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No Brush

May 2024
1min read

I was in Glasgow, Scotland, in September 1939, when World War II broke out. I was about to start my last year at the University of Glasgow, but school opening had been delayed to allow time to build air-raid shelters for the students (trenches with tin roofs covered by sandbags). I therefore had the time to serve as an unpaid clerk at the American Consulate-General, downtown in a grand old Victorian building on West Regent Street. My father was the American consul, and he put me to work typing and filing. The consulate was swamped with American citizens, long resident in Scotland, who wanted to return to the United States but whose passports had expired. And when a U-boat near the coast of Scotland sank the liner Athenia with a large number of Americans aboard, those unfortunates had to be taken care of by the consulate.

After a couple of weeks my school finally started up, and I dropped my volunteer job. One day my father remarked at dinner that the ambassador’s son had come up from London as a sort of unofficial courier and was staying a few days to help out. Would I like to drop by to meet him? He was a nice kid, a Harvard student.

I recoiled at the idea. I had no intention of going out of my way to meet some effete snob with a phony accent. “No thanks, Dad. You know how much work I have from school.”

And it was thus that I missed an encounter with John F. Kennedy.

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