Robert Rinehart

Interview Date:
Monday, March 18, 2019
Hazel Denton

Robert Rinehart  Interviewer is Hazel Denton, 3/18/2019.

Hazel Denton:  Today is Monday, March the 18th, 2019. My name is Hazel Denton. I am sitting here in my living room on P Street with Robert Rinehart. Bob and his wife Nana are old friends of mine because we all attend Holy Trinity Church.

Over the years, he’s made it very clear he didn’t live in Georgetown, but he has so many anecdotes and memories of Georgetown, I pressed him to do an oral history. Here we go, Bob, over to you.

Robert Rinehart:  Thank you, Hazel. I feel very, very honored to be here doing this and talking about Georgetown. To introduce myself, my name is Robert Rinehart. I live in Cleveland Park on Porter Street. I want to talk this afternoon about three phases really of my connection with Georgetown and why someone might ask me to talk about them.

First of all, my great‑grandparents and their daughter, my grandmother, lived in Georgetown from the 1870s into the 1930s. Secondly, I was a graduate student at Georgetown University from 1961 to 1965. Now that’ll give my age away. I’m 80.


Robert:  Thirdly, my wife and I have been parishioners at Holy Trinity since 1966 and remain so at present, but I have never lived in Georgetown. My family lived in Petworth, my grandparents, my parents, and me. I attended St. Gabriel’s School on Grant Circle.

My neighborhood was bounded by Kennedy Street on the north, Quincy Street and Old Soldiers’ Home on the south and the east, and the Petworth library on Georgia Avenue. Sometimes I ranged as far as 14th Street but not very often.

Georgetown was, in fact, a place that we passed through on the way to Key Bridge. Although, I must say my mother worked at the Capital Transit building on Prospect Street up until a month or so before I was born. I experienced the Georgetown in utero. My father also worked at a hardware and auto supply store in Georgetown for one or two years in the early 1930s.

When I was 10, we moved to Rockville and then I came back into town for high school at Saint John’s from 1953 to 1957. I determined then, that when I was grown up, I would live in the city. I went to college in Philadelphia between 1957 and 1961.

During that period, of course, when I was a college student, I did come back into Georgetown with friends, and my college roommate, who’d also been a classmate at Saint John’s, lived in Georgetown.   I was introduced to Scotch on his home. I am very grateful to him for that. We are still in touch.

Hazel:  Do you know where that was?

Robert:  They lived just by Georgetown University Hospital on 44th Street. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, we would go occasionally to the Bayou down on the waterfront.

Halloween was not celebrated in Georgetown in those days, as I remember. Is it still? I don’t know if it’s still…

Hazel:  Oh, it’s a very big deal.

Robert:   When I was a student at Georgetown I lived with my parents in Rockville, but I spent most of my time in Georgetown at the university.

Now, I mentioned three connections; family, the university, and Holy Trinity.   First, the family connection. My great‑grandfather’s name was John Jacob Smith. I know very little about his background except that I’m pretty sure he was born in Washington. There is some indication that his mother was also born in Georgetown.  He was a teenager during the Civil War. He served as a messenger boy at the War Department, next to what is now the Old Executive Office Building, and later, took provisions to the trips in Virginia.  In 1870, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department in the Georgetown precinct.

He married a young woman named Barbara Ochsenreiter. She and her family have an interesting background. My great-grandparents did live in Georgetown, but her family did not. Her father, Frank Ochsenreiter, came from Germany. I think he came right after 1848, after the failed revolution. I don’t know. I mythologize about that. I know he was born in 1826 in Hesse‑Darmstadt. His wife, whom he met here, was born in Wurtemberg.

He came to Washington and settled in what was then the German neighborhood, which later became Chinatown. Saint Mary’s was a German Catholic church. Sixth Street Synagogue was the German Jewish synagogue. There was a Lutheran church in the neighborhood, too. This area was Seventh Street to Fourth, between Massachusetts Avenue and New York Avenue on the north, perhaps E Street in the other direction.

Franz Ochsenreiter had a restaurant on Seventh Street just across from Mount Vernon Square. The building, at least the facade of the building, is still there, although it’s part of the facade of a modern building now. He had a restaurant and a bar there.

During the Civil War, at the age of 42, he volunteered a week after the firing on Fort Sumter for the District of Columbia Volunteer Rifles. I must say, having had other ancestors who were in the Confederate Army, I’m, especially proud of him. I believe it was a 90‑day enlistment. An immigrant, 42 years old, and he felt he had to defend his city, Washington, D.C. I’m very proud of him. He shows up in the 1860 Census as Franz Ochsenreiter. That’s “somebody who rides an ox.” [laughs] In the 1870 Census he shows up as Francis Ochsenreiter, and in the 1880 Census, he shows up as Frank Ochsenreiter. That’s the gradual Americanization of Franz Ochsenreiter, I guess. [laughs] He’s a very interesting guy.

My great-grandmother’s name was Barbara Ochsenreiter. She married John Smith, which is the most common name for a male in the English‑speaking world. They lived in a house on T Street, just off 35th Street, in Georgetown. You can still see those houses. I don’t know which house they lived in. I think they must have rented it. They raised five children there, three boys, John, Ed, and Will and two girls, Edith and my grandmother Loretta who was born in 1878.  John was an artist, a very good one, too. We have one of his paintings at home. He died rather young in 1912. Ed and Will were in the Army during the First World War. After the war, they went into the construction business together. They had houses right next to each other on Ordway Street in Cleveland Park, where I often visited as a boy.

My grandmother’s sister Edith married into the Rupertus family with his brother-in-law, Charles Rupertus.  They did interior decorating and renovations.  These included murals in lobbies of building and were painted by John. Charles carried on the business for some time after John’s death.  It was eventually absorbed by the business operated by Will and Ed.

When I was a small boy, I was told the story of another boy, one of Aunt Edith’s children, who was killed in an accident.  I heard that he was sitting on a box outside a store when he was hit by a car and thrown through the plate glass window.  I had imagined that it had happened near his home in Petworth.  I recently learned that six-year old Eugene Rupertus was killed in 1922, hit by a car that had swerved on to the sidewalk turning from 35th Street to N Street in Georgetown.  He was thrown through a store front window and was dismembered.  How awful!  The driver had apparently been drinking and was arrested.  The site is near Holy Trinity.  Nana and I have passed the corner hundred of times.  There is a laundry and shoe repair shop where it must have happened.

My grandmother, Loretta was baptized at Holy Trinity and lived in Georgetown until 1908. Her father, John Smith, was a policeman assigned to the White House detail and served on guard duty in the 1880-1890s. My grandmother rolled Easter Eggs at the annual Easter Egg roll at the White House.

My great‑grandfather was a very sociable guy, as well as being a good policeman. I have letters that were written to him by Mrs. Grover Cleveland, thanking him for his service. Also, I have a very nice letter from Mrs. Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son’s wife. For some reason, my great‑grandfather had given the family a turkey. Their house is still on the corner of N Street. I think at 28th. My grandmother used to go and play with Robert Lincoln’s daughter, Jessie, Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter. I remember my grandmother had some very small toys that she had gotten at the Lincoln house. Anyway, they played together in the 1880s.

My great‑grandfather was close to retirement. He came back for regular service at the precinct and was assigned the easy duty, like patrolling the old Aqueduct Bridge, which is where Key Bridge is now. You can still see the pediments for the Aqueduct Bridge beneath Key Bridge.

There was a little guardhouse on the Georgetown side of the bridge. On the evening, July 4th, 1904, he was assigned to patrol the Aqueduct Bridge. There were a lot of people lined up on the bridge to watch the fireworks down river. It was a very warm night, so he had taken off his tunic, which included a big belt with a metal belt buckle and hung it up in the guardhouse. There were a bunch of soldiers from Fort Myer also on the bridge. They, apparently, were pestering the young ladies on the bridge.

My great‑grandfather went up there and told them to cease and desist and not to bother the ladies. He went back to the guardhouse, but they continued to pester the ladies, so he walked up to them and told them to get off the bridge.

Hazel:  He wasn’t wearing his uniform?

Robert:  He wasn’t wearing his tunic with the belt on it. I don’t think he was armed either. One of the soldiers pulled a pistol and shot him at point blank range. He was taken up the hill to Georgetown University Hospital. The doctors couldn’t find the bullet because there was no bullet. He had been shot with a wax plug from the blank cartridge. The range was so close that it had wounded him and then melted so there was no bullet. He died four days later. I’ve read the newspaper accounts in the “Evening Star” of my grandmother visiting the hospital, and that kind of thing.

She was very close to him. I remember she talked very vividly about him, and what a good Dad he had been. He had been taken up to the Georgetown Hospital where, as I’ve mentioned to Hazel, my father was born 12 years later, and where I had my office when I was a graduate fellow at Georgetown. He was treated by Dr. Reedy whose house was on 33rd and N Street and who was later the doctor who delivered my father.

The funeral was at Holy Trinity. The police attended it in great mass. After the liturgy, after the requiem mass, as they had in those days, there was a procession from Holy Trinity in Georgetown across town to Mount Olivet Cemetery near Catholic University, where he was buried. I visit his tombstone there quite often.

The trial was held for the soldier who ran after he had shot my great‑grandfather. He got on a trolley on M Street and then went to Pennsylvania Avenue, where he threw the pistol in a ditch.  It was later found. The conductor thought that he was acting very queerly. When he saw a policeman standing on the corner, he stopped the trolley and told him he’d better talk to this fellow.

He was arrested and he was put on trial the following March. One side of the courthouse during the trial was lined with policemen and the other side by soldiers from Fort Myer. He was not convicted. I would like to see the transcript of that trial to see what happened. He was a young man from Pennsylvania and he went back home to Pennsylvania, as far as I know.

Several years after that, my great‑grandmother moved from T Street to 3019 Cambridge Place, a block down from Montrose Park. My grandmother grew up on T Street and then her brothers Ed and Will, grew up in that house. My great‑grandmother lived in that house until the 1930s.

My grandmother went to St. Patrick’s High School for girls, downtown. After that, she worked as a milliner. My grandfather, her husband, James Rinehart, lived in New Market in Frederick County and the family had been there since about 1740. They were original settlers in the Monocacy Valley. They were all millers, handy people, and small farmers. The family came from Switzerland.

The house he grew up in is still exists next to the Methodist Church in New Market. He’d come to Washington as a house painter and rented a room from the Smith’s, I assume on T Street, because this is before they moved to Cambridge Place. He and my grandmother were married in 1908, and then they moved to Petworth to a house on Quincy Street.

My grandfather, a gregarious person, liked beer and seafood. [laughs] He was a great friend of the Capuchins at Catholic University. He worked painting their friary at Catholic University. They were German and had a brewery in the basement. He was also friendly with the Jesuits at St. Aloysius on North Capital Street.  One of the Jesuits there helped him to get a good job at the Navy Yard during the First World War.  This priest gave him instructions, so my grandfather became Catholic and surprised my grandmother by going up to communion one Sunday.

My father had a vivid memory of Georgetown in the 1920s.  He used to bicycle from Quincy Street to visit his grandmother and uncles on Cambridge Place and he played baseball in Montrose Park.  He tested his endurance cycling up Tilden street from Pierce Mill to Connecticut Avenue without stopping.

My mother and father were married in 1935, and my great‑grandmother died two years later. My mom remembered that she read a German bible with Gothic script, and she prayed in German.

The second connection is with Georgetown University. I had a graduate fellowship at Georgetown in the History Department for three years, and a nice office in the Nevils building. It was the early 1960’s. It was during the JFK’s administration. What a wonderful place it was to be in that environment in those years. I can’t think of any place I would rather have been than in Washington between 1961 and 1963.

Hazel:  Did you ever see Kennedy?

Robert:  I’m going to mention that in just a moment. I always thought of Wordsworth’s poem, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”  It was a very special time. I had some really interesting fellow students, a couple of whom went on to be in the State Department. One worked on Capitol Hill. The rest of us got academic jobs.

A couple of them wrote some rather significant books. We also had a tremendous faculty, and I studied under Walter Wilkinson who taught Renaissance History. Can I say a few words about these people at the university?

Hazel:  Oh, yes.

Robert:   Walter Wilkinson had been a high school teacher in Texas. He got a fellowship to study for a doctorate at Catholic University. There he studied under a much older man who became a great friend of our family, George Seifert. Professor Wilkinson was a great scholar of the Italian Renaissance. With him I studied Dante.

He was marvelous teacher and fluent in Italian. He was in the Army during the World War II in intelligence service.  Fluent in Italian, he was sent to Australia!


Robert:  …where he met his wife. He had never been to Italy. He loved Italy. He loved Italian literature. He had a sabbatical and his students in my term took up a collection and presented it to him so that he could go to Florence. He spent three months in Florence [laughs] during his sabbatical. I’m so happy we did that.

Another of my other professors was Eric McDermott. He was an English Jesuit who really knew Constitutional History. He conducted his class like an Oxford tutorial. I used much of what I learned from him when I taught British History.

Another member on the faculty was Olegard Sherbowitz-Wetzor, a member of a noble Baltic family who had been an officer in the tsarist Russian army during WWI.  So goes the story, Cyril Toumanof, young heir to a princely Georgian title, had been put in Sherby’s care by his family at the outset of the Revolution.  The two escaped, pursued over the ice by the Bolsheviks, to Finland, then to England, and finally to America.  Shervowitz-Wetzor taught medieval history and Toumanof was an eminent Byzantine scholar.  They shared an apartment on Connecticut Avenue and spent summers in Rome.  They were a remarkable pair, popular with students

The library was then in the Healy Building. We would climb up four, maybe five stories on metal stairways that circled around that tower.  Books were lined up on each level.  We spent hours browsing that library.  My wife did part of her research there for her doctoral dissertation.  She wrote on Victorian periodicals, and the university library had them all.  The Jesuits subscribed to everything.  She was reading British periodicals from the 1860s and ’70s in the Georgetown Library. The new library is great. I don’t go to it all that often now, but it’s not as much fun to work in as was the old library in the Healey Building.

Those years were a joyous time. We were just completely absorbed in the university, in friends and students, and members of the faculty that we worked with. It was beautiful being there as a graduate student.

Hazel:  It was an all-male college?

Robert:  The college was all male. The School of Foreign Service and the School of Languages and Linguistics were coed, as we used to say in those days. The graduate school was coed. There were women, whom we then called girls, of course, [laughs] in the History Department, as well.

I felt very privileged to be there. I had my first teaching experience there. The Development of Western Civilization, a very valuable course, which is not taught anywhere anymore. That’s a very sad thing.

The outline that you gave me, Hazel, asks about politics. I can say, without any hesitation, that the chaps I was with, in the graduate school, the other fellows, we were all of the same political persuasion. [laughs]

Hazel:  Meaning?

Robert:  We were Democrats and liberals. The undergraduate body was rather different. One of the strongest organizations among undergraduates at Georgetown in those days was a group called the Young Americans for Freedom. They were very devout supporters of Goldwater, and of what was then considered conservatism, which is rather different from what the label designates now. I’m thinking of two of my students who I had in class, who were probably, both of them, in the class of ’65, I guess.

One was Tom Pauken. Wikipedia has an article on him. He was from Texas. He was very active in student politics at Georgetown and the YAF. A very nice chap, who after graduation volunteered and served a tour in Vietnam. He came back and was active in the Texas GOP. He ran for Congress three times in Texas and was defeated all three times. He was also, I think, the Director of the Budget Management during the Reagan administration for a time. Now in his 70s, he remains politically active in Texas.

The other chap whom I remember, one of his classmates, both of these kids were fine fellows. I thought they were much younger, but they were six, seven years difference in age. Bob Shrum, who was from California, who went from Georgetown to Harvard law and was a speech writer later on for Mayor Lindsay, Ted Kennedy and Senator McGovern. Then he became a campaign manager for many significant Democratic politicians, Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.  He also worked as adviser in elections abroad.  He was involved in Democratic politics during the Obama years.  Now he is a professor at USC.

Hazel:  You did say that the undergraduates tended to be Goldwater supporters.

Robert:  The Young Americans for Freedom were the most obvious. I didn’t pole them person‑by‑person. The ones who were most outspoken were definitely Goldwater supporters. They had read Conscience of a Conservative.  As did I.  It was prevalent.  I assume that there were also Young Democrats at Georgetown or Young Republicans, for that matter.

Hazel:  Who was supporting Kennedy?

Robert:  Certainly, the men in the graduate school were. Georgetown was the center of everything I did for four years.  I spent lovely hours sitting on benches in Montrose Park reading.  Most of my classes were in the evening, either at six or eight.  After class I would often walk around Georgetown before driving back home to Rockville.  I liked walking those quiet streets in the evening.  I knew Georgetown well in those days.


I had a Ford Falcon I drove to school.  Parking was no problem.  I parked all day on 35th Street or in the parking lot next to the tennis courts before the new library was built.

Hazel:  I had a Ford Falcon too. [laughter]

Robert: One would drive into the main gate and turn left on a road that went back to the tennis courts and park there in the lot. There was always a parking space. I never had any trouble parking at all.

Bookstores in the 60s were unique.   The Savile was the bookstore that held primacy of place in the trade.  The shop occupied those three houses on P Street, just off of Wisconsin Avenue.  Once simply wandered from room to room because it was three houses joined together. There was what was once the bedroom, the dining room, the living room, the three houses all attached and different sections of books throughout it.

It was interesting because you would get books and you would go to the front door where there was a desk to pay for them. Nobody used credit cards in those days. I didn’t have one. The clerk noted in a ledger every book that was sold. [laughs] It was such a wonderful place. They had everything. I spent a lot of money in there. A nice paperback cost .75 cents or .90 cents. Now it would cost $12 or $13. They had a couple of young women working there who were very attractive. I dated one of them. There was a wonderful man named Sasha Stepanovici who was in‑charge of the paperback section. He was a real character, Romanian and very cultivated.

In the next block, on O Street, there was a small shop called The Common Reader. That was all paperback. It was run by a husband and wife. They had an incredible selection of paperbacks in that store.

On the east side of Georgetown, there was Francis Scott Key bookstore, which was a small and very intimate bookstore. The collection was, of course, nothing as compared to the Savile. It was a very interesting place to be. At Christmas they had mulled wine and cider.

Hazel:  Now, we’re down to one bookshop. That’s the Amazon Bookshop.

Robert:  Oh, really. I’m not familiar. I’ll mention Politics and Prose a little bit farther on, which is in the tradition of the Savile. The Savile was awfully special, I must say. Then there was the Foreign Language bookstore, which was on O Street on the eastern side. You could get French, Italian, German, Spanish books there.

I looked for French books there and that was great fun, as well. Then later, this is in the late ’60s and early ’70s, there was Olsson’s on Lower Wisconsin Avenue. A lot of the staff there including, Sasha, had been at the Savile and had come over from there when it closed about 1973, ’74. That was a very sad event.

Then there were secondhand or antique bookstores below M Street. I don’t know if Bridge…I’m not all that familiar with the Bridge Street Bookstore.

Hazel:  Still there.

Robert:  I think that the name of the second‑hand bookstore was Lowdermilks, if I’m not mistaken. I’m afraid I can’t remember that. In that row of buildings, which I surely thought they would tear down and I’m glad they never did, On M Street, right across from Key Bridge, there was a newspaper and magazine shop which had everything. Every week or two weeks, I would go in there and get my copies of “The Spectator,” “The Listener,” and “TLS.” I did that quite regularly. It would cost 25¢ to do this. I could keep up with what was happening in England. I should mention my main focus was 16th and 17th century England at that time.

Later, I never patronized the supermarket stores that came into Georgetown. I think Barnes & Noble was here down on M Street. There might have been another one, but I never went into them, I must say.

Now we go to Politics and Prose. That’s our local bookstore. They inherited the mantle of Savile. I worry that they, like the Savile, may over‑expand because the Savile opened a shop at Watergate when Watergate opened. They probably just did too much.

I remember going into the store when it was closing. Went upstairs where they had their foreign language section which was run by a woman who was French and who, by reputation anyway, was a countess. She lived in an apartment building over on the east side of Georgetown. I wish I could remember her name, but I can’t. She was marvelous. All of the records, the cards that she had kept with the names of all the books, they were strewn on the floor. It was so sad to see that.

Eateries. Where did one go to eat? Well, the main place, quite frankly, is not there anymore. It was Teehans, which was right across from the School of Foreign Service, the Nevils Building, which had been the hospital. I’m trying to think what’s there now. What is there now? F. Scott’s, maybe. It’s next to where F. Scott’s was.

Hazel:  I think it’s a liquor store.

Robert:  A liquor store, is it? Teehans was marvelous. It was a great sign over the front door which read, “If your grandfather went to Georgetown, he ate at Teehans.” Now, of course, the grandfathers of kids who were there in the 1960s were in their teens or something like that. I don’t know. But I certainly ate there and drank there, too. The graduate students went there. It was an inexpensive place to eat and have a beer.

It was always packed with people. It was a little smoky because you could smoke in places like that then. There were great pots sitting out of mashed potatoes, green peas, and things like that. The waitress would come and scoop them out, put them on a plate, and serve it. You could get a beer for not so much money, sit at a table and talk, and talk, and talk, and even smoke. It was really great fun. There was a snack shop right next to it which is still there. We sometimes went in there to get sandwiches to bring upstairs to our office for lunch.

The 1789 opened about the same time that I came to Georgetown. I think it was owned by Ethel Kennedy’s brother.  I used to tell people that I had ordered one of the first beers that were drawn in the 1789, at the Tombs, the bar in the cellar. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but myself and my colleagues went down there, not infrequently.

One time, showing things off, I took my dad down there. My dad knew about beer, really, like his father did, as well. We went downstairs into the Tombs and sat up at the bar. I was being very big and I ordered two beers. The beers came out and I paid for them. After, my dad, he uttered an oath which I will not repeat on tape. He said, “A dollar for a glass of beer. How can these kids afford that?” [laughs]

It did cost a dollar for a glass of beer. Much more expensive than Teehans, that’s for sure. Later, as I became more sophisticated, I would go in upstairs to the lounge which has now been included into the dining room, I think.

Hazel:  Of the 1789?

Robert:  At the 1789. It was wood‑paneled. You would go to a little, almost like a closet on the side, and you would say, “Scotch and soda.” Then I would sit on a bench along the wood paneled wall.  There were framed illustrations for the London Illustrated Magazine from late 19th century on the walls.  One particular drawing I sat under was of an English Jesuit.  I thought it funny.  One of John Pope Hennessy, about whom I had written a paper, was also on the wall.

Graduate fellows got paid. People pay tuition to go to school. I got paid to go to school. I had a salary from Georgetown. I never had so much money.


Robert:  It was wonderful. [laughs]

Hazel:  Were you a tutor as well or a teaching fellow?

Robert:  Yeah, I was a teaching fellow, and I had a fellowship. It was such fun. [laughs] Occasionally, after we had gotten paid, we would go have dinner at the 1789 and could actually afford it. It wasn’t that expensive really. We sat in the dining room with the fireplace going. I did that maybe a dozen times over four years.

In January 1967, my wife and I went to dinner there to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Three years ago, we went there. It was the only time we’d been there, but three years ago in January, we went there to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

We sat in a table very near to where we had sat for our first wedding anniversary. Our youngest son had informed the restaurant before we came that we were coming. We got a special menu and very special service. At the end, when I went to pay, he said, “It’s been taken care of.”


Robert:  We had all this attention. Anyway, that was celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.

Hazel:  Had the restaurant settled, or your son had settled?

Robert:  Our son had settled.

Hazel:  Oh, that’s lovely.

Robert: Another restaurant that we went to occasionally was a good restaurant, the Tivoli, down in the lower Wisconsin Avenue near M street, and later, the site of Olsson’s.   They had opera singers come in. The waiters were all young, and I think on occasion went on roller skates, if I’m not mistaken. Maybe I’m imagining that, but I think they did. They would have opera on certain nights during the week.

Then, of course, it was a restaurant that one knew about, but never went into, that was the Rive Gauche, which was very upscale and we sort of fantasized about that. Better still, there was The Bayou, down on the waterfront. That was a wonderful place. It had been there for a long time under different names, but it had been The Bayou probably from the mid‑’50s. I was there when I was in high school, I know. It began with jazz and with folk, especially jazz. It was very informal.

Later in the ’60s I think it became rock and roll. I don’t know anything about that. In my day, at any rate, Charlie Byrd played there. He brought the Bossa Nova there from Brazil. Stan Getz played there. I went to a performance of Miriam Makeba there.

I remember when I was living in Denmark, in Copenhagen, one night, I turned on the Voice of America, and they said, “Coming directly from The Bayou in Georgetown,” and I shed a tear. [laughs]

Last night, there was a special on public television about Peter, Paul and Mary at the Newport Festival, 1963. I still have all their records. We listen to them all the time in the 60s. We knew them all.

Then there were stores, Zaxby’s now, but that was Sugar’s in those days. I think it was a pharmacy as well. Wasn’t it a pharmacy? I don’t remember. Anyway, it was Sugar’s.

Then there was a place on Wisconsin Avenue, on the west side, the French Market. I occasionally used to go in there to smell it, to look at that stuff, and to think, “Well, maybe I could get one of these and bring it home to my mom,” but I never did. I looked at it. It was a great place to look into.

I noticed coming up today, there is an art gallery store on the corner of Wisconsin and P. I don’t think it’s the same store but there was a gallery there. I remember much later or maybe in the late ’60s, early ’70s, I’d been living in Denmark, I went in there and I saw a painting of a scene from “Copenhagen” that was very familiar. It was done, in fact, by a Danish artist who had lived in Vienna and in Denmark, and was rather famous as a cartoonist. When I looked on the back, the scene was identified in Danish on the label as “Houses on Christianhavn.”. I told them, “It’s a very special neighborhood in Copenhagen.” I must say that I coveted it.  I knew the neighborhood and my wife had grown up there.   It costs $1,200, so I couldn’t possibly have bought it.

Some years later, that gallery had moved to Connecticut Avenue and I went back and inquired about it because then I could buy that painting, and I would have done. He said, “Oh, we sold it two weeks ago. It’s a woman in Pittsburgh.” I know she put it in a very nice place. [laughs] I still regret I didn’t buy it because it was very nice.

On the corner of Wisconsin and O, there was Dr. Dolinsky’s Pharmacy, which was closed on Sunday but he served bagels on Sunday for friends. Art Buchwald would come in, David Brinkley, Herb Block, and people, neighborhood types, would come in there. That was quite a famous place.

One thing, the writers who lived in Georgetown, at one time or another… Louisa May Alcott lived in Georgetown at 30thand M.  Sinclair Lewis lived in Georgetown. He wrote “Elmer Gantry” when he was in Georgetown. Katherine Anne Porter lived in Georgetown, and wrote “Ships of Fools” when she was living here. Saint‑John Perse lived in Georgetown on 34th Street. Archibald MacLeish was here, Herman Wouk was here, Walter Lippmann, of course, just a lot of different writers were in the neighborhood.

The movie theater we went to was the Georgetown Theatre, which is on Wisconsin Avenue, right at the entrance of O Street. If you went to the movies, that’s where you went. I think there was another theater that opened up near the Waterfront. Didn’t it later? And there was another on Wisconsin that showed art films.  It has been gone for a long time.  I know Nana and I used to go there occasionally.

You gave me a historical timeline with a lot of dates. The only date that I can say anything about is 1963, because one of the occurrences that’s listed for that year was the March on Washington and Martin Luther King with, “I Have A Dream.” I was there for that, and stood very near in front of the Lincoln Memorial with friends from Georgetown, from the History Department. We stood near the reflecting pool.  We went down for that March. The monks from St. Anselm’s were there, as well.

Hazel:  What was the atmosphere like?

Robert:  It was edifying. It was very friendly and effervescent, really. It wasn’t strident or anything like that at all. It was very gentle, in fact. More like a religious service than a demonstration or a political rally.  There were a lot of people. I’m very proud that I was there for that.

Georgetown had a great football team in the ’20s, in the ’30s, and then again, even after the war, they picked it up again in the late ’40s. Georgetown stopped playing football about 1950, I think. We had intramural football. There were freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior team. They played against each other. I never saw them play.

In 1963, they organized a team, in the fall of ’63, to play somebody, I don’t know who. It was a big thing. Football is back in at Georgetown. This is one game. They’re going to have a big bonfire on the evening before the game. That would have been the evening of November 22nd, 1963.

A friend who was a graduate student in the Biology Department, she and I were going to go to that and then go to dinner. I was driving my dad back from his store in Rockville for lunch and turned on the radio and heard that news from Dallas. I stupidly called the Biology Department and asked the secretary to give a message to my friend, “I can’t come tonight.” Well, nobody would come tonight. We were so shocked!

One of my early memories was when I was six years old, playing with friends in an alley in back of Farragut Street, just off North Capitol Street, where we lived. Somebody, a kid rode his bicycle down the alley and he said, “President Roosevelt is dead.” I ran home, about a block away, and very soon my mom came in. She picked me up and hugged me, and cried. I remember on November 22nd, I was back at our house. My mom came home from her office, and came in the house, and we hugged each other and cried. I was 25 that time.

After the funeral, one evening, I walked down N Street to the house where Mrs. Kennedy was staying. It was Averell Harriman’s house. There were several people standing there. One just did that. There was a policeman, as well, standing there a long time as if he were, sort of, keeping watch.

I saw John Kennedy four times and met him once. I met him in November, 1956.  He was invited to speak at the Father‑Sons dinner at my high school, St. John’s. I was given the honor of going to the Senate office building and presenting him with a ticket to the dinner and showing him the program. A photographer took a picture of us. St. John’s is a military school, all boys. I was dressed in my very nice uniform. The picture of us, smiling and looking at the program was published in the archdiocesan weekly newspaper.  Another copy hangs on the wall in the main hall at St. John’s.

Bob Kennedy was in the office, too. I recognized him and nodded.  I spent, maybe, five minutes with Senator Kennedy, who later became President Kennedy. Of course, my dad and I saw him at the dinner.  Two years later, he gave a speech at my college, La Salle College in Philadelphia. It was the same talk that he gave at the Father‑Sons dinner about how public service was an honorable profession to pursue.


Robert:  But who cares? I stood very near, as he walked right by me. That was the third time. He didn’t recognize me. [laughs] The fourth time I saw him, the King of Afghanistan was visiting Washington in 1963. I was a student at Georgetown. The President was attending a lunch with the King of Afghanistan. I went up to the Afghan embassy and stood outside with a half dozen or so other people, and policemen. I stood there, looking up at the Afghan embassy.

The door opened. The King of Afghanistan came to the door, and shook President Kennedy’s hand. President Kennedy walked out and got in his car and drove off. Then Dean Rusk came out and shook his hand. Dean Rusk’s car went off.

Then the King of Afghanistan went back into the house. I was still lingering there, and I looked. There was this very old man, my age now, who sort of hunched over walking around the front yard, like, “Where is my ride?” It was Averell Harriman. Nobody had come with his car. [laughs] Those are the three times that I saw JFK in person.

I mentioned earlier, those years at Georgetown, at the University, were a joy. I felt a very distinct privilege being there. I still feel that way. Now I look back on those years and I wonder, maybe it wasn’t the real world. I don’t know, but it was very great. “Bliss it was in that dawn…”

Out in front of the History Department office there was a bulletin board that had letters on it from colleges and universities soliciting applications from graduate students for jobs, once they’ve got their degrees. Do you know what it’s like getting a job at a college, now? In 1968, I got my first regular job fulltime at a university by going to an interview for 15 minutes.  Absolutely impossible, you just can’t imagine something like that happening now. Nana got a job at Trinity College by writing a letter from Denmark in 1966. Times do change.

I was doing research at the Folger Library on my doctoral dissertation, which had to do with an episode of Elizabethan England. I got a grant to go to England to do research and to spend the summer at Oxford. I went first to London and did some research. Then I went up to Oxford and lived in Exeter College. The second day that I was there, had coffee after lunch, I met this beautiful, tall, blonde, Danish girl named Nana. We sat over coffee and began a conversation that lasted for 53 years now. We haven’t finished. That was very important and we were married a few months later in Copenhagen.

The third connection, Holy Trinity. Nana and I returned to Washington in September 1966. She was starting teaching at Trinity a couple of weeks after that. Well, maybe a week after that. We stayed with my parents to begin with.

I say we returned because she had been in this country for a year as Fulbright student, in 1960 to ’61 and had visited Washington a couple of times then. She said she couldn’t have imagined that she’d be spending the rest of her [laughs] life living here.

The first Sunday we were at home, I was a bit concerned because we wanted to go to Mass. I wasn’t sure what church we’d go to.  In England we went to Blackfriar’s at Oxford. They were ahead of the curve even with liturgical reform. The liturgies beautiful. I had never seen anything like that in church before.

Hazel:  I’ve been.

Robert:  You’ve been there, so you know about that. When we lived in Copenhagen, we went to the Dominican House in Ordrup, which was also very beautiful, much smaller, but very beautiful. I thought, “I cannot remember anything like this at my parish church in Rockville.” I seldom went to Holy Trinity, because, for one thing, we had a fresco in the back of the altar, which I thought was truly rebarbative. It was terrible. I thought that’s really not so good. I went there maybe two or three times and never attended regularly, although, my family had been parishioners at Holy Trinity. I didn’t think about that at the time really.

I went to my parish church or occasionally to Dahlgren Chapel or to Epiphany, on the other side of Georgetown, to the French Mass because one could sit and listen to the homily in French. I thought, “Well, we’ll go into Epiphany and go to the French Mass,” but I missed the time, so we went to Holy Trinity.

The last time, I had been at Holy Trinity was All Saints Day, 1963. I went with my girlfriend who was a graduate student in the Biology Department. We were a bit late and went in to the side door. The church was packed, so we headed up to the choir loft to go upstairs. As we were going up, there was somebody coming down who had been celebrating something, somewhere, sometime, and he said, in a very loud voice, “You’re late.” [laughs]

We turned around and rushed out of the church, embarrassed. We didn’t know that in the third pew, the President was attending that liturgy. President Kennedy was there for that.

Hazel:  Almost his last Mass.

Robert:  Yes, it was the last. We went across the river to the cathedral in Arlington and went to Mass there. That was my experience with Holy Trinity. “You’re late.”

Three years later, Nana and I went again to Holy Trinity.  The service was so beautiful! There was an organ playing, there was music being sung, the congregation was singing, and the congregation was responding. That was the first Sunday in September, 1966. We have continued at Holy Trinity since then. I’ll mention some more about that as we go on. We’ve certainly been parishioners ever since.

We began sitting after a while in the first two pews on the right with other people from the History Department who were a generation after me as graduate. They were there, some with their spouses, some with their boyfriends, and others who just came. There was a group. We could pretty much fill up two pews with that group and with friends.

Among the people who were there, for instance, was Linda Arnold and George. That’s how I met Linda. Linda had been an undergraduate when I was a graduate student at Georgetown. She has a wonderful history, which I won’t relate here, but you’ll know it. She’s a very special person and remains a very, very dear friend of ours, as was George.

Later, for a time, in fact for several years, Nana and I went to a branch of Holy Trinity at the Copley Crypt on campus because we had Paul Cioffi, who was a professor of philosophy, head of liturgy there, with a group of, maybe, 20 or 30 people, all of whom were Trinity parishioners. That was a matter of his charisma. He was very, very special.

The pastor in 1966 was Tom Gavigan, who was probably on his last assignment, and who had been the head of the novitiate in Pennsylvania for a number of years. Was such a kind and good man who took the Vatican Council quite seriously.

Father Gavigan was cutting edge for this archdiocese and for the United States, I think. What he did was amazing. He was an old‑school person, but he adapted very quickly to reforms instituted by the council.  One day, he was on campus, and he bumped into a young priest who was supposed to go to France the next year, so he was taking French courses at Georgetown.  He was a Franciscan friar named Regis Duffy.

They talked and Father Gavigan asked if he would like to say Mass at Holy Trinity? Regis said he would.  He alternated at the 11 o’clock liturgy with Bill McFadden.

He said Mass regularly at Holy Trinity. Our group in the first two pews became his special clients. Nana began taking instructions under him. She had this privilege of have taken instructions under one of the most eminent theologians in the country, as he was, as he became, certainly. He received her into the church on Holy Thursday. It wasn’t so formal then as it is now. It was just her and him.

There we were [laughs] at Holy Trinity, and with Regis. Of course, with pastor after pastor for a long time and the clergy who were there, they were wonderful. Regis went off to France, then he came back and was at the Washington Theological School, and still came back regularly to Trinity.

He got called in several times to have coffee with the archbishop, who was then O’Boyle. Finally, somebody suggested to the then‑pastor, “Don’t you have enough priests to say Mass without having Regis Duffy come?” So, there was a period when he didn’t come. That was very unfortunate. He went off to Notre Dame and taught there for a number of years before he fell ill. He died at St. Bonaventures, but he remained a very dear friend and close to us. He baptized one of our sons at Holy Trinity and was just a very dear friend whom we loved very much.

There were so many friends at Holy Trinity, including yourself, over the years. We have a wide social circle. Nana said we could have a dinner party, at least, once a month with different people around the table. All of them would be very, very special [laughs] if we could do that. Just many friends.

One feels very strongly for the community that exists in that parish. I went Sunday before last to the 5:30. Tom Reese was saying that Mass, and Nana was in Canada on a retreat in Guelph. The woman next to me in the pew said, “I’m sure I’ve seen you around here.” I said, “Yes, I’ve been here since 1966.”


Robert:  People notice each other and know each other. We tend to sit in the same place and are surrounded by old friends but we make new friends as well.   Since I mentioned Regis, one of his great admirers and, of course, he had many, was Bessie Tucker.  She was an elderly woman, probably in her 70s, and had been the housekeeper for Dr. Reedy who lived in the house at 33rd and N Street, next door to where Jacqueline and Jack Kennedy later lived.  She had grown up on a farm near Leesburg and had come in with her father on weekends with goods they marketed in Georgetown.  When she got to be in her late teens and needed a job, Dr Reedy hired her as housekeeper. As children were born, she looked after them and spent her life at that house.  When the Reedys left they bought an apartment for Bessie just across 33rd Street. We saw her at Mass every Sunday.  She was a special friend to us and to Regis Duffy.

Hazel:  She was the housekeeper for…?

Robert:  For Dr. Reedy who was at Georgetown Hospital, and also was the family doctor for my family in Georgetown. Delivered my dad. That was a great connection.

I mentioned that two of our three kids were baptized at Holy Trinity. One of them was married there in the chapel. Now Nana has a ministry at Holy Trinity in the Ignatian Spirituality Ministry. She’s there right now as we’re talking.

So, there are just a number of personal and historical connections. I’m a teacher.

Hazel:  You haven’t mentioned what you actually went on to do.

Robert:  Oh, should I do that?

Hazel:  Yes. You said you had a dissertation. I’m just curious to round out the story.

Robert: [laughs] I wrote my dissertation on the lord president of the North and the rebellion of the Northern earls, about the Earl of Sussex. It was not a manageable topic, really. It was very involved and took a long time to do.

In fact, I went to England to do the research. I did research there, but most of it was done at the Folger Library, which is one of the best repositories for English history in that period in the world, more concentrated than you would find even in England, I think.

After Nana and I were married, I taught at the University of Copenhagen. I taught American History there, and then came back here and went to George Mason University, and taught Medieval and Renaissance History as an assistant professor for five years

Then I went to American University, was in a research institute there, and did research and writing, contributing to 20 some books over 10 years, mostly dealing with Africa. I was co‑author, so I would write maybe 100 pages of a book that was 300 or 400 pages.

I had begun doing consulting for an investment firm connected with the University of Syracuse and wrote political risk analyses of various European countries.  I lectured around the country and conducted seminars.  I also reviewed books in the Smithsonian.

Then in 1986, I went to the State Department, to the Foreign Service Institute, and was Chairman of their Northern European Area Studies programs, training American diplomats who were going to Northern Europe, to the Low countries, the Nordic countries, and to the Baltic countries after they regained their independence.  These were three separate courses, each conducted twice a year.  I also gave briefings on those countries and supervised inter-agency seminars.  I developed close relationships with diplomats in Washington from those countries and was often invited to visit by their foreign ministries.

I was on the Foreign Service Institute faculty for 23 years.   I also had a mission to Albania to advise the parliament of a country that had only a short time before emerged from decades under a communist dictatorship and had virtually no experience with representative democracy or how to put together rules of procedure.

While at FSI, I was also teaching graduate courses on European politics and legislative studies at the Elliot School of International Affairs at GWU.  The last four years at GWU, I had an endowed lectureship in Nordic-Baltic studies.  I spent five summers in late 90’s teaching diplomatic history as a visiting professor at the Linnaeus University in Sweden.  I retired from State Department in 2008 and from GWU the next year.

Hazel:  You’ve got a few notes left. I’ve got a few questions.

Robert:  OK. Anyway, I’m a teacher. That was my vocation. That’s what I always knew I was going to do. I’m a historian, I guess. I’m also a 5th generation Washingtonian, which means that my youngest grandson, Lev, is a 7th generation Washingtonian born in this city.

Historians very often aren’t interested in genealogy. Most of what I knew about family was from myths and legends, which sometimes are truer than fact, I think. I used to sit on the back porch of my mother’s family farm listening to my grandfather telling stories. One time, he said, “Son, you must think I’m the biggest liar in North Hampton County,” [laughs] but he told very good stories. Most of what I knew about the family came from those stories.

A couple of Christmases ago, we gave our grandson, Abraham, who’s now 16, and lives in Vermont and who is named after the first Rinehart to come to America, a subscription to  He really has gone to work on that. His mom is Irish, and he can’t find too much about the Irish family after the middle of the 19th century. He’s done a lot of work on the Rinehart family and found some incredible things that I never knew about on my mother’s family in North Carolina. Abe is the person to talk about if we can talk about my family history.

The Greek said that a person lived as long as he was remembered. I feel very strongly that you should remember ancestors. I’ve taken my two older grandsons to grave sites in Maryland, where they have seen the graves of their great-times-four grandparents and in North Carolina on our farm where they’ve seen the graves of their great-times-three grandparents. And those of ancestors in between.  In Denmark we been to visit the great-times-three grandfather and grandmother.  And I’ve taken them to see the graves of John Smith and his wife at Mr. Olivet here in Washington.

I’m taking them on walks around Georgetown. Liam, my oldest grandson has applied to Georgetown. He may get in on academic merit. I don’t know. His family simply couldn’t afford Georgetown nowadays. He’s been accepted at McGill and he could go to the University of Vermont on University of Vermont Scholarship. Perhaps he can get Georgetown to offer a fellowship for Graduate school.

[Editor’s note:  Liam will attend McGill University and plans to major in linguistics and anthropology.]

Nana and I live in the same house in Cleveland Park that we bought in 1970. Our car knows the way to Georgetown without our driving. Most of our contact with Georgetown now is with Holy Trinity because Nana is here maybe twice, three times a week. Of course, there’s Sunday and there are just so many things wrapped around the parish. Sometimes on a Sunday after Mass or especially when we go to the 5:30 at the chapel, we take a walk around the neighborhood.  Isn’t it beautiful?

It’s so lovely in this light. I feel the connection very much with family who lived here, with the University which I love, and with Holy Trinity, which is just so completely a part of everything we do. People say, “Well, how long can you stay in the house?” We say, “We can’t leave here. We can’t be any farther from Georgetown and Holy Trinity.”

We’ve got to be close to Georgetown. We have sons in Silver Spring and in Takoma Park and one in Vermont.  He and his family visit several times a year. Abe once said, when they were talking about what are we going to do if we can’t stay in our house, “You couldn’t possibly let this house go out of the family. Can’t Ben take it?”  We really do feel close to Georgetown and to Holy Trinity.

Hazel:  These are wonderful stories. I want to take a photograph of you holding the picture of the police officer. You have to explain how that story came?

Robert:  I should have mentioned that. I got a telephone call about five years ago. It was a woman and she said, “Are you Robert Reinhart?” I said, “Yes, I am.” “Do you know John Smith? As I said, “Yes, I do. He’s my great‑grandfather.”

She said, “Well, he was been chosen by the current class of police cadets to be their model, their exemplar and their patron. They would like you to be at their graduation ceremony.” I said, “Well, I would be honored to do that. That’s incredible, really.” I asked later, “How did you find me?”


She was a genealogist who was retained by the Metropolitan Police Force, and she explained, “We looked at John Smith’s obituary for 1904 and we found the names of his children.  The only one we could locate was his daughter, Loretta, and we were able to find her obituary.  She told me, “In that, it named her son, John Rinehart.”  He’s my father.  Then we found his obituary from 1998 and your name was in that and now we have found you.” I went to the graduation ceremony and it was really impressive.  It was a very serious affair.  The police cadets carried their unit flag which bore the name “John. J. Smith” into the auditorium where their commissioning was held.

During the ceremony, I was called on stage and presented with this portrait of my great-grandfather.  That’s the only picture that exists of him.  I asked the cadet who had recommended him as the patron for their class, why they chose him.  “Well, I did research and I found he was the oldest member of the Metropolitan Police Force who was killed in the line of duty.”

When he was killed in 1904, he was 58.

Hazel:  On Key Bridge?

Robert:  It’s Aqueduct Bridge, which was torn down when Key Bridge was built.

Hazel:  He was born in?

Robert:  Washington. Yes, he is a Washingtonian.  I don’t know where in D.C. he was born. His parents were immigrants but he was a Washingtonian. I went up on stage and was given this picture. The Commissioner of Police took my arm and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”[laughter]

He died in 1904, 34 years before I was born. But I thanked him.

Hazel:  I think this would be the right place to wrap up.

Robert:  OK.

Hazel:  I will take a photograph with you holding the picture of your great-grandfather.

Robert:  They lived in Georgetown.

Hazel:  Correct. I think your family will be glad to have this interview.