Roberta Barrows Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Roberta Barrows

Stenographer-typist, Hoover White House; Secretary to appointments secretaries of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower.

Washington, D.C.
June 11, 1987
by Niel M. Johnson

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened September, 1988
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

Oral History Interview with
Roberta Barrows

Washington, D.C.
June 11, 1987
by Niel M. Johnson


JOHNSON: I'm going to start out, Miss Barrows, by asking you if you would tell us when and where you were born and what your parents' names were.

BARROWS: I was born in Waynesville, Pulaski County, Missouri, on April 30, 1900. My mother was Louella Mitchell Barrows. She was born on a farm in adjoining Laclede County. My father's name was William Joseph Barrows, and he was born in Laclede County, in Lebanon, Missouri.

JOHNSON: So they're Missourians.

BARROWS: But that had nothing to do with Mr. Truman; he only knew me as a White House employee.

JOHNSON: Did you go to school there then?


BARROWS: No. I came here when I was six years old.

JOHNSON: You came to Washington?

BARROWS: Washington, D.C.

My father came in 1901, with our Congressman whose name I do not recall. He first worked in the Census Bureau, and later in the Wilson administration he was deputy to the Postmaster General.

JOHNSON: So he was in the Census Bureau and then the Post Office.

BARROWS: Yes. And I lived on Capitol Hill, in a big three story house.

JOHNSON: Near the Capitol Building?

BARROWS: We were eight blocks from the Capitol Building.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the address?

BARROWS: 907 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E. I lived there until 1951.

JOHNSON: You lived in that same building until 1951, from the age of six?


BARROWS: No. At first we rented, a few blocks away, but the house wasn't quite large enough, so we bought the Massachusetts Avenue house. I don't recall the year they bought it. I was still in grade school; I do remember that.

JOHNSON: So you went to elementary schools here?

BARROWS: I went to elementary school and high school, Central High School, which is now Cordozo. It was called Old Central High School, but it doesn't exist under that name. I went two years to Felix Mahoney's School of Fine and Applied Arts, which has gone, long since. Then my father died and I went to business school and learned to be a stenographer.

JOHNSON: What school was that?

BARROWS: I went to two. The first one was the Washington School for Secretaries, and the second one was the Temple. I think that's correct.

JOHNSON: Temple?

BARROWS: One of them is still in existence; I think the first one.


JOHNSON: This was after you got your high school diploma?

BARROWS: Yes. I then went to art school. After father's death, I had to go to work. I did work first at Suffrage headquarters, where my mother was active. That was where the Supreme Court Building now stands. It was called the National Woman's Party, and was run by the women who had picketed the White House in the First World War. One of them happened to have been my French teacher. My mother used to go there but, of course, she didn't have the time to really do anything but fold envelopes and stuff them, that kind of thing. Women had the vote by then. At that time they had what they called the Bill of Rights, trying to get it through Congress. It was sponsored by, of all people, Senators [Kenneth D.] McKellar and Cordell Hull, both of Tennessee. When my father died I went to work for the National Woman's Party at a very small salary. I liked it.

JOHNSON: What year would this be?

BARROWS: 1922; that's my recollection.

JOHNSON: Your father died in 1922?


BARROWS: In June of 1922. Then I went to business school.

JOHNSON: Then you went to business school, and lived with your mother?

BARROWS: Yes, I lived at home. I could walk up to Suffrage headquarters. It's too bad they razed that building. I'm positive that now they would not have been allowed to, because it was the old Capitol. When the British burned the Capitol, they [Americans] used that as the capitol building. And the Supreme Court met there. In my childhood, it consisted of three gray, slate-colored enormous mansions, which were boarding homes. Washington didn't have many apartments at that time. And then the National Woman's Party bought it, but I don't know when. I think in 1923 it was razed and the Supreme Court was built. But during the Civil War it was a Federal prison, and when Lincoln was assassinated, all of the culprits except Booth were quickly dumped into it. Even as a girl, when we'd go downstairs in the basement to get flags and things for big parades, you could still see the remains of the cells left from the Civil War.

JOHNSON: That was where those implicated in the assassination were held?


BARROWS: Yes. Even before, during the Civil War, it was a Union prison, and only for officers, usually Confederate naval officers.

JOHNSON: Were you an only child?

BARROWS: No. My mother had five daughters and two sons. Only one son lived.

JOHNSON: So you are one of six...

BARROWS: I'm the baby.

JOHNSON: Oh, you're the youngest.

BARROWS: The only one left, the afterthought.

JOHNSON: Did any of your brothers go into Government, Federal service?

BARROWS: No, they did not. My oldest sister and my brother were married about a year before we came here. The rest of them came to Washington and were married here. When we moved here they were young too.

JOHNSON: You're the only survivor now.


BARROWS: The last one died three years ago. They were all married; I'm the only single one.

JOHNSON: After your father died, you began work then as a...

BARROWS: I took the Civil Service exam after working for the National Woman's Party. I don't know why -- I didn't enjoy business school. I wanted to be an artist. It's just as well, I'm sure.

JOHNSON: But you were still able to do it as a hobby weren't you?

BARROWS: In other words, what happened to me was never my own doing. I was dragged, screaming as it were. So then I took the Civil Service Examination. I went to work in a small office called the Intelligence Unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The Intelligence Unit was new then, and it was an investigatory unit. It was ridiculous; it not only investigated people's income tax, it investigated their personal morals. They also enforced the Prohibition Act. I was young enough to enjoy that too. I worked there for about six years during Mr. Coolidge's administration,


and I traveled some. They'd take me on trips. That was before the FBI was put under Civil Service. Edgar Hoover -- I remember him when he was young -- was head of it. We interviewed bootleggers when they'd catch them. It was all a big joke really. We'd take their deposition; they’d go to jail for a day or two and come out and start in again.

JOHNSON: So you had to type transcripts of those interviews -- you had to record and...

BARROWS: I took it in shorthand. I had taken speedwriting. I would go to Savannah. There in Savannah were the "rum runners," as they called them then, going by boat between the Carribean islands and Cuba, to Georgia, and Florida. I've forgotten how many trips I made down there. There was one chap, I've forgotten his name, Willie somebody.

JOHNSON: To take depositions?

BARROWS: Yes. He was the Al Capone of the South.

JOHNSON: Now what year did you start work for the Intelligence Unit?


BARROWS: 1923.

JOHNSON: So you've had a long career with the Federal Government.

BARROWS: Yes, I really have.

JOHNSON: How long did that job last?

BARROWS: Well, that lasted about four years until I went over to the Board of Tax Appeals, as it was called then. It's now called the United States Tax Court. It was then downtown in the Earle Building.

JOHNSON: What year was that?

BARROWS: I don't know, in the late 1920s. A friend of mine told me of this wonderful place to work in which each judge had two law clerks; I think there were twelve judges. Each judge had a secretary, and then the law clerks shared a secretary. They paid good salaries, and in the summertime the judges -- most were men of wealth -- would go to their summer homes. Life was pretty soft. That's really why I went there.

JOHNSON: So you started working there then.


BARROWS: Well, I knew the head judge.

JOHNSON: Talking about going to the summer homes and so on, what kind of...

BARROWS: I didn't get to that point. I never saw a summer home.

JOHNSON: What kind of vacations, and what kind of pay did they give in those days?

BARROWS: Let's see, I got about $2,300 a year. I went in in February of 1929. I was in New York in '28 working for the Intelligence Unit taking depositions. I had my mother come up, and A1 Smith was the candidate against Hoover that year. Of course, we were for A1 Smith. I do remember where I was and what happened there. I had applied for the other job, and when I came home I got it. I went to work for the Tax Board in February of '29.

I loved the Tax Board. It was a court, but hadn't been named a court. In July the Chief Judge, who was an old friend from other days, called me into his office and said, "I have to tell you this; the White House, under Mr. Hoover, doesn't have enough help. Heretofore


the White House only had male help, but the girls who came in with Hoover and have been with him for years in his career, are just about exhausted. They've sent out a man to the Civil Service and they've looked up records, and they looked at yours and they've told me you have to be released and sent over for an interview." I said, "Oh, please, couldn't you get someone else?" "No," he replied, "because you're the last girl we employed. I'll tell you, I'll promise you this, if you don't like it, stay three months and I'll make someone else go." Nobody wanted to go.

JOHNSON: No one wanted to go to the White House?

BARROWS: No, you have no idea. The White House was a nice place I'm sure, but no women worked there.

JOHNSON: Is that right?

BARROWS: Really.

JOHNSON: All male secretaries in there?

BARROWS: I think there was always a female social secretary on the distaff side, but never on the President's side in the West Wing.


JOHNSON: This judge that you were working for, what was his name?

BARROWS: Benjamin Littleton.

JOHNSON: Littleton?

BARROWS: From Tennessee, a Republican.

JOHNSON: So now you're in with the Republicans.

BARROWS: East Tennessee. Politics made very little difference in the Government then, none at all. You know, if you read the papers they always say, "Washington, before World War II, was a little southern town." Well, I never lived in a little southern town to remember, but I guess it was. We were not impressed with the White House. You might come in from lunch and say, "Oh, I just saw the President and "Mrs. Whoseit' come out and take a ride," or something. "Oh, you did!" And that would be it. Mr. Coolidge took a walk every day after his nap. I can at least remember two instances when I was walking on F Street looking into windows at clothes, and bumped into Mr. Coolidge and the Secret Service.


JOHNSON: Is that right?

BARROWS: Right with the crowd. Everybody paused.

JOHNSON: Did he have just one or two Secret Service men with him?

BARROWS: Yes. Two I think; I don't know.

JOHNSON: But you would literally bump into him on the sidewalk?

BARROWS: Everybody would stop and smile, and he'd bow. He liked to walk and he loved to look in store windows; I understand he selected his wife's clothes.

JOHNSON: Did you tour the White House? Did you ever tour the White House before you...

BARROWS: I suppose I must have; we always had a lot of visitors.

JOHNSON: So you did go up to the White House to work for Hoover then?

BARROWS: I went over and we interviewed in the lobby. I told the Civil Service scout that I preferred not to


come if he could possibly find someone else. That was the Fourth of July weekend.

JOHNSON: In '29.

BARROWS: In '29, and I can remember how hopeful I was that I wouldn't have to go, after having rather begged off to the gentleman at the White House as politely as I could. But when I got to work the Monday after the holiday, I was called in again by the Chief Judge and he said, "You're it, you have to go. But I'll still give you my promise. I'll have you relieved in three months if you want to come back." He didn't blame me. So I went. I worked first in a room in the West Wing. I presume it would be called a basement, but the windows were level with the sidewalk -- very comfortable.

JOHNSON: In the West Wing.

BARROWS: Yes. At that time only this room and the file room were on that lower floor.

JOHNSON: When the President went from the living quarters to the oval office in the West Wing, would you see him go by?


BARROWS: Not from that location.

JOHNSON: Okay. So who did you work for? Who was your immediate supervisor?

BARROWS: I’m trying to think. I guess whoever sent for me. I presume now we would all it a stenographic pool. Mr. Hoover had a press secretary for the first time. He had a legislative secretary, who was an ex-Congressman from the Middlewest, for the first time. And he had an all around, very close secretary, who ran the White House.

JOHNSON: Do you remember her name?

BARROWS: Him. These were all “hims.” His name was Larry Richey. He really was a Italian, and the name had been anglicized I’ve been told. He had been with Mr. Hoover for many, many years in his career. Of course, Mr. Hoover was a very rich man. He had been with him in England where he had lived most of his adult business life. The Hoovers lived in England just out of London. And he, Mr. Richey, was the boss.

JOHNSON: What kind of correspondence did you handle, or


did you handle correspondence?

BARROWS: Well, I took dictation from the first person to send for me; I wouldn't be sure. Oh, he had one other man, a speechwriter, French Strother. He had been Doubleday Publishers, and he was a Democrat. Oddly, enough, I believe he was from Missouri too.

JOHNSON: What kind of work did you have to do then?

BARROWS: Well, I can't remember exactly, mostly correspondence. You would be sent for. Also, that first summer, each girl was assigned a night, and mine was Thursday. You got off at 1 o'clock, and did what you pleased. Then you came back to the White House after dinner, and you went to the main mansion and you sat in what was then called the Social Room down in the basement. In the daylight it was the Social office where all the invitations and such were handled. You read a book; did anything you liked until the President went to bed. Luckily for most of us, the President retired fairly early. That was the main reason we were hired I think, as he often attended to his mail in the evenings.

JOHNSON: In other words, you started to work about what


time in the morning?

BARROWS: At nine.

JOHNSON: At nine and then at 1 o'clock you left.

BARROWS: Now that was just one day a week.

JOHNSON: And then you'd come back about dinner time, and stay until he went to bed?

BARROWS: And stay until he went to bed; you were to be there if he called for you.

JOHNSON: And that was one day a week.

BARROWS: And my day was Thursday.

JOHNSON: What about the other days? What were the hours?

BARROWS: The odds were that you would be sent for sometime during the day by one of those upstairs secretaries, the gentlemen that I mentioned.

JOHNSON: But your regular working day was what hours?

BARROWS: Nine to 5:00.

JOHNSON: Did you type up speeches? Do you remember doing


anything like that?

BARROWS: No, not then.

JOHNSON: This was all correspondence?

BARROWS: Yes. It was July, when the President sent for me the first time, on the evening shift. I think in all he never sent for anybody more than three times, and I happened to have been called twice. And it was an ordeal.

He had the reputation of being a charmer, but he hid it well. He was timid with women I understand.

JOHNSON: Did you take dictation?

BARROWS: Yes, shaking in every bone. He chewed a cigar – unlit -- and he never looked at you.

JOHNSON: Is that right?

BARROWS: And I never could hear him.

JOHNSON: And he's chomping on this cigar while he was talking, while he was dictating?

BARROWS: It was pretty awful. He was trying to put you at ease, I understand, and it was too bad.


JOHNSON: Did you have to ask him once in a while to stop and...

BARROWS: I had to have help. I would go to the three girls who had come in with him and been with him for years. I presume when he dictated to any of them he wasn’t self-conscious. I don’t know.

JOHNSON: So he was kind of shy, you are saying?

BARROWS: Of women, shy of women. So I was told, because I wondered why anybody in the world would do that.

JOHNSON: So he dictated at least three or four letters to you?

BARROWS: At Christmas 1929, the girls who had come in with him, went home for Christmas. I was the only person there then that worked a great deal for the people upstairs, and they knew me. They were awfully nice to me. So they brought me upstairs, put me in Mr. Richey’s outer room by myself. The President was right across the hall. They’ve remodeled the offices since. So I had to cover the President for Christmas. It was awful.


JOHNSON: Wow. Now, are you talking about the Oval Office when you say office, or...

BARROWS: I was across the hall from the Oval Office. The Oval Office was in the middle. On the left was the Cabinet room, and on the right was the appointments secretary's office. There was a hall about 12 feet wide where I sat in one room, and back of that Mr. Richey, the boss, had his office. I mean that's where I landed at Christmas. So that was my beginning up the ladder...

JOHNSON: Did it have a room number?

BARROWS: Oh, no. Very informal.

JOHNSON: Down the hall was the Press Secretary's office?

BARROWS: I was about 12 feet from the President's door.

JOHNSON: About 12 feet is all. Right next to the Press Secretary's office?

BARROWS: No, next to the big boss, Mr. Richey's office. This was just for Christmastime. So I worked during the holiday for Mr. Richey, all I could. I liked him a lot,


and he was quite dear to help me. I would stumble into the President's office when he rang, which was seldom, and somehow I got through it. From then on, I became better known, and they didn't send me back downstairs. Where did I go? I can't tell you exactly. I landed in the legislative secretary's office; his name was Walter Newton and he was awfully nice. He had what seemed to me then a very old secretary; I'm sure she must have been 40! She was very kind to me.

JOHNSON: What was her name?

BARROWS: Potter, Mrs. Potter, a widow, a newspaperman's widow. I believe they were from Minnesota. I stayed in that office. George Akerson was the Press Secretary; he was from Minneapolis. He sort of liked me and the first thing you know, he wanted me. There was a little rumpus, but I landed there. In the meantime, I got a little fed up with it all, and went back to Judge Littleton. And I said, "I want to come back. Can't you possibly, you promised." He said, "Well, just before you came in, Larry Richey phoned me and said I was not under any circumstances to release you." And he said, "We have to always oblige the White House."


I told you, I was dragged screaming. It was pretty hard hours, and by this time things were getting near the Depression. Also, on Christmas Eve 1929 the West Wing burned down, the outer walls only remained.

JOHNSON: Oh, you remember a fire there. Do you remember the fire?

BARROWS: I remember that Christmas holiday, working for the President; oh I was loaded with "loot" -- they were so nice to me, candy, etc. I was being envied, but I was not happy. Before they sent me home in the White House car, I put my head in Mr. Newton's door, because I liked him a lot, to say "Happy Christmas." And I thought, "How can they stand this heat?" It was in that fireplace, that the fire started. Then, when I woke up the next morning, the papers were full of it. So we moved over to what is now called the EOB, but was then the State, War and Navy Building, occupied by those departments. There was a big beautiful office called General Pershing's quarters, which he occupied not at all, and it faced the burned-out White House office. That room was given the President, and we were alloted adjoining rooms; not the first day, however.


JOHNSON: That would be after the fire?

BARROWS: After the fire we worked in the White House proper, on the second floor, for three days and fell over each other. It was awkward.

JOHNSON: You mean in the main quarters, not in the White House wings?

BARROWS: Right where the bedrooms are. The President had his office in a bedroom converted to a study.

JOHNSON: Oh, the study became the Oval Office, so to speak.

BARROWS: Well, his study in the living quarters.


BARROWS: We were in the corridors, and in the bedrooms; what a mess! Somehow they straightened things out. We worked in the State, War and Navy Building until the spring of 1930. About May or June, we moved back to the new West Wing. Bless their soul -- Congress had voted enough money for an air-conditioning system, the first one to be put in the White House, and it was delightful. So there we worked, in a new Executive


office, or west wing.

JOHNSON: The first summer they had air-conditioning was the summer of 1930?

BARROWS: The first I had ever worked in. I don't know whether the movies had air-conditioning or not; I can't remember. But it was very nice, and just right, better than it is now, as a matter of fact.

JOHNSON: A lot happened between 1929 and '30 in your career.

BARROWS: Yes. I went back to work for Mr. Newton then, I think, because I was there when the Depression came in October 1930. Then there was a place where Camp David is now, and I with two of the President's girls, secretaries, used to go up there weekends. He wouldn't be there, but we would.

JOHNSON: Do you remember their names?

BARROWS: Yes. Only one is living now, though. I think she's living; her name is Eastman, and the other one's name was McGrath. They were girls from New York State who had been with Mr. Hoover in his Commerce days.


JOHNSON: You used to go to what now is Camp David?

BARROWS: I believe it's the same place. It has the same entrance, a lovely place. Mr. Richey owned it jointly with a big Cadillac dealer here in Washington, a big Republican.

JOHNSON: So you got to go there once in a while then?

BARROWS: Yes. And then he, Mr. Richey, had another place at Indian Head, Maryland, where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The house was simple, a lodge. He had caretakers, so we went there [Indian Head site] sometimes. The girls had a car -- I didn't -- an old Ford, and we would go down to Indian Head. They were awfully nice women, near my age. They were so very nice and kind. I enjoyed it a lot. The swimming was excellent. There was a caretaker and his wife who had quarters there too. They had a little dog -- those two girls --- and they always took it with them, and Mr. Richey had a little dog, and they always took him. There were cats down there too. And there were tame deer up in the hills (at Camp David site). It was very pleasant.

JOHNSON: What was McGrath's first name?


BARROWS: She was named Myra, and Miss Eastman's name was Dorothy. I think she's still living here in Washington.

JOHNSON: Were you supposed to be working 40-hour weeks? Was that the understanding?

BARROWS: We worked every day in the week, except Saturday afternoons. And so did the whole Government.

JOHNSON: They worked Saturday mornings in those days?


JOHNSON: And so the Depression has hit...

BARROWS: The President would usually go in the summertime down to Rapidan, Virginia where he had a fishing lodge. That was, I think, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, near the battleground.

JOHNSON: I know of Rapidan.

BARROWS: I believe it's quite near the National Park. The battle was there. I've never been there. As I recall, he had a secretary. Although Miss McGrath did most of his work, he had another girl named Ann Shankey, who is dead.


I'll tell you something very amusing.


BARROWS: How little politics mattered, because I told them I was for A1 Smith, of course. I thought it would help to get me back. Ann Shankey had been a girlfriend of Jim Farley; they came from the same town, when she was a young girl. She asked me if I knew him.

Jim Farley became Roosevelt's campaign manager. Ann said, "Oh, I used to be his girlfriend." Of course, she married someone else.

JOHNSON: Now, you're working still in the White House, in the depths of the Depression, in 1931, '32.

BARROWS: Then I went again to the Press Secretary, who had no secretary -- Mr. Akerson. He demanded that I come back to him. So I went back to him, but I don't know why because he never did any work. Mail would pile up.

JOHNSON: Didn't do the work very well, you say.

BARROWS: He didn't do any paperwork. I had to write his letters. I guess that was my fatal mistake.


JOHNSON: You mean you had to write letters in reply to people who were writing in to the President. You had to ghostwrite letters?

BARROWS: That's when it began.

JOHNSON: So that's when you got your first experience with a Press Secretary?

BARROWS: That was my second experience with him.

JOHNSON: So you came back to him and that lasted how long?

BARROWS: Then he left. Went back to newspapering, and was replaced by the President with a new secretary whose name was Joslyn.

JOHNSON: His first name was?

BARROWS: The others called him Ted, a little man. He worked for a newspaper but I've forgotten by now what it was. The girl who had previously worked for the speechwriter went to work for him. In other words, she took the job I had held because the speechwriter went back to Doubleday. He resigned to write a book.

JOHNSON: Oh, I see.


BARROWS: So we got a new speechwriter named George Hastings from New York. I was assigned to him. They built two rooms on the east side of the West Wing, against the office wall looking east toward the White House, down the colonnade, and onto the Rose Garden. It was a lovely little office -- I was in one room; the speechwriter was in another.

JOHNSON: And this was right by the Oval Office then?

BARROWS: That's right: against it -- an extension.

JOHNSON: And by the Rose Garden?

BARROWS: This square is the building where the Oval office sits, and when the President went home for lunch or came in or out, or anywhere, he opened this door and went out on this lovely pillared porch. He came down here, and here I am, right here; here are our rooms. Here's the colonnade, here's the Rose Garden, and the President came this way when he went home for lunch. And every morning he came this same way. He had a dog; the only good thing about sitting out there was the dog. He had a lot of dogs, and I loved them.


JOHNSON: Now were these temporary rooms, or were they permanent?

BARROWS: I don't know what they are now. I guess they were redone when Mrs. Roosevelt moved in.

JOHNSON: Okay, she probably revamped things.

BARROWS: During the Depression, an architect did them all over.

JOHNSON: The rooms?

BARROWS: They moved everything, the oval office, everything, and I don't know what happened to those two rooms.

JOHNSON: Oh, that's right, he rebuilt it and made it larger in '34, I believe.

BARROWS: So finally I'm in this room working for the speechwriter. Well, I worked for him maybe for six months.

JOHNSON: Now, he's a Hoover speechwriter.

BARROWS: Yes. Times were getting terrible; they cut our salaries to where I almost worked for nothing.

JOHNSON: What did they pay you? Do you remember what they paid you?


BARROWS: Well, there was an 8 percent cut. That was for the payroll people. We were not on the White House payroll; they had no payroll of any size. Congress was very stingy with them. So we were all paid by the places we had originally come from, been drafted from. I had been drafted from the Bureau -- I don't know what they called the Tax Board then. So salaries in those places were cut 16 percent. I can't imagine it, but luckily I lived at home and could manage.

JOHNSON: And you had to help pay the rent too didn't you?

BARROWS: Well, it helped. I had two sisters who were still at home. One had married and divorced, so she was home. And the other one was widowed. She had married a man in the First World War and he was a good bit older and he died. So there really were three women at home, four counting my mother, and we kept a maid so my mother wouldn't have to work. It was a ten-room house, and she was not young. Anyway, that's the way it was. The Depression got worse, and worse, and the President then began to go out on campaign trips. One time I went, by accident. One of the girls


that usually went got sick at the last minute. I had to go home and get my toothbrush and so forth and hop on the train. It was just an overnight trip to Cleveland.

JOHNSON: This was in 1932?

BARROWS: In '32. Near the end of the campaign is my recollection. He drew terribly large crowds at the train.

JOHNSON: Huge crowds he got?

BARROWS: On that one trip, that one overnight trip.

JOHNSON: What was your job?

BARROWS: I helped. I really can't remember -- on the typewriter. There was one other girl. The other girl that had gotten sick -- I don't know what she would have done -- but I guess I did what she did. I don't recollect. At that time I didn't know what to expect from a Presidential campaign.

We got on the train in Washington, had dinner aboard the train and worked all night. I didn't like that very much, but I had to. Maybe we had an hour's sleep. Sometime that next day I got a nap, and that next night I remember the President made a speech in Cleveland, Ohio,


from the back of the train. The crowd was tremendous. Everyone thought he would be defeated, and I thought, "Well, how can he be?" As I say, I really didn't know much about it.

JOHNSON: That was the only trip you went on in the '32 campaign?

BARROWS: The only trip, that's right. I had to work at night several times during that autumn of the '32 campaign, in the White House proper, with the speechwriters.

JOHNSON: In the mansion now, the living quarters?

BARROWS: In the mansion.

JOHNSON: What room did they use there?

BARROWS: Well, those rooms are changed with each administration. At that time it was a yellow room. Someone said it had something to do with treaties, but being in the living quarters I may be mistaken, I really don't know.

JOHNSON: Was it a yellow, a kind of a yellow room?


BARROWS: No, it wasn't a yellow room, in a sense that you would call it that. It was a beautiful room. But I think it has long since been converted to something else, because in the Roosevelt years I worked a great deal in the living quarters, and I don't remember it existing. If I saw it again, it was something else.

JOHNSON: Did it make any difference to you then whether Hoover was defeated or not? Of course, he was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt.

BARROWS: At the time I had gotten awfully fond of the people. I really had; they were awfully nice. So it mattered.

JOHNSON: When the Roosevelts came in, then some of those had to leave, I suppose.

BARROWS: I got out before Roosevelt came in.

JOHNSON: You left too?

BARROWS: From what I read in the papers at least, it had been a very dirty campaign; it really had, even I knew that. They not only insinuated, but printed, that Roosevelt had not had polio, but VD, and had no hesitation about saying which one. And that's the kind


of thing those old-time campaigns were full of. You know, we think this Gary Hart thing is dirty, but they were dirtier.

JOHNSON: It was old stuff.

BARROWS: It was my first experience with one, and I thought they were the limit.

JOHNSON: Well, the economic situation was so bad that Hoover apparently had no chance of winning.

BARROWS: Oh, you haven't any idea. You probably weren't even born.

JOHNSON: You saw bread lines and people selling apples