TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: The Time I Met Ayn Rand

The Time I Met Ayn Rand

Patrick Townson (
Wed, 18 Jan 2006 00:45:00 EST

Originally, I had said,

>> We can discuss Ms. Rand another time ...

Liss Hancock responded:

> We should. She has a heck of a lot of good ideas, but she, like
> other famous political/social commentators/writers, forget about
> somecritical aspec ts of human nature that will prevent their
> theories from working. This applies to both liberals and
> conservatives. (The "Kennedy wing" of the Democrats is just as
> clueless as the "DeLay wing" of the Republicans).

Since I was only a freshman in high school I had no idea what things
were about either.

The year was 1957; I was the captain of the Debating Team in our high
school. Our coach also doubled as our "Social Studies" teacher; Arthur
Erickson was also responsible for planning all the school-wide
assemblies, the usually weekly convocations where everyone would
gather in the auditorium for special programs of one kind or another. He
was also the teacher in high school who encouraged, and occasionally
required students to read the Christian Science Monitor from time to
time. In those days, CSM was _not_ the tabloid size paper with lots of
colorful pictures it is today; it was printed on larger sheets of
paper like New York Times, with _very few_ pictures and graphics,
normally fifty or sixty pages each day. He paid for my first subscription
and I have read the paper almost daily since that time.

Our debating class one day was discussing who would be good for an
assembly program, and the name of Ayn Rand came up, primarily because
she was at that time in the process of getting her latest book 'Atlas
Shrugged' into print. Well, we decided to send her a letter inviting
her to come, since her earlier book 'The Fountainhead' had been an
interesting movie. We had seen the movie in an assembly program the
year before. She was on the book store 'tour' hawking her new book
and signing copies, etc. I had an original copy of 'Atlas Shrugged'
autographed by her in cloth or hard copy for many years. At one point
it got stolen (or borrowed and never returned, I do not know which.)
Now I just have a couple paperback copies of it and Fountainhead.

Well, she wrote back and agreed to come! For free mind you, since she
was promoting her new book. But we had to agree to get her back to
Ohare Airport afterward, since she had still another stop that night
and another one the next day. Of course we agreed and waited eagerly
for her arrival. She came, brought a box full of her books already
autographed, and gave a very interesting speech. As the President of
the Debate Team I even got to introduce her.

Afterward, we had to get her back to Ohare, but with a bit of time to
kill, so Arthur asked her to join the two of us for dinner, at a place
on 95th Street in Chicago. We get there, Arthur orders cocktails for
the two of them (martinis I think) and a Coke or Pepsi for me, and
puts in our dinner order. I had brought with me a copy of the book
review which had appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, and she
was quite eager to read it all. The book reviews the Monitor used to
print in the old days were frequently more like essays in terms
of their length and editorial content.

So there she sits in our booth, martini in one hand, her well known
cigarette holder in the other hand, dragging on her cigarette and
sipping her cocktail reading quietly what that days' Monitor had to
say about her work. Now and again she would stop reading and stare
sort of intently at me. Her real name was Mrs. Frank Connor (I
think), by virtue of her marriage to that guy. But she preferred to
write and be known by her original name, Ayn Rand. She said, "I will
trade you a signed copy of my book for this newspaper to take with
me." I said okay, and then, as she stared at me intently, she said,
"Your name is Patrick? Such a smart Young Man! Too smart to believe
in Gott! Why do you believe in Gott, Patrick?"

I had no good answer for that, nor would Arthur help me out with it.
He preferred to sit there, face hidden behind the newspaper he was
reading while he smirked and tried to avoid laughing, not at her so
much as at her question addressed to me. We finished our dinners, and
got her to Ohare and on to her next destination.

That was my entire aquaintence with her. Later that year, in the
summer of 1957, Arthur had a mission in New York City, at Columbia
University for two or three days, and he asked my mother and dad if
they would allow me to go along mainly to see the city, since at
that point I never had been there before. They said I could go, and
when we got to NYC and established at Columbia U. where he was in
some seminar program, I got the bright idea that I would go find
Ms. Rand and visit with her. I found her in the Manhattan phone book
and set out, but she was not around, still on her book store tour
I guess. When I got back later that day, Arthur had been looking for
me and gave me hell for my bright idea, but he did not tell my
parents anything about it. That's all I know about the lady other
than reading her books, and feeling as you noted, that her ideas were
excellent but very unrealistic in real life.

>> In 1963-67, Dr. King frequently came around Chicago. I recall his
>> visits _always_ included meetings with Civil Rights activists in the
>> town and he would always speak to civic and religious groups.

> Chicago turned out to be a very tough nut crack. The problems and
> challenges were different than the South and not as easily dealt with.

Tell me about it! King Daley the First kept a very tight finger on
everything. Daley the Second is only a wee bit better.

>> Prior to that, they only had white people employed there
>> (librarians, clerks, custodians, etc).

> In northern cities, African Americans usually got service jobs, such
> as janitors, housekeepers, cooks, laborers, etc., though there were
> black teachers, police officers and firemen, at least in Phila. In WW
> II, in response to a labor shortage, the Philadelphia Transportation
> Company wanted to promote blacks from cleaners to streetcar motormen.
> The rest of the motormen vehemently objected and went out on strike
> shutting down the city and vital war production plants, causing a big
> mess that required Federal troops to clean up.

Not before the Second War, they didn't. But help was so hard to come
by in WW-2 'they' had to use them.

> In the 1950s blacks very slowly were permitted into better jobs, such
> as a judge, school principal, TV newscaster, etc. This accelerated in
> the 1960s.

There were no black kids in the high school I went to. There was a
"gentlemen's agreement" against it. Ditto with the movies; there was
a section where black people sat. That's just how it was done.

It did accelerate in the 1960's but not that much around Chicago until
after the riots in 1968. In the hotel I lived in on 56th Street in
Hyde Park (yes, a liberal bastion and all that) in 1970 they had a
WHITE manager, WHITE desk clerks, WHITE telephone operators, a WHITE
Building Engineer, a WHITE housekeeper (maid supervisor), but nine
BLACK maids to clean the rooms and a BLACK janitor, supervised by the
WHITE Building Engineer. The manager said to me "but the guests would
be offended if a 'colored person' was working the front desk". Even
all of her maids were white ladies through about 1942 or so, until the
owner of the building at that point in time told her she could get
black ladies 'if absolutely necessary' due to the trouble of finding
'white cleaning ladies' during the war. (Mrs. Brown managed the
building [high rise, 15 stories, hundred plus apartments] from about
1939 or so until she passed away in 1980.)

The first anniversary of King's assassination, in 1969, all her maids
'called in sick' in protest. When I saw her later that day she told me
about it, and said, "but of course, all the guests expected to have
their beds made and their bathtubs cleaned out ... who do you suppose
had to do it all today?" (with a sarcastic look on her face.) Why,
Mrs. Brown, I guess you did ... PAT]

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