United Nations and the War Years in Bohemia
William C. Bacon, in The Annals of the Bohemian Club for the years 1907-1972 (Vol V., Centennial Edition: Bohemian Club, 1972)
It is thought that one rather interesting period in Bohemia’s history merits a little space in these annals. Preliminarily let’s record that in 1944 a then young man, after twelve years of membership, was selected by the nominating committee as the next president of the Club. It is reported that Palmer Fuller, Jr., the chairman of that committee, called on the selected candidate and said to him, “Bill, it becomes my duty to tell you that our committee has, after long consideration, decided we must reach into the bottom of the barrel for our next president. And guess what we came up with your name!” He then tempered that with the statement that the candidate having served on all club committees, as chairman of the Jinks committee, as secretary and as director several times of the Board of Directors appeared to be prepared for the job.
The manager of the Club at that time was a man named Crabb. When the report of the nominating committee with the name of the nominee for president on it was posted, the manager immediately resigned for reasons known to him and the nominee. In his Thanksgiving dinner talk that year Fred Thompson said, “I shall always think of this administration as the “blue ointment regime”.
The period from 1944 to 1946 made up part of the time our country was engaged in the second world war. They were difficult years with many restrictions imposed upon the way of life of our people. Among them was the rationing of certain foods and gasoline which was felt by Bohemians like all other citizens and the limitations made operations a real problem, particularly in the dining rooms and bars, and whenever transportation was required. This was aggravated by the discovery of the new administration that the former manager left it short some 16,000 ration points. Fortunately, the Office of Price Administration was understanding and made it possible for the Club to carry on satisfactorily.
It was during this administration that San Francisco was selected for the meeting of The United Nations Conference on International Organization, which brought to our city delegations from fifty nations of the world headed by their foremost diplomats. The purpose of that conference was to prepare and adopt a charter of a World Organization to maintain peace for all nations and to promote the welfare of all men. After two months of serious effort the conference completed, approved and unanimously adopted the United Nations Charter. President Harry S. Truman came to the closing plenary session of the Conference on June 26, 1945 to express the thanks of our nation to the visiting delegations for their significant achievement.
Our little principality of Bohemia, while not a member of the conference, played an important part in getting it under way and entertaining the representatives of the member nations during their stay in our city. At the opening session Bohemian Earl Warren, then Governor of California, on behalf of our State, welcomed the visitors to California, and Bohemian Roger Lapham, then Mayor of San Francisco, extended the traditional hospitality of our city to them.
Our own United States delegation was headed by our then very affable Secre-tary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. With him on our delegation were assistant secretaries John Peurifoy, Robert Lynch and Alger Hiss (who later became an often mentioned figure in one of President Richard Nixon’s political campaigns). Among the visiting dignitaries to the Conference were the Earl of Halifax and Anthony Eden (England), A. A. Gromyko (Russia), Wellington Koo (China), Amir Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz (Saudi Arabia), Jan Masaryk (Czechslovakia), Ezequiel Padilla (Mexico), Joseph Paul-Boncour (France), Jan Christian Smuts (Union of South Africa), and ever so many more.
On May 17, 1945, a formal dinner was given for the delegation heads of all nations followed by a fine entertainment program in the Jinks room. Official hosts for this affair were Bohemian Governor Earl Warren, Mayor Roger Lapham and the Club president, who acted as Sire.
When the announcement for that dinner went out a letter came to the presi-dent from the isolation ward in the Navy hospital at Treasure Island written by a member. He wrote in part, “Dear Mr. President: Did you ever have the Mumps? I got ’em now! One of the most outstanding members of your United Nations party committee will be here for the next couple of weeks. I’m worried I’ll lose out on the reservation for the dinner. How’s about fixing me up? and when I’m President and you have the mumps I’ll do as much for you.” The writer was Lieutenant George W. Fuller.
On May 20, 1945 we opened the Grove to entertain the entire delegations from every nation – all came except the Russians, who had accepted, but sent their regrets and an excuse by a personal messenger who delivered it that morning at the Grove. Guests and members numbered 1500. With food and gasoline ration-ing these entertainments presented problems. The United States Navy provided bus transportation to the Grove. The United States Army furnished enlisted personnel to assist with cooking, waiting on tables, bartending, etc. When the Army unit drove into the Grove in their jeeps and in uniform, a Bohemian who had convivially overindulged the night before, was heard to re-mark, “Good Lord! Bohemia is being invaded by the U.S. Army.” The weather was perfect, the Grove never more beautiful. The events of the day included a welcome upon arrival at the gate by the band, cocktails at the bar and in a number of camps, and a band concert at the Circle during this “wetting- down” process. Lunch was served in the main dining room. After luncheon a program was presented on the Grove stage. Paul Carson presided at the organ. A trio consisting of Austin Mosher, Marsden Argall and Ralph Laris, sang two numbers from in front of the Three Graces, with string accompaniment. Rudy Seiger played his violin, with Charles Bulotti assisting, and the number was, of course, “California Lullaby”. Armand Girard sang, and the program concluded with numbers by the orchestra and chorus. One of the greatest thrills of the day was the “air show” staged over the Grove by the Army Air Forces. It was a commanding and an inspiring spectacle. So Bohemia’s part in this history-making event was not inconsequential.
During those war years we published and mailed to our members in the Armed Forces a servicemen’s edition of the “Owl’s Hoot”. On the front page of the United Nations Conference issue appeared a picture taken at the Grove of the Club President standing between two Saudi Arabians—one was the then Crown Prince Faisal and not the King—both in their colorful regalia and somewhat dark of complexion. A copy of that issue was mailed to the president’s son, now a Bohemian, but then a Marine serving in the war zone. He wrote of proudly showing it to his buddies, remarking to them, “That’s my Dad!”, which brought from one of the wags the question, “Which one is your Dad?”.
About a month later the war ended in the European theatre. In celebration of it the radio broadcasting stations across this country set up fifteen minute world-wide broadcasts one after another from a half dozen major cities, including San Francisco. From the National Broadcasting Company’s station in San Francisco the program consisted of three five minute talks by Governor Earl Warren, Archbishop Mitty, and Bohemia’s president, who spoke not in that capacity, but as an ordinary citizen. This made complete Bohemia’s participation in the affairs of the world during those difficult years of the Second World War.