As young families gradually moved to the Hill, they were happily welcomed by people like Marguerite, eager to make friends for themselves and their children. Interview topics include her support of Friendship House and its Circle on the Hill, active participation in the Democratic Party, 1964 efforts to register DC residents new to voting, journalistic exposes of inequitable practices at the local Safeway, the 1968 riots, and the protests of the late 60s and early 70s.
Interview with Marguerite Kelly
Interview Date: August 11, 2012
Interviewer: Stephanie Deutsch
Transcriber: Monica Servaites
Editor: Elizabeth Lewis
TAPE 1/SIDE 1
DEUTSCH: I’m sitting with Marguerite Kelly at 420 Constitution Avenue NE. Marguerite, why don't you start by telling when you first came to Washington, DC?
KELLY: Well, I came twice actually. I came in 1946 to be a freshman at Visitation. I was there for two years, living in a boarding house in Georgetown, when Georgetown was pretty seedy—tenement across the street, fleas in the Georgetown Theater, condemned bakery on the corner of Wisconsin and N. The only store I was allowed to go into alone on M Street was Peoples Drug Store.
DEUTSCH: I had forgotten the Georgetown chapter.
KELLY: Yes, I was 14. I came back though to visit sometime my aunt in Middleburg, VA, and after I married Tom Kelly [Thomas V. Kelly], from Capitol Hill. He was the ace reporter on the New Orleans Item. I was the copy kid, 17. He was nine years older. I turned to the gal next to me and said, “Who is this man? I’m going to marry him.” [Laughs] And we married when I was 20 because he wouldn’t marry a teenager.
By then I was assistant women’s editor. I was a daily columnist, a gossip column, had the second highest readership in the paper. Couldn’t kill it with a stick, although I wanted to. You know, gossip columns always sell. And I was, as I say, 21 when we were painting our lovely little apartment in the French Quarter, without permission. We had no idea we had to ask for it. And Tom said, “Why are we here?” And I said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “Let’s go.”
So we gave notice a couple of days later and left without jobs. [Using] one of the original U-Haul-Its, just the thing you hung on the back of the car—our wedding presents, our books, our clothes. And off we went to spend Christmas with his parents on Capitol Hill. I thought that we would work in a small town on the country paper. And we had so much money. In 15 months, we had saved $1,500! That was so much money, Stephanie, that we could probably buy into a paper, you know. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: You had big dreams.
KELLY: I had big dreams because I was 21. We had been helping Tom’s parents [Michael A. Kelly and Anna R. Kelly]. Tom’s dad had a restaurant downtown, a bar, just, you know, an Irish bar. And he was a dear man but he had a couple of problems. One was that there was no Social Security in those days for self employed, but he had savings. The government put a limit on how much wholesalers could charge restaurants for food, and it had a limit on how much restaurants could charge customers. Well, after the war, they lifted the limit on how much wholesalers could charge, but not on how much restaurants could charge. So in two years all the savings was gone.
DEUTSCH: Oh my.
KELLY: It was just like that, and they closed the bar.
DEUTSCH: And for the record, let’s just say they were living in the house at …
KELLY: … 404 Constitution Avenue, where Tom was born upstairs. Still had the bed. Tom’s mom was a very bright lady who had pneumonia in her late 60s and had a stroke in that time. Multi-infarct dementia, it was called. That’s what she was left with. She had no memory [from] after the age of 16. So every now and then she would look at her husband—he was a swarthy Irishman with dark brown eyes—and she would say, “Who is that Italian in my bedroom?” And he had such a brogue! [Laughs] They were both from [County] Roscommon, Ireland. She would run away three or four times a day and night looking for her mother.
DEUTSCH: Oh dear.
KELLY: Oh dear. Oh dear. We had seen them in the summer, but she had started doing that after that, started the running away after that. After two or three days with them, it was very clear that they needed more help and we were the people to give it. So I said, “I’ll stay home and we’ll lock the doors and hide the keys and screw down the windows, and I’ll stay with Annie.” And I did. I grew up.
I can’t tell you how different Capitol Hill was. There were two houses that were painted in all of Capitol Hill: 420 [Constitution Avenue NE], where we live now, was made to be painted, and Friendship House [619 D Street SE, or 630 South Carolina Avenue SE], and that was it. Every other house was red brick and nothing had changed.
This was the Christmas of ’53, and Tom immediately got a job at the Scripps Howard tabloid, the Washington Daily News, and I stayed home, and it was a big shock. Tom was maybe the fifth or sixth junior member of the block. Almost all the young people had moved. It wasn’t a neighborhood that ever had a lot of young people. It was your basic middle class because Capitol Hill was built up a lot in the late 1800s. The builders thought they really had a deal going because the Supreme Court Justices had to stick around, live right around here. The congressmen, the senators … You know, they had people who worked there. Then they built the streetcar. That was about 1890 or something, and after that everybody moved. They moved to Cleveland Park, which was a suburb, you know, and Chevy Chase. They didn’t have to live within walking distance.
It was always an integrated neighborhood because the servants had to live close by, so they were in these tiny little houses in the alley. The ones that Eleanor Roosevelt said in the 30s era, “slums in the shadow of the nation’s Capitol.” It was very much a southern neighborhood.
It was a bigoted neighborhood, I thought, although they didn’t know it. The lady across the street, for instance, said, “It’s wonderful what the block has done for Tom’s father.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, he doesn’t drink anymore.” I said, “He never did. He had a shot of Irish and went to bed.” She said, “Oh no dear.” And I said, “Well, you don’t have a bar and drink, or you don’t have it very long.” And she said, “Oh no dear, you know he’s Irish.” [Laughs] And nothing would convince her! She quit teaching public school because she wasn’t going to teach those “colored children” when desegregation went into effect in ’55 or ’56.
The ladies of say 55 or 60, when they went to Grubb’s Drugstore, which was certainly in existence then, or the National Capitol Bank, they put on their hat and white gloves, you know. Tom’s dad was the first Irishman to crack the block. He bought 404 Constitution when it was five years old. He bought it in 1918 for $6,000 dollars. He paid in three years.
DEUTSCH: Can I just ask a question? Tom told me about the neighborhood called Swampoodle …
KELLY: That’s H Street [NE].
DEUTSCH: But that’s further north.
KELLY: Yes, and that’s where a lot of Mike Kelly’s relatives had bars. That was the family business, right? Tom would be taken there on Sundays to see the various relatives and play the pinball machine free.
DEUTSCH: Did people use the term Capitol Hill then?
KELLY: Yes, they did. I guess Tom’s parents died in ’57 (you can cut out as much of this as you want—I don’t know quite where we’re going here). In ’56 his mom died, and in ’57, after our second child was born, Tom’s dad died. We bought out his sister, and we did something shocking: we painted the front of the house gray. And a neighbor stopped speaking to us for two years! She said “Red brick isn’t good enough for you?” [Laughs] Really! And that not speaking to us happened—there were retaliations then.
In 1963, jumping ahead a little bit, I was expecting a baby in two weeks, I couldn’t go to Martin Luther King’s March, so my oldest daughter, who was eight, did a sign: “Free lemonade for Freedom Marchers.” We hung it out the upstairs window. The neighbor across the street stopped speaking to us for two years. I mean, the Old South died hard.
DEUTSCH: Well, speaking about that, can we talk about that day a little bit?
KELLY: Uh huh.
DEUTSCH: That August 23rd 1963.
KELLY: Yes, it was. We made cookies—my neighborhood and I did, Jane Horton. We made cookies, we felt we had plenty. We must have gone out—sent kids to the store—over and over and over again to buy cookies …
DEUTSCH: Because there was a steady stream of people walking by?
KELLY: … a steady stream, and they were dressed as for church. And you know, imagine walking probably from the stadium all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial. Some came in to use the bathroom. Some would not even speak to us. They were on a mission and everybody felt good about themselves, right?
For me, the late 50s, though, was really hard because there were no young people on the Hill. And I’m pretty gregarious, so I was pretty lonely and I had been literally locked in the house. I remember one day I put my two kids in a stroller—from Salvation Army—and I took a walk and I saw a young mother with a baby in a playpen on Maryland Avenue. I opened the gate and pushed the kids in first because I figured she wouldn’t hit them, and I said, “How do you do? I’m Marguerite Kelly.” It was Barbara Tower who was living with her mother-in-law. [Laughs] And we became fast friends and have been ever since.
But she was as lonely as I, and we sort of made a pact that whenever we saw a young mother at the store anywhere we would introduce ourselves. We did that and one thing led to another, you know. It became, for me at least, more of a community. I mean, you meet somebody, you give them a coffee party right away. You invite whoever you could.
There was one nursery school at Christ Church, where Katy [daughter Katherine Kelly Bottorff] went. I think that was it. We started one at the Presbyterian Church, started a playgroup for children (they constantly were sick) at St. Mark’s [Episcopal Church]. And we started a babysitting co-op [cooperative]. I said it would never work. They said, “We only need ten families.” I said, “Where can we find ten families on Capitol Hill?”
DEUTSCH: Wow. Quite different from today.
KELLY: Quite different. We joined a couple months later. When we quit, when the kids got old enough, thank goodness, there were 250 families in it. And I met some people who are still friends today, because you got to know people when you went to babysit at their house or their kids came to you. It was great. It was just great. I also joined the Restoration Society. It was basically backed by the real estate people. Nan Wallace was the first head of it. It always did well. Every time I went though, the same argument: what should be the limits of Capitol Hill?
DEUTSCH: The boundaries.
KELLY: The boundaries. Fifth Street was considered as far east as you should go. I don’t know if we ever voted on that, but month after month that was discussed. And somewhere along the line early on, I became secretary to it. I started in September, and a friend of mine from politics called me---named Dottie Atkinson, the judge’s wife---and she asked if she could come to the meeting. She said, “I’d like to join.” I said, “Great.” Dottie was black, so she was the first black in the Restoration Society. The president of the group, who was an ex-congressman, never called on me for the rest of the year. I could raise my hand, I could stand upside down without any underpants on, and he wouldn’t say anything. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: There was sort of an unspoken rule that this was a white group?
KELLY: Yes. Nobody said anything. There was also Southeast Citizens Group and the Southeast Civic Group. The Civic group was blacks, the Citizens was white. And our crowd integrated. We thought we should integrate. I wasn’t particularly involved in this —Wallace McGregor, Paul Beatley, long gone, were big on this. The city was run by three commissioners. One was basically appointed by the Corps of Engineers, one was basically appointed by the Evening Star—the leading paper in town—and I don’t know who appointed the other. It was a patronage system for Congressman McMillan who ran the District Committee. It was very much good old boys running the town. The good old boys running the city decided that the Southeast freeway should go through 11th Street [SE] and tear down Philadelphia Row.
DEUTSCH: And cut through Lincoln Park, wasn’t it?
KELLY: I think so. Peter Glickert got so mad that he hung the leading commissioner who brought this up, in effigy, and burned it. Made the papers.
DEUTSCH: I think I’m remembering this correctly. The first question at John Kennedy’s first press conference was from Sarah McClendon: “Is it true that the Southeast freeway is going through the middle of Lincoln Park?”
DEUTSCH: And he said, “I don’t know I’ll have someone look into it.” [Laughs]
KELLY: [Laughs] Of course he doesn’t know, he lives in Georgetown! [Laughs]
There was a feeling of such hope in the area, and such impotence. As soon as a kid got into first grade, that’s when they [families] moved to Northwest if they were very bold. Or they moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, or Bethesda. And if they were quite conservative they moved to Alexandria. But they moved, almost everybody, or they went to private school. You could see why.
Most of the young couples were newspaper people. They worked on the Hill. Foreign Service people or maybe lawyers in the government. There were very few playgrounds. Peabody School had two chinning bars. Liz Cheely and I did a survey—I think we got like 10,000 signatures. We had gone 120 blocks and found 120 pieces of playground equipment, as I recall. And that was all. There were a lot of poor kids in the neighborhood, a scattering of white …
DEUTSCH: When you say poor kids, African American poor kids?
KELLY: Yes, there were the African American. There were almost no Spanish. And there were these West Virginia kids. But people were sort of, “That’s the system you can’t do anything about it.” And we thought because we were so clever and all that—sure we can do something about it! Well, we couldn’t.
We went down to see Edith Lyons who was, lovely lady, head of elementary schools for the city. She said, “You can’t ask for three schools to have all these extras that you want, like good teachers and so on. You just start with one. And then you get two and then you get three.” I remember saying, “My kids will be in high school by then.” “Well, yes. That’s the way it goes.” [Laughs]
Dr. Hansen, Carl Hansen, was head of the public schools and was a very good guy and he believed in phonics so he built Amidon School in Southwest or rebuilt it—I don’t know which. He built it for 800 kids when they only had 400 kids to be going there. So what did they do, they made it an experimental school and would let people in from outside of the boundaries. The principal, Dorothy Johnson, would greet everyone at the door, every child by name, and knew all their names within weeks.
DEUTSCH: How wonderful.
KELLY: Oh yeah, it was great. I remember Katy was in first grade. She was early and she read the word “complicated” before her sixth birthday, and she didn’t know anything but her ABCs when she went in. And her birthday was in November so you can see that the teaching was at a fantastic level. Kate and Mike [son Michael Thomas Kelly] both went there, but fortunately the day that I applied for Meg [daughter Meg Kelly Rizzoli] to go too, Joe Rauh, who was the leader of the Democratic Party, had a story in about him complaining about the principal of that school on Page One above the fold, and I didn’t get in. So we put the kids in St. Peter’s. Which had a lovely nun in charge, but not terribly good.
DEUTSCH: So why was he complaining against the principal of Amidon?
KELLY: I don’t know. [Laughs] It was just one of the things. And since I used to go to the school with lots of placards on my car for the Democratic Party, a microphone and speakers and other things like that, I was identified with the party. That’s why I was not allowed. But I didn’t get into politics until ’63. Before that, ’59, I got asked to run the volunteer program at Friendship House.
DEUTSCH: Tell me a little about that. What was Friendship House then?
KELLY: Friendship House was started by two women, Emily Storer, who I think had the money and maybe the contacts, and her friend Lydia Burklin. And I remember Tom telling me when he was a kid you didn’t walk down D Street [SE] because Miss Burklin would run out, as a director, and say, “Boys, boys if you two boys come in we can have nine on the baseball team!”
Everybody hung out at Christ Child Settlement House [600 block of Massachusetts Avenue NE] and it was just a community center, but it really never took off. We just sort of decided to make it [Friendship House] the place to be, and we did for about ten years or so. They said they had ten volunteers but they didn’t know who they were. So I got ten men and women to go door to door, any door on Capitol Hill that either had a brass knocker or the door was painted red, or painted (that was the only color it was painted), had a carriage light or, wonder of wonders, it had a window air conditioner …
DEUTSCH: Uh huh.
KELLY: …and ask them if they would give a few hours a year to Friendship House. Well, it’s very hard to look somebody in the eye and say, “I don’t have six hours a year to give to my neighbors.” So within a month, we had 350 volunteers. And 300 of them became regular. Every week. Absolutely could count on them. And remember this was a time when very few women worked, so all of these gals were right out of college, had just had a taste of work and they get married and they have kids and wow …
DEUTSCH: They need something to do …
KELLY: They need something to do. And they had a lot to give. So we start an odd job registry where people could call when they need somebody to do this or that. We started a tutoring program where the tutor would go to the laundromats and sit there and tutor in the laundromats. That became a two person full time job. All of these things became big. Friendship House, by the way, had 70 or 90 kids in the daycare center. It was the biggest daycare center in the city.
DEUTSCH: What was the racial composition of the day care center?
KELLY: It was mixed. The board was, I think, entirely white. I came on the board very quickly. I gave about 20 hours a week to Friendship House. You know, you throw yourself into something. As you know very well, Stephanie. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: [Laughs] Guilty as charged.
KELLY: Right. And back in about ’62, I get a call from Barbara Bolling, who was a wife of a congressman, and she [asked if I] could come over to the Congressional Circle of Friendship House, which was made up of the wives of congressmen and senators and a lot of lobbyists wives who paid the freight and did an annual benefit. So I was to come in after lunch. Came on my bicycle wearing my white gloves, right? And I go there and they said, “Well, we have two things that we want you to do.”
KELLY: I hit this, I’m sorry.
DEUTSCH: Oh okay, I thought it was the end of the tape.
KELLY: “There are two things we want you to do. We want you to start the Circle on the Hill, and that’s for the women who actually don’t want to do volunteer work with people directly. They’ll do …”
DEUTSCH: Office work or …
KELLY: Well, sort of like the Junior League or something like that. I said, “Okay.” “And then we want you to start Market Day every week … every month.”
DEUTSCH: Every month?
KELLY: I said, “Every month?” And so, I said, “Okay, we’ll do it once a year.” And I got Addy Krizek to run it, who was fabulous. She had all these committees and some got antiques together, some made arts and crafts … I was asked never to come back to help out because I was so klutzy.
We did a book which I think of as my first book, and I have no right to think of that because I only wrote half of it, but it was my idea. It’s called Finishing Touches, and we found a printer. We wrote it, my husband edited it. We had two museum curators—Margaret Klapthor, who started the First Lady collection [at the Smithsonian], and her husband Frank, who was a DAR Museum curator—vet it along with a fellow who did repairs at the Smithsonian. We sold ads. We had it paid for …
DEUTSCH: And what was the subject of the book?
KELLY: It was how to refinish furniture. It was all in recipe form which had never been done before. And the National Trust supposedly said it was the best of its kind ever written. We did it in six weeks, which was amazing. [Laughs]
Everything went to Betty Glickert’s house, Betty and Peter Glickert. Everything we had made. The day before, we went to price it—and this was 1963 we’re doing this, I think it was, maybe ’62, something like that. It was the first one, and we realized we had 10,000 dollars’ worth of goods to sell.
DEUTSCH: Now wait a minute. So what were these goods—these were things you were going to sell at Friendship House at Market Day?
KELLY: At Market Day and it was at Friendship House.
DEUTSCH: These were like restored pieces of furniture?
KELLY: Restored pieces of furniture …
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 1
TAPE 1/SIDE 2
KELLY: … and we had gardening stuff, I mean each committee had stuff. And nobody had really … We’re busy with kids, nobody had gotten together and said, “Well how much are you doing?” So we had 10,000 dollars worth of goods to sell between 9:00 and 4:00! [Laughs]. And this was, as I say, early 60s, there wasn’t that much money around.
Man, we pushed through the ribbon cutting, pushed Barbara Bolling and various dignitaries aside, and all these dealers and everything went in, and we still had to have an auction that night of all the leftovers, you know.[Laughs] But we made 5,000 dollars, which was a lot. Market Day continued every year thereafter. It was to help the underemployed bring in a little more money. I don’t know if it actually ever did that but it gave us a lot of …
DEUTSCH: You mean the money that you raised was then distributed to people?
KELLY: No, a lot of the people who made things …they made things and they got some of the money. There were no vendors or anything like that. The last year they had Market Day, I think they made 5,000 dollars. [Laughs]
Friendship House was very much a thing to do, the place to be. Some people, though, like Joan Keenan, [were] on the League of Women Voters. And then politics came along.
In 1960, for the first time, we [DC residents] were allowed to vote for a delegate to the conventions. I didn’t know anybody who even voted in that. In ’63, Joe Rauh appointed me precinct captain for 60 square blocks and I had more fun than I ever had in my life. And he said, “Get a block captain for every block.” That was on a Friday, and by Sunday I actually had a block captain for every block—just calling cold turkey. This went from the Supreme Court, at First and East Capitol, to the club Coco at Eighth and H [NE] where the riots started. Almost all of this area was black. Everything north of the park, of Stanton Park, was black, and pretty much east of Seventh Street. And I remember having Joe [Rauh] and India Edwards, who had been nominated in ’48 to be Vice President on Truman’s ticket, somebody else beat her out. Alben Barkley I believe. But she was there, and Joe and Polly Shackleton.
I would send out postcards to go to Christ Child Settlement House. I would write them by hand, and I would say at the bottom, “Free Coffee, Free Rat Poison, Free Ride Home.” I would go in with my rat poison, because rats were a huge problem on Capitol Hill. And I would put them on the desk and I would put up the map I had made and the flag, and I’d turn around [and] all the rat poison would be gone. The 20 little ladies would be there, maybe one would be white and the rest would all be black, and they would all be snapping their purses shut and saying, “My neighbor has rats, you know.”
KELLY: And I’m sure they did because everybody did.
DEUTSCH: Marguerite, what was Christ Child Settlement House?
KELLY: It was also for people who were coming into town.
DEUTSCH: Where was it?
KELLY: It was at 600 block of Massachusetts Avenue NE.
DEUTSCH: That big building …
KELLY: Uh huh, that big building, yeah.
DEUTSCH: So who ran it? Was it like a missionary organization?
KELLY: It was Christ Child Society of the Catholic Church.
DEUTSCH: Because they have one over in Georgetown, right?
KELLY: They have the Op Shop, the Opportunity Shop, same group. But it was always very popular. Friendship House, by the way, even had a stage. They even had a little theater going with all of our gang. At this meeting, because almost all the people who came were black, I said, “As soon as this election is done in ’64, we can elect our own precinct captain.” And Joe Rauh, the great liberal said, “Like hell we will.” [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: Because he didn’t want it to be a black person?
KELLY: No! He liked the way I was running things and he liked …
DEUTSCH: He liked being able to have a personal …
KELLY: Joe liked to run things. He was a lobbyist for the UAW [United Auto Workers] but they always said he was a representative. He was never tarred with the lobbyist brush.
I mean it was so great, Stephanie, because I could walk up to anybody on H Street and put out my hand and say, “How do you do? I’m Marguerite Kelly. I just want you to know the Democratic Party cares about you. What can we do to help?” And they’d tell you. The block captains were usually women, and they were usually black, and they were very anxious about being block captains because it meant going door to door. Whereas the whites in Georgetown had patios and used them. They had backyards and didn’t use them. They’d sit on a bench on their stoop at the top of their stairs, just as the whites did on Constitution Avenue, and talk to people. Well, when a house would be rented and split up for apartments, and there would be some tough guys there … All you need is a couple of tough families on a block and it terrifies everybody.
DEUTSCH: They wouldn’t sit out anymore?
KELLY: They wouldn’t sit out anymore and they didn’t go in the backyard. That was for the trash, you know. And they didn’t know their neighbors. When they went door to door, they discovered many people just like them, and they started block clubs. And one of the block clubs … a woman called me about five years ago, and it’s still going on. [Laughs]
KELLY: Yeah! Jane … something, I forget. But it was fascinating. And it got going because Ludlow School …
DEUTSCH: Now called Ludlow Taylor.
KELLY: Okay … decided to expand and take a whole block of houses. I don’t even think they had public hearings. We raised hell and they only took one side of the street, so the Democratic Party was golden, right? [Then] ’64 comes along…’63 of course was the death of Jack Kennedy. You could hear people walking all night long to the Capitol. Even when they were told, “You cannot go by the Rotunda, it’s too late.”
DEUTSCH: It’s closed but there were still people …
KELLY: … were still coming. They were coming in such quiet numbers that their footfalls made the windows quake. You know. It really did. You couldn’t go into a house, either before or after his death, of a black person on Capitol Hill, in my precinct, that didn’t have either a gilt framed picture of Jack and Martin, always in the middle, and Bobby, or a velvet painting or something to say …
DEUTSCH: But isn’t that interesting because John Kennedy really had not done very much for blacks.
KELLY: For one thing, Bobby Kennedy was absolutely revered.
DEUTSCH: But that’s later.
DEUTSCH: In 1963?
KELLY: Uh huh. Well, I guess a little later, because when he was running for President and there was a convertible parade in Anacostia and all of these people, residents, were just besotted by him.
DEUTSCH: Well, I know about that, but that’s five years later.
KELLY: Uh huh, but even so he was the one behind the civil rights … They felt that he was with them. And Jack Kennedy was as charming to blacks as he was to whites.
DEUTSCH: [Laughs] Seductive.
KELLY: Very seductive, in all ways. The election in ’64 was fascinating to me. Carl Hansen allowed me to put nonpartisan flyers at the school. We put out 10,000 flyers, mimeographed, that we would give a free popsicle to any kid who brought an adult in to register. Five hundred people came, in the rain on a cold day.
DEUTSCH: To register to vote?
KELLY: To register, each accompanied by a small child for one popsicle in the rain, no umbrellas.
Bea Hackett and I got all these trash cans from A&P [grocery store] for $3.99 and put them in her minivan, and sold them again after flyers going up. Sold them at Stuart Hobson [still called Stuart Junior High in 1964] for $3.99 because the Safeway at Sixth and H were selling them for $10 and the neighborhood was full of trash. I mean you would see a sofa sitting out in an alley for months. And they just didn’t clean up. Lee Ann Smith (?) lived at 200 or 300 block of E [and] said, “We have to give a thank you to the trash man,” and indeed we did. Because we had a trash drive and they even went into people’s houses, old ladies, and cleaned out the basement for them. I mean, did all this. So we had a spaghetti lunch at Christ Child Settlement House for the trash men. And got it on NBC. And they were very appreciative and they were very helpful. Bear in mind there were no trash cans on the Hill.
DEUTSCH: Public trash cans.
KELLY: No. I remember I tried to get one in the 50s and the lady who lived in this house said, “Oh please don’t because everyone will bring their trash there.” And in the 50s there was no littering campaign. The word “litter” I never saw anywhere. There was litter all over. You would throw stuff on the street. The guys going home on Friday, the workmen, would just throw their empty beer cans out the car window every Friday. It was not nice.
DEUTSCH: Of course that wasn’t just Capitol Hill, I think that was just a general …
KELLY: Yes, it was just a littering thing …
DEUTSCH: It’s a cultural change.
KELLY: It really was.
DEUTSCH: A good cultural change!
KELLY: A good cultural change! But New England is what is really shocked … because apparently it never was a problem there. And I remember throwing something on the street and my friend Liz … It was the first time I had ever heard about that. I’m from the south, you throw something on the street. But on election day …
DEUTSCH: We’re in ’64 now.
KELLY: We’re in ’64, but before that, trying to get people to register. I got this really pretty gal to be in one of the convertibles, pretty gals that I had going around, and man, people were just jumping in her car! Not any car, all these guys. I found out she lived in the only integrated whore house on Capitol Hill.
KELLY: She was one of my block captains. [Laughs] And a very nice gal, she was a good mother. Election day in ’64, I had the third highest registration in the city in my precinct. And I got out 88 percent of the registered vote, which was very high.
DEUTSCH: Very good.
KELLY: And that was the third highest, and that’s just to show it was not so much a vote for Lyndon Johnson. It was a memorial vote for Jack Kennedy. At the head of the line was Bob Novak, who lived at Ninth and Massachusetts, and India Edwards, who lived at Constitution and Sixth, in the rain having this big argument, loving every second of it. [Laughs] People two and three abreast at Stuart Hobson, halfway down that block, all the way down the block to F Street, and half up that block at 7:30 in the morning.
KELLY: It was huge and it was that way all over the city. The Democrats won. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: [Laughs] I think I remember that.
KELLY: I became ward leader after that. The wards are all different now. But it was extraordinary to see how much people wanted to vote.
DEUTSCH: Um huh, like those images we got from Iran and places like that or Iraq when they had the first vote.
KELLY: Yes! Exactly. Right. Right. But the tensions were grave. One of the things I began to do, writing, goes back to that. Every week I would go marketing, but I had to go to Northwest. I would take the kids to the library and I had to go Northwest.
DEUTSCH: Because we had no library here?
KELLY: We had two libraries here. And I remember looking at the Wellspot [?] Children’s Library [at the Northeast Library] on the second floor after you go up a very long step of stairs, with a baby carriage, right? And there were all these titles, but there were actually only 40 titles on the shelves. There were just a lot of copies of “Pelle’s New Suit” about a little Scandinavian, blue eyed, blond boy who had his own sheep and clipped it and carted the wool and dyed the wool and made his own damn suit, right. Really, just what you want, so we go to Cleveland Park to borrow books. But we go there for food, too, because if you bought milk or chicken on Capitol Hill in the 50s, early 60s, it would go bad in a day or two.
DEUTSCH: It was past its expiration date or it had …
KELLY: Yeah. And everything was by code. And I asked the woman at the “little” Safeway [Eighth and C Streets NE], “Why if I buy a chicken on Wednesday and don’t cook it until Thursday, why does it taste off? And if I waited until Friday it would be spoiled.” And she said, “Well you know how it is? If it’s about to go, you just soak it over night in baking soda and water, and the next morning you rinse it off and you pat it dry and you weigh it, it might weigh a little more, you weigh it and you put a new code date on and you sell it.” And so I wrote a story about this in Potomac Magazine, which was [the predecessor to] The Washington Post Magazine. They made me write it like I was just a little housewife. But three weeks later the Grocery Manufacturers of America gave me a little breakfast from a two star hotel. And notably there was Bob Eckhardt, who lived on the Hill, a congressman from Texas, who I think had been threatening them with a bill. Because it sure didn’t come from my little story. But we were both there, and they thanked me for bringing it to their attention and that started the Sell By dates across the country just immediately. The bill never had to be put up in Congress.
There was just growing anger though about how we were treated. We tried to get playground equipment. And the head of Buildings and Grounds said, “Oh, now, now, now. Do what they do in Northwest. They give their own, they make it happen.” They finally realized we weren’t going to do anything, so we weren’t going to get anything from anybody. So we had about 12 families. The super from that apartment building in the 300 block of Constitution, the Cymrots own it, I think. And a psychiatrist and an AID [Agency for International Development] guy and an investment guy, you know just a whole mix, and we did a carnival at Peabody. With its two chinning bars. And we had a cake walk, you know, all these things. We rented land. Four houses are built there now, but at Fourth and Constitution NE was an empty lot. And we put a hill in the middle of it, we raised the money, we rented it for a dollar a year, insured it after 300,000 [dollars]. And went downtown to Sixth and G and wrote out in pencil a whole thing that I was an eleemosynary organization. I never was challenged. That’s the way you went out to fill out the nonprofit thing.
KELLY: Bernie Sisk, who was a congressman, lived at Sixth and Constitution, was head of the Parks Committee in Congress, so he got us some benches. And somebody knew somebody from the phone company and got us some phone poles. We built Lincoln Log kind of forts. But we built all this in three weeks. We raised the money, we insured it, we did everything. Start to finish in three weeks. Because, boy, you have a lot of energy at that age. And we built a fence because we knew a lot of children were around. It was what we could afford which was chicken wire and …
DEUTSCH: So this was a public playground?
KELLY: Oh yeah. I come home, I get a knock on the door and it was the police for a warrant for my arrest. Because I was listed, you know. Because I hadn’t gotten a fence permit. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: How’d you get out of that one?
KELLY: I don’t remember. I think Tom did a story or something.
There was the story I did in the Washingtonian. It was very long. I’m sure tedious. It was cut down to one page, but I took two schools, two parks, two recreation facilities, two libraries, two senior centers—all built at the same time with the same capacity—east and west of Rock Creek Park, and compared them. I expected a difference. I had not expected that kind of a difference. It was horrendous. I remember in Draper School in Anacostia were there wasn’t one classroom that didn’t have a broken window or cracked window. There wasn’t one classroom that didn’t have flickering fluorescent lights. It was just shameless.
It made no effect on anything except in the libraries. They evened their budgets, which I deeply appreciated. But the schools did not change. The recreation centers did not change. The senior centers … Guy Mason, I think it was, was just perfect, and the one in Banneker maybe, the one east of the park was like a bare table and it was shocking. So you can see this building of tension, and then one day I got a black captain, Janie Boyd, and she said, “They’re raising the prices at the Safeway on welfare day.” And I said, “Oh Janie, come on now.” And then I looked at her and realized I couldn’t dismiss this. I said, “Well, let’s study it.” So we got some people from Bobby Kennedy’s office to do the Safeway in Georgetown and maybe a couple of Safeways in this area and I made a market basket list of 20 items by product and size and so on. They did it the first of the month, which was welfare day, the 15th of the month and then the first of the month and there was a difference between Georgetown and the Hill.
DEUTSCH: The prices were higher on the Hill?
KELLY: Yeah, and on welfare day, even the first middle of the month. So I think we got 11 stores that we surveyed, all around the city, all Safeways because that was the only chain, I think, around here. And I got all this stuff and, man … I barely got out of arithmetic, so I called Steve Swain, who was Secretary of the City Council then, and I asked him if he would look at this and tell me what there was. And he was working on a weekend and he took it down and he called me up at 11 at night and said, “There’s a nine and half percent increase on these Safeways.” And they all turned out to be Safeways without chain competition. I was staggered, you know. So I wrote a press release, but I also wrote to the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] and asked that this be challenged on the basis that if you sell under one imprimatur, the prices should be the same. I sent a letter to Agriculture and it was on some other basis, and the Justice Department. And I sent one to the chairman of the board of Safeway. It all went out at once and there were only three TV channels in those days. I set up a press conference. We had two chairmen …
DEUTSCH: Excuse me. [Tape stop] Sorry about that interruption.
KELLY: That’s okay. Where were we? Oh, so I had two chair, Lisa Schlossberg, who was about eight months pregnant [Laughs] and Janie Boyd. They were there and I asked Ted Dudley, who was the head of the party in Washington, at the local headquarters downtown. And I said would he come to the press conference and read a statement. He didn’t even read it before he goes on camera. All three networks are there and it got immediate attention, to the extent that the next day, maybe that afternoon, congressional hearings were set. I never kept any papers. I don’t have any of that, but it was fascinating. They called the chairman of the board back from his Newfoundland fishing. [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: What year are we now? Mid 60s?
KELLY: Maybe ’66 or ’67. It gave a lot of credence to the Democratic Party. Congressman Rosenthal from New York called the hearing. It was House side, had a year-long investigation. And the FTC was the one who took it and they had year-long investigation. And they were both fascinating because they were so badly done. If I were in charge I wouldn’t have signed off on either one of the reports. The FTC guy kept calling me and saying, “Are you sure this happened? Is there something in it for you?” I mean, all this sort of stuff, and then he offered me a job at running the committee, running the investigation and I said, “This makes no sense. You accuse me of this and then you ask me to run it, and obviously I would be biased.” You know. The way each committee did it, each investigation did it, they went around the country and they told the Safeway before they went. Before they went to each town.
DEUTSCH: So of course it didn’t happen.
KELLY: Well, Rosenthal said it did happen. They caught them. And the FTC said it didn’t happen. That’s why I say I wouldn’t sign off on either one of them because you don’t tell the opposition what you’re doing, you know. [Laughs] It’s completely nutty. They were just doing it for attention.
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 2
TAPE 2/SIDE 1
DEUTSCH: Interview with Marguerite Kelly on August 11, 2012. And Marguerite was talking about her investigation into Safeway pricing and …
KELLY: And a year later they said it was impossible to do this. To have everything the same. That was their argument, a year later.
DEUTSCH: But the story had gone national by this time?
KELLY: Oh yeah. Yeah. It was national that day. All the prices were exactly the same a year later so I felt vindicated there.
DEUTSCH: Let’s bring this back to the neighborhood though. Let’s bring this back to your political work on Capitol Hill. We’re now in the mid 60s. Home Rule? What’s happening with all that? We have a mayor by then?
KELLY: We have an appointed mayor, [Walter] Washington. Appointed by [President Lyndon] Johnson and he did a good job, but by ’67 a couple of things had happened. Tom said, “Really you can’t go out more than two nights a week on politics.” And I agreed with him. I mean that was unfair to him. And you can’t be in politics and not …
DEUTSCH: Go out a lot.
KELLY: … go out a lot. And I never wanted to run for anything, but I loved the whole machinations, you know. And the other thing happened was that I had tried everything I could and the riots were still coming.
DEUTSCH: You knew the riots were coming?
KELLY: Yeah, it was just a question of time.
DEUTSCH: How did you know that? What were your tip offs?
KELLY: The anger. The anger was just …
DEUTSCH: The anger was building?
KELLY: … building and building and building. I did a block party once and I got WOL [radio station] to do it, and it was Lexington Street. Lexington Place [NE].
DEUTSCH: Uh hm. Just up north of Stanton Park.
KELLY: Right. And it’s a one block long street and I asked the police to be there. Because, you know, WOL, five or six hundred people coming. And they didn’t come.
DEUTSCH: The police didn’t come?
KELLY: No. And I’m, “Come on, come on!” I had to really carry on to get them to come out because things were so tense in the city. And this was probably almost all black, evening … but I wanted to make sure it went right, you know. Even after I quit politics some of the guys from the intelligence division of the city would drop by and say, “What’s going on?” And maybe a little bit before the riots, these two guys came and they said, “We’re really worried.”
DEUTSCH: These are young police officers?
KELLY: Uh huh, and they were in the intelligence section.
DEUTSCH: Uh huh.
KELLY: And they said there was a meeting that Martin Luther King was going to be talking to, in Philadelphia, and they expected a whole bunch of people and not that many came. And I said, “Who came?” And he said, “We were there, and the guys from the Philadelphia intelligence and CIA and FBI …” [Laughs] You know, by the time they weeded all those out, weren’t many there. And they were afraid Stokely Carmichael was going to go into the ascendancy because Martin Luther King was losing power. And they were very worried about that. This was after Resurrection City, I think, no.
DEUTSCH: Resurrection City, I think was after King died …
KELLY: Right. Right. And so they hadn’t heard anything, what’s going on. I was on the central committee by then …
DEUTSCH: Of the Democratic Party.
KELLY: … of the Democratic Party, which is now called the State Committee, I think. My timing, I’m not sure, but Johnson announced … Dick Tuck, who was an old political fellow I knew, had said, “Stick with Lyndon Johnson because Bobby’s going to run, don’t go with McCarthy.” There were three people running but Bobby hadn’t entered the race yet, so there was Johnson and McCarthy.
KELLY: And I didn’t like McCarthy because I didn’t think he worked that hard. I went around with all my banners on the … I guess I hadn’t quit the party yet, quit politicking yet. And then Bobby Kennedy announced, so I quit the Central Committee right away and became a volunteer in the local office. Time goes by, and I’m usually down there every day, and one day, King is shot. There is a memorial service at the Cathedral. The President was there, the Vice President, every member of the cabinet, almost every member of the House and Senate, every member of the Supreme Court and my bosses of course because they could not go on without them. And I was there with a couple of young volunteers and sirens start playing.
DEUTSCH: This is a couple of days after his death?
KELLY: Yes. And I get a call, “Hey lady, can you send down a speaker to 14th and U?” And I said, “How come?” and they said, “A riot is starting. We needed someone to talk them down.” Man, I couldn’t find … I finally got Stan Anderson who was on the City Council, not that he could do anything, but he goes there. Then I get a phone call from my children’s school up at Tenley Circle---would I come and pick up the kids? And could I also take home the housekeeper at the school who lived at 14th and Q? I said, “I can’t do that. I can pick up my kids, but I don’t think she should go to 14th and Q.” And so I pick up the kids and I get as far as what is now the Vietnam Memorial …
DEUTSCH: You’re on Constitution Avenue.
KELLY: I’m on Constitution. And it was the old lady department. Beautiful day, just gorgeous, sunny, but there was already so much smoke in the air, Stephanie, that the Capitol and the Monument and any previous white building was dark, dark gray. The smoke had all coalesced. There was a bus stop and I saw a bus go and pick up some people and leave a lot of blacks. And these were bureaucrats, you could tell they were not hippies because hippies wore hippie clothes. Bureaucrats wore three piece suits. These were the three piece suit crowd. The church lady crowd without the hat. And I said, “Is there a problem?” And they said, “Well, they say they’re only taking people to the suburbs.” And I said, “I can fit about five of you in.” The kids went to the back of the station wagon.
They come in and I said, “Where are we going? And they said, “Benning Road and the District line.” Benning Road is bad then, as it is now. So it was a subdued ride, and it takes two hours to get from about two blocks before the Memorial, on the west side of the Memorial, to the Capitol. Two hours. We watched Lansburgh break into flame, [unintelligible] one building after another. City totally out of control. It was fascinating. And get to Fourth and Constitution, I send the kids there and said, “Don’t tell your father.” [Laughs] And I keep driving. We get out to the District line and they were so sad and so scared and little teary. They leave, whoever they were, I never even got their names though they got mine. I’m coming back to town and I get to that busy intersection, 17th and Benning, where you’re supposed to go on H, and I see the first building go up in flames. It was the Safeway. And then one after another.
The riots started on the three biggest drug pushing corners in the city: 14th and U [NW], Seventh and U [NW], Eighth and H [NE]. My old stomping grounds. [Laughs] I go onto Maryland [Avenue NE] feeling terribly guilty on breaking the law, and at that point I see these kids, black kids, giggling but not somehow not making noise. It was like Mardi Gras without noise, it was amazing. They were throwing Molotov cocktails over my car. So I rolled up the window and locked the doors which I had never done before. Then a police car comes along, four guys … shields, rifles or shotguns or whatever they call those things with long sticks, out the window, out four windows. And says to the kids, “Stop doing that!” They were running across to a gas station, filling coke bottles with gas. Because you didn’t have to do a credit card and all that stuff back then. But the cops were so out of control of the city and it was such a minor thing compared to what was going on, they just kept going. And I had to realize that I was the only one, certainly the only white woman going into a town without a shield and a shotgun out the window. I get home and Tom’s a little cranky with me for … [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: I guess so.
KELLY: I start calling precinct people, precinct captains. One in particular was John Anthony, long dead, but he had one child and seven foster children and he lived at Seventh and G [Streets NE]. “John are you okay? Do you want me to pick you up?” “No, so far it’s okay.” Back and forth, back and forth, every half hour until finally at 10:30, he calls me and says, “It’s okay, the firemen stopped the fire at my back fence.” He lived on the north side of the street. It was such and emotional time, and one of the few times I ever saw my husband weep was standing on the back porch and just watching H Street where he went as a boy …
DEUTSCH: Go up in flames.
KELLY: … go up in flames. And to see all these people running down with TVs and sofas and stuff. And then he said, “I’m going to go take a bath.” And when he’s in the tub, there’s a banging on the door, and I go down. For the first time, I open the door and I’m frightened. It’s a big black guy and then he says, “Peace.” And it was a precinct worker of mine, back when he was 19, and we had kept in touch all those years. He said, “I just wanted to see how you were.” And I said had he eaten and he said no and I made sandwiches and we all sat on my grandmother’s four poster bed because that bedroom of ours was the only room that had a TV [laughs] and we watched …
DEUTSCH: The coverage.
KELLY: … the coverage until two in the morning. And then he said, “I’ve got to go now.” I said, “You can’t go Ray, it’s a curfew.” He said, “I have other people to check on. I’m going to Anacostia.” And he went. From the next two or three days the neighborhood people are up on roofs, you know, the National Guard of the Army, they’re everywhere. H Street is blocked, and there was one precinct captain I had taken over from, lovely lady, she was single and I was really worried about her. She was older, and Mike and I, as soon as it was open, went over there. That was maybe two or three days later, but over a thousand buildings were burned. Afterwards, Mayor Washington did a remarkable thing I never heard anyone comment on, but unless it was disastrous, the sirens never blew on police cars. You saw police cars speeding along, a lot, but they did nothing to incite …
DEUTSCH: Raise the level of anxiety …
KELLY: Right. And blacks who before just walked past you, or older, proper, church-going blacks, would make a point to say hello. But when our Circle on the Hill met, maybe a Tuesday, the social worker, Carol Ward, lovely gal, the then wife of the Director of Friendship House said, “This is the last time you’ll see me. I’m going to a cocktail party at Howard University on Friday, people will ask me what were you doing at that white meeting?...” Because most of the members were white. “…What were you doing there?”
The black friends we had, and nobody had more than two or three black friends, dropped us. Because everyone’s black friends dropped them. For 20 years. It hurt my feelings, frankly. I was in the usual carpool with women who either didn’t drive or didn’t have a car. Had about ten kids, and I would be dropping some off at Christ Church Nursery School and picking others up. As I would do this every morning, little black kids would come and run in front of my car as I stopped. They were playing chicken. They were mocking and laughing and carrying on, and I knew if I hesitated it would be [unintelligible] …
DEUTSCH: [unintelligible] engaged …
KELLY: … every time. And I would sort of say a prayer and move slowly, but I’d move and they would get out of the way. It was very scary. Six months this went on. [Laughs]
The anger was extraordinary and so justified. So very justified. I’m just surprised it didn’t happen again because nothing changed in the city. H Street remained a bombed out place until a few years ago. The schools were dreadful until a few years ago. People had a right to complain and to complain bitterly and often.
Incidentally, after the Safeway investigation, I learned two things. One, that Safeway encouraged its managers to raise prices simply because of the pay arrangements. The regional vice president, all the way down to the seafood manager and the produce manager and everybody, was given a base pay and then at the end of the year if you met target sales that they thought you should get, you got this big bonus check. Well, it encouraged everyone to look the other way. A&P and other stores didn’t do this.
Also, I was told the People’s Drug Store charged different prices at different stores on their prescriptions. So, I got 50 dollars from Joe Rauh and 50 dollars from Mike Pertschuk, who was the AA [Administrative Assistant] to Senator Magnuson, Warren Magnuson, I think. All together 200 dollars, and I got my doctor to write eight prescriptions, eight most common prescriptions, to sign 64 blanks and he let me fill in so I had eight of these. My friends from, I think, Kennedy’s office, did the People’s in Georgetown and I took Janie and a teenage black gal twice to seven People’s Drug Stores all around the city in a snow storm. I didn’t want to give eight prescriptions, you know …
KELLY: … from the same doctor, the same day. So we did all that. And 64 prescriptions, by the way, cost 200 dollars. Can you believe it? Then on New Year’s Day, I got Pat Driscoll and Bill Driscoll—social worker, lawyer, lived on Fifth Street [SE]—to come over because as I say, I’m not very good at arithmetic. So okay, there were different prices, and aside from short changing of pills and short changing of money, from the change, there was never any over pills or over money, just short change. [Laughs] There was about a 10 percent hike in People’s Drug Store charges of prescription drugs in People’s stores without chain competition.
I, being a chicken, by then had left the Central Committee and I couldn’t get anybody to do anything with it. I was not going to have a press conference by myself. And Mike Pertschuk, who later became an FTC commissioner said, “Well, that’s not very much money.” And I said, “But it is, you know. You make 75,000 a year probably. These people are making five or 10,000.” And he couldn’t understand that. He couldn’t understand it. He never took it anywhere, so I had pills in my basement for years. And then finally destroyed them. [Laughs]
And then I guess, when I finally quit civic work—because I did maybe 20 hours a week in politics and 20 a week in Friendship House—after the riots, maybe by then we had one or two black members on the board [of Friendship House]. Miss Burklin, who had started the place, had been gently kicked off because she didn’t want to integrate. And that was before I ever got on the board. And then was sort of gently let in but not on the board. But anyway, we were stormed at a board meeting [by] like, a hundred people. A hundred angry people around us.
DEUTSCH: African American?
KELLY: Uh huh. It felt uncalled for because we were one of the few people who were trying to help. The meetings were very contentious thereafter. The very good board chairman had gone and it just wasn’t as well run and I just said, “See ya.” And so many people left the neighborhood.
DEUTSCH: As a result of the riots?
KELLY: Nobody said that. [Interruption for phone call.] You’d go to a cocktail party in Northwest, “Well, why did they burn their own places down?” You know. I’d never felt that helpless, just seeing it and just sort of waiting. Being so surprised at everybody being so surprised that we had a riot. You know? [Laughs]
KELLY: It was amazing.
DEUTSCH: Talk a little bit about the urban renewal that was going on during this period.
KELLY: Well, the urban renewal stuff was in Southwest, and Southwest was a very run-down neighborhood, but it was a community. I mean some of the houses didn’t even have plumbing. Urban renewal, said the people on high … was really pushed hard by Phil Graham of the Washington Post. They said, “We will tear down these houses and build nice big apartment buildings for the well-to-do, or for the middle class, and they will become friends with the people in public housing.”
KELLY: Yeah. “And they will all go to Amidon together, all their children and they will love each other.” Now to do this … The glue of the neighborhood were these homeowners in these tiny little houses.
DEUTSCH: Who had been there for generations probably.
KELLY: Yes, and they said, “You’re out.” Well some of them stood up and said, “No we’re not. We’re not taking it. We’re not going.” Until they were the last ones on the block and they had everybody’s roaches and everybody’s rats and they still didn’t get any more money. So they all had to move and they jammed into Northeast. A lot of families just fell apart and they were bitter. They were not really consulted. It was like the Ludlow thing on a massive scale. This happened in ’48, the beginning urban renewal, I think. Everything was built probably by the mid 50s. People were out.
DEUTSCH: Was this that whole development down where Arena Stage is?
KELLY: Uh huh.
DEUTSCH: All that. Waterside Mall and …
KELLY: Uh huh. Right. Right. You would go to Safeway at Waterside Mall, and if you’re ever going to get robbed or anything, it would be there. I mean you’re going to be jostled. You’re going to be nasty cracks, yeah. Everything about the way the city ran was those people on high looking down on us. I think particularly the women of the 60s living on the Hill were just amazed to find themselves looked down on, just as if they were poor and black, but we were. I just didn’t understand [unintelligible]. I told you when Laughlin Phillips who owned the Washingtonian read my story comparing east and west, the park, he said, “Well, I find no problem with my public school. I walk down there and looked at it and it was fine.” And he lived on Foxhall Road. He had missed the point. I can give you the names of some of the people, by the way, who are African American, I think would be good people to interview.
DEUTSCH: Who are still here?
KELLY: Uh huh. One is still here. The other, Janie, lives … I forget where.
END OF TAPE 2/SIDE 1
TAPE 2/SIDE 2
DEUTSCH: There were lots of protests. We talked about the March on Washington, but in the years that followed that there were anti-war protests and various things.
KELLY: Right. People talk about the 60s but really it was the mid to late 60s and early 70s. In national politics, Sharon Ambrose pretty much ran the McCarthy push.
DEUTSCH: The Eugene McCarthy?
KELLY: Eugene, right. Just more liberal and very active. But the marches started, I’m trying to say ’66, ’67, and every day there was a different protest when it really got going because this is holiday off from school, a free bus ride, pot, sex …
KELLY: … and beliefs, right? And it was where everything was happening. Of course you would tell your children, “Do not go to the protests.” What happened was, all the children in the neighborhood, they were going across town to school generally. You drive them in the morning and usually they would take a bus home. And you’d say, “Get off at your own stop. Do not get off at the Capitol. Do not.” “Yeah, mom, you betcha.” Well if it looked like something was happening …
DEUTSCH: Of course they got off at the Capitol.
KELLY: And you’d hear them talk at a party. “Well, I’ve been tear-gassed twice.” And the other one would say, “You think that’s something? I’ve been tear-gassed three times.” And really what it was, they were a block away, but the slightest whiff was considered being tear-gassed. I remember Meg was 13 and there was a kid in with her mother from Potomac at a party and she said, “You’ll love Babs, she’s just like me. Her mother is just like you.” Which I hope was not the case. And I hear her talking to Babs, and she says, “Well Babs, there’s never been a march like the Moratorium.” And now, that was the only march Meg was allowed to go to because Tom was a Marshall. The administration, I guess it was Nixon, said only a quarter of a million were there. Actually it had to be at least a million because Constitution to Independence at the Capitol was solid people. There were no cars. All the way to the Lincoln Memorial.
KELLY: Solid. Solid people. “So there’s never been a march like the Moratorium and May Day. May Day has just had a bad press.” Now I had picked up Meg from school with her great aunt, the daughter of [unintelligible] and we’re driving along and we’re among the first cars that are allowed to drive past on May Day. That was her experience with May Day. And she said, “But you know, the abortionists didn’t know what they were doing, and the Puerto Ricans just couldn’t get it together.” [Laughs] She’s critiquing the marches. I mean it blew me away. And that’s how they all talked and they saw enough, all the kids in the neighborhood saw enough poor behavior and holiday kind of behavior and drugs that I think I only know two kids who got into trouble with drugs. And that whole time, they all took the more conservative choice which was interesting. I mean I’m sure they all tried pot but they didn’t go overboard with it. The kids from the suburbs often did.
KELLY: So it was an interesting contrast. The kids in the neighborhood however all had false IDs at the Tune Inn.
KELLY: Yes. Yes, I’m afraid so. In fact we were having the kitchen redone so I couldn’t cook a dinner for Michael’s 18th birthday. And I said I’ll do carry-in, in which is very unusual for us or for anybody …
DEUTSCH: In those days.
KELLY: … in those days. We went to Maguire’s Bar and I said, “I’ll buy you a beer. You’re 18. You’re legally allowed to drink beer but you’ll be carded.” And he was. Gladly handed them his learner’s permit, and then he gladly handed me his phony ID that he had been showing at the Tune Inn saying he was a 23 year old house painter. [Laughs]
And then the women in the early 70s, they started going to consciousness-raising at St. Mark’s. Which was a lot of talking about their husbands and how they weren’t doing their share. When I was asked to go I said, “I better not, you know. This will just …” [Laughs]
DEUTSCH: [Laughs] We don’t want to let that genie out of the bottle.
KELLY: [Laughs] No, lead me astray. So they would go there and then they would go to law school and then they would get a divorce and then they would complain about daycare because there wasn’t any. It was a curious time.
DEUTSCH: A heady time.
KELLY: Uh huh. Yes. And you often felt like you were going to be beheaded. [Laughs]
END OF INTERVIEW
This final version started with the 2015-2016 version edited by Elizabeth Lewis and Bernadette McMahon and saved in Formatted, Not Final folder 4/5/16. Marguerite had it for years but agreed to go over some final questions 7/14/20. Changes were made (spellings, etc.) and this is final.