Thursday, January 21, 2016

Harry's blizzard ballad

My brother took this photo of our house in Silver Spring, MD. I believe it was the 1966 blizzard.

Who remembers the Blizzard of January 1966? (This news video might spark your memory.) As snow began falling, my dad left work at the Pentagon to drive a few staffers home in Virginia suburbs before heading back to Maryland. However, by the time they arrived at the first residence, conditions worsened, leaving four women plus Harry stranded in an apartment. 

We kids were home
from school for a week or more (yay!), while our dad called daily with an update. Once the train was up and running, he traveled back to Maryland, but left his car snowed in. What I didn’t know until my recent discovery -- Harry wrote a poem about his little, winter adventure and attached it to the Feb 3, 1966, edition of the Current News, his Defense Department publication.

The Ballad of Harry and Four

Here and there the snow lay fallen,
Evening nigh and home was calling.
Work was finished, labors over,
They all began to run for cover.
On Saturday.

Ursula, Carol, Jean and Harry,
Hied to supper, stayed to tarry.
And onward, upward piled the snow,
So far as Jeannie’s could they go.
On Saturday.

There stayed Harry, Top Banana,
Urse, Carol, Jean and Anna!
Stayed the evening, spent the night,
The five of them – and all was right.
Till Sunday.

Sabbath came – true paradise,
With Harry center of all eyes.
The four fair maids and Harry rested,
Made helpless by the snow invested.
On Sunday.

There our Harry stayed and dreamed,
While the fair maids pampered, preened.
What mortal has the luck of me,
Who hasn’t dreamed this reverie?
On Sunday.

So passed the night; a new day dawned.
The dreamer’s dream was over.
There may be snow upon the ground,
But Harry was in clover.
Then came Monday.

Alas the news: the road is clear!
Elysium fields turn brown and sere.
Serene, we hope, our Harry slumbers,
Chaste not by virtue, but by numbers.

Seminars and such, also in rhyme

Occasionally my dad was away on other (pre-planned) work-related trips. He attended seminars, conferences, and speech-writing expeditions with the Secretary of Defense -- you know, the usual. And, what did I recently discover? Right! He documented each event with a poem. However, I'm not sure I found a poem for one particular seminar. You see, in November 2013, Harry and my husband were watching a TV program commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. "I know that guy," said Harry, nonchalantly, pointing to the Dallas police chief in the 1963 video. He explained to my husband that shortly after the assassination, the pressure of the investigation got to the chief, so his department sent him to training for a few weeks. Harry and the chief were partnered as roommates. I imagine they had interesting talks!

Here's an example of a poem from a different seminar:

Executive Seminar Center
Kings Point, NY
February 1965 

Sunday, February 7

So the students came together,
On a grey and rainy day,
Summoned here despite the weather
Some from very far away!

Harry at a mid-'60s work-related event
So they hearkened and they listened
To DeVore and Beck (his boss),
Marked their words with eyes that glistened,
Some were at a total loss.

Gathered and recalled past glories,
Met and got acquainted, too,
Swapped some yarns and told some stories
Learned to know just who was who!

Monday, February 8 

First, the furnace clanged and pounded,
Through the night, before the dawn,
Then the bugle loudly sounded
Like a banshee on the lawn.

Came two speakers here to see us,
Tried to get their message through,
Coffee breaks were timed to free us,
But we grasped a thought or two.

Toured the campus, hit the club,
Found the bar and did some loops,
Then, confound it, here's the rub,
Presenting a retirement poem in 1975
Organized five working groups.

Tuesday, February 9

Now we know who runs the Center,
Who administers the works,
Not DeVore or Beck, his mentor,
They are just the working jerks.

Mrs. Lester, first name Mabel,
She heads up the Center staff,
Rose and Pamela, they're able,
They cut donuts up -- in half.

Listened to a rousing lecture,
On the people "in the know",
Made us think and then conjecture
What would happen if we "go".

The poem goes on to chronicle each day of the two-week seminar, plus a lengthy goodbye poem that mentions all attendees. Another of his "poetic journals" goes for three weeks! Now I understand yet another reason Harry was dubbed the Pentagon Poet Laureate.

Copyright 2016
Elaine Blackman

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