In an interview with Kevin Delany on May 6, 2011, Ruth Saxe tells the story of a young lady from Fergus Falls, Minnesota (population: 10,848) who comes to Washington and leaves her mark on the Peace Corps, Common Cause, and the CAG newsletter – while administering an awards program for almost 30 years that encourages young Americans to engage in socially-useful projects.
Kevin Delany: One more time. Now, make sure the… OK.
Ruth MacKenzie: Red light is on.
Kevin: Yeah. I think we’re in business.
Ruth: OK. Testing, one, two, three.
Kevin: Testing, one, two, three. Well, we’re just counting on it. I’m going to start right at the top. We might as well start and talk about Fergus Falls and your upbringing there.
Ruth: Oh, yeah. Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Kevin: That’s right. Population 10,848.
Ruth: All right. When I was a kid, it said it right on the sign.
Kevin: Where’d I learn that, from you?
Ruth: Yeah. Well, it’s about the same now, but the numbers, the last three numbers probably change a little. But it’s about the same. It was just like a Main Street. A Sinclair Lewis’ Carol Kennicott town or Mr. Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. That’s what it was. It’s 200 miles north of Minneapolis.
Kevin: Real down home town with the…
Ruth: It’s a little town with a lot of Scandinavians and Germans. Maybe an Irish guy, in fact, we had O’Meara next to us, but I think he was alone in the town. And something Irish or maybe there was a Maloney.
Kevin: Well, that’s why you were the Swedish Norwegian stock.
Ruth: I was. Both my parents came for the, their parents, my grandparents, both the Norwegian and the Swedes, had come to Minnesota from Norway and Sweden, back in the 1860’s. And by that time the good land, they were farmers, the peasants, and by that time the good land had gone. They had to keep going north to the rocky stuff and ended up in places like around Fergus Falls. There were a lot of maple trees, and lot of lumbering then. That town had been started by New Englanders, which is the way much of the Midwest came about. People from Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, the sons that didn’t take over from their fathers, they had to go west before they could make their living. And that’s the people who came to Fergus Falls, started a power company, because the Falls, the waterfall.
Kevin: Oh, there is actually a pretty good size fall?
Ruth: Heck yeah! But not for power, and then they have the mills, grain elevators and made flour.
Kevin: So, a great atmosphere to grow up in.
Ruth: Well, it was wonderful. I feel very lucky compared to now, because it was a very simple thing. And there were rules about everything and that was good, as far as I was concerned. Went to the local high school. It was during the war, so a lot of the farmer kids were sent home right away after school on busses back to the farms to do the work, because it was the war and they had to work overtime. That left the city kids, the townies to do everything in the school. Run the newspaper. Do the playacting. Do the annual…
Kevin: Plenty of activities.
Ruth: That way I thought I had, since I was one of the town people, I got to do all those things and learn those things. Another good thing about it was our grandmother lived with us, the Swede. Both my grandfathers died before I ever met them. And my Norwegian grandmother lived in the south of the state.
I got a sense of the life in Europe before, from my grandmother, who lived there. And she could make Swedish pancakes and things like that, and she lived in a little house in the back of our house. So, it was wonderful. I feel.
Kevin: I was supposed to go to Norway. Joan and I had been to Norway a few times. Loved it a lot, because her Mother’s from Norway and her Father spent a lot of time there, too. But I can’t go in July, but Joan’s going anyhow for a family wedding or sort of a redoing a family wedding the second time. But I love the hurtigruten. Do you know?
Ruth: I know the word, but I don’t know what it means.
Kevin: Well, it’s those 11 or 12 cargoships that go up and down.the coast.The coast delivering supplies regularly, and they’re very comfortable. It’s a wonderful trip. I recommend that to anyone.
Ruth: Yes, I’ve hard of it.
Ruth: I I’ve been. to Norway, several times, because I have relatives there still that I can find. And I also have relatives in Sweden. I’m the only one in my family who ever goes back there, but I do.
Kevin: I see. Good. We’re back to where, your days in Fergus Falls. You were one of five children.
Ruth: I was the oldest of five.
Kevin: The oldest of it, right. And I gather that all the five went to University?
Ruth: My father was basically, a genius. He was the youngest of the five children of my Swedish grandmother. He was a genius. He was inspired by Benjamin Franklin. He was a printer.
Kevin: Yeah, I know he had a printing business.
Ruth: And he was a cold‑water printer, as he called it. And he’d got a printing press when he was about 14. He went to Fargo, which is about 50 miles away, got this printing press. He probably bought it on time. And there were lots of banks, grain elevators, creameries, people that needed forms to fill out. And he started to print them. And over time, he hired people to go all over North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, to sell this stuff. He had a thriving business, and that enabled him to send all five of us to college and some of us went to graduate school. I think three of us went to graduate school.
Kevin: And you said a bunch of them got Masters?
Ruth: Yeah, that’s right. And not only that, he also financed the education of many of his grandchildren. It really is a remarkable success story. Not only that, but he knew. He read. When I come back from the University of Chicago, which I did attend at his suggestion. He’d say, “Well, have you been reading the Bible at the Center? Have You been reading The Cherry Orchard.” Here was a guy who finished, who went through the eighth grade. Period.
Kevin: Is that right? Oh my God.
Ruth: He read Shakespeare. And he started a bookstore in connection with his printing company, because he loved to read. And that was a way to get a lot of books cheap. [laughter]
Ruth: And then they had office furniture and typewriters. Lisa Erdrich was a famous writer who lived about 30 miles away. Told my sister this. She bought her first typewriter from Victor Lundeen Company. And now it’s the only good bookstore between Minneapolis and Fargo. But I don’t know, now with the Amazon and all that new companies.
Kevin: Well, what a great influence your father had on…
Ruth: Well, on all of us.
Kevin: That was a lot.
Ruth: Well, he had the Harvard classics, Steinway piano. And he was like the tiger mother.
Kevin: Now, who went to Harvard Business, you mentioned? I’m looking.
Ruth: Harvard Law School? My brother went to Harvard Law. He went to Amherst and Harvard Law.
Kevin: What, didn’t somebody go to Harvard Business School?
Ruth: That’s my son‑in‑law.
Kevin: Son‑in‑law. OK. That’s what I thought.
Ruth: He’s now Vice President for Strategy at Kraft Foods, which is the second largest food company in the world. I said, what is the first one? Nestles.
Kevin: Oh, really?
Ruth: I didn’t know that. Anyway, they all succeeded. They all did well.
Ruth: And my sister married a poet at Carlton College who later became the poet at the Library of Congress.
Kevin: Oh, really?
Ruth: Reed Whittemore.
Kevin: Really? Wonderful.
Kevin: Well, moving along. Eventually. I gather you got married to a helicopter pilot during the Korean War period.
Ruth: Well, what I did was.
Kevin: He was on an aircraft carrier?
Ruth: I went to the University of Chicago, which was.
Kevin: Oh yeah. First, forgive me. I’m jumping ahead.
Ruth: From high school, because my father thought would be good. He was interested in the philosophy of Robert Hutchins, who thought that people wasted their time in high school. Most people, any people who had a lot of brains or some brains, were just fiddling around in the last two years of high school, and that they should go to University. I went there, and there were a lot of kids who were 16.
Kevin: University of Chicago was for serious study in those days.
Ruth: Oh, definitely. And there’s a high degree intellectual snobbery there, very high. But it was a fun place to go and it was the year that the war ended, so all the veterans had come back that had the GI bill.
Kevin: Right. Yeah, that’s what I did, the GI bill and college. Yeah.
Ruth: Yeah. Well, that’s why on the first day at the University of Chicago, they put you in this huge gym. And then they make you take placement tests to see whether you should be in Humanities one or Humanities three or Physical Sciences one or Physical Sciences three. In every field that they add a required curriculum, they wanted to know where you’re going to be placed. So, it was a placement exam. And we took it. It was several days they had us sitting there. But my name was Lundeen, a Swedish name. And there was a guy sitting near me named MacKenzie. It was like the encyclopedia Brittanica, volumes, LU ‑ MA.
It turned out that he became my first husband, and the father of my children, because he had just come back from the war. He had been a Marine Air Corps pilot on the carriers. I was 18 years old. He was 27. I was floored.
Kevin: I remember talking and hearing.
Ruth: Because I was bowled over.
Kevin: I was on carriers during the Korean War.
Ruth: This was the other war.
Kevin: The other, the one that…
Ruth: The World War II is what we’re talking about here.
Kevin: Yeah. I was in that, but only at the tail end. That didn’t count. You had the son and daughter with him.
Ruth: Yeah, I did. I got my Master’s degree first. I spent five years at the University, because I thought I wanted to be in human development, which was an interdepartmental thing in psychology.
Kevin: This was at Chicago.
Ruth: Yeah, and physiology and social studies. And I realized that I couldn’t stand to read sociology, because it seems so obvious to me. I thought it was a total waste of time. I asked my father if he would support me if I went and got a Master’s in English. And he was delighted. [laughter]
Ruth: Although he didn’t like the University once he saw all the wild people there. When he finally visited, he said, “Oh, Ruth, get out of here.” And I said, “I can’t leave now, Dad.” I’m just…
Kevin: The protesters and things?
Ruth: Well, it was the original Bohemians. That’s where Mike Nichols and Elaine May and all these people were hanging out. It was a wild and crazy scene, which he didn’t appreciate. But by that time, I was already stuck in it there. I got my Master’s degree, but I was pregnant by the time I got it. We had gotten married in 1950 as he went back into the Korean War. Then he learned how to fly helicopters and jets after that.
But, I got pregnant. And I got my Master’s degree. I guess it was in June, so I must have been five months pregnant. And then my first child was born in September. My son who is a…
Kevin: The photographer?
Ruth: Now a very well known motion photographer, Maxwell MacKenzie.
Kevin: And he lives near somewhere around here?
Ruth: He lives over by the zoo. He’s very well known guy. He turned out to be a good photographer. I tried to get him to go to law school, because I was always afraid he couldn’t make a living. I gave him the test in fact once for a birthday present. I said, “Tell the LSAT or the GRE.” Take whenever he finished his bachelor’s degree. And he was tired of taking pictures. And he had a terrible accident and broke his aorta. And lived through it when he was 25.
Kevin: Oh! What does that do, leave a…
Ruth: Well they opened him up to give him whatever it is. It was up in Vermont when he did it. He had a collision up there in the snow.
Ruth: No in the car. Unfortunately they brought him to Albany. And there was a surgeon there who had a son named Max, like my son’s name is Max. He saw that Max was strong and didn’t smoke. And they sewed up his aorta. He’s got a scar that runs from head to toe, but anyway he lived thank God! But then he’s had two children and I have grandchildren from him.
Kevin: You’re a grandmother?
Ruth: Five times. But where were we? Having a baby.
Kevin: And then after the Korean War and after you moved. We’re not up to the Peace Corp yet?
Ruth: My husband became a helicopter teacher in Rhode Island, before they had all the interstate highways. It was a mess getting out there and I had this little baby. We went on to Rhode Island where he taught helicopter to people. And then he got admitted to the Harvard business school and we lived in Boston, in Cambridge. Arrington actually for a while, then I got another baby, my daughter. There’s three years between the two of them. She’s now married to this guy who’s now Kraft food Vice President, big deal.
We were living in New York at the time after he had finished Wall Street. He didn’t like it. You know he had gone to the University of Chicago where they talked about Freud and Marx.
Ruth: When he was working for one of these big firms, he said, “They just wanted to talk about sailboats and do I know anybody who’s sailing!” Of course, it’s about sailing! He was an analyst. This guy was brilliant, my husband. He was top of his class and they told him at the University of Chicago he didn’t have to go to the college. He could just go directly into medical school.
Ruth: But he was from the West side of Chicago. But he didn’t know anything about liberal arts yet. He had been a tool and die maker before the war. And he was from a poor family, so he wasted to take the full curriculum. He wanted to take Shakespeare. So, he dawdled through it. I finished before he did.
Kevin: Did he go through medical school?
Ruth: No! After the war, he had the Korean War and he was helicopter‑ing. And then in New York he learned how to do jets. And I said, “Look! You’re going to kill yourself.” He said, “By the time I know where I am from Floyd Bennett Field, I’m in a flight path to Kennedy airport.” I said “Look, why don’t you just quit. It’s OK.” He couldn’t even just quit. He was going to get killed. And he was old by then. He was 30. He and I increasingly had difficult times. So we did get divorced in 19…
I married him in 1950 and we got divorced in 1960. And that…
Kevin: Floyd Bennett Field. Boy! I haven’t heard that phrase. [laughter]
Kevin: I grew up in Brooklyn and I wasn’t very far from Floyd Bennett field.
Ruth: I told you we lived in Bainbridge. And my kid went to a school there, and I taught school there. I had a Master’s degree. I didn’t want to sit at home all day and wait for my husband who came home in Staten Island Ferry, which used to land there. Used to go right into Bainbridge, before the Verrazano Bridge.
Kevin: It doesn’t do that anymore!
Ruth: No! Verrazano Bridge is what they do now. I don’t know. I haven’t been back there.
Kevin: It negated the need to use the ferry.
Ruth: Right. Anyways I did substitute teaching there I found a Norwegian woman in Bay Ridge. The reason we ended up there is that my father knew all about these things. He said, “You should go to Bay Ridge.” And when we left Arlington, when he finished the business school, he said, “You should live in Bay Ridge because there are lots of Scandinavians there.” And we went there and there were a lot of Scandinavians there. 5th Avenue St was full of stores that sold lutefisk and every other thing that Scandinavians eat. That’s where we were living when my little girl was born. And I did, even after she was born. I would call up this Scandinavian woman, Mrs. Nayce, I think her name was and say “Hey just call me from Food Trades High School”
No not Food Trades! But, “Call me it might be Bay Ridge High School. They want me to substitute today, can you come over?” And this was in the crack of dawn so that was interesting to be able to do that. But I was trying to keep my hands in because otherwise it would get pretty boring. And teaching in New York was not easy.
Kevin: No, I wouldn’t think so! It’s still tough. [laughter]
Ruth: Yeah, well we moved from there, because my little boy was going through the grade school there. I had to pin a handkerchief on him everyday. And I think you had to wear a tie. Elementary. But he’s starting to get a broken accent. And I said, “Uh‑oh, out of here!” We moved up to West Fork, Connecticut. Big difference I found a house through a friend, near the river. Anyways, our relationship got worse and worse over there. He was commuting into town, and I got divorced down in Florida, because at that time you could not get divorced in Connecticut, you could not even get birth control in Connecticut. You had to prove adultery.
Kevin: It was a conservative state.
Ruth: Well, New York City you had to prove adultery. I went down to Florida and he wanted to keep our marriage together. So, we came back and then we lived in the Village. And that’s when I went to Mexico and got this divorce. Because there was a lawyer across the street from us who knew how to do it, because you had to go somewhere else, and Mexico was one of the legal places to get a divorce.
Kevin: Which recognized divorces?
Ruth: Yeah, right. You got a thing there, and actual piece of paper. He arranged it all for me, so he did it.
Kevin: So where did you…?
Ruth: Then I went home for a little while for that Fall, but I had met a guy from the University of Minnesota who had always been so in love with me. And came after me and he was in the Army intelligence, G9 in Berlin. And he got a Master’s the same time I did. We got married in South Dakota and he had to go back to Berlin. And then I stayed with my family for a while. And then I went to Berlin and stayed there with him for a year, which was pretty interesting. It was a mistake to have married him. But it wasn’t really a love match. It was a desperation match. A desperation of “Who’s going to take care of my children?”
In this day and age you would have never been allowed to do that, you were probably not allowed then either. Cause I took the kids on the General Buckner, which is an army boat that left from army ships that left from Brooklyn Navy yard. I already went to the Hamburg or whatever place it was, that was a port. And I was there when they put up the wall.
Kevin: Oh really?
Ruth: Yeah. But I knew that this was not a marriage made in Heaven. I said, “I’m sorry, you know we had all this kerfuffle.” I said, “Let’s go on because this isn’t right for you this isn’t right for me.” He was a very nice man. I loved him. I liked him a lot. He was a very wonderful guy. It just didn’t seem like it was the right thing. And he was very good with my kids, which was one of the things that I was worried about, of course. That was the main thing I was worried about. I wasn’t worried about me. [laughter]
Kevin: Mid ’60s, what time are we talking about?
Ruth: Well it was ’60, ’61. So then, I went back. I had a refuge with my sister whose husband was teaching at Carlton College, a guy who later became poet at the Library of congress. Reed Whittemore. I went to them. Stayed with them with my family. She had children, two, she’s just three years younger than me. We lived in Norfield, Minnestoa for a couple years. And that was different from Berlin. It was different from New York, and I knew a lot of people in the English department.
Well, one of the people who we met was Bob Gale who was head of the development for Carlton college. And he went out to work with the Peace Corp
Kevin: He was early on I know that.
Ruth: He raised a lot of money for Carlton. And Shriver asked him to come do the recruiting. Well I was there, and he said, “Oh they need people like you here.” Because I felt like if I just stayed in Northfield I could just see a little tombstone that said, “Here lies Ruth Ann Mackenzie.” [laughter]
Kevin: Instead you became one of the early Peace Corp recruiting types.
Ruth: Well I went, and little did I know. After I drove out there with my two kids, I had all my worldly possessions sent out here. Thank the Lord! There was a person who I met in Berlin who had been living over on T Street. He said, “There’s a house there you can rent, I’ll tell you about it.” And I was able to rent the house through my friend in advance and have stuff sent there over on 37 19th T Street. I drove out here. And when I got here I realized that I had a three‑month appointment at the Peace Corp.
Kevin: Over three months?
Ruth: I didn’t know that, I mean Bob Gale never told me that. [laughter]
Kevin: Well, he won’t want to get people working so quickly.
Ruth: Well anyways, I made this huge step of leaving my sister. I was worried when I found out how. But I was lucky in a way, because I knew I only had three months to get with it. I worked as hard as I could and if you do that. And things happen, so I had worked hard I had to good education. And Jack Vaughn hired me to work in Latin America through the department, And I had worked in recruiting, in fact I had selected the first six recruiters. I can remember them. This was post‑Mankiewicz
Kevin: How’was Mankiewicz
Ruth: Oh, no. Makowicz was there.
Kevin: He’s still there?
Ruth: Yeah, Frank was still there. We’re still friends, and so am I with Jack Vaughn. But we picked the first six, and it was Roger Landrum, Georgiana Shine. John McGinn who died, there was a girl from St. Lucia, whose name I can’t think of at the moment. Anyway, it was exciting and wonderful.
Kevin: And all the party animals were out. That Gale was number one.
Ruth: Oh yes. He’s dead now so we can not speak ill of him.
Kevin: No. He was a lot of fun to be around.
Ruth: He was serious beyond that. He had some sort of condition that he could drink that much. And he had a wooden leg, a hollow leg. [laughter]
Ruth: It was quite exciting and wonderful. I remember the day that JFK died. Coming in, I was there before he died to see him and I remember…
Kevin: You were working for recruiting still then when he died.
Ruth: Yeah, it was just after I came. I came there in fall of 1963.
Kevin: I was an evaluator at that point when he died.
Ruth: And I remember there was a woman there that I knew Nancy, that was a beautiful café au lait person. I can’t think of her last name. And that’s when I first heard it. I can just see it still in my head. Anyway, those were terrible times. I took my kids down to the Peace Corps building when Jackie, Haile Selassie, and Charles De Gaulle and everybody were walking down the street there.
Kevin: In the procession.
Ruth: In those days, I went up into the Peace Corps building with my two children. Talk about how different things were in terms of security. I went in there and we looked out the window.
Kevin: The Miatico building, what was it called?
Ruth: The Miatico.
Kevin: Miatico building. Yeah.
Ruth: Remember the woman who stood by the elevator?
Ruth: “Down!” What was her name? I forgot.
Kevin: Yeah, I do remember her. She was stocky, very friendly but a real panic too.
Ruth: That’s when I started at the Peace Corps, and I worked very hard. Once I started working Latin America, Jack said, “Well, did I want to go to overseas?” I went down to Peru and I realized that, no, I did not want to be an overseas rep because if anything bad happened, which it probably would. I would be looking after my kids, not the Peace Corps volunteers. I didn’t think it was right. If you’re a couple at least you have someone else looking after your kids. If I’m the only person, I couldn’t do that. I said, “No. I can’t do that.” I realized that I couldn’t.
Kevin: This was before Carolyn Payton and your Deputy Directorrole?
Kevin: You had a major job coming up here.
Ruth: Yeah, so I did. I worked my way up. I became a Desk Officer for the Caribbean countries and I started programs in Guyana and various places in the Windward and Leeward Islands.
Kevin: St. Lucia?
Ruth: No,. St. Lucia was one of the first started before I went there. St. Lucia was among one of the first Peace Corps programs. But when I started working there for them to do the Caribbean. I am good in languages, and I studied Spanish at night. I realized that I was burning my candle at both ends and I just couldn’t do it. I was ironing my kids’ clothes. It was the day before drip‑dry clothes, so I had too much on my plate. And I said, “I can’t do the Spanish.” I knew I could learn it, but I wasn’t going to do it. That’s how I got into the English speaking. They realized that I was not going to do the Spanish speaking things. I concentrated on English speaking countries like Guyana and Jamaica and those.
Ruth: I was first just a Desk Officer but then I became head of the Caribbean region. And I stayed at the same post for many years. In fact, the people in the Caribbean would say, “You again? You don’t even come here in the winter like you used to.” The Caribbean government made fun of the aid givers from the North because they’re always there in December and January. I never went in December and January. [laughter]
Kevin: That would be obvious.
Ruth: I always went in the summer time. I got to know a lot of people there.
Kevin: So you have seven years?
Ruth: Seven years I worked there.
Kevin: At Peace Corps, but in the Caribbean area?
Ruth: That was seven years there.
Kevin: Seven years there?
Ruth: Yeah. Seven years. I did this same thing for seven years so I really felt like I knew…
Kevin: I thought that was your total years in the Peace Corps.
Ruth: It was seven years because they passed that five‑year rule, but it happened after I had been there. It wasn’t retroactive, so by the time they passed it, it would be like five years.
Kevin: I was there seven years total in the Peace Corps and nobody ever questioned, “When are you leaving?” But I had decided myself.
Ruth: I tried to stir up some trouble there, because some of the people that came to work there, like Mr. Blacksford. I thought this was not a serious thing. And I got Gene Gordon, who was a shrink. I said, “You’re the only person.” He wasn’t my shrink, but he was the shrink there for Peace Corps.
Kevin: I remember the name.
Ruth: And he was one I had been on selection board with. And I knew that he was extremely smart and very interesting. I said, “You’re the only person here. Well, you’re the only one I know who has a way to support himself if you’re not working here. I select you to go and have a meeting. And say what’s going on with the Peace Corps here and various other places is not correct.” For the Peace Corps, it’s supposed to be a non‑partisan thing. Nixon was trying to kill the Peace Corps, as we know. And that’s what was going on, and it didn’t seem right. I was such a dope, naive. Not really naive, but I thought somebody had to do it, and why me? I don’t know. Gene did do it. He speaks beautifully.
He’s dead now, but he spoke beautifully. He had been to Harvard. He was this classy guy, but he’s also smart and appealing. And he spoke very well. And then they said, “Well, they needed to fire Ruth Saxe, because she’s a trouble maker.” That was all right. I said, “You’re going to get fired too, if we do this.” And he did get fired. I went to his 80th birthday party, this was a few years back now, and he told me, “I remember that.the Peace Corps Proudest thing I ever did.”
Kevin: Made you feel pretty good.
Ruth: Yeah. I left the Peace Corps then.
Kevin: And Common Cause was next?
Ruth: Yeah, it was. There were people at Common Cause, John Gardner. He was the Secretary of Health Education out there. Republican.
Kevin: He was a great fabled figure, John Gardner.
Ruth: Oh, he was. Anyway, Jack Vaughn had become the head of something. Jack Vaughn had told John Gardner he should hire me as head of the volunteers when I left Peace Corps. I suppose they all knew I needed a job. I was unmarried and had children. I had no support from McKenzie. Once I went to Europe, it was goodbye. The other guy, the sweet man that I left over there. I was the sole supporter of my family. I could have gone home to Fergus Falls and had my father support me.
Kevin: I wouldn’t believe you could handle that.
Ruth: I didn’t want to give up my table and my legs. Besides, it’s a very not that interesting of a place to live at that age when you’re at the age I was.
Kevin: Closer to retirement. [laughter]
Ruth: Now I wouldn’t care. I interviewed Gardner and he asked me if I knew various people. And I said, “No. I didn’t.” Anyway, they hired me to be head of the volunteers. Well there were so many volunteers, at Common Cause other than me. Because it was 1970, there was an ad in the New York Times that said, “Everybody’s organized but the people.” It was a full‑page ad. I remember reading it at the beach in the summer and saying, “Oh hey! This is something.” And I had signed up. Sent in my money to be a member because it was like you with the blog now. You just want to say, “Enough is enough.” I wanted to be a protestor against what was going on, so I joined the Common Cause. But then that had nothing to do with the fact that they hired me, because they didn’t even know I was a member.
Kevin: But you wrote the “History of Common Cause.”
Ruth: I did, but that was after 10 years there, 10 years later.
Kevin: Is that on a dusty shelf somewhere?
Ruth: It was not a big thing. It was a blue pamphlet. I wrote the 10‑year history. I wasn’t there those 10 years, but when I left the Peace Corps the second time, Fred Wertheimer asked me to write this. Since I was an English major and I didn’t have a job, I said, “OK.”
Kevin: Did it get circulation?
Ruth: Only among the members, I still have a copy or two. I suppose.
Kevin: It’s important for the record.
Ruth: In the early days, there were a million volunteers. And you had to figure out what to do with them, because you wanted them to stay there. And one thing I did learn in Peace Corps is that what makes people stay as a volunteer is the work. Give them something important to do. And I had to persuade some of the people to write letters and have John Gardner sign them. The people there who had been in Foreign Service, if they can’t write letters, I don’t know who can. I got them to do important things, and we started something called the Washington Connection, which was a volunteer in Washington for each of the congressional districts, 435 congressional districts. And it became a real connection. Theywould call them.
Kevin: It was a watchdog organization after all.
Ruth: Now every organization does it, but we started it. It would be David Corn, Fred Wertheimer, all the lobbyists would come back and they’d start to tell us what to do and what bill was up. And we were trying to pass End the Vietnam War was one Common Cause was trying to do through legislative means. And the other thing was Campaign Finance Reform, which is still going on and probably will never get fixed.
Kevin: That was with the Koch Brothers and the like. They are… Well, you’ll see.
Ruth: We’re doing this same thing on our side obviously. It’s an organization. We’ve gotten Ellen Malcolm, whoI know used to be a volunteer here at Common Cause back in ancient time.
Kevin: Oh yes. Ellen Malcolm is also the one who started Emily’s List. I’ve met her in the past.
Ruth: Well we were friends back in ancient time. She had a lot of money and we never knew that. Anyway, she started. It was great. Common Cause was full of interesting people. And these volunteers, they stayed for years because they had friends back in Congressional District seven in Minnesota. They had their connection. It was a real connection because the volunteers here became the friend and relayer of information to the Common Cause member in each of the congressional districts. And that thing actually worked because we’d get the message. We give them an appeal about they should try to lobby their congressman or woman about some issue that they is hot off the press. So it was electric. It was almost like a telegraph. It worked, too.
Kevin: Yeah. Under Wertheimer, Common Cause really had quite a bit of clout.
Kevin: They really sounded off and people listened.
Ruth: Well, it was because it was in the grassroots, too. They got heat from right where they live.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly.
Ruth: So, that was a different thing and it was a…
Kevin: It’s like AARP, anything with a grassroots worries the powers that be.
Ruth: Yeah, exactly. I went back there to give a talk once and some of the same volunteers that I had recruited in earliest times?
Ruth: They had been coming every week for years. And they were still doing it because they liked the job.
Ruth: I was very proud of that because it was unique at the time. It really worked.
Kevin: How long, when did you finally…?
Ruth: When did I leave there?
Ruth: Yeah, when did I leave there? Let’s see. I left there…
Kevin: Did you go back to the Peace Corps?
Ruth: That’s when I went back to the Peace Corps, yeah. That was when Carter came in and Sam Brown.
Kevin: And Carolyn Payton.
Ruth: Yeah. Carolyn Payton was somebody that I had recruited to be the Peace Corps director in the Caribbean. I had known her from the selection boards, because she was a psychologist from Howard University. And I had met her on these many selection boards, and training programs for the Caribbean that I had been involved with. Since she was black, from Norfolk, it fit. And we trained our Caribbean people, groups. A lot of them at Lincoln University up in Pennsylvania, which is a Black school that…
I had gotten to know her and respect her. She’s a very difficult person. But she had grown up under, had a lot of prejudice. She got her PhD at University of Wisconsin. She said, “I was one of the few Blacks up there.”
Kevin: Mm‑hm. I’m not surprised, yeah.
Ruth: And she came into my house. She said it was the first white person’s house she had ever been in.
Kevin: Really? Gee.
Ruth: And I sold her my house that I had in Cleveland Park, integrated my neighborhood.
Ruth: Her niece lives there now.
Kevin: Extra brownie points for that. Cleveland Park, yes, that would be a…
Ruth: It’s North Cleveland Park, actually.
Kevin: All right. OK, well.
Ruth: It was good…
Kevin: Still significant, I’m sure.
Ruth: Yeah. Carolyn, when Sam Brown, that was under the Nixon syndrome of the Peace Corps, which he had placed it under the umbrella of Action.
Ruth: Remember that was how they were going to wreck Peace Corps, was going to put it under anotheAgency, it was a bureaucratic mess.
Ruth: Sam Brown, anti‑war hero was named head of Action, then under that was VISTA and Peace Corps and Elder American. And what are all the other little things? Some of the people who had known Carolyn suggested to Sam, some of the younger people, that Carolyn would be good for head of the Peace Corps. She took the job and then she said, “Now you have to be my deputy, because you’re the one that has helped me all the time.” And I go, “Oh! Do I want to do this?” But I did it. And they didn’t have any problem. Sam didn’t have any problem with me then.
Kevin: How long were you working as the deputy then?
Ruth: Well, here’s what happened. Sam Brown decided he didn’t like Carolyn, because he wanted to do all sorts of strange programs. And she said, “No way am I doing that.” It was like the Jamaica Brigades where he was supposed to take volunteers, black people, people from Oakland and send them down to Jamaica.
Kevin: So he…
Ruth: And she said “They got enough problems in Jamaica without sending them more of them down there. I’m not doing it.” So, he wanted to fire her and he did fire her.
Kevin: Really? I didn’t know that.
Ruth: Yeah, because she wanted to do education programs. And he said, “No more education programs. That’s colonial.” Well, guess what? A lot of these places still want teachers and I think teachers are good. Anyway, he did fire her and then they…
Kevin: Did you then move up into…?
Ruth: Well, they dropped everything on Thanksgiving Day to fire me too. But one of my in‑laws was here. He was a lawyer. It wasn’t my brother it was somebody else. And he said I wasn’t here. So, it was the…
Kevin: They couldn’t catch up with you.
Ruth: It was the guy that brings it.
Kevin: The process server.
Ruth: Yeah, the process server, he couldn’t find me. Definitely, I quit then. I didn’t quit. Yes, I did. I resigned.
Kevin: It was time to move on.
Ruth: And they didn’t fire me. And that’s when I was asked by Fred to write the Common Cause history, which I did do.
Kevin: And you’ve had so many great activities.
Ruth: I know.
Kevin: Then for a period you were running the CAG newsletter, I know.
Ruth: I know, I can’t remember exactly when that was. But it was in the ’90s.
Kevin: For five years, I think it was.
Ruth: Yeah, I did. Here’s what happened. Ev Shorey became the head of the Citizens’ Association.
Ruth: And there was a guy named Cameron who used to work for a newspaper.
Kevin: Yeah, Juan Cameron. I remember.
Ruth: And anyway, Juan wanted to write his own version of things. And Ev said, “Hey this is an organization, a citizens’ group. You can’tdo whatever you want.. Your opinion is only one. You have to check.” And he quit. Juan quit. Ev and Joanne, whom I didn’t really know very well at all, they called me and said would I do it. And I said “Well, I’ll do it once.” And I guess they knew that I had an English background and had edited different things. I said “I’ll do it once.” Well, I enjoyed doing it. It was fun.
Kevin: How much help did you have?
Ruth: I had help. Well, there was an editorial group including ViviHarrison and Edie Shaffer.
Ruth: Let’s see, we published one every month. We’ added an editorial board and we figured out what they were going to write about. And there was an interesting woman who was a very vulgar person. Had the most horrible mouth you ever heard, who was the paid administrative assistant.
Ruth: She had taught herself the computer. And I’m a printer’s daughter. And the thing used to look like a rag. And I got it fixed up, so it looked something like it looks now.
Kevin: More professional looking, yeah.
Ruth: I changed it into the format that it is now in, only now it’s even better. But I did that and made the thing more professional. And this vulgar trash talking woman, she really had a mouth on her. I can’t think of her name.
Kevin: She disappeared ?0
Ruth: Well, she was from New York and she went back there. I got along with her fine. I had to, because she was the one that controlled all this stuff. But she knew how to make the format and fix it. And do stuff. So she was part of the reason it’s in…
Kevin: The current version is pretty close to where when you left it?
Ruth: Yes, yeah.
Kevin: And are you pleased with the thing?
Ruth: Oh yes, I think it’s, now it’s even better. Yeah.
Kevin: I think it’s very newsy.
Ruth: It’s better now than it was when I did it.
Kevin: It’s got its teeth, too. It’s got a bite to it.
Ruth: I think it’s great.
Kevin: Whether it’s Georgetown University or whomever, if the CAG doesn’t like it they let people know. And I think that’s good.
Ruth: I know. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
Ruth: Anyway, it was good. I felt that we did a good job. It was interesting. I started doing. I loved walking around. I could still walk then without a cane. And I’d walk around and check out all the new things.
Ruth: It was fun. I liked it. But after a while we take it for granted. I said after five years “Enough, enough.” You know, and they got somebody else. And of course, it needs to have fresh blood. But some of them, Vivi and Edie still do it.
Kevin: Still involved, yeah. Edie is very productive. She’s prolific.
Ruth: I helped her do that book.
Kevin: Did you?
Ruth: I’m the one who said to her, “You ought to do this book.” I have a copy of it right there. And my son took the photograph on front, free. But I used to say to her, “You ought to collect these things.” And one summer or one year I did it for her. I collected the ones I thought we should do. And I got the little drawings. That’s when I asked you about the drawings.
Kevin: Yeah, right.
Ruth: And then she published it. And she said her brother told her, “Only make 200 of them.” And I said, “What are you crazy? This going to be a classic. Get some! This is good.” And she’s still producing good ones. Maybe she can do a second volume.
Ruth: Who knows? She’s still writing stuff now.
Kevin: Sure, oh yeah.
Ruth: Anyway, I liked that.
Kevin: She’s a good writer.
Ruth: And she gave me credit for being the editor and the one who pushed her to do it. I was glad for that, too. It was a nice end for my time with the CAG.
Kevin: Your next adventure, well, the Saxe Memorial.
Ruth: Oh that. Well, my husband died. Meanwhile, I had found another guy to marry, thank God! Because I certainly needed somebody to help me. But that happened when I first started working at Common Cause. I remember one of the people there “Oh, leave that poor girl alone. She just got married.” Like “Don’t give her this job where she has to work so hard.” But, I married. This guy, Joe Saxe was a Philadelphia native who had an Oxford education and had worked in Africa. And he worked for the French government and he worked in Africa. He was then at the State Department and he had never been married.
I was a single person. It seemed like every man I met was either gay or married. And I thought “Please, I need you like a hole in the head.” Here comes a guy who is not gay. He’s not married. He had a French mistress. But she lived in Paris.
Kevin: Well that didn’t count.
Ruth: No. Anyway he ended up getting rid of her finally. Anyway, that gave me some solidity to help my children, because the two of them had a man in the house who told them various things. And they were very good with the kids and helping my son Matt, for example. Understand that the fact that he lived in the basement and charged nothing for his pictures, was not going to help his career, because actually it cost money to live in the basement.Joe was an economist at World Bank.
Ruth: He went to move to the World Bank later.
Kevin: Oh, I see.
Ruth: And so I survive now because I still have his pension.
Kevin: So he’s still…
Ruth: No, no he died 30 years ago.
Ruth: Almost 30 years ago. That’s when I started the Joe W. Saxe Fund, when he died because he was always interested…
Kevin: Well, I know that Mr. Saxe died, yes.
Ruth: Well that’s the guy I’m talking about.
Kevin: Yeah, you’re talking about, but I didn’t…
Ruth: So we were married, we got married in 1‑1‑70. He was very proud of that that we didn’t take the income tax for the year before, which was a sign of true love. That we didn’t get married on December 31st, we got married on January 1st, 1970.
Kevin: Oh, I see.
Ruth: And he died in 1982. So we had some years together and we had a house on the Eastern Shore that he wanted to go to. And we sailed a lot. And he loved to go sailing but we would rent charter boats. Anyway, he was a wonderful help to me, and a very fine fellow. He had a lot of problems, but he was a very genuine.
Kevin: Now was he also the economist, now?
Kevin: He was the economist.
Ruth: He was an economist at the World Bank.
Kevin: I see. I’m wondering how he amassed what became the Saxe Fund.
Ruth: Well, he didn’t amass it. I raised money for it. No, what happened is…
Kevin: So, the fund started with Gary.
Ruth: The fund started with one of his friends, Paul Douglas, who was a son of the senator, and whom he had worked with in Paris, because Joe had worked in the Marshall Plan in Paris.
Kevin: I see.
Ruth: Anyway, I called Douglas and Arthur Hartman and various other interesting people. Arthur later became ambassador to Paris. In fact, in that picture both of them are in there, of our wedding. But, where was I?
Kevin: Well, you were talking about, before we had the tape recorder running, about the alumni bureau…
Ruth: Oh, the alumni.
Kevin: …of the Saxe Fund is quite extensive now.
Ruth: 250 people. We have given awards to 250 people. Joe, because he didn’t have a family or young children before I married him, he was old by the time I married him. He was 42. 45, I think he was. He hadn’t had the normal allocations of a family, a father. He adopted and helped mentor young people that he had met along the way. Several of them are . . . Our treasurer is a guy who has been the treasurer of our organization for all these years. It’s 28 years old now. He has been the treasurer for 28 years, and the vice president, secretary is a woman who has been the vice president, secretary for 28 years.
Kevin: You’ve had great continuity here.
Ruth: These are people that Joe, my husband who died, had mentored when they were young, because they’re younger than I am. We had the same group of officers that we had forever. Then, we’ve got David Cohen, whose wife ran the bookstore. He’s been the selection officer for 28 years. I knew him at Common Cause where he and I worked together.
Kevin: But the positive impact has been really quite inspiring.
Ruth: Well, 250 people. I just counted them up yesterday because we finished ourselection list… We had our meeting last week.
Kevin: Even this year, you told me. A dozen people got . . .
Ruth: Well, 12 people were awarded it this year.
Kevin: $2,000 each.
Ruth: OK. I started to say that several people like Paul Douglas. He gave us $10,000 and a friend of mine who married somebody very wealthy, gave us $10,000. She stayed with us frequently, and she was a friend of Joe’s. When he died, I started this thing. We started with $20,000, and then the woman who was a member of our board for a while. The woman, my friend, gave another $10,000 because her husband’s so rich. You have $30,000, then we had Jeff Katz, the treasurer, who knows how to manage money and used to have interest, now we don’t have it anymore.
Instead of flowers when he died, people gave contributions. I can’t remember how much that all added up to except for the $20,000 of the two people I mentioned. Every year I have to beat the drum the try to get more. But actually a lot of the money comes from members of the board, like me and the vice president. It’s hard and a lot of them are dying. But a lot of Joe’s old friends, they give a certain amount but not enough to keep it going at this rate.
Every year we have a meeting, and the treasurer has put money away, like in colleges, an endowment. There’s some money there, and every year he looks at how much money we raised. I write these letters, and then he says, “OK, this year we can give 10 prizes or 12 prizes without running the fund down to nothing.”
Kevin: Did you ever expect it would continue this long?
Ruth: I had never thought about it, but it justifies my existence in a way, since I’m not working for money anymore.
Ruth: I enjoy doing it. It does a lot of good. It’s within my ideals. It keeps me out of trouble. I’m proud of it. Really, I’ve met many of the alumni. I said there were five of them on the board, and we try to follow them. The vice president has got them on Facebook now. I could care less about Facebook, but that’s what young people do so they can communicate with each other.
Kevin: Very good.
Ruth: We try to meet with them when they come to town. It’s very satisfying, and we encourage them to think about something other than themselves. These days, Self Magazine, it’s all about me, except for these people. This year we got 146 applications from 91 different shows.
Kevin: That’s very good.
Ruth: It used to be that we got so many from Yale and Harvard because Joe was a member, had taught at the International Center at Harvard and had been associated with it. Anyway, in those days we used to send brochures to about 50 schools. And now, with the Internet we can reach . . .
Kevin: You can reach a lot of people.
Ruth: That’s why now Harvard, Yale, Duke and Princeton and places like that give public service money to people who want to do it at those schools. So, they don’t apply to us anymore.
Kevin: Oh really?
Ruth: No. We used to have so many from Harvard. I said, “Please, can’t they be from some place else?” But this year, not a one, 91 schools because people find it on the Internet if they look up public services and they come to us. Then, when we don’t give them the prize. Then they say, “Is there some place else we can apply?” I’m like, “I really don’t know.”
Kevin: Well, you’ve tapped into a heck of a lot of altruism over this.
Ruth: Oh, It just breaks your heart when you know you can give. Well, we kept 25 finalists. Reading, the two of us read all of the things that came in. It came in a big bag full, a huge number. And found 25 that we thought the board should look at. And then, you have to send all of these applications and copies to the members of the board. And let them figure out which ones they want to support.
Kevin: A hard choice for them, I’m sure.
Ruth: Yeah, it was. It was, and it was a lot of difference of opinion.
Kevin: Now, you’ve been involved with a lot of important outfits in the past, Peace Corps and Common Cause. Is the Saxe Fund the most significant thing of importance to you?
Ruth: Well I suppose it is because it was personal, but actually the Peace Corps was the most exciting one. That’s what got me started.
Kevin: That’s what got you started on the non‑profit road on the outside.
Ruth: How did I know? A divorced person, a single mother, I’m working…
Ruth: But anyway, I thought it was such a good program. And I just thought it was so wonderful and I loved it.
Kevin: Well, you were surrounded by idealists, too. That’s what it was about.
Ruth: I got the DAR Award for Good Citizenship in the eighth grade in Fergus Falls. How did I know? [laughter]
Kevin: Yeah. No, I know.
Ruth: But I guess that’s the way I was, because I was the big sister person since I was the oldest of five kids.
Kevin: Nobody ever asked your politics in Peace Corps.
Ruth: No, they didn’t.
Kevin: It’s when you cared enough about what they were doing. That’s all the people wanted to know.
Ruth: Yeah, that’s right, but it became political.
Kevin: Oh, it did, unfortunately. It wasn’t the death knell, but it …
Ruth: That’s why I had Gene Gorman talking and why he was proud of what he did.
Kevin: Don’t get me started on Joe Blatchford and the others. I would kill you with a lot of stories.
Ruth: But I know you told me when you came there asking for it. I know, you told me. [laughter]
Kevin: But no, it was a different crowd, and it is a different crowd. It’s just like Congress now.
Ruth: Yeah, isn’t it something?
Kevin: The GOP is beyond my understanding.
Ruth: Me too, I don’t get it.
Kevin: I may have mentioned this in the blogging one about, let’s pull up the gangplank. “I’ve got mine,” that’s all that matters to them.
Ruth: Yeah, and that’s why these young people, I’m trying to inspire them to do something. Even if they don’t do it, at least they know that somebody’s caring about it.
Kevin: And they will always remember they did a few things that mattered to someone beyond themselves.
Ruth: That’s right. Well, of course, Common Cause just reinforced it with the same thing, but the original Peace Corps was the spur of it all. And then, when Joe died and, what are you going to do? I just came to and said, “That would be a wonderful way to …”
Kevin: I think it is, yeah.
Ruth: And whoever thought we would ever have enough money to keep it going all this whole time?
Kevin: You sound like you had a hard‑core cadre of people that luckily, kept you going.
Ruth: Well, it was Joe’s friends. And then David, I liked to have him because he was so fair.
Kevin: Well look, I’ve kept you quite a while. I want to ask you about, you’ve lived in a lot of places in Georgetown. And the people, the CAG with the oral history part, they’re always interested in how was the reaction of people who spent a lot of time over the years in Georgetown.
Ruth: Oh, I’ve been here for years. In fact, I’ve been in this house since 1972.
Kevin: ’72, OK. That’s very good.
Ruth: Yeah, after Joe and I got married. We had been living on 2816 N Street. That’s where he wanted to go to live after we married. I sold that house to Carolyn Peyton, the one I lived in. And he liked this house, the one that we lived in on N Street, because he had wanted to be an architect once but he couldn’t draw. Anyway, he liked it because it had a two‑story living room. It had been remodeled.
Kevin: Cathedral living room or whatever, yeah.
Ruth: Yeah, and Doctor Kaufman lived there, bought it from us later. We lived there for a while. And it was a beautiful house, except that it didn’t suit a family with children and dogs. And besides, he wanted to buy a house out on the eastern shore. We couldn’t afford both of them, so we sold the house on N Street to this Doctor Kaufman, who recently passed away. And that’s when we bought this house.
Kevin: In ’72.
Kevin: Well this is a very nice house in a fine location. Have you ever thought of just selling and moving to somewhere else?
Ruth: Well I’ll tell you. This house, when we came it was a group house. Abigail McCarthy owned it, and she didn’t want to live here because Gene lived around the corner. Also, it didn’t have a place to park. It was the way people lived in the day. There were bead curtains everywhere and waterbeds, and the bathrooms were terrible. But we fixed it over in 1972 when we moved here. We put in a new bathroom and a new kitchen. And there’s nothing else been ever done since, except that we made an apartment in the basement several years before Joe died.
Kevin: So, is that still occupied?
Ruth: I have somebody live there. Don’t tell the authorities.
Kevin: Oh, no! That’s the old grandfather or grandmother clause, or grandfather. Nobody seems to mind them.
Ruth: Well anyway, that helps me, because it helps pay the taxes and so on.
Kevin: Sure. Oh, absolutely.
Ruth: But even though I’m crippled now and I have trouble walking, I would rather live here and in Georgetown and try to walk up the stairs… [sneezes]
Kevin: Excuse me.
Ruth: … than move to a nursing home.
Ruth: My sister lives in the Chevy Chase House, she and Reed Whittemore. He’s over 90.
Kevin: In Chevy Chase they live?
Ruth: In Chevy Chase House. It’s a retirement community.
Kevin: Oh, it’s a retirement.
Ruth: It’s right there by Chevy Chase Circle. It’s the actual sister of Georgetown Retirement Home. It’s owned by the same person.
Kevin: Oh, I didn’t know it.
Ruth: Yeah. It’s a very nice place. They’ve been there three years and I know all about it. And I don’t really want to go there if I don’t have to. [laughter]
Kevin: Oh, I understand. I would agree.
Ruth: I’m still going up and down the stairs as long as I can, and since I’ve been here so long as long as I can. And since I have been here so long. I own this house. It’s super.
Kevin: Well, we have lot of stairs in our house, and you know they keep us active, which is good. But eventually, and I remember talking to Beth Peters not so long ago, and Beth and Charlie are very much into their Palisades Village. And so, they’re happy with…
Ruth: You mean they belong to your thing?
Ruth: They belong to that village thing or…
Kevin: Yeah, they do in Palisades, it’s a part of it. And Beth was very active in setting it up for the people, but when I call them to get. I just call and ask them about village issues. And she said, “Well, you know.” I say, “How you doing it?” Well, they have the stairs problem because Charlie has got a basement office, so they have two stair masters or whatever they call them now.
Kevin: One from his basement office up to the kitchen and the second one from the kitchen to the sleeping floor, and she said working beautifully…
Ruth: Well here there is too many levels…
Kevin: It goes…
Ruth: That goes behind two or three…
Kevin: That’s about what we have, a lot of levels.
Ruth: Yeah. I don’t know what I will do but, you know…
Kevin: But they do get them. They set it for about $3,000, they got these two stairwells and solved their…
Ruth: The people down the way, the woman died just recently, Sue Edwards that lives two doors down. They’ve just sold the house for $3 million.
Kevin: $3 million?
Ruth: Yeah. Of course this house hasn’t been fixed since 1972, and it doesn’t need central air, and I don’t do anything to it…
Ruth: Because whoever buys it is going to tear it apart and will start over.
Ruth: So, I try to keep the roof OK.
Ruth: But I don’t do anything else…
Kevin: Of course.
Ruth: Because I am going to sell it as is.
Ruth: Whereas that house down there, they just got $3 million for the Edwards house two doors down.
Kevin: Was it a big house, $3 million?
Ruth: Yes. There is a sign out in front of it says, “Under Contract”.
Ruth: It’s right down there. Nice people, I knew them, the family, because they were here even before I was.
Kevin: All right.
Ruth: And the mother died just a few months ago, but the son, they’ve managed to put it on the market and do all the things that you can do about it.
Kevin: I see.
Ruth: And I gave the name of the estate sale person to my son. I said, “Put this in your file and get these people over here.” When I kick the bucket, because they will deal with it or sell or get rid of it. Everything because, my kids are grown up. And they are 55, 58. They don’t need any furniture or anything else.
Ruth: And their kids, the five grandchildren range from 15 to 28 and they are not ready for anything.
Ruth: So, they just need to get rid of it.
Kevin: Does the Georgetown Village concept have any appeal at all?
Ruth: Well, it’s too expensive for me right now. My son is still living in this town. And I have the alert thing.
Kevin: Alert, yeah light…
Ruth: Yeah. I forget…
Kevin: Lights alert or text alert.
Ruth: Yeah, so I thought I would wait a little before I spend the money for that.
Kevin: Sure. No.
Ruth: Because I can still drive.
Kevin: Absolutely. There’s no…
Ruth: Yeah, I can. I don’t need it right yet.
Kevin: It’s not functioning yet anyhow so…
Ruth: Well I can drive myself still and…
Ruth: And my son lives here. And I need to ask him to do things for me, because it makes him feel like he is being a good son. If I don’t…
Kevin: Do you love talking too?
Ruth: No. Well, the woman next door who has had lots. Her husband is a retired AMO. And he lives in the city and plays golf, but this house actually belongs to her. I mean theoretically. It’s her money that paid for it in the beginning.
Kevin: All right.
Ruth: While they were on active duty in various places, they had people like Zoe Baird living there and Beard Gray other interesting persons. The guy who lived there before was Reagan’s… The guy who fixed it up was Reagan’s Joe Canzeri.
Kevin: Oh Joe.
Ruth: Canzeri lived there for quite a…
Kevin: He was a neighbor of ours.
Ruth: Yeah, he was. He fit some of that house.
Kevin: He was a number.
Ruth: Yeah. He was interested…
Kevin: He did himself in on the Dan Quayle comments. You remember the…
Ruth: What did he say?
Kevin: He was Dan Quayle’s handler during, whose campaign would that have been?
Ruth: Well he was Reagan’s…
Kevin: Quayle was Daddy Bush’s…
Kevin: Vice President. Canzeri was giving a speech, and then he did an interview with the poster somewhere. And he said, “This guy doesn’t know jack about Quayle, he is just terrible…
Kevin: And I had to tell him everything to say, well he had to leave town after that.
Ruth: I am sure, but he had plenty of fun here before…
Ruth: That happened, because he took this old house next door and modernized it in a way that this one has not been. It looks like the same from outside.
Ruth: Such as the boss, but at the inside it’s all fixed. It’s modernized.
Kevin: I see.
Ruth: And he used to have the most incredible parties there when he was…
Kevin: Well, yeah, well he loved to. Lot of money and he loved to show off what he could.
Ruth: Well he did, yeah.
Ruth: And he was actually a…
Ruth: Rather nice guy.
Kevin: Lobbyist, lobbyist type.
Ruth: Yeah, well his father was from upstate New York. He used to manage the Rockefeller’s house up the Hudson.
Ruth: And he was into…
Kevin: A big…
Ruth: Yeah. He knew a lot about antiques, and he was the one who cleaned up Rockefeller after the death.
Kevin: Oh really?
Ruth: He was a flunky for them, but he was a perfectly nice neighbor.
Kevin: I see.
Ruth: But he would have these elaborate parties, where something into an English tap room. Or he would have the Jamaican steel band, and inside there would be smoked salmon fillets on all floors. He was a character. But since then, since the Admiral people bought…
The Bills bought this house, and they were over in different places. I mean where he was stationed until he retired, they would rent it to people like Bread Gray who was a piece of work too, in that he never said thank you for anything.
Ruth: I would get his groceries.
Ruth: I would get his mail.
Kevin: For Gray?
Ruth: From the White House because he was the President’s lawyer.
Ruth: They put it in the wrong slot.
Ruth: Never did thank you leave his lips. I’m putting this in the record because he really was a terrible neighbor.
Kevin: Oh hat’s a shame.
Ruth: Anyway, but this has been a good street. Now it’s full of young people. I would give piano lessons to a little girl who lives across the street. She is eight years old.
Ruth: That’s a…
Kevin: That’s nice.
Kevin: That’s nice. You get enough neighbors like Mr. Gray.
Ruth: Oh I know.
Kevin: Who were thoughtful and caring?
Ruth: Oh and these wonderful young people next door.
Ruth: They just moved here. He was in Afghanistan for seven months, and he came back for the birth of his son the other day. They’re a young people…
Kevin: He is a Marine or…
Ruth: Oh, he was working in the US Treasury Department for Geithner, but he was a member of the Naval Reserve and he got called in.
Ruth: I thought when he went to Afghanistan he was going for the Treasury Department, but he was going for the Navy.
Ruth: But he came back in time for the birth of the child, which was about two weeks ago, and now he is the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing.
Ruth: Because I think when he was in Kabul, that’s what he was actually…
Kevin: I see.
Ruth: Involved in. Anyway, they’ve got two kids. They are very nice. They’re both, as I told you, both Rhodes scholars.
Ruth: Yeah. They don’t know that I know that, but I looked it up on Facebook.
Kevin: That’s impressive.
Ruth: Yeah. And they’re young and very nice people.
Kevin: Oh yeah.
Ruth: And across the street are all these people with young people, and the people that bought the $3 million house. They got little kids too, because I saw them on the street one day. And I talked to them and that’s what they told me.
Kevin: That’s nice. You picked a neighborhood useful. That’s great.
Ruth: Yeah, it’s good. I don’t know where they all get so much money. It’s so different from when I was a kid.
Kevin: What did I have when I asked you about…?
Ruth: I don’t know.
Ruth: It all sounds like babble!
Kevin: No. Well, you’ve had an involvement. A remarkable career.
Ruth: Have I been lucky or what?
Kevin: I think you’ve been lucky, yes. Because you picked your topic area, shall we say you’re working…
Ruth: I was just lucky.
Kevin: An Occupation area, involvement areas is really what I want to say of things that were vital and interesting.
Ruth: I know, and if I had been born now, I would have been a lawyer.
Ruth: Or a doctor.
Ruth: Or something else. I went to a good school. I have a high IQ. I could have done…
Kevin: Aim for Goldman Sachs and…
Ruth: It could have been any of those things, but it wouldn’t have been as nearly as interesting as this. Of course it would have been much more lucrative, but who cares? I was lucky that I have a pension.
Kevin: Be boring compared to what you’ve been doing.
Ruth: It was at a stage. I think my son once called it chutes and ladders, because you go up and you fall down. You go up and you fall down. I just look back and I think, “Boy! Are you a fortunate person!”
Ruth: Including wanting to do this thing, because of the way that I was brought up in this little town.
Ruth: Yeah and…
Kevin: And Georgetown, you had a pleasant number of settings…
Ruth: And in old age I am now having the most wonderful time of living in the most beautiful place in the world. I went on a lot of cruises for a while, because I couldn’t travel anymore.
Ruth: And you could go by yourself if you are on a cruise.
Ruth: And I’ve had a wonderful old age with my grandchildren, and so now I am 83. And goodbye!
Kevin: You’ve had a full time of it.
Ruth: I’ve had a wonderful life. I am a happy person.
Kevin: Isn’t it nice to be able to think and say that.
Ruth: And mean it.
Kevin: And mean it and its being true not for many people really when you come right down to it.
Ruth: Well, there are some really hard times but once I pull out of it. Then you say, “Well, it’s a learning thing.” Marrying all those people, it’s gone. Yeah. But at least I got some beautiful children out of that.
Ruth: And when you’re at that time people married very young.
Ruth: In the time I grew up and…
Ruth: And then married, so it’s understandable. I guess you look back and say, “What kind of a flake were you anyway?” [laughing]
Ruth: But you know, but I wasn’t a flake.
Ruth: I fell in love with this…
Ruth: Dashing aviator, and he was older…
Ruth: Than me, and was very good looking and brilliant, and what was wrong with that? Except that… [laughing]
Kevin: And the vital things are going on.
Kevin: In those days that…
Ruth: Well I think I told you about everything that I can think of.
Ruth: Maybe I’ll think of something else later, but Georgetown has changed a lot since I lived here.
Kevin: Yeah it has.
Ruth: Sometimes, younger people…
Kevin: Well most of it has stayed…
Kevin: Pretty much the same.
Ruth: Well the stores are different. Used to be all these wonderful little stores.
Kevin: Well that part, especially shops, we really miss. It’s all the high rents, that driven them out, but…
Ruth: There never used to be any restaurants here either. No.
Ruth: Now there is just wall‑to‑wall restaurants and mall stores, but it’s still a wonderful place to live.
Ruth: I’m with you Jacobson. I said, “It’s the most wonderful place in the world to live.”
Kevin: I know. It’s excellent.
Ruth: Yeah. So we’re lucky. Well…
Kevin: We would have tried it in so thank you very much for…
Ruth: Well thank you, Kevin.
Kevin: For putting up with a slew of questions and…
Ruth: I am glad that you are doing this for the record.
Kevin: Well I am too.
Ruth: What would they do with it after it’s over?
Kevin: Well they will put it. They will type it up.
Ruth: Type it?
Kevin: Well they’ll transcribe it, shall we say.
Ruth: Why don’t they just type it on a…