The book club I belong to here at Heritage Heights recently read and discussed Lynn Olson's "The Citizens of London."
Set in 1940, the book is Olson's nonfiction account of London during World War II, when former New Hampshire Governor John Gilbert Winant was appointed Ambassador to England to replace Joseph Kennedy. At that time, Edward R. Murrow had already been broadcasting from London for three years.
Shortly after Winant's appointment, President Roosevelt sent Averill Harriman to London to study the question of Lend-Lease so badly needed by the blitz-bombed Londoners. England was the last country not overrun by Hitler's armies, and aid from the United States was crucial to England's survival.
Of course, General Dwight Eisenhower was key to the allied successes in the war and following the conflict was persuaded to run for President of the United States on the Republican ticket in the 1948 election. The Republican Convention was held in Philadelphia that year.
In 1946, at the age of 17, I had begun my working career as an entry-level Remington Rand keypunch operator in the Trust Department of Philadelphia's largest bank, The Pennsylvania Company for Banking and Trusts. My job was to enter the purchases and sales of stocks and bonds in and out of customers' trust funds.
The keypunch machines were large and gave off a lot of heat, which in those pre-air conditioning years in Philadelphia summers was almost overwhelming. The summer of 1948 was an exciting time as we anticipated the arrival of Candidate Eisenhower to officially accept his party's nomination for President. His motorcade was scheduled to come right down Chestnut Street where the bank's two 25-story buildings faced each other on opposite corners of 15th and Chestnut.
For days I and my fellow keypunch operators (we called ourselves "Mill Dollies") collected the tiny round punches that dropped into a receptacle each time we hit a keystroke on the keyboard. By the time Ike's arrival day came, we each had collected bags full of punches.
The air was full of excitement – both on the sidewalks and 24 floors up in our tiny office. Fortunately three windows faced Chestnut Street and we risked the wrath of our supervisor to hang far out the windows and watch for the WWII hero to appear.
And suddenly there he was! One by one we emptied our bags out the windows in joyous welcome. The irony of it all was the wind that always whistled its way up and down Philadelphia streets carried our punches up, up and away blocking our view of the general and his motorcade.
Nevertheless, in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin that night was a picture of what the paper referred to as confetti, but we all knew it was our punches swirling in the sky in front of the bank. We were vindicated!
It took all these words to recommend the "Citizens of London"; but anyone who remembers that historic time and place will find this book an absorbing and enlightening read.