Washington Press Club Foundation
Ruth Ashton Taylor:
Interview #1 (pp. 1-38)
November 16, 1990 in Lincoln, California
Shirley Biagi, Interviewer

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Biagi: Ruth, what we want to do today is start at the very beginning and be very accurate about all that we talk about.

Taylor: You mean like age! [Laughter.]

Biagi: Like age, yes, and other things. I remember you told me at one point that that was something you declined to talk about or kind of avoided for a while, but maybe it's time to do that.

Taylor: Can I say I was born in the twenties?

Biagi: Generally? No, you have to be very specific.

Taylor: Twenty-something?

Biagi: No, you have to be very specific. You and I have talked, and I know how old you are.

Taylor: Sure you do, and almost everybody does. It's just that I don't say it myself very often.

Biagi: So you were born on what date, precisely, and where?

Taylor: I was born in Long Beach, California, on April 20, 1922, at approximately 10:00 A.M., I guess, after a very hard labor.

Biagi: Not yours; your mother's.

Taylor: My mother's.

Biagi: Had your family lived in Long Beach for a long time before that? Talk about your parents.

Taylor: My mother came from Shelton, Nebraska, a very small town near Grand Isle, Nebraska. Her father had about a six-hundred-acre farm there that his family had put him on. His family had a great deal of money and came from New England with the family tree supposedly alleging that the family had come over on the Mayflower, that terribly crowded vessel. Somehow, though, the family tree has disappeared. My mother and my aunt loved all that and had it around,

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but through different people passing away and my not being present at any of these occasions, the documents have gotten lost. And it doesn't matter to me. My kids think it's kind of interesting, and it's interesting because I can't be specific.

Biagi: That would be British roots?

Taylor: British roots for my mother's family, the Ashtons. The great-grandparents had accumulated wealth, and I suppose it was handed down before that. My mother, who would be in New York City, used to come and say, "There's where Granddad was born." He was born in a house at Fifty-fourth and Fifth Avenue, which was a pretty good address for the family to have real estate. This was the case, and the great-grandmother and great-grandfather decided to come west on the train in the nineteenth century. I don't know dates of that. But they dropped off kids along the way. Two of their sons dropped off in Shelton, Nebraska, and were given big parcels of land that somehow the family had. The great-grandmother and two daughters continued on to the west. As I understand it, he liked being back in the baggage or cargo cars with his horse, and as I understand it, he died back there. I just think he didn't want to face any more time with my great-grandmother, who was a real tyrant. She lived to be in her late nineties, and she ran the family quite a lot.

They settled in Pasadena for one place and had a place in Santa Monica. We had several places out here, and they bought property around. Anyway, one of the sons they had dropped off was my grandfather.

Biagi: What was his name?

Taylor: His name was Thaddeus Ashton. He was a gentleman farmer, had a terrible mouth. He had actually gone to college. I think it was Northwestern. Was that where they put their kids through? I guess it was. One of my uncles came out here and was an attorney. In fact, there was an Ashton Street in Beverly Hills, in West Los Angeles, named after him. He was Fred Ashton.

Anyway, Thad, my granddad with his filthy mouth, married this lovely lady who was not at all highly educated, but a terrific worker, and I think that's the way a lot of men were at that point. She was a farm girl. Mimmi, I called her. I don't remember my grandmother's name. But anyway, they had five children; my mother was the second oldest. They lived on the farm and worked.

Biagi: What was your mother's name?

Taylor: Flora Louise, which she hated. Everybody called her Sis, and that was what she was called all her life. Anyway, my mother hated the farm, even though my granddad had money, he never did show it in any ostentatious way. He had a couple of good cars. But my grandmother worked her head off. She farmed hard and they grew a lot of things and was always cooking wonderful things. I can remember eating fresh asparagus and cherries off a cherry tree, and there were always chickens, fresh chickens. I had an aunt who broke an ankle jumping over a fence after a chicken. But that was where my mom was born and raised and wanted to get away from. She hated the farm life because she had to do too much work. There was not much in the way of conveniences. There weren't many conveniences at that time. So the women of the farm worked hard, and Mother did. I guess they had help from time to time. I don't know.

I know that I spent quite a lot of time on the farm, but I don't remember a whole lot about it. I loved going out with my grandfather on the great big things that would go through the fields,

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and a pig would be mine and a cow would be mine. [Laughter.] They tried to keep Granddad down, as far as his language was concerned, but words always would come up. When I was about two years old, I stumbled out to the barn where he was milking a cow and he aimed a stream of milk in my face, and I said, "Granddad, you old son of a bitch." [Laughter.] He decided it was time to take Ruthie out of there.

Biagi: You were learning the language too early. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Right. So my mother, though, who didn't like it there, left the house and went into town and started working at an early age for an uncle who had a store there in the town, which was about two blocks long. Mother would come out to visit these aunts who lived out here and Great-grandmother, the tyrant, and one of the aunts would take my mother to the dances. My mother loved to dance. I love to dance. Mother was a good size woman. She was about 5'8" or 5'9" and that, for a girl in those days, was a height that was not good, as far as men are concerned. [Laughter.] Mother actually wanted to play basketball when she was in high school and the family wouldn't let her. She was angry about that.

Mother was very head-strong, a very dominating woman in a lot of ways, knew what she wanted, and she left the farm. She eventually moved out to California with these aunts.

Biagi: About how old was she?

Taylor: I think Mother was probably twenty when she came out.

Biagi: She moved to Pasadena?

Taylor: She was in Pasadena, and I guess they had a house in Long Beach, too. Great-grandfather had died with his horse. We'd gotten rid of all the men except Uncle Fred, who had to be the man of the family, who was the attorney, and here are these women who are just real charges. Great-grandmother absolutely was a tyrant. But nice aunts. One of the aunts had been so beat down by the family, and she never was allowed to marry, because nobody ever came up to their standards, and I guess her heart had been broken a couple of times, but she was the nice lady, Aunt Clara. She was the one who would chaperone Mother to these dances.

There used to be public dance halls in Long Beach. That's where my mother met my father, a Spanish, dashing fellow named Julian Montoya. He was a splendid dancer, and they danced their way into a love affair. I don't think it was much of an affair in those days, but it was arranged that they should be married, and they were married. That was a couple of years before I was born, so that would have been—you figure it out. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Was he tall, too?

Taylor: He was approximately my mother's height, I guess, a little bit taller. Very dark, very good-looking. I have a couple of pictures, because ultimately the divorce was so bitter that we didn't see my father. He never did contribute to my support after the divorce at the age of four. He did borrow from my great-grandmother, though, who was charmed by him. At any rate, after my mother and father were married, I had the impression that Mom never got to go to another dance. She'd be home while he would go to the dances. He had three sons by a previous marriage, a woman who had died. He was about eleven years older than my mother, an older man, dashing.

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Biagi: And a dancer.

Taylor: Excellent dancer, I guess. He was involved with the Spanish branch of the Bank of America, which I think at the time was the Bank of Italy. But at any rate, he had to dress every day, and I know my mother used to talk about how she would have to press these trousers every day. He was meticulous and proud and impossible, I gather.

Biagi: Where did they live?

Taylor: They lived in Long Beach. I can only remember one house, and that house was a little bungalow in Long Beach, where we lived when I was about four, which was about when the divorce occurred. Mother, at that time, became very ill. I don't know if I remember this or if people have simply told me, but a number of members of the family who had been from far-away places, Nebraska or someplace, came to visit my mother. Among them was one of the relatives who was a doctor. My mother had been going and going, but she hadn't been feeling well. This relative who was a doctor said, "Sis, you've got a temperature," and took her temperature and it was like 104 or something. Ultimately, my mother had double pneumonia and almost died, and she was at home. She'd had a lung collapse, and they didn't, of course, have antibiotics or any of those things. She said she saw me going down the hall, and said to herself, "I can't die because I can't leave her with that (whatever word she used)," who was my father. She had been an English woman and head-strong. For that kind of a woman to get teamed up with—as dominating as they are, generally—a Hispanic man was just a terrible idea. I mean, they danced divinely together, but that just doesn't do it forever.

So my mother did recover and decided she had to get a divorce. The boys wanted to go with her, because Mom had been a good mom to them, too.

Biagi: So the boys had moved in, the three sons?

Taylor: Mother couldn't handle taking them, so my mother did leave my father, though, and the divorce proceedings went ahead, and we went back to Nebraska to stay on the farm.

Biagi: You went with her?

Taylor: Yes. The boys didn't. I'm not sure exactly what happened to them immediately afterwards. They would come to see me from time to time. We went back there, and my great-grandmother, the tyrant, was just outraged by the fact that anybody in our family could get a divorce; this also was not accepted. She just didn't even allow her money or anything. She would help Sis out. Mother and I stayed with them sometimes, but not much.

Mother went back to the farm and proceeded to try to get well, and also she would bake things and try to sell them so she could try to make some money for herself.

Biagi: Where would she sell them?

Taylor: In town. She was an excellent cook. This ultimately became what she did. She baked cakes and pies and rolls and coffee cakes and all those things. I don't really remember what all she did bake; I just know that everybody always had a lot of good food around. And I couldn't eat much. That was one of the things about me; I was not a real healthy kid. I always had some stomach problems. In fact, they could hardly keep me alive the first year because nothing would agree with me. This is in that other oral history. They finally found Horlich's Malted Milk and I

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went for that, and it shaped me up. But I was not real sickly, just sort of little and skinny. I think that's where I was marked forever with skinny legs.

It was not a real robust kind of early childhood, although I liked to dance, too, and there were lots of things that happened that showed that. I know my mom and dad used to take me. A good thing to do would be to window shop on a Sunday. People used to do that in Long Beach. I can almost remember their going window shopping, and there were music stores. They'd have sheet music in a lot of these music stores and they'd always have music going. I'd always have to stop and dance to the music.

When we were in Shelton, Nebraska, I would do the Charleston and I'd do the Little Black Bottom. I was two, three, four years old, and five eventually. I could get ice cream cones by dancing for these people. Mother also tells the story where they had big dances at Prairie Creek Hall. They would have a big farm dance and all the folks would come, and everybody would be there, everybody would dance, and we'd have an orchestra. Mother said I was only about two or three, and all of a sudden they couldn't find me. They always took the kids with them wherever they went. There weren't such things as babysitters, except grandmothers. But Grandmother would go and dance, too. The whole family would go to the dances. Then Mom couldn't find me. Somehow, for a moment I had escaped. Then she saw the horns pointing down on the floor, blowing the horns toward some little something down there, and it was me dancing all around in the hall. But dancing was something I always loved and eventually helped me to become healthy.

We were back and forth in Nebraska and out here. When Mother wasn't well, we stayed with my tyrannical grandmother and the daughter in Pasadena sometimes, but that was bleak and miserable. Then Mother got strong enough to go to work. They would let us stay with them, but they didn't ever help her with anything, as far as giving her money. So we'd stay with different family members while Mother would work.

Biagi: Is this in California now?

Taylor: In California, when we moved back to California. We were in Pasadena and then we had some aunts and uncles in Long Beach. We had this one uncle she had worked for in Shelton, and he had moved out to Long Beach and had a market there, so she worked for him, Uncle Harve. He was a brother of my grandmother.

Anyway, Mother had me around at these different places, aunts she'd park me with while she'd go to different work. She worked for him for a while, she worked as a sales lady for a while. Again, she was not well, but working, trying to make do and take care of me. But parking me around like that, I didn't get any healthier. I just remember I was always sick.

Biagi: What about school? Were you going to school?

Taylor: I went to school. I went to several schools when I was little. In Long Beach I went to the Burnet School. I went to kindergarten in Omaha, as a matter of fact, because we had an aunt back there, too. We were just moving around. Then I went to Burnet. Then I went from Burnet back to Shelton, Nebraska, when I was in second grade. I mentioned that to my husband the other day. I was a good student as a little kid, but when I got to Shelton, Nebraska, I found that it was a much harder school than the schools in Long Beach, but it was good for me. I managed to take care of that one pretty good, too. I was always a good student, and I think it was partially because I was a lonely kid. So that was something I could do and someplace I could fit in and someplace where I could get patted on the head. But I also liked to read and I liked to do figures and I liked

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it when I got noticed for doing a good job. Again, I think part of it was a loneliness, though, and a striving, though the family always loved me a lot, it wasn't like having a close family and a home. I was a mobile kid and we were tracking around.

My mother finally, though, found a house and a restaurant together close by where one of my aunts lived, my aunt and the uncle who had the store. This person who owned this house and restaurant wanted to sell it. My mom somehow—I think she borrowed money from my granddad or something. I don't know all of her negotiations, but she said that was a way to have me with her and she could look after me. My mother went into this little restaurant when I was in about the third grade.

Biagi: The restaurant was where?

Taylor: In Signal Hill, right across the street from Long Beach. Signal Hill was this outstanding landmark in Southern California with all the oil derricks over it. When you go into Southern California, you can see all these oil derricks that went up. Signal Hill, as a town, wasn't much. They had a city hall and it was incorporated, but it was surrounded by Long Beach. We lived right across the street from Long Beach, but we lived in Signal Hill. I have often made the comment that I'm probably the only person that anybody ever heard of who grew up in Signal Hill and lived! In fact, my husband is even aghast. The other day he was talking about the density of oil. Anybody falling into an oil pool, that's not a good idea, and probably never will be seen again. But we used to sail rafts across the oil ponds, and we would walk on rotary mud and we'd climb on old oil derricks. My mom was always working, so she never did know all this stuff was going on. There were a couple of girls in the neighborhood, but mainly there were boys around, so we were pretty rough and tumble.

I also know about that time my mother started giving me dancing lessons at Marion Rankin Dance Studio in Long Beach. I was very good at it and became one of Marion's good pupils and loved it, and we did a lot of dance programs for hospitals and at theaters, and we opened all the public buildings in Long Beach whenever there would be a new building.

Biagi: What kind of dancing were you doing?

Taylor: I did everything. I did tap, acrobatic, ballet, toe. I hated toe because it just never felt good. But I was an excellent tap dancer, which has followed me through life, and I was a very good acrobat. I was extremely limber, so I could do a lot of double-jointed things. We'd do these tap-acrobatic routines, and I had a partner, a girl, and we were very good together. But when I started to dance, it seemed, for one thing, to help me physically a great deal, but all of a sudden, they say poison came out of my system. I got rashes and I got boils and I got eczema that started a lifelong pattern. I obviously had an allergy pattern there, and it all showed up as I became healthier, actually.

Biagi: Of course, at the time you didn't know you were getting healthier. You probably thought you were getting sicker. [Laughter.]

Taylor: I hated it! There were times when the eczema would be so bad on my hands that they'd have to be wrapped all the time and treated every day, then wrapped. I couldn't do my acrobatics because I couldn't stand on my hands because of all the bandages. That really plagued me for a year or so, but then I got better. Ever after, though, I had one little patch of eczema, particularly on the inside of a knee, and you could tell when I would be a nervous wreck, when things were getting too much for me, because that little patch of eczema would show up. I'm sure it's

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probably what has led to this allergy pattern that I have, that turned into asthma and the hay fever and all that kind of thing. I just have an allergy pattern. It wasn't recognized in those days to be treated in any particular way or identified. But the dancing was good for me in all those ways.

In the meantime, I did very well in school. I was young.

Biagi: Which school?

Taylor: In elementary school, like in the fourth grade, I used to go and tell stories to the third grade kids when the teacher would leave the room or something like that. My mother wasn't paying attention to my studies very much because she was too busy. Here was this woman—and I'm sure one of the things that is an influence on my life that may be in the pattern of influences that you'll find with other people, I had a very, very strong mother who supported me in whatever I did, but worked so hard and was determined to do things that were for our well being, no matter what the toll on her. There was this example to me always of this hard-working woman, even when she was still not well, because she took a long time to recover from that double pneumonia and subsequent internal problems that she had to take medication for. God knows whether the medication was any good in those days, so she was just taking it for a long time. But no matter how she felt, she would be up at five in the morning and she would be working until eight at night, and she would be cleaning that little shop of hers on the weekends. She just never stopped working, and you saw that. You had to be influenced by it.

I cleaned the house from an early age. Saturdays, I cleaned the house, but I was taught how to clean by my mother. You sweep out all of the window sills. You pound out all the furniture. You do all these things every week! It's also where I was probably influenced as far as broadcasting. While I would do all that, I would listen to the radio. I would listen to the opera on Saturday afternoon. I can sort of remember conventions and things where I would hear Bob Trout. I grew very fond of opera and Lily Pons. I decided maybe I wanted to be an opera singer, except I couldn't sing. [Laughter.] My aunt played the piano very well, and she lived across the street from us. She and I would sing a lot, and we could be heard for miles! But it wasn't anything of the caliber that would elevate me to stardom, so that didn't ever work.

Biagi: Describe for me the house and the restaurant, what it looked like and how big it was.

Taylor: In fact, we went by there the other day and it didn't look like I remembered it at all. In fact, the street has been widened, so it's cut into the yard. But the front door faced a corner, and it was on a rather busy street of only two lanes in those days, but there was a lot of traffic on it. It was a block from Atlantic, which was a very busy thoroughfare in Long Beach. The house was a one-story stucco house. It had a living room and a dining room sort of as part of the living room; a kitchen which wasn't used very much because you would walk out past the kitchen and the laundry room and out a door into the back door of the little restaurant, which is where my mother did the cooking for everybody. That little house had two bedrooms and one bath. The little house went through the 1933 earthquake. It went through a huge explosion the same year when Richfield Refinery blew up two and a half blocks from us. That blew the house, pulled out the walls and made the house uninhabitable for a period of time.

My mother's shop was a little frame shop. The little shop was also a little one-story building, green, as I remember, green frame with windows around the outside, and she had counters on two sides of it. When I wanted to make some money, I would help her in the mornings or the evenings or sometimes, and I didn't get paid, but I got tips. [Laughter.]

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I didn't like that very much. I mean, I didn't like the job much, so I didn't try to make money that way too often. But that was the little house.

Biagi: She called the restaurant what?

Taylor: It was Sis's Cafe.

Biagi: Was it Sis's Cafe before she took it over, or had she renamed it?

Taylor: She renamed it. She was Sis, and she didn't like her Flora Louise name. She was Sis to everybody. My mother had a banter. She was great at wisecracks and she liked talking with everybody, and that was part of what the charm of her cafe was. The food was good and she had a couple of people. One was a remote aunt related to us many times away, but she was a good pie baker and cook. She worked with my mother. Then Mother would have a couple of waitresses. But Mother was mainly involved in everything that happened in that little restaurant.

Biagi: Kind of standard fare?

Taylor: Yes, very country cooking, where you would have your mashed potatoes and gravy and your vegetable and all different kinds of meat. She'd always have roasts, a ham, beef, and pork. Once in a while she would have Italian spaghetti that she made in a wonderful way that was from an Italian recipe that a navy chief had brought to her. Mother had a boyfriend who was a navy chief and a band master. He had brought this recipe to her. She made it, but it took her two days to make this particular sauce, but really everybody loved that, too. She always had great pies, lots of ice cream.

Biagi: Did you eat in the restaurant? Were all your meals essentially taken in the restaurant?

Taylor: No. I would eat my breakfast out there, lunch would be at school most of the time, and dinner, my mother would come in and bring dinner in. Mother didn't usually serve dinner. She served dinner early in her restaurant time and then she stopped serving dinner. So she would prepare things out there. She seldom used the stove. There was a stove in the house, but it seldom got used. People were always out there, so that I was in the house by myself, but I was right near people. I could always go out there. But it was not a real warm upbringing.

I had friends whose house I would go to a lot, one particular friend who still is my best friend. As these stories of age have gone around, you know, and people have arbitrarily chosen an age for me when they've written stories that I never did admit to, one nice reporter for the Times chose an age that was very nice, very flattering, and this girl, who is still my best girlfriend, whose family was very warm and they took me around with them a lot, a friend of hers said, "How could you have grown up with Ruth when you're so much older than she is?" [Laughter.] But that's where I found my companionship a lot, in this other family, the Lyons family.

Biagi: What was her name?

Taylor: Her name is Virginia Lyons. Her sister, Bernice, who was older, Bernice and Harold were twins. Harold was a great big, tall guy, probably 6'2" or 6'3". Bernice was a little tiny lady of about 5'2", and they were twins. But Bernice was a very witty person. She went to Scripps College and she was the one who took Virginia and me to Scripps to some dances, too, when we were in high school, in the hope that both Virginia and I would go to Scripps. Well, it ended up

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that I went to Scripps and my friend Virginia stayed in junior college for a couple of years, and then she went up to Pomona. So she was nearby. But that period of time during our college was not a time when we saw a great deal of each other because we didn't go to the same school. I went to the school that her sister wanted us both to go to.

Biagi: Going back to the third and fourth grade now, what was the name of your school?

Taylor: I went to Burnet and then I went over to Signal Hill. When my mother got the restaurant, I moved to Signal Hill School when I was latter third or fourth grade. I guess it was the fourth grade. It was interesting because at Signal Hill School there had been a little girl who went there for the first three years, and I heard about her a lot. Then I was kind of a presence in the fourth and fifth and sixth grade. I played the piano in those days. I could play a piano better then than I can play it now by far. I would play for little things. I was in the school play and I was a very good student. I skipped a grade, even though I was young in school. The principal didn't want me to skip because I was too young for the crowd I'd be with. The teacher said, "If you don't let her skip, you might as well let her stay home," which was interesting. But anyway, I became a presence in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade at Signal Hill. There had been this little girl in the first, second, and third, who had been a presence, and then she had moved on. In the seventh grade we went to junior high together, and that little girl's name was Virginia Lyons. And that's how we got to be so close friends, and this has all gone along since then.

At any rate, I went to Signal Hill School and it was a small school, excellent teachers.

Biagi: Do you remember any particular teachers?

Taylor: There was a Miss Rau, I think her name was, and she was quite rough, and a lot of people didn't much like her. But I got along with her very well and she liked me. She was a hard taskmaster and a hard teacher, but we got along fine. She became almost a mother confessor, as far as I was concerned. I would go tell her if we would get in some kind of trouble, my friends and I, and then I'd go tell her about it rather than my mother, because my mother was always busy. My mom and I had a relationship that was almost silent. I mean, we didn't talk of our inner thoughts together through all the years, really. Hardly at all.

Biagi: Do you think that was because that was her nature or because she was so busy?

Taylor: It was partly her nature, too. She kept almost a defensive shield around herself in a way. She was very bright. I wonder, had she been born at a later time, what kind of life she would have. She was so good at arithmetic, for instance. I say arithmetic because that's basically what bookkeeping was and what running her business called for. She was very precise and very good at that, and she could calculate so that she made profit. She went through the Depression, she went through the war, she went through times that were very hard to run a business. She went through an explosion where she no longer had any utilities and had to make do with getting butane and things like that. She was able to do it, because she could calculate all these things very closely, very well, and it was all her own. There was no man to back her up or any other woman, really. She had helpers, but they were good for what they were good for. They were nice, friendly people who cooked. So she had this inner life. She had some boyfriends from time to time, none of whom I ever liked. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Even the navy guy?

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Taylor: The navy guy was fun and he taught me how to lead a band, you know, so I can still do four-four time and two-four time and three-four time. We'd go out on the ship and have dinner. But I didn't ever understand the relationship. It was the kind of relationship that was so private, and Mother was herself and kept so much to herself, and she was not able to communicate with me things that I needed to know growing up, to a large extent. A lot of things I had to find out the hard way that had to do with your own physical changes as a teenager. I never heard a discussion of sex in any fashion. I had no sex education and was naive all my life. My husbands—both of them—could hardly believe this woman! [Laughter.] And I agree, in retrospect. It's impossible for a kid to grow up beyond the third grade now and not know what I knew when I got married, I suppose.

But Mother never could talk about any of that. I found out when I began to have a menstrual period. The lady next door, whose child I used to take care of and babysit for, was my person to discuss all that with me. I would find other people. Of course, I reverted to being not healthy, because I was always terribly busy with dancing, which I kept up a lot, a long time. I worked hard at school. I did work at times with my mother. I took care of the house. When I was about ten or eleven, I read everything there was. Sometimes, because it was kind of lonely in the house, I'd go out and cozy up in the car and sit in the car and read. I would go to the library, but also Buffum's Department Store had a department that had a little library, and I read everything I could read.

But I was not busy enough, and in the summertime it was particularly a drag, so my mother got me a job answering phones for a lumber company about two blocks up from us.

Biagi: How old were you?

Taylor: I was not more than ten or eleven. So I'd answer phones in the summertime. I began to type their invoices, and because it was a lumber yard and the office was pretty dirty and certainly didn't meet my mother's standards or mine for cleanliness, I started washing the windows and doing the blinds and dusting everything and driving everybody crazy in this lumber yard. So the boss, though, finally added on a new office with walnut paneling and everything else, and they shaped that place up. I was working at that, and more and more I began to do their books. By the time I was twelve, I was doing their books. Then I was working after school, too.

Biagi: You worked after school and summers?

Taylor: Right.

Biagi: That lumber company was what?

Taylor: It was Ballantine Lumber Company. That started because my mother wanted me to have something to do, and it also began to help that I was making a little bit of money, too. That grew so that I did more and more at that lumber company. It also was the genesis of a close relationship that I had with a lot of the oil men and the people in the business. Very few women would have a chance to know what men really do in the afternoon. Maybe they do other things now, but in that particular era and in that particular place, the men would have their nice lunch and then they might, I suppose, go back to their offices for a while, but these guys who had their tool companies and their oil companies and their every kind of companies would gather in the afternoon and play cards at this lumber company. Or if they didn't play there, they'd play across the street at the Wonderly Construction Company. But there would be these guys playing cards with all of the language that goes along with the rough-and-tumble life of oil people.

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These were rather nice gentlemen, but they didn't sound like it a lot, you know, and they probably, a lot of them didn't look like it. The ones who used to play the cards wore suits or at least fairly decent clothes most of the time. They weren't the guys out on the oil derricks themselves. These were guys who ran their own businesses for the most part. But anyway, they had the language and they'd come up through the fields. They decided, though, that it wasn't very good for Ruth to hear this kind of language, this young girl. Then they decided what are they going to do about that, because none of them could really change their approach to how they reacted if they didn't have the right cards. This is a story that's really a true story, and I tell it a lot to the guys around there. What they would do, they would pay Ruth 10¢ a swear word, which might be like a governor on their mouths, and also give me a little added money for putting up with it. Of course, I was supposed to be in the other part of the building, but the building wasn't very big, so I could hear this. And I did collect every week my sum of whatever it was, 10¢ a word, from these guys.

Biagi: Sometimes it was averaging what? Do you have any idea?

Taylor: I don't remember what it averaged, but I know they were pretty good about it and it was a big thing if they did. They were my friends all through. They were eventually the ones, when I went to Columbia University—I didn't have any money. I just decided I was going to go to Columbia Journalism School after I had a conversation with a teacher. But anyway, these were the guys, when I said, "Okay, I'm going"—I made reservations on the train to go to Columbia. I filled in an application and sent my application in, all these things with no money. Then I went to the bank and decided that people could go to the bank and borrow money, so I went to the bank to borrow money and I told them I needed however many hundred dollars I thought I needed. I think it was around six-hundred then. They said, "Well, you can't borrow it without something back of you or somebody." Well, it happened to be the bank where these guys had their accounts. I don't remember the bank. It wasn't the Bank of America; at least I don't think so.

They went down and they backed my loan, some of these same fellows who used to pay me 10¢. Anyway, they were a big part of my life, that oil crowd, because every summer when I'd want a job, I always had a job with the lumber company. Then as I got along in high school, I majored in math in high school.

Biagi: Let me back up a second. In seventh and eighth grade, you said you met up with your friend. Is that still at the same school, Signal Hill School?

Taylor: No. We went from there to Hamilton Junior High in the seventh grade. We changed to junior high.

Biagi: But it was in Signal Hill?

Taylor: No, it was in Long Beach. That's not a very far away place. [Laughter.]

Biagi: But it was a larger population.

Taylor: Yes. It was a junior high. We supported each other a lot because we were both good students. She was far more extraverted than I, and it was fine, because if she'd been friends with somebody who talked as much as she did, it would have been a terrible collision. [Laughter.] So it was good, because I was much more quiet and she was always outgoing. I remember, too, we used to imitate people. She was excellent at Mae West, and I did Zasu Pitts. [Laughter.] I never got to go on these summer vacations.

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

Taylor: She would go to Hawaii. As I say, my mom would take us for a week to Catalina. That was as far across the sea as I got. But when Virginia would come back, she and her sister Bernice would be all full of the hula and Hawaiian, too, so we also sang Hawaiian duets and did the hula. That was just kind of by osmosis that I got to travel to Hawaii and catch all these things. So we had our little acts and so on. But a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was a world traveler to Hawaii while I was working in the summertime most of the time—all the time, because I always worked in the summertime.

Biagi: When you went to high school, what high school was that?

Taylor: When I went to high school, I went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School. We both went there, too.

Biagi: You majored in math.

Taylor: I majored in math, but I also took Latin. We took heavy duty stuff—Latin, English. One of the courses I took in high school was very valuable. Though I had been a politician to a certain extent in junior high and had given speeches, and both Virginia and I were in what was called the Leadership Class, I wasn't still real outgoing. Of course, I loved to dance and I was in a lot of programs that way, but you could be very shy and be a dancer, just as long as you can smile. You don't have to say anything. Just smile. In fact, sometimes I've had the same feeling as I smiled on the air that I had when I used to dance, because after you smile so long, your cheeks start to wiggle and it becomes a real difficult thing. [Laughter.]

But I didn't become really comfortable in front of a lot of people until I took public speaking in high school as a course. But I had a very good teacher, Mr. McKay, and he had us join the Public Speaking Club. We would make our speeches out and around in the community for different kinds of occasions. I had a Mother's Day speech that everybody liked a lot, and I gave that Mother's Day speech every Mother's Day for the whole three years, I guess, everyplace, I mean a million places. I always sweat blood before I'd go out and give a speech, but I did it, and it was extremely valuable to me. As I say, I'd done a little bit of acting for some school plays and things like that, but that's not the same thing. There it's all memorizing and you can be an actor, I think, and act, or a dancer, and still be very shy. When you get out and speak, you have got to go out to the people and they've got to react.

Biagi: You had written this speech, obviously, and presented it.

Taylor: We didn't extemporize. That was a thing that you certainly learn. You should probably learn to extemporize as you're learning to speak in a prepared fashion, because if you make a mistake on your prepared speech, you could be thrown right out the window too fast. If you're able to get back on your feet, most of the time you could recover. But anyway, that was a thing that was extremely valuable.

I was still working after school, and I joined a lot of activities. I was in a lot of clubs.

Biagi: Such as?

Taylor: Hostess Club and the Welfare Club.

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Biagi: What were those?

Taylor: The Hostess Club was more of a social thing, I guess. I can't remember what we learned in that or why we did it. The Welfare Club I remember very well, because it had a good value, too. We'd actually go out and go to homes of people at Christmas or Thanksgiving or other times in the year, who were having a problem, and we'd take things to them that they needed. It was a very important insight into other people's lives. It wasn't a very large group, because you really did work at it. That was very important.

Then I was in the Girls League. Everybody was. But I became president of the Girls League.

Biagi: Which was what kind of a group?

Taylor: Just about every girl in the school was part of that, and there was a Girls League and a Boys League. I also even went out for baseball. I am just not an athlete. I can be athletic in dancing, but I am not great. I could pitch pretty well sometimes and hit pretty well sometimes, but I was never strong. I was never really strong enough, and I've never been able to breathe real well. I didn't have a lot of endurance in things. But I did that.

So I was working and taking a lot of activities, and all of a sudden, when I was about in the second year of high school, it was discovered that I was making all As in everything. It became a challenge, then, to keep that up. Whatever I took, I worked hard at, but I was busy at a whole lot of things. I was in the Scholarship Society. The people who really knew what kind of a record I was accruing were the people who were clerks in the office, because I was not really part of the scholarship group. My family was not wealthy, and somehow it seemed that there was that elite of kids who were in the Scholarship Society. Though I belonged to it, I wasn't part of this group for which there were such high expectations.

I was sixteen when I graduated. They always gave an award for the person who had accrued the most scholastic and activity points combined. Well, the Scholarship Society knew perfectly well who that would be; it was a young man who had come from a very good family and he subsequently went on to Cal Tech. He was a friend of mine eventually. [Laughter.] But I wasn't even considered, except the clerks said, "Hey, wait a minute!" And they added up all my points and I had more points than anybody in the history of the school. I got the award for the outstanding student, which came as a shock to these elitist kids! And my mother, too! [Laughter.] And to some of my teachers. People would say, "Well, I knew she was doing well in my class, but I didn't know she was doing like that everyplace else." It was kind of a funny time, because it was a common girl coming from behind.

That was an extremely important thing, because I had caught the eye of some of the people in the office, the counselors and advisors and so on. I had planned, as all my friends, to go on to junior college. One counselor particularly, Mr. Adams—and I don't remember his first name. I've used his name sometimes trying to get somebody to put a first name to it down in Long Beach, but I don't remember. I can picture him. He wore glasses. He called me in one day and said, "You can't go to junior college. With a record like this, you've got to get a scholarship and go to a four-year institution."

I didn't have any money. My mom didn't have much money. As I say, here's the background. She did come from a wealthy family and, in fact, my great-grandmother's family had contributed heavily to Scripps College, where I eventually went on a scholarship and worked

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my way through, and Mom came up with some of the dough. But it was a disgrace that my mother had divorced, and she was just wasn't part of the crowd, really, though she went up there and was the person who really helped my great-grandmother get around and all kinds of things from time to time. It's a part of the story you can hear if you want it, but it's really boring.

Anyway, the counselor decided I should send letters out, and I did, choosing where I wanted to go. I sent a letter to Stanford and I sent a letter to Scripps; I don't remember where else.

Biagi: Why Scripps?

Taylor: Scripps because that's where Virginia's sister had gone.

Biagi: Why Stanford?

Taylor: Because it was a prestigious place that I'd heard about. It wasn't like I'd been talked to a lot about it or like kids now know. I liked USC [University of Southern California] because I used to hear their football team. I liked Cotton Warburton and all those guys, and my mother and her friends in the shop would bet on the games on Saturday afternoon. But it wasn't a place that I thought of for going to college.

Scripps, I'd been there, I'd been to dances there. It was a hard institution at that point. It was extremely demanding. I often deplore how they have dropped their standards to such an extent. One reason, though, an entering class of ninety-five would be reduced to like twenty-five by the time they graduated.

But at any rate, I did send out these letters and I got scholarships to at least two institutions, and I chose to go to Scripps. I was also given opportunity to work, wait tables and things like that, and answer phones, which would help me with the money, because, as I recall, the tuition was $1,200 a year, which was a lot of money at that time.

Biagi: This would have been what year?

Taylor: 1939. For my mom and me, that was pretty heavy duty. But I had the scholarship, which was $500, as I remember, a year, and I worked, and Mother came up with some money. When I finished, they gave me a second scholarship so I wouldn't have to work so much, because I still was not a healthy person. They figured they wanted to protect their investment, I guess. [Laughter.] "Keep her alive 'til she can do something that we can be proud of!"

Biagi: What was your relationship with your father during this time?

Taylor: None. He had never contributed to my support, and my mother said so long as that was the case, he was not to see me. Considering how hard she had to work and his lack of taking any responsibility for me, even early, I guess he paid the bills while they lived together, but he certainly didn't provide any real help to accruing the kind of lifestyle anybody would want, to help his wife. It was not anything that my mother could accept. Anyway, she was so bitter by the way her life had been with him, and then when he didn't take any responsibility for me, though he was very supposedly proud of me and thought I was a neat little kid, he didn't do anything to back that up.

Biagi: Did you see him while you were growing up?

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Taylor: I saw him maybe once. That's all. In recent times, within the past fifteen years, I saw him once. He must be dead by now. The person to whom he was married at that time sent me a picture of him at his ninetieth birthday, and this was some time back.

Biagi: So you've seen him once since then, or you saw him once when you were a young girl?

Taylor: Once when I was a young girl and I've seen him once in this recent time. The recent time came about because from time to time, people would say, "Oh, I know your brothers," which always kind of shocked me, because I didn't grow up with my half-brothers. But when I became visible, of course, I had been on the radio a lot, but I don't think they ever listened to the radio. But when I became pretty visible on television, is when I began to hear from people who said, "I saw your brothers," and the family began to identify with me and send me invitations and call me up. This one brother made a point of trying to drop by, and I went out to visit them once. The kids wanted me to help them with things.

For a moment it seemed like a nice thing to have my family, or an extended family, the family I would have had if I had been with them all the time. But then it just didn't take hold in myself, and I couldn't embrace that family at all, and didn't. It just seemed to me that they were remote and the way that they surfaced when I became visible didn't seem to me to, therefore, spring from a deep love that they'd always cherished, you know, of their dear little sister. So I just didn't go back to see them anymore. My kids have been a little unhappy about that, but not really. When they've thought about it at that time, they thought, "Ah, gee, Mom, we should know these other folks," because that's the way everybody does. But we didn't.

Biagi: Talk about being a teenager and hanging out at Sis'. I know there were a lot of people who visited there and whom you got to know through that restaurant. Do you remember some of those experiences?

Taylor: The governor of Massachusetts, Governor Saltonstall, came by, but he came by because his daughter was at Scripps and I brought her home to my house for a Thanksgiving or a holiday, and then he came by to visit my mother, he and his wife, one time when they were out here. Of course, it was an experience for his daughter to come to my little place. I think the Saltonstalls were probably a highly placed family in Massachusetts before he became a governor. It was quite different for Emily, who was a lovely girl, very, very quiet, and a true ugly duckling. When she came down with me, though, she consented to have a permanent and do all these things that were just totally different for Emily. Anyway, the governor came along.

Clark Gable came by one time. My mom just loved Clark Gable. I can't remember when he came, and I wasn't there. Of course, the legend of Mother's place particularly revolves around the fact that a good many of the oil people who came there were in the formative stages of a lot of the major oil companies and were important in the industry and did concoct a lot of deals. That was a very big part of Long Beach developing. The whole arrangement was that money from the tidelands oil went to Long Beach and had to be used within a certain distance back from the shoreline. Of course, those oil men were part of all of these original wheelings and dealings that brought all that about.

They were the same guys, the same people, whose companies developed and grew and became very important. But they were the people who used to come to my mother's place. It was the place in Signal Hill to go. Though it was unpretentious, it was good food, a lot of fun kidding with Sis, see all the guys, hang around. They had some pinball machines and a few things like that.

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It was not a big club type of thing, but where they'd just sit and talk for a long time and meet.

Mother's place was very successful for a little place. She didn't make any big bucks. She finally sold it out and came back and stayed with me in New York for a while after she sold out and got to do a couple of things she'd always wanted to do. We would entertain some of these people who would come back through New York, and we'd have cocktails on the terrace in the Waldorf. She loved the opera, and we'd go to the opera. We went to Broadway plays. Musicals she liked particularly.

Biagi: What was your life like when you went to college? What was your schedule? What did you study?

Taylor: Scripps had this wonderful curriculum of the humanities, mandatory for three years. Of course, this is the whole survey of Western civilization and everything changes now. But Western civilization, history, art, music, literature, all of the survey, science as it developed. You really saw a stream of civilization developing through history, and you had to take the humanities for three years. You had an offshoot of required biology, some kind of science that was very humanities oriented, still. It was not pure science. You weren't learning this through the scientific method. Things that I really would have liked to have kept on doing. Harvey Mudd was not there at the time or I would have been taking a lot of courses there. I used to think, "I'll finish it here and then I'll go back and go through Cal Tech," because I truly liked mathematics. But this was a very liberal arts offering, the science as they taught it and the humanities.

I majored in American history. It was heavy academics. I did not take any of the art courses. Of course, they had a wonderful art department. I took language at Pomona. I took Spanish at Pomona. I never did take anything but Spanish. I took three years of Spanish at Pomona. I took economics at Pomona.

Biagi: I think somebody on the East Coast might not understand the arrangement of the colleges there, so you should probably describe that a little bit.

Taylor: Scripps College is in this little town of Claremont that is about fifty miles east of Los Angeles. It is one of the Claremont Colleges which currently number six, I think it is. At that time they numbered three. There was Pomona College, Scripps College, and Claremont Graduate School. The idea of the cluster is on the Oxford Plan that you can take courses anyplace within the group while you still maintain the requirements of the principal college in which you're enrolled. That meant that I had to take all of the courses mandated by Scripps, the humanities and so on, and so much was required that you didn't have a lot of extra time. But I could hippity-hop down to Pomona and take my Spanish or anything else I wanted to. Ultimately, economics I took there, too, as I mentioned. Now had Harvey Mudd been there, I'm sure I'd have been over there to take physics or biology or something that was hard science.

Scripps was this very heavy duty school with a wonderful ratio. You'd sometimes only have five students in a class, and you would have your big humanities lectures and then you would be in the seminars of small groups. In your senior year, you had a tutorial system that was one on one with a professor every week, an hour or two a week, also, though, if you got to your senior year, because you had to pass a senior qualifying examination at Scripps at that time, which meant that you had to pass a six-hour exam at the end of your junior year based on the entire survey on Western civilization. If you did not pass it, you did not become a senior and out you went

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someplace else. That was why they got rid of it, because they didn't end up with very big graduating classes.

I did pretty well on that, and I then wrote a senior thesis that was interesting. Scripps was sort of a breath of poetry, in a way. The grounds were simply beautiful. The gardens were gorgeous. There was a memorial garden there that I loved to walk in. Of course, when you're going into this big picture that they had, they present it to you with Western civilization, you realize the millions of Mesopotamians and the thousands and thousands and millions of Egyptians and all the people who went before, all the people there are now, your head is all of a sudden swollen with this huge burden you carry, knowing so much! [Laughter.] It took a lot of meditation and contemplation. As a matter of fact, I think I started a paper in my freshman year, "What is Life and What Does it Mean?" My professor said, "I think you should narrow your field a little bit."

But the memorial gardens were wonderful and I'd go over and walk through the garden and think about all these things. It had fruit trees and beautiful flowers and a little chapel. Ultimately, to my mind, they simply ruined it. They put a very political Mexican mural on one wall. To me it had no place in this environment of meditation; to everybody else it did. I was one in a million. Of course, it's there. [Laughter.] But I loved the gardens, I loved the smell of the orange blossoms, I loved Mt. Baldy that had the snow cap there. I had a real affinity for nature when I was there, which was so much more around us than it is now. It was a small town and there was a lot of undeveloped area around there. With the mountains just a few miles away, it was a place that you could truly commune with nature, an experience I had not had before.

Biagi: Your time there hopscotches two important areas in American history, since you were a history major—the Depression itself and then World War II. What kind of effect do you think those two incidents in the larger history of the country have on you? Did they touch you at all?

Taylor: Oh, sure.

Biagi: In that bucolic garden.

Taylor: Oh, by all means, although there were people in that kind of an environment who were the very esoteric, philosophical, academic types of people who felt that it was good to be in an ivory tower for a period of time in which to learn without the distractions of the mundane world. That was something that I actually fought, because though I liked it, the fact that we did have a world that went to war [World War II], the year that we went to war, in fact, I started being involved with the school newspaper as a freshman, as circulation editor, then became the business manager. Then I became the editor when I was a junior. The fact that there was so much of the world that was going to affect our lives, that these people with their academic approach, particularly the professors, wanted to try to keep these things out, I, as an editor of the paper, rebelled against that. In fact, we made up at least a portion of the front page with world news as I saw it. [Laughter.] I usually wrote about two-thirds of the paper. But also then we had a good deal of debating in the paper of different students' views that also just upset the campus tremendously. The fact that I published some of the views of students who really were highly critical of the faculty and the way Scripps was run in its cloistered way, this did make them think that the whole paper was going to hell.

Though I printed those things, I was a relatively conservative person, and that's weird, because on that campus in 1940, that was a presidential year when I was going to that school, and I think there were two of us who were Democrats. The rest were Republicans.

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They all came from very wealthy families. Some of the girls were brought there in a private car, their private railroad car of their family's. Very wealthy crowd, except for Ruthie. Really, I probably had the least amount of money of any student there. I did like to dress well and I also became the representative for the little dress shop up on Foothill Boulevard, and I could get my clothes for a certain amount off. I got a certain commission. So when I needed to get some good clothes, I would just bring a bunch of their clothes over and have them in my room in the dorm and sell them, and then I could go buy some clothes. [Laughter.] So I had my little gizmos going. I got along pretty well. I was not at all treated like an underclass in an economic sense. It didn't seem to matter. I did a lot of work. But there were other girls who worked, too. Even some of the girls who had a lot of money worked.

Biagi: How did you get involved with the paper?

Taylor: I was circulation manager. I don't know how that started. Maybe somebody just asked me. I think at the time I did that, the girl who was the editor, we had four dorms and she was in the hall where I was. I think she probably asked everybody else and nobody wanted to do it, and she asked me and I said okay. It was not something that was a highly glamorous job, but anyway, I did that, and that meant that I was part of the staff, a small staff. We had a little room in one of the academic buildings. In fact, it was a little room that when I became editor, I insisted on changing and I wanted a really shiny spittoon, not because we spit, but because I thought a newspaper office should have one. So we got one.

Biagi: That's an important addition.

Taylor: Very. And it was a major subject of some of our cartoons and things, too. I was business editor, and I became editor in a political ploy, because they didn't want the person who wanted to be editor to be editor. Somehow the political groups—and I don't remember exactly the ramifications of that, but I know they put me up to try to jam somebody else, not because they thought I'd be good. It was my first experience with dirty politics, and I was it. I became the editor that way. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Were there any classes you had to take?

Taylor: We didn't have any journalism classes. We had a lot of literature classes. Almost everybody there wouldn't get there if they couldn't write. In high school you wrote. We had a lot of heavy emphasis on English, and what we did in the way of our examinations at Scripps were largely essay type examinations, too. We had excellent literature courses and literature professors. You got comments; you didn't get grades per se. It was interesting, because I was not the breath of poetry. I never did really well in poetry at all. I just don't know why, but it didn't come on to me. My form of writing was much plainer, much more direct.

In fact, this one little literature teacher who was known as brilliant and she did create some fine writers in her classes, she agreed that she and I just were never going to understand each other. [Laughter.] But she respected the kind of mind I had. I certainly respected the kind of mind she had. Here she was doing this. She wasn't complaining that I didn't fall into her patterns. She was accepting that I had a different kind of direction that I went in the way I wrote. That was great, because when I would write critiques, for instance, they were totally off the wall, as far as she was concerned, and didn't fit in even with what she had contemplated in the way of any reaction from a student. But then it would be kind of interesting to her that anybody could think that way. I don't remember examples, but I know I got a good comment from her and I absolutely flopped in her class in terms of going the way she would liked to have had us go.

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Biagi: So writing was a very important part of the curriculum.

Taylor: Yes.

Biagi: Not part of a journalism program.

Taylor: No. That's how you did it. I can remember getting excellent, which was the highest comment you could get, in another literary class, where on the final exam I flunked every single factual question, I think. Maybe I got two right. But my essays, he thought were great. [Laughter.] So there was a lot of emphasis on writing, and writing for the paper was fine. It was just right for me and I did a lot of that, but we also had a lot of other people who wrote.

Biagi: How many people worked on the paper?

Taylor: Of course, it took contributions from students who didn't work on the paper as a rule, but there were probably three or four of us who were hard working. My good friend Pres, Jean Presley, who lives in New York now, she was my good, close buddy and a hard worker and a great craftsperson. She was the one who helped me put the paper together, a lot of fun, everybody's buddy, just a real good gal.

Biagi: What was the name of the paper?

Taylor: The Scripture.

Biagi: With two Ps or one P? With two Ps in Scripture?

Taylor: No, just regular Scripture. As a matter of fact, when I was writing for Bob Trout, I talked about that and it would send him up the wall. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he just couldn't tolerate the thought that I had come from being editor of the Scripture! I was always kidded about that. I don't know what their paper is called now and I don't know how the paper got called that, but I didn't change the paper. I changed the size. I made it into a six-page paper.

Biagi: From a—

Taylor: Four-page paper. The main reason was because—well, this is the seamy side of me. [Laughter.] Because we couldn't have cars on the campus. That didn't bother me, because I was never going to have a car, anyway. But I had this good friend who, when she was a junior, when I was editor, was given a car by her family, a very wealthy family, and it was a cute little coupe of some kind with red tartan—Scottish, anyway—plaid upholstery, and "The Camels are Coming," horn. She wanted to use that car. Well, we had to figure that one out. So how could she use that car? So I made her advertising manager and we'd have to go into town to get ads. Well, nobody had ever gone into town to get ads. They'd never needed to. Nobody in town had ever wanted to advertise in the Scripture. But we went in and we signed up Bullocks Wilshire and I. Magnums and a few of those places, which meant that because we had these fancy ads, we had to make the paper bigger.

Biagi: To print the ads.

Taylor: Yes, to accommodate the ads, which also gave us another page for our opinions and things like that. But that meant that we also had, as juniors, to use the car, which was not accepted.

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We had to have a car, of course, because we had to get the ads. We had a great big card—my mom was always fractured about it—that said "Press" that we put in the front window. [Laughter.] The only problem was that as I'd sit in Spanish class at Pomona, I'd hear it sing. [Taylor sings melody of car horn.] I knew she wasn't going after ads and she was going to wreck the whole scheme! But that was part of the paper.

Biagi: Do you want to stop?

Taylor: Yes.

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Biagi: Let's continue now. We have you working on the newspaper, writing for the Scripture. So how long were you editor of the paper?

Taylor: I was editor of the paper the one year, and then I became editor emeritus or something the second year, I guess, because I kept on writing and I wrote a column and so forth.

Biagi: What was the column called?

Taylor: I don't know. It was whatever I wanted to write. I kept it up, though, and by now we're in the war pretty strongly. I kept up connecting to the outside world, because we were certainly very involved. The guys we went with and the whole thing was coming down around our heads at that point. That was 1942-43. It was a hard time for the campus. It was a hard time for everybody. Our little world, our little ivory tower, probably was able to proceed in terms of education much more without interruption than most coeducational institutions, because, of course, the guys were going by flocks at that point into different services. I was engaged to a Cal Tech student who was a mechanical engineer. He graduated two years before I did. He went off with the navy and helped build dirigible hangars for the navy down in Florida. A lot of my other friends went off. Of course, they were pretty well spared until they got out of school and then they went out. Most of them that I knew graduated and then went into the service, but they were going like mad. It was hard.

As I say, I was engaged to this guy who was a Hungarian. I didn't really like him much. [Laughter.] He was a very good-looking guy, tall, dark, and gloomy, like a Wagnerian type. He, though, just fascinated most women and he just stared at me so, and he just seemed to like me so that all the women were telling me to really go for him, so I believed that.

Biagi: Where did you meet him?

Taylor: He was a Cal Tech student. Because Pomona College was the only coeducational college close to us, the only college with men in it, there was a real demand for Pomona men. [Laughter.] But the Pomona women also were in that, so we spread out to Cal Tech and had nice parties and good times, because they had four halls over there and we had four halls. Fairly frequently we would have these exchange parties where one of the halls would be the guest of another hall in Cal Tech. Then the guys would move out of their hall, move in with their friends at other halls, and we would move into the Cal Tech guys' halls for that Saturday night. They'd have parties and dances and it was beautifully done. Everything at Cal Tech and everything at Scripps was always

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extremely tastefully and formally put together, so we had a lot of reason to have a lot of formals and fancy stuff. They were nice parties except for the fact that every time you went to Cal Tech and would move into one of those dorms, you knew that if you turned on the light, you'd probably get a vacuum cleaner and no lights or maybe short sheets or something that would buzz. Weird! But we had a lot of attachments with Cal Tech guys, and this was a Cal Tech man. I got engaged to him. It seemed the thing to do, because everybody was getting engaged.

Biagi: When you were a junior or senior?

Taylor: When I was a junior, the summer before I was a junior.

Biagi: So you were nineteen?

Taylor: Yes, I guess I was. Because he graduated two years ahead of me. So we became engaged, but it helped that he left. Actually, it was very romantic for a while, but he was also the kind of guy—again, this theme of my health goes through this. I was a skinny person and not real sturdy, not real well. He would write me these letters about how he didn't like to hear about how I was staying up all night doing the newspaper and things like that because I was destroying my health and he wanted a woman who could be a strong mother to his children and all this baloney. "Hey, look at this baloney! Who needs a guy like that?" No, "I love you and you're beautiful." [Laughter.] It was, "Stop staying up all night doing the newspaper. You can't be a good mother."

Biagi: Did you feel like that then?

Taylor: I sure did. That's the way I reacted then. That's the way I reacted. "Throw that bum out!"

In the meantime, out of sight, out of mind. It wasn't quite like that, but there was a young man down at Pomona who was a lot of fun. We just had a lot of fun. Gene, which was the name of the guy I was engaged to, was so dark and sort of foreboding, he wasn't a lot of fun. He wasn't a lot of laughs. This guy that I liked in Pomona, we just had a good time, we laughed all the time and we joked about everybody, and it was fun. I realized more and more, because there was a contrast, that this guy I was engaged to, wasn't—he had bought this beautiful ring that truly was lovely, and he didn't have a lot of money, so he had to sacrifice for that ring. He told me he threw it into Biscayne Bay or someplace down in Florida after I sent it back to him or gave it to him, however I got rid of it. And I don't believe that. [Laughter.] But this was something. We became engaged on July sixth, whatever year it was. Every July sixth—and this went on for years—even when I was going to Columbia and for a while afterwards, I would get flowers, roses, and it was just this romantic touch that made all the other women make me do it, you know. "You've got a guy like that, you can't let that guy out of your sight!" But this went on. So it became kind of routine, you know. "Okay, it's the sixth." Or I don't know it's the sixth. It must be the sixth; I got the flowers. But anyway, there was that.

Biagi: How long did this thing last?

Taylor: We were engaged, because he was gone, for probably three years. But then we split apart. He was in the war and different places. I didn't keep up with him as much as I did with the young Pomona man who went into the army and was a lieutenant in the infantry and, in fact, landed on D Day in 1944. I guess he left about the same time. Gene left, I guess, earlier than I did, because he was in Iceland, in fact, when I went to Columbia, because he sent me a blanket from Iceland, which I still have, the warmest blanket you could ever have!

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Biagi: So you felt connected to the war in that way.

Taylor: I was very connected to the war because of the young men that I know who went off, and there were other young guys that I went with who went, and I don't know what ever happened to them, but also my friends, all the girls, had men who were going away and men who didn't come back. It jumps the story a little, but when I was in New York and was working for CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System], some of us had a house together at 116th and Riverside Drive, a really nice apartment. There were five of us, I guess. One of the girls' husband was missing in a B-29 flight over in Japan. One of the girls' cousins had—I don't know how this was resolved, but somehow a German soldier had changed uniforms with him. I don't know whether they killed him, but it was a sad story. All of the girls had some kind of profound attachment to the war.

On D Day, I went to work on D Day, which was my graduation from Columbia, but I didn't make it. You have that in your story.

Biagi: Yes. We'll have to go through it again.

Taylor: Bob Trout was on the air and he was the one I was working with on D Day. He was on the air and he was going to be my family. Anyway, that day there was a lot of talk about the 28th Infantry taking it so hard. I thought that's where Gene, my friend, was. I don't know how the infantry regiments and so forth all broke down, but all day while I was working, I was afraid that that was the crowd that was pinned down and having such a terrible time. But that was it. Every day you were getting these different stories from the war, and nobody was listening to what was going on. Even if you have somebody in the Middle East now, you're not that worried. You don't have to listen with a full ear to every little thing that's happening. When a war is really under way, people are dying every day, and everybody's life is touched by it. That news and every detail is something that you're pinned to.

Biagi: You were in L.A. on Pearl Harbor Day [December 7, 1941].

Taylor: I was at Scripps on Pearl Harbor Day. It was Sunday and it the symphony was on. It was the middle of the day, like around noon. The symphony was interrupted for the bulletin that was read by John Daly, whom I subsequently knew very well. That was profound, of course, to everybody. Then [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt came on the day after. Here you have an institution that's pretty remote, maybe much more than your ordinary college, from the world, but it was really right with it. It bombed everybody awake, and the fact that we had taken such terrible losses, as that became so apparent about Pearl Harbor. My friend Bernice, sister of my close friend Virginia, Bernice had gone to Scripps ahead of me and she was married to a navy lieutenant who was on one of the ships at Pearl Harbor. He was not hurt, but he was certainly surrounded by people who were.

Biagi: Did the relocation of the Japanese affect you in any way at all in Los Angeles? Were you conscious of it?

Taylor: I was conscious. Of course, the people who were alive and here at that time have a much different memory than the legends have it. There was a very strong feeling. There were a great many Japanese gardeners and people along the coast who felt, rightly or wrongly, and I don't know how much this was ever proven, but it was a very strong conviction at the time that there was a good deal of surveillance going on by Japanese who were here. Of course, after the surprise attack, there were not that many Japanese that you associated with or that you saw. The Japanese you knew about were along the coast, and there was a feeling of tremendous pain to have been hit

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so hard by the Japanese. Subsequently, there were threats here on the coast. In fact, a submarine came close to the coast. Also there were air raid alerts for the coast. The plan, apparently, of Japan was to come on to the coast with a carrier. It was felt that the coast was very well mapped by the Japanese who lived here, so there was not that kind of outrage.

I don't know how much we knew about what was going on. From where I was in college, I was not hearing about that a lot. I know it must have been terribly hard on many families, but there was a great feeling of animosity toward Japan and Japanese people. I mean, we were at war, and there was a strong feeling that there were Japanese along the coast who had been collaborators with their own government. I guess they were not yet citizens here.

Biagi: But it really didn't touch you in a personal way? That's just observations?

Taylor: That's my observations of the feelings that people had about the Japanese at that time. It was pretty understandable. You didn't have a big influx of people. Of course, the Chinese had been coming for years and working with the Southern Pacific and with a whole lot of people. You had a feeling that there were more Chinese around who were workers. The Japanese never were workers; they were gardeners. They cultivated all of Palos Verdes. It was beautiful over there. But it was also very strongly suspected that the people who were over there were involved with Japan's war effort. I don't know whether that was proved or disproved, but it certainly was the feeling.

The horror of Pearl Harbor that was perpetrated by the Japanese made it hard for people to be understanding toward the Japanese at that time. There was a time when there was a mood, and it would not be something that people today could understand. You had to live in it. You had to feel the fear of the war and the outrage of what had happened on Pearl Harbor Day to understand the feeling that went out at that moment toward the limited number of Japanese there were around, because, as I say, we are used to an influx of immigrants from every place now. We weren't. It wasn't happening to the same extent as it does now. So that we suddenly became too suspicious of Japanese, in general.

But as I understand the camps, although they were confinements, they were not concentration camps. I know there was a woman at our place, a telephone operator, and she totally resented it. She was from that era and had been well aware of all the things of wartime, and she lived here. Somebody referred, when they were talking about the amount of money in reparations being paid to the Japanese citizens now, and referred to them as having been confined in concentration camps, she went practically flying through the roof of the place, but also saying people now don't understand what kind of period that was and what a terrible thing was Pearl Harbor. All of a sudden you were confronted where, out of the blue, the Japanese had done that and killed so many and caused a whole painful period of our lives. It was transferred to the limited number of Japanese who were here and some of whom I think it was not unreal that some were involved in mapping out the coastline.

Biagi: Another influx that happened in L.A. in the thirties and forties was Hollywood and the entertainment business. Were you conscious of that? Did you notice that? Did you feel like entertainment was closer to you than to other people?

Taylor: Hollywood was Hollywood, a sort of other world. I think it is in the imagination always, probably, more than in reality even when you lived here, unless you were part of it. It's amazing, but I do believe that entertainment per se is so much more in the way of life of people in this country now than it was at the heyday of Hollywood at all! The pattern was to go to the movies.

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Gee, I went to the movies. My mom and I went every Sunday. I'd go to matinees on Saturday. That was the place, when I was growing up, to park the kids. You always were going to movies.

Of course, you didn't have television. You had radio. Let me talk about how outstandingly Bob Trout created television on radio. You didn't need a picture tube if you had somebody who could make pictures the way he could with words. Radio was a big form of entertainment. You stayed pinned to "Myrt and Marge." When my dog had puppies, two of her puppies were called Myrt and Marge by my husband and me. That used to be a nighttime soap opera, a nighttime drama that was played. You'd always listen to it. You had to be home by 8:00 or 8:15 because "Myrt and Marge" came on!

I remember hearing a drama that came on every Sunday night related to the royal families of England. It was a story of the kings and queens of England, and it was a dramatization. You were really learning a lot. I suppose it was distortion, but you at least knew the names of kings and queens of England through history. You had "One Man's Family" and Jack Benny and George Burns. You had to watch Radio Theater. When I did my first major documentary for CBS, which was on atomic science, [William] Paley had said, and [Edward R.] Murrow agreed, when we had this documentary unit of four people, and when the documentaries are ready, which is when the person doing them feels they're ready, we will preempt the best program on the air and put them there, so that you've got a good audience going in. Well, mine preempted "Lux Radio Theater." "Lux Radio Theater" was a regular event. Well, now, that was radio and that was the same time you had Hollywood.

So that was the kind of entertainment, though. It was not pervasive as it is now. Hollywood was a glamorous thought, and there were a lot of glamorous people, but living close to Hollywood meant nothing to me particularly. I knew what I knew about Hollywood from going to the movies every week.

Biagi: What about broadcasting, the earliest radio? How did radio fit into your life at that time?

Taylor: Radio was constant in my life. It's like I say, on Saturday when I would be cleaning the house, it took me all day to do it maybe because I was listening to the radio half the time. But what I was hearing on the radio was the opera. When I was a kid, eleven, twelve, thirteen, I was listening to the opera every Saturday and listening to the symphony on Sunday and hearing the special events, hearing the elections and the conventions. I remember the [Wendell Lewis] Willkie [nomination]. Of course, I was older at that point. It was 1940. But '36, I remember being in the house and hearing Bob Trout. So wowee! On my first job, I'm told, "You can work out in Los Angeles because we've got you a job where you say you want to work, but in the meantime we'd like to have you write for Bob Trout." Wow! Because I listened to the radio. It was something you could listen to all the time, but it wasn't a bunch of junk.

I was listening to the radio when the 1933 earthquake struck, in fact. It was about ten minutes of six. "Little Orphan Annie" came on, I think at 5:30, and I think it was Wheatena by 5:45. [Laughter.] One of those was on. I drank a lot of Ovaltine and ate a lot of cereal.

Biagi: Wheatena?

Taylor: Yes! As a result of the way radio impressed my life. But I didn't have to listen to it, although through my life that's what a soap opera was to me. It was Helen Trent and Just Plain Bill, some of those. Ma Perkins. Some of those. Now, they were nice stories. I was buying a VCR the other day and it was a quarter of twelve, in the middle of the day, and all of these

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television sets had this wild love scene from a couple in bed at a quarter of twelve in the morning! This isn't what I mean by the soaps that we used to know. These were nice human stories of little old ladies and little old men with [unclear], not in bed! [Laughter.]

Biagi: We've got to get you out of Scripps. When did you graduate?

Taylor: I graduated in 1943.

Biagi: What was your mom's life at this time?

Taylor: Mom would come out on Sundays and take me out to dinner when I was at Scripps. That would be the weekends I wouldn't come home. But coming home on the weekends was a hard job. I didn't have a car and somebody would have to bring me who was going that way. I can't remember anybody else who lived in Long Beach. Mother would come and get me sometimes. I remember going a few times by trolley.

Biagi: This will be a surprise to people who don't know that Los Angeles has had trolleys.

Taylor: When I was at Scripps College in those never-never days, I could go on to the trolley at Claremont and go in through Pomona, Pasadena, into Los Angeles. When you were on the trolley, this was approximately four times longer to get from Claremont to Long Beach than it is now to get from Sacramento to Burbank on the airplane. They'd stop at all these places, a lot of places in between—El Monte. The train lines went down that route for a long time.

Biagi: How long are you talking about? Three hours to get home?

Taylor: Yes. So that would take an hour, at least an hour, to get into Los Angeles, because you wound all around to Pasadena, too. Then now you've got to go get on the train to Long Beach. That wasn't such a long train. You'd have to wait a while. Then you'd go on a train to Long Beach and that would take forty-five minutes, probably about the same amount of time it takes now to go on that blue line. So you could figure it would take about three hours to get home on the train.

Biagi: So you did that sometimes?

Taylor: I did it sometimes. Then I stayed at college a good part of the time.

Biagi: Did you work summers?

Taylor: Oh, I always worked summers.

Biagi: On campus?

Taylor: No, I worked at these different jobs. One year I worked at Douglas Aircraft during the war, and that was a trip. The main reason it was something is because when I was in elementary school at Burnet, way back, my mother had taken back her name of Ashton and I was still the little girl Ruth Montoya, and it did not please me that there was this kind of a difference between my mother's and my names. Nobody said anything. My mother never did. She never did talk about having my name changed. She didn't even know I changed it. I just started writing Ruth Ashton on all my papers. A little girl dropped out of school named Ruth Montoya, and a little girl

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came in named Ruth Ashton. [Laughter.] I don't remember how that was all worked out with my teachers, but it was accepted and I just became Ruth Ashton.

I tell you that because now I go to work for Douglas Aircraft when the war is on, and they're going to get a security clearance on me, and they're going to try to figure out who is this person who doesn't have a birth certificate or anything. My birth certificate doesn't say Ruth Ashton; it says Ruth Montoya. So when did it change and how did it get changed and all that kind of stuff? There's nothing legal about any of it! [Laughter.] The Homestead Act didn't apply, you know.

Biagi: But eventually they cleared you?

Taylor: Eventually I was cleared. I'm not sure why. I was sorry almost, because that was hard. It was a totally routine kind of job. It was in an office. I was working on some kind of invoice or with paperwork all day long, though, but it was a routine job. It would be like an assembly line, only with the paperwork. You get this one type of thing to do and you get this one type of thing to do. It's like Rosie the Riveter, but only now you're working with a typewriter. I know at the end of every day I would come home and my head would be pounding just from that tedium.

We happened to have at that time a couple of young ladies staying with us, who came out from Nebraska, who were nurses. One was a sister of an aunt by marriage, and her friend. They were nurses and they were staying with us, and it was a perfect time because they were great at rubbing my head. [Laughter.]

I hated the job. The things I remember about the job were the clock, the muffins, because always I would look forward to having a muffin at lunch. They had pretty good muffins in the cafeteria. One thing they did have, too, and I'm reminded of it because I like to listen to these OBG, oldies but goodies, radio programs, songs, music, at lunch they would usually have some entertainer people like the Mills Brothers, I remember, would be there and sing "Paper Doll" and things like that. I still hear those songs. It wasn't every day, but it was every so often, and that was nice. But you were so regulated. You got to punch in to a time clock, the only time clock I ever had. You had to punch in at the right time. You'd get your break for a certain length of time. You had your lunch for a certain length of time. You'd go home at a certain time. You'd punch in, punch out, punch, punch, punch. Look at the clock. You know. Slowest time. It was terrible.

Primarily before that I had worked with the oil people. At one point I worked for an oil crowd. I forget the name. I told them I needed to keep working because I needed more money, and they let me. They were plotting future oil production in the wells they owned, and I had a job, which was really interesting, of taking, say, ten or twenty oil wells and tracing their history. For Los Angeles, for instance, I'd have to go into books of Texaco or some of these other people, to track back the oil well we're now talking about that belongs to this other oil firm that I'm working for, and see what kind of production history it had, what kind of geological expectations, and so forth.

Biagi: Good work for a history major.

Taylor: Or for a math major, because I would project on future production for twenty years.

Biagi: That was a good idea.

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Taylor: It was interesting.

Biagi: Made you some money?

Taylor: Made me my money. I never did know much about oil wells except the numbers. The phone would ring and I'd get these calls that I'd pass along to the boss when he'd come in. I remember one time I got a call from a well site where they were drilling, and they had dropped some kind of a bit or some little thing, but I got it mixed up. So the boss came in and I said, "On well forty-two they dropped the drill pipe," or something that was catastrophic, you know! But it hadn't been that. It practically sent them into hysteria, but it wasn't quite like that.

Biagi: So you graduated.

Taylor: I graduated.

Biagi: What made you choose Columbia?

Taylor: This is part of the story that is very much the fork in the road and the turn in the way things go. This all applies. It was wartime and everybody wanted to do something to make a contribution to the country. I was handicapped, as I have said. I didn't weigh enough to even give blood.

Biagi: How much did you weigh?

Taylor: Oh, maybe ninety-eight, something like that. You had to weight one hundred and three, I think.

Biagi: And how tall are you?

Taylor: I am 5'4".

Biagi: And ninety-eight pounds.

Taylor: Yeah, which was a fairly good weight, but I was not healthy enough to give blood. I couldn't do that for the war effort. The services didn't want anybody in my physical condition. I couldn't immediately become a diplomat. [Laughter.] I was swirling with all these things of what to do.

So I went in to talk to this one professor of literature that I'd had, who was an advisor of mine, Dr. Ament, and he said to me, "Well, I think that what you have to do, you have to figure out where you have a talent. Then you figure out how to train that talent. To do that, you go to the best school you can. You already have found out by your work here that you have a talent for journalism. So why don't you choose the best school of journalism in the country, go there, and be the best journalist you can be?" So we decided that Columbia was the best journalism school.

So I went home. This is 1943. The first thing I did before I even applied was to go down and make a reservation on the train. [Laughter.] Then I sent in an application. It was hard to get reservations; it was wartime. So I did that. I can always remember. In those times that are so memorable, I wanted, the other day when I was in Long Beach, to go down to the corner of Broadway and Pine, because I stood at the corner of Broadway and Pine and reflected on what I was about to do. I said to myself—and I know I said this; I can remember saying this, it's like

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those few moments that you can remember vividly—"You know, it's kind of scary, but you could stay in Long Beach and be a secretary or bookkeeper for the rest of your life or you can get on that train and go back to New York, and you don't know what's going to happen." So I proceeded to where I had started to go.

Then I did that thing I told you about with going to the bank to borrow the money, because I didn't have any money. Mom didn't have that much money. The bank said, "What are you talking about? You don't have anything back of you." They were very understanding, because, as I say, this was the bank where all of these oil men traded. They subsequently came down. One of them said, "I don't like to go in on a note with anybody," and several of the guys went in on a $600 note. He said, "Just tell me what you want and I'll loan it to you." So he loaned me a certain amount just out of his pocket. All of it got paid back between Mom and me.

Biagi: The reservation you made on the train, was that for a subsequent trip?

Taylor: That was for the trip I was going to make. Somehow I determined—and I don't remember how I did that—when Columbia was going to start. I think maybe I made a phone call or something. So the first thing I did was make the reservation on the train to go back there to go to school. You didn't go back and check into any of these things. There wasn't the money; you had to go once. [Laughter.]

Biagi: So you applied then.

Taylor: I applied. They didn't give scholarships until the second semester. You had to prove by your work at the school that you were worthy of a scholarship. So I went back there and went to the journalism school. I got along very well. I stayed in the Teachers College back there and had good friends who were at the journalism school, but my best friends were at the dormitory, where I stayed at the Teachers College, and they weren't teacher candidates. One was a lawyer. I can't remember what the other girl was; she was Canadian. That's all I can remember. But they were real close friends of mine and we did things together.

Biagi: You had known them from Scripps?

Taylor: No, I didn't know a soul there. The Scripps family had an apartment in New York. They lived many places. It was the E.W. Scripps family. It was his sister who actually had started Scripps College, Ellen Browning Scripps. But the E.W. Scripps family was very involved with it, and two of the granddaughters of E.W. Scripps were going to Scripps when I was going there. One was Peggy Scripps and one was Nacky Scripps, who married the guy in New Hampshire who ran that very conservative newspaper, the Manchester [N.H.] Journal or whatever it is. It's been the powerhouse in New Hampshire and has been terribly important for all of the candidates who have ever gone into a presidential primary. I called Nacky, in fact, in 1988 and I never got a call back from her. I wanted to know something. I think she got pretty crabby. He was notably crabby. She was never my good friend. She was a year or so behind me. Her sister Peggy was in my class. I saw Peggy when I was in New York, but most of all I became very close friends with the girl who was married to Peggy's brother, Charles Scripps. Louann Scripps and I became buddies, so the only people I knew were the Scripps family at that time when I was going to school. The rest of the people I just got acquainted with as I went to the school of journalism, which was a close school. In a graduate school, you get to know people pretty well. They had teas.

Biagi: How many students are you talking about in that class?

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Taylor: About ninety-five, something like that, and from all over the world. They were from Nigeria, from China, from Colombia, just a real cosmopolitan crowd.

Biagi: The program was a study of concentrated journalism?

Taylor: Concentrated journalism. You had your options for seminars to go into a particular branch of journalism. You had your law of libel, your history of journalism, your reporting skills, general reporting. General classes were all mandated. Then you could go into seminar side classes that you would choose for whatever you wanted to pursue, whatever was in print, in newspapers or magazines, publishing or broadcasting, which was radio journalism at that time, and that's what I went into.

Biagi: Why?

Taylor: I guess because radio had been something I'd listened to a lot and I was kind of influenced by. When I graduated from Scripps, they gave two awards. Usually they gave one award for the best senior thesis. They gave two. It was supposed to be a literary masterpiece that got the award. Well, mine was no literary masterpiece. They gave one to this breath of poetry girl who was wonderful, and one for me because they could understand what I wrote.

I always had, like I said, a very direct style. Actually, both of my radio journalism professors offered me a job at the same time, in fact. Paul White offered me a job a month after I got to his class, and he made me an absolute ogre in the class by giving me the only A he had ever given on a first paper to a student and announced it to the class, which made them automatically hate me, you know. But it was my style of writing. I wrote in a much more direct kind of way; it's just the way I think that I wrote everything.

Biagi: What was the essay about?

Taylor: The essay was the arguments in favor of the League of Nations, 1918-1919, or whenever that was, just an overall in-depth study, spending hours and hours in the bowels of the Pomona Library.

Biagi: How did that relate to what happened to you at Columbia?

Taylor: The only way was my style of writing. You could go into something because you're kind of intrigued by it. We all had to do print journalism. That was what the basic curriculum was. You could either go into these other things. The print that they gave you an option for would be magazines and books or whatever, and the other was broadcast journalism, which intrigued me because I had always been fascinated with radio. But I immediately was successful and rewarded in both of those classes, one the first semester with the head of the United Press for New York, and I became a favorite student of his, and then with Paul White, where there was immediately a high degree of praise, and I got offered a job. I got offered a job at United Press and CBS at the same time in my second semester, and I was the first student to be offered a job.

Biagi: Had you done any broadcast other than the writing that you had done?

Taylor: No. We didn't broadcast. We just wrote little scripts. The very first class with Paul White, Charles Collingwood came in and talked about his adventures in North Africa as a CBS correspondent. It was all very fascinating and we were all interested in everything that he said, and laid back because it was just a nice little moment out from doing any kind of studies.

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At the end of his little discussion with us—not discussion, but narrative about his adventures, we were then given our assignment, which was to write in twenty-five words what Charles Collingwood had said! [Laughter.] Which is what I got my A on. Also at the same time, we wrote an autobiography. This was our first assignment for Paul White. We wrote that story about Charles Collingwood and also wrote our autobiography. I wrote that, for one thing, I had a nickname, which was Henry, or Hank, named after an old car at Scripps. So I said, "My nickname is Hank for Henry," and then I went on and said, "I was born and raised in Southern California and I hope to live, work, and die there." [Laughter.]

Biagi: A very succinct autobiography!

Taylor: I continued on from there. That was the lead. [Laughter.] I remember it, because White took that "I hope to live, work, and die there," and when he offered me the job, it was to work at KNX out here. I think I have told you this previously, he asked me, "But I'd like to have you start back here." School was still in session. This was February. "I'd like to have you start working back here. You can start working part time writing for Bob Trout while you're still going to school." Whee! "Also I would hope that maybe you will go as the staff to the conventions this summer." [Laughter.] In Chicago, they were. You know.

So it was interesting because there was a guy who was a news director out here—I forget his name. He was legendary, but I forget his name. After a couple of years of these assignments that were fantastic, and subsequently Trout started another show that I inherited and became the producer of when I'd been there less than two years, which was giving assignments to all the correspondents, not giving assignments, but—

[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]

Biagi: Continue with the tales.

Taylor: After a couple of years with the guy out here saying, "When is this person I hired going to come out here?" White sent back a telegram, "Never!" [Laughter.]

Biagi: Although he was wrong.

Taylor: He was wrong, but that was after his time.

Biagi: Let me ask you about the role of Paul White in your life. Not everybody would be familiar with the name.

Taylor: Paul White was the head of Radio News for CBS News. He had come into the organization in the thirties, and that's when the organization of news was being actually formed. I don't remember the details. The only way I know any of them is because I've read the Murrow books. But Murrow was in Europe building up—actually, it started up with [William L.] Shirer to start building correspondents over there. They didn't know they were going to build correspondents. They weren't really foreseeing the whole of World War II. But as different developments came along, they would hire new people to add to that staff.

Meantime, back in New York, I don't remember exactly how it was, but Paul White, who was a tremendous organizer and an old-time newspaper editor, I guess—I can't remember Paul's early history—but he was a crackerjack newsman and a cold-blooded S.O.B. in a lot of people's minds and he was an egomaniac, a lot of things, a big guy, heavy, pretty heavy, kind of the

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stereotype of the old kind of city editor, managing editor, a hard drinker, which was his downfall, really. But he was very good at picking people—he picked a staff—and knowing what to do with them.

I don't remember the exact story, because there were so many at that time, when we had developments in the war, when we had Roosevelt dying on April 12, 1945, we had VE Day, VJ Day, all kinds of big, big stories. One of those stories, I still have the picture. This happened other times. But a flash at that point—there were flashes which we hadn't had—at the end of the war.

Biagi: On the wires, you mean.

Taylor: On the wires, a flash, which was that huge story. The atomic bomb being dropped was a bulletin; it was not a flash. Nobody knew how big it was. But anyway, the flash would come of this huge story. That would be handed to John Daly or Bob Trout or somebody in the studio, and you'd hold the air with that flash. You do not leave the newsroom once you've gone on with the story. That newsroom then takes over the entire network. We had a lever on the seventeenth floor of the newsroom that could be pushed. The entire network came to the newsroom, and the newsroom was thereafter responsible until they released it.

I can remember White standing in the door of his office, just briefly after one of these major stories had broken, and then he'd start calling out to editors, to writers, to correspondents, to everybody, what to do, what to do. [Taylor snapping fingers repeatedly.] Everybody does it and it comes flowing in here, and you'd be on the air for twenty-four or forty-eight hours.

Biagi: He was working at the network and teaching at Columbia at the same time?

Taylor: Yes. Teaching at Columbia was a thing that was like a lecturer in a way, because he was not a full faculty person. They had the best, the top working people for their crafts. They would have Bernstein. I remember two guys from the New York Times, who were crackerjacks. One was a city editor, I think, and one was a copy editor. We got into the precise crafts of copy editing and mainly, in terms of craftsmanship, we broke down how to put out a newspaper into the various crafts. We all learned that. But then your lecturers came in on these seminars, these sidebar things, where you would have a top editor from one of the major publishers, who would be teaching something related to publishing, or you'd have an editor of a top-flight magazine teaching magazine writing.

Biagi: It was a two-semester program?

Taylor: Two semesters.

Biagi: Toward the end of that, then—

Taylor: I had Phil Newsom, who was the head of UPI Radio. He was the first professor of radio journalism in the first semester. He was the one who, in the second semester, after White had offered me a job, also offered me a job. I chose, with not too much trouble, the radio. But these other people, Newsom was the head of UPI Radio in New York, and White was head of CBS News, and these other guys were top flight in their business. So by the time we left school, 86 percent of our class had jobs. You were getting it from the best, and it was also kind of a bull pen for choosing people to work for the different organizations.

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Biagi: So this would have been exactly which month and which date that you went to work for CBS?

Taylor: April 1944. I graduated in '44, and D Day was the day I was supposed to graduate.

Biagi: It wasn't the day that you graduated that you went to work.

Taylor: No. April I went to work.

Biagi: That seemed early to graduate.

Taylor: I didn't graduate then. I was still working while I went to school. It seemed apparent that I knew which direction I was going. I was put on a part-time program where the school, I suppose, gave me some credit for my graduation. I don't remember how that worked, but I know I was granted an absence from a lot of classes to work, which was actually learning, as well.

Biagi: Were there any other women working in radio news when you first went to work with CBS?

Taylor: There was one girl who was writing in the newsroom and a gal that Paul White later married, who he'd hired out of the school several years before, Peggy—Margaret. She and he became a number, and she was an excellent writer and a wonderful lady, and I think she still lives in San Diego.

Biagi: There was another girl there who was writing. That was going to be your job? That's what you were hired to do, was to write?

Taylor: To write for Bob Trout, though.

Biagi: Not just to write!

Taylor: Not just to write! And I did. Subsequently, after graduation, White hired another girl [Alice Weel] out of our class to write in the newsroom, and she was from a very good family in New York. They had a big apartment on Park Avenue. Everybody stuck together, particularly in those times. It was a good thing you stuck together, because things were breaking and you had to go right back to work. But we went to her house for lots of parties, and her family was very involved and delighted she was working for CBS News, but she was working on the overnight. They just thought that was not very fair after she'd been there for I don't know how long, maybe half a year or a year. Because they were such gracious hosts and hostesses and had this money and influence, they thought that Alice shouldn't work.

I was working with Trout. I didn't have to go to work 'til maybe nine or ten, and the show was at 3:15 in the afternoon. Then I was through! I might work on some things for the next day or something like that, although you didn't work on much the next day because the news was going so fast, you had to show them you had plenty of material coming in all the time. But they wanted White to take me out of Trout's office and let Alice go in there. I can work overnight. Just switching these students from the same year, you know, same thing. And Trout said, "No way!" [Laughter.] So I never worked the overnight and I never was forgiven by Alice's family.

Biagi: While you were going to school and working, were you still going to classes or did you get what would be the equivalent of internship credit?

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Taylor: I went to some classes. I can't remember what classes, though, because I still did work. This was starting in April and I graduated in June, so I had over two months there where I didn't show up much. I can't remember when I showed up or what I ever did. I know I had to do some assignments. I remember working full time for Trout.

Biagi: Did you still live near Columbia?

Taylor: I still lived at the dormitory at Teachers College.

Biagi: You stayed there?

Taylor: I left there after I graduated. Where did I move right away? I think the first place I moved was to the Barbizon for Women.

Biagi: I know where that is.

Taylor: It was on Lexington. I think that was the first place I moved, because then friends of mine who had come from Scripps came to New York, and most of these were from the class after me, so they had been going to Scripps while I was going to graduate school.

They came to New York and got this apartment on 116th and Riverside Drive, which was a wonderful apartment. We had four bedrooms, all but one, which was a hole in a wall on the inside of the place, but all the others looked out so you saw the Hudson River, on the seventh floor. It had been some lady's apartment and she left all of her good china, and we had a big dining room. We had nice dinners. A big living room, kitchen. I remember I was the first to get the hole in the wall, but it was okay. It was a cold bedroom on the inside and you'd bundle up before you'd go in there, you know, and try to get warm in bed. I lived in there, but it was fine because we would all rotate. After I'd had it, then I'd had it. Then the bedrooms were mine. After that I rotated to the good bedrooms.

Biagi: Do you remember what your starting salary was?

Taylor: I think it was thirty-five dollars a week.

Biagi: Which was good? Bad?

Taylor: Not bad for never having had a salary in journalism and for going to school at the same time. The second semester I had a scholarship, which was pretty generous, and that helped a lot because I didn't work at outside work, outside of when I started here. There was no way in New York to work at the same time, because when we'd cover stories for the school of journalism newspaper, we'd be out in the community. I remember covering Paul Robeson at a transport workers union meeting one time, and being so impressed. In fact, I was so impressed that I got a very good grade on a story. He was hoarse. There was something wrong with this throat, but he was able to speak, and he also sang some of these old workers' songs. Of course, I was just writing it for print, but you could put that feeling into anything because it was such a moving experience.

I remember I covered a story. Benny Goodman was teaching at Julliard. That was a funny story. I did a humorous feature story on that one, I remember, and they liked that style.

Biagi: Did Bob Trout live up to your expectations?

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Taylor: Oh, by all means. By all means! He had a wonderful sense of humor, absolutely a pixie. He looked so dignified, always dressed in his oxford tailored clothes and carrying his big black umbrella, wore the black coat. He was an impressive figure and such a pixie sense of humor, it was really funny. He and I just struck it off really well. He liked my work, although God knows a lot of the writing had to be just really hard. I was pleased he would always read it, even when I knew some of those sentences were dillies. He would read it and make it sound good. The only thing he had an objection to was a report of the second front and the Russian place names. I'd slip them into the script without warning.

I remember one time somebody—I think it was Peggy White—standing outside the door, and I thought, "I wish she'd go away, because we are really pretty tight. We've got to rush for the deadline." She said, "I really don't want to bother you guys, but it's thirty seconds to air." [Laughter.] But that's how we did it. He wouldn't read these before we went on. He was just very good at reading a script on the air, but he'd hit some of these names and they were dillies. He was delightful.

I don't know if I told you in the previous session about his phone thing. He hated telephones. But there would be calls we should have. Our office was over on Madison Avenue. We were on the seventeenth floor; that's where the newsroom was. The newsroom was the other end of that floor, so people would get phone calls for us, mainly for Bob, or there might be something we'd need to know for a fact or something, and they'd have to run [and find Bob]. I'd have to go or maybe his wife, or it was something important for some reason, some business reason, and he'd have to go. So I thought we should have a phone. So we got a phone, but he hated the phone! So he would put it under the desk sometimes, and it would ring and you'd try to figure out where it was. I'd dive under the desk and answer it or I'd say, "Bob, it's for you," and he'd put it in the desk drawer and close the drawer and walk out, you know. [Laughter.] He just had this really great sense of humor.

He always liked a story with a punch line at the end of the show, even though it was very somber times. He had that humor and he wanted a good story. I don't remember specifically the stories, but he was able to take a story and make a punch line. He would tell lots of little silly jokes. It was just a delightful time working with him. He had this sort of other side that I don't think, unless you got to know him, you really saw. People in the newsroom all knew it.

But he was one of the hardest workers. He taught me—and it was a lesson I've used and never forgotten—going to a convention, for instance, you wouldn't see Bob. You'd see everybody else frolicking and be in the club car. They'd go by train, say, to Chicago. But you wouldn't see Bob. He would be in the stateroom or whatever he had, studying, getting briefed on all the information. Then he would not need to refer to it. He had this mind like a bear trap that would take this in and keep it. He could use that to talk on interminably.

Of course, one thing he did beautifully, and it's always a lesson to me when you're on a special event, you don't have to pontificate and be the great thinker and tell everybody what everything means. You can describe where you are and what its meaning is and how it relates to the story, and talk about some of the little things that give you a feeling for this place where you are. He did that. Of course, he did it for radio, where you needed that picture of where you were, what it looked like, what it was like.

There was that story about when he went someplace where President Roosevelt was coming in on his yacht one time. Of course, Bob was just preeminent master at ad lib and special events. I guess he was meeting the yacht coming into Bremerton or some place. The president

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was due to arrive at a particular time, so they chose to go on the air a little ahead of that time, so Bob goes on the air and talks about the president being here and on and on and on about the trip, or whatever he talked about. I didn't hear it; it was before my time. It was almost an hour later that President Roosevelt got off of the yacht and came up and somehow conveyed to Bob, "Well, I know I should have gotten off earlier, but I was enjoying your broadcast so much, I just stayed aboard!" [Laughter.]

Biagi: He was working against himself in that case. [Laughter.]

Taylor: Right! But it was Bob, always interesting, always exciting.

Biagi: Describe to me what it was like for you to work in New York and work in that newsroom. What did you look like?

Taylor: What did I look like?

Biagi: Yes. Were you still ninety-eight pounds?

Taylor: Oh, I got fatter in the newsroom! This is interesting, because I wore suits a lot. I always dressed well, because I've always liked to dress well. My mother didn't have many clothes, but the clothes she had, she'd get the best she could get, even when she didn't have any money, and that would last maybe three years. She taught me a lot about that. You don't have to have a lot, but it should be good and interesting.

So I had suits. I wore my hair kind of rolled back. My hair was a mess, always. It's this thin stuff. Had I been born in a later time, it would have been good for that kind of long droopy hair that they wear now, but then, you know, it was up and bouffant or something piled on your head. So I always had it sort of up or else a permanent, where it was up.

I told you my friend Louann Scripps and I palled around a lot. Well, Louann loved to eat. I wouldn't have a lot of money, and she'd take me quite a lot, but every so often Mom would send me a little bill and I would take Louann. The food wasn't the way it is now. There was such a choice in New York! Before I started working, we could go to a Swiss place for lunch and a French place for dinner. I guess I got up to about one hundred and three.

Biagi: Oh, you're getting overweight now.

Taylor: Well, let me tell you! Now I start to work for CBS. When it was time for lunch, lunch was at the Epicure down below. I would go down with Peggy White and we would have always a chef's salad. This didn't happen until a year later, because I didn't drink when I started there. They taught me all I knew. This is when I had time to do this. We'd have our chef's salad and beer was what everybody had. Paul White liked beer. Peggy White liked beer. Everybody had beer. There were a lot of other things, too, but beer at lunch. I would drink a Bud, my chef's salad and my Budweiser. I got on the scale one day and I weighed one hundred and ten pounds! [Laughter.]

Biagi: Oh! [Laughter.]

Taylor: When I was working with Bob, we didn't do that. It was after I got "Feature Story," the show that I was producing, that I was able to have lunch and gain weight on Budweiser.

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Biagi: What was the newsroom atmosphere?

Taylor: The newsroom atmosphere was very busy.

Biagi: A lot of people?

Taylor: Yes. It was divided up so you had your editors. The copy was carefully read by tough editors, but your whole newsroom had the wire machines all the way around it. You had everything. That's where I got into Walter Cronkite, on the UP wire. But Reuters and UP and AP and Short Wave, and then inside back of one of the banks of wire machines, there was this big window that looked into Studio 22, I guess it was, a big studio with windows all around it. Then right beside the newsroom, there was a little office for the assistant news director. I can remember the night editor also being there sometimes, I guess after the news director went home. Then White's office, which was a great big office, had a couple of sofas in it and a big, big desk with a panel on it. At that point, we would bring in our correspondents by short wave and you would order from whatever short wave companies. Somehow you'd order them up for a particular time for a talk-up and then for the broadcast. It was all live. There was no such thing as recording ahead of time.

It was like when I was working "Feature Story" and I'd have to bring in the correspondents. Then you'd go and you'd talk them up to make sure everybody's there. Then you'd go on the air, and they get the cues and they go on and do their number. But before the shows, you used Paul's panel to talk to the guys, to be sure where they were, what they had, all this stuff. So his office was a very important center and where everybody slouched around and talked.

So you go down a corridor, out of the newsroom, and you've got some secretaries there, a studio to the left as you're walking down. Then there was a cubicle where William L. Shirer had an office. Then a cubicle where Quincy Howe had an office, another cubicle that I worked in, and different people worked in in different times. Then there was a big corner office for a guy who was a producer, who worked for a long time. Ultimately, the corner office became Ed Murrow's place when he was on the air, on radio. Then next to that was this little office where Trout and I worked. Out in front there were secretaries and folks around, and that was the seventeenth floor.

Biagi: Were there, would you say, thirty, forty people there?

Taylor: No, I wouldn't. The newsroom per se was rather small. Eight? Ten, maybe, in that room, at the most.

Biagi: When you say "the operation," who was in charge of setting up the news budget? How did the programming work?

Taylor: White would be, I'm sure. I didn't know much about that, but I'm sure it was White. White was autonomous in New York. I imagine whatever the correspondents wanted, they got.

Biagi: The programs were on the air how often?

Taylor: There weren't a lot. You had your morning news and your evening news.

Biagi: The morning news lasted how long?

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Taylor: I think fifteen minutes. You had Bill Henry, who used to do a five-minute broadcast somewhere through the day.

Biagi: The evening news was also fifteen minutes?

Taylor: I think so. Trout's program was fifteen minutes. I guess "Feature Story" was fifteen minutes when we did that.

Biagi: Trout's program was a separate program?

Taylor: Yes. That was in the afternoon, like at 3:00, 3:15, something like that. I can't remember if our time ever changed. I have a feeling that "Feature Story" was at 4:30, but I'm not sure why. "Feature Story" was a show that Bob started. He would do the reporting out of New York and stick the show together when the correspondents were coming in from other places on a subject.

Biagi: But the people on the air were all men?

Taylor: All men. All men.

Biagi: Was that clear to you? Did you feel like you'd ever get on the air yourself?

Taylor: I didn't think about it. I didn't care. I mean, I didn't think about it, because there weren't any other women on in any place that we knew about. I guess in some small town someplace, there were some, but not in New York and not on the networks. Not doing news. I know in England and, I guess, other countries, they had women, but you didn't think about it. I've told the story—I probably told it to you—that White auditioned us one time, three of us. One was his secretary to the assistant news director. Well, you were going to be judged on three things: your story, your voice, your writing. So this gal, who was very pretty, which was a requisite—of course, in radio it wasn't going to matter except to the news director. But she got to audition, and I think my friend Alice, from my class, and I. I think I mentioned to you that it was discovered once they introduced me to beer, that if I drank a few beers, my voice got lower. It did. They discovered this, and so before the auditions, White took me downstairs to Colby's Restaurant for a beer, but the beer was flat, and that was the truth! [Laughter.] And so was I. Anyway, we all auditioned, but nobody was too impressed with any of us.

Biagi: When was this?

Taylor: White was still there. It was while I was still in radio. I went to television in '48. It had to be right around '46, probably.

Biagi: But you never had a thought that radio would let women on the air?

Taylor: No, because it didn't have a presence for anybody. You weren't looking at any role models that you wanted to be like. I have always had this maddening (to some people) attitude of looking at today, because some people say you'll never get anywhere that way. You've got to set some goals and go after something! Well, my goal usually was that every day be at least 50 percent good, and if it's not, then you change something. I wouldn't stay at something that I didn't like or I didn't feel had some worth to it. But what I did had worth, what I was doing was exciting, and I didn't ever look at it as for glamour.

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I didn't look at it the way other people looked at it. My mother looked at it as a way for me to marry a really impressive diplomat or somebody. In fact, when I married my first husband, who was an editor, she said, "After all this and you marry a two-bit editor?" Anyway, it was a terrible disappointment to her. She had ambitions; I didn't. [Laughter.]

Biagi: So at that moment you were just living for the day, do you think?

Taylor: I had a lot of opportunity every day. I had the opportunity to write, to work with people who were interesting and exciting, to be involved in news events that were of magnitudes that we don't see now, every day. It wasn't a question of, "Oh, shoot. What shall we lead with?" It was, "How can we get it all in?" It was an exciting time. There was always something new.

When Murrow came back and I was put into the documentary unit, here was a brand-new challenge, a whole new thing. Then they assigned me to do a story on atomic science, which I said I wanted to do. We all got to choose an area that we wanted to do our stories on. So I chose science. I had been so impressed. I did one of the first stories on the atomic bomb being dropped over Hiroshima, because as the day went on that day, it became so apparent how big this story was. But when somebody reads that a B-29 dropped an atomic bomb the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, you say, "Well, I know it's important, but I'm not sure just exactly what we're talking about," until stories started to come in on what the test at Alamagordo had done in terms of people who were blind hundreds of miles away seeing the flash.

Anyway, what I am saying is when I was going to do a documentary and go do it on this subject, I didn't have time or interest in projecting myself on into a goal someplace up there. I was doing something terribly important and exciting right now. And that happened to me a great deal. I was doing these things. Why would I project onto something else? The aggrandizement of myself was not my goal—ever. To be excited about what I was doing, to enjoy my life, by feeling it was worth it, was what was important to me.

I never did put my sights on being on the air. I was asked to be on the air. I hadn't even thought of it until somebody asked me to be on the air in 1951, when I went on the air and never got off, you know. I never shut up! [Laughter.]

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