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May 26, 1946

If I seem to be a little bitter this morning, it’s only because the self-imposed ethics of broadcasting restrict me from sounding as bitter as I am. So I’ll have to let it go at seeming only a little bitter. Occasionally someone who listens to this program writes me a nice letter telling me that it is a pleasant diversion to find a spot on the dial where there is relief from the labored breathing of heavy problems. And I’m thinking about those letters now. I wish could forget them. They make me feel like a heel for what I am about to say. Maybe while there’s still time you ought to reach for the dial. No, I suppose I shouldn’t say that. Sounds disloyal to your Mutual station. I guess you might as well stick it out. I’ll have it off my chest in a minute or two. Maybe it won’t be as bitter as I think it will be . . . because I feel pretty good this morning. But the first two items on the note pad are . . . in this order . . . 1. Socks . . . and 2. Houses. Now how can a fellow be gay and cheerful on said subjects. The socks entry came about this way: Maralene reminded me Sunday night that I need socks. I made a note on a three by five card which she provides for the purpose, that I was to remember to stop by somewhere and buys socks on Monday. Unlike many of its predecessors . . . somehow that card didn’t get lost and yesterday after the broadcast I found myself staring moodily at it and bracing myself for the shopping ordeal. I have not been endowed by nature as the model shopper. Twenty minutes in a department store leaves me with four cricks in my back from standing around waiting for someone to ask me what I want. And I usually wind up by buying an alarm clock, six golf balls and a book I never get time to read, which wasn’t what I went out to get at all. Well, yesterday it was operation socks . . . and I had the beach head sketched out in my mind. I knew what I wanted this time. For years before the war my sock needs were simple and standard. I am what the seasoned store clerk would no doubt call the vertical rib type. All I want is a sock big enough not to cramp my toes, sturdy enough to come through a laundering without a purple heart and in solid colors with a rib in the weave running straight up . . . a sober maroon or dark blue to go with my bluish suit . . . or brown or Dartmouth green for the brownlsh suit. That made it pretty simple back in the days when socks were for sale. But during the war, what with being obliged to wear black socks seven days a week for four years, I had resolved that once back in civvies I’d go in for some flaming plaids. And yesterday was the day for reaching the objective. It’s a little embarrassing when you’re a conventional straight- ribbed, solid color sock man to walk right into a store and ask for a multicolored plaid. But I didn’t shrink. I turned my coat collar up so that I wouldn’t be recognized and wore my moustache for further disguise. In the first five stores I affected an easy nonchalance . . . and . . . as though I had been saying it all my life . . . I told the clerk, “I’d like to see some bright plaid socks . . . size eleven and a half.” In almost every case the clerk . . . said . . . “So would I, buddy.” A little disconcerting. But I stayed with it. Finally I wound up in a swank shop on Fifth Avenue where I should have known better than to try. And this time the clerk said . . . “Why, yes . . . we have a few pair here,” and he hauled them out. Very nifty, too. Felt good, looked good. And long enough to be latched onto a garter which us old fashioned gents still wear. There was just one little negative ingredient. Firmly affixed to each pair of socks was a small pasteboard tag bearing the legend . . . in numerals . . . five, point six zero. In short, five dollars and sixty cents. Just a way of making conversation I said to the clerk . . . “This . . . is the price . . . I take it?” He assured me that it was. It includes both socks though doesn’t it? I mean one for each foot. Oh yes, he said . . . five sixty buys the pair. Well, I couldn’t take advantage of such generosity. I decided for the time being to pass them up and I now have three additional pair of vertical ribbed hose . . . in my wardrobe . . . size eleven and a half and all brown because there was no other color. Sixty five cents a pair and I bought them at a plain little old shop with wrinkles in its window display. The plaids will have to wait, and I just hope that there are no psychiatrists around this morning. Maybe this smoldering determination to break out in bright plaids around the ankles has some sinister undercurrent of meaning.

Bitter item number 2. To wit: houses. Two bits on the news wire conspired to put this on the pad for this morning. I had long ago resolved not to say anything about the housing shortage. I don’t like jokes about it because it is no joking matter and since all I am in position to do is beef about it without affecting a remedy, I had made up my mind to stay away from it. But these two disconnected items nudged me into it. One was very remote. It was a news word the other day after congress had crossed itself up and got its nose caught in a special election day, baby kissing gesture by trimming the edges of the draft bill. You remember they eliminated the drafting of boys under twenty and since all those over twenty who were eligible had already been called, it left practically no one to draft. Though next there appeared a stall box item from Philadelphia describing the great loneliness of a chap named Edward Francis Mooney who turned up at the induction armory and found himself the only man there. He was the only one drafted in an area made up of sixteen counties in eastern Pennsylvania. I should have been thinking about military preparedness and the tense international situation, I suppose, when I read that. But all I could think of was that one lonely little fellow in that great big space. The second nudger was wired yesterday morning from Los Angeles. It was about a 22 year old marine veteran named Kenneth Gruse who had received his eviction notice and couldn’t find another apartment. He packed all his gear on a trailer and went back into the house to get his last armful . . . it being his trusty old radio set. When he came back out he found that someone had swiped his trailer complete with all worldly possessions. If John Bunyan can think of a worse plight than that let him try. That . . . as Jane Ace would say . . . is taking the bitter with the bitter. I feel a bit strongly on the subject at the moment because I happen to know a guy intimately who is engaged in the process of finding a new home for his wife and baby and who is finding the road beset with difficulty. He bought a house only because it was impossible to rent an apartment. He bought this particular house because it was the only one the real estate agent could show him in a price range just this side of the British loan. He was told . . . that, the house being less than 200 years old and with all modern conveniences including inside plumbing and a roof, he could probably mortgage it to the hilt. This was all right with him because he needed what little cash he had to buy a chair for sitting and a table to eat from. Also a bed to sleep in. Those little things come in handy, you know. Well, I don’t want to weary you with the details. But to make a long story morbid, the mortgage did not come up to the hilt. It didn’t come up to the knees of the purchase price. And to make matters worse the GI loan which this fellow had heard a lot about and had counted on . . . wasn’t there at all. The government appraiser could not appraise the house at the full purchase price . . . and ever look his conscience in the eye again. That’s how bloated the price was. And when the government appraiser doesn’t appraise at full purchase price, there is no GI loan to supplement the mortgage. That’s not all. The house is located in one of those charming little suburbs where contact with the outside world is maintained only by telephone and automobile. The nearest bus line . . . when it operates . . . is what the real estate man called a “longish” walk. By that he means that with a shoe box lunch, hiking shoes and a jigger of adrenalin . . . it is possible on a clear day to make it. By then, of course, it is dark and it’s time to come back home. So the fellow needs a car. Hah . . . if I may say so. Have you tried shopping for a car lately? I mean just anything that moves . . . a handsome rusting 1935 vintage model with four wheels. And as for telephone. There is a new ruling concerning priorities. If you are not a hospital, a police station or a public works . . . you’re not it. This fellow I know being just a plain ex-GI trying to wrangle a phone for ordering food delivery because he has no car and there are no busses . . . is put on the waiting list for a phone which means that with a fast track he can expect service not later than February eighteenth 1947 at half past four o’clock eastern standard time.

Well, that’s enough of being bitter for one edition. Now I’m going to be real helpful. If any of you are having housing problems similar to those my friend is suffering, I have here in this hand a ripe solution. This is a strip of news copy rent from last night’s edition of the New York World Telegram. This solves everything. Take note if you like. Here is a vacancy. I’ll give you the full particulars. It is a modest dwelling on the corner of 73rd Street and Riverside Drive. It used to be owned by a man named Schwab. It’s empty now and you can have it. Now wait. Don’t plunge into this unheeding. Let’s see if it will accommodate your needs. There are 75 rooms. Will that be enough? No kidding, 75 rooms and 40, count ‘em, bathrooms. Some of the baths are hand painted. That’s an inducement, certainly. There is a gymnasium and a marble swimming pool. I know you wouldn’t want to live in a place without a gymnasium and a swimming pool. What would your friends say? This is on the level now. Get this: There is a hundred thousand dollar power plant in this house and of course you’ll want to know the dimensions of the kitchen. 35 by 20, feet that is, son . . . not inches. 35 by 20. But you’ll have to limit your parties. The best this kitchen can provide is cooking facilities for 1500 guests. I’m sure you won’t mind blue-penciling your guest list though. What with things being tough all over. The refrigerator will hold 20 tons of beef. You’ll just have to leave the rest at the butcher’s to be called for as you need it. And this, this may chill your enthusiasm for the whole deal. The stove is one of those old fashioned ones with a canopy. Another drawback is that the pantry isn’t large enough for a full-sized baseball diamond. But a little twilight softball could be managed, I think. The laundry is equipped with a 13 door dryer, five porcelain tubs and copper washers. The heating plant would have all it could do to warm up a 2000 room hotel, the swimming pool is appointed with 10 handsome Cararra marble columns and there is a steam room adjoining the billiard room. Downstairs . . . there are 15 rooms for the servants. There is also a cool, dark wine cellar with racks ready for anything. The main reception hall is as Corinthian as can be with magnificent wainscot. There are three elevators and a peach of a view of the Palisades from the minaret. One of the strong points about this vacancy that had me wobbling was that you don’t have to worry about telephone service. Just to call around from room to room or summon refreshment from below stairs there is a 30 foot switch board on the premises. Just enough to keep you from getting lonesome. Like it eh? I knew you’d be interested. Now we get to the . . . er, ah . . . delicate, but nonetheless to be faced, financial arrangements. You can rent this place for 75 thousand a year. That’s not 75 thousand a month . . . 75 grand a year. Not bad, not bad. What do you say? Can I write you up? Oh I see well, yes there is that to be considered. You wouldn’t know what to do with the rest of your money if you rented this shack for 75 thousand. I see what you mean. This might make a suitable residence for the fourth amphibious group of which I was a dues paying member last year. But there is a hitch. The house is for occupancy by one family, their employees and guests. You see, it’s this way. There are laws pertaining to multiple dwellings and if this place were to be partitioned off . . . there would be questions of fireproofing and fire escapes . . . and licensed firemen to administer the high pressure boiling system. When I listed all these particulars for Maralene and asked her how about it for us, she said . . .”There’s just one thing I want to look into first. What are the shopping facilities? How far are the stores?” That’s Maralene for you. Always spotting the weakness. Come to think of it . . . would we need shopping facilities? There is probably a cow pasture on the roof and a slaughtering house in the sub basement. You don’t have to rent if you’d find it a nuisance to be digging into your pants pocket for that 75 thousand every year. If you want to buy outright . . . the bank which represents the estate will talk seriously if you bring along a down payment of two million three hundred thousand dollars. And you are further cautioned that a little deal like this costs four hundred thousand a year to keep going . . . what with one thing and another. I’m tipping you off to this vacancy as my contribution to the housing problem . . . because you’re a good friend of mine and because I’ve decided to pass it up myself. There are one or two things about it that make it unsuitable to my immediate needs —