Thursday, March 23, 2017

For this editor, honesty was the best policy

As editor of the Greenbelt News Review (in a DC suburb) during the 1950s, Harry infused his honest feelings in the following stories. He also added humor in all but one a comment on the free press. It’s a subject he wrote about for the rest of his life.

November 21, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

After so many years as editor of this newspaper, I don’t know why I should be surprised at the number of anonymous letters I get, but I am. Now there are two kinds of people who send anonymous letters, and I have no use for either kind. First is the kind who writes a fairly reasonable, intelligible letter, condemning someone or something and presenting a point of view which is at least worthy of discussion. Second is the kind who writes a lot of gibberish or nonsense, sometimes nasty or vicious, sometimes just plain meaningless. The fact that neither of these two types signs these letters indicates to me that they are either ashamed to acknowledge authorship or else they have not got the guts of a jackrabbit and won’t stand behind what they say. Yet they obviously expect their letters to be printed, or they wouldn’t bother sending them. For the record, let me once again make it clear – this newspaper will print any letter which does not go beyond the bounds of decency and good taste. We will, if the author so desires, sign the letter with a pen name, but we must – repeat must – know the identity of the author beforehand. Otherwise the letter goes right into the waste basket. I am still holding a few letters which came in unsigned in the last few weeks and which I will print if the authors will communicate with me and identify themselves.

January 2, 1958
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Several readers have asked me to give the general public a glimpse of the editor and the editorial writer as he really is – not the anonymous creature who sits in his ivory tower tossing down advice to the multitudes and gazing deeply into his crystal ball, but the real, living, tax-paying, church-going, mortgage carrying, baby changing, wife loving (my own), whiskey drinking (anybody’s), lovable me.

I have never noticed that knowing me has converted anyone to my point of view. On the contrary, people often look at me strangely upon learning that I’m the editor, and sometimes exclaim, “Well, maybe that explains it,” or something equally obscure.

Certainly, being known as the editor doesn’t do much for your social life. I love parties, I can eat, drink, exchange gay repartee, tell jokes and listen to tales of woe as well as the next man, but I seldom get a chance once people find out I’m the editor. Instead I find myself spending the late hours listening to belligerent critics tell me what’s wrong with the paper, or trying to avoid high-spirited citizens (not public spirited) who want me to undertake an editorial [word not legible] on their behalf(s), without, of course, mentioning their names. There is, of course, one good thing about writing editorials and that is the fact that, as with most papers, several of our staff members do it, and no one knows which ones I write. As any horse thief knows, they’ve got to find you with the horse, to hang you for the horse stealing.

People often ask why editorials aren’t signed. “I wish I knew who wrote that wonderful editorial,” a reader will occasionally say. (Very occasionally, I might add. More often they snarl something like, “What’s the matter, don’t you guys have the guts to sign the trash you write?”) But we have a policy of not revealing the identity of writers of editorials, and it makes sense. For one thing, opinions expressed in editorials are not those of the writer alone, but the products of editorial conferences, which involve a certain amount of give and take and modification. There are stories about editorial writers who went mad with power and somehow evaded the editorial conference and wrote long editorials denouncing motherhood, or the flag, or even their own newspapers (happened to us once), but these freak occasions are too rare to be concerned about. On the whole, we believe that an editorial carries more weight if it is recognized as the considered opinion of the management of this paper, rather than the opinion of a single writer.

Be that as it may, editorial anonymity is a handy thing to have around at times. It’s nice when a large drunk or an overpowering female demands to know who wrote that lousy editorial on taxes, to say cooly, “It is the policy of our paper not to reveal …” and so forth.

And there’s no law that says you can’t dimple, blush, and snigger, “Aw shucks, ma’am,” when someone gushes, “Oh, who wrote that divine …?”

 September 11, 1958
“National Newspaper Week”

This country has something of a mania for “weeks” and “days” celebrating all manner of things and occasions from the sublime to the ridiculous. But some of the observances are far above the common ruck, and deserve the public’s interest and attention.

This is certainly the case with National Newspaper Week, October 1-8. Its theme is “Your Newspaper Guards Your Freedoms.” And that’s more than just a felicitous little slogan. It’s a fact. A free press is the most potent weapon against tyranny and persecution that any nation can possess.

Dictators always take over the press as soon as they gain power and pervert it to their own ends. That’s only logical. For dictatorship can’t stand the freedom of expression and debate a free press stands solidly for.

August 6, 1959
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Normally, I welcome expressions from interested readers about items which appear in the News Review. True, most of the people who call me do so to register a complaint – they don’t like this article or that one, they disagree with the editorial, or they would like to point out some glaring errors. Occasionally, I must admit, their observations have some validity, and, poor mortals that we are, mistakes do get by once in a while. (The majority of mistakes that are blamed on us are made by our printer of course.) But, like I said, I do indeed welcome comments and criticisms from our readers – although it would be nice if only once someone would call to say something nice.

Harry and Jeanette at the News Review’s 25th anniversary event, 1962
But really now, you have to draw the line somewhere. Despite a lot of opinion to the contrary, I do sleep. I expect and get lots of calls on Thursday evenings, right after the paper is delivered, and that’s okay. In fact, I’d worry if I didn’t get any calls. But why do some people have to wait till midnight or later to call? Maybe it takes them that long to work up their courage and maybe you don’t think they’ll need all the courage they can get the next time they call after midnight! Some people, I guess, must brood about their problems all night because they wait until 6 or 7 a.m. to call me. Of course, I have to get up anyway to answer the phone, but in my early morning semi-conscious state, conversations and complaints somehow fail to enchant me, and I’m sure my responses to indignant questions are something less than intelligible.

There is a happy compromise. Call me any time in the evening, during the commercials on television when you’re in a hurry to get back to the screen for the climax of the show you’re watching. Then we’ll all be happy, and can discuss our problems at length and at leisure.

This is the fifth consecutive post with Harry’s editorials. Look for the sixth (and last) of my chosen editorials next week. Anyone can browse the Greenbelt News Review archives at:

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Harry’s 1957 movie review, old Greenbelt anecdotes

In this fourth blog post showing Harrys editorials in the Greenbelt News Review, we see more of his opinions and stories from life in the 1950s. One line in particular is a telling example of Harry’s character: “When I do have something to say I will say it.

 January 17, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

(Below is Harry’s review of the Hollywood movie based on a true episode in Greenbelt. He reflected about the episode much later in his life, in a writing posted earlier on this blog: Harry recounts McCarthy-era case in our Greenbelt, MD, hometown)

On Thursday, January 10, along with quite a few other Greenbelters, I was privileged to attend a preview showing of the movie “Three Brave Men” at Jack Fruchtman’s Century Theater in Baltimore. As everybody knows by now, this is the picture which tells the story of Greenbelt’s, and the country’s, most famous “security risk”, Abe Chasanow. Of course, 20th Century Fox points out that this is not specifically his story, but rather is simply based on his experience, as written in the newspapers by Pulitzer prize-winner Anthony Lewis. But in spite of the liberty which Hollywood takes with the truth, the story is clearly recognizable.

The acting was very well done, as one would expect from such stars as Ernest Borgnine, Ray Milland, Frank Lovejoy, Nina Foch, Dean Jagger, Frank Faylen, and many others. Their characterizations and portrayals were sincere and convincing, the dialogue tight yet natural, the entire effect really moving many to tears. But for Greenbelters there is even more of a thrill than for others, because this is a movie about our town. The names and faces may be changed but the identities are unmistakable. It was fascinating to me to see how Hollywood treated the Chasanow family, and how close they could come to capturing the characters of Abe and Helen and the four children, Howard, Phyllis, Myrna and Ruthie. Equally interesting were the portrayals of police chief George Panagoulis, Mayor Frank Lastner (a truly composite character) and a certain priceless mailman. I personally was delighted with the characterization of Terry Braund, who, cleverly disguised as a Presbyterian minister, wove his own magic spell around everyone. Then, too, there was the co-op housing corporation and the frequent references to cooperatives, pro and con, which are so much a part of our daily lives.

All in all, it was a gripping picture, and, if it wasn’t exactly faithful to the facts, it was still true to life. And as Terry Braund remarked at his farewell dinner Saturday, it was not just a picture about him, or about the Chasanows either – it was a picture about justice and truth, about America. When it comes to Greenbelt (sometime in March) I want to see it again, and everybody else should, too.

 September 19, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

I have been asked recently why I do not resume a column I started writing last winter – a column of comments on the local scene. To answer all those kind inquiries, it is because I have had little of importance to say, and I have always believed that it is not any function to fill up space with trivia. When I do have something to say I will say it.

During his Greenbelt years, Harry found time to teach flying, too
Last week, for example, I received in the mail a package for the staff of the News Review. It was a box of candy, and with it was a card which read, “We have always appreciated the newspaper.” Now incidents like this are all too rare. In fact, we are normally on the receiving end of an incredible amount of abuse, and it is with sincere gratitude that we accept this token from a faithful reader. It helps us to renew our determination to do the best job of reporting and reviewing local events that we can, as our contribution to community life. In this respect, we also renew our perennial plea to those residents whose interests and talents lie along similar lines. We can always use more reporters, copy-readers, proofreaders and clerical workers on the papers. There is, of course, no money involved, but I doubt that anyone could find a more satisfying or rewarding way to spend two or three hours each week. Call me if you want to try it.

November 14, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the co-op gas station now vacuums every car that comes in for a grease job. This sort of customer service is a welcome innovation, and I’m sure that all the car-owners appreciate it. It is also an indication that the co-op recognized the fact that it is in a competitive business and is making every effort to meet that competition. After all, a satisfied customer is a come-back customer, and it’s only good sense to try to outdo the competition down the street in attracting and holding customers. That is, when there is a competitor down the street.

Unfortunately, there is no competitor down the street in the food business. In this situation, I think the co-op is not quite so concerned about satisfying its customers. I make that statement because I noticed two weeks ago that sirloin steaks were selling for considerably less in the Piney Branch store than they were in the Greenbelt store. Is this because there is competition in the Piney Branch neighborhood, where there is none in Greenbelt? Naturally, I wonder about that, and if there is another explanation, I hereby invite GCS to use this space to make it. Until they do so, I can’t help thinking that it seems unfair for the co-op to charge its Greenbelt customers more than its customers pay for the same thing in any of its other locations.

He was often a master of ceremonies in Greenbelt
Just for the record, four people approached me personally, and three more by telephone, to report this situation and to ask what the newspaper was going to do about it. Actually there is nothing the paper can do about it except to publish it so that the people know about it. I would welcome any letters to the editor on this subject giving our readers’ views.

* * *

My carpool has quite a unique arrangement which I think others would be interested in. There are six of us – characters all – five drivers and one passenger. The passenger, of course, has to pay three dollars a week for his ride, which amounts to sixty cents a week for each of the drivers. Now sixty cents a week may be a lot of money to some of the carpool characters around here, but in our pool each of the drivers agreed to forego this pittance. Instead, each week, the passenger makes out a check to the favorite charity of one of the five drivers, who take turns deciding to whom the three dollars will go. As a result, several local organizations will be receiving mysterious donations in the mail, and if any worthwhile group wants to get on our list, just send your applications to Sid Barnett, 45-F Ridge, our executive secretary and general factotum. All applicants will receive equal consideration and prolonged discussion in our carpool – this I can safely promise.

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Editorials spotlight changing times in old Greenbelt

On this page, we see more views of Greenbelt life in the 1950s. And, we see Harry’s budding passion for independent, community newspapers. This blog post is the third in a series of Harry’s editorials as volunteer editor at the Greenbelt, MD, News Review.

May 13, 1954 
“Time Marches on Greenbelt

(Harry reviews Time magazine’s coverage of a McCarthy-era case involving Greenbelt residents. He reflected on the case in an earlier post on this blog, Harry recounts McCarthy-era case.)

Although we may be dubious about the circumstances under which it has happened, Greenbelt is now definitely in the national spotlight. Not only is the story of our community and the Chasanow case featured in a big spread in Time magazine; but on last Thursday afternoon our town was also mentioned at length in a phase of the nationally televised McCarthy-Army hearings.

We were particularly interested in the Time article, which reviewed the beginnings of Greenbelt as well as discussing the controversial case that the Washington papers spread over their front pages recently. Our interest of course, is aside from the fact that the Cooperator has received mention in a national magazine. As might be expected from a magazine of Time’s caliber, the facts in the story are brilliantly presented. In addition, Time’s pungent style struck hard at what it obviously believed was the chief aspect of the case.

Harry and Jeanette with then-associate editor Izzy Parker, 1953
However, there is an implication in the story which we believe may give the thousands of readers of Time the wrong impression of Greenbelt. The articles did not, or perhaps could not, make clear that the bitterness of Greenbelt’s stormy period is largely a thing of the past – at least, we have every reason to believe that this is so. Ever since The Great Move of last summer, when hundreds of residents moved out of Greenbelt because they did not wish to purchase homes here, a new spirit has begun to transform the city based principally on the pride of home ownership. Those who felt that Greenbelt offered something only as long as they could live here under low Government-subsidized rents, or who violently objected to the management of a cooperative housing corporation, have left. Those who remained and the newcomers who have since joined are now helping to plan and are looking forward to a greater Greenbelt.

On the other hand, we believe that Time’s statement that “in Greenbelt, where most of the residents are Government workers, the suspensions (of Chasanow and others) cast a pall of fear and dismay” is unfortunately generally true. As we indicated in our front-page editorial of a few weeks ago, the Government employees here are concerned that a false impression of Greenbelt may have been created by the publicity. They fear that Greenbelt may be regarded as a “queer” place with an unhealthy atmosphere. Such fears, if not put aside, could lead to the destruction of our community spirit.

It is to be devoutly hoped that the people of Greenbelt will not succumb to these fears. No one can be certain how all this will work out, but it could be that Time will tell.

May 20, 1954
“Registration Day”

There is never any excuse for the citizen who fails to take advantage of the golden opportunity to participate in his government by voting in the local and national elections. Certainly the excuse that he forgot to register is a poor one. Furthermore, Greenbelt residents can register without the slightest inconvenience since they can do so at the Center School on Registration Day, May 25, until 9 p.m.

Many of us, while we are usually anxious to vote in a presidential election, forget that all elections are equally important – whether for representatives in Congress or local dog-catcher. We have no right to complain about the kind of job our officials are doing if we have not even taken the trouble to register, let alone vote. It is no argument to say that the particular official we loathe was elected by the people in some other district or state. He may well have been elected because others, like ourselves, were not interested in participating in the election.

There is no guarantee that all those elected to office from this area will serve us well, but at least let us be able to say that we did our best to put into office the type of men whom we personally believe would be the most capable for the job.

July 29, 1954
“On Changing Our Name”

The publication of this issue marks an important change in the history of this newspaper – and in the history of this community. For some sixteen years the Cooperator has been an institution in Greenbelt, not only on the scene but a vital part of the scene. Every organization in town, every church, every group, every club, every regularly scheduled activity, has, at one time or another had something to do with this paper, if not in direct participation, then by reading accounts of its doings in our pages. Legions of residents and ex-residents have at one time or another served on our volunteer staff. The publication of this issue, therefore, without the Cooperator banner-head, signals the end of an era.

For the last five years, repeated attempts have been made to change the Cooperator name. On several occasions the membership of the paper has voted to do so, but invariably the same situation arose. While agreeing to change the name from Cooperator to something else, the staff could never seem to agree on the something else. Standing committees, appointed to come up with a recommendation, have remained standing, so to speak, until they finally faded away. Every possible alternative name has been explored, discussed and re-discussed, examined and re-examined, debated and rejected. Difficult indeed to fill the void!

Now, however, to mix our metaphors, we have taken the bit in our teeth and have cast the die. We have decided to make a decision – with the help and understanding of our readers. For an interim period we will publish the paper without a name, meanwhile conducting a public opinion poll on suggestions for a new name. Eventually, we hope, we will arrive at a decision – one which will take the sentiments of our readers into account. Incidentally, it has been suggested that most of our readers might possibly prefer to see us retain the name Cooperator, so that name will be among the names on which the poll will be conducted.

Naturally, there are questions as to why we wanted to change the name in the first place. The reasons are difficult to put into words. When the paper was first organized, in 1937, we assumed it sounded like the ideal name to those who originally adopted it. It may very well have been, because in the beginning the paper was closely associated with, and in fact subsidized by the co-op store. This, of course, is no longer true and has not been true for many years, but the idea still seems to persist that the paper is a house organ for the co-op. Although we have repeatedly asserted our status as an independent newspaper, we believe that a change in name will be a more positive means of affirming the fact of our independence.

In addition, there are a number of Cooperators published throughout the country, at least one of which is circulated in Greenbelt – and this has added an element of confusion to some of our newer residents. Without exception, these Cooperators are closely identified with the cooperative movement or with scientific cooperative organizations. We do not have this feeling of close kinship. It is true, of course, that the paper is published by the Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc., and that, in fact, we are a cooperative organization. But this means only that we are a newspaper – which is published as a cooperative venture. In seeking to change our name we are not seeking to hide our identity. We are rather seeking to clarify our identity.

In the final analysis we are engaged in the business of putting out a newspaper, a typical example, if you please, of “free enterprise” in action. While we are concerned with publishing news of local interest, we are also concerned with selling what we publish, and the feeling is inescapable that we have encountered some sales resistance in trying to sell the Cooperator. Unfortunately, some recent publicity in the metropolitan papers has tended to hurt us, too. This, perhaps, has accentuated our desire to change our name – but this desire was there to begin with. We can just hear the accusation that we are retreating in the face of fire, but that viewpoint, we submit, misses the point completely. The truth is, our newspaper is a public service, and we are trying to perform this service as best we can. We believe that a change in name will make it possible to render a greater service to our community by increasing our readership acceptance, and we are asking our readers for their opinions. We are counting on them to express their opinions, not only at the polls, but also in letters to their editor.

In any event, we are embarked upon an experiment which we believe will have beneficial results. We await your reaction.

Anyone can skim the newspaper archives at:

When he wasn’t the editor, apparently Harry wrote a column called “Words and Music”. (This is not surprising, knowing he wrote a column on music for his retirement community newsletter.)
Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Editorials recall events of the early ’50s

This is the second in a series of posts showing Harry’s editorials from the newspaper in Greenbelt, MD, in the 1950s. Greenbelt is a DC suburb founded in 1937 under FDRs post-depression New Deal. The articles offer snapshots of Harry’s writings unknown to most family and friends he left behind, plus history lessons we can appreciate today.

December 4, 1952 
“Sunday, December 7

Most of us think of December 7 as Pearl Harbor day, and truly none of us will ever forget that tragic day of history. Every year thousands of newspapers throughout the country editorialize on the occasion of this solemn anniversary, its meaning, its significance and its implications. It is a convincing reminder that we must never allow our defenses to so deteriorate as to become vulnerable to surprise attacks by a ruthless enemy. It is a warning and a symbol of the ghastly costs of unpreparedness. We have taken that lesson to heart. We are currently expending huge sums of money to build up our military strength, and the whole purpose of this buildup is to make it unmistakably clear to any potential enemy that it would be most unwise to attack us. The sheer horror of the damage that we can deliver with our atomic weapons should make anyone think twice before risking a war. And it is our hope that behind this shield of military might, our diplomats can work out with the diplomats of the world, a true and lasting peace – a world in which the threat of war can be completely abolished – a world without weapons – a world in which men and nations can settle their disputes in a meeting room instead of on a battlefield.

But in a way, perhaps, December 7, has an even deeper meaning for us in America. For it is also the symbol of another war – a war against an enemy far more relentless and implacable than mere man. It is the birthday of a great and cherished American tradition – the birthday of the Christmas Seal. On December 7, 1907, forty-six years ago, the Christmas Seal was born.

Today in millions of American homes the Christmas Seal with the red Double-Barred Cross is as much a part of the holiday scene as the Christmas tree or Santa Claus. It carries a message of hope and good cheer, that tuberculosis can be defeated if all of us work together. In the forty-six years since the first Christmas Seal sale, tuberculosis has been forced down from first to sixth place among the causes of death in this country. But despite this progress, tuberculosis today kills more than all other infectious diseases combined. It attacks 115,000 Americans every year.

Those who buy and use Christmas Seals are helping to protect themselves and their neighbors from this killer, which attacks without obvious symptoms. They are helping the voluntary tuberculosis associations acquaint more and more people with the basic facts about TB, with the need for chest x-rays in an effort to find TB early, when it is easiest to cure. They are supporting medical research in the development of better ways of treating and preventing tuberculosis.

This is part of the personal contribution millions of Americans are making during the Christmas season. By buying and using Christmas Seals they are helping to save lives and to reduce the suffering of their less fortunate neighbors. Dec. 7 is indeed a date to remember.

December 24, 1953 
“Decision for Darkness

Most men are able to make the vital decisions in their lives without fanfare or publicity. The twenty-two young Americans who have elected to remain in Korea with their Communist captors have had the eyes of the world focused upon them while they were making up their minds. They had a chance to stand up and testify to freedom; instead they renounced their country.

It is hard to understand the thinking of these deluded Americans. They must have witnessed the treatment given their fellow prisoners who refused to fall for the Community line. They must realize the enormity of the lies they have been told.

The time may come when they will regret their decision. It is likely that when that time comes, however, it will be too late for them to salvage the liberty they have forfeited with apparent indifference.

Americans can sympathize with the parents and the loved ones of these men whose minds have been poisoned by the Communists. It is always tragic to look upon men who have turned their eyes away from the light and entered into the kind of darkness which can consume them.

December 24, 1953 
Harry and family in 1953

“How far that little candle throws its beam”, says an old poem. It could be paraphrased, if unpoetically, to read, “How far the consequences of a strike extend”.

The New York newspaper strike, which deprived the world’s second largest city of its principal media of information and advertising for 11 days, is a perfect example. Moreover, it illustrated how unique a place the newspapers hold in a community.

The strike was brought by a photoengravers’ union which has 400-odd members employed on the major New York papers. Actually, only 207 votes were cast in favor of the strike, but it was a majority. The papers, of course, could have appeared without pictures but other unions honored the engravers’ picket lines and made publication impossible.

As a result, some 20,000 people were temporarily forced out of work, and a very large payroll was temporarily suspended. And a huge amount of holiday advertising business was lost.

This was only the beginning. To most stores, the newspaper is the dominant factor in advertising. It is the top medium for visually offering goods to vast numbers of potential buyers. No one will ever know how much retail business was lost because of the strike but many store executives are sure it was substantial. Time was bought on radio and TV stations. But these media are of only limited value to retailers for the most part and, on top of that, relatively little desirable time was available.

New York City has 10,000 newsstands and about 2,500 of them shut down entirely. All of the rest, naturally, suffered from the lack of papers to sell, which are the backbone of the business. Movie theaters and sports arenas had no effective means of publicizing their attractions.

Finally, of course, the public, which buys 5,000,000 copies a day of the New York papers, was discomfited. The news magazines diverted extra copies into the city, but there were not enough of them to meet the demand and they did not carry news with the local slant.

Whether or not the photoengravers’ wage and other demands were justified is a matter of argument. But there can be no argument about the fact that the action of a very small number of people in a case like this can directly affect the lives of many millions. New Yorkers, today, really appreciate their newspapers.

Look for more of Harry’s editorials in the next post on this blog. (Anyone can skim the newspaper archives at: )

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Young Harry’s Greenbelt editorials

In this glimpse of Harry’s life, he was volunteer editor of his city newspaper, for 10-12 years in the 1950s and ’60s. Named the Cooperator in 1937, Greenbelt, MD, residents changed its name to the News Review in 1954. After reading several editions he had saved in old boxes, I skimmed the online archives and chose additional editorials to share with you. They begin in 1950, when Harry was 29 years old, a year after his move to Greenbelt from Buffalo. They showcase his writing style and his views at the time, as well as local and national history. 

December 28, 1950 
“To The Infantry”

Harry, circa 1950
Drew Pearson is one of the most controversial of all columnists. He has thousands of warm admirers and thousands of bitter enemies. Most of his columns make a point of stepping hard on many toes – and the more prominent the toes, the better. However, one of his recent items is likely to be given near-unanimous approval. It discusses the bad financial deal the infantry soldier receives by comparison with his compatriots in other branches of military service.

Writes Mr. Pearson, “Under the current army pay system, the real heroes in the Korean war are drawing the least pay. They don’t even get a fair share of the glory when the publicity and medals are dished out.

“These unsung heroes are the infantrymen, who form the army’s battering ram, but who are not paid as much as the technical men and the pencil pushers behind the lines.” He goes on to say that the average monthly pay of a member of a rifle company is $135, as compared with $226 for an air force combat crewman and $172 for a submariner. Combat infantrymen once got a $10 a month bonus, but this is no longer given.

Moreover, according to Mr. Pearson, infantrymen are actually the poorest paid of all the troops in the army. Ordnance, signal corps, armored force, quartermaster, artillery and everyone else does better financially. And the ironical part of it is that all these other troops are basically, simply the infantry’s support. They exist for the sole purpose of aiding the infantry in its grim task of closing with and capturing or destroying the enemy. If the infantry fails to do that, the cause is always doomed.

Relatively little stress was placed on the infantry in the so-called New Army we heard so much about a year or so ago. This was to be pretty much the mechanized army, the push button army, in which almost everyone would be a technician of some kind. The Korean war changed that concept, and with a vengeance. It was infantry – the poor, bloody infantry of legend – that fought the delaying actions.

Infantry takes the beating in war. It suffered 70 per cent of the casualties in World War II, perhaps a higher percentage in Korea. Yet, Mr. Pearson says, In World War II it got only 11.6 percent of the medals. And as noted before, it is way down the line at the pay table.

It can be argued that mere money is a small recompense for asking a man to risk his life in war and, at best, live miserably. But it is the only recompense possible – no way exists to make the infantryman’s lot an easy, pleasant one. It is certainly a reasonable assumption that the footslogger with a rifle in his hands deserves a better break than he’s now getting.

No one who has never seen combat can possibly understand what it’s like. But, when we wake up with big heads on New Year morning, let’s stop for a moment and think – and pray – and give thanks to those brave men who are making our New Year celebrations possible. Let us remember the sobering figure of more than thirty thousand casualties. Let us join their loved ones in crying for them!

January 10, 1952 
“Leave of Absence”

(Did Harry take a break to help with his soon-to-be-born daughter?)

It is with considerable reluctance that I have offered my resignation as Editor of this newspaper, and even though that resignation was changed to a four month leave of absence it is still a severance of a relationship which I have enjoyed immensely.

The Cooperator to me represents a way of contributing to community living. It is an instrument which can be used to great advantage, particularly in an isolated location like Greenbelt, not only to keep everyone informed about matters of civic interest, but also to promote the community consciousness, to make friends out of neighbors.

Too many of us, today, are prone to forget or to ignore our obligations to each other. We are no longer savages who have gathered together behind a stone wall for our mutual protection. On the contrary, we are, presumably, civilized people who have recognized that community living offers many advantages which are otherwise inaccessible to us as individuals. And that very recognition imposes upon us all the obligation to contribute part of our talents and energies to our own mutual welfare. We simply cannot exist completely alone or detached from our neighbors; yet, many of us are trying to do just that.

It is a matter of deep concern to me that so few of us display any constructive interest in our community affairs. It is even more disturbing because so many who are shrinking from all contacts with community activities are so richly talented and so capable of making significant contributions. The spectacle of a city council election with only six candidates, or a GCS membership meeting with less than a quorum in attendance, is both saddening and humiliating.

Now, particularly because it is the beginning of a new year, may be a good time to take stock – to measure the benefits which accrue to us by virtue of our community life as against the contributions which we are making in return. Perhaps, as a result of such stock-taking, many will find it possible to devote more time to participating in our community’s activities. There are so many varied fields of interest in Greenbelt, so many organizations actively engaged in furthering the common welfare, and all of them eager to welcome and absorb new talent. Surely we can, each of us, pursue an activity to his liking.

I believe that the Cooperator is an ideal medium to satisfy the creative urge in each of us, an ideal vehicle for self-expression. The Cooperator has behind it a long history of worthwhile and significant contributions to the community life. Indeed, I believe it to be one of the foremost factors in the transition of Greenbelt from a government housing project to a living, vibrant city. And I believe that it will continue to figure prominently in the growth and development of Greenbelt as it changes hands from government to private ownership. The Cooperator will, I am sure, continue to make itself heard in Greenbelt, with vigor and dignity, sometimes loudly, or bitterly, or quietly, or gently but always sincerely, and always honestly.

In this connection, I am particularly pleased with the choice of Bobby Solet as Managing Editor. She brings to the Cooperator a forceful and dynamic personality, the impact of which will soon be apparent on these pages. Withal, she is quiet, thoughtful and level-headed, and, I am sure, will attract many additional recruits to augment the small staff of the paper.

Those of our readers who have an inclination to work on their community newspaper would know that the opportunity is here and that they will be welcomed. It is a satisfying and rewarding experience, an experience for which I shall always be grateful.

Apparently Harry published Christmastime poems during the 1950s and '60s, in which he thanked the city folks for their work. (Click on photo to enlarge.) No surprise; an earlier post on this blog shows a sample of his similarly styled annual poems published throughout his government career, when he held the title of Pentagon Poet Laureate. (Anyone can skim the Greenbelt News Review archives at: )

I’ll post more of Harry’s editorials next week.

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Harry the correspondent

My dad answers questions I never asked him, in the following four communications he wrote in his elderly years. Each reveals an activity or feelings from his past, and each offers a bit of advice to someone who was special in his life. So, to everyone ever touched by – or just curious about Harry’s communications, please enjoy!

Concerts at the beach

February 2014
Dear [Cousin],

It’s so nice to get emails like this with news about the family. I’ve been thinking about all the [cousin’s family], too, especially since I saw those photos of the ice caves at Crystal Beach. Everybody who ever grew up in Buffalo had to have gone to Crystal Beach. I have lots of memories about the Beach, and about the dance hall where the big bands of the 1930s and early ’40s used to play. In fact, it was the memories of some of their performances – Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and other orchestras, that motivated me to write a series of articles about the music of the WW II Era for the newspaper in Leisure World.

Now I’m in Riderwood, another development populated by old folks like me, and I have a whole new audience for these articles, since everybody here remembers that music. I just wanted you to know that I’m okay and adjusting to my new circumstances. Email exchanges like this are so welcome and so helpful. It’s so much easier to keep in touch this way than by the antiquated method of writing letters and sending them by snail mail. Keep them coming.


Too bad the Riderwood newsletter rejected his idea for the music column.

Retirement advice

January 2008
Dear Ron:

I deeply regret that Jeanette and I had to leave the celebration Friday before we got a chance to see you and shake your hand. And I can’t tell you how honored and flattered I was that you took the time personally to arrange matters to make it easier for us to attend. I used to think that the 36 years I spent in my job at the Pentagon (plus service in the Army in WW II for a total of almost 40 years of government service) was more than enough for anyone, but your 50 plus years, and Wilma’s, too (for a total of around 100 years) whew!! … Anyway, Ron, I wanted to express my heartfelt appreciation for inviting us and taking the time and trouble to make special arrangements.

Now, a word of advice from an older retiree – do not, repeat do not wait till you finish any projects at home such as remodeling or renovating, etc. before traveling or vacationing. Start booking cruises and other travels as soon as you can, while you both have the strength and stamina to enjoy them. The longer you wait, the tougher it gets to travel. So do it now. And enjoy each other for leisurely breakfasts, lunches and dinners, which, I suspect, you haven’t done very often over the past 50 years.

As for remodeling, I waited till I was 85 before I decided that our big house was too much for the two of us to handle. So we sold out and moved into a nice big apartment which, even though it’s much smaller than any house, relieves us of the problems of maintenance and upkeep and endless chores, as well as stairs up and stairs down etc. It was almost too late, because even though our kids and grandkids and nephew and niece and others helped a lot, it was nevertheless a great physical hardship. I should have done it ten years earlier, when I was 75 and still fit enough to stand the strain.

I feel almost like a member of your family, a cousin, maybe, because Meredith is like my second daughter, the one I never had but always wanted, and I love her.

Anyway, Ron and Wilma, congratulations and best wishes for the best years of your life, the ones starting now.


Reaction to criticism

February 2007

This is too long to put into an email message, so it will be a letter, instead, with enclosures for you to read at your leisure. I’m writing it over a period of days with additions from time to time as they occur to me. I’ll start by saying I’m sorry you’re disappointed in me, but that’s your problem, not mine. I dunno why I’m perplexing to you. I’m a simple, straight- speaking guy, much like you, but maybe because I’m some 20-odd years older than you, I’m more tolerant, less opinionated, more accepting of people whose opinions differ from mine. Maybe, too, it’s because I don’t have the energy or the stomach to argue with people who disagree with me. I don’t feel as strongly as I used to feel that I have to justify my beliefs or argue the rightness of my convictions. And I don’t feel as strongly as I used to feel that people whose views differ from mine are necessarily wrong. Sometimes they’re right and I’m wrong. And I’m more willing than I used to be to examine the other guy’s views and to accept the fact that he is honest in his beliefs as I am in mine. 
I suspect that you’re disappointed in me because I haven’t been making substantial comments on the articles circulating in our round table. Or maybe you want more of my comments on my years in the Pentagon, which could maybe shed more light on what’s going on right now? Maybe you just want more of my views on politics, or government, or the Iraq war, or the Democratic or Republican parties? Views that are based on my experience in government? 
The problem is that I feel about my Pentagon years and the work that I did there much the same as I feel about my WW II years and my wartime experience. It’s all in the past, no longer pertinent, not something I want to dwell on any more. I know that some people never grow out of their wartime experience or their worktime experience. They want to relive those times all the time. I can understand that, but I think it’s because they have nothing new to occupy their minds, so they just want to live in the past. Some people never outgrow high school, either. But I don’t want to live in the past. I’m fully occupied with the present and the future. WW II is more than 60 years in the past. My retirement from the Pentagon is more than 20 years in the past. The world and I are now absorbed in the problems of the present.

So, let’s talk about the present. We have gone through the traumatic experience this past year of downsizing, moving from a big house to a small apartment. We’ve been here now since last August and have finally begun to settle in and get the apartment close to the shape we want it in. One of the three bedrooms has been converted into an office with built-ins to house our files, books, records, tapes and CDs, as well as the computer. One, of course is our bedroom and the third is our den/lounge, TV room, spare guest room. Now we’re starting to get involved in community activities. Jeanette is involved in a couple of women’s groups. I have volunteered to serve on two committees, both of which involve a few hours of work each week. Then, too, we go to lectures, social affairs, synagogue affairs and services. I got into a weekly poker game, too.
Aside from all that, I agreed to write some articles for a monthly discussion group, dealing mainly with Jewish affairs and Holocaust history. Enclosed are a few things to read about a Holocaust project that is taking a good deal of my time and interest. These are not the kinds of things that I would expect our round-table group to be interested in. The problem is that they do not leave me much time to comment extensively on matters or articles for our round table, and I’m sorry about that. I still send articles for you all to read and read the articles that you all send me, but as far as I can see, the discussion part of our exchange has diminished considerably. I’m not the only one whose volume of comment has shrunk. 
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying to cram a lot of activity into living in the present. I’ll be 86 in a few months – in June, to be exact, and the odds are that I really don’t have many more years ahead of me. I would rather think about and devote my creative energies to present-day matters than to spend my remaining time remembering the past. 

Communication king

August 2005
Dear [Cousin],

When I saw this TIME magazine cover, I immediately thought of you, since you will be thirteen years old in less than a year. The article inside also made me think of you. So, in case you haven’t seen it, I thought I’d send it to you. I enjoyed reading it and I’m sure you will, too. About 15 or 20 years ago, I helped with a similar article for Newsweek magazine on teen-agers, mostly 16 to 19-year-olds, and I learned a lot then about young people. The trouble with growing old is that we forget what it was like to be young. That’s why you have to keep reminding your parents that you have thoughts and feelings and yearnings and wishes, just as they did once and probably still do. The important thing is to communicate to them and with them, which means simply to talk to them and explain how you feel about things. You’d be surprised, I’ll bet, to see how interested they are to hear your views on everything.                                    

With love,                                            
Your 900-year-old cousin (He was really 84.)

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Harry’s taste for writing mystery

Did he pull out an old manuscript in the 90s?
After Harry died in 2014, I inherited the boxes he’d long-ago packed with bulky, brown accordion folders containing his typewritten novels – or parts of them. I remember reading only one manuscript he was trying to publish in the 1970s. You can read the synopsis to one I’d never seen, last week on this blog.

In addition to the boxed versions, I found a folder on his computer titled “BOOK 4”. It contains 29 documents that apparently make up part of another novel. To give you a taste, heres one document, last modified July 22, 1994, titled “One”. At some point, he had asked a friend to read his manuscripts, and she confirmed that Harry’s novels are (loosely) based on his experiences.


Bill Freelav was killed in my office, sitting at my desk. That made it kind of personal, even though I didn’t know him. He was the only person on the sixteen member staff of the Riverview News I hadn't met yet. That’s because he was out of town the previous week when I took over as Editor and met them all. I was looking forward to meeting him tonight, but not this way.

When I approached the newspaper office, which was in the basement of an apartment building, I had a feeling something was wrong. You cannot spend ten years fighting spies and terrorists as an officer of a top secret NATO security unit without developing an instinct for trouble. My problem was that I didn’t trust that instinct, not at that moment. I thought it was compounded largely of fear, and I hadn’t yet learned how to handle the fear that possessed me. That’s why I had retired as a Light Colonel after twenty years in the Army’s Special Forces, with a bright career ahead of me if I’d stayed in. That’s why I was here, the new editor of a small town weekly newspaper, trying to wind down from the stress and the fear that gripped me constantly. But that’s another story. So I ignored the instinct and the growing sense of unease as I walked up the sidewalk leading from the street to the big, thick, heavy glass double doors of the entrance.

It was almost nine-thirty on a balmy Monday evening in mid-August. No cloud cover obscured the emerging stars, and I was able to pick out the steady glitter of Polaris off the end of the Big Dipper, pointing eternally to the north. All things considered, I thought for the millionth time, I’d rather be flying. Looking through the glass doors that opened onto a fairly large landing, I could see the bottom few stairs on the left leading up to the first-floor apartments and the landing on the right for the steps leading down to the newspaper office in the basement – my office, as of one week ago.

I pulled open the door on the right and, as I descended the stairs, the feeling of apprehension that had gripped me outside became stronger. The small hallway in the basement should have been brightly lit. It was dark. The light switch on the wall was in the “on” position. I flicked it twice. It was still dark. I could see the bulb dimly in the ceiling. I had put in a new one myself last week. At an even six feet, I could just reach it standing on my toes, the only one in the office my first night there who could do it. I was about to reach up now to jiggle it, but I stopped myself. The door to the newspaper office was slightly open, which meant someone was in there. If someone was in there, there should have been some light, at least a glimmer of light, showing through the opening. But there wasn’t. It was dark. The danger instinct tingling the nerve endings in the back of my neck was now too strong to ignore.

I had been in situations like this before, where death or worse – there is worse, believe me – waited on the other side of an open door. At the far end of the basement hallway I could see the very pale square of glass set in the top of the back door leading outside. It seemed to be closed but, even as I strained to see it in the dark, I heard the automatic latch, always set on lock and only able to be opened from inside, click shut. Someone must have just gone out that door. I switched my attention to the office door. It was the kind that opened from the inside into the hallway. I got down on the floor and, lying to the side of it, stuck my hand out and eased it halfway open. I was not in the doorway, in case someone inside wanted to take a shot at me. I’d been in that situation before, too. And someone had taken a shot at me before; several, in fact, and on several occasions. The last time I had gotten careless. I’d thought that because I’d never been hit before I was invincible. I was wrong. And now my nerve was gone; I was gripped with fear and starting to sweat. The bullet wound in my upper left chest, just below the shoulder, pretty well healed now, gave me a small twinge as I got up on my left elbow and eased my head around the door jamb.

It was dark inside, but I could just make out the lighter squares of the big picture windows that came halfway down the wall at the far end of the room. Except for that half wall, the rest of the room was all below ground level. I listened for the slightest sound. Nothing. I sniffed the air, all my senses alert for a sign of life, a rustle of breath, a movement of air, a scent of something, anything. There are some scents you never, never forget. One is the scent of blood, the coppery acrid scent of blood freshly spilled. God help me, I knew that scent well enough. It wasn’t there.

I eased up to my feet, still keeping to the left of the open doorway, cautiously reached my arm around, groped for the light switches, found them and clicked them on. The lights blazed up. My eyes swept the very large basement room in one quick glance. The office was empty, except for the furniture and the dead man sitting at my desk. My desk faced the window. The previous editor liked to work with his back to the rest of the office. Not me. I was going to turn the desk around to face the office tonight.

He was slumped face down so that all I could see of him was the back of his head, thick, luxuriant, dark brown hair, a lot like my own, his face invisible to me, his arms hanging straight down at his sides. The handle of a knife stuck out of his back. No telling how long the blade was, but it was obviously long enough to penetrate the heart and kill him instantly, because there was no blood visible. I did not have to feel for a pulse to know he was dead, but I did anyway; fingers at the throat where the blood pulses through the carotid artery. Nothing. He was still warm, dead not more than ten or fifteen minutes. I went to another desk, picked up the phone and hit the 911 buttons. A woman’s voice answered.

“Police station,” she said. “Can I help you?”

“I want to report a murder,” I said. She was silent a minute, as though unwilling to believe her ears. “Are you still there?” I asked.

“Excuse me,” she said, “I don’t think I heard you right. Would you repeat that, please?”

“I want to report a murder,” I repeated.

“Is this some kind of a joke?” she asked. Then, with sudden suspicion, “Who is this? Is that you, Phil?”

“No ma’am,” I said. “This is Laurence Stranger. I’m the new editor of the Riverview News. This is not a joke. There’s a dead man here, and he’s been murdered.”

“Where are you?” she asked. Her senses were starting to catch up.

“I’m at the newspaper office on Canal Road.”

“I know where it is,” she said. “Stay there, and don’t touch anything.” In control again, no uncertainty in her voice.

So I went outside and looked at the sky to see if Polaris was still there. It was. I watched it to make sure it didn’t get away until the cops showed up. It took them six minutes. The squad car pulled up to the curb quietly, no sirens, no blinking strobe lights, no screaming rubber or squealing brakes. Two uniformed cops got out of the front seat and a big, broad-shouldered man got out of the rear. He was wearing a well-cut suit that fit him perfectly and he handled himself with the ease and confidence of a man in top physical condition. He stopped in front of me and looked me up and down.

“You’d be Stranger,” he said softly, but there was an undercurrent of hostility in his voice. “Now what the hell is this all about?”

I had to look up at him, which made him around six foot four and, judging by the width of his shoulders, at least 240 pounds, which gave him about fifty pounds on me. He looked hard, too. Not a man to tangle with. “There’s a dead man down there,” I jerked my thumb at the office. “Somebody stuck a knife in him.”

“You two,” he waved a hand at the two uniforms, “go take a look.” They went, quickly, and within thirty seconds one of them came back.

“She got it right, Chief,” he said. “There’s a stiff down there.”

“Who is it?” asked the Chief.

“Can’t see his face,” the officer said, “but I’d guess it’s Freelav. Looks like him from behind, anyway.”

The Chief heaved a deep sigh. “Well, let’s go take a look,” he gestured for me to lead the way. ...

Copyright 2016, Elaine Blackman