Kay Evans tells the story of a young woman from Minnesota, who comes to Washington looking for a news job and ends up marrying a reporter who becomes a famous syndicated columnist. In her interview with Kevin Delany, Kay describes the nation’s capitol and Georgetown during the Kennedy years and beyond, a period storied for newsmakers and their sources gathering at glamorous cocktail parties and dinners seeking “The Inside Story!” for America’s news media.
Kevin: All right. Let me get my little pad and some of the questions. [paper shuffling sound] Well first, I am going to set the scene here with a little — OK. This is Kevin Delany on February 5th, 2010, and I am at the home of Katherine Evans, 3125 O Street Northwest, to interview her for the CAG Oral History Project.
May I call you Kay?
Kevin: All right. Kay, lets start at the beginning. Where were you born?
Kay: I was born at Spokane, Washington.
Kevin: Really! Oh, OK. I know that.
Kay: My father was in the lumber business, and he had been sent to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to run his family’s mill. And I was born there in 1925. But there wasn’t hospital in Coeur d’Alene, so they went over the – whatever – not the mountain, but maybe the river to Spokane. And I was born in the hospital there. And I am not sure my mother had ever seen the doctor before. But I was born in the morning. So when that was all over, my father said to the doctor, “Well, Doc, let me take you out to lunch.” The doctor said, “Oh! Thank you sir. That would be very nice.”
So they went to some little place around the corner from the hospital. And before they even sat down, the doctor said, “Sir, that’s the first baby I ever delivered and I’m a little short on cash. Do you think you could pay me right now?”
Kevin: And buy lunch, I suppose is it?
Kay: Well, yes! Daddy paid for lunch. But then, stupid me — I mean, I’d heard this story, but I never said, “How much did he charge you?” And I have no idea. Probably it was about $25. Well, I don’t know.
Kevin: The first baby he had ever delivered?
Kay: The first baby he ever delivered, and he was a little short on cash.
Kevin: How old was he?
Kay: Well, 22 or something. I don’t know. But the dumb question, I mean the obvious question is that you should say, “Well, what did he charge back then?”
Kevin: Yeah. right.
Kay: But I don’t know. I have no idea.
Kevin: But you grew up normal and healthy, so…
Kay: Yeah, whatever he did was OK.
Kevin: [laughs] What was your name?
Kay: Oh, Winton. And we really lived in Minnesota.
Kevin: Is it Mary Katherine?
Kevin: Was it Katherine Winton?
Kay: No, Katherine Winton.
Kevin: Katherine Winton.
Kay: Katherine Decker Winton.
Kay: And we went back very shortly. Well, when I was about 5, I guess, back to Minnesota where the headquarters of the lumber company was where my father had grown up outside of Minneapolis.
Kevin: Oh, I see. OK.
Kay: That’s where I grew up.
Kevin: And what was your schooling?
Kay: I went to the local school in the country. We lived in the country. The public school…
Kevin: The country being the town you lived in? What was that?
Kay: Well, we lived on Lake Minnetonka, and we went to the little country pubic school until the seventh grade, when I went in town to a girl’s school in Minneapolis. And then I took a year and went off to West High School, which was my idea. I told my father it would be very broadening for me to go to a public high school. He fell for that. [laughs] And said, “OK.”
Kevin: And why did you want that? It was more exciting than…?
Kay: Well, yes. And I said, “I’d really like to work on a school newspaper, and there isn’t a school newspaper at this girls’ school.” “Oh!” he said. “Yes, that’s right.” So I went for a year in West High School. A huge downtown high school. But I’ll have to admit something terrible. I never did go out for the school paper, but I found out about a lot of things. And one was, that it was the most snobbish place that I have ever been in my life, the big public high school.
Kevin: That is interesting.
Kay: I mean, very stratified. They even have sororities and fraternities.
Kevin: My goodness!
Kay: And we had to wear the right sweater and everything. It was very snobbish and beyond that, there was enormous cheating. Terrible cheating.
Kay: You were expected to pass your paper to the guy next to you in a test.
Kay: Anyway. So after a year I thought “This is not what I meant.”
Kevin: “There’s no morals in this little town!”
Kay: Yeah. So I said, “This is it. I’ve learned something, but I don’t need to keep going here.” So then I went to boarding school.
Kevin: OK. Nearby?
Kay: No. No. Mother and I went and visited boarding schools in the East, and the last minute, I heard about something called the Putney School in Vermont, which was coeducational. I think just about the only one in America.
Kevin: Yeah. It’s still going, I think.
Kay: Oh, yeah. Anyway. So went and saw Madeira and all the others but I thought that Putney School sounds good and I went. And I am very glad I did. It was wonderful. We skied all the time. But academically, it was very interesting. And then after that, I went to Vassar College. So, there it is.
Kevin: OK. All right.
Kay: Then I went back to Minnesota to work for a year after college.
Kevin: Do you still stay in touch with Vassar and your classmates and things like that?
Kay: Oh, very much. Well, there are quite a few of us here, but there are about seven of us who were in the same class but the not necessarily close friends. But we began to have lunch together. I don’t know how long ago. Not everybody lived in Georgetown, but most of them did. And we done that for, I guess, maybe 20 years. It’s been wonderful.
Kevin: That’s great.
Kay: And then I did stay in touch with Vassar, and I was a trustee of Vassar, actually, for a while. So, yeah.
Kevin: And what brought you to Washington, Kay?
Kay: Oh! Well, that’s a good question. After a year of working on a newspaper in Minneapolis, my friend, Janet Whitehouse, who came from Pittsburgh called up and said, “I think we should move someplace.” And I said, “Well, I think so too.” So we decided to come to Washington. Afterwards, people would say, “Whatever possessed you two girls in 1948 to come to Washington?”
Janet would say, “We wanted to save the world. The war was over, but we wanted to be sure the world was saved.”
I said, “No, we didn’t. We wanted to find somebody to marry!” So, that’s the story.
Kevin: That was pretty nervy, though. You’re right, in 1948, to just venture off…
Kay: So, we came here, and we lived on 35th Street. No, that’s not right. 34th Street. Anyway, in a house. We lived in a little apartment on the second floor of a house in Georgetown.
Kevin: Up near the university, in other words?
Kay: No, no. Right here. I mean, across Wisconsin. 4P.
Kevin: Before we leave Minneapolis, how did you get a job on the Minneapolis Tribune, was it?
Kay: No, it was a paper owned by the Coles family, but one that they had… They bought all the newspapers in Minneapolis, and ended up with three. One of them they made into a tabloid, and not long after I left it, they closed it. I think I got the job because my father knew John Coles, but that’s… [laughs]
Kevin: Contacts work everywhere, and that was true. And so, you worked for the tabloid side.
Kay: I worked for the editorial page of the tabloid. There were just two of us on it, the editor, who was a wonderful man, and me. It was fun.
Kevin: So then, the move, came to Washington. You and your friend got the apartment.
Kay: We went right up the steps of the house to get into the second floor, but it was very nice. We didn’t have any jobs, but we finally got some.
Kevin: Now, tell me — I do think I know a little of that story, how you got your job, and how you met Rowland.
Kay: I got a job. I can’t remember how I got my first job, but it was…
Kevin: I know you went to the AP to try for a job, right?
Kay: No, I had two jobs. I ended up, finally in — I think I said, “Daddy, help!” after some time. I had a job on a small publication, and so he got me a job in the State Department answering the mail that came in to Dean Atchison. There was a group of us, maybe six in a room, all kind of like me. Recent college graduates, and dealing with the mail that came in.
Kevin: Lots of mail, I’m sure.
Kay: Oh, yeah. But, it was so long ago, that we sat down and typed out each answer, and it went up to Mr. Atchison, and he signed it, and it got sent on with a stamp.
Kevin: No robo-signatures in those days.
Kay: No, no!
Kevin: Oh, a stamp he had with his name on it.
Kay: No, he wrote his name. So, anyway, that’s how long ago it was. But then, when I first arrived in Georgetown, Janet and I only knew one person here. We’d been introduced to him by a friend of Janet’s. Charlie Bartlett, who was a reporter for the Chattanooga paper. I think that’s right. So, he took pity on us while we were looking for jobs in the beginning, before I got my job at the Labor Relations Report. That was the first thing that I worked for.
He said, “You girls, I can help you get jobs.” I said I would like one on a newspaper. So, much to his surprise, on Monday morning, we were outside his office waiting for him when he came in. He said, “Uh, oh.” Then, he very kindly said, “Today, I’m going to send Kay to the ‘New York Times,” and Janet to the ‘Herald Tribune.'” I don’t remember how it went.
But anyway, we came right back, and said, “Oh, they were really nice, but they don’t have any jobs.”
So, about the third day, he said, “All right, I’m going to send Kay to the AP, where my friend Row Evans is very big. I’ll call him up right now.” So, he called him up, and then he said, “Oh, just a minute. He’d like you to come tonight at 8:00 at the AP.”
I thought, “That’s really odd. I haven’t ever done that before, ” but I said, “OK.”
So, I went to the AP. Rowly was so big at the AP that he was covering the Weather Bureau. S, you can see that we were really down at the bottom of the heap. Anyway, I went into the AP, and he had arranged…
I’m going on too long about this, but anyway, I went in, and he had somehow gotten the receptionist, whose name was Blondie, to stay late for this event. And so when I came, she said, “Oh, Miss Winton, Mr. Evans is expecting you. Just go right on back.”
So I went on back, and the whole place was totally empty. It was a great, huge newsroom with desks, and desks, and desks, but only one person there, and that was this guy at sort of a central desk, and that was Rowly Evans.
So, I went, and he said, “Oh, yes, Miss Winton, just sit right down.” And then he started asking me questions that you’d go to jail for if you asked them today, such as, “How old are you? Are you married? Are you engaged or seeing anybody?”
I thought, “That is very odd.” I answered them all.
Then, very early in the questioning, he said, “Do you play tennis?”
Kevin: Everyone at AP had to play tennis, for real.
Kay: I knew I had to say… It must be important if he asked, so I said, “Oh, yes.” I did play a little bit, but I was a lousy tennis player. Anyway, so we had this… Oh, and then he had Blondie, prearranged, telephone him during the interview. So, he’d say, “Excuse me. Oh, tell Senator Taft I can’t talk now. I’m interviewing Miss Winton.”
I thought, “Ooh, wow. There’s something weird here.”
Kay: “Maybe he’s very, very important.” Well, let’s face it. The whole thing was a fraud.
And when we finished it…
Kevin: Before you go on…
Kevin: I read some account of this and I thought that it said he was posing as the head of AP at one point. Is that true?
Kay: Not, no. He never said “I’m the head of AP,” but it was clear that I might think so.
Kevin: Oh, I see. Because he was getting important calls, and…
Kay: Yeah. He didn’t say, “I’m the head of AP.”
Kevin: Oh, I see.
Kay: But he was the only person there, which seemed very odd. But anyway, so I went home and I told Janet, “I’ve just had the weirdest interview.” Well, anyway, she remembers how amazed I was at these questions. But at the end of Rowly and my so-called job interview, he said, “Well that’s really interesting. Why don’t we step across the street and have a beer?” So, so much for a job at the AP. [laughs]
Kevin: You had a beer but you didn’t get a job.
Kay: No, I sure didn’t. No.
Kevin: [laughter] So what transpired? Did you see him next…?
Kay: Yeah, oh, a friend of ours I’d gone to college with, Nancy McGuire, was getting married to a friend of Rowly’s. So we went to that wedding together. Well, anyway, there was no talk ever of a job at the AP. He couldn’t have given a job to a flea. [laughs] But Charlie Bartlett is responsible for bringing us together. So that’s what happened.
Kevin: You had a courtship of how long?
Kay: Well, let’s see. This happened in the fall, and we, oh, were engaged I think in March and got married in June. So it all took place quickly.
Kay: Now, we got married. And we — oh, I forgot. We lived for a year on a farm in Potomac, a small farm that Mrs. Hagner had. That turned out not to be a good idea because Rowly was on the late trick, or whatever they call it, at the AP.
Kevin: Late shift or whatever.
Kay: And we only had one car. So then we moved to town. We bought our house on 35th Street, which we loved. We were there for several years. Then we had just one year in Chevy Chase and came back to Georgetown and bought this house.
Kevin: Now, what year were you married, Kay?
Kay: We were married in 1949.
Kevin: ’49. And how about family?
Kay: Well, we adopted a child. We wanted to adopt a child, and at the last minute they told us — but we were living in Georgetown — that the District of Columbia would not accept an adoption from out of state. This child came from The Cradle in Evanston, Illinois.
Kevin: I see.
Kay: But they said, “Since you’ve already heard about this baby, we’ll allow it this once. But we won’t ever do it again.” I don’t know what the rules were. “So if you ever have a second child, you’ll have to leave Washington and go live in Maryland or Virginia or some place, because we can’t do this.” When the time came for us and we wanted to adopt a second child, we went to Chevy Chase and rented a house and stayed there for a year for this process.
Kevin: I see.
Kay: That’s the one year that I didn’t live in Georgetown of all these years. Then we came back and bought this house.
Kevin: OK. What fields did your children enter?
Kay: Well, our son, of all things, is a jazz pianist, jazz piano player. And our daughter is a breeder and raiser of dogs, and maybe you know about that part, but of field spaniels. Lives on a farm in Maryland. Anyway…
Kevin: OK. That’s the farm you go to regularly in…?
Kay: No, I have my own farm in Virginia.
Kevin: Oh, you have your own. This is a separate farm.
Kay: I mean our — Rowly and I have a small farm.
Kevin: I see, a different, separate farm.
Kay: Yeah. Yeah.
Kevin: OK. How far is your farm? How far from Washington is that?
Kay: It’s in Rappahannock County Virginia. We always said it took an hour and 20 minutes, because it did once. [laughter] But mostly it takes two hours.
Kevin: A little more traffic these days.
Kay: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Kevin: OK. And you go there fairly regularly?
Kevin: OK. Very good.
Kay: But that came rather late in life. We didn’t do that, oh, I can’t even remember the year, but…
Kevin: Is that a working farm?
Kay: Oh, yeah. But since Rowly died I, lease the fields to a young couple, and they have their cattle on it. In exchange for that they pay me a slight fee for renting the lands, and in exchange they cut the fields, bale the hay, fill the barn, put fences. It’s wonderful.
Kevin: So tenant farmers, in effect.
Kay: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I just go there on weekends and they keep the place going.
Kevin: Very good. Very good. OK.
Kay: Yeah. They’re not there. They live nearby.
Kevin: Well, backtracking, I want to get a little bit into Rowland’s career.
Kay: Oh, yeah.
Kevin: He started in, was it the “Philadelphia Bulletin,” I think?
Kay: Yes. Yes he did.
Kevin: As a copy boy?
Kevin: And then eventually he moved to AP, I guess, after that.
Kay: Yeah. He came to town, got a job at the AP, and he — I don’t know when I met him whether he was doing this, but they made him — I think he was. He wrote a thing for veterans and draftees, a column. He had just finished them – he came out of Marine Corps, went back to Philadelphia where he grew up and worked the “Bulletin” for a while and then came here.
Kevin: He was a combat Marine in the Pacific, was he not?
Kay: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, he went back to Philadelphia briefly and then came down here to the AP. What did he cover? He wrote those two columns for veterans and draftees. Then eventually he got a beat.
Kevin: But then he, didn’t he move eventually to the “New York Herald Tribune”?
Kay: Yeah, yeah. He did. He moved to the “New York Herald Tribune.” At the AP he eventually moved to covering the Senate. That was very interesting. Then he switched to the “Herald Tribune” and kept covering the Senate.
Kevin: Then he covered the Capitol Hill, or the Senate, at that point.
Kay: Yeah. Yeah.
Kevin: Then the editor of the “Tribune” wanted some kind of in-depth coverage of Washington?
Kay: No, it was Rowly who wanted to write a column.
Kevin: Oh, it was his idea. I see.
Kay: Yeah, so he went to New York and he talked to the editor, and I’m not sure but I think Jock Whitney was at this meeting, maybe. Said he wanted to write a column, they said, OK, but you’ve got to write five times a week, so you have to get a partner. He then chose Bob Novak, who was on the same Senate beat he was, for the “Wall Street Journal.” He didn’t know him well but he said he was the hardest working reporter he’d ever seen, so he asked him. The “Wall Street Journal” did not want to let Novak go, but he said OK, so that’s how they got together.
Kevin: And that first column was called what, the “Evening Report,” or something like that?
Kay: “Inside Report,” I think it was called “Inside Report,” I don’t know.
Kevin: “Inside Report”. Right. At any rate, it did focus on inside Washington kind of inside dope stories, as some people call them.
Kay: Well, I’d say more covering politics.
Kevin: More covering politics, on whets going on behind the scenes.
Kay: Yeah, and then they got syndicated.
Kevin: Very successful at it, syndicated. At one point, tell me how that fit in, they were working with the Capitol Hill Gang as well, right? Al Hunt and them? Mark Shields as well.
Kay: Yes, well they then got their own CNN– Mark Shields. It was called “Evans, Novak, Hunt, and Shields” at the end. But in the beginning it was just “Evans and Novak,” and they interviewed people on CNN. They wrote a couple of books, one about Lyndon Johnson.
Kevin: All right. So things were getting better and better for him?
Kay: Yes, he was having a very good time.
Kevin: Newspaper, mixed media fields. So it grew and grew, and I guess syndication got bigger and bigger?
Kay: Yeah, yep.
Kevin: So that preceded for I don’t know how many years, I think it was 1963 he started a column –or one of them had a column.
Kay: Yes, that’s right. Well wait a minute, lets see, he started the year Kennedy got elected, so that’s earlier.
Kevin: Well I know early on, at least at one point he made Nixon’s list of enemies, of opponents.
Kay: Yes, we were very proud of that.
Kevin: [laughs] So the column was hard hitting enough to attract Mr. Nixon at any rate.
Kay: But also, he covered the Senate for the AP, before the column, so he got to know a lot of Senators.
Kevin: A lot of sources.
Kay: He got to know Jack Kennedy very well.
Kevin: Yes, in fact, correct me on this too, after Kennedy was elected, they had the first dinner after it with RowlandEvans, is that correct?
Kay: Yep, just about, that’s right, just about his first dinner.
Kevin: Were you along on that dinner?
Kay: Oh, we gave it right here.
Kevin: Right here.
Kay: Yep. It wasn’t Kennedy’s first dinner, but it was the first time he went out to dinner at somebody’s house.
Kevin: And you brought in a group of people?
Kay: Yeah, we did, we brought in some “Herald Tribune” people, I think we brought in Jock Whitney.
Kevin: Well that must have been quite an exciting event.
Kay: Well it was, but, you know, it was so low key in those days, there wasn’t the kind of turmoil there would be today, and there were hardly any Secret Service hanging around.
Kevin: How many people were probably at the dinner?
Kay: Oh, no, I should look that up, I suppose maybe 12, at one table, 10 or 12.
Kevin: Very nice and informal, then.
Kay: Yeah, but before that happened, during the time that Rowland was covering the Senate and got to know Kennedy, the house across the street was rented by Steve and Jean Smith, that is Kennedy’s sister, and I think that Kennedy decided to ask them to come down here when he was thinking of running, that was before he ran, for Steve Smith and check out and see whether this would be a good idea for him to run. So, Steve Smith and Jane rented that house to sort of, take the temperature there.
Kevin: To test the water.
Kay: Yeah. So, rather often, Senator Kennedy would walk from his house, on N Street, over here in the evening after the senate recess, and go see Steve Smith and see how things were going. At least once, it must’ve been more than that, in the summer he stood out on his front steps, and said [In mock yelling voice] “Rowland Evans, you’d better come over, and get the big story”. And Rowly would go across the street and get the big story, and sometimes Kennedy would come here and talk to Rowly in the garden. That’s how informal it was.
Kevin: And their friendship maintained right to the end of Kennedy’s life.
Kay: Oh yeah, yeah, it did.
Kevin: That’s very nice.
Kay: Then the Kennedy administration came along and we saw them then on this street, there’s a house a couple down from that one, that belonged to Cabot Lodge, Henry Cabot Lodge, in the old, old days, and his son George Lodge lived there when we first came. Wonderful guy. He worked for, I guess it would be Eisenhower…. [to barking dog] Quiet, or else!
Kevin: He worked for Eisenhower, huh?
Kay: Yeah, and then when that all ended, Arthur Schlesinger lived there, so we saw him a lot. Wait a minute, let me deal with this dog, can we turn that off?
Kevin: Yeah, I can turn it off.
Kay: OK. [to dog] I don’t know who is barking like that…Break in Audio…
Kay Evans: You tell me, are you… You tell me what else.
Kevin Delany: Yep. Yep. We’re in business now.
Kay: Yes. OK.
Kevin: Good. All right.
Kay: Well anyway, just describing what… Life was very informal and interesting and political on this street.
Kevin: Yeah. I want to ask you more in that…
Kevin: Because very few people have experienced the kind of exposure over a period of years to… As the wife of a successful columnist and obviously all that implies. It’s a busy life… Well, before we do that, let me pick up again. We were talking about, oh, the Kennedys of course. That did bring up a thought. If Roland was so friendly with John Kennedy, JFK, did you see a certain amount of Jackie, and, how was your relationship with her?
Kay: Yes. Yes. We weren’t intimate friends, but we, yes, we certainly saw her. Oh for Pete’s sake. Well anyway. We certainly saw her, and, but…
Kevin: She led a busy life of her own, so….
Kay: Oh yeah, and by the time they got her into the White House we didn’t see them a lot. We went there for their parties, but meanwhile we met, I think, at Arthur Schlesinger’s house, Ethel Kennedy and Bobby and they became very close friends of ours. But it sort of a different atmosphere between reporters and politicians, which doesn’t exist, I don’t think, now.
Kevin: I know. I interviewed not too long ago one of the White House correspondents for the “L.A. Times” and I talked about reputedly “you people never pressed JFK or brought up certain issues” and so that’s true. “It wasn’t done in those days, so we abided by it. It’s true we gave them a pass.”
Kay: That was not talked about.
Kevin: Right. Were you aware of certain rumors or anything?
Kay: Not too much. No. Nothing like what…
Kevin: Came out.
Kay: Came more later, yeah.
Kevin: All right. OK. Well let me move along.
Kay: I shouldn’t say aware of later, that’s what I heard about later. Yeah.
Kevin: OK. Well let’s talk a little bit about your life here as it evolved as the wife of a very busy and successful columnist. Let me get right to one of the favorite cliches about Georgetown. That it’s nothing much more in the eyes of the public as told by the media and other columnists, that it’s one night after another of exciting and dinners and cocktail parties where you have all of the power brokers in town in your midst and you are solving all the major issues of war and peace. How true is that kind of imagery that we all agreed about?
Kay: I would say that it was true, but I don’t think that it is now. I think that that has changed.
Kevin: A smaller circle…
Kay: No, it was that… I don’t know all the things that have changed shape, but… The social life built the way you described it was based on work I mean they were working parties in the sense. You went to them because of your husband’s job, or your job.
Kay: And Congress men couldn’t meet each other at a party and get work done and meet people. Reporters would get work done and meet people and the administrator would meet far diplomats.
Kevin: Business was at the social events it was a lot of business company.
Kay: That was the heart of the Washington Dinner Party. And also all of that kind of entertaining.
Kevin: That’s where Evans and Novak required a lot of there information I presume.
Kay: I think some yes, I do believe I am not a authority on this. But that has ended, that doesn’t happen anymore. I’ve sometimes thought I should write a article called “Whatever Happened to the Washington Dinner Party” because I think that its come to an end in this era. Congress man don’t mix around socially like they did before. They go home on weekends a lot of them.
Kevin: They’re all so busy and tired by the time that the day is over.
Kay: Exactly, and also after Watergate and all that, reporters politicians aren’t necessarily that close to each other. I do believe, I may be wrong because I am pretty old now I probably wouldn’t be invited to those parties but I’m not sure they go on. I think that the era is over for the moment.
Kevin: So there’s not the same social scene, should we say?
Kay: No, I don’t think so.
Kevin: Who were the social arbreatives the hostesses, the best known? Because you were a busy hostess yourself.
Kay: Well, no not.
Kevin: How often were you entertaining would you say Kay and the others?
Kay: How often we go out?
Kevin: Or have people in for dinner or cocktails here?
Kay: Quite a lot.
Kevin: Quite a bit every not every, couple of times a week?
Kay: Oh no, we never had people come to the house, we might have people come couple times a month or something.
Kevin: OK, all right.
Kay: It was part of the business the Washington. A lot of business got done that way, I think. But I don’t think, and I’m not you know living that life now. But I don’t think that happens now I think congress stays to it self and I’m not sure, but I think under of the Bushes. The recent Bush eight years they did not their people did not go out a lot, I think, and so that added to the era.
Kevin: I think politicians are much more wary of the media.
Kay: Oh yeah.
Kevin: They know how one or two slip ups could really be dangerous for there career.
Kay: I think that’s probably right so they’re leery. The people in the administration, the politicians are wary, the people in the administration may think it’s not so smart to go to a party and tell everything. I may be wrong, maybe it’s going on and I don’t know about it but I don’t think so.
Kevin: Let me throw out some, go back to the as I said the social arborists maybe a period that you’ve lived through like Susan Mary Allsop and Joe Allsop, Evangeline Bruce.
Kay: All of them, they all did a great deal of entertaining and they were all friends of ours.
Kevin: Clayton and…
Kay: Polly Frietsche.
Kevin: Polly Frietsche, Frank Isenberg before Clayton I guess, Ben Bradley, Sally Quinn or was that a different period?
Kay: Well… yeah.
Kevin: OK, so these people were well‑known as hostesses and hosts?
Kay: That’s right. And that was part of what you were supposed to do. And then, I wrote for a while, a column …
Kevin: And there were A‑lists and B‑lists, I suppose?
Kay: Well, no. I don’t know about that. But, I wrote for a while a column for what used to be called the “Women’s Page” at the Herald Tribune, about life in Washington in the early days of the Kennedy administration. And so, I got into a lot of that kind of stuff. But, I think it has changed now. But again, I’m not an expert on what’s going on now.
Kevin: I never brought this up with you, but I do recall a column you wrote. An op‑ed piece you wrote for The Washington Post, which said that this business of insider stuff in Washington can be overstated. Or, maybe it was also on liberal versus conservative…
Kay: No. It was called, “Is Newt Gingrich Destroying My Marriage?” That one?
Kevin: It may have been. What was that about?
Kay: Well, I’ll give it to you. I don’t know how it came about… Well, it was the time of Newt Gingrich. And Rowly thought he was very interesting. And I thought he was goofy. Also, we started out sort of on the same page in politics.
Kevin: You and Rowland? He was conservative‑bent…
Kay: No, no, no.
Kevin: No, he wasn’t?
Kay: Rowly’s father was a New Deal Democrat, and my father was a New Deal Democrat.
Kevin: Oh, I see.
Kay: Each of them in a social group where there were very few of those. So, I was a New Deal Democrat, so to speak. Anyway, we got married and I thought, “Oh, isn’t this wonderful? I’ve finally met somebody who is not going to fight with Daddy about politics.” And they never did. They got along like a house afire. But, Rowland became slightly more conservative. And this column was about… Oh, I could give it to you, but it’s what it’s like when two people are in the same house, and they disagree about politics. Only, it was just funny. I mean, I tried…
Kevin: That was the one I recall.
Kay: So, it was called, “Is Newt Gingrich Destroying My Marriage?”
Kevin: Rowland, though, I’ve read, had the ability to move in all camps, regardless of his image of being conservative or not as a columnist. He was able to make friends and get contacts in all areas …
Kay: He did.
Kevin: Which is very important in the job he was doing, obviously.
Kay: And he and Novak didn’t always agree.
Kevin: Did you get along with …
Kay: Oh, yes, I liked Novak. But, Buchwald had the office across the hall from them. And he used to torment them by going to their office as they were on deadline, fighting over a column. And he’d come in and shake his column in the air and say, “Hi, you guys. This is my column for a week from Tuesday,” or something. And they’d say, “Get out of here!”
Kevin: And they’re struggling to get that day’s out. That’s funny.
Kay: So, they didn’t always agree. But Rowie very much respected Novak. I did too.
Kevin: Before we forget to, tell me about this house, and about when you got here, and…
Kay: Well, it wasn’t much different then it is now, except for the glass room. Have you seen that?
Kevin: I don’t think so.
Kay: Well, after we had been here awhile, we got a landscape architect who came and said, “I can’t do anything about your garden, until you get rid of that space on the side of your house,” which has the house next to us looming over it for there stories. He said, “Nobody is ever going to want to sit there,” and that’s true, we didn’t. It was a terrace, and then the rest of the garden. So, he said, “You’ve got to put something here, and I think it should be a garden room.” We said, “Well, what will we do in it?” and he said, “I don’t care.” So, anyway we then built the glass room for solitude. It solved the problem, which is its own entity, and the garden doesn’t really begin until beyond there.
Kevin: It’s livable and warm, isn’t it?
Kay: Well, it can be warm. Right now, it is not too warm, because I’ve turned the heat down. Georgetown‑ well, I don’t know whether they would have had trouble with it. We have wonderful neighbors. That is one great thing about Georgetown. The Magnuson’s, Dr. Magnuson and his wife lived there. He was head of the Medical Department at the Edwards Administration. A wonderful man.
Anyway, when we wanted to build it, we built it right on our lawn. Most neighbors might have complained, but they said, “Go right ahead.” So, we did do it.
Joe Allsop, this is just a funny story, who was interested in all that kind of stuff came over after it was finished to take a look at it. He went down to the end of it. We were quite far from him, but we could hear what he was saying to himself. He said, “I’m going to build one just like it, only mine will be much, much better!”
Kevin: That’s great.
Kay: So, he called our architect, and somehow they never arrived. They never got along well enough to do it, but I thought that was so funny.
Kevin: Yeah. That’s a great story. So, the house you said though earlier when I arrived, that it dates back to the middle of the 19th Century or something like that.
Kay: Yeah, at least. Yes.
Kevin: You’ve been here since what? You told me how many years, since 1957, I guess or something like that.
Kay: Wait a minute, 53 years in this house, whatever that is.
Kevin: 53 years.
Kay: The one thing we didn’t do when we moved in was to put a garage in, which we could have done. We thought, I mean that was so long ago, we thought, “Who needs a garage?” I mean, you could park anyplace you wanted to.
Kevin: Yeah. There weren’t that many people living around here then.
Kay: No. there weren’t that many cars.
Kay: Then when we thought, “Maybe we need a garage,” we couldn’t do it anymore or they wouldn’t allow it. The thing is, I can always find a parking place on this block. I don’t know why. I think it’s close enough to Wisconsin, so people are moving their cars over. I don’t know, but nobody believes me.
Kevin: Well, it’s far enough from Wisconsin too, maybe that’s it.
Kay: It’s what?
Kevin: Far enough from Wisconsin.
Kay: Just barely, though. Yeah. So, that was probably a big mistake, but I’m not complaining. We bought the house for so little money then.
Kevin: Well, let’s talk about how Georgetown has changed in your view, since over the years.
Kay: I would say not very much.
Kay: I’d say it’s very, very similar. Now when we first bought this house, the building on the corner, was Mrs. Smith’s pie factory. Great big ugly green thing. And then it was torn down, and a drug store was put there. I always thought that all the rats from Mrs. Smith’s Pie Factory came out and ran around, but I never saw any of them anyway.
Kevin: That was on the corner where.
Kay: Where CVS was, That was a big change, I would say. But I don’t think it’s changed very much.
Kevin: Some of the specialty shops are gone, obviously, but.
Kevin: And the chain stores are gone..
Kay: Yeah, and they’re are restaurants now, when Janet Whitehouse and I first came to Washington, the only restaurant in Georgetown was Billy Martin’s. Really there wasn’t anything else.
Kevin: Wasn’t the Jockey Club here?
Kay: Uh‑Huh. The Jockey Club? No.
Kevin: OK, Rive Gauche? No? They were some of the early ones.
Kay: The only place we went to dinner was over on Connecticut Avenue. So that’s changed a lot. But I would say the rest of it really hasn’t, certainly the nature of this block hasn’t changed, I don’t think. And it’s a wonderful block, with the church.
Kevin: You know all the neighbors, I presume.
Kay: Yeah, yep, I know a lot of them. And they’ve been terrific.
Kevin: Not a lot of turnover, in people who have lived down on the block.
Kay: No, not a lot of turnover there certain… down on the end of the block where those students seem to rent.
Kevin: Well that’s rental properties, that’s true.
Kay: The rest, no. It stays the same, and it’s really been very, very nice.
Kevin: What has been the most exciting period since you’ve been here, would you say?
Kay: I would say the Kennedy years. Ah, yeah, no question. And for a while, you saw, Mrs. Auchincloss, Jackie Kennedy’s mother lived on that corner.
Kevin: Mm‑hmm, the big house?
Kay: Yes, not that we saw a lot of her, but anyway, it was all part of what was happening.
Kevin: Well you’ve had, I’m sure a very, full and exciting life here in Georgetown, and with your marriage and with everything going on, is there anything if you had to do it over, you would like to change things in any way?
Kay: Well I think to myself in the end, I think now maybe I would like to change would be to put in a garage. But I don’t think I…. because what would I… then we wouldn’t have a laundry room. Now… But I’m not bothered by it.
Kevin: You’re lucky as you say, you’re able to get parking spots.
Kay: I always can!
Kevin: That is impressive, because a lot of people get frustrated driving around looking for parking spots.
Kay: Well, they do! But I think I can count on one hand the number of times in the last year that I have had to park off this block. But nobody believes me. So it’s not my convenience, it’s I think, oh boy, you know that’s a mistake when this house gets sold by my kids, or whatever. Not having a garage will be a detriment, but so what?
Kevin: That’s right. There’s other things in life. Any regrets? Or that’s a silly question, actually. No?
Kay: About life?
Kevin: Well, other than the garage, you’ve mentioned that.
Kay: No, that’s the only one. Yeah, just the garage.
Kevin: What haven’t I asked you, Kay?
Kay: I don’t know, I think you’ve asked everything. I think it’s been a wonderful place to live. And I’ll tell you another thing. It is super wonderful for someone like me who’s 84 years old. Which is I can go on foot to get anything I need or have to do, except buy a new car. Then I would have to go out to some place on the beltway, I don’t know where.
Kevin: Yeah. You can walk to most things you need.
Kay: Yeah, and I have one of my Vassar friends, Lucy Morehead lives two blocks there. I can walk over there, see her any time. My cousin, Polly Kraft, lives two doors down here.
Kay: It’s a wonderful life, as opposed to being in an apartment or something. I mean, it’s just, I know it seems very, very easy, and nice.
Kevin: So you want to stay put here?
Kay: You said it! So don’t try to move me!
Kevin: No, we’re not going to move anywhere ourselves.
Kay: No, no, it’s a perfect place to be at our age. I mean, it’s just perfect compared to being in a suburb, in a house, or in an apartment building.
Kevin: Well, if you were in Spring Valley or somewhere, you’d have to get into the car for anything you wanted.
Kay: That’s right! Now the only thing is that, since the Safeway is under construction, that’s been a little difficult.
Kevin: Yeah, little difficult?
Kay: But that’ll come back.
Kevin: Little juggling, yeah, sure.
Kay: Yeah, love the Safeway. But, anyway.
Kevin: It’s going to be the social Safeway again?
Kay: I don’t think so. Because I think that it won’t be called the social Safeway, because I don’t think they’ll be. But maybe I’m wrong. It’s no longer the social Georgetown as much as it was. So, it won’t be.
Kevin: Interesting. You don’t think it is.
Kay: Maybe I’m wrong. The whole social scene seems to have changed. It doesn’t make Georgetown any less wonderful to live in.
Kevin: It’s a more youthful populous in Georgetown now, I think, than there were for many years. A lot of college students, a lot of people.
Kay: Yeah, that’s good and I like that, but I love this block. Well, anyway.
Kevin: Well, anyway, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to share with all these wonderful stories and recollections tonight.
Kay: Well, I hope I haven’t said anything indiscreet.
Kevin: Not that I can remember. And as a newsman and journalist, I’d remember that very quickly!
Kay: Yeah, and I don’t think you should have said that about that, yes. Well, anyway I feel extremely lucky to have lived in Georgetown.
Kevin: Very good. All right, I’m going to put this down.
Kay: As long as I have my five dogs and…Lolita.
Kevin: Yes, I know, and your cocker spaniels, I see you walking them regularly as well.
Kay: They’re field spaniels.
Kevin: Field spaniels, OK, let me make that correction. Field spaniels. You have, what, four of them?
Kay: I hate to tell you I have five.
Kevin: Five of them, OK. Right, never counted them.
Kay: It’s because Sarah breeds and raises them. And the only problem with five is that it’s very hard to walk three dogs. But we’re doing better.
Kevin: Yeah, you’re doing well. Well, thank you again.
Kay: You are welcome.