A Career in European Archeology, Taylor Shares Observations of Smithsonian Sci+Tech Museum Founder Frank Taylor
Interviewee: Joan Taylor
Date: June 9, 2012
Interviewers: Joan Solomon Janshego and Carl Lankowski
Location: Taylor residence in Chevy Chase DC
Transcribed (from audio recording) by: Carl Lankowski
Joan Taylor passed away at the age of 78 in a hospital in Chester, UK, in October 2019
Q: Let’s start with your birth date.
JT: 18 December 1940. I was born in the Women’s Hospital in DC, which doesn’t exist anymore.
Q: It has been converted into high-end condominium apartments.
JT: My father was with the Smithsonian Institution. So, when I became interested in Archeology, he put me in touch with people he thought would discourage me. But Betty J. Meggers and Clifford Evans encouraged me. They encouraged a lot of young people who were interested in Archeology. I followed Betty. I went to Lafayette, Alice Deal, and Woodrow Wilson schools. Then I went on to the University of Pennsylvania. She went to Murch, Alice Deal, Woodrow Wilson Schools and the University of Pennsylvania, but twenty years earlier.
Q: Who were Meggers and Evans?
JT: They were curators at the Smithsonian in Latin American Archeology. She still lives. She’s 90. She has been a close friend all my career. She went to the University of Pennsylvania and then to Columbia, where she met her husband, and then she and her husband went to the University of Michigan for their PhDs. I went to the University of Pennsylvania and then to Cambridge, England. I did my doctorate at Cambridge.
Q: Let’s go back. Are there any other children in your family?
JT: No, I am an only child.
Q: Where are your parents from?
JT: My father was a Washingtonian as was my grandmother. My mother was from Boston. Sisters married brothers, so I have double first-cousins, but it means the family has imploded. We spent our summers in Massachusetts to be with the other side of the family. My mother was a legal secretary. When she came to Washington she didn’t continue working, so I always had mother at home. Her hobby was azaleas. The neighborhood has a lot of offsprings from her azaleas. She was also a very good seamstress. She wanted to be a dress designer. But you needed a chaperone to go to New York, so she never managed to realize her dream. Mother was very productive, but it was always within the household.
With respect to my father, he wanted to be a patent lawyer, so did a degree in engineering at MIT followed by a degree at Georgetown Law. But in the meantime, the Smithsonian picked him up and he became the curator of water power and then moved up; he ultimately built the Museum of History and Technology, which is now called the National Museum of American History. Father served as acting secretary at times when Dillon Ripley was out of the country or out of town. So, he moved right through the Smithsonian. The Times of London had the best obituary—the Washington Post rather muffed it. The Times pointed out that he had an international reputation. They called him “Mr. Museum”.
Q: How old was he when he died?
JT: He lived to be 104 years old. He began to like to have half-yearly birthday parties. We just missed the 104 and a half party. I used to bring back stilton cheese and cheddar cheese, which he was fond of. The last time I did this, my suitcase weighed so much from cheese that we had to go and buy another suitcase. At the airport in Manchester the check-in man said he was waiving the charge—“tell your father happy birthday!”
Q: What year did he die?
JT: It was June 14, 2007.
Q: He lived in this house his whole time in Washington?
JT: He grew up on Capitol Hill. He was being pushed by a friend to move to Knollwood [a retirement home for veterans on Oregon Avenue in Chevy Chase]. He didn’t want to live outside of the District of Columbia and he decided he wanted to stay in his own home. So, gradually I hired various house-keepers and he was very happy here.
The last house-keeper and her family looked after him very well. I had dinner with her just last night and she told me she drove him out to see Rockville, Maryland., and he didn’t recognize it. I know that when my grandparents were alive we used to take them out for a drive on Sunday and there were apple orchards and farms like that out there. I think it was in 1978, we decided to cut our own Christmas tree in Damascus, Maryland. We got out there and the snow was too deep. They were not cutting Christmas trees in the snow, but he wouldn’t recognize Damascus today. It has all been built up.
Father saw a lot of change. In fact, when he bought this house, his parents warned him that he was buying in the wrong location—“Washington will never move out there”. As a child he was taught at the movie house never to accept free land in Virginia, because you would only ever pay tax on it; it would never be developed.
Q: Free land was being given?
JT: Yes, and it was around Tyson’s Corner. “Boy! I missed out on that,” he later told me. In fact, he and his brother used to shoot birds down where the Lincoln Memorial is now. It had been all swamp then. I picked up some engravings of Washington that somehow came into the hands of a man in Wales. They show water coming up almost to the White House. And of course there was the Tiber canal that took materials to build the Capitol up Constitution Avenue. So, there was quite an interesting change to that part of the city. Father had always been interested in the history of Washington. There was a story that my grandfather jumped over the top of the Washington Monument. This was because they had the cast pinnacle of the column on the ground and all the men in Washington were jumping over it so that they could say they had jumped over the Washington Monument.
It was an interesting household to grow up in. If no one knew the answer to a question, we had little Funk-Wagnall-Green encyclopedias. They would come onto the dining room table—atlases, dictionaries, encyclopedias—and we would often sit with two or three pots of tea and just enjoy discussions and learning. It was a great household to grow up in.
Q: Tell us more about Barnaby Woods and how your father got here.
JT: If you look from here towards the houses on 31st Place, there were no trees in their back yards. That’s because it was farm land. These were fields that fed a sanatorium somewhere around the intersection of Tennyson and Utah Avenue. I never learned exactly where it was from my mother, but she said that when she was working out in the yard, often the owner of the sanatorium would ride his horse down the back line, looking at his crops. They cleared the trees there. I have seen Land Sat photographs of this area. When I first saw them, they called it primeval forest. They didn’t even know that houses were built under these trees. It was considered forest. Of course they know of Rock Creek Park.
There was a track that my parents came in off of 31st Place—there wasn’t a driveway, there wasn’t 32nd Street here. And the reason we are double-banked is that they changed the road line. Originally, it was supposed to come by at the bottom of the first terrace, but it was built down further, with the result that it became two terraces.
A man called Swanson built the first five houses on this street—we’re the biggest. The other two have the same house plan, as do the two further houses have identical original plans.
Q: Swanson was the builder?
JT: Yes. He was funded by his mother-in-law, who apparently was fairly wealthy. He would buy rolls of copper and make his own guttering. Therefore, the quality of the houses was superior to others because he had this extra money to throw at it. I have no idea what my father paid for this house—I think it was in the teens, maybe $17,000—and of course it’s not worth $17,000 today.
Q: What year was that?
JT: It was 1937. They bought it unfinished and had Swanson finish it to their tastes. Those bookcases on either side of the fireplace were what Dad wanted. There were some wall sconces, but when this portrait was hung, Dad took them off.
Q: Who is the portrait of?
JT: She was Frances Marilla Ainsworth Carrier, whose daughter married Nathaniel Terry Taylor, whose son was Augustus Carrier Taylor, my grandfather. Her dates were 1817-1899. There is another member of the family who would like it, but they are a different branch of the family. I think she will get the portrait in the end.
Q: Was this the first house in Barnaby Woods?
JT: Yes, though I don’t know the history of the other streets. As for the house directly across from us, Mimi Howell was the sister of the man who built it. I can’t remember his last name. That house was built after this one. Wm. T. Hardaker moved in. He was a naval aviator, later FAA. His son was a year behind me at Wilson and then at Penn. He was quarterback at Wilson. He did engineering at Penn, fought in Vietnam, then studied medicine and then taught Orthopedics at Duke. The father volunteered at the Air and Space Museum and found the records had the wrong plane for the Enola Gay, but no one used his photo when the anniversary came around and the mistake made the director of the Air and Space Museum resign his position. I think these five were the first houses.
A family called Fern lived in the white house across the street. In the next house lived a diplomat by the name of Johnson; Margaret and Tom West bought the house off their son, Edgar Johnson. Then over back in the house immediately behind me there was Connecticut Senator John Danaher [served 1939-1945-CL]. They had a big boxer named Baron. I can remember always being knocked down because Baron would always want to put his paws on my shoulders. I loved him just the same. They let him out at night; he would come over and scratch on our door and mother would let him in. He was spending the evenings with us.
Then there was an Army family that lived next to them. And Mr. Crouch lived on the other side of the Danahers behind us where they have put on a big extension. He had a vegetable patch. We would sit at the dining room table and watch the rabbits looking over a row of stones to see what they wanted to go over to eat. The squirrels stole his tomatoes. He accused me, but the tell-tale was the one bite taken out of the discarded fruit. The Smiths shared a drive with the Crouchs.
Q: What street is that behind you?
JT: 31st Place. The Millers had the old farm house and built two houses on either side. One was between the farm house and the army family, who had an Irish Setter named Major. The Millers brought a pony and later a sheep up from their farm and kept it in the back yard by their swimming pool.
There is a hickory tree that the squirrels love as well. We always had an animal population. Danahers had a possum get into their basement. Didn’t do any damage, but it showed that there were possums around. I rescued a baby rabbit from a neighbor’s nest. It was a surface nest. The dogs never seemed to smell it. Dad got the zoo formula for me and I used to rescue rabbits if they were brought to me. Mother was allergic to all animals, but they would get inside my tennis ball cans. We have pictures of mother seeming to feed a tennis ball can. Dad always took me to the circus and I’d buy a lizard, a chameleon. It lived on the porch. It wasn’t until I was at Cambridge that I caught on that mother always lost the lizard about September. She would say that she had taken it out to an ant hill for a treat or something like that and that it had got away. I asked dad if mother had purposely lost my chameleons every year; he said he didn’t know. He would never tell, but the lizards never came inside to winter over. I also had canary birds and can remember mother clipping their toenails while holding the bird up to the light to see the veins; both mother and bird would be shaking, but she always cut the nails correctly. I also had a fish and a turtle. Invariably, my grandparents would fill the turtle’s bowl too high, so I would have to get another turtle after summer holidays.
Q: Where did your grandparents live?
JT: On Upshur Street. Near Rock Creek Park near Blagdon Avenue. The people next door here and shared our drive were called Winters and he was from North Carolina. He was a grass specialist working for the Department of Agriculture. They were the first to put zoysja on their banks. Mother hated it because it would go brown in the winter. Some people dye it now, if they have it. It was supposed to be a grass that didn’t need a lot of cutting. It was green in the summer but looked like Buffalo grass in the winter. The Winters were very, very fine people.
I was raised Roman Catholic, though I always had a dissension towards it. My cousin is a nun with the same order that runs Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. It is a French order and they were cloistered teachers. I can remember having to pick up a friend at their school and having to wear white gloves and curtsy to them. Mother was not Catholic. She saw that while dad was away during World War II that I went to Sunday school at Blessed Sacrament Church, both Saturdays and Sundays. And we also had to go on retreats. There was always contention between my father and me about being Catholic. Monsignor Duffy, who used to be at Blessed Sacrament, was a very good friend of dad’s. One time he said to dad: “I think we had better get Joan back in the Catholic Church”. My dad’s instant reply was “you’ll be lucky.” This was reported to me by Anna Maria, dad’s last house-keeper. Dad and I had a slight friction over this. I am Church of England now, which dad tried to explain to Msg.Duffy as not very different from the Catholic Church. Henry VIII would dispute that statement!
Q: So, you did not attend Blessed Sacrament School?
JT: No, I went to Lafayette. Sometimes I found mom sitting on the back porch with nuns from Blessed Sacrament trying to convince her that I should go to their school. She always resisted. She thought I should have a co-educational education. I think she was right. I used to go on their retreats, but it got to be contentious when I was at Woodrow Wilson High School because they would often have them when we were studying for exams. I remember I rebelled one time. Dad was furious, but it would have affected my priming for College Boards, so I held out on that. At regular intervals there would be efforts to bring me back to the Catholic Church and convert mother. They said we would be damned to hell. I came home in tears one time. I asked mother if she was going to hell. She replied with her own question: “is Dr. Winters next door going to hell?”. Oh no, no, I said. He was close to being a saint. Mother continued: “well, if he’s not going, I’m not going”. (laughter) Dr. Winters was Episcopalian and his son became an Episcopalian minister.
Q: Did she go to a different church?
JT: No, she never said what she would have been, but she said she wouldn’t be Catholic and she wouldn’t offend dad by joining another church.
Q: So, he went to church himself?
JT: Yes, and took me along. He was a staunch supporter of the Church. Even when he couldn’t go, he was contributing. I used to handle all his charity giving at Christmas. We discovered that he was giving to the diocese twice. They had two different names. He was paying a substantial sum of money twice. When we were running a little bit tight, when we had to have five care-givers, I felt we had to cut back on his gifts. He was very generous. He supported all sorts, soup kitchens, for example. If he ever found a charity was taking too much for administration, he would cross them off. The Nature Conservancy was one. What I did was cut it back to half of what he gave and that was still generous. He also gave to his two universities—MIT and Georgetown. MIT actually sent someone to thank him for giving annually, which I thought was very good of them.
Dad was a very fine and ethical person. One time I had a gift of yellow pencils that had my name on them. Dad would go around the house twice a year and pick up yellow pencils he brought back from the Smithsonian, because he worked a lot at home. He would take a bundle of pencils to re-circulate them. Everybody got Joan Taylor pencils. (laughter) That became a regular point of laughter at the office. He was very good that way.
Q: Who lived in this house before you?
JT: No one. We are the original owners.
Q: And your father before moving here?
He always moved with his parents. There was Capitol Hill, then Upshur Street. He was doing a degree in Economics when he met my mother. He also had a shared boat, an old oyster barge, a sailing vessel. They would go around the Chesapeake in it. Mother remembered that he was always the cook. But he was also frequently sea sick. Finally, he said he could not have a boat, a wife, and do a degree in Economics at the same time, so he gave up the boat and Economics and they got married in 1938.
Q: Do you know how they met?
JT: They met through my Aunt Helen McCury and Uncle Edward Taylor. My uncle was at MIT as well. I guess dad was living with my uncle while he was finishing his degree. He went to evening school here. My uncle was fully paid for by his father to go through university. My father and his sister had to find their own ways. My aunt won a full $15 scholarship to the University of Maryland. She had a degree in Mathematics. She worked with Dr. Silverman, who lived in the rambler-style house there at the junction of Worthington, 32nd Street and 32nd Place, which for a long time was a vacant lot on which we used to play. We knew the Silvermans before, because my aunt worked with him in public health. My aunt worked in DC public health, I think. She had a Mathematics degree from Maryland. My father attended evening classes at George Washington University and also at Catholic University. He needed a B average to transfer to MIT, but there was one English course in which he did not have at least a B on all his essays. He went in and negotiated with the teacher. By this time he was working at the Smithsonian. The teacher told him he had to write up some short biographies of famous people in the Washington area, scientists mostly. “If you can write them, I’ll mark them and use them and we’ll see how it goes.” He got a B out of that course as a result. At that point, he took leave from the Smithsonian and finished his engineering degree at MIT in 18 months. So, he was very much a self-made man in that respect. He later taught at Catholic University for a term and Secretary Bradley who did the budget for the Smithsonian Institution was in his class. He remembered Dad’s distinctive voice when he was interviewing him for his job.
My grandfather had two pharmacies on Capitol Hill. They were called Taylor’s Pharmacies. One of them now is a CVS. I don’t know whether the other exists as a drug store any more. There are pictures that have been used in DC calendars and postcards that show people sitting on the sidewalk having sodas in front of Taylor’s drug store. One was of a woman who was beautifully attired in a long dress with a big bow. It turned out that she was one of those riding out of Pegasus Stable, where dad had me take riding lessons. Miss Cullen was librarian for the Railroad Association, but her heart was with riding and hunting.
Q: Where is that?
JT: It was near Meadow Brook and Meadow Brook still exists. Down in Rock Creek Park along Jones Mill Road. Dad thought I should have basic riding lessons. He rode with the cavalry out of Fort Myer as a young man. When he took me out he was teaching me to ride. He was disgusted because I rode a former polo pony who stopped on a dime to eat raspberry bushes. I pitched over his neck and dad would get annoyed. He’d say “dismount! Remount!” I would have to get off and remount. It was a lot of fun, because we rode very early in the morning and we would see animals before they went to bed. In Rock Creek Park a lot of diplomatic people were to be seen riding with their grooms. It was fun to recognize them and say ‘hello.’ Also, the wife of the assistant secretary of the Smithsonian, John Graf, who was the one who got mother interested in azaleas, rode alone on a morgan in the park. Even then, in the 1950s, people would jump out from behind trees to try and pull her off her horse. She rode them down. Morgans were the police horses as they were unafraid of fire, really very brave horses, and she always rode a Morgan. Dorothy Graf was also a librarian and translated texts into Braile, as part of her charity work. Both Miss Cullan and Dorothy Graf lived on the edge of Rock Creek Park just the other side of the creek from here.
Q: Why were they accosted?
JT: I think it was just to attack women who were on their own. She always rode alone. The things my parents taught me to do – don’t accept a cigarette from a strange man, and things like that – are still being said today. And they are said over in England as well. I used to walk by your house, I think—I used to walk home down 33rd Street from Lafayette. There was a house not far from Tennyson near Stephenson that had falcons. The inhabitants would stake falcons out in their yard. I loved to walk by and see what they were doing. They were unusual as they were birds of prey, not something you would normally see in your neighborhood. It was interesting to see them on their perches. There were four or five of them. Sometimes, usually if I was riding my bike, I would cut down at Stephenson to 32nd Street. One time I almost got hit by a teacher’s car. We were both shaken. I felt so sorry for her, because it was my fault. I hadn’t seen her.
Q: What was Lafayette like then?
JT: It was great. I had a first and second grade teacher, Ms. Yunkin. My mother used to volunteer. We used to bring newspapers to school. Stacks of papers were collected. Each class competed to get the most. These newspapers were sold to raise money for Lafayette. All the teachers at Lafayette were very interesting teachers. Mother made friends with Ms. McKenna. She lived in the white apartment house that Blessed Sacrament now owns. I think her daughter had become a nun. I had a close friend, Claudia Ann Brush, who lived up at the top of 32nd Street. We were friends from Kindergarten onwards. I can remember after we graduated we would still go and visit Mrs. McKenna in her apartment. She was very good to both of us. She ran the patrol boys. There was a boy coming from the Episcopal Home at Nebraska and Utah, which is now a school for handicapped children. It’s across from the house in which Pat Buchannan grew up. The boy could be unruly. Mother often encountered the unruly boys in the school lunch room, when she volunteered for duty there. But if you talked to them about fishing or something that interested them, they were perfectly good kids. They were just rambunctious. There was one called James who desperately wanted to be a patrol boy. Between mother and Mrs. McKenna, they put brakes on his bike and fitted it out with proper pedals and he became a patrol boy. He never caused a blink of trouble after that. I hope he did well in school after that.
Q: Were there also patrol girls?
JT: There were both boys and girls, I think. They gave the boys the furthest corners for duties. I don’t remember any girls.
Q: Their job was to help kids get across the street?
JT: Yes, and to restrain them if cars were coming. They were on every corner, especially on those corners where they knew students would be coming, each way, morning and afternoon.
I used to live on the tennis courts at Lafayette. There was more light on those courts than around homes under the tree canopy. Mother would always judge when it was getting dark by our shade trees. She would ask how I could be playing up there at this time of night. I said that we played until we couldn’t see anymore. That was often a half an hour after it was dark here.
Q: Did you have complete freedom to roam around the neighborhood as a child?
JT: Yes. There was little concern. The Willards lived two doors up. He was also in the State Department. I remember him dying when his daughter was quite young. They never knew what he died of. It was just a strange thing. Next to him were the Lehmans. The Lehman daughter and her husband live in this house at present. I don’t think they were the original owners of the house. I think the original owner, the Dents, moved to a house up 32nd Street towards Tennyson. Mr. Dent used to work in the Avalon Theater, I think probably as a volunteer on the weekends. He said there were some problems with people there trying to accost kids. But we never saw it and never knew about it, but my parents did not encourage me to go to the movies without one of them.
Many people who grew up in the neighborhood have moved back, such as Maureen Bantu, whose parents live in the first house on the left up 32nd Street going towards Tennyson. I remember the two houses being built between the Pollands house on the intersection and the white house on 32nd. The Lehman daughter is another, and the people who just moved from next door, Donnegan, also had grown up in the neighborhood.
Q: Did he say what they were?
JT: Usually men trying to pick up kids. He may actually have been a special constable—I don’t know what you call them here. A volunteer policeman. They had them mixed around, including at the Avalon. I remember that all the kids got money from their parents to go to the Avalon on Saturdays. My mother never approved of going to the cinema very often, so I never joined them on Saturdays.
Q: Why not?
JT: She didn’t approve of a lot of things. She didn’t like swimming pools because she had grown up on salt water beaches on Cape Cod; she thought that swimming pools were dirty. So I never swam in pools. I think mother thought that people were sending their kids out of the house. This happens also in the UK. I taught a very brilliant man in Liverpool and his parents always gave him money to go to the cinema on a Saturday. Instead, he spent his time in the museums before he went to the cinema, because they were free. I strongly believe museums should be free, because it’s the way people go back repeatedly to gain their interest in a special subject. That’s why I would always say the Smithsonian should be free. It is actually written into Smithsonian’s statutes, but whether they will oblige in the future I do not know.
Q: What was it like at Deal?
JT: There were very good teachers. I was just recounting to a friend, trying to remember whether it was a home economics teacher in Deal or Wilson who sent me into her personal kitchen to mix up cookies for a Christmas event, because she knew that I knew how to cream with my hands. I cooked from a very early age.
Q: Is that something your mother encouraged you to do?
JT: Oh, I enjoyed cooking. I remember that when mother was upstairs with a migraine—we didn’t know they were migraines then, just that she was sick with a bad headache—I decided to make her a chocolate cake. I was in the first or second grade, in Ms. Yunkin’s class. She got a piece of this cake, unfortunately. I read the recipe and it had two ingredients that leavened. One was baking soda and the other was baking powder. So, I decided the recipe was wrong. I didn’t realize that chocolate required two. So I left one out. It only raised about an inch. Then dad came home and found every dish in the kitchen dirty. He said “I’ll help you wash up.” So I made her a chocolate cake with butter icing, because I thought that was the best. Mother was so impressed, she sent a piece of this to Ms. Yumkin. And I was so embarrassed because I hadn’t understood it needed two leavening agents. I guess what mother was trying to convey was that Joan not only reads a recipe but tries to interpret it. They understood I had cooking experience. At Deal or Wilson the one that sent me to mix the cookies said she did not want others to see me creaming the butter and sugar together with my hands, because we’re not supposed to teach that. But it’s necessary to get good cookies. This was actually in the kitchen reserved for the home economics teacher at the school.
Then there was also a science teacher, Ms. Hadley; I think she was in Alice Deal. She was teaching us about what nicotine could do. We had a Bunsen burner in the class, which only she used to demonstrate with. She told us a story about a man working in a factory where they had pure nicotine and he had gotten a drop on his overalls. This, she said, almost caused him to have a heart attack.
When I was at Wilson, we had desegregation. That was 1956 or 1957. I knew the verger’s children up at Blessed Sacrament. Joan Crawford was the older and was my age and came into my class, and so I was able to introduce her to other students. She had this interesting movie star name, but she was black as black could be. Her father was verger at Blessed Sacrament. She had a brother. I didn’t know him as well.
Q: How did you know her?
JT: By going to Blessed Sacrament. She and her brother came to Wilson with desegregation.
Q: Did they live in the neighborhood?
JT: They must have. Anyway, when I was at Deal and Wilson, Tenleytown was a Negro town. Nowadays, for example between Nebraska Avenue and Reno Road there is nothing but a grassy space. There had been little wooden houses in that place. On the other Side of Nebraska there is sort of a road that isn’t right on the street. That, too, was a Negro area. I remember playing goalie for field hockey or soccer. Three boys showed up—they were Mishak, Shadroe, and what is the third one in the Bible? These three boys were really fun boys. They used to come when we were playing and hang around. They were obviously playing hooky from school. They lived in one of those houses.
Q: Perhaps they attended Reno School on those premises. It was for black children.
JT: I didn’t know there was one.
Q: They didn’t go to Deal?
JT: No. We were not desegregated then. But that was a farce, because we had the kids of the diplomatic corps at Wilson and Alice Deal and they never had any color bar prohibiting them.
Q: So there were people of color at Deal and Wilson.
JT: Oh yes. They were from the diplomatic corps. I used to play tennis with one of the first Philippinos to go to West Point. He was an appointee because he was from the Philippino diplomatic corps. And we had Indian and Pakistani children as well.
My father fought in the Philippines during the Second World War. He said it was the only time he had ever used his degrees, which is a bit of fiction. He was in anti-aircraft artillery for engineering and then custodian of property for the island of Mindanao. And Monsignor Duffy had been in the Merchant Marine and he had been in Mindanao at the same time. Although they didn’t meet, they could compare notes.
Q: What kind of engineering degree did he get?
JT: I’d say civil, but I am not sure. When he built the Museum of History and Technology he invented a lot of things. He invented a kind of point that went into the floors. They could install partitions at these points of low floor and ceiling to enable galleries to be moved to create open floor space. He always checked the plans to make sure that the architect hadn’t made some blunder, like having doors open on doors, and things like that. He was using his engineering then. I know he wasn’t too impressed with the architects in getting things to function. The basement of the Museum has double columns and it is an extra-heavy floor on the first floor because the water table was so close to the surface that they had to pile it, in effect. And then they floored it to have open access and moveable galleries. He was disappointed, as he wanted variable flooring and he put in wooden blocks in the locomotive hall. But the underground pass at 12th Street flooded and the flooding came through the window, causing the blocks to go up in a wave. There is a picture in the Washington Post showing it. They didn’t have the money to replace it, so it went down as tile. He thought people’s feet would get tired walking on the same surface. There were also other things he wanted people to see in these blocks. I have seen some in Cambridge, where streets were made of them at one point. Road workers came across these when they were digging as the road surface went on top. Blocks were factory floors in this country. I think he feared that history would just lose them. People would at least be able to see it if they walked over them in the gallery.
Q: Talk to us more about your experience with desegregation.
JT: I was at Wilson between 1956 and 1958. I remember these two teachers coming, so I would have thought that it was my second year at Wilson that they arrived.
Q: They were African-American teachers?
JT: Yes. They were Mr. Lucas in Chemistry and Mrs. Jackson in History. Mrs. Jackson was a brilliant teacher at history but she also had a very personable way with the students. As one came into class, kids chewing gum and all, she would take the roll and then would say to the class: “now that you have gotten the good out of your chewing gum, would you please come up and deposit it here.” And so people would come up and put their chewing gum in the waste basket. That sort of thing went down well, because she was tolerating them chewing it for a while.
I never had Mr. Lucas. He was shyer. I never took Chemistry. I think from what I heard he was an excellent Chemistry teacher. And the only two African American students who came at that time were Joan Crawford and her brother.
Q: Why weren’t there more?
JT: I don’t really know. You tell me there was the Reno School…That was the building with the air raid siren on top. At that time we were being trained to go under our tables in case there was an atomic bomb. A lot of good it would have done us. I know my parents had agreed to meet out in Maryland if Washington got evacuated. The likelihood of ever doing that was impossible.
Q: Regarding desegregation, students had to live in the neighborhood, right? There was no busing yet…
JT: Correct. Mr. Crawford was verger at Blessed Sacrament. Whether Blessed Sacrament provided him with accommodation I don’t know.
Q: Were the houses you described in Tenleytown—were they still there at that time?
JT: The houses were still there. There were the three boys we talked about. I don’t know why they didn’t come to Wilson with desegregation. They were right on top of Alice Deal, so should have gone to Wilson.
Q: So during your high school career there were only these two people?
JT: And the diplomatic corps.
It was also during the era of the McCarthy hearings. We labeled two boys in our class McCarthy and Cohen.
Q: Why did you do that?
JT: One was a little bit arrogant and very pompous and the other one was his side-kick.
There was also music. I played the violin at Wilson. They put in an orchestra at Lafayette towards the end of my time there. My father had a violin in the family, so I took it up. I can remember our first concert. My parents told me it sounded very good, but I said the director cheated—he sang along with us. They laughed and said they couldn’t hear him. I played the violin right through Deal and Wilson. Dad would leave early for the Smithsonian and drop me off at Wilson. I worked in the school office until it was time for orchestra practice. So I learned the switchboard and various other things and ran messages for the teachers. I didn’t know until the final year of my violin career that I had to feel vibration to get perfect pitch. There must be something slightly off with my hearing. I was second violin until the last two years and then I moved up in my third year when I figured that out. The man who was first violinist—the one who stands up to give the musicians the A—was the son of Tobias, the man was the head of education and lived on 33rd Street just by Rittenhouse. He played football. He was always there for practices and was very good. But whenever there was a concert, he disappeared. He would never be on stage. Because he played football, he didn’t want to be ragged about playing the violin.
One boy started a bagpipe band. The conductor told me I should join the bagpipes, as I didn’t have the right sensitivity to sound. But I never did—they were all cadets—ROTC or whatever they called them. Mother said: “Well, you can’t win them all”. I have the violin in England, but it was borrowed by somebody and I can’t seem to get it back. I don’t think I’d be playing it anyway.
Q: What other activities did you do at Wilson?
JT: I played sport at Wilson, also at Penn. I was president of the Women’s Athletic Association at Penn. To do all the sport, you had to maintain a B average. As I wanted to go on to do a higher degree anyway, I did that.
Dad said he’d see me through for the undergraduate degrees, but that I would have to earn my way through graduate studies. So, I had odd jobs while I was at Penn to earn money.
I was also a member of Chi O, which I used to blackmail, because I didn’t enjoy frat parties. I would say to them “if you want me in all these external activities (they always put the fraternities next to your name), I will not go to these frat parties because I need to study.” Tonight I am going to a party for the Preakness [horse race] and that is one of my Chi O friends living down by the Zoo. It’s nice to have these friends. It was just my 50th anniversary at Penn, but I didn’t manage to get there. It was a very interesting experience at the University of Pennsylvania, but I was told by my Anthropology supervisor to go to Cambridge, because some of the professors were getting annoyed that I asked “why” to often. He said that when I go to Cambridge I can ask as many whys as I want. And by golly, you had better ask why, because that is the basis on which they judge you. You write your essays and you have to go and defend them.
Q: What was your parents reaction to your leaving the country like that?
JT: They weren’t happy, but they supported me. And dad did pay for me to go, because I couldn’t work once I got to England, though it was cheaper for me in England than it was at Penn. Now it wouldn’t be. Or maybe it would, since tuitions have risen here so much. I found that although my parents had to take out a loan to send me through Penn, my matriculation was $500 each semester. And it was about $500 room and board—you had to live in the dorm. They were still needing a loan to send me through. This was 1958-1962. It was less to send me to Cambridge in that sense, although probably to bring me home for Christmas it was slightly more. We used to be members of a society that hired chartered flights for Christmas.
Q: When were you at Cambridge?
JT: I was at Cambridge from 1964-1970. I was a slow learner. It wouldn’t be allowed now. I had to do a year to prove that I was of their standard, because they only recognized Oxford and Trinity College, Dublin. I managed to do that and from 1965-1970, I was a graduate student. They put you into teaching the last few years. In fact, I taught after I graduated, because my husband was a metallurgist and he was still studying for his PhD. So, I had to come back and teach for them to pay the utility bills, because I didn’t earn enough at Birmingham City Museum and the salary was about £1,800 per year, which just wasn’t enough to feed us. My father had to give me money to buy a car. It had to be bought in my husband’s name, because women were considered chattels of their husbands. I think I would have gone through the roof, had I known this, as I considered this almost slavery. It wasn’t until I was divorced that I knew this. But my father knew through his law studies that these were the conditions. It is no longer true in Britain, and I was able to buy my own house in my own name. As a result my driver’s license is as Taylor-Shell. And curiously enough, my passport is Taylor-Shell. I never used the “Shell.” I was writing a paper on my wedding day and it was as Taylor. Poor Colin got known as Mr. Taylor. When I moved to be curator in Bristol, the old lady that lived beneath me always addressed him as Mr. Taylor. He just graciously took it.
Q: You got your PhD at Cambridge?
JT: Yes. I am a European prehistorian. I did my doctorate in gold. “The Bronze Age Goldwork of the British Isles” is the title of my dissertation. This irritated the Irish, who said I should have called it ‘Britain and Ireland.’ But I took it as a geographical area. I called it the British Isles. There used to be a copy floating around here, but maybe I gave it to the Wests—I don’t know—but I don’t have one to show you. It won a type-setting award. I wouldn’t claim that I won the award. The Cambridge University Press won it. It was when they still set the type in hot lead. My research has always been gold. I travelled on a German grant all around Europe. I was linked to Stuttgart, where people were doing metal analyses. So, I am really more European than just British. Though now that Britain is in the European Union, I notice that the two people that replaced me at the University of Liverpool claim to be European prehistorians, but one is really only British. The naming has changed.
Q: What were your dates at the University of Liverpool?
Q: Are you now retired?
JT: Sort of. I am now Senior Honorary Research Fellow. This is why I am returning in June. I chair the first science-based Archaeology committee in the United Kingdom. It’s on Implement Petrology in the southwest. It was established in 1937 and still goes on with more modern analytical techniques. We are now using much more modern scientific techniques. It’s about the making of stone axes in the Neolithic period. There were several factory sites, quarry sites. We are now looking at what rock they actually used in these quarry sites. We are linked to Camborne School of Mines to get this work done. When I came back to the United States this time I thought I had two weeks to prepare a talk for the Saint David’s Society of Washington, which is the Welsh society. Suddenly I learned it was the very next day. I had to scramble. But we did it.
Q: Why the Welsh Society?
JT: Margaret West is from Wales. They invited me to their annual dinner. That was very nice. It was at the Cosmos Club. Then they asked me to give this talk: I had eaten my dinner before I made the commitment. I discovered on this trip that I am a third generation member of the Cosmos Club. My father’s uncle was working with Powell who co-founded the Cosmos Club; he was director of the Geological Survey. My great uncle wasn’t a founder-member, but he joined after it was established. He was the head cartographer of the Geological Survey. Apparently, he was vicious and would run his signet ring across a copper plate if he spotted a mistake. My grandmother was a German-American, born in Washington DC, as was her brother, Stephen, who was the member of the Cosmos Club. There’s an article published by Silvio Bedini in the journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences (vol. 85 No.1, December 1998) about the family. They were called Kübel. They were high precision instrument makers. They came to Washington to make working patents for the Patent Office and instruments for the Geological Survey and also some instruments for the scientists at the Smithsonian.
Q: Fascinating. Do you know when they came over?
JT: I think it was 1849. I had to do the research for dad on the plots they settled on on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, the building of the tunnel from the south into Union Station allowed these lands to be confiscated. And when the government confiscates, they pull all the records. It’s the daftest thing I’ve ever seen. So, I ended up with the original ledger of Washington DC down in Chinatown—there was a little office run by the Washington surveyor. He told me he couldn’t allow me to Xerox it, but I could trace anything you like. And do you know you could see where Carroll of Carrollton gave land on Capitol Hill to the District and then every other plot was given back to him as payment for the land he’d given. This is how they funded the District of Columbia. Some of those plots were owned by the Kübels. The most fascinating thing was that the only income at that time was the post office. The making of stamps was the only income the federal government had at the time. Now I hear that they are going to do away with the post office. That’s daft. The District of Columbia was set up so that it couldn’t be influenced by state politics. And now the District wants to become a state! We are sort of defeating the purpose of DC’s existence. To handle that ledger I felt like I was handling history of the first order. It was all there, from about 1800 or a little bit before.
Q: Do you know where the family was from in Germany?
JT: One part of the family is from Bayreuth. I understand that there are Wagner sheets of music somewhere in the family, but I have not seen them. Another part is from the Hartz Mountain area. And I know my grandmother was helping German girls who came over to go into domestic service, by what manners were and things like that. My grandmother at the end of her life had a debilitating dementia. She died when I was 17. She had it all the time I had known her. She only spoke German at the end. At one time she was very upset that I wore shorts. I should have been in a long dress.
Q: Did you speak German to her?
JT: Oh, no—my father did. My German is pretty limited, even though I worked with the Germans.
Q: Did your father learn German from his parents?
JT: I think he learned it from his mother. Or he may have studied it in school. The other interesting thing: he went to McKinley Tech. One of his teachers, a Physics teacher, I think, made him take the exams for interning at the National Institute for Science and Technology. You know, UMIST. It used to be the Bureau of Standards and now is out in Gaithersburg. It used to be at Van Ness Street between Reno Road and Connecticut Avenue.They had to take exams that would allow them to become apprentices. It was because he passed those exams that they were interested in him going to the Smithsonian. He had been a runner during World War One at the National History Museum, where war records were stored. So, he knew the Smithsonian first-hand from that. Another interesting thing is that the last technician of the son of the original German to come for precision instrument making went to the Smithsonian as one of their technicians. I can remember being taken to meet him when we would go down to pick up dad. Mother would always go over with me and chat with him. So, dad was working for him for awhile, building models for the exhibitions. Then he was elevated to be the curator of waterpower, which was more than just boats, encompassing water mills, etc.
Q: Has anyone written a biography of your father?
JT: I think Pam Hanson, the archivist at the Smithsonian, did his history with them. And Capitol Hill has done his growing up on Capitol Hill. I was rather hoping to get as many family papers together to see if I could put together some sort of biography, but I don’t think I would be the one to write it. I think I am too close to the subject. It would be how you balance it; I would go into too much detail.
Q: How did you decide to work and live in England?
JT: Primarily because I am a European prehistorian. I actually had a group of students at Cambridge corner me in the archaeological library and told me to go home. They didn’t like my being there. I said, well, look, if I wanted to stay in Britain, I would specialize in Latin American Archeology, because you don’t have Latin American Archeology over here. But I want to go back, I want to be a European prehistorian, because they don’t have the subject in America. As it happened, just as I finished, the whole expansion of the universities in America closed down. There was a recession here and they weren’t taking on new subjects. I returned to Washington during the Watergate scandal. I hadn’t looked at dad’s coffee table, which had the law bulletin with Judge Sirica on the front cover and a centerfold with pictures of all of those accused of being involved in Watergate. I told dad that I didn’t really want to stay in museums in England, which I knew probably hurt him a bit. But they were getting too political and I didn’t want to be an American telling them there were other ways to function at Bristol City museum. Meantime, Bristol was being moved along with the reorganization of the counties as we were government in effect. Museums could be educational, but Bristol politicians wanted to downgrade us by reclassifying us to a leisure function, which would have placed us with swimming pools, crematoriums and that sort of thing. I felt we were educational and I led a petition saying we were educational. My museum director jumped on that, as he was a bit of a yes-man to the politicians. We had one politician associated with the Cooperative Society who is rather a sad case. When Thatcher started to sell off the council houses, he bought a slew of them. That took him out of being Labour as an owner of council houses. So he moved to Conservative and he was from Liverpool, curiously enough. I went to a dance at the museum after I left and went to the University of Liverpool to teach; he wanted me to vote for him. All the staff knew that I would rather do him harm, because I felt that he was so awful in the way he dictated what we should display and his other concepts of what the museum should be. I heard that he ended up with a breakdown and was in an insane asylum. He was just so driven by his own greed.
Q: Wasn’t Bristol also Tony Benn’s constituency?
JT: Maybe. But I remember a Waldegrave, a landowner and lord as the representative of the Conservative party. Benn would have been Labour.
JT: I met Waldegrave canvassing for votes as I was walking out of the museum one day. He wasn’t the lord. He was a younger son. When I was digging in Priddy on the Mendips in Somerset, I used to go to the Waldegrave estate to buy cream and cheese and things for our housekeeper on the farm. They had a dairy. The last time I went in it was for my father’s 100th birthday to buy cheese and the estate people just looked at me dumbfounded, as they did not have a dairy anymore. They were no longer making cheese. Oh, I said, I used to buy cheddar cheese here. At that time there was no cheddar cheese available in Cheddar. It was a Somerset cheese. I had to by it from Wales, Snowdonia Cheddar cheese. Everyone around here asks if I am going to bring some Snowdonia cheese back, because it’s so creamy and nice. If I have the weight, I will bring back a wheel of cheese, but it’s a considerable weight. So I don’t know if Tony Benn was there. I always tried to be apolitical.
My mother was always independent. From Boston. She didn’t like the political machines in Boston and objected to our getting a mayor in Washington, which I found interesting. My father considered his position political, so he would never tell us what might have interested him in politics. Dad and I voted for the first time in 1964. I had an absentee vote and voted from Cambridge. I remember that a close American friend of mine at Cambridge was going to vote for Barry Goldwater. When she got her packet from Minnesota, it was thick. Mine was an air letter with one piece of paper in it to vote for president. I didn’t vote for Barry Goldwater. That was when the film “Dr. Strangelove” had just been released. The two were pretty comparable.
Q: You voted for the first time when your dad did?
JT: Yes. DC residents did not have the vote until the presidential election of 1964. We laughed. He was 61, I think. There was such an age gap; I was just 21.
Q: What was your parents’ reaction to the news that you would now be living in England?
JT: Mother died in 1969 when I was still a student. I offered to come back to dad when I had decided to leave the post of curator at Bristol City Museum and he asked me what I would do if I came back. I said it was no good my trying to be an Archeologist here. Archeology in America is too different from the way it is practiced in Europe. I told him I would re-train as a lawyer. And that’s when the eruption occurred, because the law bulletin was sitting on the table. “No,” he said, “you’re not going to re-train as a lawyer. You’re having a successful career in Britain, so stay.” Actually, I realize now that I have had two careers in Britain, where nobody is usually allowed to change gear. I had changed from being a successful curator of Archaeology into being the head of a department at the University of Liverpool. I was a one-person department. I soon grew to two. I eventually put science-based Archaeology into Liverpool with many more staff. I felt very lucky that I managed to do that. I could have been told to go wander, as jobs have always been limited in Archaeology.
Q: Through all those years, how many times have you returned to the States?
JT: I usually came back twice a year, but then my mother died in 1969 and she made me promise to look after dad. So, I come back at least twice a year and I would receive a list of things to do in the house, like redecorate the dining room, the living room, and things like that. I would work at those during the summer usually. My mother was good at re-decorating, etc., and Dad assumed I would be also, but I wasn’t as capable.
Q: You had summers off.
JT: Yes. Though I always had to do field work, excavate and things like that. When I was coming three times a year I had to make sure I produced a paper while I was here. The university expected you not to use your summers as a holiday. It was to be a time for field work and research. But I felt I had to come back and see dad, so I usually came back for only two weeks at a time. As dad became more elderly, I came back for as long as possible. I had come during Christmas week, but then they began to put in exams right after we returned in January. You remember when Clinton had the government furloughed? I don’t think he intended to, but that’s what happened. The British embassy had to get me back to do the exams in Liverpool. At that time, I wasn’t a British subject; now I’m a dual national. That’s partly because Britain is getting very strict on immigration. They are very “age-ist” as well. So, when I retired, I was zero. As far as they were concerned, I had gone to the bottom of the heap. Students approached me with the comment: “you always said you wouldn’t mind being a dual national. You had better become one.” One worked in the passport office. I thought, well, the writing is on the wall. Also, a close friend of mind who is a Geographer felt this way, too. So, when dad was 104, I had gone to the Chester office, because I was always afraid to give my passport up, because I thought I might have to go to Washington in an emergency. Chester has an arrangement where, if you went to them to review your status and had all your papers, they would Photostat them and send them on to Liverpool, which was the passport office. So I did that, but they told me I would have to be 10 days in the country before you can leave it, in case there were any questions. Well, there were 11 days to go before I flew for dad’s 104th birthday. I figured it would take them a couple of years to process the application. But when I returned I found a note saying I had to be inducted to citizenship within certain dates. I agreed to the 16th of June. Then there was the interview for my university post. I had to phone up and say could I change that date, as I wanted to be at the interviews for my position. I was moved to May 23rd. So, I took my citizenship on May 23rd and then I got a call in early June from Washington—dad was very ill. I would have missed my induction, had I not moved it. I really didn’t think they would take me within two months. I had papers since 1963 showing my progression as resident in Britain—I had the equivalent of a green card. It showed that I stayed longer to use the libraries than the three months you are allowed. As I had all the records that they needed, they just passed me through.
Q: What year was this?
JT: It was 2007. Dad died on June the 14th of that year.
Q: Did he suddenly worsen?
JT: He had fallen. His care-giver, Anna-Maria, took him to hospital, fearing he had a broken bone or something. They kept him there. The orthopedic surgeon who normally would see him was on holiday. I knew him quite well because his close cousin is an Archeologist in Ireland. One time he told me of the relation to Seamus Caufield. I gave him his email address and phone numbers. Seamus is shorter than Patrick by a long shot. They shared a grandfather. They got in touch. As a result of all this to-ing and fro-ing I knew Patrick quite well. But he wouldn’t make a house call. Dad was in severe pain and he just kept deteriorating. They said they wanted to give him physiotherapy, but they weren’t sure he could take it. On the day I told Anna-Maria we had to get dad moving, as the next day was D-Day for Physiotherapy. He collapsed. A visiting nurse was scheduled. When she came she phoned Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad. At the time I didn’t know that the District fire department had to come as well. BCC and DC had a race through the front door; DC won. Their man said he was as qualified as the others. I told him my father didn’t want to go to hospital. Actually, the BCC were called to see if they could just stabilize him. DC put him in a sheet and slung him down the staircase; meanwhile, I was on the phone to the lawyer to try to stop this. I didn’t know they were threatening me with arrest. I was just so angry. In the end, we beat them to Sibley Hospital, but at the time I couldn’t get there on time to get him turned around. But it was just as well, because he was in such pain. I’ve heard since that if somebody is dehydrated and you rehydrate them, which they did intravenously, you cause great pain. As I got off the elevator on the second day, I could hear him; he was moaning, he was really very poorly. I spent the day trying to get him a private room. The three private insurance companies covering him denied him this, saying unless he was contagious he could not have a private room. “I suppose you won’t pay the bills either when he dies,” I queried. The voice that was so strong with “you can’t have a private room” suddenly became sickly sweet and replied, “oh yes, we’ll pay the bills.” That was one strike against them. I got him a private room, but I think he waited until we went home that night for a couple of hours sleep, he died. He was in terrific pain. We were stepping up the Morphine to try to relieve the pain, but I have a feeling he had an allergy to all these things, as I do. So, it probably wasn’t decreasing his pain, just sort of making him float. It’s a shame, because he was lucid and fine up until that point and then it happened. I still don’t know if he could have been saved if Patrick Caufield had made the house call earlier. Two doctors, Dr. Tsou and Dr. N. Davenport, who was doing a residency under Dr. Tsou, stayed by Dad. Dr. Tsou was a consultant Pulmonary doctor, but would visit Dad once a week during his last illness and Dr. Davenport, a cardiologist, would facilitate our getting equipment to help Dad.
Q: What a wonderful life he had.
JT: Oh yes. He actually wrote a letter to support a museum’s budget in Devizes – the Wiltshire Natural History and Historical Society Museum, founded in 1853 [whose website proclaims it “the best bronze age Archeology collection in Britain”]—because the county was going to cut it completely. I told him “They’ve asked me to write and they asked you to write. I realize you don’t have the facilities to write this. Would you let me draft it and you can criticize it and I’ll send it under your name and I’ll send mine.” I did one from him on the museum point of view and I did mine according to the students point of view, because they went for training there. He criticized and I sent them. Two weeks later I got this stern voice over the phone saying “you have not sent me a hard copy of that letter.” I knew that voice. (laughter) Complete criticism of what I had failed to do. That was six months before his 104th birthday, in March.
The Devizes Museum is a very fine museum. The Methuen family had an art program at Corsham Art School. Students would come to do their practical work there, designing galleries, writing labels and the like. They were the first to use silkscreen. Dad used to go with me to visit this museum, because I had a lot of connections with it. He thought is was a very fine museum. I remember one time I had to do a TV program there. Dad came along; he had been on holiday visiting me. Dad made very few gaffes, but when he made them, they were priceless. The compere on this program was Barry Cunliffe, who was professor at Oxford. For some reason, Colin Renfrew was also there, who was professor at Cambridge. Dad got along with Professor Renfrew fine. Dad had just come from some United Nations work with UNESCO, based in Paris. Over our lunch, he was sitting, talking to the producer. Barry Cunliffe had on dark glasses and the pub was very dark. The TV crew was teasing him about drinking too much Chartreuse the night before. And dad said, “well, isn’t it interesting: only the old men in France drink Chartreuse for their virility.” Well, Barry Cunliffe had a terrible reputation with the women. I just wanted to sink under the table. I got a dirty look from Barry Cunliffe. I was never his favorite for a very long time, if ever. It was one of dad’s famous gaffes. (laughter) I thought, boy, you’ve sunk my career probably. But I was always Cambridge, so it didn’t really matter.
Q: It sounded like he visited you a lot over there.
JT: Yes. Whenever he had to go around the world. He worked sometimes in India, advising them on museums. At one point he was in Thailand and another time between the two. He had a lot of work in helping establish science and technology museums. In fact, the science and technology institution he established in India is still being overseen by Barney Finn, who lives on Connecticut Avenue. He is a retired member of the Smithsonian, but he still goes over. They set up several museums and labs for school kids and he still goes and supervises that. Wherever the U.S. embassy could not take money out of the country – they called it counterpart funding – and after the embassy who gets first claim on the counterpart funds, had any left, they would allocate it to other projects. Anything left over in India could be used by museums. Dad was overseeing that. India was the main instance. Dad also knew Nehru, who was the ambassador to Washington for awhile. We used to get lovely canisters of Darjeeling tea that he would send at Christmas.
Q: I want to change the subject. You mentioned Pat Buchannan living in the neighborhood. Did you know him?
JT: No. He went to Blessed Sacrament School. I knew he lived in the old farm house on the corner opposite to the Episcopal Home, but never knew the family.
Q: Tell us about your father during World War Two.
JT: His brother had fought in World War One. Dad always thought that he should serve. He had been a reservist for years starting with horse cavalry. He signed up. I was not yet 2 years old. I can remember I always told him I had on a blue dress with ribs like corduroy. I can remember sitting while he fitted a hand rail on the basement steps. I think there must have been a lot of tension in the family for me to have that vivid memory. Mother used to parcel my clothes, putting them in a box and labeling the year. Dad finally found that dress upstairs. He said it was exactly as I described it, but drawn thread gave the corduroy impression. That confirmed that I had that memory. So, he trained on the east coast and drove Colonel Gambol’s family across to the west coast. He came back and drove us across. I have some vivid memories of that. He talked mother into having a picnic on the desert, because he’d been trained in desert warfare, as they were going after Rommel in North Africa. Of course, Rommel capitulated to the British before he got there, so he was sent to the jungles of the Philippines. He was going to be sent overseas from California.
Q: What kind of unit was he in?
JT: He was in the Army; he was anti-aircraft artillery. He told the wonderful story of the sealed orders to report to a place on the west coast. He said he couldn’t understand why the soldiers were all polished up. On the road, he opened his orders and it was that they were to proceed to a point in Los Angeles, but it hadn’t been built yet. There were streets in, and street signs to find it, and hydrants, but it was just desert. Dad said the soldiers all thought they were going to the middle of Los Angeles. He never understood how the orders leaked, because they knew where they were going and he didn’t. The Smithsonian asked for his uniforms in 1994, as his military history was researched bby Phil Hindenburg of the journal, Military History.
Q: You drove just to be with him?
JT: Yes. And I was always car sick. So on the way back mother always packed three sets of clothes so she could change me. On the desert picnic there was a track and little desert plants growing and I can remember walking up this trackand hoping that I would see some Indians. Indianapolis had disappointed me bitterly. (laughter) There were no Indians in Indianapolis.
Q: Do you remember your reaction to your father going away?
JT: I was distressed. My grandmother (mother’s mother) came to live with us. Mother said every time she went to mail him a letter, I would break into tears and have a tantrum. I don’t remember this at all, but she said it was because I thought it was because he left that she, too, might be leaving. On his letters home, dad would always do a little animal like a panda or something and she kept these in a scrapbook for me. He sent some wooden shoes from the Philippines. The little ones were for me, but they fit my dolls and the ones for mother fit me, because they were all petite people. When he got to Mindinau, he was up against the Mauros who are still a threat to everybody and I guess had been since the Spanish-American War. They were quite a problem. He was saved by his sergeant from being murdered by one of them. They strap themselves up in a frenzy and bind themselves and then they come at you with a machete. He said they took the stanchions of his windscreen off his jeep. His sergeant used his side arm to kill the man. He didn’t die right away. Because he was bound so tightly, he just bled out apparently. He was still on the charge when he dropped. They didn’t control the Mauros. They were giving back all the property that the Japanese had confiscated. He was in charge of a salt works, a fish drying facility, and all sorts of industries that he had to give back to the proper Philippino owners. That’s when he felt he used his law.
Q: Other experiences?
JT: Dad and the Dr. Winters used to ride back and forth to work. He used to pick Dr. Winters up at the Department of Agriculture. Apparently, when women weren’t present, they had some excellent jokes they were telling that were a little off color. One time, I was following dad in the museum when they were reconstructing the first ladies hall. Something was out of place and dad said something like “what the hell is all this?”. And then he turned around and apologized to me. I almost dropped, because why had dad apologized to me? If I said ‘damn’ in this household, I was sent to my room. I was not allowed to swear. So all my swear words are British. (laughter) And Archeologists tend to swear a lot. I remember my husband didn’t like it very much. I had come back from digging and the phrase then was “oh, bugger.” He said he didn’t want to hear me say this. My supervisor lived down the road beyond where we were living. I had the front door open; I was working on my thesis on the floor. And as he walked by I said “oh, John, you had better come and look at this in the dictionary.” He was Canadian. He looked at this definition of bugger and he said “oh, I wondered why my brother in-law always said ‘Oh, sod it.’ Colin couldn’t believe that the two of us were having this conversation. (laughter) That we would use a word we didn’t even know the meaning of. I thought, well, you don’t know Archeologists very well.
Colin became an Archeologist in a sense. He was a metallurgist and was asked by Glynn Daniel, who was then professor, if he would come to the department as a technician. Colin demurred as with a doctorate he didn’t want a post as a technician. So, ______ Daniel gave him a rare post called scientific advisor, of which there are only five in Cambridge. The head of the Vetinenary school was the father of an Archeologist that was contemporary with me and he said “Archaeology is not going to have one of these posts and it’s not Glynn Daniels’ gift”. Colin had already taken it. A couple of years later, my supervisor and I were going to a meeting down in London and he said to me “we’re having trouble with Colin in the department. Some of the lecturers are pretty upset with him. He’s not acting like a technician.” And I said, well, he isn’t a technician. He had been appointed a scientific advisor. There was actually a hearing of the Association of Teachers that backed Colin against the University of Cambridge. Colin won. Then they said the university didn’t have the money to pay him. It was only when Colin Renfrew came in as the professor that Colin’s pay was regulated to what it should be. Basically the conflict was over whether a university professor could give a post. It came out of the university administration itself. Therefore, Glynn Daniel had misstepped himself. Colin was also working on applied Physics to Archaeology. He has been working on something called Lidar, which is over-flying sites using laser radar. I think MIT might have perfected this for finding sites under the desert in North Africa and found that there had been cities that Egypt had controlled along the coast of Africa, and river systems that nobody knew about. The desert has overwhelmed them.
Dad used to pass his bulletins to me to read. There was coverage about the technology in them long before we heard about it in England.
Q: Did your father have siblings?
JT: Yes. He had a brother who was older and a sister who was younger. It was the sister that got the $15 scholarship to Maryland. His brother went to MIT. His brother deferred going into university because he knew the first world war was coming. There was the Sterling armament firm in Washington DC, which is British. He worked for them. With that experience, with the outbreak of war, he was sent just behind the lines re-commissioning arms that were largely made by the Sterling firm. He caught malaria in northern France. All the fens there had been malarial swamps, though they weren’t considered to be at the time of the First World War. When the war was over he was eager to get back, but they couldn’t bring everybody out all at once. He ended up again re-commissioning arms. They had a pistol competition among officers who were delayed returning. He also got flu in the 1918 epidemic and was quarantined in some sort of an Army base, but he recovered from that. For his part, dad was delivering soup in Washington. A lot of single people were working for the government. The doctors were writing their prescriptions plus soup and food. He never got the flu but I know my grandfather was having to put up food as well as prescriptions for people who had the flu.
Q: How did your father’s side of the family get to Washington?
JT: There is a long history to Taylor. Taylor was the first poet of the United States around 1660. He was a Harvard student and his room-mate was Samuel Sewell, who wrote a lot of diaries about being a merchant in Boston. I had to categorize these at Penn under the George P. Murdoch system of Anthropology for the American Civilization department. I found this fascinating to read, because Sewell would say he wanted to ride out to see Taylor in Westfield, Massachusetts, which he called Indian country. Well, Deerfield, which had its Indian massacre, marched the survivors up to Canada, was not far north of Westfield. Taylor founded the Congregationalist religion at Westfield and established the Westfield Academy. His grandson was involved in the founding of Deerfield Academy along with several other co-founders. The tombstones of Edward Taylor and his wives are all preserved in a graveyard in Westfield, because they were the first Congregationalists. I traced all of this for the family. Cotton Mather is buried not far from Taylor. Then I went up to look at what would have been Taylor’s library. A few of these books had been given to John Taylor. They were given to Yale, as that is where his library had gone, because the president at the time was a cousin. He had given some of his books back to his grandson. They were in Latin and beyond me: they were in the Deerfield municipal library. John Taylor had gone on to the Detroit area as a missionary to try to convert Indians.
Q: What year was that?
JT: I don’t know. I’d have to do some research about that. But I know the family stayed around the Detroit area. The Taylor that came back to Washington was a banker whose bank had failed in Detroit. He put his family on a steamship—his wife was a relative of the Ainsworth family. The local doctor at Cape Vincent on Lake Ontario was the grandfather of my grandfather. He took the two kids in. My grandfather was going to be a medic, but he couldn’t take the dissection of the eye, so he became a pharmacist. He told stories about walking across the ice to Wolf Island and on to the military academy of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. They allowed the local kids to use the bobsled run. Of course, they were crossing national borders, but it didn’t matter to them. They just wandered across. I went through all of this just out of curiosity. Where the Niagara River goes over Niagara Falls two forts were built. You feel that you could almost reach out and touch one from the other across the narrow river, the one American, the other Canadian. Ontario by the Lake is a fascinating, museum-like place. And the whole area has a micro climate, so they grow vines and peaches. I brought dad a case of peaches back. As I went through customs at Buffalo they asked if I had anything to declare. I said no, I don’t think so. Well, what about those peaches on your back seat? Oh yes, I have those. He just waved me through. People were good to me if I said I was taking them to my father. I had an Englishman with me up in Maine one time. We were driving down around Portland and we were stopped by Immigration looking for people who were coming in illegally. Well, the Englishman got out and got his passport and then the man said “how do I know you’re American?” What do you mean? You’ve got my passport, I said. In the car are all the papers my father gave me to go back and forth across the border. I told him we hadn’t been into Canada. The immigration officer admired the wild blueberries we had and commiserated that we had four lobsters in a Styrofoam container, but he gave me hell. The Englishman told me that when he had taken his son out to California he had been stopped in the vicinity of San Diego asking if they had any illegal immigrants in the bus they were on. Two hundred miles from the border—that’s how far Portland is from the top of Maine. It just seemed weird.
Q: So, when did your father’s side arrive in Washington?
JT: The banker from Detroit, Nathaniel Terry Taylor, got an appointment with the U.S. Treasury. That was bad. He’s a failed banker that gets appointed to the U.S. Treasury. That’s when they moved to Washington.
Q: When was that?
JT: I don’t know exactly. It was when there was a depression—perhaps in the 1850s. My grandfather then trained as a pharmacist. He was one of the pharmacists that lobbied and put through the pure food and drug act through Congress. He was also the first to fly in planes to go and accredit university pharmacy departments, in one-seater planes behind the pilot. It must have been very exciting. He was editing the national pharmaceutical journal when he died at age 85.
Q: How old were you when you knew him?
JT: He got me my first pair of roller skates, much to my mother’s horror. My grandmother died when I was 17. My grandfather died at least five or six years earlier. The irony was that my grandmother wrote or phoned about it, although she had long called mother every day. We found that she had written down what he told her to do. He’d suffered a heart attack. Mother said she had received a phone call, but when she picked it up, no one spoke. We think it was my grandmother. She had obviously combed his hair and had tried to help him. It shows that you can jolt a person who has had dementia for several years back into cognizance. I think they should work more on things like that, as it’s obvious that the brain isn’t dead; it’s just lacking some wiring. The note was in her handwriting. There was no mistaking it. She had taken down what he told her to take down.
Q: It sounds like your great grandfather was the failed banker. That sounds more like the 1890s. There was a huge depression in the 90s.
JT: No, earlier, as my grandfather married my grandmother before that.
Q: And the FDA came in just after that.
JT: Right! My grandfather’s sister was also a pharmacist. That side of the family was all Episcopalian. It was my father’s mother who converted that side of the family to Catholicism. So, most of my relatives are Episcopalian. Stephen Kübel must have been Catholic, too, because I know his daughter was Catholic.
You haven’t asked about the building up of the neighborhood. Do you want to talk about that?
Q: What do you have on that?
JT: We talked about this row of five houses, including ours. Then there was Miss Cook’s house five lots up from us. She was one of the original residents. Then there was the Olds family. I used to go and visit them. Also, Rita and Charlie Mendez next to the Olds—he’s an artist, formerly with American University. They have lived there for quite a while.
Q: Were these houses being built as you were growing up?
JT: No, I remember them as already having been built. Barnaby was pretty much built up when I was a child. Aberfoyle wasn’t. There used to be a farm house on that street and mother used to take me to see the cows. You know Pinehurst Park that runs as a spur up to Western Avenue. Well, the first house before it becomes woods was the farm house. In the hollow is a little creek. I used to go down and see the cows drinking from that creek. The farm house is still there, though it has been converted into two homes. All the houses around it were built during my lifetime, especially from Barnaby up to Western Avenue on Aberfoyle.
Barnaby Street had a sidewalk. Mother used to walk me around and up the sidewalk. There is also a little alley that I used to go through to see some of my school mates. Jill Reed lived on the corner of the little alley on Barnaby. I can no longer find this little alley. I can see where it is from Jill Reed’s former house, but I don’t know where it goes across to 32nd Place.
There are two interesting people. Next to the Pollens’ house on the intersection going up Worthington was the Sherries and in the first house on 32nd Pl. across from the Sheries, were the Spaldings. I think Mr. Spalding, who lived to a great age, was with the State Department. The Sherries had a beautiful garden that went down to a creek, the same one running past the farm house. They let me play in it, trying to catch crayfish and things like that. Now, it is so inundated by deer that it is a hazard.
32nd Street at the top of the hill used to be closed off for sledding at Worthington. I can remember just missing the storm sewer and telegraph pole and going down the second hill into the park. My parents also took me over to Rock Creek Golf Course. I remember dad and I went down together. We had to head for a little bridge that was a ruin and ended up just stopping before we ended up in the creek. It was great going down, but stopping was a problem.
Did you also know about the various plantations? Pierce wasn’t the only plantation. There was an article in the Washington Post about 1993 about all the mills and plantationsthat were along Rock Creek. There is more to Pierce Plantation than the mill. There is a spring house on the division of Tildon not far north of Pierce Mill that served as a cold house as well. There are some coach houses there, too. I think there may be a house on the downstream side back in the woods. My cousin had an art exhibition in one of the coach houses. Pierce was the most intact plantation, but there were several that also ran all the way to Wisconsin Avenue. Vines were being grown on the tracts up towards Wisconsin Avenue for wine. That helps fill in the history of Broad Branch.
Q: What was the relationship between Barnaby Woods and downtown in the 1940s and 1950s?
JT: That’s interesting, because our center was Chevy Chase Circle. My mother used to go out to a small butcher, DGS—District Grocery Association. Bondareff’s by Lafayette School was a member of that. My grandfather knew about them because they were buying wholesale. I think they had a drug arrangement that way, too. The store out on Brookville Road was also a DGS. Mother went out there for meats. I think two brothers owned it and they also owned the pharmacy there. She got irritated one time. One of them was checking us out and asked if we were sisters. My mother was furious. I don’t think that she went back.
There was also a Safeway next to Magruder’s where there is a bank now, and then it moved to Magruder’s after to its present location. There were lots of stores. There was also in that little park on Broad Branch a store selling animal food, hardware and the like. When dad came back from the war I asked for three baby chickens and I got them, of course. We went to Sears at Wisconsin Ave. and Albermarle to get them. It was an amazing place to go. Dad built me a little coop and a hen house up off the ground. That didn’t please mother much, because she had to go out in the winter and break the ice off their water. But we bought their food over at the Broad Branch food store. I can remember it quite vividly. It was sort of a hardware store that sold food. If you go up Primrose and turn right onto Brookville Road, there’s a grassy spot there. That’s where it was. Then it became a High’s, a precursor to 7/11. You could go early in the morning and get milk and various things. Dad would walk over there. One day he told me that a dog followed him home from there and he was really upset because the dog wouldn’t go. For some reason, that High’s went away and the patch became a park, though the space was zoned for a shop. Then Brookville further on has that small cluster of stores before you get to La Ferme restaurant. That’s were the DGS was. There is still a DGS out Western Avenue near Westmoreland Circle. They all had planning permission where planning permission would not be given now. There is also one out on Old Georgetown Road beyond Suburban Hospital.
Q: So your mom shopped mainly on Brookville Road?
JT: She got her meats there and other food at the Safeway on Connecticut Avenue. There was Shoup’s Bakery, if we wanted any bakery goods. Blumenthal’s liquor store was there. Safeway moved across the street; a lot of houses were torn down to make way for that Safeway. They were row houses. If you go further down Connecticut, you will see where there are some stairs but no houses, which were similar to the ones torn down for the Safeway.
The family did its banking at the Riggs Bank on 9th and F Streets in the 1950s, later moved to the Riggs at Morrison and Connecticut Ave. Dad got his hair cut at the Mayflower. I knew the Italian barber he had there. He invited us out to see his figs one time. Mother objected to our getting a fig tree. We had it down on the lower level. Her rationale: “you never eat the figs; I need the space for my azaleas.” We also shopped at Woodward and Lothrop’s who had grounds with donkeys at the intersection of Western and Wisconsin Avenues when I was little. Also down on F was the Palais Royal. It was a department store. Woodward’s eventually took it over. It’s owner had so many single women working for him that he established the Lisner Home as a retirement home for them on Western Avenue and Livingston Street. I thought that was very far-sighted of him.
Q: How did your dad get to work?
JT: Mother had the car Tuesdays and Thursdays, days on which she drove me to school. He had it the rest of the time. He would drive down through the park. Mother would go down and pick him up on the days she had the car. She would take him to the terminus at Chevy Chase Circle so he could catch a bus in the morning. Before the war there were no restrictions on who could drive a car and my grandfather had a Brush. My father’s brother took it to show a friend. He opened it up near where the Kennedy Center is now and a pedal policeman caught him with a big speedometer on the bicycle. He said: “does your father know you have the car? You were speeding. You were going over 15 miles per hour.” (laughter) He didn’t get a ticket, but he got told off. And everybody knew everybody else, so it got back to the family that this had happened. Apparently, when they went for pharmaceuticals, they couldn’t drive up Capitol Hill; they had to back up, because reverse was stronger than first or second or third gear. In the flu epidemic of 1917-1918, dad was sent to Baltimore to get some pharmaceuticals that had run out. It was the time of Prohibition and people were going to Baltimore to get alcohol. He was turned away from the streetcar that would have taken him to Baltimore and told to take the train, because he had two suitcases. Going up to Baltimore all the bootleggers were congratulating dad for being such an entrepreneur, but I don’t think dad knew why. Coming back, they would throw one suitcase out the window to someone on the other side of the fence as they were coming into Union Station. And as they got off, the police would just take the other suitcase and throw it into a paddy wagon and it would break, so that there was alcohol running in the gutters. Despite this, dad did manage to get the pharmaceuticals through to my grandfather.
Dad said you were raised by the people in the community. If you wanted to go watch a blacksmith, as long as you behaved yourself, you could do it. If you misbehaved you could get slapped. It wasn’t wrong for the neighborhood industries to discipline you as much as your parents. Dad couldn’t sing. The music teacher made him sing The Star-Spangled Banner on his own. This awful sound came out. So she slapped him and sent a note home. My grandmother was very musical. In fact, her brother was the chief organist at a number of churches on Capitol Hill as well. He even had a music room built on his house. My grandmother went around to see the teacher—not to complain, just to find out what my father had done wrong. The teacher explained that “your son can’t sing the Star Spangled Banner with respect.” My grandmother replied: “he can’t sing, full stop.” The German side of the family was very musical. My father was sent one time for some sheet music. The attendant did not recognize him and took dad’s cap off and said: “Well, I guess you’re good looking enough to be a Kübel, but I’m not certain.” (laughter) Congressmen would bring in things to sell from their constituents, like maple syrup, holly at Christmas time. My grandfather would buy them then send my father out to others in the family to sell them. Dad remembered going around with holly and mistletoe to sell in the neighborhood on Capitol Hill. So it was quite a nice environment. He went to the Library of Congress to read the comic strips—he and a couple of other boys. In contrast to the rest of the paper, the comic strips were not bound, so as long as you sat quietly in the window seat and read the comics, you were OK. You wouldn’t be allowed to do it now. I did have to do some of my term paper research down at the Library of Congress. As a result I got my picture in the paper one Christmas. Dad said: “you slot that photograph into your term paper so they will know you were working.” One of my Penn teachers who was very good to me corrected a book review of Blegan’s Troy—it was a huge site report in several volumes. He let me rewrite, because I couldn’t write. I was not very good at that. So I rewrote it. Dad ran into him in Iran or Iraq. He was going to ask for a site permit to dig, and dad said he was very grateful he allowed me to rewrite my term paper. He told him: “You know, she is publishing now.” He encouraged me to send him some of my work, but I didn’t think he would be interested.
Q: one last question—did you ever hear of The Purple Iris in this neighborhood?
JT: No. Never did. But when I went to have this place surveyed I contracted a man from Long and Foster. “Since your name is Taylor,” he said, “I wonder if you knew that there was a brothel at Taylor and Connecticut?” I told him I didn’t know that. Later, I asked a friend of the family who retired to the Eastern Shore whether he know of a brothel at Taylor and Connecticut and he said: “well, no, it was actually our house.” What do you mean, I asked. “My father took me to see this house on the market.” It was almost across from the 4-H center. It had been rented to three or four WRENS. One of them was running an illegitimate business. The others had locks on their doors apparently. It was in red falk and mirrors on the ceiling. I guess the father was embarrassed that his son was seeing all of this. Bernie said “I might have been young, but I did know about some of this.” They bought the house and redecorated. Lois Bernstein’s mother, Mrs. Gaugh, lived with them in a very nice room upstairs.
POSTCRIPT: When the interviewer visited Joan Taylor to finalize the transcript on June 9, 2013, he learned that a Festschrift had just been dedicated to her and published. Edited by J.R. Trigg, its title is Of Things Gone but not Forgotten. Oxford’s Archeopress published the collection of articles in Joan Taylor’s honor.
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