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The Tentacle


August 9, 2013

My First Post-Army Employer Sold

Roy Meachum

Eugene “Butch” Meyer arises vividly in my thoughts. He was the Republican financier who bought The Washington Post on the building’s steps where now stands a garage, next to the National Theater. He figured the new FDR administration needed a voice in Washington.

 

“Butch” was the boss at 1515 L Street N.W., where Elsie Carper offered a job in January 1953, over 60 years ago. It was the lowliest of the low in journalism, a copy boy. Eventually, I became a reporter and then a company executive, before I was fired in 1968 as a reviewer in all the performing arts.

 

Sometimes he wore a printer’s cap designed to protect the hair from flying news-ink in the pressroom; ironically, under his daughter, Kay Graham, there was a concentrated drive to force out all unions that were the key to Mr. Meyer’s take-over. I do not share the lofty view of Mrs. Graham publically held.

 

When President Lyndon B. Johnson’s White House terms ran out; there was a complete change among the corporation’s executives, including my last boss. Post-Newsweek stations’ president John S. Hayes was chairman of the Executive Committee that ran things during Phil Graham’s final years. He blew his brains out in a bathroom. Reportedly he was mixed up with an Australian Newsweek reporter, to the point he abandoned his family for the redhead.

 

In revenge, when Kay took over the reins, she separated members of the executive committee: newspaper Publisher John Sweeterman, Executive Editor Russ Wiggins, Managing Editor Al Friendly; and, of course, John Hayes. (Mr. Sweeterman retired; Mr. Wiggins went as the United Nations’ U.S. ambassador; Mr. Friendly was given an overseas bureau, in London, where he was roving correspondent; Mr. Hayes was posted to Switzerland as ambassador.)

 

When Al Friendly was announced for 1970’s Pulitzer Prize – reading the Post story I bounced out of bed – he won for reporting on 1969’s Six-Day War in the Middle East. Of course, my former managing editor’s tale was known to his professional comrades. When I came to the newspaper, the only Pulitzer belonged to Eddie Folliard, a Georgetown Irishman who specialized on using two fingers to tap-out his articles. The second prize came from Herblock’s “You Were Always a Good Friend to Me, Joseph,” on the death of Stalin; I was sitting at the copy desk when the cartoonist presented a preview.

 

Maybe the executive committee was chauvinist, treating Kay as a housewife, her preferred and announced role; whatever, she separated her father’s office assistant, stenographer Charlie Paradise; he went into retirement howling.

 

The infamous pressmen’s strike I covered for television; I read lately they no longer teach the 1975 incident because of the union’s “ridiculous” actions. But I reported on the Post’s Pinkertons, engaged for that occasion, following a striker in a field to take a pee and beating him half to death. I followed the Prince George’s police report and told the story. As a result, unions’ negotiations were no future problem at the paper. Kay’s son Don Graham was the company’s executive in charge.

 

Now my first post-Army’s employer has been sold; details should be wound up in 60 days. When I worked there, things were more civilized but that was before the age when Kay Graham became a feminists’ idol. But at least, before she died 12 years ago, the women’s ghetto in the newsroom had been abolished.



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