‘Good. I have the train schedules and the Pullman reservations; Justin arranged them from New York. Frank will drive us to the station. You must be ready by ten tomorrow morning. Can you manage it? '
‘I'll have to manage it. I may be barefooted and my hair in a bath knot -‘
I became addicted to travel in a luxury liner in nothing flat. The Île de France was a wonderful shock to little Maureen Johnson whose idea of luxury was enough bathrooms for seven - usually seven; it varied - children and enough hot water. Briney had taken me to the Grand Canyon two years earlier and that was wonderful. .. but this was another sort of wonderful. A concierge who seemed anxious to swim back and fetch anything Madame wishes. A maid who spoke English but understood my French and did not laugh at my accent. A full orchestra at dinner, a chamber music trio for tea, dancing to live music every night. Breakfast in bed. A masseuse on call. A living-room for our suite bigger and much fancier than Eleanor's at home, and two master bedrooms.
‘Justin, why are we at the Captain's table? '
‘I don't know. Because we have this suite, maybe. '
‘And why do we have this suite? Everything in first class looks luxurious; I would not have complained if we had been in second class. But this is gilding the lily. Isn't it? '
‘Maureen my sweet, I ordered two outside double staterooms, first class, which were confirmed and we paid for www.oz-comp.ru them. Then two days before sailing the agent telephoned and offered me this suite at the price we had paid plus a nominal surcharge, one hundred dollars. Seems the man who had reserved this suite had not been able to sail. I asked why he had cancelled. Instead of answering he cut the surcharge to fifty dollars. I asked who had died in that suite and was it contagious. Again instead of answering he offered to eliminate the surcharge if we would just let the New York Times and L'Illustration photograph us in our suite-which we did, you remember. '
‘And was it contagious? '
‘Not really. The poor fellow jumped out a twenty-storey window - the day after Black Tuesday:
‘Oh! I should keep my mouth shut. '
‘Mo darling, this suite was not his home, he was never in it in his life; it is not haunted. He was just one of many thousands of chumps who became paper-wealthy gambling on margin. If it will make you feel any better, I can assure you that both Brian and. I made no secret of our intention of getting out of the market when we did because we expected the market to collapse before the end of October. Nobody would listen. ' Justin shook his head, shrugged.
Brian added, ‘I almost had to strangle one broker to get him to execute my orders. He seemed to think it was immoral and possibly illegal to sell when the market was going steadily up. "Wait till it tops, " he said. "Then sell. You're crazy to quit at this point. " I told him that my grandmother had read the tea-leaves and told me that now was the time to unload. He again said that I was crazy. I told him to execute those orders at once. .. or I was going straight to the governors of the Exchange and have him investigated for bucket shop operations. That really got him angry, so he sold me out. .. and then got still angrier when I insisted on a certified cheque. I took the cheque and cashed it at once. And changed the cash to gold. .. as I recalled all too clearly that Ted said that banks would start to go boom. '
I wanted to ask where that gold was now. But I did not.
Zurich is a lovely city, prettier than any I had seen in the United States. The language there is alleged to be German but it is not the German spoken by my neighbour from Munich. But I got along fine once I realised that almost everyone spoke English. Our men were busy; Eleanor and I had a wonderful time being tourists.
Then one day they took us with them and I found myself the surprised owner of a numbered bank account, for 155. 515 grams of fine gold (which I had no trouble interpreting as one hundred thousand dollars, but it was not called such). Then I found myself signing powers of attorney over ‘my' bank account to Brian and to Justin, while Eleanor did the same with a similar account. And a limited power of attorney to someone I had never heard of in Winnipeg, Canada.
We were not placed in that fancy suite because we were high society; we were not. But the purser was carrying in his safe I do not know how many ounces of gold, most of which belonged to the Ira Howard Foundation, and some of which belonged, personally to Brian, and to Justin, and my father. That gold was moved by the Bank of France from Cherbourg to Zurich, and we rode with it.
In Zurich Brian and Justin, as witnesses and trustees for the Foundation, saw the shipment opened, saw it counted and weighed, and then deposited with a consortium of three banks. For the Foundation had taken very seriously Theodore's warning that Mr Roosevelt would devalue the dollar, then make it illegal for American citizens to own or possess gold.
‘Justin, ' I asked, ‘what happens if Governor Roosevelt does not run for the presidency? Or does but is not elected? '
‘Nothing. The Foundation would be no worse off. But have you lost confidence in Ted? On his advice we rode the market up, and then cashed out before it crashed, and now the Foundation is about six times as wealthy as it was a year ago, all through depending on Ted's predictions. '
‘Oh, I believe in Theodore! I was just wondering. '
Mr Roosevelt was elected and he did indeed devalue the dollar and made it illegal for Americans to possess gold. But the assets of the Foundation had been placed out of reach of this confiscation. As was my own numbered bank account. I never touched it but Briney told me that it was not simply lying idle; he was using ‘my' money to make more money.
Brian was now a trustee of the Foundation, vice Mr Chapman, who had been removed from the board for having lost his own money in the stock market. A trustee of the Foundation had himself to be qualified for Howard benefits (four living grandparents at time of marriage) and a money-maker. If there were other requirements, I do not know what they were.
Justin was now chairman of the board and chief executive, vice judge Sperling, who was still a trustee but was past ninety and had elected not to work quite so hard. When we got back to Kansas City, Justin and Brian set up offices in the Scarritt Building as ‘Weatheral and Smith, Investments' while ‘Brian Smith Associates' took an office on the same floor.
We never again had money worries but the decade of the Depression was not a time when it was fine to be rich. We strove to avoid the appearance of being rich. Instead of buying a fancy house in the Country Club district we bought that farmhouse at a bargain price, then rebuilt it into a more satisfactory structure. It was a period when skilled craftsmen were eager to get work at wages they would have sneered at in 1929.
The nation's economy was stuck on dead centre and no one seemed to know why and everyone from bootblack to banker had a solution he wanted to see tried. Mr Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 and, yes, the banks did close but the Smiths and the Weatherals had cash under the mattress and groceries squirrelled away; the bank holiday did us no harm. The country seemed invigorated by the energetic actions of ‘The New Deal', the new President's name for a series of nostrums that came pouring out of Washington.
In retrospect it seems that the ‘reforms' that constituted the New Deal did nothing to correct the economy - yet it is hard to fault emergency measures that put food into the mouths of the destitute. The WPA and the MA and the CCC and the NRA and the endless make-work programmes did not cure the economy and may well have done damage. .. but in Kansas City in the 1930s they almost certainly served to avoid food riots by desperate people.
On 1 September 1939, ten years after Black Tuesday, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two days later Britain and France declared war against Germany. World War Two had started.