Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom

She would have been 93 today. Of blessed memory.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

End Of A 14 Monroe Era

We lost a lovely lady, Phyllis Nathanson, last week. It was especially sad because she was the last of my baby boomer friends' parents that lived at 14 Monroe Street. Our condolences to Bob and Jeff and their families. Phyllis lived long enough to be a great-grandmother as well as schep many naches from the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren. The above pictures Phyllis and her husband Moe back in the mid-late 1950's. The Nathansons and Bellels had gone on a boat ride up the Hudson to Bear Mountain.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Alan Fisher, Part 2

Alan Fisher From the library of Congress. Fisher was a photographer for the World Telegram and the Sun in the 1930's. Another part of an interview done with him for a library of Congress oral history project:It concerns Fisher's time as a photojournalist in Vietnam. For part one on a previous postQ: This was after Dien Bien Phu?
FISHER: Oh, yes.
Q: You were doing it for South Vietnam because the North had already separated. Objective of Mopix in Vietnam FISHER:
Yes. We were doing it for South Vietnam, and we had three objectives, basically: to support President Ngo Dinh Diem, to tell what USOM, the operation mission, was doing in Vietnam, and to support other American policy objectives through news clips which we brought in. So theoretically, I was to check every newsreel with the Minister of Information, but after checking with him a few times, he said, "You know what you're doing. Don't bother me with it." So we put it out under their name. It was released in 37 theaters first run in Vietnam, all over South Vietnam, and very effective. I had two cameramen everywhere President Ngo Dinh Diem went. We had two cameramen with him. We always had a story of him, and that's the way they knew him. Remember this was before television, so they knew him through the newsreels. I think it was a very effective way of doing it.
Q: It didn't keep him from being overthrown, however.
 FISHER: No, it didn't. He was a nice guy, you know. Mrs. FISHER: He was not overthrown; he was murdered. FISHER: Yes. Incidentally, an aside. Wes Fischel was the head of the United States Operation Mission at that time. He used to breakfast with Ngo Dinh Diem every morning and they'd work out a program for the day. We saw Wes in Washington when he got back. He'd left the service. He was a contractor. He came to the house for dinner one night, and we were talking about perils of living in the Far East. He said, "You know, I spent something like 18 years in the Far East, and I had stomach troubles all the time I was there. Because of these troubles, my diet consisted of just white rice and tea." He said, "You know, I just went through a series of allergy tests and they discovered I'm highly allergic to white rice." (Laughs) To get back to Saigon, it was a good operation. We had a contract with USOM to produce 48 reels of documentaries for them a year. I was there on TDY at this time. Then at the end of this period, I went back to Washington. I had written a long report to Turner while I was there. When I got back to Washington, Turner came over and came out to the house for breakfast one morning. As we were having breakfast, he said, "How would you like to transfer to Vietnam?" And I got a terrible kick in the shins from Florence under the table. I said, "I would like it. I would like it." Because it was exciting, it was fun. Professionally, it was great.
Q: How long were you there on TDY?
FISHER: Three months. I made those changes when I was there.
Q: Florence was still in Paris.
FISHER: She was still in Paris.
Mrs. FISHER: With our daughter, of course.
FISHER: So I agreed, and we went back, direct transfer to Saigon. I really enjoyed it because it was a job that took every moment of my time. In addition to that, I had supervisory responsibilities for production in Cambodia and Vientiane, plus a laboratory contract operation in the Philippines, where all our laboratory work was done. When Turner proposed that I be transferred to Saigon, I said, "I will take it on one condition, that you get me Bill Ridgeway out of Korea, transfer him to the Philippines, to Manila, to supervise that laboratory operation." Because Bill was a crackerjack. I knew if I had him there, I'd never have any lab problems. He agreed to it, so Bill was transferred to the Philippines. I would go over every month or so and talk with Bill. He'd come over occasionally to Saigon. It was a good operation.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Whose Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Harold and Josephine Hatcher

Hatcher and his wife Josephine lived in the G Building, 10 Monroe Street. In 1940 they were employed by the WPA working on agricultural research. From the hatcher garden
In 1969 Josephine and Harold Hatcher decided to retire to Spartanburg, South Carolina, from Indianapolis, Indiana, where they had lived for over thirty years. They came south partly because of the warmer weather and the seasonal changes that make gardening a delightful endeavor and also because their daughter Alice and her family lived here. The Hatchers purchased a home with a small lot on Briarwood Road on the west side of town. From their small back yard they could see that the wooded area behind their house was covered with tall pines, mature hardwoods, and even a stream. The land itself had once been home to cotton fields, was badly eroded, and had become a dumping ground for local trash, but even so, the Hatchers could see that it had great potential. Soon after moving, Harold expanded his property by purchasing three acres behind his lot for $2000 and he began to convert the old, worn-out cotton fields into usable land for his gardening projects. The Hatchers then started spending all of their spare time filling in the eroded gullies, amending the soil, building paths and ponds, and planting over 10,000 trees, shrubs, and flowers. As the garden continued to grow through the 1970s, members of the Spartanburg Men’s Garden Club, the Spartanburg Garden Club Council, Spartanburg Community College, and the Unitarian Universalist Church became intrigued with the Hatchers’ vision for their garden and began to volunteer their time and resources to support the garden’s development. ......... The Hatchers’ work continued into the 1980s, and in 1987, when he was nearly 80 years old, Harold decided to give the garden more permanent protection by donating the property to the Spartanburg County Foundation. Ownership was transferred, a board established, and 501(c)(3) non-profit status acquired, thus assuring the garden’s continuity. The garden was officially given the name Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve with the Hatchers’ blessings. Although Josephine’s health became fragile, Harold continued to work in the garden every day and to direct its progress as more additions were made: a gardening shed, pavilion area, and a parking lot. Josephine Hatcher succumbed to health problems in 1999 and Harold restored the wildflower area in her honor. Harold died in 2003 at the age of 96. The ashes of both Hatchers were scattered in the garden to which they had dedicated so much of their lives and themselves. The Hatchers’ vision that culminated in a public garden in their back yard was not unique. Indeed, there are many public gardens and arboreta around the world that began as private family estates. However, what sets the Hatcher Garden apart from other private estates turned public gardens is the fact that the Hatchers were not wealthy landowners. They were humble people dedicated to a rich spiritual and intellectual life and they were unconcerned with material gain....

Whose Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Alan Fisher

Fisher lived in the G Building, 10 Monroe Street. Part of an interview done with him for a library of Congress oral history project:
Interviewed by: G. Lewis Schmidt Initial interview date: July 27, 1989
 Q: I want to start out with having Alan give a brief description of his background before he became affiliated with the Agency or its predecessor agencies and institutions, and then we'll take it from there. In the meantime, as I feel that I want to prompt him on particular subjects, I will intervene with a question. Otherwise, I will let him say pretty much what he wants to talk about. So Alan, please begin with a brief bio sketch of your background, and then take it from there.
Biosketch: Alan Fisher
FISHER: I was born in Brooklyn in 1913. I graduated from high school, Brooklyn Technical High School, was going to be a chemical engineer, and changed my mind. I started to work for the New York World Telegram as a freelance photographer, and then after a year of that, was given a job as sports photographer. In 1934 I started with them. Then I became special features and color photographer and general all-around photographer on their staff until 1942. Then I left them because I had a very good job offer to join the staff of the newspaper PM. I was on the staff for two years and did an awful lot of coverage of Army camps. I spent almost one year covering Army camps. Then I got a call from Washington from Alexander Murphy, who had been with the AP and had been our photo assignment editor on PM. Al asked me whether I'd go to South America for a six-month contract to work for Nelson Rockefeller's office. At that time, Nelson was the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. It was equivalent to modern-day Assistant Secretary for Latin America, but there was no such title at that time. So I said I didn't know whether I could get a leave of absence, and he said, "Sure, we can arrange it with Ralph Ingersoll," the publisher. They arranged it, and I arranged then to go to South America. The interesting thing was that I was given just general ideas on what was wanted, and then I went to Washington on my way to Miami to pick up the plane to Brazil, which was my starting point. I said, "Any final instructions? Specifically what do you want?" Fisher Goes to South America as Photographer for Rockefeller's IIA Program It was an assignment of a lifetime. Al Murphy said, "Just take anything that looks good to you." And those were my instructions for Latin America. I spent two years instead of two months in Latin America on a contract for Nelson Rockefeller, and I photographed Brazil, basically the war effort, industry, prominent people, politicians, and so forth. I went over to Chile after a year and a half, was sent over to Chile to cover the break in relations with the Axis, and after three months there, I was fortunate in getting there in time to cover the break. Florence came with me as my interpreter. She spoke Spanish, I didn't. Then she went back to Brazil, and Vice President Wallace came down to visit Latin America. I was assigned by Washington to cover him for the combined American press. I spent a month with him, then went back to Chile for a month, and then back to Brazil. By that time, I had been reclassified to be 1A, and I got a call from Washington. I said, "I'll be right back."
Q: 1A meaning in the draft.
FISHER: Yes. I had been 2B, essential war worker. The day I got back to the States, they decided that men over 29 were not wanted anymore, particularly married men, and I was automatically reclassified to 2B again. I was given a choice then of going back to Brazil or going over as a war correspondent with the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.
Q: At this point, let me ask a couple of questions to clarify exactly what you were doing with the Nelson Rockefeller program, the IIA program. Were you doing entirely photographic work in connection with things Brazilian, or were you trying to get out any information about the United States and its relationship with Brazil? Fisher's Role in US War Effort Pictures for Publication in US to Acquaint US With Latin America And Have US Stories Played Back to Latin America
FISHER: My job was strictly a one-way job. I was photographing and writing stories to send back to the United States to acquaint the Americans with Latin America. Because at that time, the war wasn't going too well, and our fallback position was Latin America. We were doing a lot of things in Latin America to help the Latin Americans, such as helping them build a steel plant out of Rio, bringing in equipment for them to manufacture airplane motors, heavy equipment, tractors, and so forth, raising the level of food production, and trying to raise the health standards. We were doing this all throughout Latin America, and one of the things I was to do was to photograph this effort, write stories and send them back. The Agency would then distribute them through the wire services, so they were getting a great play. But this really was a fallback position for us. In the event that we did get driven out of the States, we would fall back to Latin America. [Editor's underscoring. It is not thought that the American public ever knew of this possible fallback consideration.] So there was some strategic importance to what I was doing, but it was all the other way. In other words, I wasn't disseminating any information about the United States in Latin America. I was also covering stories for the two slick magazines that the coordinating office put out in Latin America, EM/GUARDA, which is in Brazil and Portuguese, and EM/GUARDA, which was in Spanish for the rest of Latin America. That was really much like the forerunner of Life magazine, the same format, big slick color, a very, very good-looking publication, and a very popular magazine in Latin America. So that carried stories of the American war efforts and battles and American military activity.
Q: Did you write any of those stories?
FISHER: No. No, my pictures were used for that. They were in-house stories out of Washington, but there many of my pictures used for that. Then when I went back, I went back to Washington, and there was a hiatus. I thought I would like to get into the military, because I had been offered a commission as a captain before I left for Latin America. Those positions were no longer available.

Rabbi Max Felshin, Part 2

Whose Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Rabbi Max Felshin

The rabbi lived in the G building, 10 Monroe Street. Turns out that Judith Coplon was really guilty.
Judith Coplon Socolov (May 17, 1921 – February 26, 2011) was one of the first major figures tried in the United States for spying for the former Soviet Union; problems in her trials in 1949–50 had a profound influence on espionage prosecutions during the McCarthy era. Coplon obtained a job in the Department of Justice shortly after she graduated from Barnard College, cum laude in 1943. She transferred to the Foreign Agents Registration section in 1944, where she had access to counter-intelligence information, and was allegedly recruited as a spy by the NKGB at the end of 1944. She first came to the attention of the FBI as a result of a Venona message in late 1948. Coplon was known in both Soviet intelligence and the Venona files as "SIMA". She was the first person tried as a result of the Venona project—although, for reasons of security, the Venona information was not revealed at her trial. FBI Special Agent Robert Lamphere testified at her trial that suspicion had fallen on Coplon because of information from a reliable "confidential informant". An extensive counter-intelligence operation planted a secret document for her to pass to the Soviets. FBI agents detained Coplon in March, 1949 as she met with Valentin Gubitchev, a KGB official employed by the United Nations, while carrying what she believed were secret U.S. government documents in her purse. Coplon was convicted in two separate trials, one for espionage in 1949, and another for conspiracy along with Gubitchev in 1950; both convictions were later overturned in 1950 and 1951, respectively in appeal. The appellant judge in New York concluded that, while the evidence showed that she was guilty, FBI agents had lied under oath about the bugging. Moreover, he wrote, the failure to get a warrant was not justified. He overturned the verdict, but the indictment was not dismissed. In the appeal of the Washington trial, the verdict was upheld, but, because of the possible bugging, a new trial became possible. For political and evidentiary reasons it never took place. Due to these legal irregularities, she was never retried and the government ultimately dropped the case in 1967.