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I n the summer after my first-grade year, Daddy decided he wanted to go home to Hot Springs. He sold the Buick dealership and moved us to a four hundredacre farm out on Wildcat Road a few miles west of the city. It had cattle, sheep, and goats. What it didnt have was an indoor toilet. So for the year or so we lived out there, on the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights, we had to go outside to the wooden outhouse to relieve ourselves. It was an interesting experience, especially when the nonpoisonous king snake that hung around our yard was peering up through the hole at me when I had to go. Later, when I got into politics, being able to say I had lived on a farm with an outhouse made a great story, almost as good as being born in a log cabin..Christian Louboutin Outlet.
I liked living on the farm, feeding the animals, and moving among them, until one fateful Sunday. Daddy had several members of his family out to lunch, including his brother Raymond and his children. I took one of Raymonds daughters, Karla, out into the field where the sheep were grazing. I knew there was one mean ram we had to avoid, but we decided to tempt fate, a big mistake. When we were about a hundred yards away from the fence, the ram saw us and started to charge. We started running for the fence. Karla was bigger and faster and made it. I stumbled over a big rock. When I fell I could see I wasnt going to make the fence before the ram got to me, so I retreated to a small tree a few feet away in the hope I could keep away from him by running around the tree until help came. Another big mistake. Soon he caught me and knocked my legs out from under me. Before I could get up he butted me in the head. Then I was stunned and hurt and couldnt get up. So he backed up, got a good head start, and rammed me again as hard as he could. He did the same thing over and over and over again, alternating his targets between my head and my gut. Soon I was pouring blood and hurting like the devil. After what seemed an eternity my uncle showed up, picked up a big rock, and threw it hard, hitting the ram square between the eyes. The ram just shook his head and walked off, apparently unfazed. I recovered, left with only a scar on my forehead, which gradually grew into my scalp. And I learned that I could take a hard hit, a lesson that I would relearn a couple more times in my childhood and later in life..cartier love bracelet replica.
A few months after we moved to the farm, both my folks were going to town to work. Daddy gave up on being a farmer and took a job as a parts manager for Uncle Raymonds Buick dealership, while Mother found more anesthesia work in Hot Springs than she could handle. One day, on the way to work, she picked up a woman who was walking to town. After they got acquainted, Mother asked her if she knew anyone who would come to the house and look after me while she and Daddy were at work. In one of the great moments of good luck in my life, she suggested herself. Her name was Cora Walters; she was a grandmother with every good quality of an old-fashioned countrywoman. She was wise, kind, upright, conscientious, and deeply Christian. She became a member of our family for eleven years. All her family were good people, and after she left us, her daughter Maye Hightower came to work for Mother and stayed thirty more years until Mother died. In another age, Cora Walters would have made a fine minister. She made me a better person by her example, and certainly wasnt responsible for any of my sins, then or later. She was a tough old gal, too. One day she helped me kill a huge rat that was hanging around our house. Actually, I found it and she killed it while I cheered..Christian Louboutin Outlet.
When we moved out to the country, Mother was concerned about my going to a small rural school, so she enrolled me in St. Johns Catholic School downtown, where I attended second and third grade. Both years my teacher was Sister Mary Amata McGee, a fine and caring teacher but no pushover. I often got straight As on my six-week report card and a C in citizenship, which was a euphemism for good behavior in class. I loved to read and compete in spelling contests, but I talked too much. It was a constant problem in grade school, and as my critics and many of my friends would say, its one I never quite got over. I also got in trouble once for excusing myself to go to the bathroom and staying away too long during the daily rosary. I was fascinated by the Catholic Church, its rituals and the devotion of the nuns, but getting on my knees on the seat of my desk and leaning on the back with the rosary beads was often too much for a rambunctious boy whose only church experience before then had been in the Sunday school and the summer vacation Bible school of the First Baptist Church in Hope..Cartier Love Ring.
After a year or so on the farm, Daddy decided to move into Hot Springs. He rented a big house from Uncle Raymond at 1011 Park Avenue, in the east end of town. He led Mother to believe hed made a good deal for it and had bought the house with his income and hers, but even with their two incomes, and with housing costs a considerably smaller part of the average familys expenses than now, I cant see how we could have afforded it. The house was up on a hill; it had two stories, five bedrooms, and a fascinating little ballroom upstairs with a bar on which stood a big rotating cage with two huge dice in it. Apparently the first owner had been in the gambling business. I spent many happy hours in that room, having parties or just playing with my friends..cartier love bracelet replica.
The exterior of the house was white with green trim, with sloping roofs over the front entrance and the two sides. The front yard was terraced on three levels with a sidewalk down the middle and a rock wall between the middle and ground levels. The side yards were small, but large enough for Mother to indulge her favorite outdoor hobby, gardening. She especially loved to grow roses and did so in all her homes until she died. Mother tanned easily and deeply, and she got most of her tan while digging dirt around her flowers in a tank top and shorts. The back had a gravel driveway with a four-car garage, a nice lawn with a swing set, and, on both sides of the driveway, sloping lawns that went down to the street, Circle Drive..cartier love bracelet replica.
We lived in that house from the time I was seven or eight until I was fifteen. It was fascinating to me. The grounds were full of shrubs, bushes, flowers, long hedges laced with honeysuckle, and lots of trees, including a fig, a pear, two crab apples, and a huge old oak in the front..cartier love ring.
I helped Daddy take care of the grounds. It was one thing we did do together, though as I got older, I did more and more of it myself. The house was near a wooded area, so I was always running across spiders, tarantulas, centipedes, scorpions, wasps, hornets, bees, and snakes, along with more benign creatures like squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, robins, and woodpeckers. Once, when I was mowing the lawn, I looked down to see a rattlesnake sliding along with the lawn mower, apparently captivated by the vibrations. I didnt like the vibes, so I ran like crazy and escaped unscathed...
Another time I wasnt so lucky. Daddy had put up a huge three-story birdhouse for martins, which nest in groups, at the bottom of the back driveway. One day I was mowing grass down there and discovered it had become a nesting place not for martins but for bumblebees. They swarmed me, flying all over my body, my arms, my face. Amazingly, not one of them stung me. I ran off to catch my breath and consider my options. Mistakenly, I assumed they had decided I meant them no harm, so after a few minutes I went back to my mowing. I hadnt gone ten yards before they swarmed me again, this time stinging me all over my body. One got caught between my belly and my belt, stinging me over and over, something bumblebees can do that honeybees cant. I was delirious and had to be rushed to the doctor, but recovered soon enough with another valuable lesson: tribes of bumblebees give intruders one fair warning but not two. More than thirty-five years later, Kate Ross, the five-year-old daughter of my friends Michael Ross and Markie Post, sent me a letter that said simply: Bees can sting you. Watch out. I knew just what she meant...
My move to Hot Springs gave my life many new experiences: a new, much larger and more sophisticated city; a new neighborhood; a new school, new friends, and my introduction to music; my first serious religious experience in a new church; and, of course, a new extended family in the Clinton clan...
The hot sulfur springs, for which the city is named, bubble up from below ground in a narrow gap in the Ouachita Mountains a little more than fifty miles west and slightly south of Little Rock. The first European to see them was Hernando de Soto, who came through the valley in 1541, saw the Indians bathing in the steaming springs, and, legend has it, thought he had discovered the fountain of youth...
In 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill to protect four sections of land around Hot Springs as a federal reservation, the first such bill Congress ever enacted, well before the National Park Service was established or Yellowstone became our first national park. Soon more hotels sprung up to house visitors. By the 1880s, Central Avenue, the main street, snaking a mile and a half or so through the gap in the mountains where the springs were, was sprouting beautiful bathhouses as more than 100,000 people a year were taking baths for everything from rheumatism to paralysis to malaria to venereal disease to general relaxation. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the grandest bathhouses were built, more than a million baths a year were taken, and the spa city became known around the world. After its status was changed from federal reservation to national park, Hot Springs became the only city in America that was actually in one of our national parks...
The citys attraction was amplified by grand hotels, an opera house, and, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, gambling. By the 1880s, there were several open gambling houses, and Hot Springs was on its way to being both an attractive spa and a notorious town. For decades before and during World War II, it was run by a boss worthy of any big city, Mayor Leo McLaughlin. He ran the gambling with the help of a mobster who moved down from New York, Owen Vincent Owney Madden...
After the war, a GI ticket of reformers headed by Sid McMath broke McLaughlins power in a move that, soon after, made the thirty-five-year-old McMath the nations youngest governor. Notwithstanding the GI reformers, however, gambling continued to operate, with payoffs to state and local politicians and law-enforcement officials, well into the 1960s. Owney Madden lived in Hot Springs as a respectable citizen for the rest of his life. Mother once put him to sleep for surgery. She came home afterward and laughingly told me that looking at his X-ray was like visiting a planetarium: the twelve bullets still in his body reminded her of shooting stars...
Ironically, because it was illegal, the Mafia never took over gambling in Hot Springs; instead, we had our own local bosses. Sometimes the competing interests fought, but in my time, the violence was always controlled. For example, the garages of two houses were bombed, but at a time when no one was home.
For the last three decades of the nineteenth century and the first five of the twentieth, gambling drew an amazing array of characters to town: outlaws, mobsters, military heroes, actors, and a host of baseball greats. The legendary pool shark Minnesota Fats came often. In 1977, as attorney general, I shot pool with him for a charity in Hot Springs. He killed me in the game but made up for it by regaling me with stories of long-ago visits, when he played the horses by day, then ate and gambled up and down Central Avenue all night, adding to his pocketbook and his famous waistline.
Hot Springs drew politicians too. William Jennings Bryan came several times. So did Teddy Roosevelt in 1910, Herbert Hoover in 1927, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for the states centennial in 1936. Huey Long had a second honeymoon with his wife there. JFK and Lyndon Johnson visited before they were Presidents. So did Harry Truman, the only one who gambledat least the only one who didnt hide it.
The gambling and hot-water attractions of Hot Springs were enhanced by large brightly lit auction houses, which alternated with gambling spots and restaurants on Central Avenue on the other side of the street from the bathhouses; by Oaklawn racetrack, which offered fine Thoroughbred racing for thirty days a year in the spring, the only legal gambling in the city; by slot machines in many of the restaurants, some of which even kids were allowed to play if they were sitting on their parents laps; and by three lakes near the city, the most important of which was Lake Hamilton, where many of the citys grandees, including Uncle Raymond, had large houses. Thousands of people flocked to the lakes motels for summer vacation. There was also an alligator farm in which the largest resident was eighteen feet long; an ostrich farm, whose residents sometimes paraded down Central Avenue; Keller Brelands IQZoo, full of animals and featuring the alleged skeleton of a mermaid; and a notorious whorehouse run by Maxine Harris (later Maxine Temple Jones), a real character who openly deposited her payoffs in the local authorities bank accounts and who in 1983 wrote an interesting book about her life: Call Me Madam: The Life and Times of a Hot Springs Madam. When I was ten or eleven, on a couple of occasions my friends and I entertained ourselves for hours by calling Maxines place over and over, tying up her phone and blocking calls from real customers. It infuriated her and she cursed us out with salty and creative language wed never before heard from a woman, or a man, for that matter. It was hilarious. I think she thought it was funny, too, at least for the first fifteen minutes or so.
For Arkansas, a state composed mostly of white Southern Baptists and blacks, Hot Springs was amazingly diverse, especially for a town of only 35,000. There was a good-sized black population and a hotel, the Knights of the Pythias, for black visitors. There were two Catholic churches and two synagogues. The Jewish residents owned some of the best stores and ran the auction houses. The best toy store in town was Rickys, named by the Silvermans after their son, who was in the band with me. Laurays, the jewelry store where I bought little things for Mother, was owned by Marty and Laura Fleishner. And there was the Bnai Briths Leo N. Levi Hospital, which used the hot springs to treat arthritis. I also met my first Arab-Americans in Hot Springs, the Zorubs and the Hassins. When David Zorubs parents were killed in Lebanon, he was adopted by his uncle. He came to this country at nine unable to speak any English and eventually became valedictorian of his class and governor of Boys State. Now he is a neurosurgeon in Pennsylvania. Guido Hassin and his sisters were the children of the World War II romance of a Syrian-American and an Italian woman; they were my neighbors during high school. I also had a Japanese-American friend, Albert Hahm, and a Czech classmate, Ren Duchac, whose migr parents owned a restaurant, The Little Bohemia. There was a large Greek community, which included a Greek Orthodox church and Angelos, a restaurant just around the corner from Clinton Buick. It was a great old-fashioned place, with its long soda fountainlike bar and tables covered with red-and-white checked tablecloths. The house specialty was a three-way: chili, beans, and spaghetti.
My best Greek friends by far were the Leopoulos family. George ran a little caf on Bridge Street between Central Avenue and Broadway, which we claimed was the shortest street in America, stretching all of a third of a block. Georges wife, Evelyn, was a tiny woman who believed in reincarnation, collected antiques, and loved Liberace, who thrilled her by coming to her house for dinner once while he was performing in Hot Springs. The younger Leopoulos son, Paul David, became my best friend in fourth grade and has been like my brother ever since.
When we were boys, I loved to go with him to his dads caf, especially when the carnival was in town, because all the carnies ate there. Once they gave us free tickets to all the rides. We used every one of them, making David happy and me dizzy and sick to my stomach. After that I stuck to bumper cars and Ferris wheels. Weve shared a lifetime of ups and downs, and enough laughs for three lifetimes.
That I had friends and acquaintances from such a diverse group of people when I was young may seem normal today, but in 1950s Arkansas, it could have happened only in Hot Springs. Even so, most of my friends and I led pretty normal lives, apart from the occasional calls to Maxines bordello and the temptation to cut classes during racing season, which I never did, but which proved irresistible to some of my classmates in high school.
From fourth through sixth grades, most of my life ran up and down Park Avenue. Our neighborhood was interesting. There was a row of beautiful houses east of ours all the way to the woods and another row behind our house on Circle Drive. David Leopoulos lived a couple of blocks away. My closest friends among the near neighbors were the Crane family. They lived in a big old mysterious-looking wooden house just across from my back drive. Edie Cranes Aunt Dan took the Crane kids, and often me, everywhereto the movies, to Snow Springs Park to swim in a pool fed by very cold springwater, and to Whittington Park to play miniature golf. Rose, the oldest kid, was my age. Larry, the middle child, was a couple of years younger. We always had a great relationship except once, when I used a new word on him. We were playing with Rose in my backyard when I told him his epidermis was showing. That made him mad. Then I told him the epidermises of his mother and father were showing too. That did it. He went home, got a knife, came back, and threw it at me. Even though he missed, Ive been leery of big words ever since. Mary Dan, the youngest, asked me to wait for her to grow up so that we could get married.
Across the street from the front of our house was a collection of modest businesses. There was a small garage made of tin sheeting. David and I used to hide behind the oak tree and throw acorns against the tin to rattle the guys who worked there. Sometimes we would also try to hit the hubcaps of passing cars and, when we succeeded, it made a loud pinging noise. One day one of our targets stopped suddenly, got out of the car, saw us hiding behind a bush, and rushed up the driveway after us. After that, I didnt lob so many acorns at cars. But it was great fun.
Next to the garage was a brick block that contained a grocery, a Laundromat, and Stubbys, a small family-run barbeque restaurant, where I often enjoyed a meal alone, just sitting at the front table by the window, wondering about the lives of the people in the passing cars. I got my first job at thirteen in that grocery store. The owner, Dick Sanders, was already about seventy, and, like many people his age back then, he thought it was a bad thing to be left-handed, so he decided to change me, a deeply left-handed person. One day he had me stacking mayonnaise right-handed, big jars of Hellmanns mayonnaise, which cost eighty-nine cents. I misstacked one and it fell to the floor, leaving a mess of broken glass and mayo. First I cleaned it up. Then Dick told me hed have to dock my pay for the lost jar. I was making a dollar an hour. I got up my courage and said, Look, Dick, you can have a good left-handed grocery boy for a dollar an hour, but you cant have a clumsy right-handed one for free. To my surprise, he laughed and agreed. He even let me start my first business, a usedcomic-book stand in front of the store. I had carefully saved two trunkloads of comic books. They were in very good condition and sold well. At the time I was proud of myself, though I know now that if Id saved them, theyd be valuable collectors items today.
Next to our house going west, toward town, was the Perry Plaza Motel. I liked the Perrys and their daughter Tavia, who was a year or two older than I. One day I was visiting her just after shed gotten a new BB gun. I must have been nine or ten. She threw a belt on the floor and said if I stepped over it shed shoot me. Of course, I did. And she shot me. It was a leg hit so it could have been worse, and I resolved to become a better judge of when someones bluffing.
I remember something else about the Perrys motel. It was yellow-bricktwo stories high and one room wide, stretching from Park Avenue to Circle Drive. Sometimes people would rent rooms there, and at other motels and rooming houses around town, for weeks or even months at a time. Once a middle-aged man did that with the backmost room on the second floor. One day the police came and took him away. He had been performing abortions there. Until then, I dont think I knew what an abortion was.
Farther down Park Avenue was a little barbershop, where Mr. Brizendine cut my hair. About a quarter mile past the barbershop, Park Avenue runs into Ramble Street, which then led south up a hill to my new school, Ramble Elementary. In fourth grade I started band. The grade school band was composed of students from all the citys elementary schools. The director, George Gray, had a great, encouraging way with little kids as we squawked away. I played clarinet for a year or so, then switched to tenor saxophone because the band needed one, a change I would never regret. My most vivid memory of fifth grade is a class discussion about memory in which one of my classmates, Tommy ONeal, told our teacher, Mrs. Caristianos, he thought he could remember when he was born. I didnt know whether he had a vivid imagination or a loose screw, but I liked him and had finally met someone with an even better memory than mine.
I adored my sixth-grade teacher, Kathleen Schaer. Like a lot of teachers of her generation, she never married and devoted her life to children. She lived into her late eighties with her cousin, who made the same choices. As gentle and kind as she was, Miss Schaer believed in tough love. The day before we had our little grade school graduation ceremony, she held me after class. She told me I should be graduating first in my class, tied with Donna Standiford. Instead, because my citizenship grades were so lowwe might have been calling it deportment by thenI had been dropped to a tie for third. Miss Schaer said, Billy, when you grow up youre either going to be governor or get in a lot of trouble. It all depends on whether you learn when to talk and when to keep quiet. Turns out she was right on both counts.
When I was at Ramble, my interest in reading grew and I discovered the Garland County Public Library, which was downtown, near the courthouse and not far from Clinton Buick Company. I would go there for hours, browsing among the books and reading lots of them. I was most fascinated by books about Native Americans and read childrens biographies of Geronimo, the great Apache; Crazy Horse, the Lakota Sioux who killed Custer and routed his troops at Little Bighorn; Chief Joseph of the Nez Perc, who made peace with his powerful statement, From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever; and the great Seminole chief Osceola, who developed a written alphabet for his people. I never lost my interest in Native Americans or my feeling that they had been terribly mistreated.
My last stop on Park Avenue was my first real church, Park Place Baptist Church. Though Mother and Daddy didnt go except on Easter and sometimes at Christmas, Mother encouraged me to go, and I did, just about every Sunday. I loved getting dressed up and walking down there. From the time I was about eleven until I graduated from high school, my teacher was A. B. Sonny Jeffries. His son Bert was in my class and we became close friends. Every Sunday for years, we went to Sunday school and church together, always sitting in the back, often in our own world. In 1955, I had absorbed enough of my churchs teachings to know that I was a sinner and to want Jesus to save me. So I came down the aisle at the end of Sunday service, professed my faith in Christ, and asked to be baptized. The Reverend Fitzgerald came to the house to talk to Mother and me. Baptists require an informed profession of faith for baptism; they want people to know what they are doing, as opposed to the Methodists infant-sprinkling ritual that took Hillary and her brothers out of hells way.
Bert Jeffries and I were baptized together, along with several other people on a Sunday night. The baptismal pool was just above the choir loft. When the curtains were opened, the congregation could see the pastor standing in a white robe, dunking the saved. Just ahead of Bert and me in the line was a woman who was visibly afraid of the water. She trembled down the steps into the pool. When the preacher held her nose and dunked her, she went completely rigid. Her right leg jerked straight up in the air and came to rest on the narrow strip of glass that protected the choir loft from splashes. Her heel stuck. She couldnt get it off, so when the preacher tried to lift her up, he couldnt budge her. Since he was looking at her submerged head, he didnt see what had happened, so he just kept jerking on her. Finally he looked around, figured it out, and took the poor womans leg down before she drowned. Bert and I were in stitches. I couldnt help thinking that if Jesus had this much of a sense of humor, being a Christian wasnt going to be so tough.
Besides my new friends, neighborhood, school, and church, Hot Springs brought me a new extended family in the Clintons. My step-grandparents were Al and Eula Mae Cornwell Clinton. Poppy Al, as we all called him, came from Dardanelle, in Yell County, a beautiful wooded place seventy miles west of Little Rock up the Arkansas River. He met and married his wife there after her family migrated from Mississippi in the 1890s. We called my new grandmother Mama Clinton. She was one of a huge Cornwell family that spread out all over Arkansas. Together with the Clintons and my mothers relatives, they gave me kinfolk in fifteen of Arkansas seventy-five counties, an enormous asset when I started my political career in a time when personal contacts counted more than credentials or positions on the issues.
Poppy Al was a small man, shorter and slighter than Papaw, with a kind, sweet spirit. The first time I met him we were still living in Hope and he dropped by our house to see his son and his new family. He wasnt alone. At the time, he was still working as a parole officer for the state and he was taking one of the prisoners, who must have been out on furlough, back to the penitentiary. When he got out of the car to visit, the man was handcuffed to him. It was a hilarious sight, because the inmate was huge; he must have been twice Poppy Als size. But Poppy Al spoke to him gently and respectfully and the man seemed to respond in kind. All I know is that Poppy Al got his man safely back on time.
Poppy Al and Mama Clinton lived in a small old house up on top of a hill. He kept a garden out back, of which he was very proud. He lived to be eighty-four, and when he was over eighty, that garden produced a tomato that weighed two and a half pounds. I had to use both hands to hold it.
Mama Clinton ruled the house. She was good to me, but she knew how to manipulate the men in her life. She always treated Daddy like the baby of the family who could do no wrong, which is probably one reason he never grew up. She liked Mother, who was better than most of the other family members at listening to her hypochondriacal tales of woe and at giving sensible, sympathetic advice. She lived to be ninety-three.
Poppy Al and Mama Clinton produced five children, one girl and four boys. The girl, Aunt Ilaree, was the second-oldest child. Her daughter Virginia, whose nickname was Sister, was then married to Gabe Crawford and was a good friend of Mothers. The older she got, the more of an idiosyncratic character Ilaree became. One day Mother was visiting her and Ilaree complained she was having trouble walking. She lifted up her skirt, revealing a huge growth on the inside of her leg. Not long afterward, when she met Hillary for the first time, she picked up her skirt again and showed her the tumor. It was a good beginning. Ilaree was the first of the Clintons to really like Hillary. Mother finally convinced her to have the tumor removed, and she took the first flight of her life to the Mayo Clinic. By the time they cut the tumor off it weighed nine pounds, but miraculously it had not spread cancer cells to the rest of her leg. I was told the clinic kept that amazing tumor for some time for study. When jaunty old Ilaree got home, it was clear she had been more afraid of her first flight than of the tumor or the surgery.
The oldest son was Robert. He and his wife, Evelyn, were quiet people who lived in Texas and who seemed sensibly happy to take Hot Springs and the rest of the Clintons in small doses.
The second son, Uncle Roy, had a feed store. His wife, Janet, and Mother were the two strongest personalities outside the blood family, and became great friends. In the early fifties Roy ran for the legislature and won. On election day, I handed out cards for him in my neighborhood, as close to the polling station as the law would allow. It was my first political experience. Uncle Roy served only one term. He was very well liked but didnt run for reelection, I think because Janet hated politics. Roy and Janet played dominoes with my folks almost every week for years, alternating between our home and theirs.
Raymond, the fourth child, was the only Clinton with any money or consistent involvement in politics. He had been part of the GI reform effort after World War II, although he wasnt in the service himself. Raymond Jr., Corky, was the only one who was younger than I. He was also brighter. He literally became a rocket scientist, with a distinguished career at NASA.
Mother always had an ambiguous relationship with Raymond, because he liked to run everything and because, with Daddys drinking, we often needed his help more that she wanted it. When we first moved to Hot Springs, we even went to Uncle Raymonds church, First Presbyterian, though Mother was at least a nominal Baptist. The pastor back then, the Reverend Overholser, was a remarkable man who produced two equally remarkable daughters: Nan Keohane, who became president of Wellesley, Hillarys alma mater, and then the first woman president of Duke University; and Geneva Overholser, who was editor of the Des Moines Register and endorsed me when I ran for President, and who later became the ombudsman for the Washington Post, where she aired the legitimate complaints of the general public but not the President.
Notwithstanding Mothers reservations, I liked Raymond. I was impressed with his strength, his influence in town, and his genuine interest in his kids, and in me. His egocentric foibles didnt bother me much, though we were as different as daylight and dark. In 1968, when I was giving procivil rights talks to civic clubs in Hot Springs, Raymond was supporting George Wallace for President. But in 1974, when I launched an apparently impossible campaign for Congress, Raymond and Gabe Crawford co-signed a $10,000 note to get me started. It was all the money in the world to me then. When his wife of more than forty-five years died, Raymond got reacquainted with a widow he had dated in high school and they married, bringing happiness to his last years. For some reason I cant even remember now, Raymond got mad at me late in his life. Before we could reconcile he got Alzheimers. I went to visit him twice, once in St. Josephs Hospital and once in a nursing home. The first time I told him I loved him, was sorry for whatever had come between us, and would always be grateful for all hed done for me. He might have known who I was for a minute or two; I cant be sure. The second time, I know he didnt know me, but I wanted to see him once more anyway. He died at eighty-four, like my aunt Ollie, well after his mind had gone.
Raymond and his family lived in a big house on Lake Hamilton, where we used to go for picnics and rides in his big wooden Chris-Craft boat. We celebrated every Fourth of July there with lots of fireworks. After his death, Raymonds kids decided with sadness that they had to sell the old house. Luckily my library and foundation needed a retreat, so we bought the place and are renovating it for that purpose, and Raymonds kids and grandkids can still use it. Hes smiling down on me now.
Not long after we moved to Park Avenue, in 1955 I think, my mothers parents moved to Hot Springs to a little apartment in an old house on our street, a mile or so toward town from our place. The move was motivated primarily by health concerns. Papaws bronchiectasis continued to advance and Mammaw had had a stroke. Papaw got a job at a liquor store, which I think Daddy owned a part of, just across from Mr. Brizendines barbershop. He had a lot of free time, since even in Hot Springs most people were too conventional to frequent liquor stores in broad daylight, so I often visited him there. He played a lot of solitaire and taught me how. I still play three different kinds, often when Im thinking through a problem and need an outlet for nervous energy.
Mammaws stroke was a major one, and in the aftermath she was racked by hysterical screaming. Unforgivably, to calm her down, her doctor prescribed morphine, lots of it. It was when she got hooked that Mother brought her and Papaw to Hot Springs. Her behavior became even more irrational, and in desperation Mother reluctantly committed her to the states mental hospital, about thirty miles away. I dont think there were any drug-treatment facilities back then.
Of course I didnt know anything about her problem at the time; I just knew she was sick. Then Mother drove me over to the state hospital to see her. It was awful. It was bedlam. We went into a big open room cooled by electric fans encased in huge metal mesh to keep the patients from putting their hands into them. Dazed-looking people dressed in loose cotton dresses or pajamas walked around aimlessly, muttering to themselves or shouting into space. Still, Mammaw seemed normal and glad to see us, and we had a good talk. After a few months, she had settled down enough to come home, and she was never again on morphine. Her problem gave me my first exposure to the kind of mental-health system that served most of America back then. When he became governor, Orval Faubus modernized our state hospital and put a lot more money into it. Despite the damage he did in other areas, I was always grateful to him for that.