The Thomas E. Watson Papers Digital Collection
Interview 2, Tape 4
Interview with Georgia Watson Craven by David Moltke-Hanson, part 4
Continuation of the discussion on education: Thomas E. Watson decision to send Georgia Watson Craven to the National Cathedral high school in Washington, D.C.; his support of her intention to go to college; life in Washington, D.C.: her grandfather's interactions with people in Washington, impressions of the Capitol; attending the burial of the Unknown Soldier; the George Washington Inn; Woodrow Wilson's burial at the Bethlehem Chapel in the National Cathedral; her opinion on the mis-perception of her grandfather as a "good old boy"; the quality of isolationism in her grandfather; origins of her grandfather's feelings for the common man. [24 minutes, 30 seconds]
Georgia Watson Craven: I stayed in Thomson High School for two years and in 1920, he was elected to the Senate, and because my cousin was living at my grandfather's home, she went to Washington that spring. He went in March in those days. That was when Congress convened. He put her in National Cathedral School.I happen to know he was looking for the best school he could find and he talked to Senator—he was a Nebraska Senator, a great Lincoln man... I could identify him if anyone wanted to look it up in 1920—about the schools. Did he know anything about schools in Washington and this Senator whose name everybody will know said yes, his granddaughter was at National Cathedral School. He had her there and it was through this man that my grandfather chose National Cathedral. I do know from certain things that my grandfather said in the Jefferson for instance that he had respect for the Anglican Church in terms of schooling, in terms of good, thorough education. So Tom's mother went out there for the rest of that spring. Then I went to Washington that summer to visit my grandparents and my grandfather wanted me to go to school that next Fall and my mother since she was a good Episcopalian was glad for me to have the opportunity to go to this school.Now my grandfather was alive during that first year I was at National Cathedral and he was most interested in what was going on. It was a sensational year in terms of his—what was in the newspapers about him—whether it was about the Veterans March, whether it was about the burial of the Unknown Soldier and all he had to say about that or whatever—but he showed a grandfather's love and interest in coming. I still remember which little dress I had on, and I didn't like it but I had to wear it. It was what we had from the country. Grandfather and Grandmother coming out to... the girls had Christmas carols on the grand stairway down into the entrance hall. It wasn't a religious service, but they were carols and I can see my grandparents out there with the whole crowd down below the stairs. So he was interested in education per se. He was very interested in my cousin's music talent. She took music lessons at the school.I was interested—my Grandmother had felt when I was a tiny child that I was interested in art. This is my northern Grandmother, so it was my northern family that I get this interest from and what talent I didn't develop, but might have had that I inherited it from. I think that if I had had the nerve to ask when I went to school up there that Fall, to have art lessons which were an extra financially—I felt I was getting a lot anyway and I just didn't want to ask – but I think I would have been granted that privilege. I don't know how interested my grandfather was in us going to college, but my mother had not gone to college and she was determined that I was going to go to college so I was listed in National Cathedral School for college preparatory work. They had five years of high school, the last one, if you were college, you stopped the end of your junior year and then could come back and graduate. At the end of that first year I was schedules to take some college board exams, just as a trial kind of run and I had been good in history that year, so the school wanted me to take a college board exam in history. Grandfather made it possible for me to do all of that. I don't know how much faith he had in it and I don't know whether he was convinced that college was for women at this time or other, or whether it was wiser for Cuzzie, my cousin, to specialize in her music, but he never once raised any objection and he gave every encouragement in terms of education for us. He was interested in what we were studying and what we were reading and very cooperative with the school, though he knew nothing about the religious. Of course they didn't stuff it down your throat there. We had to go to church on Sunday and once a week we went to the cathedral for EvensongEvensong: also known as Evening Prayer, a liturgy used in the Anglican Communion celebrated in the late afternoon or evening. It is called "Evensong" especially when most of the service is sung by the choir and clergy. and then we had morning prayers when we marched in my last year or so in the study hall, which was part of the Morning Prayer services read by the Headmistress. He had respect for the Episcopal Church and its standards of education.
David Moltke-Hanson: Tomorrow morning when we pick this up again, I have lots of questions and we want to go back to all sorts of other topics, but I want to ask you, given where we are right now, I want to ask you what Washington was like after your grandfather's death and before his death as well. What it was like to be in a Senator's household and then, no longer. So we'll call a stop though, for now.
Georgia Watson Craven: In Washington my grandfather lived at a small inn on Capitol Hill. The George Washington Inn it was called. It was near enough the Capitol for him to walk to the Senate each day, which he enjoyed. As far as I remember he always ate lunch in the Senate restaurant and one of the nice things about the Senate restaurant was that the head waiter, a Negro waiter, came up to my grandfather when he was first there and said "Howdy Mr. Tom. How is everything in Thomson?" He turned out to be from a very well known black family in Thomson and my grandfather had defended one of his relative in a very serious law case, I'm not sure now what the offense was. His name was Hart butler and forever after that when my cousin and I would go into the Senate restaurant to eat, Hart was just trying to do everything he could for these two little girls from his hometown. One of the features of the Senate restaurant in those days was a hot, lovely cinnamon roll. He used to always come running with the cinnamon rolls. My grandfather seemed to get along with many people. People that he didn't always agree with, he was friendly with. I think his brilliance was recognized by people who were on the other side politically.There was no going out at night or anything of that kind that I remember. He was usually home. By this time he was older and... I'm sure at times he did go out and so on, but it was the regular routine of living alone. It was not a household in the sense of keeping house. Whether they ate all meals downstairs in the Washington Inn or not, I can't remember. There must have been some... I think there was some sort of cooking facilities for breakfast and lunch, that kind of thing. It was a very nice place. A personal kind of place, mostly congressional people living there.I do know that my grandfather had planned and had already taken a lease on an apartment at the Wardman Park Hotel, which at that time was the loveliest place in Washington of that kind to live. It was over at Rock Creek Park.In that second summer that he was there, we rented a home in Chevy ChaseAn affluent neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C., which was an extremely nice place too. Not elegant or elaborate, but a nice home with nice grounds and so on. So far as my being there, we had a certain number of weekends from school which we could take and we always went to my grandparents. They could come and take us out, maybe a certain number—I don't think every Saturday—to do something. They were extremely interested in our seeing the historical sites of Washington and northern Virginia. Some of the nicest memories I have are driving with my grandmother mainly because Grandfather didn't have time to go with us always, but we went to Mount Vernon. I remember a lovely day in Annapolis and having lunch at the old hotel. It was part of going to Annapolis. I've been awfully glad that they did see that we went to the thing that were of permanent interest in American history and so on. I can remember the first time I went up there, my grandfather taking my cousin and me around the Capitol and pointing out different historical paintings of different events. For some reason, and it's easy to know what the reason is, he was showing me a picture of one of the battles I think in the French and Indian War, and I somehow got courage enough to say something about it which revealed the fact that I knew and he was very pleased about that fact and I was pleased to have his reaction.I can remember going to the Cochran Art Gallery. That was the place to go. He wanted us to have the cultural advantages of Washington as well as the surface interests of being in the Capitol.
That first year we were in school was the year that the Unknown Soldier was buried in Washington in November and it was a great conference and there were people from all over the world there for that conference. Washington was all decorated with lights and that kind of thing. It was glamorous and to be driven around night to see them. He had his car and his old chauffeur from Thomson, so we felt at home in that way. Grandfather was given two tickets as a Senator to the Amphitheater where the service for the Unknown Solider was. He was very much against this—the burial of the Unknown Soldier. He felt that they didn't know whether they were getting a human body or what. Anyway, it was one of those things he went off on a tangent about, but he wanted us to see it. So my cousin and I went to the Amphitheater and were in the Amphitheater with General Folsh and all those people up above. It was extremely interesting to see the crowd of people who had been the leaders of the First World War and were knowledgeable enough to know that we were really witnessing a historical event. That was a highlight of that particular autumn and I think probably of that year because I can't remember anything else.One of the interesting things about that was that in the George Washington Inn, part of the delegation from—not the important people—but part of the British delegation was staying there and they had brought from the British Isle—from England, Scotland, Wales and probably Northern Ireland, maybe all of Ireland then I've forgotten the date—flowers from all of those different sections of Great Britain in pots to make their floral offerings on the spot, but have the English truly represented. The woman who was called the War Mother of Great Britain, I forget how many she lost, she lost five or six sons or relatives, she was staying at the George Washington Inn. At that period in our lives, my cousin and I collected autographs and I remember that she was so kind and so nice when she gave us her autograph.
My grandfather came out to the school at Christmastime to the carol service of it and I can't remember what other events that there were. What year did Woodrow Wilson die? I guess this was not that first year I was at National Cathedral. Grandfather was still alive until 1922. Anyway, this is a side back from him but one of the interesting events of my being in school under his tutelage so to speak. Wilson of course was buried in the Bethlehem Chapel, which was the only part of the cathedral that was finished at that time, and we were allowed to go out on the cathedral cloister and stand in a long, thin line where the cortege would go by and witness this. That was one of the greatest historic moments.
David Moltke-Hanson: What was a Presbyterian like Wilson doing being buried in... ?
Georgia Watson Craven: I don't know. Well of course his grandson ultimately became Dean of the cathedral. The cathedral wanted to have... wanted this church for the nation. They wanted other people there. They wanted Roosevelt and this one and that one and the other one. As far as I know, as far as I can remember, Wilson is the only one that's buried there. Whether the second Mrs. Wilson was Episcopalian or not, I don't know. Anyway, she used to come to church there afterwards. We would see her. Then Grandfather died in September of 1922 and that as just as we were almost ready to go back to school from my second year, so that really ended the year that I had and he did not get to live at the Wardman Park.Life in Washington that year was very rich for me. It was full of important experiences and an exhilaration of being in a beautiful city. It was a beautiful city then except for old Pennsylvania Avenue and it had a certain amount of run down charm. It was before they tore down so much. When we would be driven after at the school, I'd go from Thomson, and in the Autumn and driving in across the Rock Creek bridge out there, I remember a very definite feeling of liking this beautiful side of- [a timer goes off] oh, that's the bread, sorry.
David Moltke-Hanson: You were just talking when I'd managed to hit the pause button and we weren't recording about the memorial service in the Senate and Senator Harris of Georgia escorting your cousin and yourself with his wife. Then you went on for a moment to reflect on your grandfather's love of nature.
Georgia Watson Craven: Yes, to backtrack to what we talked about yesterday in terms of maybe... if you thought about the whole man at the time of his death, that was where he got his spiritual sustenance, was in the out of doors, nature.
David Moltke-Hanson: You say, he was not a hunter even though he'd hunted as a boy fro food—rabbits and things? I'm just guessing, but I'm sure that was it because he talked in different places about hunting and getting rabbits and fishing and that kind of thing, but he never did that kind of thing when I knew him.
David Moltke-Hanson: So he was hardly the complete good old boy?
Georgia Watson Craven: Absolutely not. Now this is where he has been misunderstood and misrepresented. Everything from his eating habits—he was almost anti-social. He never went downtown in Thomson. There was a boy from Thomson that I grew up with who was in the family that was distantly related to us—he taught Math at the University of South Carolina and was married to an Agnes Scott girl that I knew—he said, "I hope you don't do like your grandfather and never go downtown for two years" and I wanted to say "Well, I probably would if I stayed there." It's not that I'm anti-social, but we were dependant upon our own resources. Resources were in ourselves and maybe that's why the meals were outstanding. I did love my friends in Thomson and was a normal child and went everywhere as a teenager. You know, was part co the popular group and so on, but I could understand this quality of isolationism almost in him.
David Moltke-Hanson: On reflection you haven't found it remarkable that your grandfather had such strong feeling for the common man and was so withdrawn in himself much of the time?
Georgia Watson Craven: I think that his feelings for the common man grew out of the poverty that they lived in after the Civil War plus the fact that was the general circumstance and those country people felt and were partly right that they were being crushed by big money just as people of the have and the have-nots always have. It had been so much of his experience that he disliked that crowd. Of course he felt that him and Grady and that Atlanta crowd were betraying the Old South. How he could hope to preserve it I don't know, but I think that most of the stuff that lingers in the South and it is good in the present would is the present expression of what was the Old South at its best. Thomson was a railroad town. The railroads came in the 1930s. It was not like Washington, Ga., Bob Toombs place just a little bit away. It didn't have the old homes and aristocracy that those places had. But those were all-