“Why do you smoke those things?
You know they only make things worse!” Peter Clark looked at his son and threw his cigarette from the window of his 1927 Model A Ford as he drove along the eastern seaboard of the United States toward Washington, D.C. The engine of the bright red two door coupe purred quietly. Peter’s raspy, irritated voice wasn’t so calm.
“I brought you on this trip to be company for me, not nag like your mother,” he said. “Everybody seems to know what I should do, but nobody offers any help. This damn depression.
Can’t find work even if I was able, so why shouldn’t I have some enjoyment, huh?”
“Sorry, Pop, but I just hate to see you sick all the time,” said Irving. Peter started to cough uncontrollably and pulled the car over to the side of the road. Irving slid over into the driver’s seat as his father wiped the excess brown spittle from his mouth and reached for the flask that he kept strapped to his leg. He offered a swig to his son. Irving took a long drink. It wasn’t quite as tasty as he expected, but he smiled in his best grown up way and said, “Thanks.” Irving handed his father the flask as Peter got in on the passenger side of the car. Irving pulled the car onto the road and drove with the confidence of someone who had been driving much longer.
“That stuff burns too, but not for long,” said Peter. “Pretty soon that damn Prohibition will be repealed. That’s about the only good thing happened in this country since ’29.” Peter looked at his fifteen year-old son. Irving still looked much the same as he had in ’29. That thick, red hair that had distinguished the Clark men for as long as he could remember – all the way back to his son’s namesake, Peter’s great-great grandfather who had been taken prisoner of war during the War of 1812. Irving still had that boyish face full of freckles and the long, skinny body of someone a little younger. The only sign of a budding man was the slight growth of hair above his mouth, hardly noticeable because of its light color. Irving had stifled a slight grimace when he swallowed the whiskey, anxious to prove his manhood to his father. Peter was actually more of an older, rebellious brother than a father.
After Peter returned from the Great War, he moved his wife and two young sons back to New York where they lived with Abraham and Claire. Peter’s chronic lung condition prevented him from hard labor, but Abraham employed him as a salesman in his Ford Dealership. The twenties were roaring; there was a “chicken in every pot” as well as a Ford Model A. Peter was an apt salesman who liked the high class, easy living of the Jazz Age. Much to the family’s dismay, Peter spent a great deal of time at the local speakeasies. Mary complained all the time about his drinking and carousing, but that only made him want to be away from home more. His heavy drinking also exacerbated the deterioration in his lungs.
Abraham became surrogate father to Irving and young Abraham as well as daughter Faye, born in 1921. Irving learned to adhere to the simple abundance lifestyle of Abraham and Claire, but he had a great curiosity about the world he began to learn about through the radio and the movies. That must be what his father’s world was like, he thought. Irving was happy that his father had invited him on this trip. This was his chance to explore that world he had only dreamed of before.
Irving loved to tinker with machines, taking them apart and putting them back together, just to see how they worked. When he was just eight years old, his mother found him in the parlor with the family radio taken apart. Abraham had sat with him until they reassembled the entire radio. Abraham was amazed at young Irving’s ability to understand how things worked, and he encouraged that in the youngster. By the time of the stock market crash, Irving knew enough about car engines to begin helping Abraham in the repair shop opened in the space that used to house the new cars. In addition to helping with the cars, Irving started his own little radio repair business on the side.
The Schmidt/Clark household had fared better than most as the country slid into the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The repair business brought in a moderate income. In addition, Abraham, with help from the rest of the Schmidt family, had built his own home, so there was no mortgage to pay when their business failed. Claire and Mary also kept a garden that provided plenty of food. Irving knew there were others not so fortunate, but his knowledge was limited to the men who often appeared at their back door asking for food. They were never refused. Many times they not only ate a hearty meal with the family, they also left with a bag of whatever had been picked that morning.
Irving knew the trip he was taking with his father had something to do with getting some kind of money from the government, but he really didn’t understand it. He thought taking a trip with his father would be fun. Irving was entering puberty and curious about the world his father knew that was so different from the simple Quaker family life of Abraham Schmidt. After the initial burn of the alcohol turned to a soothing, warm tingle in his body, Irving began to understand why his father was happy Prohibition was over. “Can I have another drink?” he asked.
“Not while you’re driving, Son. Too dangerous.” Peter actually just wanted to save the rest of the flask for himself. They still had quite a way to go to get to Washington and Peter knew it would take a little time to find the money and the means to get a refill. Peter had come to rely on the drink that was a two edged sword, both comforting and deadly at the same time. Peter had stopped caring, however. He had been dealt an early death sentence when he was gassed in 1918. He thought he might as well go out in style. That’s why he was making this trip to Washington. It was time the government paid him what he was due so that he could spend the money before he died.
Peter and Irving were on their way to Washington, D.C. to join thousands of other World War I veterans in the Bonus Expeditionary March to persuade Congress to pass the Patman Bonus Bill that would release money for early payment on the certificates that had been given to war veterans in 1918 in appreciation for their service in the Great War. The certificates were not supposed to mature until 1945, but thousands of veterans were homeless and suffering and needed payment now.
“Think this trip will do any good, Pop?”
“No harm in tryin’, Son. Lots of good men out there who suffered for this country. Now they need some help. Carrying around a promise of money in 1945 ain’t gonna help them pay their mortgages now. You know this march started in Portland, Oregon on the other side of the country. Group of veterans started out walkin’ over two months ago to git to Washington in time for the vote on this bill. Them guys are already homeless. I read one of ‘em told a reporter, ‘We were heroes in 1917, but we’re bums now. Can’t even feed our families.’ Good men living in cardboard houses they call Hooverville after the President. We paid our dues. Time for the government to pay us.”
“I s’pect so, Pop. Where you think we all will stay once we get there. We gonna sleep in the car?”
“Well, Son, we’ll see when we get there. Maybe we’ll build us a cardboard house,” he laughed. The alcohol soon began to take effect and Peter fell sound asleep. Around midnight as Irving approached the border of Maryland, he decided he needed to find a place to stop for the night. He saw some lights in the distance and turned off the main road in the direction of the lights. At the end of the road, there was a gasoline station with a small diner next to it. Both were closed. Irving pulled into the parking lot, stopped the car and got two thin blankets from the car’s trunk. He covered his father with one and then fell asleep in the back seat. Before he knew it, he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder. “Wake up, Son. Let’s go git somethin’ to eat.”
Irving sat up and looked around. The parking lot that had been empty the night before was now full. There were several delivery trucks and a couple of cars that looked as though they belonged to traveling salesmen. The two found two empty seats at the counter. A waitress appeared from the area in the back that was obviously the kitchen. Irving could smell bacon and eggs and coffee cooking. It reminded him of home. He was suddenly homesick as well as stiff from the long time in the car. “You sure are lucky you’re wearin’ that uniform,” said the waitress as she looked at Peter. Irving figured she was about the same age as Claire. She had her graying hair pulled up in a hair net. Her features were hard, not soft like Claire’s or his mother’s. Her eyes were dark and uninviting and her upper teeth protruded slightly over the lower ones. Irving decided that’s why she didn’t smile.
“What do you mean?” asked Peter.
“My husband saw the uniform and figured you was one of them vet’rans goin’ into Washington. That’s why he left you alone when he discovered you in the lot this morning. Lots of men been passin’ through the last few days. Most of them beggin’ food. We already gave all we can give. Fraid we can’t help you if you don’t have any money.”
Peter looked at Irving. He knew his son had some money. Irving always managed to scare up some money. The two still had some sandwiches and fruit they had brought with them stored under the spare tire in the trunk, but Peter’s mouth watered as he smelled the fresh coffee and bacon. “We got enough for some coffee and eggs,” said Irving.
“How you want those eggs?”
“Over medium for both and make sure the coffee’s nice and hot,” said Peter.
It was early May in 1932 and the country was mired in the worst economic depression anyone could remember. In fact, the entire world was suffering. Bread lines were long and homeless men wandered around the country riding the rails and living in hobo camps while looking for work. Men appeared daily at the Schmidt/Clark household looking for work or food. No one was ever denied a meal, but more and more people were facing starvation, especially those who lived in the big urban centers. Therefore, as Peter and Irving were ordering breakfast a few miles outside Washington, some 43,000 people – 17,000 World War I veterans and their families and friends - were descending on the city at the same time. Some rode in cars or filled trucks. Some rode the rails or buses. A large number walked for days without food or rest. The starving, dirty and disheveled crowd had set up camp at various places around the city.
The waitress brought two plates of eggs with buttered toast and jam. She poured two steaming hot cups of coffee. Once again, Irving felt a wave of homesickness as he put the cup to his lips. The waitress noticed their surprise at the toast. “Don’t worry. The toast and jam’s on the house. Our way of sayin’ thanks even if the government don’t.” Peter nodded in appreciation. When the two finished their meal, Peter went to the washroom in the back and cleaned up a bit while Irving paid the bill and filled the car with gasoline. Peter came out with a fresh pack of cigarettes. Irving scowled.
“Woman’s husband gave me these,” he said. “Didn’t pay for ‘em. You have all the dough anyway.” Irving shook his head and went to the washroom and cleaned up a bit. Soon, the two were back on the road to D.C. As they approached the city, Irving began to notice a great deal more traffic on the road. He saw cars as well as trucks. Many of the cars were painted with signs
that said Bonus Expeditionary Force. There were trucks with the back panel pulled down full of men some sitting with their legs dangling over the back. Some of the men had on old army boots, but many of them were barefooted. Irving heard the strains of Over There as one truck passed and the men waved and cheered. There were groups of men and women and small children walking on the side of the road. When one young girl stumbled, Peter pulled over and offered the grateful family a ride. When they got in the car, the small girl said, “Have you got anything to eat? I ain’t eat today.”
Irving thought about the food hidden in the trunk. He looked at the hungry family. It was obvious none of them had eaten. In fact, most of the people on the road were probably hungry. What good would it do to get those sandwiches out, he thought. Probably just start more trouble, so he said, “Sorry. We ate the last of our food this morning.’” The little girl sat back and stuck her thumb in her mouth as her mother rocked her, grateful to at least have a ride. The car moved through the throng of people like a hearse in a funeral procession. The walkers were much more somber than those riding. The silence hung in the air like the quiet before a storm. Soon, Irving noticed a strange collection of huts and shacks near the mud flats across from the Anacostia River. He knew they must be approaching Hooverville. Peter found a fairly open area where he could park the car. He wanted to keep it in sight and not get too far from it. He was afraid of what could happen. Once the group reached Hooverville, the silence was broken.
People seemed to be rushing in the direction of a truck that was meandering slowly through the spaces between cardboard houses with tin roofs or old army blankets strung over junk wire to make a tent. When the truck paused, Irving could make out what the fuss was all about. Someone inside the truck was passing out sandwiches to the crowd! “Hey, Pop. Wait here. I’m going to get us a sandwich,” said Irving. Irving pushed and shoved his way through the crowd that was surprisingly orderly considering the fact that most of them had not eaten at all that day or maybe even longer.
When Irving got to the front of the line, he heard someone say, “Be patient. We have enough for all of you.” He stood and waited while one of those serving went behind the tent to get more sandwiches.
That’s when he heard a whispered voice saying, “Did you smell that nasty odor? What do people expect if they can’t keep themselves clean?” Despite the polite smile on the face of the man who handed Irving the sandwiches, Irving felt a little degraded by the whole event. He wondered if he and his father had the same odor. If he hadn’t been so hungry, he would have refused the sandwiches and hot coffee. He took the food back to the car and he and his father sat and ate and discussed what they would do for sleeping arrangements. “I saw a junk pile a few yards back. That’s probably where the others got the stuff to make these houses. I’ll go see what I can scare up,” said Irving. When he came back with some heavy cardboard boxes and tin, he saw that his father was talking to another man and motioning to a bottle the man held. Peter handed the man two sandwiches and then the man poured something from the bottle into Peter’s flask. When Peter returned, Irving said, “Pop, those sandwiches were goin’ to be our dinner. What we goin’ to do now?”
“I kept the fruit. Besides, I found out about a poker game this evening.’ I think I can finagle a couple of sandwiches from these guys. Don’t worry. Let’s get this shack up.” Peter started to cough uncontrollably. By the time he finished coughing, Irving had assembled a shanty with a door and window cut out and attached a tin roof to it. Irving went to the trunk of the car and pulled out a small mattress and the two thin blankets. He took a couple of apples from the bag and handed one to his father. Unless his father was lucky tonight, the apple would be their dinner. Irving watched as his father drank from the silver flask. Somehow, he didn’t think his father would notice. Peter soon fell asleep. Irving took a walk through the mass of cardboard and old lumber buildings.
Despite the obvious poverty and lack of sanitary facilities, Irving noticed an attempt had been made to keep the grounds free of garbage and debris. There was, however, a strong odor of urine that filled the hot, sticky June air. Irving saw children playing in the dirt. Little girls were sitting making mud pies, while the boys kicked old cans and played marbles. The odor of unwashed clothes and bodies mixed with that of the urine. Somehow, Irving felt that every day he spent here would be one more day in which he would lose his own sense of dignity and self-esteem. The smells were beginning to box him in and he had trouble breathing.
At one of the huts, there was a donation jar between two small children. On top of the jar was a sign that said, Hard Times are Hoovering over us. There were people and children standing in the openings used for doors. How tired and hopeless they looked! As Irving passed by the two outhouses, he heard someone announce that it was time for a drill. Bedraggled veterans in threadbare uniforms, some with medals, marched out and “fell in.” They stood quietly in the hot sun as their leader Walter Waters announced the results of the Senate vote on Capitol Hill that day. Unfortunately, the bill that would have helped relieve their suffering had been defeated in the Senate. As a mild roar began, the crowd was hushed when Waters said, “We will remain orderly. We will stay and continue our protest. Tomorrow we will assemble for a silent Death March down Pennsylvania Avenue. We will continue each day until the President responds.” Discipline and order seemed to be the only thing being offered to help these men retain their dignity and self worth.
That night Peter got into a poker game. He came back to the hut with two ham sandwiches that he had scored for him and Irving. Although Irving ate the sandwich, he couldn’t help but think of the blank stares and plain evidence of hunger that he had seen in the faces of the children that day. He promised himself that he would not accept another meal that was provided by his father. Somehow, he would find a way to feed them without resorting to taking what belonged to others. The next day, as the first of the silent marches began down Pennsylvania Avenue, Irving left the mud flats and went into the city. Lines of men marched silently; most of them had the pockets of their pants pulled inside out. This was representative of a Hoover flag, an impoverished salute to the President. Just past the White House, Irving found a bread line and a soup kitchen. He stood in line for three hours in order to get a half a loaf of bread and some potted meat. As he stood in line, that same odor seemed to permeate the air around him. Once again, when he had reached the front of the line, he noticed that same look – whether it was pity or disdain, he abhorred the look, but he was hungry. He pulled two slices of bread from the half of the loaf. He made one sandwich and cut it in half. He then put the bread and rest of the potted meat with the remainder of the fruit. Irving checked the bag. Only four apples left.
Irving returned to the bread line the next day and the next until he had enough bread and meat for the rest of the week. For the first time in his life, Irving knew the true feeling of hunger and hopelessness. Each time he begged for food or watched his father trade food for booze or cigarettes, he felt an ever increasing loss of dignity and self respect. Why were these men and their families being treated this way? If, indeed, they were the heroes who fought to retain honor and freedom, shouldn’t they be given something in return from a grateful people instead of a few crumbs of bread and pitiful looks? How he wanted to leave!
“Can’t we go home?” he asked. “I don’t see that this is doin’ any good. Most of these people who are stayin’ don’t have anywheres to go. We have a place to go to, and I’m gettin’ awful hungry and tired.”
“We got that way in 1918, Son, but we stayed through to the end for our country. Now we need our country and we’re goin’ to stay until the President takes some notice.” The next day, Irving took the car and drove away from the city into the countryside. He knew what he was looking for. It was July, now, and he knew the corn and tomatoes as well as other summer squashes would be ripe. He had also seen several peach trees along the roadside as he and his father were driving into the city. He stopped and filled the fruit bag with some peaches that had fallen on the ground. He didn’t feel right about taking them from the trees without permission. In the distance he saw a farmhouse.
Peter stored the peaches in the trunk of the car and walked down the long, gravel driveway toward the white frame house. He saw a young girl about his age hanging clothes on a clothes line at the side of the house. Irving knew she must be used to beggars appearing at her door because of the beggars who regularly came to his home in New York. Not many beggars drove a nice car, however. Irving couldn’t help but notice how pretty the girl was. She was probably about the same age as he was. The blossoming curves of a young woman were apparent underneath the loose fitting house dress that she was wearing. She must have heard him because she looked up and covered her eyes to keep down the glare of the sun. As he walked nearer, she smiled timidly. She was even prettier close up.
“Hello, Miss. My name’s Irving Clark. My pop is a war veteran here to try to get the government to help us. We thought Congress was gonna pass a bill that would help us, but it seems not. We’re tryin’ to get the President to take notice now, so we’re stayin’ a little longer than expected. Reckon you might have some extra food to share so’s we can stay a little longer?”
An older lady came outside with another basket of clothes. Irving guessed she was the young girl’s mother. She had the same dark, wavy hair and dark eyes and slim figure. “What can we do for you, Son?” she said.
“Him and his pa are here for the march, Ma,” said the young girl.
“That so? Would you like some lemonade?” Before Irving could say anything, she said, “Go get the boy a cool drink, Lizzie.” The girl went into the house and Irving explained once again why he was there. Lizzie came back out carrying a glass of lemonade and handed it to Irving. “Lizzie, take the lad down to the garden and help him get a few beans and some corn.”
“All right, Ma,” she said. “Follow me.” Irving put his glass down and followed the girl through the backyard to the garden. On the way, she picked up a burlap bag and handed it to him. “Put the corn in this,” she said. Irving picked a dozen ears of corn and a mess of green beans. He worked slowly. It was very pleasant being with this girl and her mother picking vegetables from their garden just like it was part his. It reminded him of the way it was back home.
“So, your name’s Lizzie?” he said.
“You still in school?”
“Yeah. I’ll be finished next year. What about you?”
“I got a couple more years.”
“What you gonna do after that?” asked Lizzie.
“I got me a little radio repair business back home. I also work with my grandfather repairing cars. S’pect I’ll do that. What about you?”
“Don’t know. Not many jobs available for anybody. Maybe I’ll just learn some bookkeeping or something like that and try to find work unless I get married.”
“Got any boyfriends?”
“Not really. Ma and Pa are pretty strict. Most of the boys around here are too slick for Pa’s likin.’”
“Lizzie! You finished with that boy?”
“Guess we better head back,” said Lizzie. “You got enough to make do for a while? Pa says we got to help one another out these days. Times awful hard on most people, but we get by all right.”
“Yeah. I think this’ll do. Thanks, Lizzie.” The two walked back to the side of the house. Irving thanked Lizzie and her mother again and walked back down the driveway. He could still see Lizzie’s beautiful smile and a warm, tingling feeling stirred in his groins. He had felt this urge before. Irving thought about Lizzie’s breasts. He had seen the tip of her nipples through her dress in the shade as they walked from the garden. He wondered if she had the same warm feeling, and if she did, he wondered if she had learned to satisfy the urge the way he had.
Irving thought he was ready to have a real girlfriend. He thought about Lizzie all the way back to the mud flats. Irving took two ears of corn and some green beans from the bag, along with a couple of peaches. He cooked the corn and beans over a fire outside the cardboard shack. A group of children came running toward the smell. Peter sat and ate his corn without even acknowledging the children. Irving gave up his corn and beans and told the children to leave.
“Can’t we go back, Pop? I’m tired and hungry and don’t see that we’re doing any good here.”
“There’s gonna be a marine general speaking tomorrow. Let’s stay for that and then we’ll go. Things are getting’ pretty tense here anyway. People getting’ more agitated with the government. Don’t think Waters can restrain them much longer.” Irving was happy to hear they would soon be leaving. He ate the peach he had kept for himself and decided he would not cook anymore food until they were away from the hungry crowds. He fell asleep wondering how far he would have to drive before he got away from those who were hungry. Irving sat straight up! The sound of a muffled voice had awakened him. He caught sight of a figure in the opening in the shanty. It looked like the figure of a woman! Still half asleep all Irving could think of was that it was Lizzie. Had she followed him here? He started to get up. His father’s voice stopped him.
“Leave her be, Son. She’s leaving.” Irving could see she was carrying a sack that looked very much like the one that had the corn and beans in it. “Her children were hungry and we made a deal,” he said.
“Oh, Pop! Why?”
“You started it! You had to give those kids food! She came lookin’ for food. I had to git somethin’ for it, didn’t I? We’ll be able to git more food when we leave and we won’t be bothered with all these hungry, dirty brats!” Peter started to cough uncontrollably again. Irving threw his hands up in the darkness and swore. He didn’t like what he was thinking.
Peter got up early the next morning and walked back into the city to stand in the bread line. He still had the bag of peaches and he wanted to get some more bread and potted meat. He was not going to let this food out of his sight until it was eaten. He was so homesick! He didn’t care anymore what happened to his father; he just wanted to get home. As Peter walked toward Pennsylvania Avenue, he heard someone speaking. That must be the marine general, he thought. The crowd appeared to be getting angry. Irving stopped and listened.
“War is just a racket; a racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small group inside knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. . . I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”
Could this possibly be the general? Thought Irving. Why would a general be speaking against war? Who was responsible for this speaker? This was certainly a dangerous speech right in front of the White House. The crowd that had been so silent now began to get louder and louder. Their cheers turned to a roar. There was shouting and waving and jostling about. Irving caught sight of the riot police and tried to get through the crowd, but he kept getting knocked down. Suddenly, he heard a shot, then another! There was panic and people were running in every direction!
Peter put his head down and held his bag of food like a football. He punched and kicked his way through the crowd. He kept thinking about his father. He repented over and over for all the bad thoughts he had had and begged God to let his father be safe! When he finally broke free of the crowd, he stumbled back to the shanty on the mud flats. His father was inside the shanty, obviously passed out. Irving heard Mr. Waters’ voice. “The police have killed two marchers. The President has ordered General MacArthur to clear Pennsylvania Ave. Stay in your houses until the troops leave!”
Irving could hear the sound of horses and marching troops. He climbed on top of the car. In the distance, he could see troops with gas masks, fixed bayonets, men on horses with sabers drawn followed by several light tanks. Rising from the sea of humanity was a gray cloud of smoke that appeared to be dust at first. Peter then realized what it was. It was tear gas! He could see large crowds running away from the circle and hear people coughing and gasping for air! It appeared that the troops were turning around and heading for the shanties on the flats! That couldn’t be, thought Irving. The people that remained in Hooverville, some ten thousand, had not been responsible for the rioting. Nevertheless, he ran toward the cardboard house he had shared with his father for three weeks and yelled.
“Pop! Wake up! We have to leave! There’s troops with tear gas and guns and tanks headed here!” He started grabbing at the mattress rolling his father onto the floor.
“Wha? Wha? What’s goin’ on?”
“We need to leave – Now!” Peter stumbled to his knees. Once again, he started coughing violently. “Pop! There’s troops with tear gas! We got to leave!” When Peter heard the words “tear gas,” he grabbed his blanket and thin jacket and hat and ran to the car. Irving was right behind him. Residents fortunate enough to have transportation were doing exactly what Peter and Irving were doing. By the time Irving got the car to the road leading to the bridge, troops had moved in and blocked the exit. There was massive confusion. Peter turned the car around and headed back to Hooverville. In the rear view mirror, he could see soldiers in gas masks, rifles drawn with bayonets, marching in front of a line of cavalry. The cavalry was being led by Major George Patton.
Irving parked the car some distance away from Hooverville. There, he and his father watched as troops tossed canisters of tear gas into the shanties and wives and children came running out coughing and tearing and wildly looking for husband and father. By morning, the shanties had been deserted and the troops set the camp ablaze. Smoke, dust and the remnants of tear gas filled the air as Irving once again headed for the bridge across the Anacostia River. Irving’s lungs burned from the smoke, but Peter’s coughing was almost non stop as he tried to expel the deadly pollutants from his compromised lungs. Irving managed to follow a group to a nearby hospital that was overwhelmed with casualties. Overworked doctors handed Peter a mask to wear and gave him some water to drink until they could find a space to put up an oxygen tent. By late afternoon, Peter’s lungs had recovered enough that the doctors told Irving he could take his father home. “I’m afraid he’s not going to last much longer,” said the doctor. “His lungs are too weak and he has pneumonia. He needs to get back to a hospital as soon as possible.”
Peter wore the mask the doctors gave him all the way home. He was too weak to argue with his son over cigarettes or alcohol. After two days of almost non-stop driving, the two returned to New York to a very worried family. They had been reading the reports of the evacuation in the paper. Claire and Mary washed Peter and put on clean pajamas. Molly Blake was called and she came and helped set up an oxygen tent in Peter’s bedroom. Irving bathed and put on pajamas and ate a hearty meal. He then went to bed and slept for almost two days. When he finally got up, he discovered his father was in a coma. Peter died two weeks after returning home. He was buried in the family cemetery along with all the other generations of Clark’s who had given service to their country.
Irving learned later that two babies had died of asphyxiation and one woman had miscarried during the evacuation. Major Dwight Eisenhower, army liaison to the Washington police wrote: “the whole scene was pitiful. The veterans were ragged, ill-fed, and felt themselves badly abused. To suddenly see the whole encampment going up in flames just added to the pity.”
That fall, there was a presidential election. Irving couldn’t vote, but he was happy that Hoover was defeated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In March, 1933, Irving returned to Washington with Abraham, Claire, Mary and his younger brother Abe for the inauguration. Molly Blake went with them, also. The family stood outside in the dreary March wind as Roosevelt was sworn into office. Roosevelt stood on heavy metal braces and dragged himself to the podium with the support of his eldest son, James, to deliver his Inaugural Address.
As Molly listened to the words of hope and the plans for a New Deal, she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps this was the dawning of a new day of peace and prosperity like the times of the Bear Clan and the Great Peace. Surely, everyone was ready for healing. Jane Addams, so hated for her opposition to World War I and accused of being a Communist during the Red Scare of the 20’s had recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, the country had a president with a wife who supported the ideals of the International League for Peace and Freedom. Molly remembered Roosevelt’s promise during the 1920 election when he was running for Vice-President. Molly had voted for the Democrats because of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin had promised war weary veterans and their families at the time that “it (war) shall not occur again. Americans demand: The crime of war shall cease.”
Molly was hopeful as she heard, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The nation, as well as the rest of the world, was ready to move forward to a new dawning of peace and prosperity. As Molly listened to the words of Franklin Roosevelt and dreamed of a New Deal for the world, across the Atlantic the people of Germany had just elected a new leader to restore the broken German economy and bring order out of chaos.
By March of 1933, Adolph Hitler had seized control of the German parliament. As Roosevelt was beginning the first Hundred Days of his four year term to restore peace and stability in America, Hitler was setting plans in motion for the establishment of a Gleichschaltung that would lead to totalitarian control of all aspects of German society and commerce by 1937. It wouldn’t be long before the strains of Deutschland Uber Alles would strike like lightening all over Europe and create a roar of thunder that would be heard all over the world.