Guy Martin

Approaching his 100th birthday, Guy Martin spoke candidly with interviewer Constance Chatfield-Taylor about his beautiful old home on the corner of 33rd and O Streets. Built in 1855, the house was briefly occupied by the likes of Douglas MacArthur (who described it as a “cottage in Georgetown”) and blue-blooded Englishmen including the Queen’s cousin. Martin and his wife moved in 1963 and raised four children. The family experienced Georgetown through the assassination of President Kennedy and the riots of the 1960s, although Martin insists they did not affect Georgetown much. A four-level home with 14-foot ceilings throughout and filled with beautiful antiques, the Martin home paints a beautiful picture of life in Georgetown.

Interview Date:
Monday, June 9, 2014
Constance Chatfield Taylor

During the first part of interview 2, there were some technical difficulties. Any missing information was recaptured in Interview 1.

Interview 1:

Martin: …the day after Labor Day or the day after that.

Constance: I hope it’s cooler than it is here.

Martin: Oh it’s very cool; we’re up in the mountains, you know.

Constance: I know. All right we have to start this over again.

Martin: All right.

Constance: And I’ve got this one because I know that works.

Martin: All right, do I leave this just like that?

Constance: Just like that. And I just watch it every now and then. Let me see… It says record, OK. So we’re going to do it this time; I didn’t lose the whole thing.

Martin: Oh, I’m grateful. I’m happy that…

Constance: I just lost part of it. I lost the first part, so if you can give us your full name, and when and where you were born.

Martin: My full name is Isaiah, like the prophet, Guyman Martin. And I was born in Los Angeles, California on the 22nd of January in 1911.

Constance: Wow.

Martin: Yeah, yeah.

Constance: And when did you move to Georgetown?

Martin: About 30 years ago I think. …’63. My wife’s mother, I bought this house for her. Her agent, I mean I didn’t pay for it. And from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and she lived here until she died. And then through a complex bunch of changes, I moved into this house. My oldest son, you met him, Guy. He moved into the house up on Woodley Road which is really a very nice house.

Constance: And you’ve been here ever since.

Martin: …Ever since.

Constance: And you’ve been here ever since.

Martin: And I have my friend Lillian across the street.

Constance: You moved in right after, or before Kennedy was assassinated. …Sometime around that time.

Martin: I never thought of it in terms of that, but I think that’s about right.

Constance: Well what was it like in the ’60’s here? Did the riots affect you here living in Georgetown; you didn’t feel any of it?

Martin: No, the riots… The only effect they had on me was that they made traffic kind of difficult for driving.

Constance: And you had a driver that would take you to work?

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: We’re you a lawyer downtown here?

Martin: No, my wife was still alive; I’m trying to think when she died.

Constance: Pretty recently I think.

Martin: Fairly, about four years ago I think.

Constance: Yeah. So you were working downtown when you first moved here.

Martin: I was very fond of my wife, and she was a very remarkable woman. She had wonderfully good traits, and some traits that were kind of a little difficult to cope with. Among which was that she had no sense of time. She’d wake up at four o clock in the morning, and she’s say, “Guy, I have an interesting idea on how to play the 2nd act of Hamlet.” And I had to wake up at four o clock in the morning, and it was always very brilliantly thought out.

Constance: Was she a playwright, or a musician?

Martin: No, I don’t know what she was. She came from a… In her household, when she was a child growing up, they weren’t any inside domestic servants, not counting chauffeurs or outside servants. And she was required to speak German at breakfast, French at lunch, and Italian at dinner.

Constance: Oh my. So she was fluent in all 3. Was she fluent in all 3?

Martin: Oh yeah.

Constance: Wow.

Martin: She was very good at many languages.

Constance: Now did she like living here?

Martin: What?

Constance: Did she like living here? Your wife, did she like this house in Georgetown? Did she enjoy it?

Martin: No I think that she… Yes, she did move here very briefly and then she died. …Very sad.

Constance: Tell us about the house because this is an audio recording and people won’t see the house but it’s a rather large house with a double living room.

Martin: Yeah the house was built by a real estate speculator named Saxon, and he built a house of the same general description and detailing over on 35th and it was opposite the Convent of the Visitation. And that house is still there and you can go look at it and see, the decoration is all the same as this. Then all kinds of people ‑‑ Douglas MacArthur lived in the house, briefly, and he said “I have taken a cottage in Georgetown till I can find more suitable accommodation.” And then a bunch of very blue‑blooded Englishmen including the Queen’s cousin something‑or‑other, they lived here, it was very brief.

And then they departed and well, I bought it from Louise Highboard. I bought it from my wife’s mother. Louise Highboard was the only daughter of Mr. Stokesbury who was the richest man in Philadelphia. Yes, she was quite entertaining, and she had been married to a Philadelphian or a New Yorker, who was very good‑looking and very rich, and very social, and very political, and fully appreciated his own fine qualities. If you know the type.

Constance Chatfield Taylor: The house has very tall ceilings, are they about ‑‑ 14 feet?

Martin: 14 feet basically. And the interesting thing is the ceiling shows the same height all the way up.

Constance: And how many floors is it?

Martin: Well, there are four. There are three original floors, but the dining room was that room in there. And that proved idiotically impossible, because it means that if you serve your supper in there you have to have two people, one downstairs and one upstairs. So we moved the dining room downstairs. Have you been to the dining room?

Constance: I have. I’ve had dinner here.

Martin: I thought you had been, I thought we had fed you.

Constance: Yes you have. And we are sitting in your library which is quite beautiful, with lots of wonderful leather‑bound books and some very old books.

Martin: Well, these leather‑bound books are things that we inherited. The books over there are more the books that I actually bought myself. But this is only a small part of the library. There’s a lot of library upstairs, and then there’s quite a lot of library up at the house in the country.

Constance: Many books.

Martin: What? Many books? Yes, a lot of books.

Constance: These windows are floor to ceiling, eight‑over‑eight.

Martin: They’re something.

Constance: And actually, it’s eight‑over‑twelve.

Martin: I’m getting ready to go up to the country.

Constance: You do that every summer.

Martin: Yes, we go every summer.

Constance: But tell us some more about this house. It’s got a double living room.

Martin: Yes.

Constance: With two grand pianos in it.

Martin: Two grand pianos, yes.

Constance: And a bear was in it. Right? There was a bear.

Martin: The bear is up in the, right in the room above here.

Constance: And that’s from the estate in New York?

Martin: Well, it isn’t my bear. It belongs to Roy Goodman, who is a man who lives up in Martville, New York. And he works for me around the property up there. And he brought the bear ‑‑ he bought the bear in Georgetown, in some antique shop. He saw the bear and got it, and he brought it and he couldn’t get it, it wouldn’t fit in his car. So the bear was stored in one of the rooms upstairs, and it’s still there.

Constance: It’s a black bear on his hind legs?

Martin: A what? A black bear, yes. If you’d like to look at it I’d be happy to show you the bear.

Constance: Oh, well, thank you. Also in the living room you have a harp.

Martin: Yes. Well, my wife played the harp. She didn’t particularly like the harp, because she felt it was ‑‑ it takes an enormous amount of practice and skill to play relatively simple music on the harp. And she ‑‑ well, the two grand pianos were what she really liked.

Constance: Did she play those?

Martin: She did ‑‑ well, she played one of them. And she had a young man of musical talent ‑‑ and they did have to have musical talent ‑‑ they would come over and play the piano with her. My wife and I, we had a very long and happy relationship, but she had to have at least one, and preferably two or three, very attractive young men available at all times. This made her happy, and it had no impact on me. I realized, so it didn’t bother me.

Constance: There is some very large paintings in your living room.

Martin: What?

Constance: Paintings.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: What do you call the room here, that used to be the dining room?

Martin: That room?

Constance: Yeah.

Martin: Until recently, we called it the “red room,” because the curtains were red.

Constance: But it’s got a very large painting in that room as well.

Martin: A guy was up at Nuveen’s, and then he was out at the Getty in Los Angeles. The Getty has Nuveen’s complete collection of data. He was the greatest dealer in art in the 19th and 20th Century, and Getty has it all now.

Constance: Oh!

Martin: I don’t mean to say that Getty himself, but he was so immensely rich, that he would call in and said, “I want the finest collection of this, that and the other, and they would get it for them.

Constance: Wow! Wow! So, you enter the front door here, and the library is to the left, and the double living rooms are to the right. The windows are wonderful and deep.

Martin: Aren’t they wonderful?

Constance: You’ve got shutters that fold back unto themselves.

Martin: I used this room fundamentally when receiving one or a small number of guests.

Constance: It’s a very cozy room.

Martin: But if you were going to bring your father, and your grandfather, and your great uncle Rosco, who was the Governor of South Dakota, then I would bring them into that room.

Constance: You did. You had my mother for tea in that room, in the ‘red room.’

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: Is there anything else about the house or about the community that you remember for being here quite a few years? You’ve been here since the ’60s, so you have been here about 50 years.

Martin: I have been here about 50 years. The house looks I think very much the way it did, except that I built this library, because of the books. Now, these sets of books, were inherited from my wife’s, some side of the family. They have beautiful binders, and they’re very well printed, but I would not have collected them on my own.

Constance: You’ve got some old atlas up on the top, too.

Martin: Those two up on the top are very old.

Constance: Yeah.

Martin: There was a great to‑do. One of them would be terribly valuable if Harvard didn’t have one like it. We went up there, we had to call. We got a hold of Harvard, and we got the librarian, and have a great to do, and we found that they have one like it. So, it is only worth about $5,000, but if they hadn’t had it, then …

Constance: How funny.

Martin: There’s all kinds of things. Then we have the bears and the animals there.

Constance: Are they bronzes?

Martin: Bronzes, yeah. Then there is the picture of the “Storm at Sea.”

Constance: Are you a sailor?

Martin: I spent a lot of time in the Navy, and I was really at sea. I got sort of enough sea going, to sort of satisfy my sea going yearnings.

Constance: Yeah. I bet. What kind of sports did you like doing? Did you play tennis?

Martin: I played tennis, up until very recently. I never played golf. I never thought golf was worth a damn. I liked to swim. I still can swim.

Constance: You swim at the Metropolitan Club, don’t you?

Martin: Yes. But I have a nice lake, a little lake, at the house in the country. It’s about 300 feet long, and about 850 feet wide, and 12 feet deep.

Constance: You would swim there I guess?

Martin: I would swim there.

Constance: Can you walk from your house?

Martin: Oh, it’s only about 300 feet.

Constance: Oh, that’s great.

Martin: The house there, I don’t know which house has the most square feet of space, but the house there is spread out.

Constance: You’ve got a lot of steps from your bedroom to the kitchen. How many steps is that?

Martin: Here? I think it’s 58, something like that.

Constance: You walk a lot of steps though.

Martin: It’s good for my health. I know.

Constance: How do you stay in such great shape?

Martin: What?

Constance: You have your 100th birthday coming up in January.

Martin: Oh, we’re going to have a spectacular party. Oh, the 100th birthday I’ll be sure that you get an invitation.

Constance: I hope so.

Martin: We’ll have a lot of people and…

Constance: Music.

Martin: Music and…

Constance: What’s your favorite kind of music?

Martin: What?

Constance: What’s your favorite kind of music?

Martin: I would say I have catholic in my music taste. I like‑first I like opera because I like the theatrical aspects of it. And then I like symphony and then I like popular music that’s melodic. So I like Johann Strauss. I think Johann Strauss’ waltzes are just great. But I’m not particularly fond of dissonant popular music. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Constance: You’re a big fan of the Kennedy Center.

Martin: What?

Constance: You’re a big fan of the Kennedy Center.

Martin: Well I go there because it’s the only place you can go. I like the Metropolitan Opera in New York better and I go up there quite a lot during this season because I have a friend Colonel Doctor, military titles all take precedence over…

Constance: Medical.

Martin: Secular titles. And he’s Colonel Doctor Hays.

Constance: So you go to the opera with him when you’re in New York.

Martin: I go to the opera with him. And he was in Vietnam and he’s a man that always took care of his‑he was a surgeon and he had an airplane build, a big helicopter, a huge helicopter in a room about as big as this, and it was an operating room. And as soon as he got it to work the big thing flew up about 200 feet from the front lines and he operated on wounded soldiers all night. When the light began to come up the helicopter took off as they go back to his base, and he had a little piano in the helicopter and he played the piano to relax his tension after operating on the wounded soldiers. And he lives in New York and…

Constance: How long a trip is it from the farm into the city to go to the opera? You have to spend the night?

Martin: By the time you get the car parked it’s close to three hours.

Constance: Ah, it’s quite a trip.

Martin: The actual‑if you could drive it without any people being there I think it’s about 160 miles.

Constance: Wow. So, did you go to the opening of the Kennedy Center? I know you have a box there and you’ve been…

Martin: I went to the opening, yes. I keep a box for certain things. I keep a box for the opera. I keep a box for the ballet, yeah.

Constance: So how many performances do you think you’ve been to over the years? 1,000?

Martin: No, no. Probably 200.

Constance: Yeah.

Martin: That would be…yeah, I think about 200. Maybe a little less.

Constance: Yeah. What are your other favorite parts of Washington?

Martin: What?

Constance: What do you like doing here besides the opera and the ballet? You’re very active.

Martin: What?

Constance: You’re very active. What do you enjoy about Washington?

Martin: Well, I like Washington because it’s…The people in Washington are interesting because they are interesting. In New York, where I lived for five years, New York society when I was young, everybody was rich and by rich I mean rich. And I find a rich society like a rich diet, kind of too much to digest.

Constance: That’s great.

Martin: You’ve been around don’t you have that same feeling when you go to a place where everybody is rich?

Constance: It’s different. It’s very different.

Martin: And I don’t find it terribly attractive.

Constance: Interesting.

Martin: But that’s a matter of…

Constance: So, about to turn 100. Any advice you would like to give us here in Georgetown?

Martin: Well, the only advice I have given people on that question, the great thing about living a long time is never to be angry or cross with anybody. You don’t need to like them. In fact, you might think they’re utterly repulsive, but don’t get all steamed up about it. That’s my view.

Constance: Good. That’s good advice. You’re doing something right.

Martin: In other words, if you meet an attractive man, but he doesn’t attract you, don’t get upset about it. I mean, that’s just the way he is.

Constance: One more question about the house?

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: You’ve got sort of a widows walk, or a lookout on the top of the house.

Martin: Yeah. Well, it’s a little square cube. I’ll take you up there if you want to go up there some time.

Constance: All right. We’ll go up sometime.

Martin: Not, right now. It’s quite a hike.

Constance: Right.

Martin: You have to climb up a bunch of stairs, and there is this little cubicle, and you can see all over everything.

Constance: There are windows all the way around it.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: Is there a bell or a light or anything up there, or is it just windows?

Martin: It’s just windows.

Constance: Just windows. It’s interesting. What year was the house built, do you remember?

Martin: I understand it was built in ’55.

Constance: 1855.

Martin: 1855, yeah.

Constance: Because it’s a beautiful house.

Martin: It’s a very handsome house.

Constance: We’re right on the corner of 33rd and O Street, on the south side of the street.

Martin: This is a very handsome house.

Constance: You get beautiful light. Do you know if the stables behind you, was that the stables of this house?

Martin: This table here?

Constance: No. The stables; the red brick.

Martin: Yes. It was the stable.

Constance: So, belonging to this house.

Martin: It belonged to this house, yeah.

Constance: And then the gallery next door, or the part of the house that Jackie now lives in.

Martin: Yeah. Well, Jackie’s house was built by‑‑I have books here.

Constance: You have pictures of it, don’t you?

Martin: Yeah, but Jackie’s house was part of this house, and it was an art gallery. I’ve got a picture here somewhere. I’ll find it.

Constance: That would be fun to take a picture of that picture and have it with this recording, because it was part of the house.

Martin: That fits into to that house.

Constance: But it’s been separate for quite awhile, hasn’t it? Before you bought it, you said.

Martin: Well, John and Dorothea Hammond lived there for quite a long time, when my wife and I lived here.

Constance: Were they fun neighbors?

Martin: Oh, yes. You see, she was Dorothea Villard. Her father was Herbert Garrison Villard, who among other things was President of the Northern Pacific Railroad, but he started life as a journalist. And in his period of American history, he knew everybody, and I mean everybody. They had a big house up at the Hudson, and then they had a house‑‑are you familiar with New York?

Constance: A little bit. I know the Hudson Valley.

Martin: Do you know where St. Patrick’s Cathedral is?

Constance: Yes. I do.

Martin: Behind it there is a ‘U’ shaped thing.

Constance: Yes.

Martin: Well, the Villard house was the one on the right.

Constance: Really!

Martin: You can go there and have dinner now. It’s a restaurant.

Constance: It’s a restaurant. There is right behind St. Patrick’s also, the Palace Hotel, I believe.

Martin: What?

Constance: The Palace Hotel. Isn’t that right behind St. Patrick’s?

Martin: I forgot.

Constance: Maybe it’s a block wrong.

Martin: There was the old Villard place. I forgot what they call it.

Constance: Oh, neat!

Martin: Anyway, it is a fashionable restaurant, a fairly fashionable restaurant.

Constance: Did your wife like to throw dinner parties here?

Martin: Yes. She had dinner parties.

Constance: In the dining room downstairs?

Martin: Yes.

Constance: Yeah. Because there’s no dumbwaiter here. Is there an elevator here?

Martin: Oh, no. It would be an idiotic waste of steps, so we just had the dinner downstairs.

Constance: Downstairs, much easier.

Martin: I had my son Christopher, and we had lunch downstairs.

Constance: Today, he was just here.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: How exciting! You’ve got a lot of family.

Martin: Oh, I’ve got a lot of family.

Constance: They’re all very clever. How many grandchildren do you have? You’ve got four children, and lots of grandchildren.

Martin: [unintelligible 24:36 ]

Constance: A lot of children. Is there anything else you want to say about the house or being a long time resident of Georgetown?

Martin: Well before I got into the house, my son had just left. He was massively successful as a painter and as a real estate developer. And if he met you, he would talk with you about painting and other business matters, and he would make every effort to seduce you. And if you were a normal woman you would be amused by all this effort.

Constance: Funny.

Martin: You didn’t need necessarily to succumb to it!

Constance: He sounds interesting.

Martin: I have in my long life, met a lot of men who have been called “womanizers.” And I said I was always very sorry because I was looking for a “manizer” and I never found one! [laughs]

Constance: [laughs] Oh well. I think that’s great, I think we have plenty.

Martin: Yeah look at all these people…this window here…

Constance: Yeah?

Martin: I had a cousin, an English cousin, raised in, and we used to sit in these chairs by the hour and watch the people go by.

Constance: I’ll take a picture of this beautiful window. It’s huge! So what do you see out there now?

Martin: Automobiles.

Constance: Yeah? There was a big crowd of people when I came up.

Martin: Yeah well, the people that are going to Georgetown.

Constance: Yeah?

Martin: Am I in the way?

Constance: Nope. Keep talking! That’s a wonderful window. It’s…

Martin: It’s a great window, yeah.

Constance: …amazing. Is the living room window the same as this window?

Martin: Yes. Tons of windows, you can go in and look at them.

Constance: Huge! I’m just taking a picture because if we’re talking about the window we should have a picture with it.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: Are you excited about going to the country?

Martin: No.

Constance: It’ll be a lot cooler.

Martin: Yes, it will be quite a lot cooler.

Constance: A lot cooler. I can’t get the whole thing in. It’s that big. You see? That’s a big window.

Martin: There it is!

Constance: There it is. I’d love to see your place in the country. It sounds fascinating.

Martin: Sit down a minute. Are you in a hurry?

Constance: No, I’m not.

Martin: I think you would enjoy a visit to the country. Now, in the old days, everybody had a lot of horses.

Constance: Oh!

Martin: But, if you have a lot of horses, if you’re going to keep them in training for the ride and so forth, you have to spend a lot of time with the horses, and you have to have people who have the time to do it, and furthermore, who don’t fall off.

Constance: This is true. That’s a big help.

Martin: All the time, hun.

Constance: You still have some horses up there, don’t you?

Martin: You bet.

Constance: You have some horses up there?

Martin: Oh yes.

Constance: Yeah.

Martin: My daughter went to Foxcroft School. Are you familiar with that?

Constance: I rode at Foxcroft as well. We did a lot of events there. I grew up right next to there.

Martin: Well she went to Foxcroft, and I remember one time I happened to be there and there was a girl applying for admission. And the headmistress said, “Do you ride?” And the girl said, “No.” And she said, “Do you want to learn to ride?” And the girl said, “No.” And she said, “Why on earth do you want to come to Foxcroft?”

Constance: [laughs] That’s great.

Martin: I think Thea was quite happy at Foxcroft.

Constance: My niece just graduated from there.

Martin: Where did you graduate?

Constance: I went to the University of Virginia.

Martin: Well, that’s an ancient and venerable institution.

Constance: So I stayed in Virginia, did not go away to boarding school before. But, tell is where you went to school. You have a lot of degrees.

Martin: Well I went to college at Occidental which is where the, Mr. Obama, he went there.

Constance: Oh!

Martin: Yeah, when I was there. In my time it was a church related college. The thing I remember best about Occidental were two things. They had Professor Angley [?] , she was the best teacher I ever had anywhere, ever. And all the women, girls, they were all, girls, were very well dressed. And if you go now they look like a bunch of slobs.

Constance: Oh! You got your law degree at Columbia?

Martin: No, I got my law degree from Yale.

Constance: Yale.

Martin: That’s the place to get a law degree. And I have a degree from Oxford, which I enjoyed very much.

Constance: Was that another law degree, from Oxford?

Martin: No, at Oxford I just got a Bachelor’s degree. Because…Oxford is kind of a complicated place to explain. And then… [Phone rings]

Martin: Joseph will answer that. Probably people selling grape juice. [ringing continues]

Constance: Did you go to Oxford after Occidental?

Martin: I got a B.A. in California, and then I went to Oxford, and I got a Bachelor’s degree from Oxford. And I had a nice time at Oxford. I think it’s the last one left on earth. It’s fundamentally still an aristocratic society.

Constance: Yeah. Well, I think you have a call, here comes Joseph. Here comes Joseph. Hi!

Martin: Hello. Who’s calling?

Constance: Mrs. [Inaudible 32:07]

Martin: Oh.

Constance: Ah!

Martin: [on the phone] Hello little one…No I just got tied up with some things but I’ll be home in about 30 minutes. Can I come over in 30 minutes? I’ll be there.

Constance: I’m sorry, I’m holding you up.

Martin: No, you’re not holding me up.

Constance: That’s your friend Lillian across the street.

Martin: Yeah; that was my friend Lillian.

Constance: All righty well we’re finished here. I love talking to you but you’ve got things to do and places to go.

Martin: You’ve go things to do…

Constance: I don’t.

Martin: …I’m relaxed.

Constance: I’m going home to do some work.

Martin: No, Lillian will be waiting…She just likes to talk, and she’s a very good talker, I must say.

Constance: She’s amazing, Yeah!

Martin: Yeah she is a woman of education.

Constance: And you all have dinner, two or three times a week?

Martin: Oh I’ve had dinner!

Constance: You’ve had dinner.

Martin: I’m just going over and we’ll just talk. I’m very fond of Lillian and…

Constance: You’re good friends.

Martin: We’re good friends. And we like each other for somewhat different reasons, but it works out.

Constance: And she’s very active…

Martin: But the point is we’re about the same age. And, for example, I think I would be you’re grandfather wouldn’t I?

Constance: Yes, you would.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: You’re younger than my grandfather would be.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: A little older than my father but younger than my grandfather. Not much older than my father…Lillian’s got a birthday coming up isn’t July 4th Lillian’s birthday?

Martin: I’ve forgotten what her..,

Constance: I think it’s July 4th and she’ll be 95. 94 or 95.

Martin: 95. And I will be, in next January…

Constance: You’ll be 100.

Martin: 100.

Constance: That’s pretty cool. Big party.

Martin: And we’re going to have a big party. You’ve got to come to the party.

Constance: You always have a good party. We’re looking forward to it.

Martin: What?

Constance: We’re looking forward to it.

Martin: That’s January 22, 1911.

Constance: Yep.

Martin: I was born in Los Angeles, California.

Constance: How many brothers and sisters?

Martin: I have a brother, Byron, and a sister, Helen. And my sister did not marry but she had a long term relation that was very complicated. And I never fully understand it. There was a family in Pasadena, lived in Pasadena, who were both a rich family and a cultivated family. And Andrew Neff was enamored of my sister and she of him. They never married for complicated reasons. But he had an airplane, private airplane, and they would get up in the morning, come down and have breakfast and say, “Where should we go today?” And they’ll say, “Minnesota,” and they get in the airplane and fly to Minnesota.

Constance: Go to Minnesota. Sounds like she’s very interesting.

Martin: But my sister was basically the cultural mogul of Pasadena. And she supervised the both architecture and the church, the services and the quality of the music and the churches and so forth. And Pasadena’s the only city in the world in which the main street is lined, not with banks, but with churches.

Constance: Where’d you meet your wife?

Martin: I met her in the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California. I was just back from the…or no, I was on my way out. Well, anyway, and she was in the Navy.

Constance: She was in the Navy?

Martin: Yeah, although she had a very peculiar job. She and two men that she supervised, every morning, except Sunday, they had to go in to Franklin Roosevelt and read him the latest dispatches from the Germans to the Germans and the Dutch the French and so forth. And they were all great linguists.

Constance: Wow! That’s a very cool job.

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: Did you all ever see the Roosevelts when…ah! They had already moved.

Martin: I often tried to figure out if I ever actually physically saw Franklin Roosevelt. And I think I did, but I’m not quite sure when, how or where.

Constance: Yeah, because he lived on N Street for a long time but down by Dupont Circle.

Martin: Well, that was way back then. I was not in action then.

Constance: Right. Right. That was before you were…

Martin: Yeah.

Constance: That’s a great job she had.

Martin: But she had this job.

Constance: Was that from speaking so many languages?

Martin: What?

Constance: She had to have speak…

Martin: Yeah. Well, we had four children.

Constance: Was she from here back East or was she from California?

Martin: She was from New York City.

Constance: New York City.

Martin: We have a place up in the Catskills and in the same township OJ Gould was there. And then he had a son George. And then George had a son George. Anyway, she was descended from that bunch of people. And there were a lot of them. And some of them are nice and some of them are not so nice. But mostly they were agreeable people. And well, they had a very (somewhere I’ll show you pictures) they had a very nice big apartment in New York with big rooms in it.

Constance: Very cool. Well, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time again.

Martin: Well, I must tell you.

Constance: OK, tell me.

Martin: My wife told me that she was 12 years old before she realized that there were families that did not have butlers.

Constance: Oh! [laughter] Wow! All right.

Interview 2:

Constance Chatfield‑Taylor: OK. We’ll do it right here, you’re right. Much better. You were telling us about the Burma War, and why that was.

Guy Martin: OK, Burma. Burma was a very interesting place, you know? At that time, the Japanese had all the main part of Burma, but the coast was kind of in between India and Burma. It was on the Indian Ocean, if, I don’t know how much of this geography you have in your mind.

Constance: Actually, I do know Burma.

Guy: Huh?

Constance: I do know that geography, so go ahead.

Guy: What?

Constance: I do know the Burma geography, so go ahead.

Guy: Yeah. The, that was, I went, that was quite a bit, a lot of big medals for that. I went there all by myself, down the Burmese coast. And then, we had an American company and the British had a company of soldiers down in the Burmese coast. And their relative commanders were very friendly with each other and very fond of drink, so that they were seldom sober. And the Japanese could have recaptured parts of the Burmese coast and the people would not know they’d been recaptured.

But anyway, that was a…

Constance: Did you ever run into Jim Thompson?

Guy: Yeah.

Constance: Did you?

Guy: He was from Bangkok. He’d made silk. Did you meet him in his silk phase or what?

Constance: No just, of course, read about him. He got lost in Burma or somewhere after he made the whole silk business, revived it.

Guy: Yeah.

Constance: But I was wondering if you had met him. Have you met him?

Guy: I’ve met him.

Constance: Really?

Guy: I, we had to get him out of somewhere, I’ve forgotten where.

Constance: Yep. What sports do you like doing?

Guy: What?

Constance: What sports?

Guy: Well, I played tennis. At my present age, I’ve kind of eased off on sports. But I played tennis and I swam. I still swim.

Constance: Did you play golf?

Guy: I never played golf. I never. Golf always struck me as a nothing. Golf is not, it’s no exercise. It takes a long time and it’s quite expensive, and so I never…

Constance: I agree.

Guy: What? What were you saying?

Constance: I was saying I agree.

Guy: [laughter]

Constance: How about bridge? Do you play bridge?

Guy: What?

Constance: Do you play bridge?

Guy: Bridge, what?

Constance: Bridge.

Guy: Bridge. No, I regret to say I didn’t.

Constance: No.

Guy: The reason I didn’t play bridge was I was in New York City a great deal. And if you got into one of those groups, you had to be playing bridge all the time and I was busy so I’d ‑‑ what was said I didn’t know how, which was probably true…

Constance: All right.

Guy: But I was five years in New York. I had an apartment, my old friend Frederick Van Buren‑Joy and his blood was very blue. And he was very socially, he was really charming, I mean whatever you felt, if you hadn’t met him before you would have enjoyed his company. He was a fine conversationalist and we lived together for five years about in this apartment.

We had quite a nice apartment down on Fourteenth Street. So far as I know, he went out on every weeknight. Period. Every weeknight. And almost always in full evening dress. I don’t mean dinner jackets, I mean evening dress.

And we always had a ritual. I usually went to bed about midnight on work days. And Freddy didn’t need any sleep, so he usually came in about two o’clock.

And we always went through the same ritual. He would wake me up and he said, “Guy, why am I so irresistible to women?” And I said, “Freddy, it is puzzling but I think it’s because you’re so rich,” and then we went to sleep.


Constance: That’s great.

Guy: What?

Constance: One more question about the house.

Guy: Yeah.

Constance: Then we’re going to finish. You have a sort of a widow’s walk upstairs.

Guy: Yep, on top there’s a kind of a tower.

Constance: Tell us about that tower.

Guy: Well, this house belonged to, at one point, to the captain of the port, the harbormaster, we call him in modern words. And he built this tower on top of the house so he could see the ships come up. If you were energetic and want to go up, I’ll take you up.

Constance: I do want to go up. I can’t do it today, but I do want to go up. Is there a light up there or what’s up there?

Guy: Oh, there’s a little cupola, little lights, and everything. Chairs.

Constance: Really? OK, we’ll do a rain check for that one, because I’d like to take a picture to go with this audio. OK.

Guy: Now, the way this house is arranged is very scientific. The bottom is service. The dining room ‑‑ I might show you the dining room.

Constance: I’ve had dinner here, so I’ve seen your dining room.

Guy: You’ve seen the dining room.

Constance: Mm‑hmm.

Guy: Well, then, there’s the kitchen and pantry. And then there’s an apartment for the staff, and that’s Joseph and his wife. And then, there’s this floor. The library and a big room and a smaller room with some quite good pictures. And there’s a picture above Mrs. Cubans, I think, she was an actress. And I always ‑‑ I read up on her. She slept with kings or better.

Constance: Ah, well then.

Guy: Now, I…

Constance: Now the next floor is bedrooms, and then the next floor above that is bedrooms.

Guy: Well, the next floor was our personal floor. There was our bedroom, and Edith had a dressing room, and a study with a piano in it. And I had a dressing room and then there was…

Constance: No piano in your dressing room?

Guy: No piano in mine.

Constance: And then, bedrooms above that, and then, the cupola?

Guy: There was one more bedroom on the next floor.

Constance: Right.

Guy: And then the top floor is all four bedrooms.

Constance: And then the stairway to the roof?

Guy: And then the stairway to the roof, yes. Now, at the moment, nobody is sleeping there, but I had a message from my wife’s cousin, Gloria, that she was coming soon. And that having had wide experience with Gloria, soon could mean tomorrow and could mean early next year. [laughter]

Guy: So Gloria has an interesting ‑‑ she has been everywhere and done everything. And I remember talking about Uzbekistan, “Oh,” she said, “I had quite an interesting experience there. I reorganized the central bank.” She was a specialist in central banking in developing countries. She’s the only one in existence. And she had her permanent retainer from the U.S. Treasury of $110,000 just to advise them on banks.

Constance: Wow!

Guy: And Gloria was a very fascinating woman, I found. She was only married once and at that, for only 48 hours. And then…

Constance: Wow! I’d like to meet her.

Guy: Well, you’d see, you’d enjoy Gloria. And she was a ‑‑ I think she’s coming here. She called up the other day and she says, “I’m coming soon.”

Constance: Soon.

Guy: But as I told you, that…

Constance: Could mean anything. All right, I’m going to take a couple of pictures.

Guy: You can take all the pictures you want.

Constance: And then, run off but I do want to see the roof someday.

Guy: You want what?

Constance: I want to see the cupola.

Guy: That’s the roof.

Constance: Let me stop this.

Guy: Well.