

Knight: Your family had been active in doing those kinds of things when you were young.

McClendon: They did things on their own individually, but this was community, three hundred to five hundred packages for three hundred to five hundred families involved, you see.

Knight: Why did you hate working on the project?

McClendon: I was afraid we would miss somebody that really needed it and someone would be hurt and didn't get it, and somebody wouldn't get enough. I just felt like it was not the way to do things.

Knight: Why do you think they asked you to do it?

McClendon: Because I was a woman. [Laughter.]

Knight: I've talked to other women. In fact, Beth Short told me that she was asked to do a lot of stunt-girl stories, hitchhiked from Kansas City to Hannibal. Were you ever expected to do those kinds of things?

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McClendon: I don't think so. Very seldom. I don't think so. I may have suggested doing something once. Once I had a calf named for me. It was shown at the fair. I used to do a lot of stories at the fair. I was always looking for feature stories.

Knight: But none of the typical stunt-girl kind of things?

McClendon: No.

Knight: Were there other women on the paper who did that for the paper?

McClendon: No, there wasn't much of that done, but one thing we did do, I always wanted to ride the fire trucks. The fire trucks were about a block and a half from our paper, and the men told me if I heard the first bell go off, if I'd run to the fire station as quickly as possible, I could ride the fire truck out to the fire. Once I made it. [Laughter.] That was funny.

Knight: Basing this on talking with others, it sounds like they didn't have you pegged too completely.

McClendon: That's right. Well, they would have had me pegged if I had been that type of person, but I was always pulling away from that, always trying to tell them to let me go on this and let me go cover that. One way I'd get to do it was to say, "I know something about this already. I've worked on this already. I know the people in this. Let me do it." So I'd almost bid for the story, you see. That was one way I got away from being a society person altogether.

Knight: Because that was the other kind of plug for women. The other one was being more of a sob sister kind of.

McClendon: I didn't have to be sob sister, but one or two times I was supposed to write a story like that, but I just wrote the news story.

There was something I was going to tell you about the fires and the ambulance. I always tried to get there as fast as possible after it happened, because when you first get there, there's utter confusion, but you may find out the man may be dying, and he may tell you what happened. So I'd always try to get there first. We had some terrible explosions. The explosions, I think, are the worst things to cover, because they may just blow people to smithereens right there, perfectly innocent people. Those were pathetic things.

I didn't cover much school news. I covered Chamber of Commerce news a lot, where they were talking about bringing in new industry and trying to develop jobs. That, to me, was always fascinating. I have respect for the Chambers of Commerce, because I do think they do a lot of good. A lot of reporters don't have any respect for them at all, but I think they do a lot of good.

We formed an organization to bring in industry from the north, and we brought in a lot from New Jersey and different places, and they later became our payroll and helped us over times bad in business otherwise. So you learned how to promote your town. You always promoted your town. Once I got to cover the state legislature. I went down with the oil men for an oil hearing, and I grew to admire the independent oil men who were fighting to start a business and fighting major oil companies, fighting always to get money or to get their cause understood. That's why I have so much respect for them to this day, for independent business.

One thing we had in our town that was nice, we had a little theater and a professional director. I played in several plays. Then we had a symphony, which I didn't go to too much, but we had a little theater and we had several others.

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One person I used to get a lot of stories from, we had a paid counselor for the students and parents and the schools. I used to get a lot of stories from her. I'd go to the county commissioner's court sometimes to get some pathetic stories about poverty. But I loved covering federal courts. I loved to cover civil courts, as well as the criminal courts. Most reporters only want to cover criminal. Sometimes we'd have 250 people sentenced in one day for criminal cases. Then we'd have these fascinating civil suits. I covered courts in Texas, in several different cities, and federal courts for thirteen years.

We had one case that was fascinating, where the Belgian government, in exile in London, was trying to get money to carry on their government. They thought they should have control over oil tankers that had been chartered in their country. They thought they could get revenues from those oil tankers. The Supreme Court of Belgian judge came over for the trial. They elected to try this in our courts, just to see if they could get justice in our courts. It went on and on for ages. It was fascinating. It had some New York lawyers down there in it. One of them was Alan Dulles, who later got to be a great guy in the CIA. But it was fascinating to cover this, day after day. It was finally decided in favor of the Gulf Oil Company in the United States, but not in favor of the Belgian government. But it was an amazing thing to cover.

Then I loved to cover the conspiracy cases and counterfeiting cases. They were interesting. Sometimes they led to real gangsters. I got very well acquainted with the FBI agents and how they worked. I knew them very well. I loved to cover the conspiracy cases, which were interesting. We had cases involving oil being brought out illegally, being stolen, really, from other people's property and shipped out across state lines. They thought they could get it out and then they could sell it real well. They made a law saying that it was a violation to cross state lines with illegal oil. I covered a lot of those cases.

I covered a case where a woman came to court one time, who was called "Dirty Neck" Jessie. Did I tell you that story?

Knight: You told me that.

McClendon: I loved covering those. Of course, I got to be pretty good friends with the judges and officials of the court.

Knight: Were those assignments, or were those your ideas?

McClendon: That was my beat. They gave me that as a regular beat to cover the federal agencies and the federal court. The court was not always in session. It might be in session a few days or two weeks out of the year. You covered other offices in that building at other times. So it was fun, lots of fun.

Knight: Did you always write under your own name?

McClendon: Yes.

Knight: Were you ever asked to write under a different name for any reason?

McClendon: No, no. They didn't always give you a byline. [Laughter.]

Knight: It wasn't unusual. I've talked to people who did have pen names.

McClendon: They may have had it for some special reason. I don't know why. But I wasn't seeking that. Sometimes they may have thought it was a good idea for a column or something, maybe different types of stuff, but I was just doing straight news.

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Knight: Sigrid Arne, I think, that wasn't her real name.

McClendon: I don't know. I think maybe so. I met her a few times. Is she dead now?

Knight: Yes. She'd be a wonderful person to interview.

McClendon: She was nice. I liked her copy. Her copy was wonderful. I used to read it all the time. I used to read Inez Robb's copy, and, oh, I admired her so much. Wonderful copy. I used to read Ruth [Cowan] Nash's copy, too.

Knight: What did you think of hers?

McClendon: Oh, great. Wonderful girl. Good news. She was great. I think she did some amazing things overseas. I was astounded. We did a story or something about her that I hope they put in the files of the National Press Club Library.

Knight: Yes. In fact, I used that when I interviewed her.

McClendon: She's just a great girl.

Knight: What do you think your biggest contribution was to that paper?

McClendon: In Tyler?

Knight: Yes.

McClendon: I think we made local residents understand that oil industry was not just a thing they read about that other people did, not just a technical operation; that it affected the people in the community and had great effect on the economy of the nation, that oil was a very important factor. That's one thing I've never been able to understand, because the reporters in Washington and the East and other places have always belittled the oil industry and made fun of it and talked badly about it and downgraded it, and it is a very strong, very wonderful industry, and very important to us, still is today. So I tried never to be technical. I tried to make people understand what their interest was in this problem. If it was agriculture, like we couldn't get enough money if we needed it for cotton or something like that, we had so many different crops we'd take up and work. But I'd try to make them understand it was their problem.

I don't know that I did any good, but the work on the hospital, getting the hospital for the town was one of the biggest things. Then also pushing for the town's industrial development through a lot of stories, and for better health care. Through the Tuberculosis Association, we used to meet a lot on that. Tuberculosis used to be a big factor; it isn't now.

We used to do some marvelous stories with unusual diseases. We had a doctor or two who liked publicity for himself or something, and I'd work with those doctors. One time we had one on sleeping sickness, which was a problem then. We had unusual dengue fever, which you don't always have; it's kind of like malaria. I had it myself once. We were always watching for someone to get bitten by a tick, to try to make people aware of these problems.

We worked on development for industry in the town, tried to get new industry, but we also developed a Rose Festival. We took an industry that was an offshoot from German immigrants, and was doing very well. It just boomed and spread and boomed and spread, and we developed that into Texas Rose Festival. They sell roses all over the world that come from there. They grow there. They cultivated the ground with tractors. They grow them by the acre—roses. Isn't that interesting?

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I'd always try to write a lot about safety.

Knight: What prompted your leaving there?

McClendon: I got fired from that paper.

Knight: Tell me about that.

McClendon: I got fired because—the older boss had gone, he and his wife had got a divorce. He'd gone.

Knight: What was his name?

McClendon: Carl Estes, now dead. Once he was carrying a pistol, and we were all worried about him, afraid he'd shoot himself or shoot somebody.

Knight: After his wife had—she's now dead.

McClendon: When he was getting the divorce. Then he left and went forty miles away and married again. He obtained control over an established newspaper, starting another career as a crusading editor. Anyway, once he directed me and another boy on the paper to take—this is a funny story, I think. Maybe I ought to tell you. This shows you what editors can do. He was trying to promote the Standard Oil executive, or maybe it was Sinclair Oil, a big, major oil-company executive from the East. He was trying to promote him to realizing that Tyler was important, this area was very important. So he printed some newspapers with a big headline this big on the front pages, gave his name, saying, "East Texas Greets [So and So]," a poor puff job for this man, to flatter him, butter him up. This boy and I drove forty miles, as fast as we could, with these newspapers. He was going to come through on a train, nonstop, but just be going through the area on a train. We got to the station. The train paused for a few minutes, and we got the papers on the train for him to read. [Laughter.]

Knight: Promoting Tyler. [Laughter.]

McClendon: Wasn't that crazy?

Knight: You were telling me about getting fired.

McClendon: We were trying to get a rebirth of an old industry that had occurred in a town forty miles away. We thought it would help the economy a great deal. It had been an iron-ore industry. They had iron ore in the soil down there. They had had a real boom in this town for a while. It was now a ghost town.

Knight: What was the name of the town?

McClendon: Rusk. It was about forty miles away. They had had a huge hotel there and a huge tourist industry for a while. They were trying to bring it back, see if they couldn't bring it back, because iron ore was still in the soil. We were working on this, working on it for some time. I don't know why, but this young boss I had, the new boss, he was a colleague of mine, had been a friend of mine for years, a personal friend, he was always collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce and the bankers and the bigwigs when they decided what they'd do. I didn't know what the meeting was all about. He told me not to write any more stories about this iron-ore industry—forget it, not to write any more stories at all.

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Well, all of a sudden, there was a new development, totally new, that we hadn't expected. I couldn't find him anywhere. I couldn't find anybody around to check it. I checked the story out, but I couldn't find him to okay it going in the paper.

Knight: Up until this time, had you not printed anything more?

McClendon: I had not. There hadn't been anything going on. All of a sudden this story broke. I can't remember. A totally new angle. If we hadn't printed it, I would have felt like it probably would have been scooped by somebody else, or we probably would not have told our readers what was going on, that they needed to know. So I went ahead and wrote the story and put it in. I couldn't find him. He came back, found the story, and said, "You're fired." That was it.

After I was fired, I was really hurt. I was really surprised. I didn't think it could happen to me, especially there, because people were always saying, "Why don't you go work somewhere else?" and I'd say, "Well, nobody else will have me."

Knight: Did you try to appeal it at all?

McClendon: Oh, no. No appeal.

Knight: Was it just that cut and dried?

McClendon: That's it. Well, I had violated orders. What was amusing to me was that after I was fired, people kept telling other people, "I was the cause of her getting fired. I was the cause of it." [Laughter.]

Knight: Why do you think they did that?

McClendon: They would think back to experiences when they'd tried to get me to keep the story out of the paper that they didn't want in.

Knight: You mean local townspeople.

McClendon: Yes. I would always try to get it in. They would look right at me and say, "Don't you write that. Don't you do anything with this." I'd say, "Sir, I'm not the editor. I'm just supposed to get the news," and that sort of thing. "Do it this way," or, "Do it that way." "I can't promise." I wasn't supposed to promise.

Anyway, the local oil refiners said that they fired me; the bankers said they'd fired me. And some other group said they were responsible for getting me fired. It all amused me. None of them had anything to do with it at all. [Laughter.]

Knight: How did you feel about being fired?

McClendon: I was hurt and sorry and sad and humiliated. Anyway, I just started this business. My sister gave me a telephone as a Christmas gift.

Knight: So that prompted you to start the business?

McClendon: No, that didn't prompt me. I was going to do it anyway, but she gave me this telephone beside my bed so if I heard a siren at night, I could call up and find out where the trucks went. I'd find out what the accident was all about from the undertaker who had sent out the ambulance, and maybe I'd get up and get dressed and go to it, and maybe I wouldn't.

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Knight: So you kept the services that you were giving to the papers. You were still working for International [News Service]?

McClendon: Yes. There were changes, of course, from time to time, but I still worked for those places. I had a typewriter at home, and I just did my work right from home.

Knight: Did you miss the Tyler paper?

McClendon: Oh, yes, it was a big miss and a big cutback. It's always a cutback in the contacts you can make and what you can cover. People wonder if there really is a need to spend the time when they're giving you the story, because they wonder if it's really getting out anywhere. So that's it. Then it took me a little while to get this job. I heard about this job on the Beaumont Enterprise on the Gulf coast, and a friend of mine was trying to get it for me, but that's when he said, "McClendon, I told them all about you. I told them you were a good editor. I told them you'd be a good reporter, you'd be a great reporter. But I had to tell them, McClendon, that you are aggressive." [Laughter.] "You'll have to admit, McClendon, you are aggressive."

[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Knight: How long before you moved to Beaumont? How long did you stay in Tyler?

McClendon: It must have been about a year and a half. I worked on the Beaumont paper for about two and a half years, and I went to the army in '43.

Knight: You went to Beaumont about '39 or so?

McClendon: Yes. I think that's right.

Knight: When he said that you were aggressive, how did you feel about that?

McClendon: I thought, "My gosh, I guess I am, but my gosh, the idea of having everyone thinking that I should or should not get a job because I was aggressive." You had to play down being aggressive and had to seem like you were a meek and mild little girl, you know, and all that sort of thing. But I got the job. It was so funny. After I got the job, one of the old men in Beaumont—it was the sexiest town I ever was in in my life. It rained every day. I think that had something to do with it. It was an interesting town, pretty, full of flowers and trees, right on the Gulf coast, an oil town, huge refineries in that town and more huge refineries eighteen miles away. The coast was about eighteen miles away. But we did a lot of shipping from there. It was very fascinating, because I learned the shipping industry more from there.

Knight: A new industry.

McClendon: I covered the waterfront, and I saw them shipping this scrap steel every day to Japan. Of course, Japan was taking our scrap steel and was going to shoot it back at us. Some people were beginning to figure that maybe that was going to happen.

So I went to work at 2:30 in the afternoon and got off at 11:30.

Knight: And the name of the paper?

McClendon: Beaumont Enterprise. I was going to tell you about the old men in the town. One old man was a postmaster, and I saw him every day. He'd say, "McClendon, you walk too fast. I saw you the other day walking down the street. You walk so fast." He said, "We don't do that in this town. We just take things easy." And that was exactly right. Nobody wanted you to be hard hitting or hard this or hard that. They just wanted you to slow down.

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Another thing I did with that paper was every day I had to go over and take the temperature off the thermometer on the corner step, on the corner of a business district, and that was usually also the place where the visiting preachers would elect to preach. I met several Mormon missionaries there, which was the first time I'd ever met any Mormons.

We had a lot of railroad shipping in that town, as well as other shipping. It was an interesting town, fascinating, different things to go to, old, old families. There had been a lumber industry before lumber would go passing on. So some of the old homes had been built with this wonderful lumber, and they had beautiful antiques. It was an interesting town. Then they had a lot of French people there from Louisiana, who spoke half French and half English. Had a lot of French influence, had good food.

They had hurricanes. That was my first introduction to hurricanes. We had a warning to get ready for them. We knew what was coming. We met the shiploads, trainloads of refugees from Louisiana flooded areas, who would come over there by train to stay until the flood waters had gone down. We interviewed those people.

Then I was there when Pearl Harbor happened, and we interviewed families of people who were in Pearl Harbor. Really a fascinating town, fascinating. That's where I covered this court case on ships, because in federal court you also had admiralty law, and that was an admiralty-law case. Admiralty law pertains to the sea.

Knight: That was in Beaumont.

McClendon: Yes. Another thing I did there, I made my first contact with Customs Service and immigration people. Later on, they played a big part in my life because I got many stories from them, and I do still to this day. But the customs people were fascinating to me. Every now and then we'd have a ship that would sink or go down, and the remains of what they could recover, the wallets, identification of the people who died, would be brought back to this customs office, and I would see them there.

Another case I covered in East Texas that I should tell you about that's fascinating, was peonage cases. Every now and then we'd have a peonage case in federal court, where somebody was trying to enslave somebody else. Blacks, usually. They made them work for nothing or work for very little, and controlled their lives. They couldn't go here and go there. They would sometimes have enough nerve to appeal to a United States marshall, whisper it to him or tell him about it, and he'd make the case. It would be a peonage case.

Beaumont was an interesting town. It was not only very sexy, but it was very close to the borderline between Louisiana and Texas.

Knight: Why do you say sexy?

McClendon: Well, it just was. Everybody talked about sex, all the men talked about sex. It was all they could talk about. They wanted to take you out for lunch, and that meant they were going to take the whole time talking about sex. I was chased the first night I was there. I was trying to get on a bus to go home, and I was chased by a man who turned out to be one of the more prominent citizens of the town. He chased me right to my house in a car, tried to pick me up.

But I got onto this case. There was a borderline nearby, between Louisiana and Texas. There was a Man Act originated by this particular part of the country. If you took a woman across the state line for amoral purposes, that was a federal offense. There was a lot of prostitution. We had a red-light district in this town.

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I had a woman paroled to me. She'd been a white slave victim. You know what that is. She was a white slave victim, and she was a narcotic addict. She had come from up in the country not too far from there, and they were bringing her back to her part of the country, and let her be paroled to me. I was her advisor and counselor for some time. She had told me about having been a white slave, and she wanted to get out of this. She wanted to get out of prostitution. She wanted to get out of narcotics. I did the best I could for her. I don't know what finally happened to her, but I handled her case for quite a while.

Knight: Were you a volunteer?

McClendon: Yes. They asked me in court if I would do it. They needed somebody to do it, and they asked me if I would. I said, "Yes, sure."

I told you I once took a woman to prison. I was deputized by a United States marshall to take a woman to prison, who was a narcotic addict. She had been a prostitute, and she was a prostitute to feed her habit. I told you that case, didn't I?

Knight: Was this in Beaumont, also?

McClendon: I think that was from Tyler. Anyway, they were taking federal prisoners to prison. They got a prison train, a special car on a railroad, and they had bars at either end of it with two or three seats outside the bars. This woman and I sat outside the bars, and most of these men in there, some for bank fraud and bank theft cases, and mainly they were mainly narcotics. There were about seventy-five men in there; mainly they were narcotic cases. This was years before we ever realized or admitted we had a narcotic problem.

Knight: This was heroin, primarily?

McClendon: I don't know what it was. I don't know. Not opium, I'm sure. Anyway, I thought some of them took morphine. Maybe I'm wrong. But anyway, we had to stop the train at the end of the day to give them a shot so they could lie down and sleep at night. They called the prison doctor to come and give the shot at the train, and the prison doctor, his eyes were kind of funny. After he left, I asked some of them, "Wasn't he an addict, too?" They said, "Yes, we could tell. We all knew he was." A lot of doctors got onto this. So he gave the woman her shot, and she settled down. First they gave me a gun to carry, and then they decided that I didn't know what to do with a gun. I didn't know how to shoot it, didn't want it. They decided that she would get it and probably use it, so they'd better take the gun away from me, and I was glad they did.

When we got to the town where we were going to unload her, we were near there, we were waiting to change trains or engines or something at this town in Oklahoma. She was needing another shot, she was so nervous, so ailing, and so pained. She was just craving. Her body was just flinching, and she was in horrible pain. So she started walking up and down while they were switching the train tracks, switching for the engine. She started walking up and down beside the track right by the engine, and I thought, "She's going to throw herself in front of that train. I know she's going to do it." So like a damn fool, I got between her and the train. [Laughter.] She could have pushed me over there!

Knight: And what happened?

McClendon: Luckily, she didn't. Luckily, I'm still here. But I thought later on, while I was trying to protect her from doing this, and I thought she could have pushed me over there just as well as anything.

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We got onto the place where we finally deposited her with the authorities. The main reason I did pick this job was that as a deputy U.S. marshall, I wanted to interview a prisoner that I knew had been sentenced earlier, who was serving in this prison at El Reno, Oklahoma. I tried to get in there as a reporter to interview him, and they wouldn't let me. So I thought maybe they'd let me get in there as a deputy U.S. marshall.

So we got there, and they knew I had come in with the marshals and all that. Then I asked if I could talk to this man. They would not let me. I failed completely on that one. I didn't fail on getting a lot of stories that I went after, because I always tried to get the story. I always told reporters that were learning, "You've got to bring back the story. Somehow or other, you've got to get the story." But I failed on that completely. [Laughter.]

Knight: How different was Beaumont for you from Tyler?

McClendon: Oh, very different. There was more money in it.

Knight: Your salary?

McClendon: Yes, I made more money, and I joined the [American] Newspaper Guild there. I had to join the guild. It was interesting. One of the men working on the paper, a cub reporter, was making more money than anybody because he was working by the inch. He spread the names of all the organizations he could get, the membership lists, and he'd run them every time. He was being paid so much by the inch, they had to cut that out. Guess who he was? He turns out to be one of the most important men in Congress today. Jack Brooks.

Knight: No kidding?

McClendon: I've known him ever since then. We both worked on that paper. He was a cub reporter.

Knight: Have you teased him about this?

McClendon: Oh, he knows about it. Another thing cute that he did, he was making so much money and he'd been so utterly poor, his family was so poor, his father had committed suicide in the Depression, his mother had to go to work, she'd never worked before, and he had holes in the bottom of his shoes, with newspapers put in there so he could come to work and sell newspapers. He finally got on the paper. So naturally, he watched his pennies. The rest of the people on the paper would get broke before pay day, and he'd loan them money—at interest.

Knight: So how else was it different for you? Did you have the same beat?

McClendon: Yes, I think I did have the same beat, except I added to it. I added the waterfront. Then I started to tell you what was so interesting, since I worked from 2:30 to 11:30, I didn't sleep late in the mornings, I got up and used that time to do other things. I took horseback lessons; I took golf lessons; I took language lessons; I learned to shoot a rifle at the Women's Voluntary Service just before the war. They were having military maneuvers in Louisiana under [Dwight D.] Eisenhower. Nobody paid the slightest bit of interest or any attention to it. I decided to learn the military, so I went over there and covered that. It was all around us. Sometimes I'd have to go far in; sometimes it was just right there. I got to know a lot of the officers and how they worked. I went to their headquarters. That was very interesting to me.

Knight: What maneuvers were these?

McClendon: It was the United States Army maneuvers under Eisenhower when he was a lieutenant colonel. It was in lower Louisiana, the swamps there, spread over into Texas,

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thousands and thousands of troops. They were draftees, a lot of them. It was before Pearl Harbor. It was a good thing that we had the draft and were learning this, which made us be more ready for what finally came. But it was fascinating. But nobody else gave a darn; they didn't have to go. Nobody made them go. I just volunteered to do it, asked if I could, and they said, "Well, if you want to, you can." If I got a story, okay. If I didn't, okay.

Then, of course, you had some experience with shipping there. But I covered shipping, see. I learned shipping from my regular beat, which was interesting. I learned also about floods and water dams and how important water dams were. Up above us in a radius of 100 miles, we had some important rivers that had to be dammed up, and this made tourist attractions, as well as utility. But I learned how you dredge, how important it is in this country. It was a big source of news later for me. The Army [Corps of] Engineers are very important in this country, because they keep the rivers and the harbors dredged out so that ships can still come in. The harbors would fill up with silt and the ships couldn't come in. We had a not very deep port there. We were always trying to deepen it so we could have more shipping for overseas, because the ships were getting bigger and bigger.

Then there were some interesting manufacturers around there. They built oil derricks, which they shipped to Russia and other countries. It was a town of recreation, and everybody played golf. We played golf in the rain. We'd stop for rain, then play. It was a town with a lot of recreation and good food. Also had trapping around there.

One night I went with a woman to dinner eighteen miles away, and as we were coming back, she had a flat tire in a marshy area, an isolated area in the black, nobody, nothing around to help us. As her car stopped, she hit a little animal. I went and looked and I picked up the animal. It was a mink. I wrapped it in paper and took it in town, and kept it in a covered thing overnight, called the trapper the next day and asked him if he wanted to buy my mink. He came out with a great big roll of bills like that and bought my mink for $7.50. [Laughter.]

Knight: Goodness! A road kill. [Laughter.]

McClendon: So it was different. Then they had wonderful forests around there, lovely forests, as well as low places where you could fish and hunt. You had a wonderful beach very close by where you could go. But mosquitoes—oh, my gosh! Sit out there for five or ten minutes and get your arms black with mosquitoes.

Knight: How about the working environment?

McClendon: It was nicer, better, a bigger paper, much more interesting to work for.

Knight: How about your editor? Did you get along with him?

McClendon: Oh, very well. Very well. He was very interesting.

Knight: Who was the editor?

McClendon: Mr. [R.W. (Bob)] Akers. He and I keep up every now and then, and we still write every now and then. He volunteered when the war came from there. He volunteered and went as a private, went to Officer Candidate School. For an editor to do, that was very unusual. I left that job to go to the army. So it was interesting.

Then I later worked for them, that same paper, in Washington, when I wrote to him and asked him if I could be their Washington correspondent. I was for some time, until I lost the paper through some circumstances down at the National Press Club, which was kind of funny. I don't think you want to tell that now. Maybe you want to put that in another area.

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Knight: Yes, later on. Does anything else stand out about this time while you were a reporter at the Beaumont paper?

McClendon: I don't think so. That's when I first became acquainted with the French influence, French culture, the influence on us. I learned that it was quite a mix of low, backwards, East Texas, and French. I learned a lot about politics and business. It was interesting.

Knight: What possessed you to join the army?

McClendon: When I was six or seven years old, I saw my brothers go overseas, and that was a terrible experience. For somebody to go overseas, that word was just awful. I said if there was ever another war, I was going. Well, we were in this war, and I made all kinds of fun. I think I told you about how I made fun of the Women's Army Corps.

Knight: No.

McClendon: They were organizing. I thought, "That's silly. They can't get anywhere. They can't do anything. I'm not going to do that." I went down and asked if I could be in intelligence. I wanted to be a spy. I thought that went along with what my work was and what I was used to, and I wanted to be a spy. I had read about Mata Hari and all this.*

Knight: Romantic notions. [Laughter.]

McClendon: Well, anyway, I wanted to be a spy. So they said I couldn't be a spy unless I was a lawyer. I couldn't be in intelligence unless I was a lawyer or already in the service and was recruited for the job. I wasn't a lawyer, so I decided I'd get in the service, in uniform, and maybe I could get into the work.

Knight: Where was the recruiting office?

McClendon: Houston. The man in Houston had been trying to recruit WACS, and he had seen some of my nasty articles and heard my nasty remarks about the WACS.

Knight: You'd actually written?

McClendon: I'd actually written pieces that didn't upgrade them or pointed out some of their weaknesses. So when I walked in, he said, "Who? You? You?" I said, "Yes, I want to be in the army." Then I had to wait for a weekend to hear my medical report and see if I was really in. I thought, "Oh, if I don't get in, I'll be humiliated. I'll be disgraced. If there's something wrong with me that I can't get in the army, I'll be so let down." I worried and worried, and I had no trouble getting in. I had had a little tumor removed from a breast, an operation, so I had all the particulars. I had to prove it was benign and all that.

I got in, and then I held an auction to auction off my civilian clothes, because I wasn't going to need them. I was going to be in uniform. They were going to give us $21 a month and a ticket to Des Moines. So I took the ticket to Des Moines, the $21, and my family said, "You're going to need extra money." I said, "Oh, no." But I paid off my department-store debts with this little auction of my clothes and anything I had there. That worked well, so I was leaving. I left on the train.
*Mata Hari (Gertrude Margarete Zelle) (1867-1917), Dutch dancer who was executed in St. Lazare, France, on October 15, 1917, for spying for Germany during World War I.

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We got as far as Kansas City and something happened. We had to spend the night in Kansas City at a hotel, and I didn't have any money. But I had to do it. I don't know how I did it. Anyway, it took everything I had or didn't have. So when I got to Des Moines, I had practically nothing left, a dime or something. I couldn't go to the beauty parlor and have my hair fixed. Besides, I couldn't get off, and I didn't know where the beauty parlor was or if there was one on the base. I washed my hair in that water up there, and my hair stood out like this. They had no uniforms for us.

Knight: Was Des Moines the basic training?

McClendon: Yes, first WAC training center. They had no uniforms for us; they weren't ready for us. This was September '42, the middle of September. So I had on a pair of high-heeled I. Miller. I. Miller was a good shoe house, and everybody was buying I. Miller shoes. I Miller patent-leather sandals. I drilled in those for two weeks in the mud, and I had a nice, good-looking suit, a nice suit that I wore, my last civilian clothes, and I lived in that for two weeks.

Then there came a snow, first time it had snowed since '78, and they didn't have the fuel ready in the barracks where we stayed. We were staying in new barracks, in what they called Boom Town—muddy. We had to keep them clean, had to keep our shoes clean. We were cold. So Oveta Culp Hobby, from Houston, who was in charge of the WACS, she came out there and made the army break out stores of World War I overcoats for the men, and gave them to us. Some of the girls only had cotton fatigues underneath to wear. These overcoats were dragging the ground on us little women.

Then we got moved from Boom Town, after about three weeks of training. They knew my experience as a newspaperman, and they needed experienced reporters badly to try to write for recruiting women. So this newspaperman was helping Mrs. Hobby as an advisor, and he knew of me. He sent for me to come to WAC headquarters to work, and my commanding officer for basics said, "What? It says here for you, McClendon, to come to headquarters. Must be some mistake." She didn't think very much of me. Most of these girls in the company were young, brilliant, fire brands, and I was about thirty-one, I think, and I didn't move around as fast as they did on the snow and all that business.

Anyway, I went to WAC headquarters. Then they moved us to the stables. The stables were a very interesting place to live in. They'd had ninety head of horses in these stables. They moved the horses out and put in 125 women.

Knight: This is here in D.C?

McClendon: No, Des Moines. The stables and the beds were just open bay, you know, just one cot after another, and showers over here.

Knight: How long were you up in Des Moines during basic?

McClendon: Three weeks, I think, was what basic was then.

Knight: And you were stationed up there?

McClendon: Then I was stationed at headquarters there in Des Moines.

Knight: I see. Headquarters in Des Moines.

McClendon: Yes, headquarters in Des Moines. The headquarters for the first WAC training center. We worked our heads off. We worked every night until midnight. One day a man said, "McClendon, I'll give you the key and get you to open up in the morning at eight o'clock."

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Knight: This was the public relations office?

McClendon: That meant I had to go home and try to get myself clean, get my clothes clean, maybe wash out a shirt, and try to get things clean for the next day, sleep in an upper-deck bed, get up before anybody else did, make my bed, and get down to the office by eight o'clock.

Well, anyway, then they came through with Officer Candidate School for those from the ranks, first time. Heretofore, they'd taken women from civilian life who, with no exception, had great degrees, great careers. I had never applied for that. They'd stopped having it when I came in as a private, anyway. But he sent me to Officer Candidate School, and we were at Officer Candidate School for eleven weeks at Des Moines. All during Christmas we were judging people to see if we were officer material or not. We had some weird experiences.

The night before I was to finish there, he called me up. He was in Washington then, I think. He said, "McClendon, how would you like to go to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia?" It was twenty-one degrees in Iowa, and I said, "Oh, God, please let me go!" [Laughter.] Well, I was supposed to be in charge of the WAC office down there, a new, big office opened up, public relations, doing a lot of work. But when I got down there, some girl who had been sent down from our office, another girl who had worked as secretary to a publisher of a paper in Boston, she got there first and they had sent the papers to the office by her, the papers that they used in setting up the office. So when she got there with the papers, the man in charge there in Fort Oglethorpe said, "You've got the papers. You be in charge." So it was my job, but she got it. So I was number two in the office, and we had twenty-two people, men and women, working there.

Knight: What was your main function?

McClendon: I was writing and interviewing and planning and suggesting, defending the honor of the Corps, often to other newspaper people. While we were there, we had a whole bunch of Washington newspaperwomen come down as correspondents, including people like Lee Carson of INS. We had several women from the Washington Star. Marian Doyle came down. We had some people that I met for the first time in my life, got to be good friends with later from up here. I can't remember who all else was in there. There was a whole bunch of them. I don't think Esther [Van Wagoner] Tufty was with that bunch. I don't know who was there from the Post, but Lee Carson of INS was there. I remember her very well. Some girls from New York. A girl named Patterson, I think, from New York Daily News was there. No, not Cissy Patterson; another girl. Her name wasn't Patterson; it was Parish or something like that. A very nice person.

This Lee Carson was sure that we weren't telling her the truth. She was sure that there was some nasty gadget or some terrible type of thing going on at this base, and she had to get the story. So she slipped out of the quarters at night and was going to go and find the story. The military police picked her up and brought her to the headquarters, and she said she was down there with a group, writing, and she had credentials to be there, and all that, and they didn't believe her. So they called us and asked us what did we want them to do with her. [Laughter.] It was so funny! So we had to go down and get her and bail her out.

She later became a terrific correspondent overseas. She was smart, talented, and beautiful. Years later, I was on a show in Los Angeles, and I met her husband. He said he had married her, and she had had a baby, and she had died. He loved her very much. But it was a good opportunity to learn how they worked, what they did. Ann Cottrell Free, I'm sure was on there. She was on there. I'm sure she was.

When I came to Washington to work here, I met a lot of those girls as public affairs officer for the army and talked to them, worked with them again. They invited me to have a courtesy

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card for the Women's National Press Club, which I did. That was about '43, I guess. Must have been '43 when I started with the Women's National Press Club.

Knight: I read two conflicting dates. One said you came up to the Pentagon in '43, and the other said '44. I was going to ask you.

McClendon: I came in July of '43. I'm sure I joined that Press Club when I was still in the service. I did, in my uniform. I used to go to their sessions in my uniform. Then, of course, after I became a writer here in Washington, then I joined as a full member.

Knight: There was a lot of interest on the part of the press by that time in the Women's Army Corps.

McClendon: Oh, yes, there had to be. There was a lot of interest, men and women taking interest in it. We were trying to get them more interested in it; that was my job.

Knight: What were the main points that you were trying to bring across?

McClendon: My job when I got to Washington was to be liaison with the War Department Bureau of Public Relations, which at that time included army, air force. I don't think we had an air force yet. We had army and we had aircraft, and navy and everything. They had a huge bureau. We had started out with the Women's Interest Section. We contacted that, and from out of that, Oveta Culp Hobby was working on that, built up herself into the WAC directorship. So we contacted women's organizations, but mainly we contacted men's organizations. We were trying to get stories about the army into the newspapers and into the magazines. I worked a lot with magazines. Then I worked with the photographers' section a great deal, and I worked with the movies. The movie men would come in through Hollywood in teams about every once a month, and I worked with the movie people, trying to decide what we would take a picture of, what we would do.

Just this last week, I was down in Fort Oglethorpe. I went from Fort Oglethorpe by telegraph orders to Washington, and I got to see Fort Oglethorpe again this last week when I was down there making a speech to the army. They took me over to see it. There isn't much left of it, but I saw the house that I had lived in. Finally, just before I left, I had a house assigned to me on the quadrangle, because the men were off at war and there weren't many families there. So I made contacts again with that, and I'm going to help them on their museum down there.

The work with the movies was very interesting.

Knight: What did you think of Oveta Culp Hobby?

McClendon: She was wonderful, terrific, great. I think she's ill now. She was a wonderful person.

Knight: What made her so good at her job?

McClendon: She started out, her father took her with him to the state legislature, and she learned parliamentary law and got to dealing with legislators and got to be an expert in parliamentary law so that they could call on her for advice. She got to be their parliamentarian. She was calm and cool, ambitious, planning, good looking, simply dressed but elegantly dressed, and very tactful, knew how to get along with men, knew how to get men to do things for us, but strictly with the rules. She was very disciplined, and she drew everybody's admiration, I think.

Knight: Did you work directly with her?

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McClendon: I didn't work as much directly with her as I worked in her office under her. There was another girl there in the office who had worked with her for sixteen years in Houston. She brought her in at the same time. We were both working there. As a matter of fact, we got to be rivals. They evaluated our work to see which one would be the best one to head the office, and the men made a survey. The regular army people made a survey, and they picked me. But Oveta knew this other girl so well, she had worked with her for sixteen years, that she decided she'd take her. So that meant I had to move on to some other office.

Then I moved to the Surgeon General's Office in the army. It was fascinating. I loved it. I would have stayed in the army if I hadn't had to get out. I loved it.

Knight: Tell me about women reporters who came and became WACS to cover the WACS.

McClendon: There was only one that I know of. She's living here today. She's a real good friend of mine. She came from Atlanta to cover us for the Atlanta Constitution, I think it was. Then later on, she came back and joined.

Knight: She actually joined up?

McClendon: Actually joined up and became a public affairs officer. She was advisor on public relations to some of the high-falutin' officers. She was very smart, a very brilliant woman, always has been very brilliant.

Knight: People like Ruth Nash just covered the army, but they were actually put in a WAC uniform.

McClendon: That was because they were war correspondents.

Knight: I see.

McClendon: When they went to war, you did that, because they wanted you in uniform so they could spot you or tell you. She wore a women's uniform.

Knight: Were you involved at all in deciding who would take those slots?

McClendon: Oh, no. Men did that. Men were very big and some of the best men in the country volunteered for the war effort, some of the best editors, writers. I got to know a lot of those. They were authors, brilliant men. They had volunteered to help, and they did help. They were very successful. I think that's one reason why Eisenhower was as successful as he was; he had such wonderful advisors in public-relations matters. He took their advice, too. It was very important in that day, very important.

Knight: The news organization would decide who they'd want to send, and then they'd have the cooperation of the army.

McClendon: That's right.

Knight: So that's how Ruth Nash went over?

McClendon: As I understand it, she went over with some of the WACS who were going there for the first time, and she went to cover them all the way. Then she stayed and she got to cover women and other things, too. She got to know a lot of these generals.

Knight: I think we'll wrap up for today.

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McClendon: That's fine.

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