Phipps Piper, '14,
New York, N.Y.,
My dear Phipps:
Let me assure you straightway that I was greatly amused by your account of the high-speed bus trip [SI, May 8, 1961] your mother gave you permission to take to Atlantic City. A good show for persons like yourself who have time to frivol.
Well, Phipps, I dare say you have been wondering what I have been up to lately. I am afraid I cannot match the excitements of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. But I have been active in a more serious area, and have been in contact with our national government at the highest level. I shall have to be very careful as I write this not to reveal anything that might be interpreted as "classified information."
To begin. For some time now, Phipps, I have been casting about for some way to play a larger part in public affairs, specifically to give what support I could to the admirable programs of our President, L.B.J. Naturally, I saw no way to be of service to the President in the more complex problems facing him—those involving the Great Society, medical care for elders, beautification of highways and all that—but then one day I was thrilled to read that President L.B.J, had issued a call for action to which I could respond. In this appeal to all patriotic Americans, the President urged that those of us planning to travel should see the natural wonders of our own land before taking U.S. dollars abroad. In other words, L.B.J, was saying, "See America First!"
Reading the President's message, I was filled with excitement. As you know, Phipps, I have traveled very little. Buzzards Bay, Woods Hole, the South Shore in the summer months—that about tells the story. (Father, as you know, felt that there was no need for anyone living in Boston to go anywhere else.) But through the years I have had one great dream, derived solely from my reading of travel magazines, and that was to ride The Phoebe Snow, crack flyer of the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad, through—actually through—one of our grandest scenic wonders, namely, the Delaware Water Gap. The very thought that, with Father gone, I might bring this dream to fruition sent my spirits soaring.
Did I dare? I put the question to my sister Lodge (Radcliffe '19, you will recall) and she replied in her usual forthright manner, "If a pipsqueak like Phipps Piper can take a high-speed bus to Atlantic City, surely you should not hesitate to fly."
I protested. "Now see here, Lod," I said. "I have no intention of flying. My plan is to ride The Phoebe Snow of the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad through the Water Gap as my way of backing up the 'See America First' program of President L.B.J."
Lodge shook her head impatiently. But then she said in a kindly way, "Bayard, you have kept to this old house in Louisburg Square for so long that you have completely lost contact with the outside world. For instance, the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad has been merged into the Erie Lackawanna. Furthermore, in order to catch The Phoebe Snow, what you have to do is fly from Logan airport here in Boston to Newark, N.J. There you take a taxicab to Hoboken, where The Phoebe Snow originates. Now, I'll take care of your tickets. You get busy with your packing."
That is Lodge for you, always cutting to the heart of the matter.
Well, Phipps, I could fill scores of pages with an account of my first flight by four-engine airship, but I must get on directly to my efforts in behalf of the L.B.J, program in which I was so deeply interested. Next morning, at 10 o'clock, I found myself sitting in the observation car of The Phoebe Snow in the Hoboken yards. This magnificent train was everything I had been led to expect. I felt an overwhelming need to talk to someone, and presently I had the opportunity. A woman of powerful physique entered the car and took the seat beside me. If she had been Radcliffe or Smith (which I could tell she was not) I would have judged her to be '23 or '24. She wore a striking hat that looked like a great bowl of pink and red roses, artfully arranged. Her dress was a pattern of huge wild flowers, opened to full bloom. Draped over her arm, oddly enough, was a raincoat of the type often affected by the late Humphrey Bogart.