By John W. Dean, Barry M. Goldwater Jr.
Palgrave Macmillan Copyright © 2008 John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The Boy Who Became the Man
From a young age Barry Goldwater knew what interested him: radio and electronics, photography and flying, the military and his family's department store business, and public service, which began with the military and proceeded into politics. Along the way he met the love of his life, Margret "Peggy" Johnson, who would become his partner and the mother of his four children. Goldwater's interest in those who were experts in the matters that interested him was documented in his letter to Thomas Edison.
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This letter was sent by a fourteen-year-old Goldwater to inventor Thomas Edison. The director of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University discovered this letter in 1989 and sent a copy to the senator.
Dear Mr. Edison,
I wish to congratulate you upon your great success in the past years and hope that your future years may be as fruitful. I am very interested in electricity and radio. I operate a radio station here of ten watts power under the call—613 P I. I have studied electricity since I was a little kid and am going to keep it up until I am an old one.
To provide an overview of Goldwater's early life, we have selected a recollection that he dictated (which we believe was done in the mid-1970s) but did not date. We have slightly condensed it.
My father was a great lover of boxing, and it was a strong sport in Phoenix with some of the top professionals fighting here. I'll never forget one time when Paul Fannin [later governor of Arizona and senator] and I were young men and we went to watch a professional boxer work out. I think his name was Kid Parker. Both Paul and I had taken boxing lessons and because we were big kids Parker asked if we would like to step in the ring and trade a few whops. Paul did, and after one round got out. I climbed in the ring and very mistakenly hit him, and he hit me back so hard my head turned around. I tried to get out of the ring but he wouldn't let me leave until the bell rang, and when it was over he said, "Sonny, don't ever do that again." And I never did.
The first time I became interested in flying must have been around 1917 or maybe earlier when the first airplanes showed up at
the annual state fair. They would do whatever stunts they could, with people walking on the wing, or standing on the top of the wings, and even though I was very young, I was thrilled by it. During World War I, the exploits of our pilots got my attention, particularly Frank Luke, Jr., who I remember being in high school here; he was decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor after destroying some twenty-seven enemy balloons during World War I. One day in 1928 I was walking down Central Avenue in Phoenix and passed R. D. Roper's automobile showroom, where they had an airplane, so I went in and looked at it. It was a Great Lakes Trainer and was selling for $2,500—a lot of money then. The salesman said if I went out to what they called the airport, I'd find Jack Thornburg who would be glad to teach me how to fly. Well, I went out and met Jack. He had a Great Lakes Trainer and the airport was merely a dirt strip. So I started taking lessons. After ten very pleasant hours I soloed one morning. I did all of my flying in the morning before going to work and my mother wondered what I was doing getting up so early and leaving. In fact, I think she thought that I had a girl, but she didn't learn about my flying until after I had my license and there appeared a little notice in the newspaper. I was still very interested in radio and I thought I could combine my radio interest with my flying interest, possibly doing something about developing or improving air-to-ground communications. I never did, however, because Herbert Hoover, Jr., got interested in this too and rounded up all the patents.
Civic Affairs and the Family Business
Recollections (February 5, 1977)
When my freshman year in college ended [and my father passed away] I elected not to continue at the University of Arizona but went into the family business in Phoenix which was at that time a store employing about fifty-five people and doing an annual volume of about $350,000 [approximately $4 million today]. The business was located in downtown Phoenix and it was the first reinforced steel concrete building built in Arizona.
I had worked in the store as a boy. I remember doing janitor work and one Christmas I was Santa Claus and then I remember the first job I had on the delivery truck being a helper. The first delivery we made was to a whore house on Gold Alley and it was for $88 and the madam paid it off in silver dollars and it was such a heavy pile of money we had to come back to the store and get rid of it. I started literally at the bottom in the piece goods section where I learned the different fabrics, how to tell them apart and what they were used for. After that I worked in every department in the store except corsets and shoes. My education was furthered by working a year in New York during the depression in our office at Frederick Adkins on 42nd Street. I gradually worked my way up until I was merchandise manager of ladies ready-to-wear and enjoyed it immensely. I also designed several innovative things like denim skirts and shirts, branding iron prints, and probably the most successful, monetary wise, was the "antsy pants," which consisted of white men's shorts with large red ants printed on them.
The business continued to grow, although during the depression years—and I would say the first five years were the most severe—the business didn't make any money but it didn't lose any either. In fact, we were able to maintain our employees and our salary scale. I was elected president of the board in the late 1930s and continued to serve in that capacity until I left to join the army air corps in the middle of 1941.
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Falling in Love with Peggy and the Family
Goldwater hadn't planned to fall in love and marry until his late twenties, but the dapper young president of Goldwater's Department Store met the love of his life one morning when she came into the store with her mother. Here Goldwater recalls it all with a touch of humor and the usual truth.
Recollections (September 22, 1984)
Fifty years ago today Peggy became my bride and I'm sure all who know her agree—that in your heart you know I was right. I have to admit that I was the one who did the chasing, and I made more promises than Vice President Walter Mondale. At least it shows I was consistent. Even in those days, I believed that extremism in the pursuit of giving up my liberty was no vice. Before I go any further, Peggy has asked me to make it very clear that while we've been married for fifty years, when we got married she was a child-bride. And I go along with that because I found that on this issue, it's a lot better to be a conservative than to have a conscience.
I have a tendency to speak my mind—sometimes in no uncertain terms—but Peggy has always been an ever-present moderating influence. A lot of people are aware that I've had some troubles with my hip in recent years—but my hip problem wasn't caused by any of the reasons you may have read about. I think it was caused by fifty years of Peggy kicking me under the table and saying, "Barry, that's enough." If she wasn't twenty feet away, I'd be getting it right now as I dictate these recollections. Peggy's real challenge is going to come in 1987 after I've retired from the Senate. I'm sure that every woman knows the classic definition of retirement: It's when you have half as much income and twice as much husband. A good marriage is when you say, "How do I love thee, let me count the ways"—and you reach for a calculator. Peggy doesn't need a calculator.
Everything has to start someplace. Each of us came into this world as a little baby. Then each of us started our way through life doing almost what came naturally but also what came from the guidance of other people. I'll never forget my father telling me one time, "Son, I was forty-two years old when I got married and that was eight years too soon." So, I grew up with the feeling that a man had to be a little bit off his rocker if he got married too young. And then one day, a very attractive woman came into my store with a very, very beautiful younger person with her. The older woman was Mrs. Ray Johnson from Muncie, Indiana, who had come out to Phoenix for her husband's health and the attractive young lady was her daughter, whose name I very quickly found was Margaret.
You see, in those days, when I ran the store, you won't believe this, but I used to show up in striped trousers, a black coat, sometimes a cutaway, with a stiff white collar, tie and even, at times, a red carnation. You see, storekeeping in those days was a source of great pride and that's something I had in my business. In fact, I still have great pride in the fact that I was once what we laughingly called a "rag peddler."
My interest in the young lady from Indiana grew and grew and I soon found myself in love but I didn't sense any reciprocal feeling on her part. This went on for over two and a half years, and finally one New Year's Eve, when I was visiting her in Muncie, Indiana, I got her in a telephone booth and I said, "Now look, Peggy (I had grown intimate by that time—I called her Peggy), I'm running out of money and I'm running out of patience. Either you are going to marry me or not and I want to know right now." Well, she said yes. Now that was a New Year's Eve, and very shortly thereafter, in fact, in the next week she sailed from New York on a round-the-world trip with her mother.
But to go back a bit, in those two and a half years, I would travel to New York to do business for the store, and stop off to see her, either in Indiana or up in Charlevoix, Michigan, where her family had a summer home, or in New York where she studied and worked for a while as a designer. But I didn't get to see enough of her, and when I told her I was running out of patience that was not exactly true, but when I told her I was running out of money, that was true then and it's never quite ceased being true.
I chased her as no woman had ever been chased before. I remember one trip she made out to Arizona. I had presents waiting for her at each stop of the train, like a crate of apples with a note saying, one of these a day will keep the doctor away, because there was a doctor's convention on the train she was on. Another stop, flowers and things like that because when you were traveling by train, you had many places to stop and time to make such deliveries, so I arranged to have them made as she crossed the country.
Well, as I was saying, as soon as she agreed to get married, off Peggy went around the world and so I wrote her letters every day and mailed them ahead to her various ports of call with instructions of where she should read them, like in front of funnel, or up in the bow, or on the stern, or on the bridge, etc., and that got her around the world, I think, rather safely because I was worried that some jackass might meet her and I would never see her again.
I couldn't give her a ring when I wanted to because it all happened so fast, so I mailed it to her so she would have it on her arrival from her around the world trip when she got into New York. The ring was the wedding ring of my grandmother. It was a diamond-cut yellow diamond, about a carat and a half, I think, and, while there wasn't much family tradition, we sort of made one that the first male in the family to marry would have access to that ring. So, sure enough, when Mike married Connie, he was the first to get married so Connie now has the ring. I don't know what she has done with it. It may be that little bright thing in her naval.
Peggy and I planned the wedding for September 22nd to be held in Muncie, Indiana. Peggy was a Baptist, I was an Episcopalian, and bless her soul, she changed her church to coincide with mine. So on the appointed day we were married in a beautiful little church that still stands in Muncie. My brother Bob was my best man. Every man in the wedding was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and they included Ray Johnson, Peggy's brother, and Bucky Harris, one of my oldest and best friends. I think the only bad thing I did during the whole ceremony was when I kissed her after the minister gave me permission to, I gave her a pat on the ass, which has always been customary with me when I kiss a girl. I don't know why that ever started but it just seems okay to do something with your right hand and that was sort of natural.
We took our honeymoon to Mexico City but before that, I'll never forget Uncle Morris coming to the wedding. I went down to the train to meet him and there he was, walking up and down the platform. He'd gotten in a little earlier and didn't tell us, and at that time he would have been about eighty-five years old, with that great big mustache he had. But the waiting didn't bother him. Well, anyway, I planned to take Peggy to Mexico City by car and we drove to Laredo, Texas, crossed the river and drove down to Monterrey where I was told that it was possible to reach Mexico City by car, but it might take a month or two months even, and it would require a team of horses for about half the distance because no automobile could traverse the terrain. The road goes up a very, very steep mountain on the Gulf of Mexico side of Mexico, and they just told us it was impossible so we went back to Monterrey and had a most enjoyable day.
The day consisted of visiting the local brewery, where we drank our fill of beer, then a visit to a liquor store because you couldn't buy liquor in the United States then. So we proceeded to walk up and down the aisles in the liquor store, viewing the white tables loaded with bottles, sampling the ones we wanted and ordering each bottle we wanted. To identify it, we wrote our names on the label. It was an easy idea. We gave them 50 percent of the purchase price at the store and when we picked up the bottles in the United States, we agreed to pay the other 50 percent. Well, we got on the train, both of us about half smashed, and the first thing I did was lose the ticket, but after a couple of more drinks, I located it, wrapped around a bottle of brandy.
This is hard to believe, but we stayed at the Ritz Hotel in Mexico City, and the room was two pesos a day and that's when the peso was worth about fifty cents. So, we lived in luxury, real luxury, because I had a total of six hundred dollars in my pocket to take her on a honeymoon, and six hundred dollars today in Mexico City might get you one tortilla, one taco and a cot with no covers.
We headed back to the United States and picked up our car in Monterrey, drove back into the United States, went into a bar in Laredo where we were to get our booze, and gave the proper sign; I was told that a man would meet me at three o'clock by the railroad station and, sure enough, he was there. He directed me to drive out into the desert not too far from the Rio Grande River, and pick up the rest of the booze, and I said, well, that's either goodbye to the booze or hello. But in about an hour, here he arrived with a couple of other Mexicans, dragging two wet bags filled with our bottles which we checked, and each one had our name on it. Now, in those days, carrying whiskey around the United States was risky so I carefully took the spare tires apart and hid the whiskey in the spare tire compartment and we got home okay.
We had a wonderful time on our honeymoon. I visited old friends there with whom I had gone to military school. Friends that still live there that I see once in a blue moon. When we arrived in Phoenix, we didn't even have a place to stay so I found an apartment called The Edana on First Street and Fillmore and I paid $100 a month for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, and kitchen apartment. We lived in that apartment for I guess about a year and then we moved over into Palmcroft were we rented a house and I think we paid $150 a month. It had a swimming pool but it was always dirty so we never used it. I built my first cooling system at that house but it put more water into the house than cooling, so it wasn't much good. Every marriage consists of a husband who comes up with a bright idea, kids who say it can't be done, and a wife who does it.
I don't think anybody ever dreamed the marriage would last very long. But the marriage has been long, and both happy and unhappy. I say unhappy because I've been away from Peggy a lot of the time: World War II, politics, business and so forth. But maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder and maybe it's one of the reasons we've stayed together and stayed so close. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Pure Goldwater by John W. Dean, Barry M. Goldwater Jr.. Copyright © 2008 John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
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