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Full text of "Adventures of a slum fighter"

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YOUR CITY 



ROOSEVELT POSSUM HUNT 



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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND 






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From the collection of the 

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San Francisco, California 
2006 



ADVENTURES 

OF A 

SLUM 

FIGHTER 



ADVENTURES 

OFA 

SLUM 

FIGHTER 



By Charles F. Palmer 



TUPPER AND LOVE, INC. 



ATLANTA 




COPYRIGHT 1955, BY CHARLES F. PALMER 



All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book, or parts thereof, in any form, except 
for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. 



MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
VAN REES PRESS NEW YORK 



To my mother 
who gave me a sense of values 

and 

To my wife 
who helped me keep them 



A NOTE OF 
APPRECIATION 



JAMES PUTNAM urged me to share these 
adventures and started me off on this book. Pro- 
fessor Thomas H. English said write as though 
talking with a friend. Miss Hazel Pate loyally typed 
the manuscript from my illegible longhand. Albert 
Love's keen interest and expert advice helped be- 
yond measure. Hal Vermes also aided greatly. To 
all of these and to the many others who encouraged 
and commented, I am deeply grateful. 



ABOUT THIS BOOK 

By Beardsley Ruml 

ONE OF THE most glaring obstructions to a better 
life for millions of our people is the obsolete design and 
structure of our cities. Already we are acutely aware that the 
conditions of our metropolitan schools, hospitals, transport 
and recreation facilities are intolerable. And worst of all are 
the slums. 

That's why this book interests me so much. It's the author's 
adventures in wiping out slums. These are facts, not theories, 
because as a practical real-estate man he has done what he 
writes about. Reading like a novel, this book proves that 
slums cost us taxpayers more to keep than to clear; that the 
battle against child delinquency, disease, and vice is the battle 
against the slum. 

The response to these ills of our cities has been wholesale 
flight from the city itself, but not from the city as such. The 
city remains "la source" as it has been since time immemorial. 
Accordingly, the cities will not wither away; they will be 
rebuilt. 

The rebuilding of our cities is, therefore, one of the grand 
projects for the years immediately ahead. The programs will 
be varied creative and imitative. The emphasis will be here 
on one objective, there on another. 

Where better to start than with the slums! This book of a 
businessman's adventures tells what other countries have 
been doing for years, of the little we have done, and of the 
big job ahead for all of us. 

IX 



CONTENTS 

About This Book, by Beardsley Ruml ix 

1 . Prelude to Adventure 3 

2. "Somebody Gets the Money" 7 

3. The Circumlocution Department 22 

4. Cholera and Kings 3 1 

5. Roman Circus 4 1 

6. Not-So-Gay Vienna 59 

7. Moscow Menu 68 

8. Berlin Housing Subsidy But 82 

9. Crowded as Kippers 89 

10. "The Way Out" 101 

11. Ickes Plays with Dynamite 107 

12. "Nobody Else Will or Can" Roosevelt 119 

13. "Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hell!" 133 

14. Lady As tor and Ladies in Limehouse 144 

15. Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 161 

16. Hundred New Towns 173 

17. Sitting Baths and Scotsmen 184 

18. Dutch Housing Beats Depression 192 

19. Bandboxes and Father Penn 205 

20. White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 217 

21. More than Sherman Burned 228 

22. T.N.T. 242 

23. No End to Adventure 257 
Index 263 

xi 



ADVENTURES 

OF A 

SLUM 

FIGHTER 



1 



PRELUDE TO 
ADVENTURE 



"YOU LOOK TIRED, dear." Laura's usually smiling 
blue eyes were worried. "It's time you took a rest/' 

Putting down the paper I'd been reading, I tamped the 
tobacco in my pipe and struck a match. "I certainly don't 
feel like playing eighteen holes today," I admitted. "I just 
want to take it easy." 

"Well, now you can." 

"Yes," I said reflectively. "The contracts with the architects 
have been signed, and the government has to clear out that 
slum at last." 

"And," Laura added, "while they are completing the plans, 
you can catch your breath." 

"I wonder," I said. 

It was a quiet Sunday in May, 1934. My wife and I were 
sitting on a stone bench in the garden back of our home in 
Brookwood Hills, a residential section off Peach tree Street 
in Atlanta, Georgia. Our three daughters, Margaret, Laura, 
and Jeannette, had come home from Sunday school and were 
in their "office" above the garage, reading proof on The 
Brookwood Bugle, the neighborhood paper they published. 
The world was outwardly peaceful, but inwardly I was dis- 

3 



4 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

turbed. I picked up the recent issue of The Economist that 
Mr. Peck, of Bush House, had sent me from London. 

"Listen to this, dear," I said to Laura. " 'There can be little 
doubt that the desire to see the whole population housed 
within a generation in dwellings large, sanitary, and pleasant 
enough to make decent living possible is more widely shared 
at the present moment than any other political ideal save 
only that of preserving peace.' ' 

"That," Laura pointed out, "is just what you have been 
trying to tell the real-estate people here in Atlanta." 

"But they won't listen," I said. "It's like talking to the 
Great Stone Face." 

Laura laughed at my frustration. 

"When we were in England four years ago," I reminded 
her, "Peck said that slum clearance was actually helping to 
increase and stabilize real-estate values in London. So it's 
plain that when businessmen support slum clearance they 
not only benefit humanity, they are doing themselves a 
mighty good turn as well!" 

"But," Laura observed, "they just won't face the facts." 

"You're telling me? Take the Tech wood area we are finally 
clearing. I told them what our slums cost in juvenile de- 
linquency, extra police, medical care, and free hospitaliza- 
tion. Why, the city has been spending nearly ten times more 
In the slums than the slum tax returns. And most of those 
are delinquent!" 

Laura had heard me go on like this a hundred times and 
more. And she was just as interested and eager to help solve 
the slum problem as I. However, she was agile at changing 
the subject when she wanted to calm me down. 

"Know what day it is tomorrow?" she inquired. 

"Certainly, it's Monday, the twenty-first of May." 

"And what else?" f & 



Prelude to Adventure 5 

"You don't catch me there," I said with a chuckle. "It's 
your birthday. What would you like, darlin'?" 

"Oh," she hedged, "I don't know." 

"Name it." 

"A vacation for you." 

"I sure could use it," I sighed. 

"For a whole year now you've been fighting every Tom, 
Dick, and Harry all the way up to the White House. You're 
on the point of total collapse." 

"But I can't go away," I protested. "I've neglected my own 
business, and I've got to get back to it. And my desk is snowed 
under with inquiries from cities all over the country about 
how to set up slum-clearance projects. And I've got loads of 
speeches to make. And" 

"A vacation," she cut in. "The last time we trouped 
Europe like tourists. We saw the Louvre, St. Peter's and the 
Sistine Chapel, Westminister Abbey. This time you'll have 
a complete rest in Switzerland, maybe." 

"H-m-m," I wondered aloud. "We could go to Italy again." 

"But why Italy?" she wanted to know. "The moors of 
Scotland would be better for relaxation." 

"I've been reading about what was done in Naples way 
back in 1888," I explained. "The King issued a hurry-up 
order to have the slums cleaned out. And do you know why?" 

"I haven't the faintest idea." 

"Cholera!" I exclaimed. "It was no philanthropic gesture, 
my dear. The deadly disease was spreading from the slums 
along the Via Roma, and the King simply wanted to save his 
precious neck." 

Laura sighed and said nothing. 

"I'd like to see more of what they're doing in England," 
I went on with growing enthusiasm. "We got just a glimpse 
the last time. We could go to Germany, Holland, Austria. 



6 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Europe is much farther ahead than we are in slum reclama- 
tion, you know. Perhaps we could even see what the Russians 
are doing. Maybe we can cover the whole continent." 

"Your vacation, remember?" 

"I'll get in touch with the State Department." I puffed on 
my pipe, but it had gone out, and I didn't bother to relight 
it. "I'm sure that I can get some sort of credentials to act as 
an unofficial investigator of housing. Then we'll be all set 
to go!" 

"Heaven knows I tried," Laura said quietly. 

"Darlin'," I said, taking her hand, "every man hopes that 
sometime in his life he will have one great adventure. This 
can be the beginning of ours, yours and mine." 

I was happy to see the sparkle come back into her eyes. 



2 



'SOMEBODY GETS 
THE MONEY" 



EACH WORKDAY morning I drove from my home 
in Brookwood Hills to my office in Atlanta's business district. 
The concrete boulevard looped down through pleasant 
streets until it reached a corner of the Georgia Tech campus, 
then headed straight toward the center of the city. 

I always moved a little faster here, for ugliness was packed 
close on either side: crowded, dilapidated dwellings, ragged, 
dirty children, reeking outhouses a human garbage dump 
a slum. 

Why such an untended abscess should fester between the 
lovely campus of our proudest school and the office buildings 
in the heart of our city never consciously entered my mind. 
Though my business lay in central real estate, I had no con- 
nection with the Techwood slum. It was no concern of mine. 
Consequently, I put greater pressure on the accelerator as 
I drove through that slum twice a day, my eyes fixed on the 
downtown towering structures in the morning, and on the 
ivied wall of Georgia Tech's fine stadium as I headed home- 
ward at sunset. 

There were many more serious matters to think about in 
that fateful spring of 1933. Nearly fifteen million people were 
unemployed. 



8 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Meanwhile, a new president, for whom I had not voted, 
was in the White House. I was quickly caught up in the 
maelstrom. The upheaval of Roosevelt's first hundred days 
found me shuttling even more hectically between Atlanta 
and Washington. As president of the National Association of 
Building Owners and Managers, I had been doing it since 
1930. Everybody was engaged in a fury of planning. The 
business crowd was, in some ways, more radical than the 
White House. Behind their formal pronouncements, they 
were scared. At our committee meetings, business leaders 
frantically called on the government to do something! 

The answer from the White House was an overwhelming 
piece of legislation that had something concrete for most 
groups and considerable confusion for everyone the National 
Industrial Recovery Act. Its boldness, even today, would 
make every thoughtful citizen hold his breath. It changed 
America. 

Among other things, the act empowered the President to 
set up a Federal Administration of Public Works and spend 
over three billion dollars on various construction. Tossed 
inconspicuously into the grab bag was low-cost housing and 
slum clearance. 

I was intrigued. As head of a corporation with three office 
buildings on its hands, I had no direct connection with low- 
cost housing, and slum clearance was definitely outside of my 
interests. However, real estate was obviously involved. Maybe 
I should take a look, just in case. 

The NIRA, now the law of the land, allocated more than 
a hundred million dollars for loan to nonprofit corporations 
if they would add a little equity, clear slums, and build hous- 
ing. The whole matter was new and untried, and there un- 
doubtedly would be many complications. But the man who 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 9 

assembled the property for clearance and rebuilding could 
expect to earn reasonable commissions. 

I started to gather pertinent information and lay plans. I 
acted simply as a businessman on the trail of some expected 
profits. My attorney, John S. Candler II, searched the new 
law with care. I examined municipal maps and records, look- 
ing for a suitable slum. 

I wasn't long in finding it that old acquaintance, Tech- 
wood, the nine square blocks of squalor that lay along my 
route to and from business each day. From my cursory and 
hesitant glances at these huddled structures, it seemed im- 
probable, but the records revealed that nearly a thousand 
white families were jammed into this slum. 

Frankly, at the time, of equal importance to earning com- 
missions was the idea, gradually forming in my mind, that 
wiping out the slum area would enhance the value of our 
central business properties. 

I was well pleased and ready to act. However, my wife 
brought up a point that troubled me. 

"Have you," she asked, "ever seen a slum?" 

"Why, of course," I protested. "I drive by Techwood every 
day." 

"With your eyes straight ahead." 

"Oh," I shrugged, "I've seen some ragged kids hanging 
around the shacks." 

"They live there," Laura quietly said. "That's their home." 

The next day I stopped my car for the first time just 
below the well-tended green lawn of the Georgia Tech 
campus. Facing away from this pleasant view, Techwood lay 
before me in all its ugliness. I knew, from the records, that 
the sagging wooden houses had been standing for half a 
century, that they were not hand-me-downs, once good but 



10 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

since gone bad. They had been deliberately built as slums. 
Designed to wring the last cent from their use, for fifty years 
they had taken all and given nothing. 

I wandered down the street, recalling that, until recently, 
the Tanyard Creek, which ran beneath the pavement, had 
been an open sewer. Ragged children, some the age of my 
own daughters, broke like frightened colts from a littered 
alley and stampeded across the smooth concrete of the high- 
way. I wondered why they were not in school. 

Two-story shacks gave double use of land by porches one 
above another. Underneath them, children stared through 
trash between crumbling bricks that haphazardly supported 
broken wooden pillars. At my approach, other youngsters ran 
out of sight between gaps in the foundations. 

It was early morning, and pallets strewed the shelflike 
porches as those who lived within sought to escape the foul 
air of the overcrowded rooms. In the rear were pools of 
stagnant water near an open privy serving several families. 
Behind a shack a simple-minded girl lackadaisically split 
kindling wood, watched by a listless group of children. 

A white-haired woman hunched over a rusty washtub. 
Ragged quilts were being aired on broken crates. A chamber 
pot hung beside a water dipper. A worn mop was suspended 
from a remnant of lattice on a sagging porch. 

I had brought along a camera and took a picture quickly, 
but the tenants didn't seem to mind. They were past caring, 
licked by their surroundings. A little child scuttled beneath 
a filthy blanket as I tried to take his picture. The ancient 
whitewashed walls of his home had long turned scabrous. A 
battered wardrobe trunk made a pedestal for the shack's one 
treasure a tin wastebasket. Its colored decoration depicted 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 11 

a hoop-skirted belle, gaily smiling at the sniffling, frightened 
baby. 

I turned back to my car. I'd had enough. 

As soon as I reached my office that day, I sent to the 
Public Library for some books on slums. I began to read 
idly, then more swiftly as I was impelled by a gathering 
fascination. I was particularly impressed, though it had been 
published fifty years before, by How the Other Half Lives, 
written by Jacob Riis, a New York City reporter. Taking it 
home with me that evening, I found that Laura was already 
familiar with this militant book about slums. 

My hit-and-miss reading had fruitful results. I discovered 
encouraging words from Franklin Roosevelt in a speech he 
had made as governor of New York in 1930 to the Board of 
Trade, when he said: 

"You have just cause for pride in what you have achieved 
the tall, slim buildings standing clear against the sky but 
too often around their feet cluster the squalid tenements 
that house the very poor buildings that should have been 
destroyed years ago, full of dark rooms where the sunlight 
never enters, stifling in the hot summer days, no fit habita- 
tion for any man, far less for the thousands of children that 
swarm up and down their creaking stairways." 

The lead of Riis and Roosevelt and others took me in- 
evitably to Atlanta's Police Station, where I had several inter- 
esting sessions with the officers who walk the beats. 

"Who," I wanted to know, "lives in those Techwood 
shacks?" 

"People," I was told. "White people." 

"Do they have some income?" 

"Oh, yes. They pay their rent or out they go." 



12 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"What sort of jobs do they have?" 

"Well, Mr. Palmer" the officer shifted uneasily in his 
chair" we've got a lot of whores down there." 

"But that area is alive with children!" I protested. "What 
about the bad influence?" 

"There's a good deal of that down there," he admitted, 
"and not just from the prostitutes. They've got bootleggers 
and thieves, too. Somebody gets killed every now and then. 
Oh, there's plenty of bad influence, all right." 

"Why don't you people clean it up?" 

The officer eyed me blankly for a moment. 

"Take a walk through there someday," he finally sug- 
gested. "Go into the houses, look at the people, count how 
many of them are jammed into each room." 

"I already have," I said. 

"Well, we try to hold down things as best we can. For 
safety's sake, our men patrol the area in pairs." 

"But this place is wedged in between two of the most 
valuable sections of the city!" 

"Yes, that's pretty strange." 

"There must be decent people living there." 

"Of course there are," the officer agreed. "That's the only 
reason any regulation is possible. But they're so damned 
poor, working at jobs that pay less than a living, or else on 
relief. They'd take their families away if they could, but 
they just can't. Where would they go?" 

"There's one thing sure," I emphasized. "If a sound pro- 
gram was put under way to tear out that pesthole and rebuild 
it with decent homes, there shouldn't be any opposition." 

The official glanced at me warily, his eyes narrowing. 

"I don't know about that," he said softly. 

"You don't?" I exclaimed in surprise. 

"Look, Mr. Palmer," he said patiently, as if explaining a 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 13 

simple problem to a child, "all those Tech wood folks pay 
rent. Somebody gets the money/' 

So that was it, eh? Well, I thought to myself, we'll see. I 
went into slum clearance with my eyes wide open. It was 
one thing to promote and finance commercial buildings on 
downtown sites. But to promote, finance, and rebuild nine 
full blocks of one of the worst slums in the city, wreck its 
hundreds of hovels, and replace them with decent, safe, and 
sanitary homes for two thousand people? That was some- 
thing else again. 

The immediate problem was to develop a packaged pro- 
gram that would include an over-all estimate of costs. I con- 
ferred with Thorne Flagler, a builder, and Flip Surge, an 
architect, and was able to imbue them with some of my en- 
thusiasm. They drew the plans and estimated the costs for 
what, we hoped, would be the first slum clearance in history 
by Uncle Sam. When the preliminaries were all set, it was my 
turn to carry the ball. 

Promotion and group support were now the problem. In- 
fluential help was needed from a cross section of leaders who 
would understand the long-range benefits to the community. 
They must represent the views of capital, labor, local govern- 
ment, the press, and the social-service agencies. 

The man whose help would mean most in organizing such 
a group was Clark Howell, Sr., publisher of The Atlanta 
Constitution, a morning newspaper that had recently won 
the Pulitzer Prize for its successful crusade against municipal 
graft. A great newspaperman and fearless fighter for honest 
journalism, Clark Howell was also a Democratic Party big- 
wig and warm personal friend of the new President. My 
stanch Republicanism appeared to have amusing aspects to 
him, but it in no way affected our friendship. 



14 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

When I telephoned "Mr. Clark," he chuckled about the 
circus going on in Washington before asking what was on my 
mind. 

"Slum clearance," he repeated after me. "But that's one 
of those Roosevelt ideas." 

"It's a completely sound business project," I told him 
firmly. 

"Maybe it's more than that. What area do you have in 
mind?" 

"Techwood." 

"Come over tomorrow," he said after a pause, "and bring 
along your plans." 

The next day Thorne Flagler and I met with Clark Howell 
and explained the provision of funds in the NIRA to clear 
slums and make work. 

"Selfishly," I volunteered, "I'd like to get after the Tech- 
wood Drive area to help stabilize values not far from our 
office buildings, and at the same time earn commissions 
through assembling the land. Thorne here wants to do the 
building, and Flip Burge will draw the plans. From a civic 
viewpoint, such a project will rid the city of one of its worst 
slums and also clean up the terrible conditions around 
Georgia Tech." 

"I have been familiar with that property since boyhood," 
"Mr. Clark" said. "Though it is in the center of the city, it's a 
cesspool of poverty, squalor, and corruption. I'll help all I 
can to wipe it out, and good riddance." 

The gentle, aging Dr. M. L. Brittain, president of Georgia 
Tech, was the next to agree to become a member of the 
Board of Trustees. Herbert Choate, president of the Chamber 
of Commerce, also accepted. In joining us, James L. Key, our 
stormy mayor, assured us of his full support. Herbert Porter, 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 15 

general manager of Hearst's Georgian-American, accepted 
heartily, as did Sid Tiller from labor. 

The sincere spirit of these leaders and the balance of the 
board was so gratifying that I sighed with relief. But I was 
counting my chickens too soon. I couldn't know then that 
prejudiced interests would threaten our mayor with political 
reprisals unless he resigned. Or that certain real-estate brokers 
were to call on Major John S. Cohen, editor of The Atlanta 
Journal, and warn him that until he withdrew from the board 
they would stop their advertising in his newspaper. The 
Major had an unequivocal answer for them. 

"You can all go plumb to hell!" 

A breathless woman burst in upon Herbert Porter at the 
Georgian-American and demanded that he get off our Board 
of Trustees at once. 

"Why should I?" he placidly inquired. 

"Why, my good man," she blazed, "don't you know that 
the buildings for the slum clearance are being designed with 
machine-gun nests on top? They are to be the forts in the 
coming revolution!" 

There was more, lots more. 

Through the summer months of that year, 1933, I was in 
many ways more active than I had ever been before, even in 
the earlier period when overwork nearly finished me while 
creating our office-building corporation in Atlanta out of 
nothing. Perhaps I was working with an even greater purpose. 
I found a freshness in the fast-moving events. There was a 
new look to everything. The city of Atlanta, which, though 
adopted, held my deep affection and pride, caught my eyes in 
a different, larger way, somehow. 

Maybe a part of my nature that the regular run of business 



16 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

matters had never aroused was becoming involved. My father 
had been a broad-gauge man: a bookstore owner, founder of 
the American Booksellers' Association, and for a time mayor 
of our home city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. My mother had 
been the moving spirit that created the Golden Rule Hospital 
for Crippled Children, and was a director until her death. 
Perhaps their hopes and dreams were stirring in me. 

While organizing the Techwood project, I was called in on 
an equally urgent need to clear a slum across town near 
Atlanta University. My help was sought by its president, Dr. 
John Hope, and O. I. Freeman, civil engineer, and W. J. 
Sayward, architect, who had developed plans for a Negro 
housing project on a slum site almost in the heart of this 
great university for colored students. 

The district was known as "Beavers' Slide" because of a 
mishap befalling Police Chief Beavers some years ago. It 
seems that while looking over the area from the brow of a 
low hill one day, the chief observed such lawlessness that in 
his anger he lost his balance and slid down the hill into the 
slums below. 

We applied the pattern set by Techwood experience, and 
before long University Homes for Negroes was in preliminary 
shape, with Dr. Hope as chairman of the Board of Trustees. 

Though Dr. Hope and I had met before, this was my first 
real acquaintance with him. I learned from colleagues of his 
how much his strength had been sapped by tremendous 
labors of devotion to the university, which he had expanded 
through the years. He was frail and tired very easily. Yet I 
felt a great strength in him. 

One smoldering afternoon we climbed a slope of Beavers' 
Slide together. I had to hold his arm to assist him part of 
the way. But when he reached the top, his heavy gray head 
lifted, and his clear blue eyes swept down across the sorry 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 17 

scene below with what I can only describe as militant benevo- 
lence. The thought struck me that here was a man who had 
probably worked harder and braved more scorn than anyone 
my life had ever touched. 

"I've dreamed about this place changing into something 
beautiful," he said, making a wide gesture with his hand. 
"Not pretty, but straight and clean and full of light." 

"We're on our way," I said. "We won't have too many 
problems." 

"Oh, yes," he said sadly, "there will be great difficulties, 
I'm afraid." 

"Do you think we might fail?" 

"Fail?" Dr. Hope smiled. "Of course not. But we will have 
a struggle; and there will be times along the way when we 
will think we're beaten." 

It made me proud to have him speak of the two of us as 
people working side by side. And that is the way it was for 
more than two long years, taking our beatings together and 
enjoying the inspiring moments of slow but steady progress. 
At each rough passage along the road, he mustered from 
somewhere a flare of extra strength, so it seemed that I felt 
his thin hand assisting me as I had helped him on the slope 
of Beavers' Slide that day. 

John Hope was to live to see the kind of beauty he had 
hoped for replace that slum. 

I practically became a commuter to and from Washington 
as federal red tape began to tie knots in our plans. It be- 
came clear that the distribution of federal money to local 
projects would drag along very slowly. First, there was the 
necessity of examining each project separately. Secondly, 
there was the inane order by Harold Ickes, Public Works 
Administrator, that he must personally approve every item of 



18 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

expenditure, even if as little as five hundred dollars. Ickes 
simply would not delegate authority to his own trusted assist- 
ants or to anyone else. But after months of pulling and 
tugging we finally got action. 

On October 13, 1933, Washington approved the com- 
panion projects: Techwood Homes for more than six hundred 
white families, and University Homes for about eight hun- 
dred Negro families, the first and second slum-clearance 
projects by the United States. I returned to Atlanta, bursting 
with stirring plans of action. However, a number of surprises 
awaited me in my home town. 

Three days later, a hundred Atlanta real-estate owners 
and brokers met under the sponsorship of the Atlanta Apart- 
ment House Owners Association. Their focus of attack was 
Techwood Homes, and plans were hurriedly laid to block its 
development in the City Council and Washington as well. A 
committee was appointed, and legal counsel was engaged. 
A "fight to the last ditch" policy was grimly adopted. 

Day by day, this group made charges that hit the front 
pages of the local newspapers, being given more than fair 
space by publishers who themselves were firm in their en- 
dorsement of the slum-clearance projects. The cry was that 
we had failed to inform the citizens of Atlanta that "there 
were hundreds of apartments vacant, thousands of homes 
being foreclosed because their owners could not pay the 
taxes, more than half the apartment houses being operated 
under rent assignment agreements with loan companies." 
Our new housing, it was claimed, should not be constructed 
because there was too much housing already. 

Patiently our Board of Trustees explained that the razing 
and rebuilding of Techwood would in no way compete with 
privately owned properties since overcrowding had jammed 
as many families and more into the hovels to be destroyed 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 19 

as the new homes would accommodate. We pointed out, 
again and again, that only extremely low-income families, 
who could not afford the higher rents required by private 
owners, would be eligible for the new Techwood Homes. 
The difference, we emphasized repeatedly, would be in the 
kind of housing and not in the quantity. But nobody seemed 
to want to listen and the arguments against us continued 
with increasing fury. 

Our opponents acted like the wild-eyed woman who visited 
Herbert Porter as if revolution actually were at hand. No 
logic either economic or humanitarian appealed to them. 
I was bewildered by the sustained ferocity of the attack upon 
us. Though having spent many years in competitive business, 
I did not realize the desperation with which some people will 
fight for tainted money. 

The core of resistance was revealed as the opposition con- 
tinued sending telegrams and delegations to Washington. 
The attack came out into the open when the Federal Housing 
Division wrote us seeking "any information you can give 
regarding the people involved in this wholesale transmittal 
of telegrams which is evidently an organized effort." A list 
of names was enclosed. 

We made a check and established that these telegrams came 
from owners of slum properties who had been collecting ex- 
tortionist rents for years, brokers who managed slum proper- 
ties, trust companies or dummy real-estate corporations that 
concealed the identity of prominent people, and agents or 
home-office representatives of certain insurance and mortgage 
companies. 

I had widened my reading on slum clearance and recalled 
the words of Harry Barnes, Britain's great housing authority. 
"There is no money in housing the poorest people well," he 



20 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

wrote. "There has always been money in housing them ill." 
We were up against those who "housed them ill." 

Hoping to launch a counterattack that would prove effec- 
tive, I sorted out the photographs I had made of the Tech- 
wood slums and took many more. To these pictures we were 
able to attach the names of many people prominent in the 
opposition campaign, identifying them as the owners or 
managers of the slum properties. We sent this material to 
Washington. The pictures were better than words. The 
federal officials swung to our side at least for the moment. 

But the battle was far from over. Formal petitions were 
sent to the Housing Division, arguing for specific changes in 
our program and requesting that the sites for slum clearance 
be altered to include certain additional blocks and the elimi- 
nation of others. Our investigation showed that such shifts 
were advocated, not in the public interest, but simply to in- 
clude real estate that the petitioners wanted to sell. 

Their tirade was completely irresponsible. Especially 
when it claimed: "Beavers' Slide is much superior to the 
average Negro community." I shuddered to think that this 
could be true. 

There was a lighter side, too. Labeling Techwood Homes 
as "Palmer's Paradise," the opposition warned that "this 
queer alliance between Uncle Sam and Uncle Chuck" would 
come to no good end even though "the sorry little shacks 
along Tanyard Creek are not as fetching to the eye as would 
be the brick structures contemplated, nor as ambrosial to 
the nostrils." 

Concentrating, as we were, upon the local fight, we trustees 
didn't realize that even greater obstacles were looming in 
Washington. Construction plans, real-estate procedures, and 
architects' agreements that we had worked out with great 
care were bogging down when submitted to government 



"Somebody Gets the Money" 21 

lawyers. We were getting nowhere fast, so I agreed to go to 
Washington again. While intending to stay three days, I was 
there for six exhausting weeks. Fortunately, when she saw 
that I had no idea when I'd be back home, Laura packed 
some extra bags and joined me. 



3 



THE CIRCUMLOCUTION 
DEPARTMENT 



THE FIRST FEW mornings in Washington I rolled 
out of bed full of pep. By the end of the week I had accom- 
plished nothing, and the pep changed to just plain dogged- 
ness. One real-estate procedure, so sensible and logical that 
its setting up in Atlanta had been practically automatic, held 
me in bewildering conferences with a succession of lawyers 
for days on end, with no conclusions reached. At this rate 
I doubted whether a year of haranguing would result in final 
approval for Techwood. 

One night I went back to the hotel and found Laura 
reading a worn, paperbound volume of Charles Dickens that 
some previous guest had left behind. Dickens had been a 
great favorite of my father's and us children. He guided us 
from listeners, as he read aloud, to readers making our own 
discoveries in literature. I idly picked up the book from 
Laura's lap and saw that it was Little Dorrit, which I re- 
membered well. 

It suddenly struck me that my efforts at dealing with 
government in Washington seemed as stalemated as those 
Dorrit's benefactor had had with Whitehall in London, so 
amusingly described by Dickens nearly a century ago. It was 
then, the reader may remember, that Dorrit's friend sought 

22 



The Circumlocution Department 23 

her release from debtor's prison through Whitehall's 
"Circumlocution Department." This was the proper channel 
simply because "no public business of any kind could possibly 
be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circum- 
locution Department." And it would not act until it had 
compiled "half a bushel of minutes, several stacks of official 
memoranda, and a family-vault-full of ungrammatical corre- 
spondence." In the Circumlocution Department, highly 
skilled personnel "muddled the business, addled the business, 
tossed the business in a wet blanket," and then issued in- 
structions on "how not to do it." 

I turned to this part of the story and read it aloud to 
Laura. The cloudy look in her eyes cleared to sunshine, and 
I forgot my utter weariness as we both burst into laughter. 

The parallel between Britain's Circumlocution Depart- 
ment and our Housing Division's Legal Department was too 
apt to ignore. So the next morning, instead of continuing my 
interminable discussions with the attorneys. I excerpted 
appropriate passages from Little Dorrit. I wrote an introduc- 
tion showing the parallel with Washington legalism. Then I 
had the paper mimeographed and circulated where it would 
do the most good. 

It broke the ice. Where logic, earnest persuasion, and pleas 
had failed of results, satire got action. One lawyer told me 
with a grin that, according to the grapevine, it drew a re- 
sounding laugh from the President. Roosevelt, it was well 
known, ran a highly personalized government that often 
brushed off a multitude of details when they got in the way. 
As a result, my snail-like pace among the lawyers quickened 
to a run, and I returned to Atlanta immensely heartened. 

Such encouragement might have been justified if Atlanta 
had been the only point of housing discussion in Washington. 
But the national publicity given Techwood had stimulated 



24 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

similar projects in other cities, and in each of them the 
pattern of opposition closely followed our own. Even as I 
left Washington, broad attacks by landlords, insurance com- 
panies, and moneylenders all over the country were forcing 
changes in the over-all housing picture. Their objective, of 
course, was to stop the program altogether. Instead, they 
were forcing it into another and, to them, equally unwelcome 
channel. 

With the widening discovery that the National Industrial 
Recovery Act included loans for limited-dividend corpora- 
tions to build low-rent housing projects, capital began to 
cry that it was unfair competition in the money market, the 
building market, and the rental market. The now familiar 
claim that "there is no need for new housing as there's more 
than enough now" was increasingly heard in the land. Their 
main theme was "Keep out of our field and do not take our 
tenants/' which was valid with sound property, but invalid 
when it came to slums. 

Taking these highly vocal opponents at their word, the 
Housing Division adopted the policy that all projects must 
clear slums and rent below the level at which private capital 
could function. Thus, ironically enough, the capitalists 
forced the federal government directly into the housing busi- 
ness for the poorest people since the only way to get rents 
down in a field where no profit could be made without 
exploitation was for the government to do the entire job 
itself. Land could then be purchased for all cash, instead of 
part cash and part debentures in limited-dividend corpora- 
tions. Interest would be at 4 per cent or less on the whole 
investment, instead of 4 per cent on the government loan 
and 6 per cent on the equities. By effecting these and similar 
savings, rents could be substantially reduced. 

In line with this change in policy, the government pro- 



The Circumlocution Department 25 

posed, late in November, 1933, to transfer our two Atlanta 
projects to the Federal Emergency Housing Corporation, 
which had been set up to carry out the altered procedure. 
Each policy change, naturally enough, brought a new ava- 
lanche of difficulties to our long-harried Board of Trustees. 
And the constant pressure of the opposition kept gumming 
up the works. By mid-December, even Director of Housing 
Kohn had begun to vacillate, and we persuaded him to come 
to Atlanta to give our work his personal inspection. He 
brought along a lawyer and a technician, and they met with 
our board and held public hearings. 

By the time Dr. Kohn and his associates were ready to re- 
turn to Washington, the trustees had tentatively agreed to 
transfer both projects, and all the other problems had been 
settled or so it was hopefully believed. I, however, had my 
doubts, for I had already been up against Washington's 
"Circumlocution Department." 

Days went wearily by without a peep from Washington. 
My fellow trustees were busy men of affairs, giving un- 
selfishly of their time, but the unwarranted delay made them 
restless. Letters and telegrams were sent to Dr. Kohn, asking 
him for immediate action. Still no word. Then Clark Howell, 
with three other members of the board, wired Secretary of 
Labor Perkins, official adviser on housing: "UNEMPLOYMENT 
CONDITIONS SO ACUTE IN ATLANTA WE ALL FEEL IT IMPERATIVE 
THAT TECHWOOD AND UNIVERSITY HOUSING PROJECTS BE 

STARTED AT EARLIEST POSSIBLE MOMENT." But Madame 

Perkins was apparently too far behind in her correspondence 
to notice this message at the bottom of the pile. 

"Who's running things up there?" Clark Howell finally 
demanded of me. 

"You're the Democrat," I pointed out. 

He eyed me grimly. 



26 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"If I write a letter to Roosevelt," he suddenly proposed, 
"will you deliver it?" 

"You bet I will!" 

"Mr. Clark" immediately composed a message concisely 
giving the facts of the matter: both projects were ideally 
suited to the President's program; both would make work 
and clear slums; each was headed by trustees personally 
known to the President; everything was ready to start when 
Ickes gave Kohn the O.K. With the letter in my brief case, 
I caught the night train for Washington. 

The next morning I phoned the White House and was 
given an appointment for late that afternoon. I got there 
on the dot and was greeted by Presidential Secretary Marvin 
Mclntyre. 

"Hello, Palmer," he said. "I understand you have a letter 
from Clark Howell." 

"Yes," I said, "and it's mighty important, too." 

"Well," he hedged, "the Boss is about to leave the office. 
I'll take it up with him later." 

"How about right now?" I asked in desperation. "This 
matter is urgent. It's about slum clearance." 

"That's a pet of his," Mclntyre said. "Let's have it, and 
I'll see what he says." 

I handed him the letter, and he disappeared. In about 
three minutes he returned with Roosevelt's voice crackling 
through the open door behind him. 

"He got a kick out of it," Mclntyre grinned. 

Through the doorway, I saw the President sitting at a 
cluttered desk. Catching my look, he gave me a hailing 
gesture. 

"Chuck, it's grand to see you again!" 



The Circumlocution Department 27 

I waved back, warmed by the same friendly smile that had 
greeted me when we first met at Warm Springs, Georgia, 
years before. 

"What sort of Republican are you? Fighting for slum 
clearance!" he called to me. "We're pretty busy around here, 
but I'll stir things up for you. Mac will see to it." 

He waved again as Mclntyre closed the door. 

"You'll hear from me tomorrow," he promised. 

I was on pins and needles the next day until a message 
came through from "Mac" saying that everything had been 
taken care of. Later I was advised that Ickes would act 
favorably on the projects within a few days. I went back to 
Atlanta in excellent spirits, feeling that this time there would 
be no knots in the legal skein. 

Who could stop us now? Who else but U.S. Comptroller 
General McCarl. He ruled the Emergency Housing Corpora- 
tion unconstitutional just three days after my O.K. from 
Mclntyre. That put Ickes's tail over the dashboard. McCarl's 
action, he blasted, was "a distinct violation of the Executive 
Order of the President" and giving the Attorney General 
"no time to do anything else than examine titles under this 
ruling." But Ickes's anger soon cooled. "Until the Comp- 
troller General learns he is not running the Housing Corpora- 
tion," he said more temperately, "we cannot move a hand." 
Who outranked whom? Congress untied this knot by hur- 
riedly passing a bill that made Ickes president of the Federal 
Housing Corporation. 

Meanwhile, fresh attacks were being made upon the 
Atlanta projects and our Board of Trustees, some of them 
sharply personal. Now I became the prime target of vilifica- 
tion: "Land to sell at outrageous prices, hidden interests, 
undisclosed commissions in shocking amounts." 



28 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

So ruthless and well publicized were the charges that Ickes 
put some of his sleuths on my trail. I was investigated for 
nearly a year. The job was thoroughly done. Friends and foes 
were interviewed. It was a novel experience to catch glimpses 
of this detective work. Finally the investigators found, and so 
reported, that any land I owned that might be affected by 
Techwood had been acquired long before the project was 
conceived; that my interest in commissions had been dis- 
closed when the project was first submitted to Washington 
and the commissions then officially approved; and, further, 
that I would not and did not take any compensation for 
services after the projects were transferred to the government. 

It was gratifying to receive the unsolicited comment of 
special agent A. D. Mockabee just before he left Atlanta. 
"Palmer," he said, "if I'm ever investigated, I hope I come 
off with as clean a bill of health as you." 

But valuable time was passing. Ickes became even more 
cautious, though Roosevelt had engineered passage of the 
bill setting up the Federal Emergency Housing Corporation, 
thus clearing away the legal blocks. It was March, 1934, be- 
fore transfer was made of our limited-dividend corporations 
to the new government agency, with our Boards of Trustees 
becoming advisory committees. 

The fight against final approval of the projects rolled on, 
increasing in intensity and prolonging Ickes's hesitation. 
Alarmed tenants vacated buildings on the sites to be cleared. 
Others remained but refused to pay rent. There was general 
confusion and anger among the owners of the properties. By 
mid-April, the Mayor of Atlanta, the President of the Georgia 
Federation of Labor, and many lesser lights petitioned Ickes 
to appoint the architects and go ahead with land purchase 
without further delay. 



The Circumlocution Department 29 

On May 17, the architects' contracts for Techwood were 
signed with Burge and Stevens, and Thorne Flagler was 
made superintendent. Two days later District Judge E. 
Marvin Underwood approved an order for the government 
to buy the land. Federal officials hailed the order as "epoch- 
making." 

A full year had passed since Roosevelt had sent slum- 
clearance legislation to Congress. And there was still another 
delaying action. The Atlanta Apartment House Owners 
Association sought an injunction, and not until July was 
their suit dismissed. So we were off to a good head start. 

That Atlanta was first had its disadvantages. Not only were 
we the guinea pig for each step never before undertaken, but 
other cities besieged us for help. Inquiries came from Nash- 
ville, Chattanooga, New Orleans, Savannah, Lexington, 
Lynchburg, Grand Rapids, Columbia, Montgomery, and 
Macon. Many sent delegations. We were glad to help, but it 
took time and energy. There were also innumerable speeches 
to make in Atlanta and elsewhere. 

What with my own business to tend to besides, and flying 
back and forth between Atlanta and Washington, the day had 
come for some time out. 

Laura said to me, "You need a vacation." 

"I've got to catch up on some of my own business," I re- 
minded her. "And these inquiries from cities all over the 
country about how to set up slum-clearance projects speeches 
to make" 

"I think it's become incurable," she said. 

"What has?" 

"This crusade of yours." 

"Nothing of the sort. It's sound business. Look at the in- 
creased value of central business properties once we get those 



30 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

nearby slums cleared out new playgrounds for children- 
less crime" 

Laura nodded. "You're about a week away from total 
collapse." 

On July 7, 1934, we sailed for two months in Europe. 



4 



CHOLERA 
AND KINGS 



ALL SEEMED comparatively quiet at least as far as 
I was concerned along the banks of the Potomac and the 
Chattahoochee when Laura and I left on the Conte di Savoia 
for Naples. Credentials had been arranged from Secretary 
of State Cordell Hull and Acting Secretary of Commerce 
John Dickenson that would inform other governments that 
I was a qualified investigator of public housing and was to 
be extended every reasonable courtesy. 

"You're an unofficial ambassador," Laura said as we lolled 
in our deck chairs. 

"On unofficial business," I added. 

"Even your vacation," Laura said unhappily, "is unofficial." 

"Well," I grinned, "Washington has given us official per- 
mission to pay all the expenses ourselves." 

"And that's all right, too," Laura said with a smile. 

I retreated back to my own thoughts of Italy and to specu- 
lations of what the enterprising Italians might have accom- 
plished in clearing and rebuilding slum areas. When we had 
visited Italy four years ago, slums never entered my mind. 
Business buildings had been my primary concern, and a 
series of conferences in handsome offices had led to the 
audience chamber of II Duce himself. Mussolini had been 

31 



32 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

most affable, rearing back in his big chair and glaring pleas- 
antly at me with his banjo eyes, grinning now and then 
while his broken English crackled, as we discussed business 
buildings. What, I wondered now, would have been II Duce's 
response if I had asked whether children died more rapidly in 
Naples's slums than elsewhere? 

Consul Howard Withey and I hit it off at once, for he was 
interested in slums, too. He had, in fact, recently completed 
a report, "Municipal Construction and Slum Demolition at 
Naples." He gave me a copy, quickly lined up appointments, 
and assigned William Gargiulo as my interpreter and guide. 

Reading Withey 's report later, I learned that in the past 
five hundred years the center of Naples, a district known as 
Rione della Carita, had been going from bad to worse. It 
was situated on a slope, down which drainage water and 
garbage flowed constantly through the centuries. Its vast 
maze of buildings, crammed with poverty-stricken humanity, 
had developed like cancer cells, feeding on each other and 
slowly spreading farther into the city. The result, Withey 
wrote, "did not constitute the worst slums in Naples, but 
conditions were bad enough to satisfy any except the most 
exacting connoisseurs of squalor. The place was a nest of 
thievery and prostitution and, not infrequently, a breeding 
place of pestilence/' 

Smallpox had spread from an Atlanta slum, so we sent the 
victims to pesthouses. We treated the disease but left its 
source, the slum, alone. 

Not so with the Italians! Cholera became so widespread 
in Naples in 1884 tnat His Majesty Umberto I and several 
ecclesiastical dignitaries visited the city; and, as a result, three 
sections, including the Rione della Carita, were ordered 
wrecked and rebuilt. This initial slum-clearance program, 



Cholera and Kings 33 

called "the disemboweling of Naples," never quite got around 
to the Carita district, but by 1900 a passable job had been 
done on the other two slum sections of Naples. 

The Fascists revived the Carita project in 1931, dividing 
it into seven zones for progressive clearance. On visiting 
zone one, we found that all 1,100 units had been cleared. A 
unit, we noted, meant not an apartment but just a single 
room, since the average occupancy was at least one family 
per room. 

Work was also progressing in zones two, three, and four. 
When all were rebuilt, the buildings would occupy only 
55 per cent of the combined sites, leaving nearly half for 
streets and other open spaces. This was in sharp contrast to 
the past when the old buildings had taken up all but 6 per 
cent of the land. Incidentally, at this time in history, Jacob 
Riis was reporting that certain New York slums covered all 
but 7 per cent of their sites. 

Laws enacted in Italy before the turn of the century pro- 
vided power to condemn slum property and thus made this 
wholesale clearance possible. Now, in 1934, we in America 
were just beginning to explore the problem. 

After a good view atop the new post office we left the 
clearance areas for the adjoining slums that had not yet been 
tackled. They were above the Via Roma, a main boulevard 
of majestic proportions, lined with monumental buildings. 
I particularly recalled the Galleria Umberto I from my 
studies of business buildings during our visit to Naples in 
1930. So we momentarily changed our minds and went to 
the Galleria first. 

This great arcade faces the Via Roma, covering a tremen- 
dous area. Its four main streets for pedestrian traffic only- 
form a cross with a colossal rotunda covered by a blue-glass 
dome. Multitoned marble and terra cotta are used on the 



34 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

facades of the buildings. The streets are of gorgeously 
colored tiles. 

After refreshing ourselves with a Carpano and "Seltz" at 
an outdoor table, we started for the slums. We crossed the 
Via Roma, passing the beautiful buildings opposite the 
Galleria, and suddenly found ourselves in dark caverns of 
squalor and filth. Here no aperitif tables lined the pavements. 
There was, in fact, hardly enough room to walk down the 
street without stepping in the open sewers that ran along 
each side. We passed a street urinal that had overflowed the 
passageway. 

In Techwood our slums were only two layers deep; here 
they were seven. We could see into the ground floors. Each 
single room, with a door opening directly to the street, com- 
prised a complete living unit about twelve feet square. The 
half-dozen layers above them had tiny eighteen-inch bal- 
conies at the single window of each unit. Too small to sit on, 
they served as catchalls and as anchorage for clotheslines that 
stretched across the narrow crevasses of the streets. Groups of 
chattering people huddled miserably together. Occasionally 
a child would dart out from nowhere and disappear across 
the street into darkness. We were relieved and happy to get 
out into the sun again. 

William Gargiulo, our adroit guide, managed to wangle 
a private session for us with Pietro Baratono, High Com- 
missioner, who represented both II Duce and the King. 
Baratono, it was soon evident, knew all about slum clearance. 

"Yes," he replied to my first question, "slum clearance is 
well under way. And I am putting on two thousand more 
men next week. They will clear about sixteen thousand units. 
No, it isn't costing too much. The entire job will run around 



Cholera and Kings 35 

twenty million dollars, with the government's share some 
three million." 

"Why so little from the government?" I inquired. 

"Because insurance companies put up the money. Rent 
pays it back. The government pays the interest. We keep all 
costs down. I set the price we pay for land. Buildings are 
built by contract. Local materials are used. Solid masonry 
mostly. Practically no steel. No fancy business inside. But the 
outside is beautiful," Baratono concluded. "You shall see." 

And so we did. Soon after breakfast next morning, our 
guide called for us in a large limousine driven by a uniformed 
chauffeur. We were taken directly to housing headquarters, 
where the director, Conte de la Ville Sur Illon, awaited us. 

Today, we were informed, we were not to visit slums. We 
had already discovered that Naples still had them in shame- 
ful abundance. Right now we must see some photographs of 
slum areas taken before and after rebuilding. 

Shuttling from table to flat-topped desk, Conte de la Ville 
handed me one exhibit after another. Studying them, I could 
hardly believe my eyes. The first example looked like dens 
of thieves conjured up by Hollywood. The walls of the 
moundlike structures, which lined a railroad track, were 
made of broken paving blocks. The roofs were castoff pieces 
of wood or metal. Stone steps, worn concave by generations 
of shuffling feet, led to other windowless hovels that stretched 
into the distance to a tall smokestack in the far background. 
Bad as these were, I had seen, too often, their counterparts 
in America. 

The Director covered this picture with one showing a 
group of four-story buildings looking much like Carnegie 
Libraries. These were the Case Popolari, Naples's public 
housing. I immediately recognized the railroad track and the 



36 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

tall chimney in the previous photo. A neat wrought-iron 
fence with stone pillars now bounded the railroad. 

"All public buildings," the Director said vigorously, "must 
be beautiful even those occupied by the poor." 

"But that costs money," I said. 

"Only a little more," Conte de la Ville replied with a 
gesture. "And we save on the insides. No frills. No extrava- 
gance. All for utility. All for sanitation. All for good health." 

My skepticism must have shown on my face. The Director 
hustled to the table and opened a large book. Here were 
floor plans done in color. They gave every detail of the truly 
Spartan interiors. Transparent overlays showed how the first 
floor compared with the second, and so on up. Drawn to 
scale, this superlative record book was as concise and com- 
plete as any I had ever seen. 

It developed that the main source of funds was the National 
Institute of Insurance. This gigantic government-controlled 
corporation had vast resources since everyone had to pay into 
it. The Institute's major investments were in the Case 
Popolari. First, because housing was a good risk. Secondly, 
and perhaps of even greater importance, because good hous- 
ing so appreciably lowered disease and mortality rates that 
the Institute's losses were materially reduced. 

The loans were for 100 per cent to publicly administered 
corporations at 5 per cent interest, and 2.7 per cent amorti- 
zation, including fire insurance. Properties remained tax-free 
for twenty-five years. As Baratono had said, the government 
paid the interest. It also maintained the grounds. Conse- 
quently, all the rent had to cover was the amortization, which 
made the rents so low that even slum dwellers could afford 
the apartments. 

Rent for the smallest units of less than 200 square feet was 
only about $1.75 a month. The average size of four rooms, 



Cholera and Kings 37 

exclusive of halls, kitchen, and toilet, rented for less than 
|i3.oo a month, scaled up or down in accordance with the 
ability to pay. This included water, but electricity was extra. 
Nonpayment of rent by the fourth of each month was cause 
for automatic eviction in ten days. 

No subtenants were allowed because, though many families 
had eight or more children, boarders were always welcomed 
to boost the family income. As it was, several of the new 
projects averaged three persons per room, making a full 
dozen in the family. This was, however, a marked improve- 
ment over the average of twelve per room in the Carita slums. 
Incidentally, tuberculosis had dropped two-thirds among 
the people transferred from the Carita District to the Case 
Popolari. 

Our classroom work over, the Director announced that he 
would now conduct us on a field trip. We drove to an indus- 
trial district in the eastern part of the city and soon came 
upon the villa-type buildings and surrounding gardens of 
Case Popolari Luigi Luzzatti. The facades of the buildings 
were in delicate tones of brown and yellow stucco. The 2,547 
rooms were all occupied. Despite the frills outside, there 
were none within. The floors were of concrete with marble- 
dust topping, and just as inexpensive was the wall-bearing 
construction of pumice and concrete. There were no base- 
boards to maintain. Each room had an outside window meet- 
ing the standard requirement of 10 per cent glass to the 
room's floor area. 

The kitchen stoves provided the little heat required in 
southern Italy. Since iron and enamel were in scarce supply 
the sinks were of vitreous material. Wherever possible, 
kitchens faced the north so louvers in the exterior wall would 
let cool air into a closet for food storage. There was no ice- 
box. The glazed wainscot was spotless in the units we saw. 



38 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

So was the rest of the apartment. Laura called my attention 
to the fact that even the corners of the long halls connecting 
the rooms were clean. 

I inquired about bathing facilities and was told of central 
provisions within the project. We took them at their word, 
not knowing what the standard of modesty would be in case 
we asked to inspect the baths. After all, the Baths of Cara- 
calla in Rome some several centuries ago had quite a repu- 
tation for informality. 

Group facilities brought up the question of where the 
children played. There were no porches; only an occasional 
balcony as an ornament, or to save a tenant from falling out 
a window. Nor were there any private yards. Were the 
youngsters confined to their homes? 

Our host smiled in anticipation as he conducted us to 
what he called "the nest," a separate building conveniently 
located on the site. There were, I noticed, no traffic arteries 
to cross to reach it from any direction. "The nest" was, in 
fact, a super day nursery. All of the furnishings were in 
miniature chairs, tables, toilets, washstands and constructed 
of the simplest and sturdiest materials obtainable. 

In the lunchroom the dishes on the cove-edged, Lilliputian 
tables were of machined aluminum. The floors were of cork 
tile. The walls were severely plain, finished in washable 
paint with dado of pleasing light green. Any pictures on the 
walls? There was one II Duce. 

In the room where the children received instruction were 
tiny double desks and straight-backed chairs facing teacher. 
The floor was terrazzo, and the wall dado had a colored tile 
cap. Pictures? There were two this time II Duce and Victor 
Emmanuel III. 

We glimpsed the outdoor playgrounds, were told of the 
maternity clinic and how the children of working mothers 



Cholera and Kings 39 

were cared for. Then we moved on to another project, the 
Duca d'Acosta, on the western outskirts of the city. 

This development of 2,240 rooms was less desirable as it 
took longer to get to work. We inquired about laundries 
since there were no tubs in the kitchens here or at Luigi 
Luzzatti. We were taken to a large basement room where 
some automatic equipment and rows of tubs, many of slate, 
were available for the free use of the residents. The flat roofs 
of the buildings served as drying yards. 

There were fewer children about at D'Acosta, and we 
learned that many of them were at public summer camps in 
the mountains. About 60,000 children from Naples were 
given an arranged vacation that year. After visiting two more 
Case Popolari, we called it a day. 

The next morning, Laura and I set out again with just 
our guide, Gargiulo. There was one development so different 
from the others that Gargiulo said we mustn't miss seeing it. 
It was in a congested area of central Naples, where 100 
per cent of the slum dwellers and slum merchants were 
being rehoused on the same site. This method was called 
"decanting," from the ancient process of slowly pouring old 
wine into new bottles, thus eliminating the dregs. 

The project covered ten city blocks. All the occupants of 
block one were moved into an existing Case Popolari. The 
old block was wrecked and rebuilt. Then the tenants of block 
two shifted across the way to the rebuilt block one. This 
"Going to Jerusalem" procedure was carried on from block 
three to two, four to three, and so on. Finally, when the last 
one, block ten, was finished, the former occupants of block 
one were moved from their temporary quarters to block ten. 
By using this progressive method, all of the slum dwellers 
were rehoused on the same site, and only 10 per cent had to 
leave temporarily. At our visit the job was about midway 



40 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

to completion, and I took motion pictures showing all stages 
of the "decanting." 

Where to house people while their slums are being de- 
molished and rebuilt has always been and still is a very 
serious problem. That the Italians were able to solve it 
through "decanting" gave us an example we could well use 
back home. 



5 



ROMAN 
CIRCUS 



WE HAD much to think about en route to Rome. 
Not that there was much time, for the i4O-mile trip took only 
two and a half hours by direttissimo, nonstop train. Laura 
agreed we hadn't had much rest, but we did have an entirely 
different kind of experience. 

"It's all right to see the usual tourist sights," she said, "and 
I'm glad we took them in on our past trip. Then we saw 
things. I mean, what's left of Pompeii, the museums, Capri, 
and the Blue Grotto. But this time we saw people." 

She had something there. Of course, we had been in a 
limited way with the people of the country before. I'd had 
sessions with businessmen about office buildings and how 
they carried on their work. Occasionally Laura and I would 
meet their wives and families. But for the most part our con- 
tacts had been with the staffs of Cook's and the American 
Express, with hotel managers, headwaiters, guides, cab- 
drivers, and shopkeepers. The relationship was mostly that 
of buyer and seller, not of citizens of different countries dis- 
cussing how each tackled mutual problems such as slums. 

We were getting to know Italy in a way impossible when 
doing the usual tourist rounds. And we liked it. Especially 
the attitude of public officials, high commissioner, direttore, 

41 



42 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

architetto, and all. They were like children showing off 
favorite toys. 

"You know," I mused to Laura, "the way Baratono, De la 
Ville, and Carnelli strutted their stuff makes me wonder if 
their program isn't sort of a dictator's stunt. Most of the 
capital for it comes from the Insurance Institute, which gets 
its money through compulsory payments by all the people. 
Then, too, it wasn't until the Fascists grabbed power that 
slum clearance spread. You remember that the jobs the King 
started back in the i88o's never got around to the Carita 
District, although it was on the original schedule. Maybe the 
Fascists are using slum clearance like the old Romans used 
circuses to pander to the people in order to stay in power." 

"That may be," Laura shot back, "but there's a lot of 
difference between throwing people to savage beasts and 
saving them from savage slums." 

"All right, all right," I placated her. "I thoroughly agree. 
But what I'm driving at is this: aren't the compulsory methods 
being used by the Fascists in Naples and they seem to find 
them necessary totally unsuited to us in America?" 

"Of course they are," Laura replied, "in more respects 
than one. Here all children are herded to state camps. We 
send ours as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. True, there aren't 
many Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops in our slum districts, 
though. When you make these comparisons, you get sort of 
bewildered. I feel all mixed up." 

"Well," I said, "the way it looks to me, there are phases 
of slum clearance, even in our country, where compulsion 
must be used. Take the purchase of land, for example. If 
Judge Underwood had not ruled that the power of condem- 
nation could be applied to buying the Techwood site, land- 
owners would have held out for astronomical prices, and I 
doubt if we could have gone ahead. Anyway, pretty soon we'll 



Roman Circus 43 

be in Rome, where we should find out a lot more. I want to 
talk with Allievi. Carnelli told me Allievi had much to do 
with the King's first slum clearance in Naples and that he 
now lives in Rome. I understand he is quite feeble but gets 
a big kick out of reminiscing." 

Time had flown as fast as our train had passed the olive 
groves and vineyards of the beautiful Terracina and Fascati 
regions. I looked out the window and saw that we were al- 
ready in the outskirts of the Eternal City. 

The Hotel de Russie Grand was just as we had left it in 
1930. There were the colorful gardens where we break- 
fasted each morning. The flowering shrubs and trees of the 
adjoining Palatine Hill were as lovely as ever. From our 
windows we saw the familiar Cleopatra's Needle in the 
Piazza del Popolo, only a stone's throw from the historic 
Tiber. 

The morning after our arrival, I renewed my acquaintance 
with Alexander Kirk, counselor of our Embassy, who had 
helped arrange my audience with II Duce four years before. 
I explained the purpose of our visit and said that, first of all, 
I was extremely anxious to meet Lorenzo Allievi, the con- 
tractor who had worked on slum clearance in Naples during 
the cholera epidemic of the eighties. I also asked to see some 
of the Case Popolari of Rome. Cecil Ma thews, of the Em- 
bassy staff, was assigned as our interpreter and guide. 

Upon returning to the hotel, I found A. Edward Stuntz, 
of the Associated Press, waiting for an interview. We had an 
interesting chat over a bottle of wine, and Stuntz gave me 
some excellent background material on the Italian view 
toward public housing. 

II Duce, it seemed, divided housing into three parts, some- 
what as Caesar had divided Gaul. Mussolini's were Hell, 
Purgatory, and Heaven. "Hell" was for the mendicants and 



44 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

unemployables. They were housed in barracklike buildings 
with common halls for sleeping, eating, and sanitation. 
Erected and maintained by the State, while the standard was 
low, "Hell" was at least clean. 

"Purgatory" gave the unemployed, who were temporarily 
out of work, a rather better break than "Hell." Here families 
were separated in blocks and thus had some degree of privacy. 
However, kitchens, baths, and lavatories were in common 
use. 

"Heaven" was built as a complete community for those 
too poor to pay the rent of private developments, yet above 
the type of tenants in "Purgatory" and "Hell." These 
"Heavens" included schools, playgrounds, infirmaries, ma- 
ternity wards, and day nurseries. The living quarters pro- 
vided complete privacy, having their own kitchens and 
sanitary facilities. Parents were awarded prizes for the 
cleanest homes, and children were taught hygiene. While 
obviously unworkable in a democracy, I had to admit that 
this sliding-scale system of housing the poor had its points. 

The following afternoon, as I was told that no interpreter 
would be needed, I went alone to Lorenzo Allievi's home on 
Via A. Farnese. Though right in the city, it was much like a 
villa. There was a massive entrance door, great windows 
with closed blinds, and a wrought-iron balcony. An aged 
woman answered my ring and led me to the high-ceilinged 
room where Allievi was seated. 

He beckoned me to sit beside him, and as he cordially 
grasped my hand firmly, I had the feeling that his long fingers 
would reach twice around mine. Then in the dim light I saw 
his eyes. They were ringed with bluish circles, but dark and 
smiling in his sallow, cadaverous face. 

"You want to talk with me about slums?" he inquired with 
a strong accent. "You want to know what happened in 



Roman Circus 45 

Naples? I haven't thought about those days much lately. They 
were so long ago," he sighed, "and no one asks me any 
more." 

As I posed some questions, this courtly, friendly, aged 
grandee seemed to sit up a little straighter. His words be- 
came stronger and more distinct, and I understood his 
English better. 

"In 1884," he began, "cholera was killing the people of 
Naples, all kinds, the high and the low. The doctors couldn't 
stop it, and King Umberto stepped in. He had to, or lose 
most of his subjects in the south. There was no telling how 
far the pestilence would spread. Some of the church officials 
went to Naples with the King." 

Allievi got up feebly and took two volumes from the book- 
lined wall. 

"Here are the contracts." He slapped the books together 
with a startling bang. "They give the facts. You're a busi- 
nessman. Facts are what you want, not a lot of fancy recollec- 
tions by an old man." 

"I shall be very thankful," I said. 

"I didn't start the Naples job. It was one of my relatives, 
Antonio Allievi, from Milano. The problem was stupendous, 
and its solution a colossal undertaking. Luckily a law had 
been passed in 1865, and strengthened in 1879, that gave 
cities the right to regulate building. It was first decided to 
go ahead with small contracts, but that didn't work; the job 
was much too big. On October 3, 1888, one big contract was 
let, backed by a syndicate of all the banks in Italy. The state 
gave 75,000,000 toward the total estimated cost of 
250,000,000 gold lire. That included land, streets, sewers, 
and all construction. 

"The work dragged on for years. The trouble wasn't just 
organization. A main difficulty was that the economy of the 



46 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

country changed from free trade between 1884 and 1890. 
This stimulated the building of houses in Rome, Genoa, and 
Turin. The consequent demand for labor and materials in 
the north made them hard to get in the south. Besides, the 
capital charges were so heavy during construction and 
tenanting that interest ate up the government's 75,000,000 
lire in the first five years. Another trouble was a law per- 
mitting real-estate banks to do speculative financing. They 
in turn, tried to boss the contractors. Things got so bad that, 
by 1892, the banks chucked up the whole business, and the 
ship sank. I was made manager in 1894. A second contract 
was signed in 1894, and then a third in 1897. A big job takes 
lots of paper work, you know." 

As he talked, Allievi kept flipping the pages of the con- 
tract books with his long fingers. Though I guessed that he 
hadn't referred to them for many years, he found the data 
he wanted unerringly. 

"I was thirty-six at the time," he continued. "Just the 
right age to take hold. Anyone older is all washed up!" That 
gave me a start because I didn't feel a bit "washed up." 
Allievi continued: "It is true now as it was then: the world 
is made for young men. 

"I found that houses for about six thousand people had 
been completed. There also were many more foundations in, 
and several buildings under roof. We had 14,000 workers, and 
I did the best I could with what I had. The very worst pest- 
holes were cleaned up. We never reached the Carita District 
because state help didn't continue long enough. Also, it was 
not the kind of job for private capital in the first place. 

"By 1900 the ship we had plugged up in 1894 sank again. 
All assets were turned over to the Bank of Italia. With 
5,000,000 lire coming in each year from the houses then 
rented, and writing off most of the investment, the project 



Roman Circus 47 

was put on a sound basis. And what did we learn? Just this: 
slum clearance can't be done with private funds. Poor people 
haven't the money to feed and clothe themselves, let alone 
pay a rent sufficient to cover capital charges. That's what I 
learned. I learned what cannot be done." 

Allievi spoke the last words slowly, letting each one sink 
in. His chin dropped to his chest, his hands were still, and 
his sad eyes seemed to study the delicate pattern of his Aubus- 
son rug. The reverie lasted but a moment. 

"But you," he said, "don't want to know what cannot be 
done. You want to know what can be done. Maybe I can 
help you. Maybe I can give you something to think about." 
Allievi 's enthusiasm ran away with him once more. He 
picked up a pad and pencil. 

"Look, this is a slum," and he drew a large square. "Now, 
this is where the middle-class people live," and he drew a 
smaller square. "Finally, here is where the rich folks have 
their homes," and the square he drew was the smallest of the 
three. 

"When people get richer they want better houses and 
better clothes. In your country they also want better automo- 
biles. The old clothes they give away. Now what happens? 
The people who are given the old clothes get at least better 
than they had. Those who trade for the secondhand houses 
and automobiles get better houses and autos than they had, 
or naturally they wouldn't trade. Do you see my point? Every- 
one gets something better when a middle-class man moves up 
and builds a home among the rich folks. He has his new fine 
home, which vacates his old. Some family moves up from the 
slums to occupy it. Then the slum house is destroyed. Simple, 
isn't it? Just see to it that people who can afford to do so build 
better homes. Next, let their old homes, still in pretty good 
shape, go to the slum dwellers. Then tear down the slums." 



48 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Some theory that! I stared at the old man in surprise. In 
the years ahead I would hear it dusted off, in America, as a 
highly original idea. That it never worked anywhere made 
no difference to those who advanced the theory back home. 
Their object was to confuse thinking and thus slow down 
slum clearance. That it won't work is simply because the rich 
are counted in the thousands while the poor number in the 
millions. The whole reasoning is absurd. 

And yet here was this old man, who had seen what public 
housing can do for the poor, deluded by this myth. But I 
had learned much from him that was sound, and most of his 
thinking was true as his next words proved. 

"The world is getting better," he said as I got up to go. 
"It will be better still when all the slums are gone." 

Allievi gathered up the two old contract books. He held 
them horizontally, as one does the Bible sometimes. 

"Will you permit me to give you these?" His long fingers 
held the books fondly. "They are in Italian, and I'm afraid 
you won't find them of much use. Mostly they cover the legal 
angles of what I did. But this map shows where we worked 
in Naples." 

I was too dumfounded at this generous gesture to speak. 

"Wait," he said with a warm smile. "I should like to write 
your name and mine in them. And the date, too." With a 
flourish, he inscribed both volumes at his Florentine desk. 
"Here, with my sincere best wishes to you and your great 
country." I noted he had not included the Roman numeral 
XII after the date as loyal Fascists did to show how long they 
had been in power. 

We walked to the door, which was opened by the white- 
haired woman who had greeted me. A shaft of sunlight caught 
Allievi's face. His smile was like a benediction. Again our 



Roman Circus 49 

hands clasped. Slowly I drove back to the Russie and went to 
the garden to collect my thoughts. 

Was there anything to the fact that Allievi omitted the 
Fascist Roman numeral XII, and merely wrote " 18/7/34" as 
the date in the books he gave me? Was that his way of saying, 
"I am not a Fascist"? 

It was too early in the trip to make valid comparisons with 
our visit in 1930. Also housing studies were bringing me 
closer to the grass roots this time than commercial building 
studies had before. 

What about the leaders of the two countries, Roosevelt and 
Mussolini? This was not just idle speculation. I had discussed 
Mussolini with Roosevelt, who was then governor of New 
York, while seated next to him at an informal 'possum supper 
in Georgia in November, 1930, shortly after having seen 
II Duce. 

Roosevelt's questions about Italy were casual. So I referred 
to the session with II Duce only incidentally. But Roosevelt 
wanted to know what sort of a "guy" I found Mussolini, say- 
ing he liked to hear about leaders, whether or not he agreed 
with them. 

As memories crowded back about our long discussion so 
many years ago, I fell to wondering about America and Italy, 
Roosevelt and Mussolini, and how they fitted into slum clear- 
ance now. How long would a country that seemed to delight 
in the antics of its Duce stick to slum clearance as an instru- 
ment of national policy? 

But what about our country and slum clearance? Did Presi- 
dent Roosevelt know more about it than the single section 
of the NIRA that got our program started in order to make 
jobs to help solve the depression? And would slum clearance 
be dropped when full employment came again? 



50 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Surely that might well become one of the great issues of 
our day. Time would tell. It was way too early for any con- 
clusions yet. I'd better get back to my wife. It was my guess 
that Laura's afternoon tour of museums couldn't compare 
to my talk with Allievi and the daydreams that followed. 

Alexander Kirk phoned the next day to say Harry Hopkins 
was in Rome and wanted to talk to me in the Embassy at 
three o'clock about the housing studies I was making. I 
quickly accepted. Cecil Mathews arrived at the hotel soon 
after, and we headed for the local headquarters of the Case 
Popolari. 

There we met Ing. Comm. Innocenzo Constantini, Diret- 
tore Generale dell Institute per le Case Popolari di Roma. 
He was all that his name and titles implied a stuffed shirt. 
But he had capable assistants, and we got right down to the 
business at hand with him and his staff. 

It developed that there were around 82,000 people living 
in Rome's older public housing. What was now being built 
was costing 10 per cent more than normal commercial con- 
struction because they had to hustle to house those being 
moved from slums between the Colosseum and the Victor 
Emmanuel Monument as a new main avenue was hurriedly 
being cut through the district. Although the work was rushed, 
it couldn't keep pace with the families displaced for the new 
avenue. So four hotel-like structures were hastily erected, 
each in a separate quarter of the city. A hotel housed about 
a thousand families. At first a general kitchen was used, with 
lots of stoves and a common eating room. But this didn't 
work out as the women objected to other women seeing what 
they cooked. So a compromise was made by cutting up the 
general kitchen into smaller ones for every three or four 



Roman Circus 51 

families. Each housewife had her own two charcoal rings for 
cooking and a separate sink. 

Construction contracts were let after Constantini's own 
estimators had totaled the probable hours of labor and quan- 
tities of materials. Then they estimated the jobs themselves 
and set a high and a low price. This was kept secret, and all 
bids above or below those two figures were thrown out. 

I was puzzled at this, to say the least. It was obvious that 
Constantini would not accept the higher bids. However, if a 
bid was below their lower estimate, why, I asked, didn't they 
make the contract and save the extra money? But Constantini 
said no. They had found that was as bad business as paying 
too much. His estimators were skilled men and knew what 
each job should run. They even had their own testing labora- 
tories for materials and their own brickyards. If a contractor 
tried to build too cheaply, he would skimp on the specifica- 
tions to keep from losing money. Consequently, Constantini's 
policy was to deal only with those builders whose proposals 
made sense to his estimators. They called in the contractor 
closest to their middle figure and then dickered with him. 

In Rome, financing, management policies, and rents fol- 
lowed about the same pattern as in Naples. Here, too, the 
incidence of tuberculosis was reduced, being in the Case 
Popolari only one-fifth of that in the slums. 

Constantini brought out some other interesting figures. 
The birth statistics showed that twenty-three babies were born 
per annum to one thousand people in the slums, while in the 
Case Popolari the rate was only sixteen. Since a dictator's 
power rests upon the size of his armies, he naturally favors a 
high birth rate. I therefore inquired whether the lower birth- 
rate in the public housing displeased the Chief of Govern- 
ment. 

"Yes, II Duce wants more babies everywhere," Constantini 



52 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

replied, his face clouding. "We encourage families to have 
children. The state offers cash benefits and provides free 
maternity care. I wish that the birth rate was higher in our 
Case Popolari. But the final result is not too bad. For, you 
see, deaths in the Case Popolari are only eight per thousand 
against seventeen in the slums. Since our public housing has 
three-quarters as many births as the slums and only half as 
many deaths, the balance is very favorable indeed." 

Thus the poor were benefited, and Mussolini got his 
armies, anyway. 

Mathews seemed to enjoy translating Direttore Constan- 
tini's little speech, which was delivered with many appropri- 
ate gestures. Later I checked to make certain that Mathews's 
figures were correct and found they were. Since it was still 
several hours before I was to see Hopkins, I suggested that we 
inspect some housing. After prolonged expressions of appre- 
ciation all around, Mathews and I left and picked up Laura 
at the Russie. Architetto Giorgio Guili, from Constantini's 
office, came along to make our survey official. 

Our first stop was at the Albergo Popolare, one of the four 
hotels providing temporary shelter for families displaced by 
the work on the new avenue through the city. It looked not 
unlike a Florida East Coast hotel of the iSgo's, but of stucco 
instead of wood. The rambling wings were three or four 
stories high, with a sizable porch here and there. The build- 
ing was topped by a clock tower. 

The main floor was similar to that of any other hotel except 
that it was as plain and bare as a jail corridor. It led directly 
to the common kitchen, which had been cut into smaller 
rooms, as Constantini had told us. It was around noon, and 
each of the kitchens had its quota of bustling housewives. 
Most of them acted rather sullen, as if they resented our 
presence as well as that of their neighbors. Arsenic leaves 



Roman Circus 53 

hung on a wall, discoloring it. Guili told us that arsenic in 
that form was supposed to kill bugs, but he doubted it. I 
refrained from asking what it might do to children. 

We inspected the two-story group houses that were nearing 
completion around the hotel. Well sited as part of the larger 
project, the floor plans developed the greatest possible square 
footage into livable area. The materials used were inexpensive 
yet long-lasting. 

As families moved from the Albergo into these smaller 
units, the central building would have served its purpose as 
a temporary hotel. Then it was to be converted into a com- 
bination community center, school, day nursery, clinic, and 
management office. The entire conception of the project was 
so practical that I felt many of its ideas could be adapted for 
use in America. 

Guili said that nearby was a particular building of an 
entirely new design that we mustn't miss seeing. So shortly 
we found ourselves within a jagged circle of six- to nine-story 
apartments, all connected and facing on central gardens and 
a playground. In the middle was the building Guili had 
mentioned an eight-story structure of four wings making a 
perfect cross. The wings were joined by an open spiral stair. 
The floor levels were staggered, as with a ramp garage back 
home. Thus the entrances to the central stairs were at half- 
floor rather than full-floor intervals. 

This interesting and unusual design had several practical 
aspects. There were no public corridors and fewer stairs to 
climb. The wings had but two families per floor, each with 
a private entrance, and only one means of access, the cork- 
screw stairs. 

When I asked Guili if there wasn't objection to so many 
stairs, he insisted that we go and see for ourselves. While 
there appeared to be eight stories, we found that there were 



54 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

but seven. This illusion came from the staggered floor design. 
Where one wing would have ended below another, a laundry 
drying yard was made in the space added when carrying the 
parapet of the higher section to the lower, so that they would 
conform in height. 

In climbing the stairs, we discovered that the steps were 
wide and the rise gradual. Made of gaily colored terrazzo, the 
stairways were open on all sides except where the wings 
joined. The climb to the top was not tiresome and well worth 
the breath-taking view of the beautiful gardens below us. 
I noticed built-in benches at intervals and was prompted to 
ask Guili again if they found any resistance in renting the 
upper apartments. His answer was that the higher apartments 
were rented to young couples, and the lower floors to older 
people with large families. 

On the roof there was what looked like a large fire hydrant. 
Since the building was of solid masonry, there seemed no 
need for such elaborate protection. But upon inquiry, Guili 
informed me that the water was used to clean the stairs. It 
was turned on late each night and the water simply cascaded 
down the stairway. No need to scrub each step on your knees. 
Would I like to see it work? Since Laura and Mathews were 
only halfway up the stairs, I declined and saved them a 
drenching. 

After dropping off Laura at our hotel, I headed for the 
Embassy and my appointment with Ambassador Long and 
Harry Hopkins. I had known Hopkins casually when he was 
with the WPA in Atlanta, but had never met "Judge" Long, 
as his lawyer friends called him. I found that he was as lanky 
as Hopkins. 

We gathered in a large living room, where Hopkins 
sprawled in a big easy chair, while the Ambassador made the 



Roman Circus 55 

usual polite inquiries. Was the Embassy staff being useful in 
the studies I was making? Was there anything more that they 
could do? I assured him that everything was just fine, and 
we got around to talking about what I had seen in Italy. 
Then Hopkins suddenly sat up and began to take notice. 

"Damn it!" he exclaimed. "I envy you, Palmer. You are 
making a close study of housing while I'm only hitting the 
high spots. I would give anything if I could stay abroad longer, 
but I have to get back to Washington. The President sent 
me over to look at housing and social-insurance schemes in 
England, Germany, Austria, and here in Italy. Fat chance 
on my whirlwind tour. Say, tell me about the Techwood job 
you're doing in Atlanta." 

Hopkins's alert mind was jumping around, as usual. After 
listening for not more than a minute, he interrupted me. 

"Have you seen what's going on here in the Pontine 
Marshes?" 

"I've heard about the wheat fields and the new cities," I 
replied, "but I don't think that's quite in line with my study 
of slums." 

"It's great stuff they're doing," Hopkins said enthusias- 
tically. "I drove through the district, and the cities they are 
building from nothing will knock your eye out. It's not slum 
clearance, no. But they are taking people from the relief 
roles thousands at a time and resettling them on farms in 
the Pontine because they can't make a living in the cities. 
Like your slum-clearance business, it's finding the poor a 
place to live. You simply must see it!" 

"I'll fit it in somehow," I promised. 

"And when you come back home," he suggested, "I want 
us to get together in Washington. You can tell me what you 
have learned that might fit in with my job on WPA, and 
how you think our housing program should be set up. I hear 



56 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

that you are taking lots of movies and I want to be sure to 
see them. O.K.?" 

''Right!" I readily agreed, happy to find someone from 
back home who was as interested in housing as I was. 

Early on the following Tuesday, July 24, our party set off 
for the Pontine Marshes. Constantini had assigned an English- 
speaking assistant, Benedetto Polizzi, to accompany us. 
Mathews brought along his fourteen-year-old daughter, 
Gisella, who sat wtih Laura and chattered away gaily in 
English, though sometimes she couldn't find words fast 
enough to suit her. 

As with most engineers, Polizzi was not talkative. However, 
I got him to tell us of the problem they had encountered in 
controlling the water of the marshes. It had baffled the best 
of them until Polizzi's boss, Signer Natale Prampolini, took 
hold. 

"You see the road we travel." The engineer pointed at the 
magnificent highway we were following. "It is the famed 
ancient Roman road, the Appian Way. It used to be flooded 
by the Pontine Marshes, and malaria spread from them. They 
cover about one-ninth of all Italy. Before the time of Caesar, 
the marshes grew larger until the Appian Way became im- 
passable; and their stench made the air unfit to breathe. 

"Then Caesar took a hand, and many others, too, but none 
succeeded over the centuries. At long last, II Duce" Polizzi 
rolled his eyes in awe "decided that something must be 
done and placed Prampolini in charge." 

Constantini's engineer was a methodical little man. His 
sallow skin and dull eyes made him look as if he had been 
in the marshes long enough to get malaria himself. But when 
talking on his favorite subject, he came alive, his face colored, 
and his dark eyes shone. He began to rattle off dates, showing 



Roman Circus 57 

the speed with which Prampolini worked. And so it went, 
all the way to Littoria, our first stop, until my ears were 
ringing. 

Mile after mile beside the good roads we saw antlike proces- 
sions of men pushing wheelbarrows of dirt from new drainage 
canals. Polizzi said 160,000 persons had already moved into 
the new towns and farmhouses. Within the year, between 
60,000 and 70,000 more would have been transplanted from 
the squalor and overcrowding around Venice in the north to 
the farms and new towns of Pontino in the south. 

Each unit in the development consisted of 140 farms fully 
equipped with buildings, livestock, and farm implements. 
Each settler paid half his crop to the government until he 
got on his feet; then he could buy his farm on a twenty-five- 
year basis. The main crop was wheat, which was good for a 
loan at 75 per cent of the market price the day it was delivered 
to the government granary. Shops in the cities were rented by 
lot, a public drawing being held to determine who were to 
be the merchants. 

The sources of opposition to this mammoth project of land 
and human reclamation had a familiar ring to me. The 
farmers howled that the whole idea was bad because there 
would be overproduction of food products. Landowners 
howled that there was enough housing already. When the 
state offered those who would conform to the development 
scheme an outright grant of 3.8 per cent of the cost, or to 
loan them the entire cost at 2i/ per cent for forty-five years, 
practically nobody accepted. So the state had no choice but 
to do the job itself. 

We hadn't forgotten about our little guest, Gisella, who 
wanted to see the Balilla Camps. The one we visited was on 
the ocean near Sabaudia. There we met Anna Crisci, officially 



58 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

in charge of the Opera Nazionale Balilla, who shooed her 
hundreds of little charges from their barracklike buildings to 
march in review for us. The boys were all in identical shorts, 
the girls in white jumpers. They stood rigid as the flag of 
Italy flew over them from its tall pole near the ocean's edge. 
On signal, the shrill shout of "Du-shay, Du-shay, Du-shay f 
Du-shay, Du-shay!" burst suddenly upon us and as suddenly 
stopped. 

Anna Crisci didn't seem to be the sort to run such a 
regimented show. She was middle-aged and motherly, and her 
dark eyes softened as she let the children break ranks and 
scamper over the beach to play in the water. 

I asked about the inside of the barracks, and she took us 
to one where a group of four- to six-year-olds were napping. 
Sleepy eyes turned toward us as they rolled over on their 
cots to see the visitors from a foreign land. I couldn't resist 
the temptation to spring my idea of a Fascist salute. A shriek 
went up, and so did every arm, followed by a pandemonium 
of childish giggles. 

Here were the children from the slums of Rome. They 
were clean. They were healthy. They seemed to be happy. 
But they were regimented to within an inch of their lives. 
Training to be soldiers? I didn't know. But if so, there 
wouldn't be much individual initiative in the armies of II 
Duce. 

Hopkins had been right. The Pontine was evidence that 
much could be done to help people who were badly housed. 
But it also showed me that great harm could come of it if 
done under a dictator. I was silent and thoughtful as we 
drove back to Rome. 



6 



NOT-SO-GAY 
VIENNA 



WE WERE on our way to Vienna on July 25 when 
we heard the shocking news that Chancellor Engelbert Doll- 
fuss of Austria had been assassinated the day before. This was 
more than just another political murder, for it reminded the 
world of the assassination, in 1914, of Archduke Ferdinand, 
of the same country, which lighted the faggot that started 
World War I. 

I fell into conversation with a fellow passenger, Bronislas 
Jonasch, an Austrian delegate to the League of Nations. 
When he learned that I was an American, he had no hesita- 
tion in talking about the tragedy, which was on everybody's 
tongue. 

"Yesterday," he said freely, "I was in Venice with my good 
friend, the Vice-Chancellor of Austria, Prince von Starhem- 
berg. A few days remained of our holiday before the Prince 
must return to Vienna to be there while the Chancellor was 
away. You see, Dollfuss was leaving to confer with Mussolini 
next week. The Prince and I were enjoying ourselves at the 
Lido when the horrible news came. The Prince, now the 
Acting Chancellor, flew back to Austria last night." 

"What," I inquired, "does this signify?" 

"The Nazis are making a Putsch" Jonasch replied em- 

59 



60 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

phatically. "They did not want to move yet. But when their 
spies learned that Dollfuss and Mussolini were to have a 
secret conference, they had to act. They killed Dollfuss to 
keep him from making a pact between Austria and Italy." 

"Does that mean war?" 

"No, not now," Jonasch said. "The Nazis are not ready. But 
they know the people of Austria look to the Italians for help. 
Hitler had hoped for an Anschluss but found that it could 
not be brought about by peaceful means. So he decided to 
use force. This is his first step." 

We found Vienna under martial law, very tense and with 
barbed-wire barricades everywhere. World War II was in the 
making. 

After we had unpacked at the Hotel Bristol, I went to see 
Tom Hughes, commercial attach^ at our legation. Despite 
the crisis, he arranged an appointment with Dr. Musil, the 
grand old man of Austrian housing, and assigned Boxberg 
from our legation as my interpreter. 

We found Dr. Musil calmly carrying on as though nothing 
much was happening in the world except the housing of 
those people who could not house themselves. His genial 
manner, wide blue eyes, ruddy round face topped by a bulg- 
ing forehead, and squat frame combined to make him seem 
like a friendly genie straight from a book of children's fairy 
tales. 

Instead of needing to ask questions to get Musil going, I 
found him way ahead of me. He began to reel off figures by 
the yard. I interrupted at the first chance and said that, 
while I appreciated his desire to help me, a lot of his time 
would be saved if he just gave me some published informa- 
tion covering the statistics. Dr. Musil was such an interna- 
tional authority on housing that I wanted to hear his own 
experiences rather than someone else's figures. 



Not-So-Gay Vienna 61 

"Has your basic policy on housing," I inquired, "varied 
with changing governments?" 

"No, of course not," he unhesitatingly replied. "The fact 
that poor people do not have enough money to pay for decent 
housing, and if left in slums menace the state, is so generally 
admitted by all political parties that I wonder why you ask?" 

"I raised the question," I explained, "because in America 
private business does the housing and feels that government 
should keep entirely out of the field. The argument is that 
even slum clearance by the state will eventually lead to 
socialism or Bolshevism." 

"That is very interesting," Musil said, "because it was our 
own fear of Bolshevism that stimulated the housing program. 
You see, Austria is dependent on export trade. Yet it must 
compete with other countries that are protected by tariffs, 
and also have great advantages in raw materials and modern 
machinery. These difficulties are partly met by paying low 
wages. But to pay low wages and still keep workmen satisfied, 
you must keep their rent low, too. With no export trade after 
the World War, and with much of our territory taken from 
us, we were forced to an internal economy. And we had to 
move quickly. Our population was steadily falling. People 
left because there were no jobs. Many of those who stayed 
were unemployed. Social and political unrest invited the 
Russians. The only way to keep Bolshevism out was to make 
jobs." 

"And construction," I put in, knowing the answer, "makes 
more jobs than any other form of endeavor." 

"Yes," Dr. Musil agreed. "Even with a decrease in popula- 
tion, we needed more homes because those who left the 
country were mostly single people. And besides, the many 
marriages after the war when the soldiers came home had 
greatly increased the number of families. Then, too, there 



62 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

was terrible misery in the Vienna slums. Three-quarters of 
our houses were of one room, and a small room at that. High 
rents forced many families to take in lodgers. Conditions 
were so bad that we converted troop barracks into housing. 
So, you see, there was the economic reason. But the political 
reason was even more pressing. The people were beginning to 
feel that any change would be better than what they had. 
Revolution threatened. Bolshevism. 

"We reasoned," Dr. Musil continued, "that if people had 
decent homes at rents they could afford, the rising clamor for 
change would die down because our citizens would be more 
content. If the family is the foundation of the state, then it 
is the function of government to see that healthy, happy 
family life goes on. And to save ourselves, we had to work 
fast. Rents were so high that they frequently took over half 
of the workmen's wages. The government had to step in. 
The program went so well that more than 64,000 houses have 
been completed. It was through such a program that we 
escaped Bolshevism. 

"While housing bridged the gap in our economy for over 
a decade, it is not a device that can be used forever. With 
our building program nearly complete, and with export 
trade not revived because of world conditions, we still have 
about thirty per cent unemployed. Agitators are busy among 
our people again. The lamentable assassination of our Chan- 
cellor is tragic evidence of the way things are going." 

I expressed my sincere regrets and asked Dr. Musil just 
one more question. 

"Where does the money come from for all this housing 
with Austria's economy so depressed?" 

"It comes," he replied, "from what we call the Wohn- 
bausteuer, or housing tax. This tax is graduated so that the 
people who have lavish homes pay the highest rate, and 



Not-So-Gay Vienna 63 

those who have frugal homes pay the lowest rate. Last year 
it worked out so that the rent tax from the tenants of the 
eighty-six most expensive apartment buildings just about 
equaled that paid by 350,000 workers. The Wohnbausteuer 
has produced enough revenue so that our housing program 
has been carried out entirely without loans." 

My head was beginning to spin. This method of financing 
sounded like a sleight-of-hand performance and would bear 
looking into. But I did not want to take any more of the 
friendly doctor's time and said good-by with regret. As I 
glanced back, I glimpsed the grand old man of housing, Herr 
Doctor Engineer Musil, dully staring out the window. 

The burial of the late Chancellor of the Austrian Republic 
the next day was without disturbance, but it held all the 
drama of the ages. Arriving at the place reserved for the 
Legation of the United States, we found that our seats were 
almost beside the casket. It was soon borne to a gun carriage 
and, behind eight black horses, slowly moved away. The 
measured thump, thump, thump of the death march beat 
beneath the funeral dirge and the muffled drums. The great 
bell of St. Stephen's Cathedral cast in 1683 from Turkish 
cannon tolled its booming note for hours. The air seemed 
to vibrate with an overwhelming sense of imminent danger. 
What would become of this country and traditionally gay 
Vienna, now steeped in sorrow? Even greater tragedy awaited 
its people. 

With Austria in mourning, I had some spare time on my 
hands and spent it in studying the material Dr. Musil had 
given me on the Wohnbausteuer. Its basic principle was that 
those who spend more money on their living quarters must 
pay higher taxes. In the ten years since its inception it had 
produced over $100,000,000. For three of these years a total 



64 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

of $13,000,000 was spent annually for housing. This equaled 
20 per cent of the city's entire revenue. Wohnbausteuer tax 
rates ranged all the way from about $.40 to $25.00 a month. 

Landlords were prohibited from absorbing this tax and 
were paid 10 per cent to act as agents of the government in 
its collection, not exceeding $5.00 a month. Business inter- 
ests argued that the money for housing should not have been 
taken from taxes but should have been financed by loans. 

The proponents of the Wohnbausteuer countered that 
rents must be kept so low that income would not carry the 
capital charges; that in the final analysis the funds must come 
from tax moneys, so why burden the projects with the addi- 
tional costs of interest and amortization? And, anyway, 
where would they get the loan needed? That seemed a valid 
question, for private business had been letting housing strictly 
alone. 

With no capital charges to meet, tenants paid only enough 
to cover the necessary services: water, sewer tax, chimney 
cleaning, lighting of public space, insurance, maintenance of 
buildings and grounds, plus the cost of administration. This 
made the monthly rent per living unit about $3.70 on a 
typical workman's accommodation of approximately 400 
square feet, including anteroom, toilet, one large living- 
sleeping room, and a combined kitchen-dining room. 

On Monday, July 30, Boxberg and I got going early, be- 
cause I had only a day in which to see Vienna's urban housing 
in the morning and the suburban after luncheon. Our first 
stop was the Karl Marx Hof, a mile-long building arcaded 
over intersecting streets. The structure was like a continuous 
chain with links forming spacious interior playgrounds and 
gardens. The six thousand residents of this immense building 
comprised a nearly complete community under one roof. 



Not-So-Gay Vienna 65 

Women were gossiping over the mechanical washers in the 
laundries, running their clothes through the great steam 
mangles, hanging their wash in the gas driers. Children were 
studying and playing in the kindergarten we visited, which 
was furnished much like those we had seen in Italy. A minia- 
ture home was set up in the center of the room. The Frdulein 
in charge was teaching a group how to keep the playhouse 
clean. 

Next we drove to the even larger George Washington Hof. 
What extremes in political ideology, I thought with a smile- 
George Washington and Karl Marx. Of less severe architec- 
tural design, the George Washington Hof housed ten thou- 
sand people. Every flat had a balcony and at least one room 
that caught the sun. The central wading and swimming pools 
were used for ice skating in season. 

During lunch I was told of the brickyards, sand pits, and 
limestone quarries the city owned; how streetcars, as well as 
trucks, were used to transport materials; and of the way con- 
tracts were let by competitive bids, with the Gesiba, the 
wholly owned municipal corporation, furnishing all building 
supplies. 

As we drove to Leopoldau, designed by Richard Bauer, a 
great houser of middle Europe, I learned that so much un- 
employment and such a drastic shortage of food had faced 
Austria in 1919 that about a thousand subsistence homesteads 
were built in the suburbs of Austrian cities. Lack of funds, 
and protests by farm organizations that the projects would 
compete with them, slowed up the program, but it was re- 
vived, because of returning unemployment, in 1932. 

By this time we were approaching acres of green meadows, 
fruit trees, and cottages. Started just two years before, 
Leopoldau now had 425 completed homesteads. The cottages 
were built in pairs, straddling lot lines to save one exterior 



66 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

wall. The front and back of each duplex were of masonry, 
but the end walls were of wood and easily removable for 
construction of additions, when needed. A loft remained 
unfinished for future use. 

The tenants furnished much of the labor but worked in 
groups to prevent too much attention being given to the 
specific home each would finally occupy. The cost per dwell- 
ing had been estimated at $1,019 but ran only $825 because 
the workers produced 20 per cent greater output building 
homes for themselves than when previously working for 
straight wages. That was a little detail well worth remem- 
bering. 

Each unit had slightly less than one acre, divided one-fifth 
for the house and flower garden, one-fifth for vegetables, one- 
fifth for fruit trees, and the remainder for a co-operative cash 
crop marketed by the community as a whole. This common 
area was unfenced to facilitate cultivation. Hedges near the 
homes were flower-bearing to provide food for the honeybees. 
Lectures on farming were given three times a week. 

The settler paid 10 per cent down, which his labor during 
construction usually produced. There was no interest the 
first year, 2 per cent the second and third, 3 per cent the 
fourth and fifth, and from then on 4 per cent until the debt 
was liquidated. These payments included i per cent for 
amortization. 

The people were all busy and happy, the children active 
and gay. Every home was wide open to us. The many we 
looked in at random were well maintained. 

After a full day, which kept me busy taking notes, I invited 
my host, Doctor Engineer Herman Neubacher, director gen- 
eral of Vienna's public housing, and his assistants to have a 
"quickie" before parting. While at the Bristol bar, Neubacher 



Not-So-Gay Vienna 67 

glanced at a late newspaper and turned to me with a wry 
smile. 

"I am now in jail," he quietly observed. "According ta 
this paper, I am in the custody of the police for involvement 
in the Nazi Putsch that resulted in the Chancellor's assas- 
sination." 

"Impossible!" his assistants exclaimed. 

I was nonplused at this surprising turn of events and 
could only suggest another drink. It was, however, politely 
refused, and everyone clammed up. Much later I learned the 
complete story. Dr. Neubacher was arrested and thrown into 
a concentration camp for more than eighteen months. Fol- 
lowing the Anschluss, he became the first mayor of Vienna 
under the Nazis. 

So perhaps Dr. Neubacher had not been quite as calm as 
he seemed when he read me the account of his arrest. 



7 



MOSCOW 
MENU 



WE STOPPED in Warsaw en route from Vienna to 
Moscow. Although the war had ended sixteen years before, 
its destruction was still evident on every hand. Thousands 
were living in barracklike buildings with a dozen people to 
each room. Less than 7 per cent of the rent money was being 
collected. Poland, from our quick glance, was a shambles. On 
the edge of the city a few multistory apartments were going 
up, but that was about all. 

We crossed the border and transferred to a Russian train 
on its wide-gauge rails. Entering the diner that evening, we 
were handed an eight-page menu on newsprint between stiff 
covers. The various items were printed in columns of Russian, 
English, and French. I counted sixty-three varieties of hors 
d'oeuvres, thirty-one soups, eggs in every possible style, in- 
cluding foo yung. Also listed were all kinds of meats, fowl, 
fish, cheeses, and sweets. The untidy tablecloth and napkins 
were ragged. Unappetizing odors came from behind a half 
partition that hid a wood-burning cookstove. So this was the 
crack Negoreloje-Moskau Express! 

"What a wonderful choice of soups 1" Laura exclaimed 
hungrily. "The Russian borsch ought to be best. Let's try 
that." 

68 



Moscow Menu 69 

When a waiter in keeping with the unkempt diner came 
for our order, I asked for the hot borsch, but he shook his 
head. 

"Vegetable soup?" I inquired. 

Again he shook his head. 

"Bean soup?" 

"No." 

"What kind of soup do you have?" 

"No soup." 

That took care of the thirty-one soups. Laura examined the 
menu and then looked up at the waiter hopefully. 

"Do you have any eggs?" 

"No eggs." 

"Fish?" Laura asked. 

I knew the answer to that one. "No fish." 

"Well," I said as I realized that the menu was expressly 
printed as propaganda for the outside world, "what do you 
have to eat?" 

"Stew." 

"Anything else?" 

"Bread." 

"Anything else?" 

"Tea." 

We told the waiter to shoot the works. 

The stew came in broken-handled skillets direct from the 
stove and was served without plates. Each portion consisted 
of a single lump of meat and one boiled potato. They looked 
so unsavory that I thought a snort of vodka might help to 
get them down. 

Oh, yes, they had vodka, both the wheat and the potato 
variety. I asked the waiter to bring what he thought best, 
as Laura and I had never tasted it. Having observed, the day 
before in Warsaw, how Soviet aviators and Polish officials 



70 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

toasted each other back and forth, we knew that vodka was 
taken neat. So when our liqueur-sized glasses were served, we 
followed the custom. 

The first taste was not unlike Georgia corn whisky, which 
slowly trickles with a warm glow to the stomach. But the 
similarity ended there, for the vodka never seemed to reach 
the digestive system. It started down the throat and then 
exploded in the esophagus. 

That menu was typical of Russia. Its bountiful variety of 
entrees were simply meant to show what it would be nice to 
have if they only had it. But they did not expect you to be 
such a fool as to believe that they really did have it once 
you were inside Russia and could see for yourself. 

Back in our compartment we found that the fumes of tea, 
samovars, Russian tobacco, and the Russians themselves, had 
us gasping for fresh air, so I raised the window for the night. 
On awakening the next morning, our whole compartment 
had turned from nondescript green to reddish brown. All 
that could be seen of my wife in the lower berth was the moist 
outline of two closed eyes. Everything else blended in the 
dust from the steppes of Russia that had blown in during the 
night. We dug ourselves out and fled to a breakfast of caviar, 
black bread, and tea. 

At the station in Moscow, barefooted women took over 
the train. They, instead of men, were the wheel tappers, 
brakemen, and general utility crew. A fleet of ancient 
Lincolns had been provided by Intourist, the Soviet Travel 
Bureau, to handle the passengers from their "crack" train. 
The man and wife who had been in the compartment next 
to ours objected as much as we did when porters started to 
put the luggage in one Lincoln and a lot more of us in 
another. We didn't want the luggage out of our sight, and as 
the other couple was also headed for the Hotel Metropole, 



Moscow Menu 71 

we arranged that the four of us, with our joint luggage, 
would be transported in one Lincoln. 

Thus we stood next to each other while in line to show 
our passports when registering at the hotel. The wife of the 
Russian became increasingly nervous as we waited. Finally 
she asked Laura to step aside with her for a moment, and I 
watched as they conversed in whispers. When they resumed 
their places, the Russian woman seemed more at ease. My 
wife later explained to me that the woman wanted to tell 
Laura that her traveling companion was not yet her husband, 
so that Laura would not be surprised when they registered 
under different names. 

Russia was living up to advance notice of unorthodoxy in 
many ways. 

Polished, gracious Loy W. Henderson, secretary of the 
Embassy, welcomed us. After the usual felicitations, he said 
he had just the man for our guide and interpreter Philip 
Bender, on the Embassy staff although a member of the 
Russian secret service. We, of course, weren't supposed to 
know that he belonged to the OGPU. Anyhow, Henderson 
explained, it was especially helpful to have a guide with 
inside connections because he could take us where an official 
with less influence would hesitate to venture. 

Then I visited with egg-bald, grinning William C. Bullitt, 
our first ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Repub- 
lics. That afternoon, he said, he was presenting baseball 
equipment to the Russians, and there would be a game. The 
Embassy staff would play, and I was asked to help them out. 

After lunch, Bullitt drove Laura and me to the playing 
field, which looked like a hastily refurbished city dump. 
Though awkward with the bat at first, the Soviet team soon 



72 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

caught on. The Ambassador showed flashes of his former skill 
at Yale. No accurate score of runs was kept; it was that sort 
of game. I soon withdrew from active play to take movies, 
as no one else was recording the first game of baseball in 
Russia. Formal presentation of the equipment to the Russians 
by the Ambassador ended the afternoon's sport. 

That night after dinner, Laura and I went to the Park of 
Culture and Rest, the northern sun still shining, to watch 
the people of Moscow at play. At the entrance, two gardens 
were so planted with small, contrasting flowers on a hillside 
slope that they formed easel-like pictures of Stalin and 
Kaganovich, his brother-in-law. The few people in the park 
stood and gaped more than they used the primitive para- 
phernalia provided for their amusement. 

The most popular device was a spar about the size of a 
telephone pole. Two six-foot uprights kept one end of the 
spar about shoulder-high above the ground, with a steel rod 
through its butt. The other end rested in a crutch of similar 
uprights. But instead of a steel rod piercing the pole to 
support it, this end lay on what was obviously an old inner 
tube. The tip of the spar was fitted with an eighteen-inch 
board and a leather harness that passed over the user's 
shoulders and between his legs to secure his chest against 
the board. When he was strapped in place, willing helpers 
pulled the spar down on the inner tube as far as it would go 
in its slingshot crutch, then released it with a shove, and the 
rider found himself flying through the air with the greatest 
of ease in a perfect parabola on the tip of the spar. When 
he was past the zenith and coming down in an arc, I glanced 
to see where the poor fellow's head would crash to earth. At 
that point stood another mammoth slingshot uncocked, and 
down came the spar on that inner tube. It gave to within a 



Moscow Menu 73 

couple of feet of the ground, then snapped into place, and 
the rider circled back to the starting point, where he landed 
safely on his feet. 

Nothing we had yet encountered in Russia seemed normal 
to us. Certainly not the amusements of the Park of Culture 
and Rest. Nor the subway construction, which had resulted 
in sunken pavements throughout the city. To add to our 
bewilderment, when we returned to the Hotel Metropole 
we found a shirt-sleeved orchestra playing in the ornate cen- 
tral court where the elite of Moscow, in full evening dress, 
were sitting down at midnight for their main meal of the day. 

The next day I started digging into the story of housing 
and found that a general program did not get under way 
until 1928, eleven years after the Revolution. By that time 
any sort of shelter was better than none at all. 

Henderson had a schedule arranged that Bender and I 
followed. F. P. Tockmechev, president of the Moscow Hous- 
ing Co-operative, took us around. He was a friendly, seem- 
ingly harmless fellow, and I got a kick out of the way his 
pride kept letting the cat out of the bag. 

He related with great gusto how the state encouraged 
workers to save money for a 10 per cent down payment on 
a co-operative housing project. The state would then put up 
the remaining 90 per cent at i per cent interest and 90 years' 
amortization. That is, 10 per cent down and 90 years to pay. 

Tockmechev went on to prove how well the co-operative 
scheme was going by citing worker response. They liked the 
idea so much, it seemed, that many had saved, not a mere 
10 per cent, or a miserly 20 per cent, but the whole 100 per 
cent. What did the American gentleman think of that? 
Wasn't it wonderful! 



74 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

I had my doubts, so I innocently inquired where were 
these co-operative projects that had been built. 

The President of the Moscow Housing Co-operative 
blandly admitted that there were none. The state, unfortun- 
ately, had been unable to carry out its part of the deal since 
it was unable to obtain the necessary materials. 

Tockmechev's glee over the savings that had as yet pro- 
duced no apartments for those who had saved ten times the 
down payment, reminded me of the eight-page menu on the 
"crack" Russian train. The workers had no homes, and the 
dining car had no food. 

Tockmechev explained that since all land was owned by 
the state, there was no charge for land use and no taxes; no 
interest during construction; no common kitchens or baths. 
Then another "fact" popped out of his hat. He said that by 
law the "sanitary norm" was not less than nine square meters, 
ninety square feet, per person. That was another juicy item 
that wasn't on the menu, for I remembered figuring out from 
my study of the Russians' own published reports that their 
housing projects averaged but thirty square feet per person. 
That's just room enough for a single cot with a space two by 
six left over for living, cooking, eating, and bathing. 

The first project we visited had five-story, walk-up build- 
ings that covered about 20 per cent of the site. The open 
spaces were crossed by dirt walks. Untended masses of ragged 
flowering shrubs were hemmed round by bark-covered log 
rails. Here and there were benches under the trees. 

Near the apartments were unpainted picket fences on 
which knee-high felt boots were drying. Bedraggled women 
shuffled along the dusty paths. They wore dark-colored aprons 
over long skirts and under heavy, shoddy jackets. What 
looked like dustcloths were wound around their heads. 



Moscow Menu 75 

Then we visited a creche, or "red corner." The building 
was of wood, unsealed, and it was dark within. The children 
were pasty-faced and dull-eyed, and though Laura tried to 
prompt them, not one smiled. There was no color in the 
single room; not even a picture of Stalin on the wall. The few 
tables were bare boards, and there were not enough castoff 
chairs to go round. It was a depressing scene, and we were 
relieved when we left. 

Next we inspected an apartment building that Tock- 
mechev, surprisingly enough, suggested I choose at random. 
Plaster was peeling from the walls of the narrow, unpainted 
concrete stairs. The apartment we entered was better than 
its outside promised. Though drab and unattractive, there 
was more space than I had anticipated; at least, so it seemed 
in the main living room. In addition, there was a combina- 
tion kitchen and dining room, plus a bath. An elderly woman 
was at home; her daughter and son-in-law were at work; her 
two young grandchildren at the creche. That made three 
adults and two youngsters living in two rooms. On leaving, 
I glimpsed several folding cots stowed away under one of 
the beds. 

As we went to the fifth-floor laundry clothes were dried 
on the roof I asked Tockmechev about tenant selection. He 
said it was on the basis of need. Rents were 10-20 per cent 
of income. But just a moment; he wanted to correct his 
statement about tenant selection. It wasn't always given to 
those who most needed it. Housing was also used as an incen- 
tive to get workers to produce more. Factories had signs say- 
ing that more productive workers would get higher pay and 
better housing. 

We found the laundry crowded with dilapidated, obsolete 
machinery and driers. The cossack-bloused manager shrugged 
and said that the laundry was not much used, anyway. From 



76 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

what Laura and I had seen of the homes and the people, 
this was not hard to believe. 

I found Bender's presence especially helpful the next day 
when I photographed Lenin's tomb in Red Square. Just the 
month before, Ambassador Bullitt's secretary had been ar- 
rested, held in police court for over an hour, and had the film 
she had snapped of the tomb taken from her because she 
had neither a permit nor a member of the OGPU accompany- 
ing her. 

When we came up to the entrance of the massive sepulcher, 
Bender said a few words in Russian to the statuelike guards, 
and they instantly stopped the long, shuffling line of people 
filing past the mummified body of Lenin. The picture-taking 
over, we went down the broad steps into the crypt. The 
marble walls of the stairway were of an ultramarine shade I 
have never seen before or since. It was highly polished and 
translucent with blue-white facets that sparkled like dia- 
monds in the indirect light. Lenin's body reminded me of the 
wax figures at Madame Tussaud's in London. 

The following morning, Loy Henderson asked if I would 
be willing to confer with the Russians charged with building 
the Palace of the Soviets. As it was to be a gigantic, office- 
building type of structure, the architect was anxious to get 
the ideas of a man in that business from America. 

It so happened that while president of the National Asso- 
ciation of Building Owners and Managers of the United 
States and Canada in 1931, I'd had official correspondence 
with the Amtorg Corporation, the trading company for 
Russia, about the use of our association's professional serv- 
ices in the design of office buildings. But nothing had come 
of it. 



Moscow Menu 77 

To go into the problems of the Palace of the Soviets with 
Russian officials would be interesting but, it seemed to me, 
of little value. However, an appointment was made, and 
later in the week, I had a session, which lasted for hours, with 
Boris M. Yofan, chief architect for the construction of the 
Palace of the Soviets by the Presidium of the Central Execu- 
tive Committee of the U.S.S.R. The Russians went in for 
window dressing even with their titles. 

Yofan brought in a lot of his associates for our conference. 
While he understood English fairly well and spoke it in- 
differently, from the vacant looks of his helpers as the hours 
dragged by, I doubted if any of them had the slightest idea 
of what was going on. As for me, I was soon bored stiff. As 
usual, the Russians were talking big plans and having only 
a hazy idea of how to go about them. At one point I asked 
Yofan about the design of the interior. 

"The Great Hall," he replied, "will seat 21,000 people, 
be 459 feet in diameter, and 328 feet high with no columns." 

"But where in the building is this Great Hall to be?" 

"In the middle." 

"You mean that a i,365-foot-high building will be erected 
around and above the Great Hall?" 

"Certainly," Yofan replied without hesitation. 

"How about carrying without columns all that super- 
structure over the clean span of the 459-foot diameter 
of the Great Hall?" 

"We think it can be done by proper distribution of the 
weight. What we are not sure of is how to design the foun- 
dations. You see, the subsoil of Moscow is affected by the 
Moscow River. Lately we have had some trouble in our sub- 
way construction." 

I knew about that little matter. I had seen the caved-in 
streets in the center of the city while walking from the 



78 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Metropole Hotel to our Embassy. Nobody seemed to pay any 
attention to the sunken pavements, and traffic simply avoided 
those particular streets. I later learned that the superin- 
tendents of subway construction had been summarily tried, 
some of them shot, and the rest sent off to Siberia for counter- 
revolutionary activities. In this case the poor devils had really 
been convicted for not knowing how to build a subway, which 
wasn't surprising since they had never built one before. 

That was the "trouble" in subway construction to which 
Yofan referred. Now in building the Palace of the Soviets, he 
was obviously worrying about his own skin. But it was none 
of my affair, and I was glad when I was at last able to get 
away. 

Why the Russians should be wasting time and energy on 
such a weird project as the Palace of the Soviets instead of 
sticking to the crying need for housing was beyond me. And 
why were they building a subway when their transportation 
problem could not compare with their housing problem? 
There was no more reason for the subway, which went 
nowhere in particular, than for the Palace of the Soviets. The 
specifications for the Palace reminded me again of the elabo- 
rate menu and the foodless dining car. Window dressing. 

Our departure from Moscow had been scheduled for 
August 7, but the Intourist Bureau notified us that our 
reservations were for the following day. 

When I asked the stolid woman clerk at the Metropole for 
our passport, she seemed amazed. 

"But, Mr. Palmer, I do not have your passport." 

"Don't have our passport?" I said in surprise. "It was left 
here, as required, when we registered." 

"Yes," she admitted, "that is true. But we are required 



Moscow Menu 79 

to send all passports to the municipal government of Moscow, 
the Mossoviet, to be examined. That's where yours is now." 

"All right, let's send over and get it," I suggested. "There 
is plenty of time before the train leaves this evening." 

"But that is impossible," the clerk declared. "Today is a 
Rest Day, the Mossoviet is closed. No one can get your pass- 
port, and you will have to wait until tomorrow." 

Here was trouble for sure. It would mean another day lost 
from the all too few in Berlin. I was beginning to feel that 
I couldn't get out of Moscow soon enough. There was no 
use in arguing with the woman clerk. In this fix, I thought 
of Bender. I phoned him at the Embassy, and he came over 
to the hotel at once. 

At first the obstinate clerk gave him the same song and 
dance she had handed me. Then he suddenly switched from 
English and snapped out a few words in Russian. The woman 
stiffened, executed an abrupt about-face, and opened a drawer 
behind her. Without a word of explanation, she yanked 
out our passport and handed it to Bender. He snatched it 
from her and passed it to me with a grim smile. 

When Laura and I discussed the incident later, we decided 
that the clerk had forgotten to send our passport to the 
Mossoviet, and it was too late to correct her mistake when I 
called for it as the Mossoviet was closed for the Rest Day. 
Therefore, she would get in trouble if she gave it back to 
us without the official stamp. But when Bender showed up, 
she knew that he could get her into even greater trouble. 
So she had chosen the lesser of two evils: trouble with the 
Mossoviet rather than with the OGPU. 

We were beginning to see another side of these Mongolian, 
Asiatic people, a people so foreign to us that we could find 
no common contact with them whatever. All of them seemed 
to live in perpetual fear. It had always been so, from the 



80 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

days of the Czars. Survival was uppermost, no matter by what 
means. Agreements were not expected to be kept if later 
found to be disadvantageous to either party. It was as much 
part of the code of the Russian to save his own skin, regard- 
less of his word, as it is part of our code to keep our word, 
regardless of our skin. 

It all summed up to the conclusion that the Russians 
would do what they considered to be for their own best 
interests at the time, regardless of pledges, and they expected 
you to act in the very same way. To follow any other course, 
such as keeping your word if it would hurt you to do so, was 
so foreign to their training and experience that to them it 
was incomprehensible. 

As we pulled out of Moscow, I kept thinking of the Russian 
bear that walked like a man, and of Boris Karloff in Franken- 
stein. They were indeed very much alike. 

We found ourselves the only non-Russians on the train. 
All of the other compartments were occupied by Ambassadoi 
Litvinov and his entourage. Here was a chance to observe 
the upper-crust Russians at close quarters. The best oppor- 
tunity came at dinner that night. 

When we stepped through the door of the diner, the 
steward held up a hand and growled, "Verboten." However, 
as we saw two unoccupied seats, we chose to ignore his order. 
Pushing by him, we sat down at a table with another couple 
who were fairly well dressed in normal continental attire. 
They glowered at us and continued their meal. 

This time there was no eight-page menu for the dinner 
was table d'hote. We could tell from the sound that those 
in back of us were still on the soup course. The pair at our 
table had arrived at the main entree of fricasseed chicken. 
After separating the meat from the bones, they piled it on 
the knife and consumed it in that unorthodox way. It was 



Moscow Menu 81 

not a simple feat since the chicken was covered with a butter 
gravy. 

Laura and I watched them anxiously as they tackled a salad 
of cucumbers with oil dressing. Surely the slippery cucumbers 
would slide off the knife. However, they weren't given the 
chance, for the knife was used as a flipper and, with the mouth 
held close to the plate, the cucumbers were expertly flipped 
down the gullet. 

After observing the common, bold use of toothpicks not 
covertly wielded behind the hand as in most European 
countries Laura and I escaped to our compartment without 
mishap, either from staring at the diners or from having 
busted in on Litvinov's entourage. 



8 



BERLIN HOUSING 
SUBSIDY BUT 



"BECAUSE OF that senseless delay in Moscow," I 
said to Laura, "I've missed an appointment at the German 
Foreign Office." 

We were in our rooms at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. Laura 
was writing to the children and looked up at rne archly. 

"You were supposed to have a vacation," she pointed out. 
"Remember, dear?" 

"It's not in our luggage," I said with a grin. "Must have 
forgotten to pack it when we left home." 

"Bosh!" she said, and went back to her letter writing. 

There was a knock on the door, and in came T. S. Wander 
from the Nationale Radiator Gesellschaft, a subsidiary of 
the American Radiator Company, who had very kindly 
offered to make the rounds with me. Being in the building- 
supply business and a long-time resident of Berlin, Wander 
cut many corners in getting at the facts and was an effective 
and friendly companion, interpreter, and guide. 

Our first appointment was with Dr. Adolf Friedrichs, 
president of one of the largest banks handling real-estate 
financing. At his office we encountered an even sillier custom 
than the Fascist salute in Italy. There the stiff arm was con- 
fined to official contacts. In Berlin, however, everybody was 
doing it, doing it, and snapping out, "Heil Hitler!" 

82 



Berlin Housing Subsidy But 83 

In morning suit, wing collar, and striped tie, Dr. Fried- 
richs's informal manner contrasted with his dress. He volun- 
teered that he could be most helpful if he discussed only the 
part private funds played in financing public housing. 

"You might say," he began, "that the Reich subsidizes 
private institutions to get them to lend money for public 
housing in much the same way the Reich subsidizes rents. 
When it is found that tenants cannot pay the normal rent, 
it is reduced to what they can afford. And for the private 
lending institutions who claim that they cannot afford to 
take a risk many can and should but won't the Reich re- 
moves the risk. 

"Here is how it is done," the banker explained. "The 
Government Unemployment Insurance Company supplies 
the first 25 per cent, or the risk capital. The next 35 per cent 
is borrowed from a mortgage bank, which is guaranteed 
against loss. The remaining 40 per cent comes from a private, 
unguaranteed loan at 5 per cent. This latter loan holds an 
underlying lien so secure that 60 per cent of the investment 
in the entire project would have to be wiped out before any 
loss could be suffered by private capital." 

This big banker was certainly giving us the unvarnished 
facts, and I listened intently. 

"There is an interesting side light," he added. "Many of 
the private lenders decry the subsidy that keeps rents down. 
But they never object to the subsidy and the guarantee of 
their loans by the government is a subsidy that keeps private 
capital flowing into public housing." 

"Are you familiar," I asked this enlightened capitalist, 
"with the terms of the National Housing Act, which estab- 
lished a Federal Housing Administration in the United 
States last June?" 



84 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Only in general," he replied. "It guarantees loans, too, 
doesn't it?" 

"Yes," I said. "The credit of our government is pledged 
for much more than the 60 per cent your government as- 
sumes. But our law requires that an insurance fund be built 
up through premiums paid by the borrowers. It is believed 
that this fund will furnish enough protection to forestall any 
call on the government guarantee. However, without the 
pledge of federal credit in the first place, the securities of 
the Federal Housing Administration would have no market. 
So it gets back to the same situation in both countries- 
private funds flowing into housing only when guaranteed by 
the government. Do you, Dr. Friedrichs, have a like ar- 
rangement?" 

"No, we haven't," he replied. "But let me ask you, if the 
insurance fund built up by premiums from the borrowers 
will prove adequate to protect your government, why didn't 
your private moneylending institutions adopt the device first 
and keep the government out of their field?" 

Why not, I had often wondered myself. 

"It has always been my impression," he went on, "that 
capitalists in America feel the less the government has to do 
with them the better. But it may well be in the United States, 
as in Germany, that the viewpoint of private business is 
largely influenced by forces it won't admit are there. I mean 
that when afraid to take the risk itself, private business wel- 
comes the government carrying that risk so long as private 
business gets the returns. On the other hand, if the govern- 
ment tries to keep any of the returns for itself, private busi- 
ness claims interference in its field. Frankly, I can't see what 
the outcome will be of this reluctance on the part of private 
capital to assume the normal risks it has assumed in the past. 
But here in Germany the result seems inevitable more and 



Berlin Housing Subsidy But 85 

more government in business, for which business can only 
blame itself." 



Wander and I drove to our next appointment and found 
the major interest of Dr. Friedrich Schmidt, the Minister 
of Works, was slum clearance. 

"We can make more jobs with housing than with anything 
else!" he exclaimed with conviction. "And when we combine 
housing with slum clearance, we have the perfect made-work 
programmaking better homes and making better people! 
Making better homes gives employment, not just where you 
build, but where the materials come from, too the forests, 
the quarries, the brickyards, the steelworks, and on the rail- 
roads that transport the materials." Dr. Schmidt's clear, gray- 
blue eyes shone behind thick glasses. "And slum clearance 
makes better people, especially the children. Sometimes the 
old folks are too set in their ways to be reclaimed, but not 
the children. They are like little plants. Move them from 
the polluted, sour soil of the slums to the clean, fresh earth 
of new housing, and they react as all living organisms do to 
the sunshine. They bloom!" 

After this poetic outburst, Dr. Schmidt gave us lots of 
facts and figures before I returned to the Adlon. 

I found a letter there from Clark Howell, which reported 
that Techwood continued to drag. "It is slow business," he 
wrote, "and I doubt that there will be much to show when 
you return. The best part of it is that the opposition has 
apparently surrendered to the inevitable, which means that 
the work will go forward but with the usual government 
red-tape delay." 

Next day Wander took Laura and me to Neue Scholle, a 
border city development. The homes were of masonry in- 



86 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

stead of wood, the yards neatly fenced to keep the cows, pigs, 
chickens, and ducks apart. Plots varied from 6,000 to 10,000 
square feet and were well planted with fruit trees and orna- 
mental shrubs. There was no common cash crop, and each 
family sold its own surplus individually. 

Title to all land remained in the city, which gave it control 
for redevelopment to a different use if and when the need 
arose. Only a leasehold right was sold to the tenant. Although 
the leasehold estate could pass by inheritance, it could not be 
sold. If the tenant wanted to move, the homestead reverted 
to the city at a reasonable price, thus preventing speculation. 

Private capital was "frequently allowed" in the words of 
our German informant to take a 40 per cent first mortgage 
on the improvements at 41^ per cent plus i per cent amortiza- 
tion. The balance, or risk capital, was furnished by the state. 
This was certainly subsidizing businessmen in a big way, with 
government taking the first 60 per cent of the risk. 

We talked with a fat, jolly housewife standing in the midst 
of her quacking ducks. She said that she and her husband 
were able to meet all installments on the homestead from 
the sale of their vegetables and fowl. There was also enough 
left over to feed themselves and their three children. Four 
years before, they had been on relief because her husband 
was a day laborer with only part-time work. He still couldn't 
find a steady job, but now when unemployed he kept gain- 
fully busy by helping her on the homestead. 

Laura wanted to know how, since they were on relief, 
they had got together the nest egg for the down payment and 
the livestock. 

They had worked that out, the housewife explained, by 
helping to construct the buildings, their own and their 
neighbors'. The money for stocking the place was put up by 
the state and added to their mortgage. Now, after four years 



Berlin Housing Subsidy But 87 

on the land, they felt reasonably secure. The other families 
were satisfied, too; in fact, there was a long waiting list. 

Next we visited city projects that had been completely 
financed by public funds, 30 per cent from the Reich and 70 
per cent from Berlin. Tenants came from the low-income 
group, and rents were jointly subsidized by city and state. 

Corner balconies were staggered by setbacks in the build- 
ings so that no balcony overlooked another. Built-in flower 
boxes topped the balcony rails; prizes given for the best 
accounted for their perfection. Sun decks on the roofs were 
especially popular as playing areas for the children. Clothes 
were hung in automatic driers in the laundries. 

These laundries were all that the Russians' were not. 
There was no cluttering of equipment here. More than 
enough room was left around the giant mangle for a house- 
wife to stand back while feeding sheets into its iron maw. 
The mechanical washers and rinsers were set up in a step- 
saving production line. There was no charge for the use of 
the laundry. 

Prussian efficiency had been demonstrated before, but it 
was easy to see that business and government were way off 
the track in Germany. Just how far off the track was to slap 
me in the face as Wander and I visited over a drink in the 
Adlon bar. 

The talk turned to the likelihood of war. There was no 
doubt that the Germans were getting ready for it. Wander 
edged closer to me. He was fidgety and glanced over his 
shoulder. 

"Here's what happened yesterday afternoon," he whispered, 
"to my next-door neighbor, Herr X. He had been talking 
too much. Nothing really bad, but he criticized some Nazi 
policies. I told him he shouldn't, no matter how he personally 



88 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

felt. Well, yesterday afternoon, Herr X was coming home 
from work, and his little boy, twelve years old, met him. 
They were walking along, hand in hand, talking about family 
matters when two Storm Troopers stopped them. No ques- 
tions were asked. They simply commanded Herr X to go with 
them immediately. 

"When my neighbor wanted to know why, they snapped 
that he would find out soon enough. They wouldn't let him 
see his wife first, or tell him where they were taking him. 
Off they marched with Herr X, while the boy ran home to 
his mother with the frightening news. Late last night she 
finally located the police station where her husband had been 
taken. But he was no longer there. Frantic with fear, she 
told the Storm Troopers that she would like to provide some 
blankets for her husband since she had heard that the con- 
centration camps were cold. They replied without compunc- 
tion that her husband would never need blankets again." 

"Is this story true, Wander?" I asked. 

"Before God!" he declared. "I talked with the poor 
woman this morning. If you had been there to listen, you 
would know it is the truth." 

So in hundreds of such human tragedies were the seeds 
of war sown. 



9 



CROWDED 
AS KIPPERS 



THE FIRST THING I did when we got to London 
was to catch up on my correspondence and review the notes 
made on the Continent. 

On the trip to Europe in 1930, the viewpoint of most 
Continentals seemed at variance with ours while that of 
most Englishmen was in harmony on fundamental ques- 
tions. It was likely, therefore, that the way England tackled 
her housing problem would fit in better with American ideas 
than that of the countries we had just visited. Too many of 
the slum-clearance methods used in the autocratic countries 
were at cross-purposes with our democratic process. 

My first call was on James Somerville, Jr., our professorial, 
capable assistant commercial attache, who, after warm greet- 
ings, sat me down with the Embassy files on British housing. 
He brought my attention particularly to an official notice, 
dated April 3, 1933, to all Housing Authorities from the 
British Minister of Health. 

"In the view of His Majesty's Government," it began, 
"the present rate at which the slums are being dealt with is 
too slow, and they look for a concerted effort between the 
Central Government and the Local Authorities immediately 

89 



90 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

concerned to ensure a speedier end to the evil, and an end 
within a limited time. 

"For over twenty years the Local Authorities have had 
the duty of inspecting and recording the condition of all 
working-class property in their area. The Local Authority 
should, therefore, be able to take immediate action." 

This was no mere paper pronouncement. It was backed by 
the Housing Act of 1933, which provided each Local Au- 
thority with an annual subsidy of two pounds, five shillings 
about eleven dollars then for forty years for each displaced 
person rehoused. This was to be matched by the Local Au- 
thority with three pounds, fifteen shillings about eighteen 
dollars then per house for the same period. Since the Ex- 
chequer grant was on a per-person basis, it gave the Local 
Authority more money than it had to provide on a per-house 
basis. 

Within a year an excellent start had been made, as shown 
by the Minister of Health's report to Parliament stating that 
"these programs provide for the demolition of 254,753 houses 
and the rehousing of 1,187,173 peoples." 

Here seemed to be a plan along democratic instead of 
demagogic lines. It was the people's program. The local 
community made the findings and did the job. The central 
government helped with the subsidy and could prod the 
laggards. 

These reports, however, were from the government. But 
what about the business viewpoint? Somerville immediately 
produced the findings of the National Housing Committee. 
This up-to-the-minute report was from a group of business 
and professional men exclusively. Its chairman was the 
Right Honorable Lord Amulree, president of the Building 
Industry Council of Review. 

This unanimous report brought out that the first compul- 



Crowded as Kippers 91 

sory housing laws were passed in 1850, but the compulsory 
education act not until some twenty years later; that it was 
more important to house a child decently than to send him 
to school four hours a day, then toss him back into a slum 
for the remaining twenty hours, and expect him to rise 
above that environment. 

The Amulree Committee, that group of private enter- 
prisers, then spoke for itself: 

"Fit and proper housing is a national essential, in the 
absence of which our existing social legislation must prove 
unfruitful. As long as overcrowding and slums exist, the 
doctor is attempting a cure without being able to touch the 
root of the disease; the teacher has the full force of environ- 
ment against him; the social reformer is fighting a battle in 
which he cannot hope for decisive victory.'* 

The committee also expressed itself on the economic phase 
of slums: 

"Good housing means less expenditure on prevention of 
disease, less crime, better benefit for education, less unem- 
ployability as opposed to unemployment. The elimination of 
bad conditions has a cash value as well as a moral value to 
the nation." 

Here was a position taken on slum clearance by leaders in 
building ownership, building finance, and the building mate- 
rials field of Britain that was exactly opposite to the attitude 
taken by similar leaders in America. British leaders pro- 
claimed that the only way slums could go was with govern- 
ment aid, while American leaders proclaimed that govern- 
ment should keep out and stay out. 

The next day Ray Atherton, counselor of our Embassy, 
gave me a new view on a phase of housing. 



92 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Slum clearance has recently become a major interest of 
my wife's, too," he volunteered. "The Princess of Athlone, 
and other ladies who take their social work seriously, have 
been visiting the new housing projects and then the slums 
to make comparisons. In a new housing development, my 
wife got a woman to talk quite freely. There were three 
children in the family, and their mother said it was a relief 
and a joy to have them on the playing fields instead of in 
back alleys. There was, however, one worrisome problem. 
With kids romping in the sunshine all day long, their appe- 
tites increased so much that it was difficult to feed them on 
the limited income of the family." 

In this connection, Atherton said he understood that 
housing estates now had dietitians to advise mothers on how 
to prepare adequate yet inexpensive menus. In fact, there 
were so many ways in which the housing projects in Britain 
were doing constructive work that Atherton found it difficult 
to comprehend the strong opposition in America. 

I explained that in Atlanta the most active opposition 
came from slum owners, slum mortgage holders, and slum 
brokers. The rest seemed to be people who had not thought 
the matter through, or who were unwilling to be convinced, 
or who believed in every man for himself and the devil take 
the hindmost. 

"That attitude," Atherton said, tilting back in his chair, 
"is, unfortunately, rather typical of many American business 
leaders. I have talked with scores of them as they passed 
through London in the past decade. They damn anything 
new in government, no matter how inevitable it may be. 
Since President Roosevelt took office, their outcry has be- 
come much louder. Maybe this is not unnatural. We are still 
a young nation, and we must learn from experience. The 
British are an old people. Their business leaders take a more 



Crowded as Kippers 93 

mature outlook than ours do. When the man in the street 
over here gets so restless that a change becomes imperative, 
the leaders don't fight it. On the contrary, they work to bring 
about the change, get credit for it, and then help guide it. 

"Consequently, you will see many upper-class leaders in 
slum clearance today, such as Sir Basil Blackett, director of 
the Bank of England, and others. They are not insincere. 
They are simply determined to help clean up the slums a 
job admittedly long past due rather than let the man in 
the street get the credit for doing it all by himself. As a 
result, the upper classes are acclaimed for clearing slums. 
This technique, which has been in use for well over a 
century, accounts in substantial measure for the intelligent 
evolution of Britain without revolution. There is much we 
in America can learn from this British practice of leading 
reform movements." 

Atherton then mentioned an attack on the slum problem 
that I hadn't heard about. It was to prohibit overcrowding 
through limiting by law the number of people in existing 
dwellings. I wondered how it could be done, so Atherton 
kindly arranged for me to see John C. Wrigley, assistant 
secretary of the Ministry of Health. 

I went to Whitehall at the appointed hour and was happy 
to find Mr. Wrigley a kind and understanding official who 
appreciated and sympathized with the problems we were 
facing in America. And he would be happy to tell me about 
the new law on overcrowding. 

"Won't dealing with overcrowding by decree," I inquired, 
"be a new approach difficult to sell to the people?" 

"Well, yes and no," he answered, "You see, we have ample 
precedent in other phases of slum clearance to require the 
citizen to do right by the state. For a landlord to overcrowd 
his rental property so that it endangers public health is like 



94 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

letting physical property deteriorate so that its occupants 
contract typhoid because of bad drains, or bad plumbing, as 
you in America would say. This, it seems to me is the same 
reasoning you use in your pure-food laws. 

"For example, I believe that the butcher in America vio- 
lates the law if he sells rotten meat, the dairyman if he sells 
impure milk. And over here, we say that the landlord is a 
similar lawbreaker when he rents insanitary housing. We 
even carry that principle through when we buy his property. 
For if a building is unfit for human habitation, we pay only 
the value of the land as a cleared site. In other words, we 
do not include the decayed building any more than you 
would include the decayed meat when buying a butcher 
business in the States. 

"Nor do we consider income in appraising slum property. 
To capitalize rent from an insanitary dwelling would be like 
capitalizing the income from the sale of bad meat. And we 
consider the owner lucky not to be in jail for having ex- 
ploited the housing on the site for so many years after its 
decay. 

"You may care to hear the reasons that convinced the 
present government that an overcrowding law was needed. 
Although we built many new houses after the Armistice, our 
1931 census showed nearly three million people living more 
than two persons to a room, including kitchens. The idea 
that all those houses we had built would bring about a gradual 
filtering up of the population, and that bad housing and 
overcrowding would automatically disappear, didn't work." 

So it didn't work, eh? I was reminded of Allievi's "filtering 
up" theory, and this incontrovertible proof of how wrong 
that wonderful old Roman gentleman was. 

"In looking for a solution," Wrigley continued, "we found 
that, in one sense, overcrowding is harder to tackle than slum 



Crowded as Kippers 95 

clearance. An unfit house, once removed, ceases to be a danger 
to health. An overcrowded house may well be, of itself, a 
perfectly fit house and continue as adequate housing after 
being 'decrowded/ But the benefits of decrowding are entirely 
lost if the return to overcrowding is not prevented for the 
future. Thus to propose a remedy short of permanent pre- 
vention is merely straightening out one dent in a rubber ball 
by making another." 

The analogy was certainly apt and brought up a pertinent 
question. "Decrowding seems logical enough," I said, "but 
how do you plan to accommodate the people who are ejected?" 

"We haven't yet worked that out," Wrigley admitted. "We 
shan't know the extent of the problem until the Local Au- 
thorities complete the overcrowding surveys. We are inserting 
safeguards so that existing overcrowding will not be penal- 
ized until suitable alternative housing is available. 

"In concluding that overcrowding can only be dealt with 
as an offense, it was necessary to establish measurable stand- 
ards. These will relate to separation of the sexes and ade- 
quacy of space. The penalties will render both landlord and 
tenant liable for any violations. Primary responsibility for 
the program will rest on the Local Authority. Ample financial 
aid for surveys and enforcement will be forthcoming." 

I would have loved to ramble on for hours but at the first 
opportunity I thanked him profusely and made my getaway. 

On the way back to the hotel, I picked up the pictures 
taken in Russia. Ambassador Bullitt wanted some shots of 
the baseball game for use in Russian newspapers. I dis- 
patched them and later learned that they were used in intro- 
ducing baseball into the next Five- Year Plan. 

I then visited Major Harry Barnes, former president of 
the Royal Institute of British Architects. He was as rugged 
an advocate of slum clearance as he was rugged in appearance. 



96 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

His great hands, broad shoulders, and shaggy head combined 
to give him the drive that had produced important buildings 
and aided in the preparation of significant housing legisla- 
tion. He had also written The Slum, Its Story and Solution. 

"We think we are doing quite well in clearing slums," 
he began, "but the people don't agree with us. Their slogan, 
you may have heard, was 'Up with the houses; down with the 
slums.' They claimed that there was not enough done, al- 
though the London County Council had cleared hundreds of 
acres of slums and built tens of thousands of houses. Why, 
one L.C.C. project, Becontree, is the largest municipal hous- 
ing estate in the world. It covers an area four times as big 
as the square mile that forms the City of London. It houses 
more than 25,000 working-class families about 120,000 people 
who formerly lived in the slums of London. 

"Yet the voters still said, 'Not enough done,' and they 
were right. There was nothing for it but to move even faster. 
The Act of 1933 is speeding up laggard towns. It gives the 
Minister of Health the power to order inquiries where proper 
schemes for slum clearance are not submitted promptly. The 
Minister has recently called about a dozen such towns on the 
carpet. So far so good. We are creeping a little faster. But we 
will never reach full speed until we decide that housing is 
every bit as important as education. We must do for housing 
what was done for education back in 1870 make it com- 
pulsory instead of permissive." 

It was obvious that Major Barnes was a fighter from the 
word go. He said that he had prepared an amendment to put 
teeth into the housing laws. 

"The reason we must make decent housing mandatory," 
he explained, "is because that's the only way poor people can 
get it. Generations of experience offer proof positive that 
there is no money in housing the poorest people well, while 



Crowded as Kippers 97 

there has always been money in housing them ill. Those who 
house them ill make so much money that they don't want 
the slums to go, but the movement here in England rolled 
over them long ago." 

I sighed at the thought of the fight we'd had to put up in 
Atlanta. And I had the feeling that the battle was far from 
over. 

"With no money in housing the poorest people well," 
Major Barnes continued, "they must be housed at whatever 
rents they can afford to pay. That's where subsidy comes in. 
That's why a statutory provision to provide a separate dwell- 
ing for every family is needed as much as the one that pro- 
vides a place in school for every child." 

"If the poor are housed at the rent they can afford to pay," 
I said, "does that mean some families pay less rent than 
others for identical housing?" 

"Exactly!" Major Barnes beamed. "And that is as it should 
be. When a poor man goes to hospital he is charged less for 
the same operation than a man of means. That principle 
when applied to housing is called 'differential renting.' The 
city of Leeds employs it with great success, and it is spread- 
ing. I would make it compulsory in all public housing." 

These Britishers were shooting the facts to me so fast that 
I was getting dizzy. On leaving Major Barnes, I dashed down 
the steps and ran toward a taxi stand in the middle of the 
street, subconsciously glancing to the left for oncoming 
traffic. There was a shouted curse and a swish of rubber as 
a car from the right nearly knocked me over. The driver of 
the cab I entered had seen my narrow escape. 

"Can't you Americans," he tartly remarked, "ever learn that 
we drive on the left over here? Serves you right, seems to me." 

Since he had me dead to rights, I made no comment as I 
was taken to the apartment of Lewis Silkin, chairman of the 



98 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Housing and Public Health Committee of the London 
County Council. 

Courtly, swarthy, slightly stooped Silkin came forward 
slowly to shake hands. The elegance of his drawing room was 
more oriental than occidental. It fitted him well, for there 
was much of the mystic about the man. His dark eyes were 
heavily lidded. The loose mouth under his bulbous nose 
parted in a slight smile. Faint though it was, it changed his 
whole aspect. His expression lost its dour look and became 
warmly cordial. 

Over a glass of sherry it was teatime Silkin personified 
the cultured, gracious host. Here was a man who was a 
writer and a doer, with no time for play. His Fabian pam- 
phlets on the ills of England were internationally known. 
His accomplishments in his present post had taken a lot of 
action in his patient, persuasive way. 

"With your practical interest in politics, Mr. Silkin," I 
led off, "do you find that constituents plague you for prefer- 
ential treatment in public housing?" 

"I guess the world in that regard," he replied, "is the same 
everywhere. Now and then I am asked to help. But political 
influence does not go with the housing managers. They are 
all under civil service, and if an applicant tried political 
pressure, he would be shown the door. Selections are made 
entirely by merit alone." 

"How about when it comes to letting contracts for con- 
struction?" 

"That, too, is free of politics. The jobs are awarded through 
sealed bids. We use a method that may be new to you in 
America. Instead of inviting bids on the over-all cost, we 
ask for bids just on the contractor's fee, agreeing to pay all 
labor, material, equipment bills, and carrying charges our- 
selves. The contractors are furnished with complete quantity 



Crowded as Kippers 99 

surveys, which are carefully prepared. They then submit 
their fee bids on the estimates of the over-all cost. We have 
found this method unusually satisfactory to both sides, and 
it has saved us some money." 

"What do you think about paying for slum clearance out 
of current revenue, as in Vienna, instead of borrowing the 
money and amortizing the loans over fifty or sixty years?" 

"I think the long-time basis is better," Silkin replied 
thoughtfully. "The present generation did not make the 
slums, so they should not pay the entire cost of clearance. 
Nor will they be the only generation to benefit by the new 
housing; it is built for future generations, too. Furthermore, 
if the capital for our program was limited to what we can 
afford from current revenue, we would be severely limited 
in our plans of action. On the other hand, the tax money now 
used to pay interest and amortization on housing loans is not 
a burden, and it liquidates a much larger program over sev- 
eral generations." 

"How do you look at slum clearance as a whole?" 
"It should be a partnership between national and local 
governments. This is logical and best. Political differences 
have gradually disappeared. All party platforms are against 
slums, just as they are all against sin." 

"How much of a problem is management?" 
"It's a big problem," Silkin admitted, "especially when 
there are sixty-five thousand houses, which is the number we 
have completed in London and occupied. Rents are collected 
weekly to keep the payments small, only about ten shillings- 
two dollars and a half for a two-bedroom house. Weekly 
payments also keep down arrearages. Most estates give prizes 
for the best gardens. In Westminster there are yearly inspec- 
tions of homes, and housekeeping is rated as clean, fairly 



100 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

clean, and dirty. Yes, free of politics, management works out 
very well." 

Cushioned by a heavy oriental carpet that formed a pool 
of rich color as background for the exquisite teakwood furni- 
ture, Silkin and I strolled to the reception hall. Beside the 
entrance door was a Brobdingnagian vase from China. With 
the natural poise and grace of a potentate, my gracious host 
bowed from the waist, extended a mammoth, swarthy hand, 
and wished me a pleasant voyage home with the hope that I 
would return to England soon. 

That was exactly what I wished for. First, some time in 
America to share what the British were doing in slum clear- 
ance. Then I wanted to come back to England to absorb more 
of their valuable experience to apply in our country. 



1O 



<THE WAY 
OUT" 



WHILE WE were making the Atlantic crossing on 
the Statendam, we looked forward to some restful, lazy days. 
However, it was a rough trip with high seas often breaking 
over the bridge. So I stayed in our cabin and worked on the 
promised report for Harry Hopkins. 

He would learn more from my movies in five minutes than 
from a fifty-page report. However, to edit and title the film 
would take time, and I wanted to get something to him 
right away. So I decided to write an outline of policies with 
just enough background to substantiate my conclusions. 
Later on, the movie would furnish the particulars. 

We should take from the experience of Europe only that 
which would work in a democracy. The report must merit 
support from all concerned. That support must be assured 
before submission of legislation to Congress. From the be- 
ginning, real-estate interests should be consulted. Properly 
handled, a public-housing program could win their support, 
but it could come only through complete understanding. 

Co-operation by the church and social workers would be 
essential to convince the public of the need for such a move- 
ment. Capital and labor, too, had common interests in its 
success. Government itself was the foundation upon which 
the plan must rest. 

101 



102 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

This meant that the initiative must come from Washing- 
ton. The President should bring together that cross section of 
the nation that would have the greatest interest in slum clear- 
ance and public housing. By using the experience in Britain 
to harmonize conflicting views in America, the United States 
could develop a slum-clearance program without going 
through the trial-and-error periods of other countries. By 
gaining support in advance from all concerned, the move- 
ment would be freer from attack than if it were formulated 
by a few specialists in star-chamber sessions. Then when slum 
owners and their henchmen tried to distort the plan by cries 
of unfair competition, others would not be misled so easily 
as they had been in Atlanta. They would understand before- 
hand that it costs more to keep slums than to clear them; 
that slum clearance is not new and untried, but old and 
proven; and finally, that slum clearance is not socialism but 
enlightened capitalism. 

There was no other nation-wide activity that could make 
as many jobs as slum clearance. This could really be the way 
out for Hopkins with his problem of the unemployed. So 
that is how I headed the report. 

"The Way Out" told that healthful housing is the main 
objective of sincere leaders throughout Europe; that those 
political parties that carry out slum clearance and rehousing 
programs to the fullest are the most successful; that some 
governments compel cities to house their needy citizens 
properly, just as cities are required to educate all children; 
that slum clearance is the story of the state's battle against 
unemployment, disease, vice, hunger, and squalor; that 
cholera in the slums of Naples became such a threat to the 
entire city and state that the King of Italy had to wipe out 
its' source, the slum; that tuberculosis in Rome throughout 
the congested quarters, and the need to make work, caused 



"The Way Out" 103 

action there; that food shortage forced the establishment of 
subsistence homesteads in Austria, and the threat of Bol- 
shevism because of unemployment prompted the great urban 
housing in Vienna; that the need for better sanitation and 
the curse of overcrowding forced the Parliament of England, 
as early as 1875, to pass laws dealing with slums. 

That state aid in Europe to house the poor is so much a 
part of public policy that the movement is beyond the range 
of controversy, although political capital is occasionally made 
by "the outs" when "the ins" fail to carry slum clearance 
and rehousing far enough; that the U.S. is not free from ills 
that other nations are remedying through vast housing pro- 
grams; that any political party in power in Washington is 
derelict to the degree that it delays an aggressive, nation-wide 
attack on these troubles; that no experimentation is necessary 
because the older countries of the world have done the pio- 
neering for us; that impartial analysis by the Housing Divi- 
sion in Washington shows the need for $500,000,000 in New 
York (only $25,000,000 then available) and $400,000,000 in 
Chicago (only $20,000,000 then available) to make inroads 
on the slums of only these two cities. That billions of dollars 
and millions of men can be constructively employed in a 
nation-wide battle against the slums. 

That while the people should be aroused to the movement 
by church and state, business and professional men must 
actually direct and execute it. 

That with church and state, employer and employee, work- 
ing together, it will be possible to accomplish a good for 
our citizens second only to the preservation of peace. 

Hopkins partially rose from behind a battered, flat-top oak 
desk, shook hands listlessly, plopped back into his chair, and 
swung both feet to the top of an open drawer. I knew he was 



104 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

not discourteous, just tired. His eyes were dull, and every 
movement seemed an effort. 

"Glad to see you back," he said without enthusiasm. 
"How'd you make out? Find anything worth while?" 

"There was so much," I replied, "that I had a devil of a 
job of condensing. Maybe the best way to decide what you 
want to do is to read the report. It's only a couple of pages 
long." 

Hopkins accepted the report so absent-mindedly that it 
was plain he would rather talk than read. It looked as though 
he wouldn't finish the first paragraph, so to get the points 
over, I read aloud from my copy. Hopkins dropped his, 
closed his eyes, and listened intently. When I had finished, 
he bounced erect in his chair and banged a fist on the desk. 

"You know," he exclaimed, "we ought to start by getting 
Henry Wallace steamed up on those subsistence homesteads! 
He's the Secretary of Agriculture and can help a lot. He 
knows what we're doing down at Pine Mountain near Warm 
Springs. But Henry has no more idea of the possibilities than 
I had until you read me your report. How about the movies 
you took? Any subsistence homestead projects in them?" 

"Yes, and I believe the titles can be written to tell the 
whole story." 

"Let me know as soon as you're ready, and we'll show 
them to Wallace." Hopkins was all energy now. "But how 
about slum clearance? It's a lot bigger and a much older 
movement than I had any idea of." 

"It amazed me, too," I said. "Especially the way the British 
have perfected it. They have the backing of all political 
parties as well as both capital and labor. What surprised me 
most was to find leading advocates among bankers and real- 
estate owners." 

"Well," Hopkins wondered, "I don't think we can expect 



"The Way Out" 105 

their co-operation here. Look at all the trouble they've given 
you on your Atlanta project." 

"I'm not so sure they won't help," I ventured. "The great 
majority of businessmen are reasonable and fair. If we can 
convince them that slum clearance and subsistence home- 
steads are good business and they are then I feel sure that 
they will co-operate." 

"Well, maybe you're right," Hopkins said doubtfully. 
"But I haven't had much luck along that line. How would 
you go about it?" 

"Through the presidents of their trade associations," I 
pointed out. "The President of the United States should in- 
vite such leaders to help prepare appropriate legislation. 
Specifically, the National Association of Building Owners 
and Managers includes practically all the principal office- 
building owners in America. Slums hurt their property 
values, so they should swing into action in a big way. The 
insurance companies also should play ball because slum 
clearance lowers the mortality rate and stabilizes mortgages 
on central real estate besides. The National Association of 
Real Estate Boards except for those brokers who manage 
slum housing should see the light. The American Institute of 
Architects, whose members would design the buildings, and 
the Association of General Contractors, who would construct 
the buildings, have a very direct interest." 

"Anybody else?" Hopkins prodded. 

"Yes," I added, "the great church organizations and social 
workers associations should be represented. It will take time 
and involve some compromises. But I believe it's best to get 
those with all points of view around the table first. Then if 
they can't get together, they at least won't be able to say 
later that the program was pulled out of a hat without their 
being heard. Of course, a way to get the money may be the 



106 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

toughest job. Actually, though, it doesn't take too much. 
There are various methods that have worked well in England 
with the support of all interested parties." 

But Hopkins showed little interest in the financing. His 
mind was on the over-all picture. 

"Tell you what to do," he said decisively. "Get the film in 
shape as soon as possible. Then Wallace, you, and I will go 
over it. He and I may have some suggestions. And then I'd 
like to have the President see the movie, too, if it can be 
arranged." 

There hadn't been a single interruption, by telephone or 
otherwise, during our talk. When Hopkins wanted to con- 
centrate, he evidently arranged things accordingly. He was 
completely devoid of any "front" and, once aroused, gave me 
his full attention. I left the report with him as we parted. 

The next move was mine. 



11 



ICKES PLAYS 
WITH DYNAMITE 



WHEN I returned to Atlanta, the first job was the 
preparation of the movie. Eastman Kodak co-operated splen- 
didly by working the night shift. 

Then there were the usual speeches before civic groups 
and travel clubs. Tied into our local slum-clearance program, 
Europe's record was of more than passing interest. The en- 
thusiasm for my talks confirmed that the plan given to 
Harry Hopkins was well worth trying. 

The government had bought scores of slum properties in 
the Techwood and University Homes areas during the 
summer. Demolition was about to start, and Secretary Ickes 
was coming for appropriate ceremonies on September 29, 

1934- 

On the twentieth of that month, a distinguished group of 
overseas housing experts arrived in Atlanta for three days. 
They had been touring principal American cities for the 
past month under the auspices of the National Association 
of Housing Officials. Sir Raymond Unwin, of the Amulree 
Committee in England, was chairman. He was accompanied 
by Miss Alice Samuels, representing the Society of Women 
Housing Estate Managers of Great Britain, and Dr. Ernest 
Kohn, housing consultant of Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. 

107 



108 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Ernest J. Bohn of Cleveland, president of the National Asso- 
ciation of Housing Officials, and Henry Wright, noted 
architect of New York, completed the party. 

Sir Raymond sparked the first meeting with our local offi- 
cials by saying that America was "striding with seven-league 
boots" compared with the slow progress of the early days of 
slum clearance in Britain. He was fully qualified to make 
the comparison because his services in British housing had 
won knighthood from the King. 

Sir Raymond went on to say that the United States was 
far ahead of England in minimum standards of free educa- 
tion, but still woefully behind in housing, which, to his 
way of thinking, was much more fundamental. 

"In your program," he continued, "you cannot and should 
not charge your developments with the cost of the obsolete 
and decayed slum buildings destroyed. It is just not sound 
economics. We fix the price of sites on the basis of what a 
willing buyer will pay a willing seller if the land were zoned 
for housing." 

Sir Raymond's Windsor tie and drooping mustache gave 
him the appearance of an artist, which he was, but not with 
a brush. His art was in the field of human understanding of 
human needs. 

"Housing is the magic ingredient of all economics," he 
said, "for it makes the most jobs. Why, just to build one 
small dwelling takes a year of man-hours on the site plus a 
three-quarter year to produce the materials. A million houses 
means a million, seven hundred and fifty thousand jobs for 
one year! 

"Usually the community in which the need for housing is 
greatest is least able to finance it, so ample national subsidies 
are required. These must get the rents so low that the poorest 
can pay them. This means that we must come to think more 



I ekes Plays with Dynamite 109 

and more in terms of income, and less and less in terms of 
imaginary capital values. And there is less variance between 
countries than you might think, isn't there, Dr. Kohn?" 

"I agree with Sir Raymond," Kohn barked, "and I say 
something more. Don't amortize the cost of the land. We 
don't in Germany. Why should we? Why should you? The 
land is always there!" 

A general discussion followed about relating subsidies to 
income instead of to capital. Then genial, ample Miss 
Samuels began discussing management. She'd had charge, 
since 1928, of 625 houses for the Bebington District Council 
near Liverpool. 

"It is as necessary," she began, "to have trained managers 
in housing as it is to have trained nurses in hospitals or 
trained teachers in schools. I do not mean to say that it 
takes as much training for housing as for nursing or teaching. 
What I do say is that housing management is much more 
than simply the collection of rents. Especially is this true 
when the poor from the slums are your tenants. They need 
to learn, and they can't learn decent housing without 
teachers, any more than school children can learn without 
them. 

"Being a woman, you may think me prejudiced when I 
maintain that women make the best managers. Here are my 
reasons. The mother is in the house more than the father. 
She has the direct care of the children. Her confidence must 
be won on a woman-to-woman basis. That means getting to 
know each other. It means gaining entry to the house to in- 
vestigate without snooping. Cleanliness, quarrelsomeness, 
health, and ability to pay rent all must be checked, and in- 
direct guidance given. A spot of tea together in the kitchen 
helps a lot. A man can't be as neighborly with a woman as 



110 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

another woman. At least, he'd better not when that woman's 
husband is away all day long. 

"The members of our Society of Women Housing Man- 
agers in Great Britain think the kind of a job we do is the 
way it should be done. Some politicians disagree. They'd 
rather have their male henchmen act as rent collectors in 
place of trained managers chosen by examination. But, I am 
happy to say, the politicians do not prevail. 

"I think the policy of working with the housewife has 
proven itself in our project at Bebington. There we have 
practically no trouble with police being called in, although 
previously many of these same people had been continuously 
in the police courts." 

Miss Samuels having concluded, Ernest Bohn put in a 
question. 

"Sir Raymond, we have talked about the fact that the in- 
spiration back of our present urge for public housing in 
America is to find work for the unemployed. Do you con- 
sider that should be the primary purpose?" 

"It is very important, of course," Sir Raymond replied. 
"Fundamentally, however, slum clearance is to make better 
people. Yet it is a fact that England has been able to over- 
come the industrial depression largely by public housing and 
the activity of speculative builders for the well-to-do. Ex- 
penditures in building operations, one should remember, 
are widely distributed in purchasing power throughout a 
community." 

The fruitful sessions ended with many better-informed 
officials and citizens in Atlanta. On the last day of their stay, 
I was host for a stag dinner in the Capital City Club. Sir 
Raymond, then in winged collar, at first declined all spirits. 
However, the green mint leaves topping the silver goblets 
of Georgia juleps so intrigued the artist in him that he soon 



Ickes Plays with Dynamite 111 

reconsidered. And he found the first julep so easy to take 
that he had downed another before I could caution him 
about their potency. But no harm was done; he enjoyed him- 
self immensely and so did we all. Even Dr. Kohn tapped his 
foot in time to the tunes of the Negro jug band. 

The same evening, Laura entertained Miss Samuels at a 
little dinner in our home. The party was a congenial one, 
for the guests had much in common with their distinguished 
visitor. Miss Gay Shepperson, director of WPA in Georgia; 
Miss Rhoda Kauffman, head of the Family Welfare Society; 
Miss Florence Read, president of Spelman College, and the 
others learned much from Miss Samuels, and they all parted 
firm friends. 

The next day, Eastman delivered the completed film, 
right on time. I had written Hopkins to inquire when he 
wished to see it. No reply came to the letter or to a follow-up 
telegram, so I telephoned his efficient secretary, Mrs. Godwin. 
She immediately worked out arrangements for Hopkins and 
Wallace to view the film in private at lunch with me at the 
Mayflower Hotel in Washington on the following Monday. 
So I packed my bags, kissed Laura good-by, and was on my 
way again. 

Hopkins and Wallace arrived separately but on time. 
Hopkins came by way of the apartment entrance to avoid 
being stopped in the lobby, as there were always people 
around who wanted something from him. 

This was my first meeting with Wallace, and I found that 
he had a disarming, almost boyish smile. His diffidence 
vanished when the movie showed pictures of Leopoldau in 
Austria. 

"That's what we should emphasize!" he exclaimed. "Sub- 
sistence homesteads make the jobs and produce a lot of food 






112 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

at the same time. Your projects, such as Pine Mountain in 
Georgia, should be expanded, Harry." 

"Yes, I agree," Hopkins replied. "Miss Shepperson has done 
a big job taking families from relief in Atlanta and re- 
settling them in the homesteads at Pine Mountain. She has 
also kept about nine hundred men employed building the 
roads and houses." 

"Both of you undoubtedly know," I put in, "that there is 
a great deal going on in this field under Ickes." 

"Yes, I know pretty much about those jobs," Hopkins said 
somewhat bitterly. "Mrs. Roosevelt and Louis Howe are the 
ones who really started Arthurdale, and I'm damned glad 
they're interested. But any big movement like this shouldn't 
be scattered all over the place. Some projects are being done 
by Interior, some by WPA, and you've even got some going 
in Agriculture, haven't you, Henry?" 

"Well, yes and no," Wallace replied. "We've been helping, 
but we have no over-all authority. It seems to me this 
whole thing should be combined in some sort of Resettle- 
ment Administration, probably' under the Department of 
Agriculture." 

"I'll play ball with you on that, Henry," Hopkins agreed. 
"And I think the President would approve. After all, it's up 
to him. He knows a hell of a lot more about these subsistence 
homesteads and slum clearance than you'd think. Let's see 
the rest of the film, Palmer." 

I had stopped the projector when Wallace got so interested 
in the Leopoldau pictures. The afternoon was hot and sunny, 
so the Venetian blinds were down. Hopkins lounged on the 
davenport with slats of light and shadow across him, while 
Wallace leaned forward in a straight-back chair. 

When the film was over, Wallace wanted to know exactly 
how it would be used. Its best use, I suggested, might well be 






Ickes Plays with Dynamite 113 

in proving to the general public that we would miss a good 
bet in America if we did not do more much more on slum 
clearance. 

"What I have in mind," Hopkins said, "is to try to arrange 
for the President to see it as soon as possible. What do you 
think, Henry?" 

"Absolutely!" Wallace heartily agreed. 

"I may be with him next week at Hyde Park," Hopkins 
informed us. "I'll keep in touch with you, Palmer." 

Hopkins left as he came, by the side entrance. Wallace 
talked a few minutes longer about emphasis on subsistence 
homesteads and then went back to his office, promising to 
co-operate in every way. 

The next few days in Washington were spent in conferences 
with Colonel Horatio B. Hackett, director of Housing, and 
his associates, discussing the lessons learned in Europe. 
Arrangements were also completed for Secretary Ickes's visit 
to Atlanta, when the first slum buildings would be wrecked. 

Ickes arrived on Sepember 29, with Director of Housing 
Hackett and Mike Straus, Public Relations director. Shortly 
thereafter, two dynamite blasts echoed the news that Atlanta 
had led the United States in one of the largest and most 
important undertakings in its history: the federal replace- 
ment of slums. 

The first explosion came from Beavers' Slide. The up- 
rights of a slum shack had been partly sawed in half, and any 
gentle breeze might have collasped it that sunny Saturday 
morning. So when Ickes thrust the plunger home to detonate 
the dynamite, moldy planks flew sky-high, and only a hole 
in the ground remained. 

But at Techwood the shack selected to blow up hadn't 
had the same solicitous preparation. Ickes expected it to dis- 



114 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

appear into oblivion, as had its predecessor. But when he 
pushed the plunger, there was a deafening roar and the 
shanty lurched but did not erupt. As the dust settled, Ickes 
turned to me with a quizzical grin. 

"Guess I'm getting weak," he said. 

The Secretary was in a rare mood that day, his sudden 
snarls and snaps momentarily harnessed. Even at the railroad 
station he had been lighthearted. When Straus inquired of 
a local reporter if the Atlanta jail, being remodeled with 
WPA money, was completed, Ickes wisecracked, "If not, 
maybe they have a good hotel where we can stay." Later when 
the Secretary was asked how far he would be from the build- 
ings he was to blow up, he blurted out, "Far enough, I hope." 

But Ickes was serious when he made his speech over a 
nation-wide hookup with Atlanta Journal's radio station 
WSB. 

"We have met here today to do something that has never 
before been done in this country. We are about to clear out 
two slum areas so that we may build on these sites some- 
thing new and better: low-cost housing projects available to 
people in the lowest-income classes at rents that will be within 
their ability to pay 

"As a people we ought to be as deeply ashamed of our 
slums as we were about our child labor. Personally we have 
all rejoiced that we have not had to live in slums. We have 
hoped that the revolving wheel of fortune would never 
mean that any of our children would be forced by circum- 
stances to eke out an existence in any such neighborhood. 
We have known that they are a disgrace to our civilization. 

"On the political side, the slums have been the source and 
mainstay of bad government. The wicked political rings that 
have flourished in so many of our large cities could not exist 



I ekes Plays with Dynamite 115 

without the slums. Perhaps this is one reason why so many 
cities and states have not only made no serious efforts to do 
away with them, but on the contrary have, by quiet and tacit 
support, assured their continued existence. The crooked poli- 
tician has always known his way about the slums 

"The cost of slums is high from every point of view: 
economic, political, social, and moral. They are so costly it 
is a matter of surprise that a supposedly prudent and business- 
like people should so long have endured these unsightly and 
objectionable warrens that we have permitted men, women, 
and children to call their homes 

"We have had to overcome great difficulties in getting our 
slum-clearance program under way. From time to time the 
most astonishing rumors have come to us of the dismal fate 
that has befallen the Housing Division of the Public Works 
Administration. When we ventured to protest that we were 
alive, many of our critics declared that we ought to die, even 

if we hadn't already done so If the housing program is a 

corpse, you will admit that on this day, at any rate, it is 
quite a lively one." 

A letter came from Secretary of Agriculture Wallace with 
a minor suggestion or two. No word came from Hopkins. 
Early in October I tried to get through to him by phone. No 
luck. The run-around continued, so I had to turn to others. 

Lewis H. Brown, president of Johns-Man ville Corporation, 
whose southern headquarters had been in one of our office 
buildings in Atlanta for years, and I had talked in New 
York upon my return from Europe. I had pointed out the 
help slum clearance could be to his building-materials busi- 
ness, as well as to the entire economy. Later I had sent him 
a copy of "The Way Out" and he wrote me his reaction. 



116 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"I have read over this memorandum several times. I am 
afraid that it will appeal greatly to Secretary Perkins, but 
that the presentation is such as will further 'frighten to death' 
all of those business elements whose co-operation must be 
secured to make such a program a success. You have been 
through this whole situation mentally and physically until 
you are thinking far ahead of the people to whom you have 
to sell this idea. My recommendation is that you, yourself, 
mentally try to visualize the state of mind of the people whom 
you are going to approach; then start in from that point and 
lead their minds gradually up to the point you hope to reach." 

Brown was thoroughly sympathetic and arranged that 
Winfield Riefler, economic adviser to the National Emer- 
gency Council, lunch with me on November 5 in Washing- 
ton and bring along one or two others. Brown also talked 
the whole matter over with Frank Walker, executive director 
of the National Emergency Council. 

Riefler brought with him J. M. Daiger, adviser on housing 
to the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. They both had 
such a comprehensive understanding of our stalled economy 
that no argument was necessary to convince them slum 
clearance would answer the unemployment problem if under- 
taken heroically enough. After viewing the movies, it was 
agreed that they should be shown later in the week at a 
small dinner. 

In the group that got together for the dinner in my rooms 
at the Mayflower were, besides Riefler and Daiger, Thomas 
G. Corcoran, counsel for the Reconstruction Finance Corpo- 
ration, who had helped draft the Securities Act of 1933, 
Benjamin V. Cohen, who did as much as Corcoran in perfect- 
ing this legislation, and Dwight L. Hoopingarner, associate 
director of Housing in the PWA, adviser to labor organiza- 



I ekes Plays with Dynamite 117 

tions, and executive head of the American Construction 
Council. 

Among so many prima donnas, it wasn't easy to perfect a 
plan of action after the film was shown. All agreed that slum 
clearance was the answer. The smoke in the room got thicker 
and the thinking fuzzier. 

Cohen and Corcoran huddled and whispered together but 
took little part in the discussion. I ventured the opinion that 
slum clearance was not entirely a government job and ex- 
plained about the Amulree Committee in England. With 
Cohen and Corcoran keeping mum, the others agreed that 
a similar committee could be useful in the United States as 
a starter. Labor, real-estate, church, and welfare groups would 
be brought in; but the thought was to start quietly by first 
convincing the big bankers and industrialists. They would 
be the hardest to sell. And, too, if they were left unsold, their 
lack of understanding that slum clearance was enlightened 
capitalism, as the British had already proved, would prompt 
these men who were the counterparts of the leading 
supporters of the program in England to be its bitterest 
opponents in America. 

It was decided that likable, capable Lewis Brown would 
be the ideal person to feel out some of the key men whose 
names had been discussed. And so the evening ended. 

I had shrugged off what Brown had written about the need 
to go slow. But now the fact that people's minds had to be 
led up gradually to accept the program was beginning to sink 
in. The thought irritated me. There were outstanding pro- 
gressives at that evening of films and talk at the Mayflower. 
But instead of getting all steamed up, as I was, it was obvious 
that they still had some more thinking to do. I was forced to 
admit that Brown had been right. It would be a long, hard 
pull. 



118 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

So the business dragged on. Communication between all 
of us became further and further apart, more pressing day-to- 
day matters intervened, and I finally reached the unhappy 
conclusion that it would be necessary to make some other 
approach. 



12 



"NOBODY ELSE WILL 
OR CAN" ROOSEVELT 



TOWARD THE end of November, 1934, Ickes got 
into a heated wrangle with Moffett, who was handling the 
new Federal Housing Administration's program of insured 
loans for building. The dispute got so acrimonious that 
Roosevelt was asked to comment during a press conference 
on November 28, at Warm Springs. 

The President was in a gay mood, having come to his 
Georgia home for his customary gala Thanksgiving with the 
polio patients at the Warm Springs Foundation. Atlanta was 
so close to the Little White House that I had driven down 
with the housing film and a projector on an outside chance 
that a showing could be fitted into the President's schedule. 

I caught Presidential Secretary Mclntyre in front of the 
cottage where he was staying. When I told him my purpose, 
he said that the film positively could not be worked in. Well, 
how about his taking a quick look himself? Everything was 
in my car, and he could see the movie in his cottage. Then 
he could give the President his own opinion and arrange a 
later showing if Roosevelt wanted to see the picture. No, 
"Mac" just didn't have the time, but maybe Henry Kanee 
could take a look. 

Kanee was the stenographer who took most of the Presi- 

119 



120 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

dent's dictation. "Mac" located him near by, and soon he was 
viewing the slums of Europe in the bedroom of his cottage. 
The pictures over, Kanee said he would certainly report to 
the President what he had seen. There was no doubt in 
Kanee's mind but that Roosevelt was the one to carry the ball. 

During that press conference, Roosevelt explained that 
Moffett's housing program was designed to serve those with 
incomes high enough to obtain private loans, while Ickes's 
program was for those whose incomes were so low that private 
capital could not take the risk of making them loans. 

"You take the ordinary person," the President explained. 
"If he hasn't a job or any special capacity, private capital 
isn't going in and lend him money to build a house. Ob- 
viously not. Now what are we going to do? Are we going to 
leave him where he is just because he hasn't security to offer 
for a private loan? 

"What is the result? They are living today under most 
terrible conditions in old tenement flats in New York on the 
East Side, on the West Side. We all know the conditions they 
live under. They are able to get, on the average, perhaps two 
rooms at five or six dollars a room. There is no sanitation, no 
light, nothing. They are pretty terrible living conditions. 

"Now some say, 'We are licked. Private capital could not 
afford to build for five or six dollars a room. That is not 
enough.' That is their answer 'We are licked.' ' 

The press conference was taking place in the sunshine 
under the great, long-leaf pines near the Little White House. 
Much good-natured bantering was being batted back and 
forth. Between quips, a reporter posed a question of the 
President. 

"On this housing program we were just talking about," 
he inquired, "has that been decided on at all?" 

The President stared at the questioner, then shifted his 



"Nobody Else Will or Can 99 Roosevelt 121 

gaze to the tallest tip of the highest pine silhouetted against 
the brilliant hue of the Georgia sky. His chin was up, and 
for the moment, he held his cigarette holder as though it 
were a baton. Then he jammed it at a jaunty angle in his 
mouth and took a couple of quick puffs. 

"If," he finally replied, "somebody asks the question, 'Is 
the government going to consider itself licked in its effort 
to take care of people who cannot otherwise be taken care of?' 
the answer is obviously 'No!' And further as a matter of 
policy the government is going to continue every reasonable 
effort to give the lowest-income group in the United States 
the chance to live under better conditions for the very simple 
reason that if government does not do it, nobody else will 
or canl" 

The President went on to prove that only government 
could solve the problem by explaining what had happened in 
England and Austria. 

I often wonder how much Kanee had been able to tell the 
President about the film before that press conference. It 
seemed more than a coincidence that Roosevelt had empha- 
sized how slum clearance prevented Communism in Vienna 
and had kept down unrest in England, which were the main 
points of the movie. 

The way the session with Kanee had been left was that I 
would hear from Washington in case the President wanted 
to see the film. But days became weeks without the hoped-for 
word. It looked as if this approach was going the way of the 
others. Still I was determined to go on, come what may. 

The next film showing was in the auditorium of the De- 
partment of the Interior in Washington, on January 17, 1935, 
at the invitation of Secretary Ickes. About five hundred at- 
tended. Besides the Secretary, who presided, and Director of 
Housing Hackett, in the audience were Mrs. Ickes, Ambassa- 



122 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

dor Bullitt, Agriculture Secretary Wallace, Labor Secretary 
Perkins, Angeloni of the Italian Embassy, Robert Kelley of 
our State Department, Livengood from Rome, Ernest Bohn, 
president of the National Association of Housing Officials, 
and various memers of the Senate and House. It was a group 
that could really do something, and I was heartened by their 
presence. Something might happen at last. 

Mrs. Mary Simkhovitch, president, and Miss Helen Alfred, 
secretary of the National Public Housing Conference, were 
indefatigable workers for better housing. Mrs. Simkhovitch 
was vice-chairman of the New York Housing Authority and 
well knew conditions there. By February, 1935, she, Miss 
Alfred, and their associates had prepared a housing bill that 
they asked Congressman Robert Ramspeck, of Georgia, to 
introduce in the House of Representatives and Senator 
Robert Wagner, of New York, to introduce in the Senate. 

When Congressman Ramspeck sought my advice before 
expressing his opinion to Miss Alfred, frankness forced me 
to make certain comments. I wrote him that "experience 
during the last fifteen months emphasizes the fallacy of wait- 
ing during this emergency for any local government to take 
the initiative, as was demonstrated in Atlanta by the manner 
in which all sorts of special interests imposed upon you to 
try to get you to defeat the slum-clearance program here. The 
history of this movement abroad proves conclusively the 
necessity for the initiative, motivating, and executing force 
to be retained in the central government free from the 
squabbles of local bodies. Our state is a good example, be- 
cause the housing bill prepared by the Atlanta City Planning 
Commission, as well as the New York act, which was sent to 
our Governor, have both been turned down flat." 

The ladies were doing their best, but sketchily, and it soon 



"Nobody Else Will or Can" Roosevelt 123 

developed that Senator Wagner also believed the bill should 
be rewritten. By the end of March, the Senator agreed to go 
along after certain changes, but the changes left the Housing 
Division in the Department of the Interior, and it was neces- 
sary to speak out once more against this arrangement. Ickes, 
it will be remembered, had ruled that all changes in orders 
involving more than five hundred dollars in the construction 
of housing projects must have his personal approval. This 
was such maladministration, causing such costly delays and 
showing such lack of confidence in his own men, that I wrote 
plainly stating my views. 

The proponents of the bill were beginning to realize that 
they would not get far at that session of Congress, but decided 
to submit the legislation anyway. It never did get very far. 

Talks, meetings, and the showing of the movie kept on at 
a brisk pace. Housing was catching on to such an extent that 
the subject was included in the Eighth Annual Institute of 
Citizenship at Emory University in Atlanta in February, 1935. 

Next on the schedule was a luncheon meeting of the New 
York Building Congress on March i. Additional sponsors 
were the New York Chapter of the American Institute of 
Architects, the Architectural League of New York, the New 
York Real Estate Board, and the National Public Housing 
Conference. Among the five hundred who attended were 
representatives of about all the groups I had listed in "The 
Way Out." 

Before showing the film, I emphasized the requisite of an 
annual subsidy. Even the Washington sessions of the National 
Public Housing Conference had dodged the issue of limiting 
slum-clearance tenants to the poorest people. The subsidy 
idea seemed so new that the papers featured it, as I hoped 
they would. 



124 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Proper housing for families of low income," said the 
New York Times, "cannot be supplied on a self-liquidating 
basis and government subsidy appears to be the inevitable 
and feasible means of rebuilding slums." 

"It is impossible," wrote the New York American, "to put 
low rent housing on a self-liquidating basis, and the sooner 
we face it, the better it will be for all of us. ... If we accept 
it as our duty to house the lower income groups of people, 
then we must face it as an actual fact that we are doing so 
in order to protect the balance of the population from the 
spread of disease, vice and epidemics, and we must take the 
people who are worthy of being housed and house them at 
the expense of the community, because the community more 
than saves it back." 

"The day is fast approaching," the World Telegram edi- 
torialized, "when the State will compel cities to house their 
needy citizens properly, just as cities are now required to 
educate all children." 

And the Herald Tribune said: "We must take the people 
whose standard of living must be raised and see what those 
people can afford to pay, and then fix a rent and furnish the 
balance by subsidy." 

On the evening of March 14, some seven hundred assem- 
bled at the Harvard Club. Included in the program were 
Professor Oliver M. W. Sprague, former adviser to the 
Treasury Department, who had resigned some months be- 
fore in a huff over Roosevelt's policies; B. Charney Vladeck, 
member of the New York Housing Authority; and I, with 
the film now titled The World War against Slums. 

During cocktails and private dinner in the Biddle Room, 
disgruntled Sprague and unassuming Vladeck had little to 
say. Most of the talking was done by irrepressible Joseph P. 



"Hobody Else Will or Can 99 Roosevelt 125 

Day, who was, in every way, all you would expect from a six- 
feet-three-inch character who was the world's greatest auc- 
tioneer of real estate. Joe put on a great show, good-naturedly 
aimed at me, his fellow real-estate broker. "Subsidy? Non- 
sense. People want to live in slums. They don't know how to 
act in decent housing. Where would they get their firewood 
if they couldn't burn up the stair banisters. Fix 'em and 
they'd burn 'em up again. I know. I've seen 'em do it." 
Then Joe's eyes would twinkle. As there would be a question 
period after my talk, it looked as though Joe was warming 
up in readiness to take off the gloves later. 

Great, medieval, vaulted Harvard Hall was jammed. We 
spoke from beneath the mammoth elephant-head trophy that 
Harvard's distinguished alumnus, Teddy Roosevelt, had pre- 
sented. Sprague led off. As the Herald Tribune reported it 
the next day, "The meeting at the Club was arranged to dis- 
cuss means of clearing slums and launching housing projects, 
and Dr. Sprague began his remarks with a consideration of 
this problem. But he began thereafter to roam the economic 
and financial world " And roam it he did, damning every- 
body and everything. 

When Vladeck's turn finally came, he quietly and effec- 
tively stuck to the subject, pointing out that New York City 
could trim its budget sixty million a year through public 
housing. In proof, he quoted figures showing that the cost of 
educating, policing, and crime prevention in the slum areas 
was the highest of any in the city and, moreover, that the city 
got less revenue from the slum sections. 

When I started to show the film, it was after ten o'clock. 
The patient audience had been talked at so long that I was 
tempted to twist the old wheeze that you can always tell a 
Harvard man but you can't tell him much, into some wise- 



126 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

crack about telling Harvard men too much, but luckily 
caught myself in time and got down to the business at hand. 

A surprising number stayed for the question session, and 
Joe Day's posers were fair, kind, and constructive, much to 
my relief. As we said good night, he confessed full sympathy 
with the program and admitted that he had merely been 
doing a little friendly leg-pulling during dinner. 

Upon my return to Atlanta, early in April, I ran smack 
into an occurrence that showed all too plainly that the oppo- 
sition would stop at nothing to undermine the housing 
program. 

Because Atlanta had led the way in slum clearance, it was 
natural for other cities to seek guidance from our experience. 
Accordingly, Cason Callaway, of the Callaway Textile Mills 
in LaGrange, Georgia, and I had talked about clearing some 
of the Negro slums in that city. A. R. Clas, who had super- 
seded Colonel Hackett as director of Housing, was approached 
and agreed to look into the matter on the ground himself. 
He arrived in Atlanta late in the afternoon of April 3, so 
I arranged a little dinner for him at the Capital City Club. 
We would drive down to LaGrange the next day. 

The following morning the doorman of the club, who had 
been there for years, telephoned me to say that a man, repre- 
senting himself to be "from the United States Secret Service," 
had sought from him the name of the waiter who had served 
the dinner in honor of Mr. Clas in the private dining room. 
The name was given, and the waiter was interviewed in his 
home. He was questioned about the talk at the table. Were 
more housing projects to be built? If so, where? How many 
were at the dinner, and who were they? 

I was so mad at this unwarranted interference that I had 



"Nobody Else Will or Can" Roosevelt 127 

a careful investigation made. It developed that the man 
"from the United States Secret Service" was none other than 
the paid secretary of the local Apartment House Owners Asso- 
ciation. It had proclaimed that it would fight us "to the last 
ditch," and it was in its natural element. Since I suspected 
who had sent the "Secret Service man," I went to his slum 
brokerage office and told him in explicit particulars what I 
thought of him. He made no denial. 

The next group to tackle on my agenda was my own trade 
association, the National Association of Building Owners 
and Managers, of which I was president in 1931. Its twenty- 
eighth annual convention was to be in Cincinnati. The days 
would be devoted to the problems of office-building operation, 
but the effect of traffic and slums on central real-estate values 
would also be discussed. With properties represented in our 
association employing more capital than the total investment 
in the steel, telephone, and automobile industries combined, 
I felt that my friends should be among the most militant 
leaders for slum clearance. Not just because to clear slums 
would enhance the value of their holdings, but because it 
would benefit humanity, too. Slum clearance, therefore, 
should appeal to them for they were upright and humane 
citizens, as well as good businessmen. 

On the afternoon of June 12, 1935, in the grand ballroom 
of the Netherlands Plaza Hotel, The World War against 
Slums was shown to some five hundred members gathered 
from all over the country. Before starting the film I thought 
it wise to break the ice that was forming around the circle 
of my more conservative acquaintances. 

"When we think of slum clearance as foreign to our capi- 
talistic society," I began, "I feel that in advocating it I should 
quote a little verse: 



128 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

" 'Just see that happy moron, 
He doesn't give a damn; 
I wish I were a moron; 
My God, perhaps I am!' 

"But, with you, I have always been interested in the preser- 
vation of capital. To protect the proper use of capital is one 
reason for this talk and these movies, as you'll see. So please 
don't call me a moron too soon. 

"There has probably never been a time in our history, 
with the exception of 1780 to 1795, when our citizenry has 
been as alive to the issues of the day as it is now. Since 1932 
there have been more subjects of national importance in- 
telligently discussed by our people than at any time since 
that fifteen-year period when we were coming out of our 
Revolution. Then our nation was headed by the 'Father of 
Our Country.' He was a much more radical man than 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for Washington was the leader 
of a revolution. 

"So let us approach slum clearance with the same open- 
mindedness that our forebears gave to the problems of their 
day when they were building up our country. It is entirely 
appropriate that we examine such important movements as 
public housing and consider them in an unprejudiced 
manner." 

After developing many of the specific reasons for slum 
clearance, I wound up my introduction to the movie. 

That meeting ended in a huddle with much talk as several 
clustered around for more debate. Most of them, I found, 
were willing to be convinced. But there was little doubt in 
my mind that it would take time and lots of it really to bring 
about "The Way Out." In later years it was gratifying to 
note, however, that many leaders from our association became 



"Nobody Else Will or Can 99 Roosevelt 129 

members of their local Housing Authorities, and quite a few 
assumed the chairmanship. 

But "laying my cards on the line," as I had done, be- 
wildered many businessmen. It wasn't long before this parody 
reached me from a mischievous well-wisher. 

"Just see that happy moron, 
He doesn't give a damn; 
I wish I were a moron 
Housed by a government man." 

The talk, talk, talk of these sincere and earnest men re- 
called Tom Paine's comment about the Continental Congress: 
"Words pile up, and afterwards men do things. First the 
words." 

Being a realist, I wanted more than words from the meet- 
ings. It was understandable that a session such as the one at 
the Harvard Club in New York could not appropriately 
commit a social group of that kind to a resolution in support 
of any movement, let alone one as controversial as slum clear- 
ance. But things were different with the National Association 
of Building Owners and Managers. Its object was legitimately 
to further its own ends. Slum clearance should certainly 
qualify. A resolution of support from such an influential 
group, one of the oldest and most highly respected in the 
United States, would help in Washington and throughout 
the country. So I went to work with a will. 

Policy was determined by the Board of Governors, com- 
posed of representatives from local associations in forty-four 
cities widely scattered in twenty-eight states. The board met 
on the last day of the convention. A resolution that Sam 
Buckingham, of Cleveland, had helped prepare was intro- 



130 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

duced by Carl Palmer, Cleveland's board member, whose 
comprehensive understanding of the movement made us 
slum-clearance kin though not blood brothers. After extended 
debate, the resolution was referred to the Executive Com- 
mittee of our Apartment House Division for action, and then 
for transmittal to all members of the Board of Governors for 
a vote by mail within thirty days. 

That it would have tough sledding was forecast in a letter 
from Robert Saunders, of St. Louis, chairman of the Apart- 
ment House Division, who commented: "Everyone with 
whom I talked feels that the association should keep hands 
off; that the political aspects make it an undesirable matter 
for the association." 

So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that on August 5 
favorable action had been taken by the Executive Committee 
of the Apartment Housing Division. As a result, the follow- 
ing resolution was transmitted to the Board of Governors of 
the entire association. 

Whereas, More than ten billions ($10,000,000,000) of dollars 
have been invested in office buildings and apartment 
houses owned or controlled by members of the National 
Association of Building Owners and Managers, and 

Whereas, The United States Government is now building hous- 
ing projects in various cities of the country and is com- 
mitted to the purpose of building more, and 

Whereas, In the opinion of the Board of Governors of the 
National Association of Building Owners and Man- 
agers, government housing, when limited solely to 
those citizens of the poorest class who cannot pay an 
economic rent, is socially and economically desirable, 
and 

Whereas, Slum clearance and low rent housing perform a public 
benefit by lessening the number and extent of public 
services which must be provided those least fortunate 



"Nobody Else Will or Can" Roosevelt 131 

and by decreasing the epidemic of disease and vice 
which obtain in and radiate from slum areas, and 

Whereas, It is axiomatic that private capital cannot produce 
and maintain proper housing without an economic 
return, 

THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the National Association of 
Building Owners and Managers approves the principle 
of government support of housing projects to the extent 
that they meet a need which private capital cannot 
supply; and urges that capital and labor join in such 
subsidy, capital through taxation, and labor, when 
employed on such projects, through lower hourly wage 
rates, but higher yearly incomes made possible through 
annual instead of seasonal employment, and be it 

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the President of the National As- 
sociation of Building Owners and Managers transmit 
to the President of the United States a copy of these 
resolutions and make them available to the press. 

By the middle of August, reactions began to arrive. For 
the most part, those who approved merely voted "Aye" with- 
out further comment, while those who opposed wrote at 
length. 

On September 10, President Turley wrote me, "As the 
matter now stands, there have been twenty-eight associations 
voted, sixteen favorably and twelve against, eighteen yet to 
be heard from. On the weighted vote [votes per association 
were based on the total assessed value of all member prop- 
erties] it now stands 306 against and 250 for. Chicago 
[78 votes] has not voted although I am told that if forced to, 
they would cast a ballot against the resolution." 

Since the weighted vote was what counted and as caucuses 
had disclosed that some other large associations, besides 
Chicago, would vote against, it was finally decided to with- 
draw the resolution. We proponents had to be satisfied with 



132 Adventure* of a Slum Fighter 

the constructive discussion that the resolution had provoked. 
It showed that understanding and sympathetic support was 
slowly gaining. 

Slum clearance in America was still an infant project. It 
had to crawl before it learned to walk. As for me, I wanted 
to yank it out of its play pen. 



13 



"ILLEGAL, ILLOGICAL, 
CRAZY AS HELL!" 



SENATOR WAGNER, who had placed his name 
on the housing bill then under discussion, was planning to 
visit Europe in midsummer of 1935, so Matt Daiger followed 
up his earlier inquiry about a meeting with the Senator. This 
came about when a few leaders joined me for dinner and to 
see the films at the Mayflower in Washington, early in July. 

It was felt that a central group should be working. At 
least $25,000 was needed to establish and maintain a clearing- 
house that would harmonize conflicting views and perfect 
recommendations. Senator Wagner volunteered to try to get 
the money through the President from his emergency fund. 
He also felt it probable that a White House meeting might 
be called by the President much along the lines originally 
suggested to Hopkins. 

The evening ended in good spirits and with high hopes. 
Senator Wagner left Washington shortly thereafter for 
Europe. Whether he ever discussed it with the President, 
Daiger and I never found out. So I chalked up another win 
by default for the opposition. 

While in Washington, Clark Howell and I were to get 
together on July 17 to check up on housing. "Mr. Clark" was 
in the nation's capital trying to pull some of Gene Talmadge's 

133 



134 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

political chestnuts out of the fire. "Ole Gene" Talmadge was 
the tobacco-chewing, swaggering governor of Georgia, and 
self-styled "leader of the pee-pul," whose leadership was often 
tinged with self-interest. It was he who had stymied the intro- 
duction of a housing bill in the Georgia legislature at its 
past session. "Ole Gene" had a simple rule from which he 
never deviated: he was "agin" anything and everything that 
Roosevelt wanted. 

The Governor's opposition was active. He had declined to 
submit his federal-fund road projects to the Works Progress 
Administrator in Georgia. As a result, the flow of money 
from Uncle Sam's voluminous pockets was stopped. And it was 
in the hope of starting the flow again that Howell had 
arranged for Talmadge to see the President. Despite the fact 
that Talmadge was as anti-Roosevelt as Huey Long, the 
Chief Executive had received him cordially. The President 
assured Clark Howell and the Governor that $19,000,000 was 
"on the hook" just waiting for Georgia to straighten out its 
affairs. They were told to go to the Bureau of Public Roads 
and see its chief, T. H MacDonald. From his subsequent 
meeting that afternoon with MacDonald, Talmadge got little 
encouragement. So when Howell brought him to my apart- 
ment just before dinner, "Ole Gene" was ready to blow his 
top. A mint julep pacified him momentarily, and we saun- 
tered over to the roof of the Army and Navy Club to escape 
the heat and get something to eat. 

While waiting for dinner to be served, the Governor 
sipped a second julep and began muttering about the Presi- 
dent and MacDonald. 

"Their reasoning is illegal!" he suddenly blurted out. "It's 
illegal, illogical, and crazy as hell!" 

The Governor apparently could not or would not accept 
the stipulations other states were meeting to obtain federal 



"Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hett!" 135 

road funds. His colorful phraseology kept coming back to 
me as he rambled on. But it seemed to me that "illegal, 
illogical, crazy as hell!" particularly applied to the Governor 
himself, rather than to the President and the Chief of the 
Bureau of Public Roads. 

Mellowing with the meal, Talmadge asked me about slum 
clearance in Atlanta. 

"Now that you've got Techwood goin', Palmer," he ob- 
served, "and made a little money out of it, I s'pose you'll 
get into somethin' else." 

"Not necessarily, Governor," I replied. "You see, slum 
clearance has a lot more to it than just the business angle. 
Clear slums, and you help people." 

"Well, you're wrong there," he retorted. "Slums don't hurt 
nobody. In fact, slums are good for people. Makes 'em 
stronger. You gotta be strong to survive 'em. Take Jack John- 
son. He came from the slums. He's their product." 

I had met this kind of illogical reasoning before: drawing 
a general conclusion from a single example. So when Tal- 
madge mentioned my recent trip to Europe, I took another 
tack. 

"A great many years ago," I explained, "the British passed 
compulsory housing laws not unlike our pure-food laws. 
They made it as illegal to rent an insanitary house as it is 
illegal to sell impure meat in the United States. You believe 
in the pure-food laws of our country, don't you, Governor?" 

The question seemed to stump "Ole Gene," but not for 
long. He pushed back his rumpled white linen coat, tilted 
his chair, put a thumb under each red gallus, snapped them, 
and plumped back to the floor again. 

"Naw!" he denied with vigor. "If we didn't have the pure- 
food laws, folks would be more careful what they et!" 

Ridiculous, of course. And probably the Governor meant 



136 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

much less than he said. He was a great one for verbal gym- 
nastics and liked to think that he could maintain any position, 
no matter how untenable. His stand on slum clearance and 
the pure-food laws was certainly "illegal, illogical, and crazy 
as hell!" 

As the summer wore on and the construction of Techwood 
progressed, new problems developed. Some of the positions 
taken were literally "crazy as hell." I couldn't by the wildest 
stretch of the imagination believe that they could happen- 
but they did. 

The City Attorney of Atlanta ruled that land owned by 
"the United States of America ... is no longer within the 
State or City for any purpose except the service of criminal 
process. Under this advice, I think the people who reside on 
this reservation [Techwood or University Homes] would not 
be subject to City regulations, including police and fire, 
health, etc., or City taxation, or otherwise." Interpreting that 
dictum literally, the two projects could burn to the ground, 
and the City of Atlanta wouldn't lift a hand to put out the 
conflagration. 

Fortunately, the Attorney General of the United States 
came to our rescue by ruling that civil jurisdiction remained 
with the City and State, and that tenants retained their 
franchise privileges and were entitled to fire and police pro- 
tection as well as use of the schools. 

Applications for occupancy were pouring in, and the 
Techwood Advisory Committee was pressing Washington for 
a statement of policy. By September 11, conditions were so 
demoralized that Clark Howell, on behalf of the committee, 
sent an official letter to Secretary Ickes, listing Housing Divi- 
sion inaction in detail. 

Receiving no acknowledgment to his letter, Howell tele- 



"Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hell!" 137 

graphed Ickes on the twenty-fourth: "ADVISORY BOARD TO 
MEET THIS WEEK AND PREPARE TO TENDER ITS RESIGNATION UN- 
LESS SOMETHING IS DONE TO RELIEVE SITUATION FEEL WE 

CAN NO LONGER ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR FAILURE TO GET 
ACTION IN WASHINGTON." 

This wire got the ball rolling at last. Howell and the 
Advisory Committee asked me to handle the matter with 
Ickes. But nearly a month went by before we could get to- 
gether. Meanwhile, it became increasingly evident that legis- 
lation was needed to straighten out the conflict between na- 
tional and local jurisdictions, so we called in Senator George, 
of Georgia, to help. By the time of our conference, Ickes was 
able to show some progress along legislative and other lines. 
So the Advisory Committee decided that, having once become 
members of the crew, it would stick with the ship, no matter 
how rough the seas, or how inefficient the navigator in the 
person of the Secretary of the Interior. 

President Roosevelt dedicated Techwood on November 29, 
1935. Since the occasion was in the nature of a home-coming 
celebration the President called Georgia his "second home" 
the stands of Georgia Tech Stadium, across the street from 
Techwood, were jammed by tens of thousands of loyal 
supporters. 

Colonel E. W. Starling, Chief of the White House Secret 
Service, swung off the President's car, a hand on his gun in 
the pocket of his overcoat, as the official party stopped for a 
view of Techwood before entering the stadium. With the 
President were Mrs. Roosevelt, Senator George, and Senator 
Russell. Just as my movie camera started clicking at close 
quarters, the President viewed his first slum-clearance project. 
His face was grave for an instant, then broke into one of the 
happiest smiles I ever saw on his forceful, happy face. Mrs. 
Roosevelt, bundled in furs with a large orchid showing, was 



138 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

beside him. He turned quickly, reached out his hand for 
hers, and they grinned with delight. 

"Isn't it grand!" the President declared. "They're really 
getting on with the job. I just love it!" 

Then he pushed the button that unveiled the bronze 
dedicatory plaque on the wall of the nearest apartment. 

The President's reception glowed with warmth and affec- 
tion for a leader whose humanitarian principles and policies 
were accepted by the throng as marking him one of the truly 
great figures in world history. He took the speaker's platform 
on the arm of his son, James. His address was about national 
and world affairs, as well as housing. 

"Within sight of us today," he said of Techwood, "stands 
a tribute to useful work under government supervision the 
first slum-clearance and low-rent housing project. Here, at 
the request of the citizens of Atlanta, we have cleaned out 
nine square blocks of antiquated, squalid dwellings, for years 
a detriment to the community. Today those hopeless old 
houses are gone, and in their places we see the bright, cheerful 
buildings of the Techwood Housing Project. Within a very 
short time, people who never before could get a decent roof 
over their heads will live here in reasonable comfort amid 
healthful, worth-while surroundings; others will find similar 
homes in Atlanta's second slum clearance, the University 
Homes Project, and still others will find similar opportunity 
in nearly all of the older, overcrowded cities of the United 
States." 

Now that direct action had started on the slums of Atlanta, 
the studies of what had been done to the slums of other 
countries took on added significance. These, although cover- 
ing much ground, had not touched the Orient. So I was par- 
ticularly happy to be invited to meet and talk with Toyohiko 



"Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hell!" 139 

Kagawa, who was interested in the slum problems of his 
country, when he came to Atlanta in December, 1935. 

Kagawa had been detained by the immigration authorities 
at San Francisco because of regulations against persons with 
trachoma entering the United States. I learned that his case 
of this dreaded eye disease had been contracted while sharing 
his bed with a beggar. When we met, Kagawa peered through 
thick lenses set in black, horn-rimmed frames, apparently 
having great difficulty in seeing at all. His thick black hair 
began far back on a pear-shaped head balanced by two large 
ears with prominent lobes. His wide mouth, under a broad 
nose, broke into a friendly smile. 

Kagawa spoke English, having studied at Princeton, and 
looked older than his forty-seven years. Already suffering 
from tuberculosis, he had not expected to live long when he 
started his slum studies at the age of twenty-one. Though 
disease had taken its toll, when talking about his experiences 
he acted very much alive. 

Kagawa told me that he felt so strongly about the slum 
problem that he had lived for years in the worst area of the 
notorious Shinkawa District in Kobe. He had chosen that 
vile neighborhood despite his samurai family background and 
a father who had held a secretaryship to the Privy Council in 
Japan. Kagawa had embraced Christianity, which was a strong 
factor in leading him to devote his life to those whom he 
felt needed him. 

"First I found a house that you might say was at the bottom 
of the well of humanity," he explained. "The only reason I 
was able to get it was because my neighbors thought it 
haunted by the victim who had recently been murdered 
there. 

"Have you been in Japan? No? Well, I'll describe for you 
a little of what my slum hut was like. It was about six feet 



140 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

square, without windows, and the walls were so flimsy that, 
at a time when I was caring for ten people who were down 
and out, I simply knocked out a wall to make a little more 
room for them. The shack was like all others in Shinkawa, 
where ten thousand people live in these six-by-sixes. Some- 
times two families, comprising eight or nine people, live in 
a single hut. Over a hundred use the same toilet. You have 
seen the slums of Europe and America. But ours in Japan 
are worse because the buildings are so small and fragile. We 
even use paper doors, and in winter it is often very cold. 

"The scavengers, jinrikisha men, pimps, gamblers, and 
prostitutes who were my neighbors spent much time in idle- 
ness. Most of the children had some disease of the skin. The 
infant mortality rate exceeded five hundred per thousand. I 
reached the conclusion that the slum problem in Japan was 
so vast that the only attack with any promise of success must 
be through liberating the laborers. If they could be freed 
from their semislavery, if they could earn more, then eventu- 
ally the slum conditions would be a little less bad because the 
inhabitants would have a bit more to spend. 

"Since these unfortunates had no leader, I assumed that 
role. First I wrote a book of my slum experience called Across 
the Death Line. I wrote articles on the subject for the news- 
papers. And I became a militant agitator at public meetings. 
The slums in Japan, and all over the world, must be wiped 
out!" 

A study of Kagawa's works disclosed that he wrote for the 
world. His graphic poem "Shinkawa" might well have been 
"Naples" or even "Washington," as far as the people of the 
slums or the smells and the squalor were concerned. 

From thoughts far afield on the slums of the Orient, I was 
snapped back home to the continuing problems of Tech- 



"Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hell!" 141 

wood. On January 27, 1936, Comptroller General of the 
United States J. R. McCarl, who had already thrown more 
than his share of monkey wrenches into slum-clearance ma- 
chinery, ruled that rents on Techwood, the sorely wounded 
guinea pig, must be high enough to pay back to the govern- 
ment the entire cost of land and buildings, plus all operating 
expenses. He added that, because Techwood was United 
States property, no part of the rentals could be diverted to 
reimburse the City of Atlanta, in lieu of taxes, for fire and 
police protection, or for school, sewerage, sanitary, and street- 
maintenance facilities. This nullified tentative agreements 
between the Department of the Interior and the City of 
Atlanta for Techwood to pay a service charge in place of 
taxes. It also made mandatory such high rents that those for 
whom the project was intended could not afford to live there. 

Now it became necessary to find some solution for this 
new problem, so a corrective bill was prepared that Senator 
George introduced into the Senate. It was passed on March 
27, 1936. Congressman Ramspeck handled the legislation in 
the House, and by May, President Roosevelt had signed a 
law that put Techwood and similar developments back on the 
track originally intended. 

Clark Howell, meanwhile, had returned from the Pacific, 
where he had attended the inauguration of the new Com- 
monwealth of the Philippines. And he was displeased, to say 
the least, with the situation in which he found Techwood. 
We all felt that most of the trouble came from the ineptness 
of Ickes and his staff. So Howell took pen in hand and stated 
our case in no uncertain terms. We were all properly in- 
censed by the cavalier treatment we had been receiving from 
Washington. Our advice had been repeatedly sought and as 
repeatedly ignored. 

Back to Washington I went, armed with Howell's letter. 



142 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

By now I knew every pole along the railroad and every town 
from the sky. I presented the letter to the proper authorities, 
and the gears began to grind again. 

My hope that we would get action was finally justified. 
Decisions began to come through. Howell continued to help 
as only he was in a position to do. 

While all these trapeze acts were going on in the three-ring 
housing circus, there were some enthusiasts pushing for com- 
prehensive legislation to revamp the entire setup. I did not 
share their optimism that the bill they had persuaded Senator 
Wagner to sponsor was adequate, or that proper backing for 
it could be arranged. I had been through too many battles, 
and though I didn't wear wound stripes, I carried the scars. 

We were witnessing nationally that which we had already 
seen locally: those against slum-clearance housing were shout- 
ing from the housetops, while those for the program were 
standing mute, especially the ones whose influence could do 
the most good. 

The answer still seemed to be through some such approach 
as "The Way Out." But that kind of broad attack was not 
being used in the hearings before the Senate committee on 
the Wagner bill. It was mostly single-shot ammunition. Tes- 
timony was taken for days during April, but the "Housing 
Act of 1936" never got very far. At best it proved to the sup- 
porters of public housing that better groundwork should be 
laid in advance the next time. 

During this backing and filling in America, high-ranking 
British kept crying out against slums on every possible occa- 
sion. Even the launching of the Queen Mary afforded an 
opportunity to speak on the subject. 

"Edward VIII, new King of England," Arthur Brisbane 
reported on March 17, 1936, "visited the magnificently 
luxurious ocean steamer, Queen Mary, in Glasgow; then went 



"Illegal, Illogical, Crazy as Hell!" 143 

from house to house knocking on doors, visiting some of the 
worst slum dwellings in all of his Kingdom. Later, talking to 
Lord Melchett, the King put the problem of England, this 
country, and the whole world, in these few words: 'How do 
you reconcile a world that has produced this mighty ship with 
the slums we have just visited?' " So spoke John Bull. 



14 



LADY ASTOR AND 
LADIES IN LIMEHOIJSE 



BY THE SPRING of 1936, Laura and I had become 
increasingly impatient to return to England. Two years be- 
fore, when we'd made that quick swing around Europe, 
we promised ourselves to be back soon for a more extended 
study of what the British had done about slum clearance. We 
had seen enough the previous trip to know that they could 
teach us much in America. We wanted to have a look at the 
Midlands and Scotland, too. 

Before deciding on any extended travel, Laura, as always, 
first made sure that the plans for the children were properly 
arranged. This year they would be off to summer camp, as 
usual. Margaret was a young lady now, nearly seventeen, and 
would go away to college in the fall. Our younger daughters, 
Laura and Jeannette, would remain in school in Atlanta. 

Watching the three grow into womanhood, we realized 
that our tightly knit family would soon be breaking up. 
The girls had been publishing The Brookwood Bugle regu- 
larly for four years. It had reached a circulation of two hun- 
dred copies in twenty states and four foreign countries. But 
with Margaret going away to college, the children decided to 
print a gala final edition, and The Bugle ended on a tri- 
umphant note. 

144 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 145 

So Laura and I began packing our bags, meanwhile arrang- 
ing for passage on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary from 
New York to Southhampton in June. Since we planned to 
visit the major cities of Great Britain, I carefully stowed my 
photographic equipment in the luggage, and we also took 
along a faithful Ford coupe. 

As the newest vessel of the Cunard Line came into the 
harbor at Southampton on June 10, speedboats and planes 
rushed out to meet her. Excursion steamers, jammed with 
cheering Britishers, formed an escort to the dock, where 
thousands more waved handkerchiefs and hats and roared a 
warm welcome. 

The Atlantic crossing had been calm and peaceful, and 
Laura and I were well rested. So after a hearty breakfast early 
the next morning, we were off to visit the slums of Southamp- 
ton. A car and driver were put at our disposal by Mr. 
Meggeson, the town clerk, for which I was thankful as I was 
hesitant about tackling the British left-handed traffic regula- 
tions with our Ford. Dr. Payne, from the local Department of 
Health, acted as our guide. 

Southampton's first Council Housing, we were told, was 
built in 1911, when sixty-nine two- to five-story flats were 
built within the old town wall. As a large proportion of their 
local workmen, naturally enough, were dock laborers, with 
intermittent duties at small pay, it was imperative to keep 
rents at the lowest possible level. So most of the houses con- 
tained, as the British called them, "nonparlour" flats, with 
three bedrooms, which they were able to rent at just under 
two dollars a week. 

We spent most of the day visiting the slums and the areas 
to which the inhabitants were being moved. While Laura 
plied Dr. Payne with questions, I kept my camera clicking. 
The new developments were attractive and well tended. 



146 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Corporation trams" provided the necessary transportation 
for the workers to the docks where they were employed. This 
minor detail might easily have been overlooked, but we dis- 
covered that it was much more important than it seemed. 
Some housing projects on the edge of town, in fact, were 
having difficulty in getting tenants, as the weekly tram fare 
to and from the docks totaled over a dollar, which was more 
than half their rent. I was reminded for the thousandth time 
that in planning housing projects it is sometimes fatal to 
overlook the slightest detail. 

Several of the projects had been built by the Council with 
direct labor, instead of letting it out to private contractors. 
This method, we were told, had saved them some money. 
The developments we saw ranged in size from Houndwell, 
with but 26 dwellings, to the Burgess Road Housing Scheme, 
where 1,164 units had been built on 102 acres. In the center 
was a i5-acre park through which a brook lazily meandered. 

Most of what we saw conformed to the orthodox with one 
exception. This was a development for dockers near the 
wharves. Only a limited site was available, and the Council 
wanted to put it to the most extensive use as, to save that 
relatively substantial bus fare, the low-income dock laborers 
had to be housed within walking distance of their work. The 
Council also wished to avoid the usual flats, first, because 
of the large number of children per family, and also because 
of the difficulty and cost in maintaining public halls and 
stairs. That was another salient point to keep in mind: before 
the architects go to work on their planning boards, be sure to 
check whether the number of persons per family in the slum 
area is higher than the national average. Chances are that 
it is. 

The architects working on this development near the docks 
finally evolved a design of two-story "nonparlour" houses, 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 147 

superimposed one upon the other. This created a four-story 
building in which each unit had the privacy and amenities 
of the normal two-story home. The first floor of each dwelling 
consisted of a large living room, a "scullery," or kitchen, with 
bath and "W.C.," or water closet, adjoining the latter. On 
the second floor there were three ample bedrooms. 

A long, open balcony extended across the rear at what 
would have been the roof line of the ground-floor houses. 
This balcony gave access to the first floors of the upper 
houses and was reached by stairs at either end. Every house 
thus became a self-contained unit, with its own interior 
stairs and with no public space for the Council to maintain. 
Laura and I thought it most ingenious. 

"It's practical and delightful at the same time," she summed 
it up. "Instead of the forced intimacy of apartments, these 
tenants have the privacy of their own homes." 

"And," I added, as Dr. Payne smilingly nodded, "by put- 
ting one set of houses atop another, they have doubled the 
number of dwelling units on the limited acreage." 

The residents we spoke to were unanimously enthusiastic 
and said they much preferred their private dwellings to the 
regulation flats. And they were happy, of course, that the 
proximity of their homes to the docks made it unnecessary 
for them to spend five or six precious shillings a week for 
transportation. Item to remember: be certain that the tenants 
of low-rent developments can get to and from work easily and 
inexpensively. 

When discussing management, I sensed political patronage 
in selecting rent collectors. The whole system, as laid down 
in their printed instructions, was too inflexible for use with 
former slum dwellers. There was no genuine, human con- 
tact, no effort to teach cleanliness or better diet. The use of 
women under the Octavia Hill System would probably be 



148 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

better. That had already been proved to us by Miss Alice 
Samuels of Liverpool. 

The next morning we piled bag and baggage into the Ford 
coupe, and I got behind the wheel, wishing I had a sextant 
and compass to guide me in driving on the "wrong" side of 
the road. Fortunately, it would be some time before we hit 
the heavy traffic around London, and Laura spelled me at the 
wheel to orient herself at "left-handed driving," too. 

Determined not to miss anything of interest this trip, we 
stopped at the smaller towns along the highway. At Ports- 
mouth we found that about 10 per cent of the population 
lived in public housing. At Chichester there was a strong 
demand for five-bedroom houses to alleviate overcrowding in 
large families. The poor, I reflected, seem to find comfort in 
numerous offspring. At Brighton we were steered to Dr. 
Forbes, the Medical Officer of Health, a robust, genial gentle- 
man who bubbled over with enthusiasm when we mentioned 
that our primary interest was slum clearance. 

"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "So you in the States are 
starting slum clearance, too. Excellent! Excellent! We here 
in Brighton have been at it long enough to place about ten 
per cent of our people in Council Houses, something like 
three thousand dwellings. But there's much to be done before 
all the slums are wiped out." 

I had learned long ago that it's not always easy to dig out 
the salient facts. But here was somebody who, at first glance, 
I was sure, would come out with the unvarnished truth. I 
asked him if they'd had any particular problems. 

"Too many," he admitted. "The folks who handle the 
money often try to save in the wrong places. D' you know 
what those stupid officials did to cut the cost of a house less 
than five pounds? They insisted upon lowering the height of 
the windows by one foot! This insane idea not only curtailed 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 149 

the sunlight in the houses but left a thirty-inch pocket below 
each ceiling where overheated and stagnant air was bound to 
accumulate. That's bad for health! And, mind you, the sav- 
ings effected on the loan charges amounts to less than a penny 
per house per week! Did you ever hear of anything more 
foolish and miserly?" 

Dr. Forbes paused for breath, but he wasn't done yet, not 
by a long shot. 

"These financial officials," he went on vehemently, "carry 
on in that way despite the added revenue we supply locally 
from a scheme of our own to lower rents. No other place has 
a similar plan, and you may care to hear about it." 
"Please go on," Laura urged him. 

"It's the cinema tax," Dr. Forbes explained. "The picture 
shows pay a certain amount to the city for permission to 
remain open on Sunday. It runs up to about a thousand 
pounds a year. Half goes to the hospitals and half to lower 
the rent for aged people in their specialized houses. Normally 
they would pay about eight shillings a week, but the cinema 
tax lowers it to as little as a shilling, according to need." 

"From two dollars to only a quarter a week," Laura said 
in surprise. "Why, that's wonderful!" 

"There is one factor of primary importance," Dr. Forbes 
went on, "that I am sure you good people in the States will 
want to keep in mind. That is location. Houses too far from 
work just don't rent." 

Laura and I exchanged understanding glances. "The folks 
in Southampton found that out," she said, "to their sorrow." 
"Yes, I know," Dr. Forbes nodded. "The country cottage, 
of course, has its points. It's private and quiet. But the vast 
majority of people want to live as close as possible to the 
center of the city. And for very good reasons. First, they can 
walk to work. And besides, a surprising number of them take 



150 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

their midday meals at home. This gives 'em hot food, which 
is desirable for good health, and it's less costly than buying 
a meal near the job. Of course, we could build our housing 
developments farther out of town if cheap transportation 
were provided. At present that difficulty is partly solved with 
concessions by the tramways and bus services to those travel- 
ing before eight in the morning. Personally, I would strongly 
suggest the extension of cheap fares, by subsidy if need be." 
Dr. Forbes reminded me of our rural family doctors back 
home. His interest in the health of all who lived in Brighton 
was more like that of a fatherly adviser rather than that of 
an impersonal Medical Officer of Health. It was significant 
that he found housing to be of vital influence on community 
health. Here was a man who spoke not from idle theory but 
from the hard facts of long experience. We thanked him 
sincerely as we said good-by. 

We unfortunately missed the town clerks at Canterbury 
and Tunbridge Wells since we passed through on Saturday 
afternoon and their offices were closed for the weekend. But 
while we didn't see the interiors of their Council Houses, 
the age of the surrounding buildings was, by contrast, all 
too evident. To find the residents of these ancient and honor- 
able cities alert to the needs of modern housing, and really 
doing something about it, made us feel ashamed at the late 
start our own country was making. 

The drive into London on Sunday, June 13, was free 
enough of the terrific weekday traffic so that we reached the 
Carl ton Hotel in the center of things without physical injury. 
But the mental anguish of "left-handed traffic" had me in a 
sweat. I'd never have made it without mishap if Laura hadn't 
acted as navigator. Our Ford had, of course, the steering 
wheel on the left in American style, and I couldn't see 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Lim chouse 151 

whether it was safe to pass another vehicle. When a car ap- 
proached, I instinctively started to turn to the right until 
Laura put a warning hand on my arm. And whenever an 
immense double-deck bus raced straight at us with a fiendish 
roar, I jammed down on the brake pedal and waited tensely 
until it had rushed past us. It was an immense relief to get 
into the restful Sunday quiet of our hotel. 

The London newspapers were filled with encouraging 
reports of the progress made in slum clearance since our pre- 
vious visit in 1934. The five-year plan for the United 
Kingdom was proceeding on schedule. A half-million slum 
dwellers, it was said, had already been moved to new, clean 
homes. Others were being transferred to new houses at the 
rate of some 26,000 a month. The British, we felt as we went 
through the papers, had every right to crow over their ac- 
complishments in clearing the slums. 

Lewis Silkin, chairman of the Housing and Public Health 
Committee of the London County Council, was apparently 
making the headway he had hoped for when I conferred 
with him two years before. The Council's slum-clearance 
activities had extended to twenty of the twenty-eight metro- 
politan boroughs, with eighty developments in progress 
throughout the London area. 

All this, Silkin had publicly announced, was but the begin- 
ning of a new day in slum clearance. The past had seen much 
done in the London area; but it had been piecemeal, for 
the most part. Now he was eager to have the Council use 
the powers and subsidies available from the Central Govern- 
ment to make a strong attack on the deplorable conditions 
in the notorious East End. 

It was the same story though on a much larger scale- 
that we had met in Southampton. The dockers, Silkin in- 



152 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

sisted, must be provided with homes close to their work. 
According to a survey just completed, in the Limehouse area 
of the East India Docks and the Isle of Dogs more than 60,000 
people were living in slums with another 103,000 in over- 
crowded dwellings. 

The East-Ender, Silkin pointed out, was a great person, 
and the district in which he lived had a character all its own. 
It was far too fine to destroy, and he would not wish to break 
it up or cause it to lose its identity. The East-Ender, he 
affirmed, well deserved decent housing conditions, and the 
Council would do its utmost to provide them. He was confi- 
dent that the public would be prepared to accept any pro- 
posal, no matter how drastic, for the removal of the terrible 
cancer of the slums. There would be "considerable financial 
recoupment, but the benefit in terms of health and happiness 
would be incalculable." 

If the Council eventually adopted a plan such as he had 
outlined which would be the largest program for redevelop- 
ment ever undertaken by local authority the slums of Lon- 
don, Silkin said, could be cleared within six years, "if the 
present administration continued." 

That "if" made me wonder how much of Silkiri's brave 
statement was actual intent and how much was politics. He 
was a true humanitarian and sincerely wanted to clear the 
East End. But he was a realist as well and, back in 1934, had 
helped Sir Arthur Henderson to unseat those controlling the 
L. C. C. by claiming "not enough done," and using the potent 
slogan, "Up with the houses, down with the slums." 

No one knew better than Silkin the colossal problems pre- 
sented by the Stepney and Poplar districts, loosely known as 
the East End, Whitechapel, or Limehouse section of London. 
In it were Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and the district where 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 153 

Bill Sikes, Dickens's notorious character in Oliver Twist, 
had carried on his nefarious schemes. 

This area had been populated for over two thousand years. 
With the coming of William the Conqueror, Stepney was 
built on London's border. In the time of Henry VIII and 
Queen Elizabeth I, it was a seaman's haven and furnished 
many ships to fight the Spanish Armada. The workmen came 
from the Limehouse district, so named for its lime kilns. 
Small businesses also settled in the East End to escape regu- 
lation by the city's guilds. Over the centuries, this section 
of London became populated by a motley crew of cut- 
throats and harridans and other rogues. 

It wasn't until 1806 that a water system was built, and it 
provided service arbitrarily for but a few businesses and 
homes. Most people still used open wells that bred disease. 
A half century later, in 1852, the East London Water Com- 
pany was required to supply water for all if petitions in writ- 
ing from 80 per cent of the residents were received. Since 
the vast majority of the population was hopelessly illiterate, 
this law was unenforceable. As late as 1870, in one East End 
court some two hundred and fifty people shared a single tap, 
which was open for but twenty-five minutes a day and was 
closed entirely on Sundays. 

Over a century ago it had been said: "The people never 
die here; they are murdered by the fever. The state of back- 
yards and the streets were enough to nourish and breed a 
pestilence." The seventeenth-century laws to prevent slums 
in London had, instead of accomplishing their worthy pur- 
pose, encouraged building outside the city limits, where its 
restrictions could be defied. Consequently, small tenements, 
many of them in basements, had been built in the East End, 
and some of them still remained when we visited the area in 
1936. They distressingly reminded us of the days when 



154 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Burke and Hare, and other infamous "body snatchers," dug 
the dead from their graves, and even murdered poor unfor- 
tunates, selling the bodies to medical schools for anatomical 
study. 

Dickens's outcry, it is true, had forced the Borough Council 
to build a block of flats back in 1862, and quite a bit more 
had been done since the turn of the present century. But with 
something like 200,000 people more than the whole popula- 
tion of Plymouth living in squalid, ancient, two-story slums 
on 1,900 acres only a fifth of the area of Plymouth Lewis 
Silkin faced a multitude of problems, one of which had 
stumped all his predecessors and still seemed insoluble. It 
was the immediate matter of rehousing the people while the 
slum areas in which they had lived were undergoing recon- 
struction. That poser would surely make even the Sphinx 
hesitate thoughtfully. 

However, public housing was speeding along in London, 
as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and it was my feeling 
that Silkin might very well pull off his redevelopment of 
the East End. If he failed, it certainly wouldn't be for want 
of trying. And if he was successful, the accomplishment would 
be in magnitude not unlike the vast reclamations of the 
Pontine Marshes in Italy and, I reflected, just about as long 
deferred. 

A day or two later, Laura and I called on Dr. Margaret 
Miller, secretary of the Society of Women Housing Estate 
Managers. She was a diminutive, brisk woman, all business 
to her finger tips. We were interested to learn that she was 
shortly leaving for the United States to study our slum 
conditions. 

"Before discussing what we women housing managers do 
in England," she began, "I wonder if you'd mind if I checked 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 155 

with you some of my impressions of the States. Then you can 
set me straight if I am in error." 

"Not at all," I assured her. "We'd be happy to have your 
views." 

"First of all," Dr. Miller said, "I understand that you still 
have no well-defined national policy on slum clearance. You 
apparently have not decided just exactly what you want to 
do. Such uncertainty, I'm afraid, must halt directed effort 
because it is certain to create hesitation and doubt in your 
people." 

"Score a hit," I said as she paused momentarily. 

"Secondly, isn't there an actual psychological barrier? I 
understand that your country is so wedded to individualism" 

"Rugged individualism," I put in. 

"That it is difficult to recognize that government action is 
absolutely imperative in the clearing of slums. Representa- 
tives of private enterprises, like your real-estate men and 
apartment-house owners, are, I am given to understand, bit- 
terly opposed to government assistance. Public opinion, too, 
I am told, is completely apathetic. There is no clear recog- 
nition, by your society as a whole, that bad housing is a social 
evil. The average, comfortable American citizen, it seems to 
me, is inclined to believe that people live in slums either 
because they prefer to do so, or because they deserve to 
do so." 

"Hit number two," Laura murmured. 

"That is a cruel error," Dr. Miller said flatly, "a monstrous 
error. But until your public conscience is aroused, as is ours 
in England, there will not be much hope for a comprehensive 
housing movement in the United States." 

"You must have been looking over Uncle Sam's shoulder, 
Dr. Miller," I replied with a sigh. "Wherever your impres- 
sions may have come from, they are as accurate as if you had 



156 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

seen and heard everything for yourself. I would make but one 
qualification to your remarks. Your observation that public 
conscience must be aroused to bring about slum clearance on 
the large scale needed is certainly applicable. But in America 
the economic appeal, I am glad to say, is making some head- 
way already. Our businessmen and bankers are learning that 
it costs more to keep slums than to clear them. And in the 
present depressed state of our economy, they have found 
that slum clearance makes jobs for otherwise idle workers. 
This realization is gradually prodding action while we await 
the awakening of all our citizens to their social duty in the 
reclamation of the slums." 

"I'm glad," Dr. Miller replied with a smile, "that the 
movement is gradually catching on in the States; and thank 
you for verifying my impressions. When your program has 
gone on far enough to have tens of thousands of houses 
builtand I'm certain that time will come then our experi- 
ence with women managers may be of help to you." 

"We understand," Laura said, "that you make rather ex- 
tensive use of women as managers for your housing develop- 
ments. How did it come about?" 

"It all started with Octavia Hill back in the early eighteen- 
sixties," Dr. Miller explained. "Coming from a good family, 
and determined to devote her life to social work, Miss Hill 
soon discovered that bad housing was a serious handicap in 
getting anything constructive done. In time she interested 
a Mr. John Ruskin in purchasing some run-down properties 
and undertook their management herself. She wanted to 
demonstrate, as she put it, that 'you cannot deal with people 
and their houses separately,' if you expect to get the best 
results. She realized the obvious: that a good home makes 
better men and women, and children, too. Her basic prin- 
ciples were those of the rugged individualist, Mr. Palmer. 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 157 

She was unalterably opposed to subsidy, for it was her con- 
viction that employers should pay sufficient wages to their 
workers to obviate the need for state aid. If, she reasoned, 
the head of a family was forced to get along without a rent 
subsidy, his employer would be obliged to pay him an ade- 
quate wage. Putting it another way, Octavia Hill maintained 
that rent subsidies by the state were actually subsidies to 
employers since they enabled management to pay lower 
wages." 

On hearing this extremely progressive view, I nodded in 
agreement as Laura glanced at me inquiringly. 

"Well," I said, "I am amazed that anyone would have had 
such a breadth of vision nearly a century ago. But I wonder 
what would happen if I expressed similar views to some 
businessmen I know back home." 

Dr. Miller smiled and continued the story of Octavia Hill. 
"She kept rents down without subsidy by enlisting the help 
of her tenants. She took them into her confidence making 
them partners, sort of, in their common enterprise telling 
them how much money she had available for repairs and 
maintenance, and then promising certain improvements by 
sharing any savings they could help her effect. By this per- 
sonal approach, wanton damage was soon almost completely 
eliminated. Many men made small repairs themselves so their 
wives might get a longed-for cupboard or wash stool pur- 
chased from the money that would otherwise have gone for 
ordinary upkeep of the premises. Octavia Hill cut cleaning 
costs by organizing bands of young girls to scrub the stairs 
at six pennies a week, thus providing them with what was 
welcome pin money in those days." Dr. Miller turned to Laura. 
"By the way, Mrs. Palmer, you'll be surprised to learn that 
such a progressive woman was vigorously opposed to woman 
suffrage." 



158 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"I am surprised," Laura agreed. "We had some militant 
suffragists in the U.S., just as you did here in England, until 
we got our franchise. Whatever possessed Octavia Hill to 
take such a stand against her own sex?" 

"We must take into consideration," Dr. Miller replied, 
"the fact that Octavia lived in the Victorian era and was a 
product of her times. Consequently, she believed that men 
and women were different in order to complement each 
other's work. If, she argued, women voted and held public 
office, they would give less time to the humane work for 
which they were particularly fitted, such as teaching, nursing, 
caring for the sick, the aged, and the erring. This forthright, 
uncompromising philosophy was the cornerstone of Miss 
Hill's work in low-rent housing. The personal collection of 
rents gave her the opportunity of seeing her tenants regu- 
larly. Anyone else would have been stopped by the hostile 
reception they gave her as the rent collector. But Octavia 
Hill persevered despite the frequent necessity of making calls 
at night, crawling over drunken men in dark corridors, fall- 
ing into filthy puddles, and enduring evil odors. Despite the 
most violent insults shouted at her, she remained unmoved 
and imperturbably went on with her work. Oh, I could go 
on all day talking about Octavia Hill. The example she left 
is what spurs other women housing managers to keep on, no 
matter how difficult the circumstances." 

"She was undoubtedly a great woman," Laura quietly re- 
marked. "I wish we had an army of women like her back 
home." 

"Hers is a most inspiring story," I agreed. "But how do 
things stand today?" 

"Women now manage," Dr. Miller told us, "about forty- 
five thousand housing units. The practice gradually spread 
throughout England and Scotland, then to Holland, Sweden, 



Lady Astor and Ladies in Limehouse 159 

and South Africa. There is even an Octavia Hill Association 
in Philadelphia. The principle on which we operate is that 
through weekly visits by women concerning rents and re- 
pairs, it is easy to keep an unobtrusive eye on all parts of 
each house without creating the suspicion that special inspec- 
tors invariably arouse. Where differential rents are involved, 
or rents graded on the basis of ability to pay, a woman can 
discuss the family budget with the housewife more intimately 
than a man. And when it comes to settling new tenants from 
a slum, the trained woman housing manager is again in a 
better position to secure the co-operation of the housewife in 
preventing the transfer and spread of vermin in clothing 
and furnishings. She is also able to offer intelligent advice on 
purchases for the new house from the tenant's limited funds. 
Thus she establishes friendly relations with a family even 
before they move into their new home." 

While Dr. Miller was at last catching her breath, I asked 
where we might see a representative estate managed by a 
woman. 

"Perhaps the most convenient one here in London," she 
informed us, "would be the Saint Pancras Housing Improve- 
ment Society, which has been operating on the Octavia Hill 
System since 1924. Miss Perry is in charge. I'll arrange a time 
that will be mutually convenient and then phone you at 
your hotel." 

"That will be fine," I said. 

"Before you go," Dr. Miller added, "you may be interested 
in what one of your former countrymen, Lady Astor, thinks 
of our work. She wrote a brief foreword to a little pamphlet 
on the work of women property managers." She turned to one 
of the bookshelves that lined her office and pulled out a little 
folder. This is what Lady Astor said: 

"It has always seemed to me that if there is one thing in 



160 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

the world in which women could and should be experts, it 
was the planning and administration of houses and housing 
schemes. Practical experience, common sense and imagina- 
tion, combined with technical training, can transform many 
of our worst slum areas, as Octavia Hill showed, and I feel 
sure that it would be to the national advantage if greater use 
were made of trained women in the management of those 
new houses and communities which have grown all too 
slowly." 

"Lady Astor," Dr. Miller concluded, ''knows whereof she 
speaks. She is extremely active in the slums of Plymouth as 
well as in London. We regard her very highly indeed." 

Laura and I heartily agreed to these sentiments. After 
thanking Dr. Miller for her generous time, and wishing her 
a fruitful trip to the States, we went back to the Carlton. 

"Well," I said as we relaxed over a cup of tea in our rooms, 
"the ladies are certainly not playing second fiddle in slum 
clearance and housing over here. Dr. Miller is an enthusiast, 
and no two ways about it." 

"It makes me wish," Laura sighed, "that our fine American 
women could capture Dr. Miller's enthusiasm." 

"Her visit to the States should help," I ventured. "When 
we get back, maybe we can take up where she leaves off." 

Laura, as usual, was thinking ahead as she said, "We have 
no London Limehouse district, but in Philadelphia, where 
the slum houses are called 'bandboxes,' conditions are just 
as horrible. Maybe Dr. Miller can persuade American women 
to study Octavia Hill and swing into action. Then there'd 
be Ladies in Bandboxes as well as Ladies in Limehouse." 



15 



SLUM WALLS FALL 
FOR FATHER JELLICOE 



ON RECEIVING a message from Dr. Miller, Laura 
and I set out for a slum district not far from the center of 
London where one of the most practical and effective clear- 
ances I had ever encountered was gradually taking place 
under the capable direction of Miss Evelyn E. Perry, F.S.I., 
the Honourable Secretary of St. Pancras Housing. 

This taut, nervous, smiling, little wisp of a woman met 
us at her modest, immaculate office in the midst of the 
development. At first I wondered if she came up to the 
Octavia Hill standard for robust health, she seemed so frail. 
But we soon saw that her frailty was that of the blooded 
greyhound she was literally in a race with the slums and 
winning out. 

The area around her office was in vivid contrast to the 
beautiful homes of Regent Park nearby. Within a few yards 
of those mansions were block after block of airless basements, 
occupied by families whose children looked like "plants kept 
in a cellar," as Miss Perry told us the Bishop of Winchester 
had described them. The lack of sunshine and air in those 
cellars, she said, caused rickets, chest and other diseases, per- 
manently weakened hearts, and brought on much rheumatic 
fever. Infant mortality, it was no surprise, was way above 

161 



162 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

the average for the city. Such conditions sounded to us like 
Moscow. 

In soliciting funds for their work, Miss Perry said they 
brought the situation home to the upper classes by a strong 
opening statement in their prospectus: "Except for an acci- 
dent of birth, we would be appealing for you, instead of 
to you." 

"That's really a jolt to make us all think," I observed. 

Laura was looking out a window. "By the way," she in- 
quired, "do these people all come from this neighborhood?" 

"Yes, indeed," Miss Perry replied. "It is our chief aim to 
rehouse the people in the immediate vicinity as the slums 
are demolished. The great advantage of our scheme is that 
by building blocks of flats one at a time we dehouse no one. 
When they are finished, we provide accommodations for the 
tenants of homes required for demolition before we start 
building on the site from which those tenants move into the 
new houses. Thus we gradually rehouse all residents in a 
slum area without disturbing the neighborhood pattern. 
That includes the slum merchants for whom we build small 
stores. So you see, one hundred per cent are put in new 
buildings on the same site, with practically no housing 
problem during construction because of the way we decant 
them." 

"That seems to me," I commented, "the most sensible 
solution for the interim housing problem. My wife and I saw 
it being done in Italy, though your method of decanting is 
somewhat different here." 

"Well, there is some resistance to it, especially by the large 
Local Authorities who like to let one big, general contract 
and get the building over. They claim decanting runs up 
construction costs. But we have not found it too expensive, 
and it keeps our neighborhoods intact. There is no scatter- 



Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 163 

ing of the poor people all over the city with many never com- 
ing back, and others finding two moves a severe strain on 
their slender pocketbooks. The wage earners also continue 
their present jobs and are not put to the extra expense of 
long tram fares." 

Miss Perry was thoughtfully silent for a moment. "I was 
thinking," she explained, "how incredible it is what just one 
determined individual can do in clearing slums. Except for 
Father Jellicoe, there would be no Saint Pancras Housing. 
He died only last year, at the early age of thirty-six. He 
actually burned himself out; but I know he felt it was worth 
while." 

"Please tell us about him," Laura urged. 

"When Father Jellicoe came here as a missioner of the 
Church of England," Miss Perry said, "he found the people 
living like pigs. They weren't drunkards or criminals; they 
were respectable working folk. Father Jellicoe learned that 
they didn't live in their verminous, insanitary hovels by 
choice, but because they had to live near their jobs and the 
slums were all they could find. 

"The good Father discovered something else, too that 
if anything was to be done about those slums, he would have 
to do it himself. So first of all, he persuaded and bullied a 
little money from people who could afford to give. Then he 
bought two old houses to recondition. But the fixing up of 
old houses had to be abandoned as the expense for the results 
obtained was too great, and besides, it was simply impossible 
to get rid of the vermin. 

"Those first two houses, however, enabled Father Jellicoe 
to get his foot in the door of slum clearance. Octavia Hill, 
you may remember, also started in a very small way. She 
was able to purchase but three houses. They were in such 
foul shape that even the banisters had been burned for fire- 



164 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

wood. When she spoke to the former owner about the large 
amount of rents in arrears, he shrugged and explained that 
he wasn't too fussy about collecting the rents because, being 
an undertaker, he made his money from the deaths he got 
out of the houses/' 

"Just as Dickens wrote," Laura remarked with a shiver. 

"Thankfully," Miss Perry went on, "it's not like that any 
more. Neither of these great leaders started in a big way. 
But their forthright action to get rid of a few slum houses 
caused others to rally round them. It seems to me that all one 
has to do is to roll up his or her sleeves and go to work on 
just one little slum. Then the miracle happens. The slum 
walls come tumbling down, and Providence helps out with 
the rest. 

"We have often found that Providence acts through the 
Rotary Clubs. The one here has met in our Town Hall with 
the Mayor, Councilor Hewson, the Rotary President, Mr. 
Arthur Mortimer, and many others to help with our work. 
The Rotary Club of Southampton also co-operates there with 
the Swaythling Housing Society, which is like ours. Sir Edwin 
Bonham Carter was the speaker at a recent Rotary meeting 
devoted exclusively to Housing Society work. The same keen 
interest in the work of Public Utility Housing Societies is 
found in the Rotary Clubs of many other cities, too. But 
here," Miss Perry added, "I fear I've talked too much. Let's 
get a bit of air and see the flats, shall we?" 

First we visited a slum block that was being demolished. 
About half of the houses had already been wrecked, and the 
new construction was well along. Each old, three-story brick 
house, cheek by jowl with its neighbor, had a disgustingly 
filthy basement and a littered rear area with a catchall shed. 
In one back yard a group of children gathered as soon as the 
news that someone was taking movies got around. The 



Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 165 

youngsters were jolly enough, but their untidiness made 
Laura feel like giving them a good scrubbing. The mothers 
clustered around, hunched in tattered shawls, as my camera 
took in the scene. 

We escaped from our intent audience through a gate in 
a board fence. Climbing five outside flights of stairs by way 
of open balconies serving each flat, we reached the roof of 
a new building and forgot our breathlessness in amazement 
at what we saw. The roof was paved with colored ceramic 
tiles and completely enclosed by a parapet wall with two feet 
of transparent plate glass above it. There was a wading pool, 
play slides, and a sand pile. The play area adjoined a well- 
windowed room that was the day nursery. In a niche of its 
exterior wall was a terra-cotta statue of a child, head thrown 
back and a smile on its face as it overlooked the fountain 
cascading down before it. 

"I didn't tell you about this," Miss Perry confessed with 
a laugh, "because I wanted it to be a surprise. Isn't it grand?'* 

"You're the world's best slum-clearance promoter," Laura 
declared. "A few minutes ago we were with those pitiful 
children in their terrible back yards. Now we are in a para- 
dise for their former playmates. It's like a fairy tale, and I'm 
sure it must be to these happy youngsters." 

I stepped to the edge of the roof. Immediately below me 
was the old slum. There were the kids in the dirty junk- 
strewn back yards. Across the wooden fence was more new 
housing. Its play yard, bordered by the flowers of the first- 
floor windows, was alive with swinging, shouting older chil- 
dren. In the U-shaped court of our building was an orna- 
mental drying yard for laundry. The clothes poles formed a 
circle and on top of each one was a metal elf. The clothes 
lines extended, from a regular Maypole in the center, like 



166 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

the spokes of a wheel to the gaily topped poles that formed 
the perimeter. 

There are no Blue Mondays here, I thought as I returned 
to Miss Perry and Laura. 

A quick investigation disclosed at least nine more Housing 
Societies in the London area, similar to St. Pancras, though 
most of them were larger. In addition, there were at least 
five great housing trusts, set up through the bequests of 
philanthropists. One of them, I learned, had been founded 
in 1837 ^7 George Peabody, an American businessman. 
Altogether, these trusts provided over 14,000 homes at low 
rents. 

All this, mind you, was just in London. The inevitable 
comparison with the little that had been done by our own 
philanthropists to house the needy in America brought home 
to us how far behind we were. 

A note had come from John Wrigley, asking us for tea 
on Sunday, July 12. We accepted with alacrity, knowing it 
would be a real treat to visit the man who, in 1934, had been 
drafting the Overcrowding Law, which was now in force. 

We had some trouble finding the Wrigley home in the 
suburbs of London. It finally turned up on a country lane 
at the brow of a hill from which the meadows of rural Eng- 
land fell away in fold after fold of lush green. We had our 
tea, and something stouter, on the rear terrace. Then Wrigley 
settled back in his lawn chair and, with a twinkle in his 
spectacled, blue-gray eyes, began the story he knew we had 
come to hear. 

"The Overcrowding Law was introduced to Parliament," 
he said, "shortly after we had our talks about it, Mr. Palmer. 
Its passage developed a strange paradox. Immediately the 
Local Authorities from all over the place protested that the 



Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 167 

standards were too low. We had felt it was quite daring just 
to make any overcrowding illegal. For example, where it 
was usual that a large kitchen served for living purposes, too, 
we counted it as a room where people could also sleep; but 
a small kitchen not usually used for living purposes was 
ruled out. This made a big difference in the degree of over- 
crowding shown by the local surveys. 

"The Leeds City Council, however, gauged their needs by 
a private bedroom for parents, and enough additional sleep- 
ing rooms so that the remaining occupants of the house 
those of opposite sexes and not married but ten years old or 
moredid not sleep in the same room. That, you see, elimi- 
nates a kitchen, living room, or parlor for sleeping purposes. 
So if we took the Leeds rule for the nine million houses of 
England and Wales, we could find something like eight hun- 
dred and fifty thousand instead of just three hundred and 
fifty thousand who by our standards were violating the law." 

"Do you," I asked, "intend to amend it with a more exact- 
ing standard?" 

"Heavens no! We will have trouble enough as it is to en- 
force the Overcrowding Law as it stands now. That we needed 
the law at all," Wrigley pensively continued, "really forces 
an embarrassing admission about my country, for it re- 
emphasized that the wages paid by business and industry- 
yes, by government, as well are too low for poorer workers 
to afford adequate housing without state aid. 

"Someday you in America will probably face up to the 
same facts. Maybe not until your next great depression. 
When that time comes and you want to make jobs and also 
produce something worth while instead of putting people 
on the dole, you may decide to take a leaf from our book by 
passing your own Overcrowding Law. That forces construe- 



165 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

tion of housing and solves the unemployment problem as 
well." 

"Perhaps it would be better," I said reflectively, "if we 
didn't wait for another depression." 

As we drove to London, there flashed back in memory 
that Roosevelt in 1930, while governor of New York, had 
vetoed legislation that would have permitted more than one 
family to occupy a single apartment of a tenement house. 

Here was Roosevelt, as governor of New York, enforcing 
a law against overcrowding two years before the British had 
undertaken to prepare legislation for the same purpose. 
There was no further uncertainty in my mind about Roose- 
velt's comprehensive understanding of the slum problem. 
Why, I had not even mentioned to Hopkins legislation to 
prohibit overcrowding, thinking it too advanced to be dis- 
cussed until later. 

Next on our schedule was a visit to Becontree, the mam- 
moth housing development of the London County Council, 
which provided homes for more than 125,000 people. En 
route from London, we had driven through the crawling 
slums of Limehouse, not quite as bad as in Dickens's time, 
thanks to Becontree, which had absorbed many families 
from that squalid district. 

Captain Amies, the manager, unfolded his six-feet-four 
and momentarily removed his pipe as his face broke into an 
expansive smile. 

"So you are from the States and interested in housing, 
eh?" he drawled. "Well, we have plenty of it here. So much 
you'd get browned off if you tried to see the whole estate. 
My suggestion is that we have a spot of coffee and do some 
talking before we leave the office." 



Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 169 

In came the coffee for the "elevenses" of the day, and we 
settled back in comfort to hear leisurely Captain Amies. 

"Let's take the figures first," he suggested. "There are 
26,000 houses, 130,000 population, 27 churches, 30 schools, 
400 shops, 2 1 rent offices, 500 acres of parks and open spaces- 
total cost about 13,000,000 pounds." 

I was duly impressed by these astronomical figures, which 
added up to the biggest project of its kind in the world. 

"We are only eleven miles from the center of London," 
Captain Amies continued, "about a half-hour by train. We're 
a working-class town. In some ways that hurts. We've tried 
to get private enterprise to build for upper middle-class 
people, but they won't because of the bad approach through 
the industrial, dock, and slum districts of London's East 
End. In another way, it helps to be a workers' town since 
factories follow the labor pool. There were practically no 
industries in this area when we came. Now there are the 
Ford and Briggs auto-body plants at nearby Dagenham, and 
many other factories, all because they can get labor right 
here. A lot of folks used to be clerks in London, but the 
weekly fare to the city is about eight shillings a big item in 
the family budget so many of them have switched to jobs 
in this neighborhood." 

"Transportation for the worker," I interjected, "is a com- 
mon problem everywhere." 

"And a most difficult one. I say" Captain Amies glanced 
at the clock "if we want to get on with the job of seeing 
the estate, we had best start right now." 

When we reached the residential area, Laura remarked 
about the well-clipped hedges that lined all the streets, and 
asked if the tenants maintained them. 

"We look after the sixty miles along the street, but the 
householders take care of the additional two hundred and 



170 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

twenty miles of hedges that separate the rear gardens," 
grunted Captain Amies as he mopped his brow. "Now sup- 
pose we stop at a house whose garden won first prize in the 
area." 

All was immaculate, and the aproned wife made us feel at 
home. The rear yard was a profusion of blooming shrubs, 
flowers, and well-tended grass. But so were the yards of all 
the neighbors. 

"You're noticing our architecture," the Captain observed, 
as we drove past rows of two-story houses relieved by attrac- 
tive, low-roofed, individual homes. "We have variety, and 
those roof tiles lend a spot of color." 

No residential building was more than two stories high. 
The entire estate was dotted with numberless small green 
plots and playing fields. There was much to see, but we could 
do little more than sample the tremendous development. 

We drove back to London through the vast expanse of 
slums that still remained. The violent contrast between them 
and Becontree was a silent but vigorous plea for public 
housing. 

We had planned to drive to Scotland on Wednesday but 
postponed the trip to attend the dedication of Brightwells, 
a scheme of the Fulham Housing Improvement Society, 
on July 16. Mr. W. R. Davidge, a prominent architect and 
town planner of London, said that the little development 
was quite out of the ordinary. 

He was right. Not only did we find new features in the 
buildings, which had been designed by a woman architect, 
but the importance given the occasion again emphasized the 
influential backing in England of housing for the poor. 

In the center of the roomy forecourt of the thirty new 
flats was a platform for the ceremony. There sat the Lord 



Slum Walls Fall for Father Jellicoe 171 

Mayor, wearing the great gold chain with the seal of his 
office around his neck, and beside him the Lady Mayoress. 
Accompanying them was the mace-bearer with the mace. 
H.R.H. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, was the ranking 
guest, although the Bishop of London and other higher-ups, 
including some great financial and industrial leaders, were 
on the platform, too. 

When she formally declared the buildings open, Her Royal 
Highness seemed to speak from considerable personal expe- 
rience with housing. She said that she thought all social 
work should start from housing "and proceed upward" from 
that point. It was so obvious, in her opinion, that it was 
better to have healthy citizens, which was impossible in slums, 
than to maintain hospitals needed because of disease that 
came from overcrowded and unwholesome houses. So evident 
was this that she wondered why it had taken the people "so 
long to realize this transparent truth." 

It turned out that Miss Perry, of St. Pancras, had helped 
organize the Fulham Society and a Miss Landsdown was the 
manageress. Since the buildings were designed by a woman 
and managed by a woman, I found many new and practical 
ideas had been included. This all-woman project seemed to 
be off to a good start. 

Miss Perry introduced us to Lady Marjorie Pentland, who 
had given the St. Pancras Society money for a complete 
block of flats that we had seen nearing completion. Inci- 
dentally, Pentland House, the name of the block, was de- 
signed with one unfinished wall to be ready for an additional 
wing when more money became available. 

Lady Pentland mentioned that her mother was Lady 
Aberdeen, who had been instrumental in founding the 
Canadian Housing Centre in Toronto. It was "like mother 
like daughter" in this case, for Lady Pentland was extremely 



172 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

active in the work of the Housing Centre of London. The 
principal object of this nonpartisan, nonpolitical organiza- 
tion was stated as "to constitute a common meeting ground 
for organizations and individuals engaged in housing." 

That this main objective was being achieved was daily 
demonstrated through the close liaison between officials of 
the various housing associations whose headquarters were in 
the Housing Centre. Among them were The National Fed- 
eration of Housing Societies, the Society of Women Housing 
Managers, the Women's Advisory Housing Council, the Gar- 
den Cities and Town Planning Association, and others. 

The public was kept informed of new laws and develop- 
ments through traveling exhibits, films, lectures, and litera- 
ture. Although the Centre was only two years old, its monthly 
bulletin reached members throughout Great Britain and in 
New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. The 
staff was then busy organizing the "New Homes for Old" 
exhibition, which would be shown at Olympia in September 
under the patronage of King Edward VIII. It would then 
tour the schools. 

This three-ring housing circus was efficiently conducted 
by Professor Patrick Abercrombie, noted British architect 
and town planner, as chairman, assisted by a corps of capable 
women such as Mrs. Madge Waller in charge of publicity, 
Miss M. C. Solomon, librarian, and Miss J. G. Ledebrer, 
handling the exhibits. Laura and I were much impressed by 
the ceremony and by the distinguished people who partici- 
pated in it so enthusiastically. 



16 



HUNDRED 
NEW TOWNS 



THE NEW YORK architect, Henry Wright, who had 
accompanied the British housing experts to Atlanta, sug- 
gested it would be worth while to see Sir Theodore Chambers, 
chairman of the Board of Welwyn Garden City, a new town 
built from scratch by private enterprise about twenty miles 
from London. 

When we visited him, Sir Theodore said the estate included 
both upper- and working-class housing for a population of 
some 12,000 people. Rent was kept as low as possible on the 
workers' houses, with nothing being charged for the land, 
and about 4 per cent on the buildings. Sir Theodore ex- 
plained that most of the money was made from the middle- 
and higher-income groups, the shops and the factories. 

"I believe," Sir Theodore.said earnestly, "that if the Ford 
enterprises would undertake to build a city for, say, two 
hundred and fifty thousand people, they would be doing the 
world a great service. Egyptians, Romans, and the Greeks 
built great cities from nothing; but no one in this civilization 
is doing such a job. It should be undertaken by those of great 
wealth in the United States. If they did so, they would find 
the result to be a tremendous financial success, as well as a 
great human service." 

173 



174 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Laura and I visited Welwyn the next day and found that 
it lived up to our expectations in every respect. A modern 
town, it was operated like any well-run profit-making busi- 
ness. John F. Eccles, the manager, drove us around. 

"Why so much vacant land," I inquired, "in the center of 
your city? With ten thousand people, I'd think your down- 
town area would have more shops, or at least not so many 
unimproved commercial sites." 

"The reason is because we haven't grown up yet," Eccles 
explained. "We plan for a population of forty to fifty thou- 
sand. If we built and tenanted shops for that many in the 
center, while we have only ten thousand residents, the mer- 
chants and we would fail as we waited for those additional 
thousands of buyers. And yet we must reserve enough land 
downtown to be able to expand the shopping area when our 
city reaches its maximum growth. Meanwhile, we do most of 
the business through neighborhood stores. I'll show you what 
I mean. Did you happen to notice that long, low building 
across the square from our offices? Well, that's the main 
branch of Welwyn Stores. Now, see this little building on 
that corner at your left?" 

I turned and saw an attractive, low-gabled shop with one or 
two other neighborhood stores adjoining it. 

"That's a branch of the general store downtown," Eccles 
said. "It serves this particular area and sells food, clothing, 
coals, shoes, and about everything else. Because the entire 
system is owned by us, the townspeople got the impression 
they were being done in by a monopoly. One of their chief 
grouses was lack of variety. So they began to shop away from 
Welwyn. 

"We solved that problem by building a limited parade of 
shops downtown and in each quadrant of the city, and putting 
in one shop each for the greengrocer, the chemist [drugstore], 



Hundred New Towns 175 

the ironmonger [hardware store], and such. The result is 
that our local residents are once more shopping in Welwyn 
and feel that they are getting a square deal. Of course, it's 
mostly psychological because we did not materially change 
our merchandising or pricing policy. For a time the new 
shops cut down the business of the general store, but only 
temporarily. In fact, the competition from the new shops has 
really been only with the stores outside the city. 

"In waiting to establish these separate businesses in 
Welwyn until our population had grown sufficiently to assure 
enough purchasing power so that the new merchant could 
succeed, we were able to secure much higher rentals than if 
we had permitted these storekeepers to come in before there 
was a demand for their merchandise. Also, giving them ex- 
clusive rights for a limited time has protected them against 
cutthroat competition/' 

Eccles overwhelmed us with printed material upon our 
return to his office and promised to send us more data and 
pictures later on. 

While visiting Atlanta in 1934, Sir Raymond Unwin had 
urged that I see Letchworth, the first garden city Welwyn 
was the second. Now the opportunity had come, and Sir 
Raymond arranged a meeting with Barry Parker. 

The records showed that Barry Parker, F.R.I.B.A., 
P.P.T.P.L, and his brother-in-law, Sir Raymond Unwin, 
F.R.I.B.A., P.P.R.I.B.A.-to give them all the letters they had 
so well earned had been commissioned as the two outstand- 
ing planners to make the dream of Ebenezer Howard come 
true. That was way back in 1903. The site selected was 4,500 
acres, 34 miles from London. 

Arriving at Mr. Parker's home on Saturday, July 11, our 
host and his gracious wife greeted us in their homey living 



176 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

room, where "elevenses" coffee promptly appeared, although 
it wasn't yet ten o'clock. 

In his late sixties, Barry Parker was an older edition of 
Becontree's Captain Amies. Both were tall and slow moving, 
but there the resemblance ended. Amies slicked back his hair, 
and Parker's tumbled down his neck like Lloyd George's. 
Amies was smooth-shaven, while Parker's walrus mustache 
out-Britished the best in England. 

"Before I tell you about Letchworth," he said over his 
coffee cup, "I'd like to inquire about what you are doing in 
America. Unwin has told me that you are getting on with 
the job of clearing slums. I believe he mentioned one place 
where demolition is well over and some construction started. 
Let me see. Someplace in Georgia Atlantis, was it?" 

"Yes," I replied. "Atlanta is where the first slum-clearance 
project ever tackled by our government is now about com- 
pleted. We wrecked most of the slums on the site in 1934 
and-" 

Here the lovely Mrs. Parker hitched to the edge of the 
overstuffed davenport and leaned toward me. 

"Oh, Mr. Palmer!" she burst out. "Do you mean that you 
just 'wrecked' those buildings? You literally tore them to the 
ground? And just a moment ago you spoke about 'tackling' 
a job. I presume that involves diving at it and grappling it 
with all your might. You Americans are so forthright. You 
use so few words to say what you mean. I wish my husband's 
architect friends were more like that. They take so long to 
say what they have in mind. The speeches during their Insti- 
tute sessions just never seem to end." 

"There, there, my dear." Parker's slow-starting, booming 
laugh soon filled the room. "Ahem, fact is, I'm among the 
chief offenders on that score. Haw! Haw!" 

When the spate of laughter, in which Laura and I joined, 



Hundred New Towns 177 

had ended, I asked our genial host about the siting of 
industry. 

"All nuisance factories, that is, those that emit smoke or 
produce odors," he explained, "are placed so that the pre- 
vailing breezes will blow the smoke and odors away from the 
city." 

"And why," I inquired, "hasn't Letchworth reorganized 
into a straight profit-making enterprise as Welwyn has?" 

Mr. Parker fingered his mustache while looking me straight 
in the eye. 

"That is a good question," he said, "and I'm glad you 
asked it. Both Letchworth and Welwyn were started with the 
same purpose in mind: to make better communities; to give 
people better living not to make more money. That's why 
each town limited its dividends. We in Letchworth still do, 
and here is why. 

"It goes back to Ebenezer Howard. He felt that the un- 
earned increment that accrues to land through population 
increase should not go to the landowners. Instead, Howard 
believed that all residents of the community should benefit. 
After all, the people are the ones who brought about the rise 
in land values of the city by being there. Howard main- 
tained, therefore, that the people should profit accordingly. 
We still subscribe to that principle and retain title to all 
land, letting it out on long-term leases. When those leases 
fall in, or expire, as I believe you would say in the States, the 
increase on reletting will be captured for the people." 

I kept plying Mr. Parker with questions, and Laura put 
in an occasional query from the woman's viewpoint. All too 
soon we reluctantly left the delightful Parkers. 

We were fast finding that there was much to be said for 
garden cities, whether they followed the original precepts of 
Ebenezer Howard, as carried on at Letchworth by Barry 



178 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Parker, or were instigated by the profit motive, as at Welwyn 
under Sir Theodore Chambers. 

Since Ebenezer Howard's conception of the garden city 
more than a generation before, and the successful creation 
of Letchworth and Welwyn, the new town idea had gained 
many supporters. Chief among the more imaginative was A. 
Trystan Edwards, who envisaged the movement as a solu- 
tion for most British ills. We met for tea and talk in his 
quarters at 3 Gray's Inn Square one afternoon. 

An architect by profession, Edwards's enthusiasm burst all 
bounds. Ancient Gray's Inn Square was an appropriate setting 
for his dress but not for his modern ideas. This bald, chunky 
little man in patched tweeds hesitantly welcomed me to his 
apartment with old-world grace. At first I attributed his 
apparent timidity to some sort of embarrassment, but I soon 
realized that it was occasioned by a marked impediment in 
his speech. What in most people would have been a handicap, 
in Edwards became an asset. Had his tongue not tripped at 
times, I never could have kept up with the torrent of 
schemes he fired at me. 

"The bounders think they have defeated my Hundred New 
Towns for Britain!" he erupted. "The sound-money men are 
all against me, Lloyd George understood the idea and might 
have led the way, but Neville Chamberlain and others of 
that ilk blocked him." 

Edwards had so much to tell, and apparently had gone so 
long without a listener, that the words kept sticking on his 
tongue. To get them off required strict attention to the job 
at hand, and his tea grew cold. 

The story came out bit by bit and developed into one of 
almost fanatical concentration on a single idea. His experi- 
ences paralleled those in Little Dorrit. To Edwards, all of 



Hundred New Towns 179 

Britain not just Whitehall as in Dickens's time must have 
seemed a vast "Circumlocution Department." 

Edwards's plan was amazing in its concept to build, within 
ten years, at strategic locations throughout England, Scot- 
land, and Wales, 100 new towns of 50,000 population each, 
totaling all together some 5,000,000 inhabitants. 

Edwards maintained that an all-out attack was the only 
way to do the job. He said it was nothing more than a coloni- 
zation problem and pointed out that the British were great 
colonizers. 

Rehousing in the existing, overcrowded towns involved 
high land costs and grave decanting problems. By building 
new towns on cheap land before old slums were demolished, 
these problems would be solved in an orderly and economical 
manner. Furthermore, the old towns would benefit by the 
welcome breathing space resulting from slum clearance. 

Out came a book Edwards had published at his own ex- 
pense. The list of those who sponsored the project as "worthy 
of the fullest investigation and discussion" included distin- 
guished leaders from all fields. With these sponsors as the 
spearhead, Edwards met the political aspects of his scheme 
head on. His plea was to view the plan in the same perspec- 
tive that the nation had viewed the war. 

The objective was housing and jobs for all. The job oppor- 
tunity was realistically analyzed. First it was pointed out that 
85 per cent of the money spent in construction and fabrica- 
tion of materials went to wages. With this income, farm 
products, clothing, and a host of other items, could be pur- 
chased, thus catalyzing the entire economy. The conclusion 
was drawn that if the then existing, unplanned industrial ex- 
pansion was channeled into the new towns, employment 
opportunities would be provided for 750,000 workers in 10 
years in the 100 new towns. 



180 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

With a broad brush, finances were next put on the gigantic 
canvas. The million houses were estimated to cost from two 
to two and a half billion dollars, and the factories, stores, 
utilities, and land a like amount. Spread over ten years, the 
five billion dollars would make the cost five hundred million 
dollars a year to see the job through. 

These astronomical figures gave me a jolt, but they didn't 
seem to faze Edwards. How did this half-billion a year com- 
pare with present national expenditures? Why, the British 
government was already paying out 50 per cent more than 
thatthree-quarters of a billion dollars every year for un- 
employment and poor relief alonel 

"Just fancy," Edwards vehemently declared, "all the savings 
on that item that would come about through the jobs the 
hundred towns could provide!" 

Sweat was now rolling down my host's bald brow. The 
words still did not come fast enough for him. Snatching up 
his book, he pointed to certain pages. Still it was no go. 
Finally it dawned on him that I could not catch up with his 
thinking of years by scanning his book for a few minutes. 
So he handed me a copy to study at my leisure. Then he 
quickly retrieved the volume to inscribe and date it with a 
flourish. 

This seemed to relax him somewhat. His head of steam 
subsided a little. But it was only for a moment. There were 
too many words in him for any human to contain, and out 
they came once more. 

Again it was the financing. Relatively large, yes! But be- 
yond Britain's capacity? No! In fact, the job could be made 
to finance itself without loans! Edwards obviously enjoyed 
the amazement on my face which that startling statement 
produced. Was I open-minded enough to listen to the un- 
orthodox? 



Hundred New Towns 181 

My host settled back in his chair, slightly more composed. 
The fascinating story he told concerned a financial technique 
employed by the Isle of Guernsey to build a "parade of 
shops" well over a century ago. 

In 1820 the little island's exchequer was in such desperate 
straits that it could neither borrow nor raise through taxa- 
tion the 5,500 pounds required to construct a much-needed 
market building. In this quandary, and having the power to 
issue its own currency, it printed one-pound notes to the 
amount needed, to be retired from the market rents. 

The rent totaled 600 pounds a year. As it was collected, 
government officials annually burned it up. Thus the entire 
issue was retired in less than ten years. No interest had been 
paid. No sinking fund was necessary. Also, there had been 
no runaway inflation. That was because the currency was 
anchored to a real-estate base instead of a gold base. Gold 
of itself earned nothing, but real estate did. Therefore, no 
loan was needed and the "parade of shops" financed them- 
selves. 

So happy were the islanders that they used the same de- 
vice to build new wharves for shipping, and for other self- 
liquidating projects. All went so well that prosperity returned 
to the Isle of Guernsey. For a period of twenty years the 
local parliament successfully met its financial problems in 
this way. 

Then, Edwards related, the international bankers stepped 
into the picture. Those financiers who had turned down the 
original request for a loan to erect the market building at 
last woke up to the fact that the islanders were somehow 
getting along very well without them. And what was worse, 
the bankers hadn't gotten any interest payments from this 
tight little island! 

Well, well the money-changers on Threadneedle Street 



182 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

in the great City of London finally decided something must 
be done about this sad and profitless state of affairs. So the 
bankers craftily persuaded the Privy Council to withdraw 
the power to issue currency from the parliament of the Isle 
of Guernsey. 

Not, however, until the islanders' financial technique had 
demonstrated its practicability. They still had their market 
building and their wharves, all obtained without having 
paid a penny of interest. Industry had been stimulated, the 
exchange of goods and services was accelerated, and unem- 
ployment had disappeared. 

Enthusiastic as Edwards was over the ingenious economics 
of his proposal, he was even more excited about the design. 
His basic plan envisaged a circular town with wedge-shaped 
land-use zones. The points of these segments converged on a 
civic center in the heart of the town. Radial roads ran to the 
periphery like the spokes of a wheel. Thus residential areas 
adjoined industrial areas, separated by adequate screening, 
and within walking distance from home to work. 

When it came to the design of the individual blocks for 
residential use, Edwards reached the heights of his vivid 
imagination. While twelve houses per acre was generally 
accepted as maximum land coverage, Edwards stepped it up 
to forty per acre by building row housing around hollow 
quadrangles to be used for recreation. 

But if all or part of the quadrangle was to be used for 
recreation, where, I wanted to know, would clothes be dried? 
And how could mothers tend children too young for group 
play? 

Edwards snatched the One Hundred Towns for Britain 
book from the table. Again, speech was too slow for him and 
he pointed to one of the many colored plates. There were 
the third stories of his houses. The flat roofs were designed 



Hundred New Towns 183 

as ideal laundry and play yards, even to sandboxes, tubs, and 
clotheslines. Solid walls, each with its flowered trellis, run- 
ning at right angles to the street and across the rear toward 
the interior quadrangle, gave each family complete privacy. 
The front was protected by an ornamental parapet, low 
enough to let in the sun but high enough to pen in the 
children. That section away from the street was partially 
roofed over to shelter the laundry tubs and the stairs down 
to the second floor. Edwards was truly the friend of the 
mother. 

When I inquired how he had happened on such a design, 
he told of talks with "gentlemen of the slums" and their 
wives. It was, he said, no good to plan for them but without 
them. They knew best what they wanted and needed. No 
multistoried barracks from which the tired housewife was 
too worn out at the end of a day of drudgery to walk down 
and up four flights of stairs to give her baby the air even 
when the sun shone. No cottages at twelve to the acre and 
far from work, "set out like cabbages," where gregarious, 
friendly living hadn't a chance. 

I had heard an amazing story from the stumbling lips of 
an amazing man. Exhausted though he was from fighting for 
his plan, impoverished from trying to promote it, he still 
stoutly maintained that it would yet prevail. 

The one-pound note I passed to him for associate mem- 
bership in his group seemed most welcome. 



17 



SITTING BATHS 
AND SCOTSMEN 



NEXT LAURA and I drove 1,200 miles through 
England and Scotland, studying housing. Our old friend, 
John Martin, secretary of the National Housing and Town 
Planning Council, had written of our coming to officials in 
Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. 

The amount of slum clearance in the midlands went 
London one better. The visit to Leeds brought out much that 
was new to us, possibly because of our dynamic host, the 
Reverend Charles Jenkinson of St. Barnabas Vicarage. With 
raincoat flapping from his tall, angular frame and slouch hat 
pulled over his eyes, he looked and acted little like a vicar 
and, as it turned out, knew as much about construction as a 
contractor. 

Jenkinson, we learned, was so much in favor of women 
housing workers that there was a requirement for women to 
constitute at least 25 per cent of the staff, and at the same 
pay as men. 

Dr. Jenkinson was a strong supporter of differential rent- 
ing, although, as he put it, "Some people are liars and cheats, 
and the only way to satisfy everybody and be fair to honest 
people is to check wages when determining rents." 

As we drove from Jenkinson's office to the Quarry Hill 

184 



Sitting Baths and Scotsmen 185 

clearance, our mentor expounded some general conclusions 
he had reached. 

"Housing must be provided," he stated firmly, "for all who 
need it, and it must be the kind each needs. Old as well as 
young are to be considered. Dwellings for the aged, that is, 
for couples past the childbearing stage, have never been pro- 
vided in adequate quantity. We find that they fill a great 
void." 

We reached a twenty-six-acre site in the heart of Leeds. 
Where hundreds of slum hovels once crowded, not one re- 
mained. Dr. Jenkinson told us of his special trip to France 
to look into the kind of construction we saw being used, 
known as the Mopin System. Jenkinson had also brought 
from France the Garchey System of refuse disposal. In place 
of garbage cans and incinerators, kitchens were equipped with 
refuse chutes incorporated into each sink. Both the dry and 
wet waste were drawn by suction to a central point and put 
through hydroextractors. The dry residue was then auto- 
matically conveyed to furnaces and burned. The heat gen- 
erated was used to supply the communal laundry with hot 
water. 

Soon we were off to the Gipton Housing Estate. 

"Most of the families," Dr. Jenkinson explained, "need 
more furniture. The dealers who sold them on credit charged 
extortionist prices at usorious rates of interest. I presume 
they do the same in the States. To stop this exploitation, we 
devised a hire-purchase system. Payments are made weekly 
and spread out for more than two years. Over seventy per 
cent of the families now being rehoused used the service." 

As we entered the great Gipton Housing Estate, we found 
that open spaces predominated throughout the 360 acres. The 
2,800 flats and cottages alternated, with here and there the 
housing for the aged sprinkled in beside the children's play- 



186 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

grounds. Dr. Jenkinson was proud of such well-planned siting. 
It gave the oldsters a chance to keep their eyes on the young- 
sters; and it afforded the youngsters an opportunity to 
brighten up the oldsters' spirits with their cheery shouts while 
at their games. 

"Oh, my, oh, my!" Dr. Jenkinson suddenly exclaimed as 
he leaned forward and touched the driver. "We were planning 
to show our American friends the sitting baths and the back- 
to-back stoves. Just stop at any of these cottages for the aging." 

As we stepped from the car, a cottage door opened, and an 
elderly housewife came out to greet us. If there was to be 
any visiting, she wanted her flat to be the one chosen. In the 
living room was what appeared to be a normal fireplace. At 
the grate a tea kettle simmered. 

"Looks to be an ordinary grate, doesn't it?" Dr. Jenkinson 
observed. "But that tiny flame under the teakettle here in 
the living room does the cooking in the scullery and heats 
the hot water, too. And we haven't shown you the best part. 
Let's go to the scullery." 

There we found that this Rube Goldberg device had been 
built into the wall between the two rooms. In lieu of the 
grate in the living room, the kitchen side had a cooking 
range. The hot water for household use came from a boiler 
in the chimney. Aside from the low initial cost there were 
savings in space and economy of operation. 

Our enthusiastic guide next took us to the bath where 
there was a "sitting tub," also a great space saver. It had as 
many Rube Goldberg contraptions as the back-to-back grates. 
The tub was only about two by three feet but deep enough 
so that the bather could submerge to the chest as the lower 
part was shaped like a chair. For ease of access, the entire 
fixture was countersunk in the floor when used primarily for 
bathing. But when installed in the kitchen, it was not counter- 



Sitting Baths and Scotsmen 187 

sunk and became a wash-basin-laundry-tub-draining-board- 
clothes-ringer table and bath all in one. The hospitable lady 
of the house was loud in praise of her back-to-back stove and 
sitting bath. Laura and I began to understand how the British 
managed to keep costs down and use space so efficiently. 

As we drove back to Leeds, Dr. Jenkinson summed up 
briefly. 

"With the incomes of so many of the people too low to 
pay rent that is remunerative to private-venture builders, 
more and more must be done by the state. Much of the high 
cost is by way of interest on borrowed money. The answer 
may come from grappling with our present restrictive mone- 
tary system." 

As we parted I wondered to myself if Dr. Jenkinson had 
ever heard of Trystan Edwards. 

Upon our arrival in Edinburgh, Mr. Ross at the Housing 
Authority said, "Building- trade workers go at housing last, 
and leave it first when other jobs are to be had because they 
earn more for the time being through overtime. We have 
considered countering by guaranteeing fifty-one weeks of 
work a year. No such scheme is yet in effect, but something 
of the sort may be necessary eventually. The annual wage will 
lower building costs and still afford the worker greater annual 
income through more constant employment, although the 
wage per unit produced may be less." 

Our discussion then wandered to land and management 
problems. I voiced a tentative opinion that there seemed 
much to be said for the differential-renting policy used at 
Leeds, and Mr. Ross agreed. 

"However," he observed, "it is not easy to change from 
flat rents to differential rents. We found that out up in Aber- 
deen, where we had rent strikes when the Local Authorities 



188 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

raised the rent of those whose incomes justified a higher 
figure. The Scotsman just will not put out more than his 
neighbor for the same accommodation. Besides, both tenants 
and politicians resented the attempt to get correct informa- 
tion on incomes." 

In Liverpool, tall, intense Mr. L. H. Keay, O.B.E., 
F.R.I. B.A., and director of Housing, was ready to see that we 
had a fruitful visit. First he emphasized that he was a civil 
servant and the need for such status. 

"Consequently," he continued, "I am comparatively free of 
local political pressure. How else could I have installed and 
maintained differential renting with its means test as a requi- 
site, when the local Labour Party is violently against the 
means test and the local Conservative Party fears it? And how 
could I have employed so many women when local coun- 
cillors would rather have men who are their own political 
pawns. A woman can fool a man, but she cannot fool another 
woman. As most of our contact in housing management has 
to do with the housewife, I prefer to have a woman, instead 
of a man, handle the housewife for me." 

The Beau Street area, to which we were taken, was to 
Liverpool what the Quarry Hill section was to Leeds. This 
project involved the rebulding of sixty-one acres of slums in 
the heart of Liverpool. The job would take four years and 
continuously employ five hundred building-trade workers. 
Families already living on the site were being decanted tem- 
porarily to the outskirts of Liverpool. They were placed in 
suburban public housing already built and would go back 
to their former neighborhood as soon as their section was 
completed, much as had been done in Italy. 

The next morning, Mr. J. K. Costain, of the famous build- 
ing firm that bore his name, came in from nearby Birkenhead 



Sitting Baths and Scotsmen 189 

to breakfast with us at the Adelphia Hotel. During the lei- 
surely meal, the Lord Bishop of the neighboring Isle of Man 
stopped by for a word with his friend, Mr. Costain, and then 
spoke to us. 

"Coming from the States," he said in a courteous, easy 
manner, "you may scarcely believe that when I was vicar of 
a Liverpool slum with about eight thousand parishioners, I 
discovered in my visits to their homes that more than twenty- 
five hundred were crowded into hovels below the level of the 
street." The Bishop shuddered and raised his hands in horror. 
"You, of course, Mr. Palmer, have nothing like that in your 
own country." 

"Were there windows/' I asked, "in those cellar rooms, my 
Lord Bishop?" 

"Oh, yes," he assured me. "But they were small and just 
above the level of the ground so, while there was some ven- 
tilation, there was rarely any sunlight. And conditions inside 
were indescribable. Thank God we have now cleared that 
slum and rehoused its people. Your modern, bustling country 
would never have stood for such an awful place." 

"But they did have windows," I pointed out. "In New 
York City, however, I am ashamed to confess, there are over 
two hundred thousand occupied rooms which have no win- 
dows at all!" 

"That cannot be; it cannot be!" the Lord Bishop protested. 
"How did such a sorry situation ever come about?" 

I then described the narrow, five-story structures of New 
York, a hundred feet deep, side by side, tier upon tier, with 
eight rooms in a row on each floor like a train of cars; hence 
the term "railroad" tenements. Only the room in front and 
the one in the rear had windows. The other six had none 
at all. In 1888 a law was passed requiring a four-feet, eight- 
inch light shaft. These "light" shafts were often five stories* 



190 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

high. Naples had nothing on New York when it came to a 
glimpse of the sun only at noon. Tens of thousands of win- 
dowless rooms and light-shaft rooms were still occupied in 
New York. 

Those who knew them best were those who lived there. 
Some were unemployed artists. WPA furnished them mate- 
rials to paint with while on relief, just as WPA furnished 
other unemployed with the tools of their trade or profession. 

There were two well-remembered pictures in the Housing 
Division at Washington loaned by WPA and done by an 
artist who lived in the slums. Both were of drab colors. No 
other colors would do. 

One showed a pinched-faced mother, tattered shawl around 
her shoulders, wizened baby in her arms, calling down the 
Stygian "light" shaft from her only window, "Janitor, please 
tell me is the sun shining? I want to know whether to take 
my baby out." The other pictured an emaciated little girl 
peering over the window sill at a ragged boy below her in the 
"light" shaft. Her finger pointed at a can on the sill in which 
a scraggy plant was momentarily caught in a pencil of light. 
She was saying, "I know there is a God, because sometimes 
He sends the sunshine to my flower." 

Over in nearby Bebington that afternoon, we met Miss 
Alice Samuels, who had added so much to the discussions in 
Atlanta with the British housing experts two years before. 
We switched from our Ford to her little Austin. Laura eased 
into the back seat while I crowded into the far corner of what 
remained of the two front seats after Miss Samuels had ad- 
justed herself under the wheel and spread out in ample 
proportions. Our juxtaposition was too intimate to be 
ignored, and I ventured a wisecrack. 



Sitting Baths and Scotsmen 191 

"I'm told, Miss Samuels, that it's best for a woman to drive 
when it comes to these small Austins." 

"Why is that?" she innocently inquired. 

"Because with a man at the wheel," I solemnly replied, 
"his woman companion is forced to slap his face every time 
he shifts gears. That is, if she's a lady." 

Miss Samuels roared delightedly, and we were off to a 
merry afternoon, ending with tea at her little home with her 
aged mother. 

All Miss Samuels had told us in Atlanta turned out to be 
true as we toured the projects. Her woman managers im- 
pressed us with their obvious efficiency. The greatest problem 
then facing them was preparation for enforcement of the 
Overcrowding Law, which emphasized that a tenant who 
causes overcrowding and a landlord who permits it were both 
guilty. Miss Samuels and her assistants felt that a pretty 
kettle of fish had been dumped into their laps. But they all 
agreed the Overcrowding Law was a necessity, and felt they 
could muddle through its enforcement somehow. 

Too soon the time came for us to be off to meet Mr. 
Costain in Liverpool. Miss Samuels drove us back to where 
our Ford was parked. We gingerly "decanted" ourselves 
from Austin to Ford and were on our way. 



18 



DUTCH HOUSING 
BEATS DEPRESSION 



THE NEXT morning we were off to Manchester. On 
being shown our room in the Midlands Hotel, we found the 
bath very British. The size of the tub was about normal for 
England, being a comfortable six feet in length, but the ex- 
tent of the exposed piping was what made it a "pipe dream." 
Writhing like glittering snakes, the labyrinth twisted and 
turned tortuously to bring hot and cold water to the busi- 
ness end of the tub. Each coiling pipe was silver-plated in 
magnificent contrast to the multicolored tile floor and richly 
veined, black-based marble wainscot. 

I counted seven separate runs of exposed plumbing. Five 
were involved with the hot- and cold-water supplies, while 
the other two were waste pipes. And in addition to the 
faucets on the taps, which at long last released the water into 
the tub, there were five more valves on as many pipelines. 
Not being an engineer, I didn't feel up to measuring the 
linear feet of pipe, whose serpentine convolutions reminded 
us of the Laocoon Group in the Vatican. Laura, who has a 
horror of snakes, took her bath in a hurry. 

As usual, John Martin's letter had opened all doors. 
Leonard Heywood, director of Housing, met us at his office. 

192 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 193 

His long upper lip, firm mouth, and pugilistic-shaped ears 
indicated a fighter. Protruding brows and somewhat low hair- 
line accentuated the impression, though as it turned out his 
manner was friendly and mild. 

Heywood told us all about the housing ceremonies of the 
day before when Manchester had dedicated one of its most 
extensive slum-clearance areas. It was no ordinary dedication. 
Both the present Minister of Health, Sir Kingsley Wood, and 
the former incumbent, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, participated, 
although they were vigorous political opponents. 

"You must go and see the site yourself," Heywood said. 
"But first off, I do want to tell you of the rare good humor 
Sir Kingsley and Mr. Greenwood displayed. Housing was 
their common ground. As the present Minister put it, 'There 
are no political barriers when the housing of the people is 
concerned.' " Heywood paused a moment. "Then d'you know 
what Sir Kingsley did? Straight away he named a new block 
of two hundred and four flats, 'Greenwood House.' He got 
off a good one, too. Said something about how happy every- 
one would be under the Greenwood tree. 

"When it came to Greenwood's turn to lay a foundation 
stone out in the Collyhurst area, he dubbed the block of 
flats, 'Sir Kingsley Wood House.' Greenwood expressed the 
hope that the flats would be even better than those named 
after him. But all of his talk was not so good-humored. When 
he touched upon what had brought about our slums, he let 
our forefathers have what for, I can tell you." Heywood 
grinned. "It's a pity you couldn't have come a day earlier. 
But you can see it all, anyway, and today you'll miss the 
push." 

As was so frequently the case our guide considered the 
slums of his city the worst in history. He may well have been 
right, for De Quincey had said, a hundred and fifty years 



194 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

before, "No great city could present so repulsive an appear- 
ance as Manchester." 

Our first stop was at the Collyhurst Clearance, where as far 
as the eye could see were acres of piles of rubble. These 
masses of crumbling brick looked at if some giant had 
slapped down his massive palm to crush the entire area. 
Dotted over the seventy-seven square blocks of former slums 
were pyres of infested timbers being burned to rid them of 
vermin. The lumber was too rotten for use, and the bricks 
so far gone that they would be crushed to serve as aggregate 
for concrete in the new flats. 

In the afternoon the saturnine, bulbous-nosed, be-derbied 
Mr. W. Smith, from Mr. Heywood's office, took us to the 
municipally owned, satellite town of Wythenshawe. The car 
we rode in was small, and Mr. Smith found it difficult to get 
in or out without bumping his bowler. But he took it good- 
naturedly, removing his hat as he ducked through the door 
to save the derby from being dented. 

The partial solution of Manchester's housing problem was 
attained by building this complete new town. At the time of 
our visit, the city had completed about eight thousand houses, 
private companies around eight hundred, and there were 
fifteen factories in production. 

There were many practical innovations. A minor one stood 
out at the shopping center. The stores were built in a crescent 
with what at first appeared to be green grass in the parkway 
between curb and sidewalk. But as Mr. Smith ducked from 
our car I saw that the entire expanse was concrete, with an 
integral green pigment, from curb to walk. The effect was 
pleasing and economical, both in first cost and maintenance. 

A few days after our return to the Carlton Hotel in 
London, Sir Ernest Simon, M.A., former Lord Mayor of 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 195 

Manchester, called to discuss our visit to his city during his 
absence. It was he and his wife, Lady Simon, who had con- 
tributed the twenty-six acres, valued at about 60,000 pounds, 
for the central park at Wythenshawe. 

It was not out of the ordinary to find such distinguished 
couples of wealth and standing in the forefront of the British 
slum-clearance movement, few though their opposite num- 
bers were in the United States. What a vital part of his life 
this avocation had become was demonstrated when Sir 
Ernest was later raised by the King, in 1947, from knight to 
baron, largely because of his slum-clearance achievements. 
As is customary, he had something to say about the form of 
his new title and chose to become Lord Simon of Wythen- 
shawe, thus linking slum clearance to his name for all time. 

When the day came to show my film at the Housing Centre, 
I was uneasy about what to say as an introduction. Prac- 
tically everyone expected to attend was an expert on slum 
clearance: Sir Raymond Unwin, Barry Parker, John Wrigley, 
Major Barnes, Captain Amies, W. R. Davidge, Trystan 
Edwards, their wives, the officials and members of the Hous- 
ing Centre, and others. What was new, I wondered, that 
could be told to this distinguished company? 

Finally an idea came. Why not relate slum clearance to 
war? War was uppermost in the minds of all Britishers at the 
time. And it wasn't needless worry, as it later turned out. 

That evening, to break the ice before developing the slum- 
war idea, I risked a story old in America but, I hoped, new 
to the British. It seems that a psychiatrist was lecturing to 
the inmates of an institution for the feeble-minded. His 
audience paid little attention. So to jolt them back to what 
he was saying, he suddenly shouted, "Why are we all here? 
Why are we all here?" His audience stirred in their seats and 



196 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

one patient rose to his feet. "I'll tell you why we're all here," 
he haltingly volunteered. "We're all here because we aren't 
all there." 

A few smiles appeared, but apparently I had laid an egg. 
I tried to explain that we all had at least one thing in 
common, an interest in slum clearance, and if we hadn't, 
then we "weren't all there," when there was a loud guffaw 
from Mr. Barry Parker, who had just caught the point. He 
rocked back and forth in his seat in the front row until the 
tears rolled down his cheeks. This delayed explosion set off 
laughter throughout the audience, but not so loud as to be 
boisterous. However, it did break the ice jam. 

I then recalled to them how the Austrians had held back 
Bolshevism through such projects as the George Washington 
Hof and Leopoldau. The audience hadn't seemed to realize 
before that making jobs by clearing slums and rehousing the 
poor, instead of making jobs in preparation for war, was 
using constructive rather than destructive means to solve 
world-wide unemployment. Their exchange of glances in- 
dicated agreement on the idea that if all nations cleared their 
slums and rehoused their poor there would be no need to go 
&Q war to make jobs. 

Sir Raymond Unwin was first on his feet after the movie. 
There had been gratifying widespread applause and not a 
few calls of "Hear! Hear!" 

From the attention promptly given to Sir Raymond, it 
was plain to see that he was regarded as the dean of housing 
in Britain, just as his pre-eminence in that field was also 
recognized in America. 

"In proposing a vote of thanks to our friend from the 
States," Sir Raymond said, "first off I should like to observe 
that it may not be entirely inappropriate that I should be 
the one to make such a motion. You see" here his eyes 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 197 

twinkled, and he fiddled with his Windsor tie "I am some- 
what familiar with the ways of the country from whence our 
lecturer comes. Not only with its housing but with its food 
and drink. For have I not partaken of fried chicken and 
mint juleps in Georgia? And have I not seen in its building 
the very housing estate that the great President Roosevelt 
dedicated before our eyes in the films this evening? 

"And such a crowd there was for that dedication! Would 
that we had similar outpourings here in England for similar 
occasions. How did you manage it? Is there that much en- 
thusiasm for slum clearance now in America? I seem to recall 
that you were encountering difficulties when I was last there, 
Palmer." 

"Yes, Sir Raymond," I replied, "we had our difficulties and 
still do. And as far as the movie is concerned, honesty forces 
me to confess that there was some politics mixed up in what 
you saw. The crowd had come from all over Georgia to wel- 
come the President back to his southern home after a rather 
extended absence. It was Home-Coming Day. The dedication 
of Techwood was appropriate but incidental. Had it been 
some other day, and especially some other speaker, there 
would have been fewer people present." 

"Well, be that as it may," Sir Raymond continued, "we 
here at the Housing Centre have found a new point of view. 
There are too often the wearisome presentations of our sub- 
ject by mere repetition of that which we already know. This 
evening has been different. Not only the spritely, oral intro- 
duction of the films by our lecturer, which our esteemed 
colleague, Mr. Barry Parker, so much enjoyed, but the films 
themselves as well. 

"This new point of view to which I referred, is the tenable, 
justifiable view that slum clearance and rehousing can, and 
should, be internationally employed to prevent wars. That is 



198 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

the thought we shall carry away with us. That is the thought 
to ponder." 

The flight from Croydon to Holland on Friday, July 31, 
was uneventful. A letter of introduction had already gone 
forward to Herr Arie Keppler, director of Housing in Amster- 
dam, from our mutual friend, Coleman Woodbury, of the 
National Association of Housing Officials in America. He 
was well prepared when we arrived at his office in the City 
Hall the next morning. By his side was his young, capable 
assistant, Ir. L. van Marlen, B.I., who was also anxious to 
help us in every way possible. Both of them spoke precise 
English. 

"Probably you will wish to hear how housing is in all the 
Netherlands first, /a?" Keppler began. "Then we talk about 
Amsterdam. Amsterdam is my job, but maybe I know some- 
thing about the whole country, too. Shall I tell you?" 
"Nothing would suit us better," I assured him. 
"The background first, so?" Herr Keppler leaned back in 
his chair. "Well, we Dutchmen knew a long time ago, when 
King William III ruled, that the government has duties to 
clear slums. The King appointed a commission; that was in 
1853. The next year, when the commission had reported, 
one of the members of Parliament introduced legislation that 
formed the basis for our very good Housing Act of 1901. 
The legislation of 1854 had been defeated. We weren't ready 
then, but we did know that something had to be done. 

"In 1918 we found that our people needed many houses; 
we had not built fast enough. We also found that many people 
needed jobs; but we had no work for them. Shipping, our 
biggest job, was no good. Other countries would not let us 
ship; they had high tariffs to keep our products out. They 
would not hire our ships for their own goods, either. What 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 199 

must we do? Well, we needed houses, and we needed jobs. 
Why not combine the two? That would not help our ship- 
ping. But it would clear slums, and it would make work. We 
had all the materials to build with inside our own country; 
we would not have to get them from outside. Anyway, they 
would not take our goods in exchange. That is why they 
made so big tariffs after the war. 

"We went to work. In 1918 we had 1,380,000 houses. By 
1933 we had added 658,000 more. How did we increase our 
housing by fifty per cent in fifteen years? With government 
help. We gave private industry subsidy, too. The Dutch 
people were ready. We had the state control and the state 
money. If cities would not act, then the Crown would. And 
it did. 

"By 1930 more than twenty per cent of all industrial 
workers were building-trade workers. You see what building 
does to employment, /a? We made mistakes but we got the 
housing done. People live better. There is less crime. There 
is less sickness. And while Germany and Italy made work by 
preparing for war, we made work by preparing for peace. 
That is what our little country we have only eight million 
people has done with housing." 

"Do politicians bother you much?" I asked. 

"Yes, much trouble, much trouble," he emphatically re- 
plied. "Any housing department is a storm center of politics. 
Politics is the greatest weakness of municipal housing. I don't 
like politics. Only because I am protected by civil service 
can I sit in the driver's seat." Herr Keppler liked that phrase. 
He smiled. "If I not sit in the driver's seat, I get out!" He 
slammed his fist on the desk. Van Marlen was greatly en- 
joying his chief's agitation. The young assistant's round, 
pink face flushed with pleasure, and his blue eyes twinkled. 



200 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Do you use women on your staff?" I wondered aloud, 
hoping to shift to a pleasanter subject. It worked. 

"I would not be without them," Herr Keppler declared. 
"But I can't find enough to fill all my places. You know the 
Octavia Hill system, of course. That is what we use. But our 
teaching courses do not produce enough trained women to 
fill our vacancies." 

We visited many projects, but Herr van Marlen saved to 
the last the truly unique in slum rehousing. This was the 
project for the unsocial at Asterdord. As we approached, the 
place looked much like a fort. It was set in the midst of a 
barren field, and the outer one-story houses formed a solid, 
all-enclosing wall of what appeared to be paving bricks. 
Above the huge entrance gate, and set back on the wall-like 
perimeter, was a combination lookout tower and manage- 
ment office. It formed the only two-story structure and re- 
sembled a large artillery emplacement. Even the windows 
were long slits. But these were not barred as were the ones 
on the houses below that made the outer wall. While the 
bars looked like long, horizontal rows of lattice, they had 
not been fashioned as trellises for flowers. Their stout dual 
purpose was to keep the tenants in, once they were home, 
and to keep thieves out. Surely this was too grim. Van Marlen 
sensed our bewildered revulsion. 

"This is our cure for bad tenants," he said grimly. "We 
did not want to build it, but we thought it would serve a 
definite need. We were right as you will see." 

Reluctantly we entered the massive gates. The few listless 
humans loitering on the streets were momentarily forgotten 
as the woman in charge greeted us. Brawny, smiling, be- 
scrubbed, and hatless, a blonde six-footer, she strode forward 
to extend a hard-working hand for a hearty shake. She didn't 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 201 

speak English, but that cordial handclasp said more than 
any words could. 

' 'Shall we go up to the office?" van Marlen inquired. "We 
can see the whole project from there." 

The view swept every street, front and rear. Below us 
stretched out the six-sided enclosure. Tracing the inside of 
the periphery was a cobbled street that served the houses 
forming the outer wall. The remaining units were arranged 
in three hollow blocks, all converging on the entrance gate. 
The only spots of earth to be seen were around the few 
scattered saplings; all else was brick or concrete. Even the 
little trees, which scarcely topped the low buildings, had 
metal guards around them as high as human hands could 
reach. The rear yards were divided by roof-high, solid walls. 
All were capped with sharp bits of jagged, broken glass em- 
bedded in the copings to discourage prowlers. The windows 
of the houses within the compound were barred in the 
manner of those in the outer walls. Closer examination 
showed how the trellis design had been further softened. The 
lower border of each horizontal grouping was deeply scalloped 
to break the harsh lines. 

Laura and I turned from the window and took seats with 
van Marlen and his assistant at her desk. 

"You said, Herr van Marlen," I reminded him, "that this 
project has proved to you that such a development serves a 
useful purpose." 

"Yes," he replied. "And let us recall that I also said we did 
not want to build it. But we were not solving the problem of 
the bad tenant. We had tried everything else kindness, dis- 
cipline, ejection. No good. What we finally decided was that 
the bad tenant needs educating, and that education must be 
under rigid control, with those needing it being isolated from 
those who did not. 



202 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"This meant a separate project, so we built Asterdord. 
There are less than a hundred and forty units here. Others 
could be added if required. But we have learned that this 
place is big enough. Please mark that this is enough. We 
found that something over one hundred dwellings are all 
that are needed to handle the bad tenants from among the 
twenty-eight thousand we supervise. That is really very little." 

"But how does it work? Do you force the incorrigible to 
come here?" 

"Yes and no," van Marlen said. "We do not make them 
come here. But we do force them to leave good housing when 
they repeatedly throw too many beer bottles through the 
windows, steal from others, and keep on making trouble. 
After patience fails, we eject them. Then they try living in the 
gutter. When they find nowhere to turn but to us, they come 
back and promise to be good. We say, 'No, you have promised 
before. You upset the other tenants. We will not have you/ 
Then they cry and swear to reform. They tell us to have pity 
on their children. Just please take them in once more, and 
they will show us that they will not be bad again. But not 
until they volunteer to be good, do we place them in Aster- 
dord. So you see, they come at their own request. And once 
here, the education and discipline begin. 

"The gates close at nine o'clock. Anyone who is late sleeps 
in the street that night. All sorts of unfortunates are housed. 
Some are mendicants. Others are peddlers. For them we have 
stalls where they can lock up their pushcarts to protect their 
meager stocks from thieves. Every dwelling has a kitchen- 
living room, w.c., and bedrooms. There are no frills; every- 
thing is basic. One central set of baths and one laundry serve 
all. Furniture is built in to prevent breakage." 

"How are rents fixed and dwellings assigned?" 

"Assignments are according to family size. We are most 



Dutch Housing Beats Depression 203 

interested in the children and try to have the house large 
enough for them to sleep away from their parents. Often the 
old people are too far gone to be helped, but the children, 
no. Rents are at a flat rate. That is our policy in all projects. 
But here the rent is much lower than in other places; as little 
as three florins [sixty cents] for a two-bedroom house. And 
often even that is supplied by charitable organizations." 

I asked about making pictures. Consent was readily given, 
and I set my camera. Word spread of what was taking place. 
Ragged children appeared, but there were no smiles or shouts 
of laughter. A few of them wore wooden shoes but most were 
barefoot. Nearby, a man with an evil leer sat on an upturned 
bucket at his doorstep, feet wide apart, peeling potatoes. 

Down the street came another man, legs off below the 
knees. As he torturously waddled closer, we could see the 
clods on which he crept, his swinging hands but a few inches 
from the ground. In an aside I asked van Marlen if it would 
be all right to take such pictures. He thought they would like 
it, so I began a slow movie panorama of them all. The potato 
peeler's leer changed to a broad grin; the cap of the footless 
man came off his head with a jaunty sweep; and the children 
massed wherever the camera pointed, a hesitant smile break- 
ing through their solemn faces here and there. 

Very little was said as Laura and I drove back to the hotel. 
We had been given too much to think about. Sunday after- 
noon we left for The Hague, where there was also a project 
for the unsocial, and asked to see it first. In a densely popu- 
lated district, we found it to be much like a prison. It seemed 
to lack the firm but understanding management of Asterdord. 
We refrained from expressing the bewilderment we felt about 
the projects for the unsocial. To have the only two we knew 
of in the world situated in prim, trim Holland puzzled us 
even more. 



204 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Discussing this enigma on our flight back to London on 
August 3, we concluded that the unsocial projects stemmed 
from Dutch realism. Compassionately practical, they took 
action, in solving the problem of the incorrigible tenant, 
that was certainly forthright. And that same characteristic 
had resulted in the most important thing we had learned in 
Holland that housing can beat depressions. 



19 



BANDBOXES 

AND FATHEB PENN 



WE SAILED for Quebec on August 8, 1936, and 
drove to Atlanta, anxious to catch up on the progress made 
in our own slum clearance. 

Rents had been straightened out during our absence. They 
were at last fixed low enough so that the former slum dwellers 
of the Tanyard Creek area could afford to pay them, and 
they began moving into the new homes of Techwood. The 
formal dedication was not unlike that at Brightwells in 
London except that we had no H.R.H., Princess Alice, 
Countess of Athlone, present. But the first lady of our land, 
Mrs. Roosevelt, had graciously arranged so that her partici- 
pation would not end with the day. From the home of the 
President at Hyde Park she gave a rosebush to the Hyde Park 
group of the Boy Scouts of America, who delivered it by air- 
plane to their fellow Boy Scouts in Atlanta. At the conclusion 
of the speeches on Techwood Day, the Boy Scouts and the 
Girl Scouts of Atlanta together embedded the Hyde Park 
rosebush in the former slum soil there to bloom where flowers 
never bloomed before. 

Mayor James L. Key issued an Official Proclamation that: 

"WHEREAS, the construction of Techwood Homes has 

eliminated from this city eleven blocks of slum area . . . re- 

205 



206 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

moval of these slum conditions has contributed to improving 
the health of our citizens . . . has reduced the fire hazard . . . 
has provided honest employment of useful labor . . . 

"WHEREAS, ... the City of Atlanta is leading our nation 
in this new field of social justice for our citizens . . . 

"THEREFORE, I, ... proclaim Tuesday, September ist, 
1936 ... as Techwood Day. . . ." 

Dr. Brittain presided at the ceremonies, and Colonel 
Hackett, now U.S. Administrator of Housing, was in rare 
form. The going had been really rough. This affair was a 
bench mark in the history of housing, and he made the most 
of it. First he plugged for a new housing law to replace the 
temporary make-work legislation that had resulted in Tech- 
wood. 

"I have sufficient faith in the progress of America to be- 
lieve that this is just a beginning," he said. "Senator Wagner 
introduced at the last session of Congress a bill which is de- 
signed to perpetuate the public housing movement. This bill 
was acclaimed by every class in America. It undoubtedly will 
be presented again at the next session of Congress. Enactment 
of this bill and a continuation of slum clearance and low-rent 
housing call for progressive and realistic leadership. It cannot 
be done if we are content to await the passing of miracles 
now promised in some quarters, or if we believe that words 
can serve as well as bricks." 

The Colonel's reference to "miracles" had the opposition 
in mind, for he went on, "Completed in an election year, 
Techwood Homes is being criticized by certain elements for 
political effect that it is not self-liquidating and rents not 
high enough. Although I worked for months on the problem, 
I was never able to figure out how housing can be amortized 
out of the revenue from people who can't pay rent. Yet per- 



Bandboxes and Father Penn 207 

haps the gentlemen who criticize could perform such miracles 
themselves." 

High and low, rich and poor, young and old made up the 
audience, which spread over the grass-covered terrace below 
the speakers' platform. The one hundred and sixteen families 
that had moved into Techwood since August 15 were there 
en masse, their muddy alleys left behind forever. 

With Techwood a going concern, I kept pegging away to 
make the public slum-clearance conscious. In November, 
Laura and I again hit the trail. The first stop was in Boston 
for illustrated talks to the Boston Building Congress and the 
Harvard Business School in Cambridge. 

From Boston we hopped up to Dartmouth for a talk and 
the movie, then headed for New York. On November 19 the 
medicine-man show was before the New York Building Con- 
gress. Next I spoke at Princeton. We ended the swing around 
the circle convinced that undergraduates were more alert 
to the slum problem, and more determined to do something 
about it, than the old grads or the businessmen. 

In early December, I went to the annual meeting of the 
National Association of Housing Officials in Philadelphia. 
A large group of us toured the "bandboxes" of the city. 
Spawned when the Industrial Reyolution reached America in 
1854, they solidly covered the interior of blocks in the 
working-class district. When labor was needed to tend the 
ever-increasing machines, the owners of the hollow square 
blocks of hovels which in 1854 were already teeming with 
humanity erected these three-story "bandboxes" within the 
hollow squares. Then they cut thirty-inch-wide "tunnels" 
through the outer housing to enable the dwellers to reach 
their "bandbox" homes. 

Twelve feet square and three stories high, the only win- 
dows fronted on the narrow walking space between the "band- 



208 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

boxes" and the outer houses on the street. There were no 
openings on the sides or rear because of the juxtaposition of 
other "bandboxes." The first floor of each house was designed 
for cooking, the second as living quarters, and the third for 
sleeping. This upper floor was often only four-and-a-half 
feet high. There was no need for a loftier ceiling, the owners 
explained, since the sleepers lay there prone and it wasn't 
necessary to stand up. Outdoor privies were jointly shared 
by many families, and water was carried from the nearest 
common hydrant. One joker if it may be so calledwas that 
a separate family usually occupied each of the three floors. 
In this and similar housing, 60,000 people lived in Philadel- 
phia in 1936. 

Such a depressing record in modern times did not improve 
the past reputation of Philadelphians for apathy toward 
slums. Back in 1880 there were so many foul privy vaults 
within the city about which the owners would do nothing 
that the Board of Health was forced to act and ordered all 
such health hazards replaced with more sanitary facilities. 
The slum owners carried the case to the Supreme Court. 

"The cause of the nuisance," the court ruled, "was not the 
privy vault itself, but its contents. The mere hole in the 
ground was not a nuisance. When, therefore, the well was 
cleaned and purified, the cause of the nuisance was removed. 
It is true, it might become a nuisance again. In such an event, 
it would require to be again cleansed. The order requiring 
the owners to put in waterclosets, if sustained by this court, 
might be far-reaching in its consequences, and lead to serious 
and obnoxious abuses." 

Thus for the legalistic-minded reason that the owner, per 
se, did not create the nuisance although the insanitary 
facilities that he rented out caused the tenant to commit the 
nuisance the court overruled the Board of Health. Conse- 



Bandboxes and Father Penn 209 

quently, in 1934, fifty-four years after that ruling, there were 
still four thousand privy vaults officially reported in the City 
of Brotherly Love. 

On my last evening there, the lack of interest of the good 
people of Philadelphia in clearing their slums was brought 
to me with equal force but greater contrast. The train for 
Boston, where I was to talk with Professor Felix Frankfurter, 
did not leave until midnight, and restless from what I had 
seen of the "bandboxes," I paced the quiet city streets. 

Reaching the imposing City Hall, where Father Penn stood 
proudly aloft over the great city he had founded, I glimpsed 
a light among the flowers of the interior gardens. Coming 
closer, I saw an illuminated diorama in a glass case set on a 
table. It colorfully depicted an open-air zoo that was built 
to scale and complete with animals, caves, trees, and all. At- 
tached was a notice proclaiming that 400,000 citizens of 
Philadelphia had signed a petition to rehouse the animals of 
the city's zoo. 

As I stood there, stunned at the contrast of effort in housing 
animals and people, a shabbily dressed, aged woman shuffled 
to my side. We looked at the zoo exhibit together, and neither 
of us spoke for a moment. 

"What do you think of it?" I finally inquired. 

"Think of what? Rehousing the zoo?" she piped in a 
querulous tone of voice. "Why, it would be a fine thing, I 
suppose. I like animals, I do." 

"So do I," I assured her. "But have you ever seen the 'band- 
boxes'?" 

"You bet I have!" she exclaimed with a scowl. "The 'band- 
boxes' are terrible. They're simply awful!" 

"Well," I suggested, "don't you think it would be much 
better to rehouse the poor people who live in the 'bandboxes' 
first, and take care of the animals at the zoo a little later on?" 



210 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Yes, indeed." She nodded vigorously as she digested the 
idea. "I never thought of that before, but it would be grand!" 

The purpose of my visit to Professor Felix Frankfurter 
in Cambridge was to enlist his help with President Roosevelt. 
Not that the President was unaware of the need to clear 
slums. I well knew of his deep interest in the matter. But 
my feeling was that a viewing of the films might prompt the 
President to give housing top priority. Then slum clearance 
would become a continuing national policy instead of merely 
an emergency measure to make jobs. 

Harry Hopkins could not or at least did not arrange for 
a film showing. Neither had anything come from calling on 
Marvin Mclntyre at Warm Springs and exhibiting the pic- 
tures to Henry Kanee there. 

In seeking another approach to the President, I noticed 
that the newspapers had been mentioning the frequency of 
Professor Frankfurter's visits to the White House. William 
A. Sutherland, who had studied under Professor Frankfurter 
at Harvard Law School, was a mutual friend. When I put the 
matter up to Bill, he arranged the meeting with Frankfurter 
for December 6, 1936, at Cambridge. 

A courteous maid took me to Professor Frankfurter's living 
room when I turned up at his comfortable, unpretentious 
home that Sunday morning. There was little that was dis- 
tinctive in the furnishings, and that little was forgotten when 
Frankfurter entered. The mere presence of the little man so 
drew me to him that he was all I saw or thought about. 
Twinkling, intense, the pince-nez'd blue eyes in the massive 
head alternated between quick, all-inclusive friendly under- 
standing and impatience to get on with things. Never before 
with the exception of the President had I met a man who 
could keep so far ahead of your unexpressed thoughts. Mid- 



Bandboxes and Father Penn 211 

way in a sentence, Professor Frankfurter would nod or make 
a pertinent comment on what I was about to say. Not to 
interrupt, but simply to save time. Physically small, mentally 
a giant, it was no wonder that this patriot was always wel- 
come at the White House. 

"The really best way," Professor Frankfurter said after I 
had explained my problem, "would be for you to stay at the 
White House for several days. Then at odd moments, when 
you caught the President, you could unburden yourself of 
the whole story." Frankfurter's finger tips were meeting; he 
was apparently speaking from personal experience. "No one 
who has not seen quite a bit of the President lately can pos- 
sibly realize how impossible it is for him to give much con- 
secutive attention to a single problem. There are far too 
many of them. But none more important than slum clearance, 
I agree. 

"You say you have talked with Ben Cohen and Tom 
Corcoran but didn't get very far. Well, they are up against 
much the same problem for time. But let me have a talk 
with them. I'll be in Washington within the next few weeks. 
Then I'll write you what I find out." 

Professor Frankfurter was still for a long, full minute as 
his keen eyes looked me up and down. 

"Keep on with what you are doing," he urged. "Once a 
housing program gets under way, we shall get somewhere. 
You'll hear from me soon." 

Back home again in Atlanta at least for the momentI 
was invited to a "big meeting" of the Washington Memorial 
Library Forum of Macon. That city needed its slums cleared, 
and I said I'd help. Laura and I drove down and, while not 
expecting an audience of seven hundred as at the Harvard 
Club in New York, we figured there would be a sizable crowd. 



212 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

However, the attendance totaled just seven people. While 
bad weather was blamed for the poor showing, I found that 
there had been practically no advance notice. 

The seven people in the audience who had braved the 
elements were already proponents. Laura and I were learn- 
ing the hard way. We had made a water haul, and there were 
no converts to the cause. 

Into this discouragement came more bad news. A letter 
from Professor Frankfurter said, "I should have written you 
earlier, but I was awaiting opportunities for personal talk 
before writing. It is perfectly clear to me that Messrs. Cohen 
and Corcoran have so many other commitments that their 
minds simply cannot turn effectively to your problems." 

Well, that was that I Some other approach to the President 
would have to be found. After all, it was he who could and 
would, I believed do the most to put housing on the track 
once he came to understand its urgency. 

On February 13, 1937, a letter came from "Ernie" Bohn, 
president of the National Association of Housing Officials, 
that a group would meet on the nineteenth in Washington to 
revise housing legislation previously proposed. 

My optimism mounted on reading a preliminary draft. 
There was ample provision for both federal and local sub- 
sidies so that the rents would be low enough for people from 
the slums to afford. The scheme was not unlike that used in 
England. 

Senator Wagner introduced the bill. My main fear was 
that the proponents of the act did not appreciate the terrific 
amount of selling the Congress still needed. 

March 5 was a red-letter day in Atlanta, especially to those 
interested in slum clearance. With less than three hours be- 
tween trains, Mrs. Roosevelt spent most of her limited time 
at Techwood and University Homes. 



Bandboxes and Father Penn 213 

Major Clark Howell, Jr., publisher of the Atlanta Consti- 
tution, had succeeded to his father's interest in housing on 
the death of Mr. Howell, Sr., on November 14, 1936. Conse- 
quently, Clark was quietly notified that Mrs. Roosevelt and 
her secretary, Miss Malvina Thompson, might be interested 
in seeing our slum-clearance projects during an unannounced 
stopover in Atlanta. 

Dr. Brittain, Major Howell, Ralph McGill, of The Con- 
stitution, and I met them at the station and immediately 
headed for Techwood. I drove, and Mrs. Roosevelt sat be- 
side me. 

"I so well remember the day Franklin dedicated Tech- 
wood," she breezily reminisced. "It was his kind of day, 
sunny and cheery. He was immensely pleased, and so was I." 

As soon as we arrived, the word spread quickly that the 
First Lady was visiting Techwood, and in no time at all she 
was surrounded by admiring children. Mrs. Roosevelt slowed 
her swinging stride so the little tots could keep up, and as a 
thought puzzled her, a frown came on her usually smiling 
face. 

"Tell me more about the playgrounds," she prompted. 
"These smaller children don't have to compete with the larger 
ones, do they?" 

She showed pleasure in learning that children under six 
years of age had separate play areas, well fenced and with 
sand piles. 

The stride lengthened as Mrs. Roosevelt got back into 
high again. How about the laundries? We inspected those. 
And what about the apartments themselves? Not an occupied 
one as she hated to disturb any housewife. There was a typical 
unit still vacant on the second floor. You could sense that if 
Mrs. Roosevelt had her way she would have taken the steps 
two at a time. 



214 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Soon we were off to University Homes, which was already 
partly occupied. This is how Ralph McGill told the story in 
The Constitution. 

"At the colored housing project, two young girls stood on 
the walk peering toward the door through which Mrs. 
Roosevelt and her party had gone. 

1 'Tis,' said one. 

" 'Tain't,' said the other. 

" 'Tis so. I done seen her in the movies.' 

" 'Tain't no such. There ain't no police. Whyfor there 
ain't no police if 'ats Mrs. Roosevelt?' 

" 'Whyfor police? You think she gwine bring all her 
money along down here? Is you crazy?' 

"By this time a crowd had gathered. 

" 'Is 'at Mrs. Roosevelt?' the first girl inquired. 

" 'Yes, it's Mrs. Roosevelt,' someone replied. 

" To' Godl Lemme out of here!' 

"And so she ran yelling, 'Mommer, Mommer, come a-run- 
nin'l It's Mrs. Roosevelt, sho 'nuf. Honest, Mommer. I ain't 
lyin', honest!' 

"And so it went. A crowd gathered quickly as this woman, 
one of the most intelligent and courageous in America and 
in the world, saw what progress had been made toward social 
betterment for the masses of the people." 

Miss Florence Read, president of Spelman College, which 
adjoined the former Beavers' Slide, that worst of all slums, 
now replaced by University Homes, and Mr. Alonzo Moron, 
the housing manager, acted as guides. Mrs. Roosevelt turned 
to Miss Reid as we toured the buildings. 

"You know," she said thoughtfully, "I believe it is as im- 
portant, maybe more important, for a housewife to know how 
her servant lives as for an industrialist to know how his 
workers live. The average head of a house takes it for granted 



Bandboxes and Father Penn 215 

that servants live in good places, but many don't. They live 
in insanitary quarters, which results in their bringing into 
the homes of well-to-do families epidemics and disease. For 
that reason, if not for the humanitarian basis, certainly for 
self-interest, everyone should clean up slums." 

Before we returned her to the train, Mrs. Roosevelt visited 
the jail, which had been completed with WPA funds. She 
even went into the women's cell block and talked with the 
wrecks from the streets. 

Leon Keyserling, who had worked on the preliminary 
draft, telegraphed to suggest that I testify on the new housing 
bill in Washington on April 15, 1937. 

Senator Walsh presided at the hearing and was in the 
chair when Mayor LaGuardia testified. We were all seated 
at a large table with a vacant space on either side of New 
York City's fiery mayor. In his enthusiasm, he would occasion- 
ally slip from his chair and sidle back and forth along the 
table, pounding his fist and gesticulating. He was so short in 
stature that, whether seated or standing, there was no appar- 
ent difference in his height. 

It was a three-ring circus. Senator Walsh continually inter- 
rupted with irrelevancies. The Right Honourable Herbert 
Stanley Morrison, Member of Parliament and Leader of the 
London County Council, testified by invitation. But while 
he was attempting to detail the British experience, Senator 
Walsh broke in so often that Morrison never did tell his 
story. He did, however, get in one telling statement. 

"Legislation for housing of the working population of 
England," he pointed out, "has existed since 1890. It has 
been a commonplace part of British public affairs. It is now 
accepted by all British political parties that the slums are 
a disgrace, overcrowding is a disgrace, and it is the duty of 



216 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

the Government and Great Britain to get rid of them as 
quickly as they can." 

During my session on the stand, Senator Walsh broke in 
frequently. 

"The slums," he blandly stated, "are usually owned un- 
fortunately by poor people who have to live in them them- 
selves, who have two or three tenements, or have two or three 
houses and rent them." 

The Senator did not trouble to explain why he classified 
such slum owners, receiving extortionate rents, as poor people. 

As others who testified stressed the social angle, my argu- 
ment was directed along economic lines. 

There was more, much more. But the thinking in Congress 
was still confused. What was needed beyond anything else 
was positive word and aggressive action from the White 
House. 



20 



WHITE HOUSE 

VIA MRS. ROOSEVELT 



THREE YEARS of plugging without success to reach 
the President with the slum-clearance story had emphasized 
the need for his personal attention. Hopkins, Wallace, 
Wagner, Frankfurter, Mclntyre none had opened the door 
to the White House. But positive word and aggressive action 
by President Roosevelt had now become imperative, or an- 
other housing bill would fail to pass. Without the President's 
help it would be the same old story again. 

Once I had felt that he might temporize with big issues. 
That was when he spoke in Atlanta on May 22, 1932, during 
his first campaign for the Presidency. 

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the 
country demands," he had said, "bold, persistent experimen- 
tation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it 
fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try some- 
thing. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently 
forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within 
easy reach." 

Sitting only a few feet from Roosevelt when he made that 
statement, I mistakenly judged it to be cheap, political clap- 
trap. "If elected I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'll 
do something" was the way his thinking sounded to me. I 

217 



21 8 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

had found him a charming man socially at that 'possum 
supper back in 1930, but such a public statement as "above 
all try something" and then not to name the "something" 
decided me to vote for Hoover. 

Luckily Roosevelt didn't need my vote we laughed about 
it together in later years. Nor, as I had incorrectly guessed, 
was he uncertain about what to do. He knew his course but 
wisely avoided specific details in advance of election. His 
forthright action with the banks in March, 1933, proved that 
he was a doer, and also proved how badly I had misjudged 
him. From then on I became his devoted follower. 

Now if he would only be as decisive with the slums in 1937 
as he had been with the banks in 1933! The issue must be 
shown to him clearly and concisely. He would have to see it 
in capsule form. 

"See it" was exactly what I wanted, and the movies would 
do it. As Jacob Riis had put it in The Making of an Ameri- 
can, "I wrote but my words seemed to make no impression 
until my negatives, still dripping from the darkroom, came to 
reinforce them. From them there was no appeal." 

In addition to all the others, I had also been working 
through Mrs. Roosevelt. In January, 1937, sne nac * sa id tnat 
I might send her the movies on the chance she could fit them 
into the President's schedule somehow. 

Not until May did word come that the first lady would see 
me on the seventeenth at twelve noon. Prompt to the second, 
Mrs. Roosevelt met me in the red reception room of the 
White House, indicated that I was to sit beside her on the 
settee across from the fireplace, and turned her better ear 
my way. 

"Now," she said, "please tell me how I can help." 

Her mind raced ahead of mine as I recounted my many 
attempts to reach the President through others, and brought 



White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 219 

her up to date on how the slum-clearance legislation had 
bogged down. She seemed to catch the now-or-never spirit, 
rose abruptly, and asking me to wait a moment, left the room. 

"It's all arranged," she said radiantly when she returned. 
"Come for dinner tonight. You shall show your films to the 
President afterward. I still have your reels, and our film 
operator will do all that is necessary, so don't worry." 

She seemed as happy as I well, almost that the President 
would now "see" the need for action. 

There were six guests for dinner in the family dining room 
that evening. The President was already seated as we entered, 
and Mrs. Roosvelt asked me to sit at his left. "Then you can 
talk housing to your heart's content." Mrs. Henry Morgen- 
thau was on his right. 

In a high-backed chair, duplicating the President's and 
across the center of the oval table from him, sat Mrs. Roose- 
velt. At her right was Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau, 
and at her left Franklin Pierce Adams, newspaper columnist. 
Mrs. Adams was between Secretary Morgenthau and me. 
Edward L. Roddan, assistant to Charles Michelson in han- 
dling publicity and various other chores for the Democratic 
Party, sat between Mrs. Morgenthau and Mr. Adams. 

No sooner did the soup appear than Mrs. Roosevelt sug- 
gested that I start talking slum clearance. While waiting for 
a lead, I had been doing what came naturally, crumbling 
toast in my soup. With attention directed my way by Mrs. 
Roosevelt's remark, I realized my subconscious faux pas, and 
noted with relief that the President had already beaten me 
in crumbling his toast in his soup. But before I could wind 
up on the need to clear slums, Secretary Morgenthau broke 
into the conversation. 

"Aha!" he exclaimed. "I see you are after my gold." 



220 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

The President chuckled at such a frontal attack by the 
watchdog of the Treasury, so I countered by avoiding slums 
for the moment and sticking to the subject of gold. 

"I wonder if you would tell me, Mr. President," I asked, 
"if the story about Gene Black of Atlanta making a pass at 
the gold service here in the White House has any truth 
in it?" 

"What story is that?" he inquired. 

I then repeated how it was reported that Eugene Black 
dined at the White House the night the President had in- 
structed Mr. Black, in his capacity as governor of the Federal 
Reserve Board, to sequester all gold for the Government. As 
a good soldier, though reluctantly, Mr. Black had followed 
orders. 

It seems that when Mr. Black sat down in the State Dining 
Room that evening, he found that the gold service was being 
used. 

"You know," Secretary Morgenthau interrupted at this 
point, "those pieces are not solid gold. They are merely 
plate." 

"You mean 'washed gold,' Henry," the President wise- 
cracked. 

After that exchange, I continued with my story. No sooner, 
I said, did Governor Black note the gold service than he slyly 
slipped a fork into his trousers pocket. An attentive butler 
immediately brought another, and this went the way of the 
first one. Noticing the obvious pilfering, the Governor's 
dinner partner became uneasy. 

"Why, Governor Black," she exclaimed, "whatever are 
you doing?" 

The commotion attracted the President's attention. From 
his place a few seats away he leaned forward, not wanting 
to miss the clowning he knew his friend Gene was up to. 



White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 221 

Solemnly the Governor turned from his table companion 
and pointed at the President, who was now all eyes and ears. 

"You see that man," Governor Black said accusingly. "He 
took my gold, Well, now I'm taking his!" 

When I finished, the President laughed heartily with the 
others around the table. 

During the ensuing conversation, the President recalled 
an unfortunate remark that he had made at the 'possum 
supper of 1930. Then governor of New York, and generally 
recognized as a potential candidate for the Presidency, he 
had publicly referred to New York City as "a sink of in- 
iquity." It happened near the end of the evening, which had 
been a merry one. Ostensibly politics was taboo. But as 
toastmaster I could not completely ignore politics while read- 
ing out such telegrams as "!F HE [Roosevelt] CONTINUES IN 

THE REAL JEFFERSONIAN PRINCIPLES HE MAY MAKE THE 

REPUBLICAN 'COON COME DOWN IN 1932," from Bernard M. 
Baruch. 

Then followed some horseplay, which always delighted 
Roosevelt. We had been talking about the Creek Indians and 
Iroquois fraternizing at Warm Springs in the early iSoo's, 
just as war whoops split the air when two of our number 
dressed as braves burst in and scalped a guest who, by pre- 
arrangement, was wearing a wig on his bald head. 

However, the final incident that led directly to Roosevelt's 
"iniquity" remark came just before he rose for an informal 
address. It was then my pleasant duty to present to him a 
large drawing by Lewis Gregg, famed cartoonist of The 
Atlanta Constitution. 

I solemnly claimed that our group originated during 
feasts in the days of old Rome and had combined centuries 
ago with the gypsies and the Creek Indians. Consequently, 
our members still had the power to foretell the future. As 



222 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

proof we would now reveal how our distinguished guest 
might soon be appearing before his fellow countrymen. We 
would even show him following in the footsteps of the Father 
of Our Country, George Washington. 

By then everyone felt sure the unveiling of Gregg's draw- 
ing would tie into the Presidency, but as the picture was 
unveiled, there was the Governor of New York cutting down 
a persimmon tree in which old Br'er 'Possum had been cor- 
neredcutting down a persimmon tree instead of a cherry 
tree! 

This amusing turn caused Roosevelt to open with, "This 
is the kind of party that really goes to my heart. If we could 
cut out the banquets in that great sink of iniquity called 
New York, I'd be happy." 

The wire services had their representatives at the 'possum 
supper in force, and they promptly reported the "sink of 
iniquity" remark. This gave those in the East who opposed 
the nomination of Governor Roosevelt for the Presidency a 
chance to try to distort his humorous comment. 

When Basil O'Connor, Roosevelt's law partner, saw the 
first editions of the morning papers up East, he phoned 
Roosevelt to urge that he get the matter straightened out 
immediately, or an issue would be raised comparable to the 
"Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" charge flung at the 
Democratic Party by Blaine's supporters during the Cleve- 
land-Blaine campaign in 1884, only to backfire on Blaine. 

Governor Roosevelt promptly called the Associated Press 
in Atlanta and requested that I be told of his predicament 
and asked to help. A reporter caught me on the phone at 
home, and I dictated a new release. The A.P. manager oblig- 
ingly killed the first version. The new one was to the effect 
that Governor Roosevelt was using the phrase of others 
unacquainted with the great city and, of course, did not him- 



White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 223 

self mean to say that was his idea. Fortunately, the distortion 
of the incident did not spread. 

The foregoing is significant historically but has become 
of more than passing interest to me. As I look back at it, 
what Roosevelt then said about New York was not just a slip 
of the tongue. It seems to me that in his mind there was 
always a subconscious picture of swarming slums when he 
thought of New York. While he did not consider the 
metropolis itself a "sink of iniquity," he did know that such 
a description suited much of its area. 

The President, it appeared, was still somewhat uneasy 
about what may have been the consequences of his indiscreet 
remark. I hated to think what might have happened to our 
country, and slum clearance in particular, if Roosevelt had 
not won the election. 

At the end of the dinner, we all went to the upper living 
room, where a movie projector was already set up and an 
operator at hand. 

Portable chairs were in place, and the President beckoned 
me to one at his side. Not once did his eyes leave the screen 
as The World War against Slums told its graphic story of 
the constant battles to cure the cancers of town and country 
alike in Italy, Austria, Poland, Russia, Germany, Holland, 
Great Britain, and America. 

"No wonder you were impressed," he said to me, keeping 
his eyes on the movie, "with what Italy has done. I had no 
idea they had cleaned up so much of Naples and had tackled 
such an immense reclamation job in the Pontine Marshes." 
After a thoughtful pause, he spoke again. "I always said that 
slum clearance kept Austria from Communism, but I never 
saw these big projects before. No wonder they pleased the 
people." 



224 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Then there was a long silence as the President studied the 
movies, until we reached the section on Holland where a 
close-up of an elderly woman in the housing for the aged 
appeared on the screen. Her heavy jowls and deeply lined 
face tempted me to observe that she wouldn't take a prize 
in a beauty contest. 

"Tut, tut!" the President snapped with family pride, "she 
has a good, honest Dutch face!" 

At the end of the film, Secretary Morgenthau, backed up 
by his wife, dwelt at some length on the horrors of the alley 
slums right there in Washington. With Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. 
Morgenthau had been active in Washington slum-clearance 
work. 

"Yes, I know they are right at our door," the President 
admitted. "You know, the next message I send to those 
ninety-six senators on the Hill is going to be in movies. That 
will really get results." 

Both the President and the Secretary agreed that there was 
no further need to convince them. They were solidly sold on 
slum clearance. The trouble was no longer "at this end of 
the Avenue," as the President put it, but at the other end, 
that is, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

"But where is the money coming from to expand this pro- 
gram?" The President glanced at Morgenthau, who in turn 
looked at me. 

"Well, there is one source," I replied. "That is through a 
graduated tax such as you saw mentioned in the Austrian 
project. You may recall it said that the tenants of the eighty- 
six largest de luxe apartments in Vienna paid as much rent 
tax as 350,000 workmen. In our country the residents of such 
neighborhoods as Park Avenue could afford to chip in. In 
fact, one penthouse dweller there told me he would be all 
for it. Incidentally, the only thing in the New Deal this 



White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 225 

Bourbon was for was slum clearance, and he accepted a 
graduated rent tax as a sensible way to get the money 1" 

"That's a new one on me," the President commented. 

Secretary Morgenthau said he hadn't heard about it, either, 
but it might have possibilities. 

I then explained that a graduated rent tax based on ability 
to pay, and averaging 5 per cent of America's $3,500,000,000 
residential rent roll, would produce enough annual subsidy 
to house three million families. 

All paid strict attention, especially the President. The 
silence as he turned over the idea of a rent tax in his mind 
was broken by Mrs. Roosevelt. 

"Mr. Palmer," she suggested, "please tell the President 
about that FHA project in Atlanta." 

I was at a loss to understand what she meant until she 
explained that she was referring to Oak Knoll. An amazing 
woman, she even remembered, in addition to Techwood and 
University Homes, the little subdivision where my brother- 
in-law, Richard Sawtell, and I were building houses of living 
room, dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms to sell for 
$3,250. The payments of $25.50 a month included taxes and 
insurance under the Government's FHA program. 

The President quickly commented that payments were 
about five dollars per room per month for purchase, or 
materially less than most rents at that time. He was de- 
lighted that private enterprise could provide good homes at 
moderate rentals and wanted to know more. Would the Gov- 
ernment's help in slum clearance interfere with such private 
projects? I then brought out that the public-housing program 
in Great Britain had helped materially to expand the opera- 
tions of the Building Societies there while, without public 
housing as a pace setter, the operations of private outfits in 



226 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

America had contracted, despite the help our Government 
gave through FHA. 

While the movie operator was getting his apparatus out 
of the way, the President told me to get in touch with Sec- 
retary Mclntyre first thing the next morning. In the mean- 
time he, the President, would figure out what the next step 
should be. He said that he was now determined to break the 
log jam in the Wagner bill, and he guessed that the best 
way would be for me to work with Secretary Morgenthau. 
But he wasn't quite sure. He would think it through that 
night and leave a message for me with "Mac" in the morning. 

Early the next morning, May 18, I was with Secretary 
Mclntyre at the White House. Yes, "the Boss" had already 
instructed him to make appointments for me with anyone I 
thought might help. I mentioned Secretary Morgenthau, and 
"Mac" said he'd fix it up. 

No sooner said than done. In no time at all I found myself 
in the Secretary's office at the Treasury Building. He called 
in his administrative assistant, William H. McReynolds, to 
handle the details. Now who did I think could work out 
the kinks in the proposed housing law so Congress would 
pass it? Would I do it myself? But it seemed to me better for 
someone resident in Washington, and an official of the Gov- 
ernment who had not taken sides, to handle the assignment. 
Or, I suggested, maybe one individual primarily identified 
with public housing, and another with private enterprise, 
could collaborate. How about John Ihlder, of the Washing- 
ton Alley Dwelling Authority, and Matt Daiger, of the Fed- 
eral Reserve? Both were capable and knew their way around. 
And both were soon hard at work. 

On June 14, Daiger wrote that Wagner had been away 
and "My understanding is that he has not had any confer- 
ences on the Wagner Bill." The next day Ihlder wrote, "As 



White House via Mrs. Roosevelt 227 

nearly as I can state it, the situation is this. All parties con- 
cerned seem to be in an attitude of mind which would make 
them hospitable to suggestions tending toward a reconcilia- 
tion of points of view. The difficulty, however, seems to be as 
to who shall take the first step. It is possible that you are the 
one who could bring it about." 

Back and forth went the negotiations between Atlanta 
and Washington, and so did I. Major differences were ironed 
out with members of Congress. 

As usual, the President knew what he was doing. The 
movie had helped enough with him and Morgenthau to 
stimulate their action, working with Congressmen in their 
own way, and helping us housers work in ours. August saw 
final action by both Houses of Congress, and the President 
signed the United States Housing Act of 1937 on September i 
of that year. 



21 



MORE THAN 
SHERMAN BURNED 



AMERICAN THINKING, not unlike that of Ka- 
gawa, came to me in August, 1937, from our oldest daughter, 
Margaret. In her early teens, she had been greatly impressed 
by "Prayer/* a poem of Louis Untermeyer's she had come 
across while at camp in North Carolina, and sent home to us. 

"Open my ears to music; let 
Me thrill to Spring's first 

flutes and drums 
But never let me dare forget 
The bitter ballads of the slums." * 

On September 15, a telegram came from Secretary of the 
Interior Ickes for a Washington conference on the twentieth. 
Now maybe there would be happier refrains than the "bitter 
ballads" that had so sorely troubled our daughter. 

At the meeting, after asking for advice and help from 
those present, Ickes concluded by saying, "I can't see that 
we are going to get very far in building up the right kind of 
a civilization without low-cost housing, without giving the 

* Louis Untermeyer, "Prayer," Modern American Poetry (New York: Har- 
court, Brace and Company, Inc.). 

228 



More than Sherman Burned 229 

people decent homes in which to live, and in which they can 
afford to live." 

On the whole, the conference served a useful purpose. 
Many were heard while Ickes and his aides listened atten- 
tively. 

Through the leadership of the Atlanta Chamber of Com- 
merce, the City Council had followed up its resolution of 
March 15, 1937, urging passage of the Wagner Bill, with a 
further resolution to establish a Housing Authority of five 
members. At the time Mayor Hartsfield approved the petition 
of the City Council to the National Congress, I mistakenly 
thought we might at last get some housing leadership from 
him. But when it came to local action, he dragged his feet 
until he felt sure that at least 150 per cent of the voters wanted 
him to do something. On September 24, the Mayor vetoed 
the move to set up a local body. His comment was that 
"Atlanta is not going to be a guinea pig in this matter." 

This meant that we would have to arouse even wider and 
more vocal citizen interest. We would have to prove to the 
Mayor where the votes were. 

Ever since I had been a boyhood guest for several days 
of Edsel Ford and his parents in their Highland Park home, 
he and I had kept in touch with each other. In recent years 
I had piqued his curiosity about slum clearance. I wanted 
the influence and foresight he and his father could bring to 
the movement. In 1935 I had sent Edsel clippings and tran- 
scripts of some of my lectures. 

"Back in 1912," I wrote in my letter of transmittal," you 
and your father told me that the automobile and good roads 
would be the main sources of employment for our people 
during the next twenty years. You were foresighted then, 
and now I wonder if you have grasped, with equal celerity, 
the full significance of the slum-clearance movement?" 



230 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

More housing information was sent to Edsel from England 
in July of that year, right after Sir Theodore Chambers had 
suggested that the Fords could do a great good to the world 
by building a model city. I had seen the Fords' Dagenham 
Plant near Becontree, England. The size of that plant proved 
that a new city for America was not beyond the capacity of 
the Fords to conceive or to build. Its magnitude recalled the 
breadth of Henry Ford's thinking. He had shared his thoughts 
with Edsel and me; though we were still in high school, he 
had treated us like men. I particularly remembered one 
breakfast when Mr. Ford wanted to reminisce. Office hours 
never mattered to Henry Ford. He sprawled in his chair while 
his wife sat erect; he for comfort, not lazily, she naturally, 
not in pretended dignity. Mrs. Ford's sweet smile and quiet 
pride in husband and son went together. 

Although it had not yet been made public, Henry Ford 
told us at that breakfast of his plan for a minimum wage of 
five dollars a day. That was a breath-taking announcement 
and it rocked our nation's industrial leaders. 

I also remember Mr. Ford telling us reflectively that he'd 
had such a close call while night superintendent of the 
Edison Company in Detroit that the Ford automobile might 
never have been built. The man who relieved Mr. Ford at 
the power plant early each day had caught barber's itch, 
which made his face so tender that he could not shave him- 
self. So Mr. Ford became a barber, pro tern. Tilting an old 
kitchen chair against the brick wall of the engine room to 
give the amateur razor wielder better light, Mr. Ford walked 
back and forth between the chair and an open sink not far 
away. 

One morning, the shave over, the barber and his lone 
customer had hardly stepped to the sink to wash up when 
there was a sudden crash and a roar as though Doomsday 



More than Sherman Burned 231 

had come. The shaft of the fly-wheel of a two-story-high 
reciprocating engine had snapped and as the wheel smashed 
through the brick wall of the building, tons of steel crushed 
the "barber chair" into kindling wood. A few seconds earlier 
and that would have been the end of Henry Ford, and 
America might not have taken to wheels so fast. 

I had hoped father and son would put slum clearance on 
wheels in 1938. They did a few apartments, but the big job, 
a whole city, never caught on. 

The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce brought Captain 
Richard L. Reiss, noted British housing authority, to Atlanta 
for a large civic luncheon on February 18, 1938. His remarks 
were of some help in our drive to make the Atlanta City 
Council "see the light." 

"Public housing authorities do not interfere wtih private 
enterprise," Reiss declared, and, "Government-financed pub- 
lic housing saves money in the long run." 

That was exactly what Atlantans needed to be reminded of. 
They had heard it often enough, but locally the same old 
crowd was still shouting "socialism." It took on a different 
meaning when refuted by such a leading businessman as 
Captain Reiss, who had helped to put Welwyn Garden City 
on the map financially. And with Reginald S. Fleet, well- 
known investment banker of Atlanta, presiding, no one could 
claim that the luncheon was a "pink" affair. Especially so as 
Fleet was acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Housing 
and Town Planning Committee of the Chamber of Com- 
merce of Atlanta, and doing yeoman service for public 
housing. 

The irony of the position in which Atlanta found herself 
in March, 1938, came full force to me through what Captain 
Reiss said about Tech wood: "Best public housing in Amer- 
ica." The best and the first, as well. Surely my home town 



232 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

was better prepared than any other city to hold her leader- 
ship, now that public housing had been established as 
national policy. 

All Atlanta had to do was set up her Housing Authority. 
The money was in Washington for the asking. But Mayor 
Hartsfield's veto of the City Council's resolution had stymied 
further action. Other southern cities, with funds from Wash- 
ington, were beehives of activity. Many had gotten their 
"how- to-do-it" from us. Apparently we didn't practice as well 
as we preached. In our state of Georgia alone, Savannah, 
Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and even little Athens, were 
officially, legally, and effectively going ahead full steam with 
public housing. 

What else could we do to force action from the Mayor? 
Time and federal funds were running out fast. Persuasion, 
pleas and pressure had failed to sway Hartsfield. Then fate 
took a hand. 

On Sunday night, March 27, 1938, a batch of wretched 
slum hovels caught fire, and just across the street Atlanta's 
famed Grady Hospital came tragically close to being wiped 
out. It was the greatest threat to the city since the conflagra- 
tion of 1917. And the citizens remembered that slums were 
to blame then, too. 

When I reached the scene, the sky was red from the leap- 
ing flames. Firemen struggled on the roof of the main hos- 
pital building to extinguish the huge embers that rained 
down from the thirty slum shacks, which were burning be- 
yond control. While power lines fell and telephone poles 
flared, streams of water were being played from the roof of 
the nurses' home to save adjoining structures. Through the 
bars of the venereal-disease building where prisoners were 
treated, anguished faces stared helplessly at the rapidly ap- 
proaching flames. 



More than Sherman Burned 233 

All but three of Atlanta's fire companies were on the job, 
desperately fighting the spreading holocaust. Fire Chief 
Parker and Police Chief Hornsby directed the work. Mayor 
Hartsfield was there, too. He saw desperately ill patients 
being caried from the hospital buildings on stretchers. He 
saw flaming torches shoot into the sky and fall into the central 
business area. He saw blocks of slums go up in smoke. 

Luckily only three people were hurt. But Atlanta was 
aroused at last. Newspapers were filled with the horror there 
was and the much greater horror there might have been. 

" 'Only luck and the valiant work of the fire department,' " 
a paper reported the next morning, " 'kept Sunday's fire from 
spreading into a wide conflagration/ said R. S. Hammond, 
Chairman of the Fire Prevention Committee of the Chamber 
of Commerce, as he urged today that the city take necessary 
steps immediately to obtain government slum clearance funds 
to rebuild the now smoldering area as a slum clearance project 
'before other shacks spring up similar to those that burned, 
gravely endangering Grady Hospital.' ' 

Another newspaper said: 

"Mayor Hartsfield last night said he was not committed 
either way on the possibility of a housing authority for 
Atlanta. 'I have appointed a Council Committee to investi- 
gate the matter.' " 

So again I went into the newspapers with: 

"The Chamber President pointed out that the Federal 
government furnishes nine-tenths of the cost of each project, 
with the local Housing Authority putting up the other tenth. 
This amount, he said, might be in the form of streets, park- 
ways, sewers, and other services which the city may have 
already provided for." 

Such factual arguments didn't mean much to closed politi- 
cal minds. But the narrow escape of Grady Hospital from 



234 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

total destructionand perhaps the loss of many lives was 
having its effect. Atlantans were up in arms. So much so 
that Hartsfield's committee began to realize that it was in a 
hot spot and became even more evasive. Robert Carpenter, 
its chairman, was always "out of the city" and the members 
had "no comment." 

We kept the heat on. But still no meeting of the committee, 
and still the Mayor refused to commit himself. To smoke 
them out, we had a resolution introduced into the Council 
that instructed the Mayor to act, and had the resolution 
referred to the Housing Committee. Then the committee was 
forced to take action, and a public hearing was required. 

Two more weeks went by, and finally the hearing was 
held. Our side showed up in such force that we had the 
committee pretty well whipped before the testimony began. 
After all, what the politicians seemed to seek was proof that 
they'd get more votes from the decent citizens who wanted 
slums wiped out than they would lose from those predatory 
persons who preyed upon slums. 

Besides civic leaders, department heads of the city were 
present. Fire Chief Parker testified, "We used to have one 
call a day at least to the Techwood section, but since the 
improvements were made we never get called down there." 
Sanitary Chief Gates said the blighted areas were the centers 
for the spread of disease; and City Parks Manager Simons 
told of the juvenile delinquents found around park areas 
near slums. Dewey Johnson, president of the Atlanta Fed- 
eration of Trades, stated that "if we have one bit of feeling 
for humanity, we shouldn't become reconciled to such con- 
ditions." 

It was such a good show that the committee could find no 
out. But again undercover circumlocution set in. Alderman 
J. Allen Couch, notorious for always being on the wrong side 



More than Sherman Burned 235 

of everything, maneuvered the city fathers into a still further 
delay of two weeks by referring the ordinance to the Finance 
Committee. 

Over the weekend of May i, I had gone to Washington 
to keep Atlanta's foot in the housing door because there was 
a real likelihood that all the federal funds for housing would 
be earmarked before we could legally qualify. My fears were 
well founded. Nathan Straus, administrator of the United 
States Housing Authority, told me on Sunday that alloca- 
tions would be complete by June i, but that if we hurried 
Atlanta might get between eight and fifteen million dollars. 

While in Washington, I spoke by request at the annual 
meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. 
Back to mind came December 4, 1929, when I had sat in the 
same Chamber Auditorium with a lot of these same business 
and industrial leaders. We had heard President Hoover tell 
us that things would be all right pretty soon. Then the whole 
gang had wanted help, any kind of help at all. But Hoover 
didn't provide it. Roosevelt did. And that help though they 
wouldn't admit it had saved the skins of the carping speakers 
who preceded me. 

They were so much against our country's present leader- 
ship that they were sitting ducks for an editorial I had re- 
cently read, "The Againsters," which had just appeared in 
the Waycross, Georgia, Journal-Herald: "The againster can- 
not be against anything until somebody starts something. . . . 
He hasn't the slightest idea what to do or what to think until 
somebody starts something. . . . The againster never goes be- 
yond being against " 

So I sounded off. I said that being "for" instead of 
"against" was really paying off down South, especially in 
slum clearance. I pointed out that thirty-three cities in eleven 



236 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

southeastern states already had $90,000,000 earmarked for 
them, and were going out "for" more. 

There wasn't much applause. The U.S. Chamber's staff 
had tuned their instruments to a different key. But that was 
not the key in which the Atlanta Chamber played. By being 
"forsters" and striking up its own tune, our Chamber had 
brought $9,000,000 to Atlanta for slum clearance. Why, 
that was more than the total of all our building permits 
during the past three years. 

After I returned to Atlanta, there was every reason to 
expect victory when our City Fathers met on May 18. Council 
voted the authority, but one alderman, Roy Callaway, de- 
cided to play the role of King Canute, and commanded the 
tide to stand still by moving to reconsider. His action slowed 
us up again. 

But not for long. For some reason I never fathomed, the 
following week Callaway withdrew his motion. This auto- 
matically passed the buck to the Mayor. Maybe that's what 
Callaway had in mind after finding the seat too hot for 
himself. 

The Mayor had been snowed under and began to shovel 
his way out. He finally signed the measure and appointed a 
banker, two businessmen, a labor leader, and me as chairman 
of the Authority. We then got down to work in earnest. 

The very next day two of us were off for Washington, 
hoping we were not too late. "We don't know how much 
money Atlanta will get for slum clearance and housing," I 
told reporters, "but we hope the figure of between eight 
and fifteen million will stand." 

On July 2, the morning Constitution screamed in an eight- 
column head across its front page: "$9,000,000 GIVEN TO 
CITY TO CLEAR SLUMS" and "MAYOR IS ELATED/' 



More than Sherman Burned 237 

Even a mayor with Hartsfield's hindsight couldn't refuse that 
kind of money. 

By September we had 2,500 units under architectural con- 
tract to be built in two white and two colored projects for 
about 11,000 former slum dwellers. Over $3,000,000 was for 
expansion of Tech wood. We named the new project Clark 
Howell Homes, after the man who had helped so much in 
the early days. Another $3,000,000 went for enlargement of 
the University project. We called this John Hope Homes 
because elderly John Hope had practically paid with his life 
for it by sapping his meager strength during the early 
fights on housing. 

By year's end our funds from Washington had been in- 
creased to about $15,000,000, and Grady Homes was added 
to our housing program. It removed forever the threat of fire 
from our public hospital. Capitol Homes, too, was under way, 
wiping from the shadow of our State House the sorry shacks 
that had lingered there for generations. 

At long last Uncle Sam caught up with himself. When 
General Sherman's Federal Troops were a bit careless with 
fire in Atlanta in November, 1864, they burned 3,500 of the 
4,000 structures then in the city. Federal funds replaced them 
in full measure with 4,996 low-rent homes by 1940. After 76 
years, Uncle Sam helped rebuild more than Sherman burned. 

Between trips to Washington for Atlanta housing, other 
chores were not being left undone. One was particularly 
pleasant: to be a representative of the United States at the 
sixteenth annual meeting of the International Federation 
for Housing and Town Planning in Mexico City in August, 
1938. Although Laura and I were involved in a train wreck, 
we returned home none the worse for wear. 

The wreck occurred near Queretaro when our crack south- 



238 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

bound Sunshine Special drove head on into the northbound 
Sunshine Special at 2:45 A.M., August 13. Five passengers 
were instantly killed, and four of twelve injured died later. 

My head was rammed into the wall of the upper berth. 
The resulting stiff neck made me wonder why Pullmans 
aren't made up feet first instead of head first. Thinking that 
we were in a bandit holdup there'd been one near that spot 
the week before I left my uninjured wife to investigate, 
suggesting that she keep the drawing-room door locked. But 
when I returned for my cameras as the sun came up, Laura 
was nowhere around. Just as on our trips to Europe, she had 
decided not to miss a thing in Mexico, either, and she didn't. 

Blame for the mess was placed by some on the "Goldshirts," 
a subversive organization, in an attempt to discredit the op- 
eration of the railroad by labor that had been in charge of 
the roads for but a few months. Their hope was that the 
wreck would cause an international incident, because there 
were official representatives to the Congress on board from 
England, Canada, Sweden, and the United States. 

Certainly Great Britain would not have taken it lightly 
if such distinguished British subjects on board as George 
Pepler, president of the Federation, or Miss E. E. Halton, 
its Honourable Secretary, had been injured. Their high 
position in England was later confirmed by elevation to 
knighthood because of outstanding leadership in housing 
throughout the British Commonwealth and the world. They 
are now married, and it is Sir George and Lady Pepler. 

When we eventually arrived in Mexico City around mid- 
night, I called the morning paper on the hunch that they 
would develop my pictures of the wreck immediately in 
exchange for their use. The hunch turned out to be a ten 
strike for an amateur photographer. Within a few hours the 



More than Sherman Burned 239 

newspaper Excelsior, El Periodico de la Vida Nacional was 
on the streets with four enlargements of my snapshots on 
the first page with the credit line: Fotos Cortesia del Sr. C. F. 
Palmer. 

One of our first trips was to the salt-sea reclamation at 
Texcoco. There housing again proved to be much the same 
the world over. Where the Mexican Government had re- 
habilitated 24,000 acres and done much new building, they 
had used the same basic methods as the Italians in the Pontine 
Marshes and the Dutch in the Zuider Zee projects. 

Later, Housing Chief Carlos Contreras took us through 
public-housing projects in Mexico City, where we found that 
he had kept out all frills. Adobe construction was used and 
well used. Sanitary facilities were adequate and far above 
the Mexican average. Charcoal stoves were standard equip- 
ment, and welcomed by the former slum dwellers as much 
better than any cooking arrangements they'd previously had. 

During this Mexican trip a challenging idea that came 
to me was the chance for the nations of North and South 
America to work together on housing. I found such ready 
understanding in this field with the delegates from south of 
our border that housing seemed an Esperanto worth expand- 
ing. And so on my return to the States I included the sugges- 
tionthat Uncle Sam take the lead in setting up a North 
American South American Housing Axis in the confidential 
report I made to Alexander V. Dye, director, and N. H. Engle, 
assistant director, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Com- 
merce of the United States. 

Public housing in New Orleans was going ahead by mid- 
fall, but some "arousements" were needed so businessmen 
would understand the movement better. William J. Guste, 



240 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

chairman, Members Council, New Orleans Association of 
Commerce, asked me to undertake the job. I accepted and 
made a talk on October 6 called "The Businessman and 
Subsidized Housing." The top leaders of New Orleans were 
at the meeting. Here is part of what The Times-Picayune 
reported the next day: 

"Mr. Palmer said, 'In Atlanta, where the first public 
housing project in this country has been completed, we found 
that every individual in the slum areas was costing the 
government $33 more than was collected from the areas in 
taxes. Since 60,000 people in Atlanta are inadequately housed, 
this represents a subsidy to the slums of $2,000,000, enough 
to amortize the investment and pay the interest on $50,000,000 
worth of homes and decent apartments. We figure it is better 
business to subsidize housing than to subsidize slums. As 
slums are eradicated, insurance rates and police and health 
expenditures go down and property values go up.' ' 

Colonel L. Kemper Williams, leading New Orleans busi- 
nessman and chairman of the Housing Authority, felt that 
others of his fellow citizens should hear similar arguments 
from the same source. And so on November 7 I found myself 
back in New Orleans as the principal speaker at the kickoff 
dinner of the 1939 Community Chest Campaign. The over 
eight hundred men and women present formed a true cross 
section of the city. Fifty-five agencies, many of which worked 
in slums, participated in the program. 

"Would you know," I said in part, "where your slums are? 
Then place a pin on the map for each person helped through 
the Community Chest. The pattern will accurately trace the 
slums. . . . An atheist once said, 'If I were God I would have 
made health contagious, not disease.' But that was not God's 
plan. He so designed this scheme of things that we must 



More than Sherman Burned 241 

show our spirit by fighting disease and vice ourselves. . . . 
With the projects your New Orleans Housing Authority has 
so well devised, and the great accomplishments of your 
Community Chest, you have twin movements, invaluable to 
each other and both preventatives." 



22 



ON OCTOBER 11-14, 1 93%> the sixth annual meet- 
ing of the National Association of Housing Officials was held 
in Washington. Scheduled to handle a phase of the program, 
I attended the meeting but was called back to Atlanta before 
I was able to do much. 

The NAHO was now paying more attention to operating 
and administrative problems than to Federal legislation. So 
much so that the increasing threat of war in Europe which 
could upset our slum-clearance program overnight was all 
but lost sight of. 

As early as October, 1936, I had accepted the inevitability 
of a major catastrophe. War was in the air throughout the 
trip abroad that summer. And on my return I said so to the 
newspapermen. 

Great Britain had to curtail her housing program. War for 
Europe seemed just around the corner in the fall of 1938. 
When it came, who would be so foolish in America as to 
think that we could stay out of it? Or that slum clearance and 
housing would escape necessary cuts? 

I got so steamed up that I tried to devise a program for 
housing so closely related to war that it would be part and 
parcel of preparedness. Others didn't see eye to eye with me. 

242 



T.N.T. 243 

War for the U.S. seemed far away to them, especially to 
Nathan Straus, the USHA administrator, the man most re- 
sponsible for keeping our slum-clearance program rolling. 
Nevertheless, I felt that something had to be done and fast. 

Taking Trystan Edwards's Hundred New Towns for Brit- 
ain as a base, I outlined how we could build Twenty New 
Towns (T.N.T.) for America, all of them convertible into 
troop cantonments. I airmailed a r&ume" to Straus in Sep- 
tember, 1938. In it I said that we should be prepared to con- 
vert slum-clearance housing into a war industry so that it 
would have priority for labor and materials, additional appro- 
priations, and federal condemnation in land acquisition. It 
could, I said, justify classification as a war industry because the 
projects would replace cantonments pending use for perma- 
nent housing; the investment would not be lost as with 
barracks; and speed could be obtained by mass production. 

Richard Bauer, who had designed Leopoldau and other 
new towns in Austria, collaborated on the layouts. He had 
fled from the Nazis, so I had just brought him and his wife 
to America, where he settled as a practicing architect in 
Atlanta. 

Straus was so far from realistic about impending war, 
despite the fact that he was trying for legislation to give slum 
clearance $800,000,000 more, that I was unable to arrange a 
face-to-face conference with him. He did nothing about my 
letter, as far as I know, and subsequent prodding, week after 
week, got nowhere. It was the same old merry-go-round, so 
I decided to try the White House again. 

In November I wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt, who was at the 
Little White House with the President at the time. After 
explaining the situation, I said that I would be happy to come 
to Warm Springs to discuss the matter, or I could present it 
in Washington the following month since Laura and I had 



244 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

accepted with delight an invitation to the Cabinet dinner at 
the White House on December 13. 

Mrs. Roosevelt replied promptly and with understanding 
to the idea of tying housing to war, and suggested that I 
draw up a memorandum that she could give to the President. 
In it I briefly outlined T.N.T., as I had to Straus. I also 
pointed out that it would ensure constant federal control of 
immediate accommodations for one million recruits. Finally, 
it would eliminate loss from abandonment of cantonments 
and save the Twenty Towns as housing assets. 

There was naturally no opportunity to talk housing with 
the President or Mrs. Roosevelt at the Cabinet dinner as there 
were eighty-six guests beside ourselves. But there was the 
chance to discuss the University Homes project for Negroes 
near Atlanta's colored university with John D. Rockefeller, 
Jr. One of its colleges had been made possible through Rocke- 
feller grants and was called Spelman, the maiden name of 
Mr. Rockefeller's mother. 

We were introduced in the East Room before going to 
dinner in the State Dining Room. I was startled when I met 
Mr. Rockefeller, as published pictures had given me the 
impression that he was a tall man. That massive head, it had 
seemed to me, would need at least six-feet-two to carry it. 
But I discovered that he was well below my own height, and 
I'm only five seven. But that was fine with me as it enabled 
me to look directly into his clear-blue, kindly eyes. They 
flashed with interest as soon as John Hope was mentioned. 

Yes, he agreed, it was a miracle that Beavers' Slide had been 
replaced with University Homes. With such slums wiped out, 
more money for the university was justified. We were going 
to keep up slum clearance, weren't we? 

That's exactly what we intended, I assured Mr. Rocke- 
feller, but it wasn't easy. However, we had tentative plans 



T.N.T. 245 

for expansion of University Homes with a project of 600 units 
to be named for Dr. John Hope. That news delighted him, 
and he asked many pertinent questions before we went into 
dinner. Such influential supporters were altogether too few 
and far apart. 

Parenthetically, I had enough foresight not to talk housing 
with my wife's dinner partner, that rugged Bourbon, old 
Joe Patterson, publisher of the New York Daily News. He 
frankly admitted it was his first trip to the White House, that 
he hadn't the slightest idea why he was asked, and he felt like 
a fish out of water. Then he proudly exhibited the white 
gloves he was wearing. He had hurt his hand and felt that the 
bruise was unsightly, so that afternoon he'd bought a pair 
of ordinary workman's gloves to cover up the injury. Al- 
though all the men present were wearing white ties, Colonel 
Joe was the only one with white gloves, and very likely the 
only guest ever to wear workman's gloves at a formal state 
dinner in the White House. 

When Laura and I lunched with Mrs. Roosevelt in the 
family dining room of the White House the next day, she 
said that she had gone into the proposal for Twenty New 
Towns and would circulate my memo to the various Cabinet 
members concerned with such a project: the Secretaries of 
Treasury, War, and Agriculture. Mrs. Roosevelt said she ex- 
pected that the memo would make the rounds and be back 
in her hands with comments by mid-January. 

But when the replies did come back, it wasn't January but 
June. And upon reviewing them I found that they all used 
a common approach: how not to do it. 

Surely, there were problems. But taken one by one, every 
objection raised by the three Cabinet members could be 
met. The need was for someone who would seek "how to do 
it," and not gum up the works while the plan was still only 



246 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

on paper. Just as with the Housing Act of 1937, that meant 
the President. 

Meanwhile, I wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary, Miss 
Thompson, that the objections raised to the idea of Twenty 
New Towns had been foreseen and could be answered 
through a movie I had. 

Just four days after I made the offer to send the films, 
Mrs. Roosevelt replied that she was much interested and 
would let me know later when and where to send them. In 
November, learning that she and the President would be in 
Georgia later in the month, I suggested bringing the movies 
to Warm Springs and mentioned that it would also give me 
an opportunity to discuss with the President how Twenty 
New Towns, convertible into cantonments, could be an ace 
in the hole if Congress refused the additional $800,000,000 
for USHA. 

The Roosevelts, however, didn't have a chance to see 
the movies while in Georgia. So T.N.T., the Twenty New 
Towns, just petered out, as also did the USHA request for 
$800,000,000. They were both buried in an unmarked grave 
as our nation girded for war. 

I kept on making speeches on housing a couple of times a 
week all over the place. I also wrote articles on the subject 
for various periodicals. Although slum clearance was being 
shunted aside for more urgent military preparations, I still 
didn't believe in letting sleeping dogs lie. 

At the National Public Housing Conference in New York 
the following January, Mayor LaGuardia spoke on "Housing, 
the City's First Duty," and others of such prominence as 
Marquis Childs carried the ball for housing, too. My subject 
had to do with operating the projects. 

This gave me a long-wanted opening to say in public what 
I had been saying to USHA month after month in Washing- 



T.N.T. 247 

ton: that projects were being designed with too high a 
standard. The down-to-earth jobs I had seen in England with 
the sitting-bath-laundry-tub-table-combination and "back-to- 
back" stoves had proved I was right. The Associated Press 
quoted me as saying: 

"Given too much, the former slum dweller lacks the incen- 
tive to climb above housing. Furthermore, semi-luxuries will 
kill public housing because the group of middle-class voters 
will rightly oppose any movement which gives conveniences 
to the lower one-third which those who furnish the subsidies 
do not have themselves. Only such dwellings can be built at 
subsidies which the voters will support, and operated at rents 
those now ill-housed can afford to pay." 

The lavish facilities being provided in some projects, and 
the high maintenance costs certain to follow, alarmed me be- 
cause such design could discredit the entire slum-clearance 
movement. Also the lower the operating costs, the less sub- 
sidy per dwelling needed; consequently, more dwellings could 
be built. That the simple, economical type of design I sug- 
gested was long past due was confirmed by a report made to 
the National Association of Housing Officials later that year: 

"First Houses, an early project in New York," it read "has 
not only been the object of criticism, but has also been wil- 
fully damaged by neighbors of the same economic group as 
the tenants, and even those somewhat above it. Although 
this was reported to represent an effective demand for housing 
within the very group which should be interested, some 
participants in the discussion saw in the attitude effective 
opposition in the process of creation; and possibly a warning 
against too much of a contrast in standards between new and 
existing housing." 

The need for realism continued to be equally pressing in 
the National Association of Building Owners and Managers, 



248 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

with this difference: the Public Housers wanted to go too 
far, while the Building Owners didn't want to go at all. But 
I felt that I shouldn't push either group too hard. The Atlanta 
Chamber of Commerce had finally caught on, and I was sure 
that BOMA would finally see the light. As I've previously 
mentioned, many of its members were already leaders in local 
Housing Authorities. And the extremists of N.P.H.C. would 
very likely settle down one day. That's how democracy 
usually worked. At least, our public officials were catching 
on, as indicated by the forthright statement in the May 7 
issue of The Atlanta Constitution by Garland Watkins, judge 
of our Juvenile Court for many years: 

"In certain sections of the city, five to ten families live in 

houses formerly inhabited by one family Many slum 

sections are owned by Atlantans who do not realize how 
terrible the conditions are. The thought has not occurred to 
them that sickness, disease and unhappiness are so prevalent 
on their properties, or possibly they do not realize their own 

interests are at stake in improving existing situations 

Without the steps now being taken by the Atlanta Housing 
Authority, we could expect tragic and serious consequences, 
vitally effecting the lives of every man, woman and child in 
the city." 

Among the "steps now being taken" was an especially well- 
thought-through and carefully planned project to solve, once 
and for all, the slum problem between Hunter Street and 
West View Drive, where whites and colored frequently 
clashed in their overcrowded and intermingled dwellings. 
In this border area, women had been raped, houses burned, 
and bombs thrown. To relieve this congestion was virtually 
a matter of life and death. 

There were, fortunately, fifty-six acres of almost vacant 
land available nearby. The site was close to Booker T. Wash- 



T.N.T. 249 

ington High School, the largest and best equipped school for 
Negroes, and not far from Atlanta University. The whole 
area, with its playgrounds, athletic fields, a library, and day 
nurseries, was the best colored neighborhood in the city. 

Along West View Drive, where pressure from the slums 
was forcing Negroes into a well-established neighborhood of 
whites, our project called for a green belt several hundred 
feet wide. There were to be 1,200 dwellings, many times the 
number then on the site, additional playing fields, an amphi- 
theater, and as many more community facilities as required. 

The Atlanta Housing Authority allocated $3,500,000 for 
the job from the $16,000,000 then available to Atlanta, and 
announced that the development would be named John 
Eagan Homes in honor of a great Atlanta capitalist. Before 
his death, Mr. Eagan had founded the Juvenile Court. He 
was a distinguished philanthropist and had led in establish- 
ing, with many other white and colored leaders, the Com- 
mittee on Inter-Racial Relationships. This committee had 
settled innumerable conflicts between the races and had pre- 
vented many more throughout the South. 

No sooner did our Housing Authority announce the John 
Eagan Homes, which we thought would make everybody 
happy, than an avalanche of protests fell upon us. Many white 
residents across West View Drive were incensed because the 
project would increase the number of Negro families in that 
section of the city. They ignored the green belt which would 
make John Eagan Homes a self-contained community. So 
much hysteria was stimulated among normally reasonable 
citizens that we wondered who was misrepresenting our 
plans. Roundabout threats began to reach me. They seemed 
to have a Ku-Klux Klan origin. 

A mass meeting was called for May 9, 1939, by the "amis" 
at the Joel Chandler Harris High School, three blocks from 



250 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

West View Drive. To be sure that all parties would have a 
chance to get the facts and say their say, the Housing 
Authority postponed the bid-letting for the project. 

It was a sad commentary that the mass meeting, packed 
by prejudiced people unwilling to examine the project dis- 
passionately, should be held in Joel Chandler Harris High 
School, named for the beloved author of the Uncle Remus 
stories. This school, which honored the man who knew the 
Negro best and who treated him with the greatest justice, 
was to be the sounding board for those who were too blind 
to see the right. 

Mayor Hartsfield attended and, as usual, straddled his 
rocking horse. Apparently Bill was being scorched by politi- 
cal heat again. But all those who were neither in politics nor 
emotionally involved agreed that the project was a sensible 
solution to the harassing problem. 

The Housing Authority refused to be sidetracked, and so 
another meeting was called for May 30 at the same place. Not 
having been asked to the first meeting, I fished for a bid to 
the second one. It came in a roundabout way, coupled with 
the caution that maybe I'd better stay away. But I was deter- 
mined to attend. However, Laura cautioned me that discre- 
tion is the better part of valor, so just in case I took along 
the assistant executive director of our Housing Authority, 
James H. Therrell, whose six-feet-four towered over my 
modest height. I earnestly believed that if my fellow At- 
lantans heard how far ahead we were planning and gave me 
a chance to answer their questions, many of them would 
come over to our side. 

When Jim and I arrived, the school was packed, and hun- 
dreds had overflowed into the playgrounds outside where 
loud-speakers had been set up. We elbowed our way through 
the crowd and took positions near the rostrum. 



T.N.T. 251 

Fred Ernest, a resident of the area, told the group that 
seven hundred neighbors had signed petitions in favor of 
the housing. He expressed the opinion that the entire 
locality would grow steadily worse unless the projects 
materialized. 

Ernest and I argued the merits of the case while those 
against took the position that even if we convinced them, 
they still would be "agin" it and would keep on fighting. 
When the time came for questions, none were asked from 
the floor. Obviously the crowd were so set in their notions 
that they didn't want to hear the answers. So the meeting 
adjourned after appointing a committee to "investigate the 
legal aspects." 

Jim and I stayed for a while, and a not too unfriendly 
group gathered around us. A few asked intelligent questions, 
and our replies apparently satisfied them. Finally we eased 
out of the school and headed through the throng still loiter- 
ing on the playground. As we entered our car and Jim started 
the motor, one of several husky men who I had noticed kept 
near us throughout the evening stuck his head through the 
open window. "We're plain-clothes men from the Police 
Department," he whispered. "Sure glad you're getting out of 
here at last." 

In one way our harassing experience was worth while. It 
brought out the great truth that public projects are only as 
good as their citizen acceptance. The meeting convinced us 
that the people of that neighborhood were firmly determined 
not to accept John Eagan Homes, regardless of its merits. So 
we switched the funds to another part of the city, much to the 
later regret of many who had opposed us. 

If this experience had been the rule rather than the ex- 
ception, we would have been deeply discouraged. Fortunately, 
however, we were finding just the opposite reaction from the 



252 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

public at large. The acclaim that was generally given to our 
first annual report, published in November, 1939, proved 
that housing in Atlanta had come of age. 

A great deal of thought and care had gone into the prepara- 
tion of the report. Air views of the slums to be cleared were 
accompanied by maps spotting every shack to be wrecked. 
Superimposed on each map was a transparent overlay that 
showed how each slum neighborhood would look when trans- 
formed into "decent, safe, and sanitary housing." Companion 
photographs gave graphic views of the squalor and conges- 
tion that would soon disappear forever. The text, written by 
Philip Weltner, executive director of the Housing Authority, 
did an excellent job, too. 

Acceptance by public officials was quoted in the report. It 
was led off by Mayor Hartsfield, who said, "We cannot blame 
the poor but the poor can blame us if with our Housing 
Authority we do not promptly improve conditions." The 
Mayor, of all people, was now on our side. 

A friend once said to me that anything has to be really 
good if you are going to give it away. Not just reasonably 
good, but mighty good. The Housing Authority Report, 
which was distributed free, seemed to me to meet that re- 
quirement so well that I shared it widely with conservatives 
and liberals alike. The comments we received were most 
encouraging. 

From Thomas I. Parkinson, president, the Equitable Life 
Assurance Society of the United States: "I take off my hat to 
you and your colleagues for your performance." That was 
quite a contrast to the position taken by insurance-company 
presidents in the first days of public housing. 

From John D. Rockefeller, Jr.: "Sets forth so vividly and 
satisfactorily what you are doing. I congratulate you on such 
a comprehensive program." 



T.N.T. 253 

From Henry Grady, Jr., investment banker of Atlanta: "It 
always struck me that this is a wonderful work. If my grand- 
father were alive, he would feel the same way." 

From Edsel Ford: "A most progressive attitude towards 
cleaning out some of the blighted areas in your city. . . . We 
have twelve or fifteen apartments and terraces open for occu- 
pancy and are about ready to start on a sample individual 
house project before going ahead on a large scale." At last 
the Fords were catching on in a big way, not only accepting 
public housing but also using their Foundation Funds to 
build white-collar projects themselves. 

From Lewis H. Brown, president, Johns-Mansville Cor- 
poration: "An amazingly interesting Annual Report. I am 
sure that every dollar expended under your Authority has 
been well spent." 

From Catherine Bauer, one of the Washington old-time 
housers: "I shall use it for a primary document in my housing 
courses at the University of California next semester." To 
which I replied: "Our local schools are using 600 copies as 
textbooks." 

What Herbert U. Nelson, executive vice-president of the 
National Association of Real Estate Boards, wrote had to be 
taken with a grain of salt: "I like the name of this report 
which indicates the real scope of the efforts taken in so many 
cities." He might have added: "In spite of all I have done to 
try to prevent such efforts." Then Herb went on, "I have 
admired the constructive way you have proceeded in spite 
of what must have been irksome criticism at times." Again 
Herb could have added, "Criticism that I helped to foster." 
I wished that his next comment could have been taken at 
its face value: "My own feeling has always been that property 
owners and real estate men should take a constructive and 
active part and not let prejudices stand in the way." Here 



254 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

Herb should have added, "Although I have done all I could 
to stop them." 

The reaction of Atlanta newspapers brought out new 
angles. The Journal of Labor referred to the job that faced 
our forebears in rebuilding Atlanta in 1865 after its destruc- 
tion during the Civil War and said: 

"Now we have before us a picture of a second rebuilding 
of Atlanta: the ambitious program of the Housing Authority 
for the elimination of our slum areas. Some will say, 'It's all 
right in theory and would be a mighty fine thing if we only 
had the money.' Suppose that in 1865 our fathers had made 
the same comment? Where would Atlanta have been today? 
Would it be too much to ask that we look forward a half- 
century and ask ourselves the same question? This picture 
by the Housing Authority is going to stand. The future will 
look back to it. As the next generation does so, will it be able 
to say, 'This is what our fathers planned and did,' or will 
they have to say, 'This is what our fathers might have done 
but didn't' "? 

The most prolonged exchange was with Bruce Barton, then 
a Republican member of Congress from New York. We had 
met in Atlanta some years before. Bruce wrote saying: 

"All of us agree on the desirability of better housing, but 
the Republicans argued, first, that this is not low-priced 
housing, second, that the program we are pursuing was at- 
tempted by England and abandoned on the ground that it 
would wreck the English treasury and, third, that subsidized 
slum clearance would plunge us into a debt of astronomical 
proportions. To what extent do you regard these criticisms 
as justified, and what position could the Republican Party 
take that would enable it to support slum clearance and yet 
not threaten the solvency of the nation?" 

I let Bruce have both barrels in a twelve-page reply. Our 



T.N.T. 255 

family had just gone through the greatest Atlanta premiere 
of all time, with our eldest daughter, Margaret, chosen to lead 
the gala grand march. "Now," I wrote Bruce, "that Gone 
with the Wind has reduced the emotions of Atlantans to ashes 
as surely as Sherman did its buildings, let's resume where we 
left off on housing." Then the pros and cons marched by in 
review, page after page, each nailed down with the facts. 

I summed up with: 

"Have I helped answer the criticisms? If so, the conclusion 
is clear. Go after the Democrats the way Sir Arthur Hender- 
son did the London County Council! He yelled, 'A million 
and a half still live in slums!' and unseated the party in power, 
although it was doing a good job just as is true of U.S.H.A. 
That's what the Republican Party should do. It's smart 
politics, but it's more. It is good business, but it is more. It 
is sound sociology. And the voters are for it. How do I know? 
First, by showing my movies all over the place. Regularly the 
old Tories come up to me afterwards and say, 'Why the 
devil doesn't Roosevelt do more housing and slum clearance? 
I'd be for that in a big way.' And as for the Liberals, they are 
'pro,' of course. Secondly, look how housing authorities are 
sprouting across the country, proving that the man in the 
street is for them. There's the answer, Bruce. Go the Demo- 
crats one better. Political history of the older countries 
proves me right. Housing no longer is an issue; everybody's 
on board the band wagon. So if eventually, why not now?" 

Bruce replied that I had given him a different picture of 
housing, and he was beginning to feel that if and when the 
Republican Party came into power, "we ought to give the 
matter very serious attention." 

Would the Republicans act on what seemed to be Bruce 
Barton's conversion? Not by a long shot! A paper, "A Pro- 
gram for Dynamic America," later published by the Republi- 



256 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

can Program Committee, summed up their position in no 
uncertain terms: "It is simply out of the question to solve 
the total housing program, or any part of it, through govern- 
ment appropriations." 

Oh, well, I thought, dead-end streets had been traveled be- 
fore. There are lots of them in slums. 

I hesitated to share the Atlanta report with housing 
leaders overseas. The war had completely halted their slum- 
clearance programs, and it seemed untimely to call their at- 
tention to how well ours was doing. However, I did send a 
few copies to England and the Continent, despite the fact 
that Mars, the god of war, had trampled with his iron-shod 
boots all over their public housing. 

My old friend John Wrigley, of the Overcrowding Law, 
had just moved several hundred thousand children from the 
bombed cities of Britain to the protection of the country. A 
lump came into my throat as I read the letter from him say- 
ing "Your report fills me with a certain feeling of homesick- 
ness. We have had a busy time over the evacuation scheme." 
What a master of understatement he was! 

No, there would be no more normal slum clearance while 
Mars was loose in the world. He was an indiscriminate de- 
stroyer of good and evil, while slum clearance destroyed only 
that which was bad and replaced it with the good. 



23 



NO END TO 
ADVENTURE 



WE WERE sitting on the terrace of our cottage at 
Warm Springs, Laura and I. From our vantage point on Pine 
Mountain, Georgia, we overlooked miles of peach orchards 
in the valley below. Nearby was Franklin Roosevelt's Little 
White House and the Polio Foundation. A breeze swishing 
to and fro through the long-leaf pines was like a surf on a 
shore far away. The clouds on the distant horizon shimmered 
in the manifold hues of the afterglow as the sun sank behind 
us. It was a Sunday in June, 1955. I put down the manu- 
script of my book and took a deep breath as I filled my pipe. 

"Is that sigh," Laura asked, "because the book is done?" 

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, darlin'. Just look 
at all this unused material." I glanced at a particularly formi- 
dable stack of notes and clippings. "Why, the last chapter has 
just brought us up to the war." 

"Every book has an ending," Laura quietly remarked. 

"But not the housing of humanity," I reminded her. "That 
is as much a problem today as it was when we first tackled 
it nearly a quarter-century ago." 

"Some progress has been made, though." 

"Not too much in our country, I'm afraid. We're still way 
behind Europe." 

257 



258 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"Well the groundwork has been laid," Laura said. "The 
homes in Techwood look as fresh and clean, the grass is as 
green as when President Roosevelt dedicated them in 1935. 
And we have the federal housing law on which you worked 
so hard. What are the latest figures?" I read from my notes. 
' 'Over 400,000 needy families are now provided for through 
900 Public Housing Authorities.' 

"But that's mighty little," I continued, "compared with 
the great need. However, there have been worth-while by- 
products. We've made some influential converts. Just listen 
to this." I picked up a news item from The Atlanta Journal, 
dated September 9, 1949. "Governor Herman Talmadge has 
put his stamp of approval on new federal legislation for slum 
clearance. He told members of the Georgia Association of 
Housing Authorities that it was 'the best investment we can 
make for democracy. . . . Right here in Atlanta we see com- 
munistic organizations located in the heart of the slum sec- 
tions. They hope to find a fertile field for their insidious 
doctrines.' ' 

"That's a lot of progress," I added, "since Herman's father 
allowed that 'slums are good for people.' But then, Herman 
is open-minded and has had the opportunity to see the re- 
sults of slum clearance over the years. Eugene Talmadge 
wasn't that fortunate." 

"Old Gene was a colorful character," Laura said with a 
reflective smile. 

"And here's another convert." I read a dispatch from New 
Orleans to the Journal, dated November 30, 1953. "HARTS- 
FIELD SCOFFS AT CRIES OF SOCIALISM IN HOUS- 
ING. More than 1,000 mayors and city officials opened the 
annual convention of the American Municipal Association 
Monday. Atlanta's Mayor Hartsfield, President of the Asso- 
ciation, scoffed at calling public housing 'creeping socialism.' 



No End to Adventure 259 

'Everything a city does,' he said, 'is a form of socialism. For 
a lot of people their definition of creeping socialism is what 
the government does for other people. If the real estate and 
mortgage people get loans from the government, it's not 
socialism. But if the government helps the little man, then 
it is.' " 

"Bravo for our mayorl" Laura exclaimed. 

"That Bill and Herman at last spoke out," I said, "means 
that public housing has arrived. Each keeps an ear toward the 
voters so both heard the swelling chorus of citizen support. 
Unfortunately, a lot of other public officials haven't caught 
on yet. They are still listening to attacks by the National 
Association of Real Estate Boards, such as Herb Nelson 
started years ago when he was executive director. 

"Here's the resolution the board adopted at its annual con- 
vention just last November. 'Public housing is un-American. 
We deplore the continuing evil of government ownership 
and government subsidy of family shelter. We urge the Con- 
gress to terminate the public housing program, and we call 
upon the states and communities to proceed toward the 
orderly liquidation of existing public housing projects and 
their transfer to full tax-paying private ownership, preferably 
to the tenants of such projects.' 

"The last part of that resolution would be comic if it 
wasn't so tragic," I said. "It's ludicrous that businessmen 
would urge the sale of public housing to its occupants, who 
can only qualify as tenants by proving such low incomes that 
they must have subsidy. In other words, they must convince 
the authorities that their earnings are so meager they can't 
feed and clothe their families and still have enough left to 
pay the level of rent that private capital must charge to secure 
an adequate return on the cost of decent housing. How can 



260 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

such unfortunates buy when they can't even pay an economic 
rent?" 

"Your question answers itself," Laura replied. "But surely 
not all members of the Real Estate Board agree with such 
nonsense, do they?" 

"Of course not," I declared. "But the many of the board 
who know we are on the right track have been too indifferent 
to take up the cudgels in our support. Instead they have side- 
stepped. They've let the minority misrepresent them. That's 
the tragedy of it." 

Laura reduced my rising steam pressure with a smiling 
thrust that my real-estate colleagues and their resolution were 
as ridiculous as the Russians with their dining-car menu. 

"As far as absurdity goes, you're right," I agreed. "But our 
real-estate crowd isn't usually so mixed up while the Russians 
seem to make a habit of confusion." 

Absent-mindedly I tamped and relighted my pipe. Then 
I glimpsed the signature of a letter among the papers on the 
table. It was from D wight D. Eisenhower. "Well anyway, 
darlin', the top man in our country thinks straight about the 
problem and has put himself on record." I read from what 
he wrote me in 1949. " 'Most heartily I agree with you that 
slum clearance is vital to the well-being of the United 
States.' What he then wrote as president of Columbia Uni- 
versity, he reaffirmed as President of the United States. In 
his 1954 message to Congress, he laid it on the line. Let's see 
if I can find the clipping. Here it is. 'Millions of our people 

still live in slums The national interest demands the 

elimination of slum conditions and the rehabilitation of de- 
clining neighborhoods.' 

"Those are strong words and still mighty true. Why right 
now, according to the latest statistics, there are six million 
families about twenty-four million people living in Ameri- 



No End to Adventure 261 

can slums. We have the knowledge and the means to pretty 
well lick that problem during the next ten years. It means 
building and subsidizing six hundred thousand units annu- 
ally, a relatively small program compared with what the 
Dutch accomplished. But did President Eisenhower ask for 
that many units? No, he recommended a trickle of thirty- 
five thousand a year for the next four years. Not because he 
doesn't know that 'slum clearance is vital' and that 'the 
national interest demands the elimination of slum condi- 
tions.' It was simply because the minority who oppose low- 
rent housing are better organized and more vocal with 
congressmen and senators than the majority who favor it. 

"Probably the President decided not to ask for what he 
knew he couldn't get unless he put up a hard fight. That fight 
he was evidently disinclined to make without the backing of 
his own party, which he didn't have and couldn't get without 
using a sledge hammer on the stone wall of its opposition. 
Bruce Barton must have bumped his head against that same 
wall in 1940, when he seemed to be converted to slum clear- 
ance as a policy for the Republican Party. At least nothing 
ever came of Bruce's conversion." 

"So what?" Laura inquired. It was our family's signal to 
sum up, taken from a book on public speaking I had read 
years ago which declared that every audience went through 
four stages of listening: (i) Ho-Hum; (2) Why Bring That 
Up?; (3) For Example; (4) So What? 

"I don't believe I know the answer, darlin'," I replied. "If 
you mean, do I intend to keep on adding more chapters, then 
maybe the answer is 'No,' because, as you say, every book has 
to end. But if your question is about fighting slums and con- 
tinuing to study them, wherever they may be throughout 
the world, what else would you have me do?" 

"I wouldn't have you otherwise," Laura said with a smile. 



262 Adventures of a Slum Fighter 

"After all, the fight won't end with the last page of the book, 
any more than our roaming will. And that's just the way I 
like it. Particularly our flight to most of the countries of 
Latin America in 1952. Remember our disgust at Evita's 
prostitution of public housing for the poor in Buenos Aires 
by overdoing it with apartments that even included crystal 
chandeliers? And our delight with the common-sense housing 
that Sefiora Gonzalez Videla, wife of the President of Chile, 
showed us she had built in Santiago? I guess, dear, that fight- 
ing slums is to be a never-ending adventure for us both. The 
problem is world-wide." 

"And upon its solution," I added thoughtfully, "much of 
the future of mankind depends." 

As we talked, the sun had set and the hills across the valley 
were now wrapped in the deep-blue haze of evening. Dimly 
against the sky I could distinguish the silhouette of my 
favorite pine. There it stood. The outline of its grotesque 
limbs, tortured by years of battle against its every foe, would 
have been disheartening, had not the age-old triumph of that 
wind-swept tree transcended all else. 



INDEX 



Abercrombie, Professor Patrick, 172 
Aberdeen, rent strikes in, 187-188 
Aberdeen, Lady, 171 
Accessories: 

in Austria, 65 

in Buenos Aires, 262 

in Italy, 36-39, 50-51, 87 

in Russia, 75-76 
Across the Death Line, 140 
Adams, Franklin Pierce, 219 
"Againsters, The," 235 
Aged, dwellings for, 185-186 
Albergo Popolare, 52 
Alfred, Miss Helen, 122 
Alice, H. R. H. Princess, 171 
Allievi, Antonio, 45 
Allievi, Lorenzo, 43, 44-49, 94 
American Booksellers' Association, 16 
American Construction Council, 117 
American Institute of Architects, 105, 

123 

American Radiator Company, 82 
Amies, Captain, 168-170, 176, 195 
Amsterdam, Holland, 198 
Amtorg Corporation, 76 
Amulree, Right Honorable Lord, 90 
Amulree Committee, 107, 117 
Angeloni, Signer, 122 
Anschluss, 60, 67 

Apartment House Owners' Associa- 
tion, 127 

Atlanta, 29 

resolution on housing, 130-131 
Appian Way, 56 



Architectural League of New York, 

123 

Argentina, public housing in, 262 
Arthurdale, 112 
Associated Press, 247 
Association of General Contractors, 

105 
Asterdord, project for unsocial in, 

200-203 

Astor, Lady, 159-160 
Atherton, Ray, 91-92 
Athlone, Countess of, 92, 171 
Atlanta: 

City Attorney, ruling re projects, 

136 

FHA project in, 225 
fire in, 232-233 
first federal replacement of slums, 

113 
meeting of overseas housing experts 

in, 107-111 
Atlanta Apartment House Owners 

Association, 29 

Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, 229 
Housing and Town Planning Com- 
mittee of, 231 
Atlanta City Planning Commission, 

122 

Atlanta Constitution, 13, 213, 221 
Atlanta Federation of Trades, 234 
Atlanta Housing Authority, 229, 232, 
236, 248, 249 

first annual report, 252 
Atlanta Journal, The, 15 

radio station WSB, 114 
Atlanta University, 249 



263 



264 

Austria, 59-67 

Leopoldau, 65-66, in, 112, 196, 243 
housing tax in, 62-64 



B 



Back-to-back stoves, 186, 187, 247 

Bandboxes in Philadelphia, 207-210 

Bank of Italia, 46 

Baratono, Pietro, 34, 36, 42 

Barnes, Harry, 19-20, 95-97, 195 

Barton, Bruce, 254-255, 261 

Baruch, Bernard M., 221 

Baseball in Russia, 71-72 

Baths, sitting, 186, 187 

Bauer, Catherine, 253 

Bauer, Richard, 65, 243 

Beau Street area, Liverpool, 188 

Beavers' Slide, 16, 20, 113, 244 

Bebington District Council, 109, no, 

190-191 
Becontree Housing Project, 96, 168- 

170 

Bender, Philip, 71, 73, 76, 79 
Berlin, 82-88 

Neue Scholle, 85-87 
Bethnal Green, London, 152 
Black, Eugene, 220-221 
Blackett, Sir Basil, 93 
Blaine, James G., 222 
Board of Trustees, 14-15 
Bohn, Ernest J., 108, 109, no, 122, 212 
Bolshevism in Austria, 61, 196 
Booker T. Washington High School, 

249 

Boston, illustrated talks in, 207 
Boxberg, Mr., 60, 64 
Boy Scouts, 42, 205 
Brighton, England, 148-150 
Brightwells, dedication of, 170-172 
Brisbane, Arthur, 142 
Britain, 142-143 

curtailment of housing program, 
242 

first compulsory housing laws, 90- 

9i 
garden cities, 173-178, 231 



Index 

Housing Act (1933), 90, 96 

Letch worth, 175-178 

slum clearance in, 90-100 
Brittain, Dr. M. L., 14, 213 
Brookwood Bugle, The, 3, 144 
Brown, Lewis H., 115-116, 117, 253 
Buckingham, Sam, 129 
Building Industry Council of Review, 

90 

Bullitt, William C., 71, 95, 121-122 
Burge, Flip, 13 

Burgess Road Housing Scheme, 146 
Burke and Hare, 154 
"Businessman and Subsidized Hous- 
ing, The," 240 



Caesar, Julius, 56 

Callaway, Cason, 126 

Callaway, Roy, 236 

Canadian Housing Centre, Toronto, 

171 

Candler, John S., II, 9 
Canterbury, England, 150 
Capital City Club, 126 
Capitalism, enlightened, 102 
Capitol Homes, 237 
Carpenter, Robert, 234 
Carter, Sir Edwin Bonham, 164 
Case Popolari of Italy, 35, 36, 37-40, 
43, 46, 50-54 

birth rate in, 51-52 

death rate in, 52 
Gates, Sanitary Chief, 234 
Chamberlain, Neville, 178 
Chamber of Commerce: 

Fire Prevention Committee of, 233 

United States, 235 
Chambers, Sir Theodore, 173, 178, 

230 

Chich ester, England, 148 
Children: 

in projects for unsocial, 203 

in state camps, 39, 42, 58 

at Tech wood, 213 
Childs, Marquis, 246 



Index 



265 



Choate, Herbert, 14 
Cholera: 

in Naples, 32, 43 

and slum clearance, 5 
Church organizations, 105 
Circular town, plan of, 182 
"Circumlocution Department," 22-30 
Clark Howell Homes, 237 
Clas, A. R., 126 
Cohen, Benjamin V., 116, 117, 211, 

212 

Cohen, Major John S., 15 
Collyhurst Clearance, Manchester, 

194 
Constantini, Ing. Comm. Innocenzo, 

50-52, 56 

Constitution, The, 236 
Construction contracts: 
in England, 98-99 
in Rome, 51 
Contreras, Carlos, 239 
Corcoran, Thomas G., 116, 117, 211, 

212 

Costain, J. K., 188-189, I 9 l 
Couch, J. Allen, 234 
Creches, in Russia, 75 
Crisci, Anna, 57-58 



D 



Dagenham Plant, England, 230 
Daiger, J. M., 116, 133, 226 
Davidge, W. R., 170, 195 
Day, Joseph P., 124-125, 126 
Decanting slum dwellers, 39-40 

in London, 162 
Decrowding, 93-95 
Depression, 167-168 

housing and, 204 
Dickens, Charles, 22-23, 153, 154, 164, 

178 

Dickenson, John, 31 
Differential rents, 97, 184, 187-188 
Dockers, housing for, 145-147 
Dollfuss, Chancellor Engelbert, 59-60 
Duca d'Acosta project, 39 
Dye, Alexander V., 239 



Eagan, John, 249-251 

East End, London, 151-154, 169 

Eastman Kodak Company, 107, 111 

Eccles, John F., 174-175 

Economist, The, 3-4 

Edinburgh, 184, 187-188 

Edward VIII, King, 172 

on slums, 142-143 
Edwards, A. Trystan, 178-183, 187, 

i95 243 

Eisenhower, Dwight D., 260-261 
Elizabeth I, Queen, 153 
Emergency Housing Corporation, 27 
Emory University, Atlanta, 123 
England, 89-100, 144-170 (see also 

Britain) 

Engle, N. H., 239 
Ernest, Fred, 251 



Factories, nuisance, siting of, 177 

Family Welfare Society, 1 1 1 

Fascists, 33, 42 

Federal Administration of Public 
Works, 8 

Federal Emergency Housing Corpo- 
ration, 25, 28 
Ickes, president of, 27 

Federal Housing Administration, 83, 
84, 119 

Federal government, forced into hous- 
ing business, 24-25 

Federal Housing Division, 19 
Legal Department, 23 

Federal Reserve Board, 116, 226 

Ferdinand, Archduke, assassination of, 

59 

Financial officials, 148-149 
Financing public housing: 

in Austria, 62-63, 224-225 

Edwards's plan for, 180-182 

in Germany, 82-83 

in Naples, 34-35, 36 

in Russia, 73-74 



266 



Index 



Flagler, Thorne, 13, 29 
Fleet, Reginald S., 231 
Forbes, Dr., 148-150 
Ford, Edsel, 229-231, 253 
Ford, Henry, 230-231 

Dagenham Plant, England, 230 

minimum wage, 230 
Ford enterprises, 173 
France, Mopin System in, 185 
Frankenstein, 80 
Frankfurter, Felix, 209, 210-211, 212, 

217 

Freeman, O. I., 16 
Friedrichs, Dr. Adolf, 82-85 
Fulham Housing Improvement So- 
ciety, 170 



Galleria Umberto, 33 

Garchey System of garbage disposal, 

185 
Garden cities: 

Ebenezer Howard and, 175, 177-178 

Letch worth, 175-178 

Welwyn, 173-175, 177, 178, 231 
Garden City and Town Planning As- 
sociation, 172 

Gargiulo, William, 32, 34, 39 
George, Senator, 137, 141 
George Washington Hof, 65, 196 
Georgia, public housing in, 232 
Georgian- American, The, 15 
Georgia Tech, 7, 14 
Germany, 82-88 

seeds of war in, 87-88 
Gipton Housing Estate, 185 
Girl Scouts, 42 
Glasgow, 184 
Golden Rule Hospital for Crippled 

Children, 16 

"Goldshirts," Mexico, 238 
Goodwin, Mrs., 111 
Grady, Henry, Jr., 253 
Grady Homes, 237 
Grady Hospital, 232, 233 
Greenwood, Arthur, 193 
Gregg, Lewis, 221, 222 



Guernsey, Isle of, 181-182 

Guili, Giorgio, 52 

Guste, William J., 239-240 



Hackett, Colonel Horatio B., 113, 121 
Hague, The, 203 
Halton, Miss E. E., 238 
Hammond, R. S., 233 
Harris, Joel Chandler, 249-250 
Hartsfield, Mayor, 229, 232, 233, 236, 

250, 252, 258-259 
Harvard Business School, Cambridge, 

207 

Harvard Club, 124-126 
Heaven, housing category, 43-44 
Hell, housing category, 43-44 
Henderson, Sir Arthur, 152, 255 
Henderson, Loy W., 71, 73, 76 
Henry VIII, King, 153 
Herald Tribune, 124, 125 
Heywood, Leonard, 192-194 
Hill, Octavia, 156-160, 163 
Hitler, Adolf, 82 
Holland, 198-204 

Amsterdam, 198-200 

projects for unsocial in, 200-204 
Hoopingarner, Dwight L., 116 
Hoover, Herbert C., 235 
Hope, Dr. John, 16-17, 237, 244 
Hopkins, Harry, 50, 52, 54-56, 58, 101, 
107, 111-113, 115, 134, 168, 210, 
217 

meeting with, 103-106 
Hornsby, Police Chief, 233 
Hotel de Russie Grand, Rome, 43 
Hotel-like structures, Rome, 50-51, 52 
Hound well, 146 
Housing Act (1936), 142 
Housing Act (1937), 246 
Housing Act (1933), Britain, 90, 96 
Housing costs: 

foolish economies, 148-149 
Housing Division of Public Works 

Administration, 115, 116 
Housing trusts, 166 



Index 



267 



Howard, Ebenezer, 175, 177-178 

Howe, Louis, 112 

Howell, Clark, Jr., 213 

Howell, Clark, Sr., 13-14, 25-26, 85, 

i33-i37 141-142. 237 

Clark Howell Homes, 237 

correspondence with Ickes, 136-137 
How the Other Half Lives, 11 
Hughes, Tom, 60 
Hull, Cordell, 31 



Ickes, Harold, 17-18, 26, 27, 28, 112, 

119, 120, 123, 136-137, 141 
in Atlanta, 113-115 
meeting with, 228-229 
speech by, 114-115 

Ickes, Mrs., 121 

Ihlder, John, 226-227 

Incorrigible tenants, dealing with, 
200-204 

Industry, siting of, 177 

Infant mortality, 52, 161-162 

Insanitary housing, 94 

Insurance Institute, Naples, 36, 42 

International Federation for Housing 
and Town Planning, Mexico City 
meeting, 237-239 

Inter-Racial Relationships, Commit- 
tee on, 249 

Intourist, Soviet Travel Bureau, 70 

Isle of Man, Lord Bishop of, 189 



Japan, slum problem in, 138-140 
Jellicoe, Father, 163 
Jenkinson, Reverend Charles, 184-187 
Joel Chandler Harris High School, 

249-250 

John Eagan Homes, 249-251 
John Hope Homes, 237 
Johns-Manville Corporation, 115 
Johnson, Dewey, 234 
Jonasch, Bronislas, 59-60 



Journal-Herald, Waycross, Georgia, 

235 

Journal of Labor, The, 254 
Juvenile Court, 249 



Kagawa, Toyohiko, 138-140, 228 

Kanee, Henry, 119-120, 210 

Karl Marx Hof, 64-65 

Karloff, Boris, 80 

Kauffman, Miss Rhoda, 111 

Keay, L. H., 188 

Kelley, Robert, 122 

Keppler, Herr Arie, 198-200 

Key, James L., 14, 205-206 

Keyserling, Leon, 215 

Kirk, Alexander, 43, 50 

Kohn, Dr. Ernest, 25, 26, 107, 109, 111 

Ku-Klux Klan, 249 



LaGuardia, Fiorello, 215, 246 
Labour Party, 188 

Landlords, and slum-clearance proj- 
ects, 19, 20, 24 
Landsdown, Miss, 171 
League of Nations, 59 
Ledebrer, Miss J. G., 172 
Leeds, 184-187 

differential renting in, 97 
Leeds City Council, 167 
Lenin's tomb, 76 
Leopoldau, Austria, 65-66, 111, 112, 

196, 243 

Letch worth, 175-178 
Light-shaft rooms, 189-190 
Limehouse area, London, 152, 153 
Little Dorrit, 22-23, 178 
Litvinov, Maxim, 80, 81 
Liverpool, 184, 189 

Beau Street area, 188 
Lloyd George, David, 178 
London, 89-100, 194, 195-198 

Becontree development, 96, 168-170 



268 



Index 



London continued 

East End, 151-154, 169 

Housing Societies, 166 

slum clearance, 151 
London County Council, 96, 151, 152, 

168, 255 

Long, Breckenridge, 54 
Long, Huey, 134 



M 



McCarl, J. R., 27, 140 
MacDonald, T. H., 134 
McGill, Ralph, 213, 214 
Mclntyre, Marvin, 26-27, 119, 210, 

217, 226 

McReynolds, William H., 226 
Making of an American, The, 218 
Malaria, 56 

Man, Isle of, Lord Bishop of, 189 
Manchester, England, 184, 192-194, 

*95 

Marlen, Ir. L. van, 198-203 
Martin, John, 184, 192 
Mathews, Cecil, 43, 50, 52 
Mathews, Gisella, 56, 57 
Mexico City: 

International Federation for Hous- 
ing and Town Planning, meeting 
in, 237-239 

public housing projects in, 239 
Michelson, Charles, 219 
Miller, Dr. Margaret, 154-160 
Mockabee, A. D., 28 
Mopin System, 185 
Morgenthau, Henry, 219, 220, 224, 

225, 226, 227 

Morgenthau, Mrs. Henry, 219, 224 
Moron, Alonzo, 214 
"Moron" verses, 128, 129 
Morrison, Right Honourable Herbert 

Stanley, 215-216 
Mortimer, Arthur, 164 
Moscow: 

baseball in, 71-72 

housing projects in, 74-76 

Park of Culture and Rest, 72-73 



Rest Day in, 79 
subway in, 73, 77-78 
Moscow Housing Co-operative, 73-74 
Motion pictures of European trip, 

107, 111-113, 119-122 
Musil, Herr Doctor Engineer, 60-63 
"Municipal Construction and Slum 

Demolition at Naples," 32 
Mussolini, Benito, 31-32, 38, 43, 49, 

56. 58, 59 
on types of housing, 43-44 



N 



Naples, 31 

Case Popolari, 35, 36, 37-40 
cholera in, 32, 43 

financing slum clearance, 34-35, 36 
Rione della Carita, 32-33 
slums in, 33-34 

National Association of Building 
Owners and Managers, 8, 105, 
127-132 

of United States and Canada, 76 
National Association of Housing Offi- 
cials, 107, 108, 198 
meeting in Washington, 242 
National Association of Real Estate 

Boards, 105, 259-260 
National Emergency Council, 116 
National Federation of Housing So- 
cieties, 172 

National Housing Act, 83 
National Housing Committee (Brit- 
ain), 90 
National Industrial Recovery Act, 8, 

24,49 
National Public Housing Conference, 

123, 246-247 

Nazis, and Austria, 59-67 
Negoreloje-Moskau Express, 68-70 
Negroes: 

John Eagan Homes, 249-251 
University Homes, 18, 244 
Nelson, Herbert U., 253-254, 259 
Neubacher, Doctor Engineer Herman, 

66-67 



Index 



269 



Neue Scholle, Germany, 85-87 

"New Homes for Old" exhibition, 

172 

New Orleans: 
Community Chest Campaign, 240- 

241 

public housing in, 239-240 
New York Act, 122 
New York American, 124 
New York Building Congress, 123, 

207 
New York City, railroad tenements 

in, 189-190 

New York Daily News, 245 
New York Real Estate Board, 123 
New York Times, 124 
Nonprofit corporations, 8 
North American-South American 

Housing Axis, 239 



Oak Knoll, 225 

O'Connor, Basil, 222 

Octavia Hill Association, Philadel- 
phia, 159 

Octavia Hill System, 147-148, 159 
in Holland, 200 

OGPU, 71, 76, 79 

Oliver Twist, 153 

One Hundred New Towns for Britain, 
178-183 

Overcrowding, 10, 12 
dealing with, 93-95 

Overcrowding Law, Britain, 166, 191, 
256 



Paine, Thomas, 129 

Palace of the Soviets, 76-78 

Palmer, Carl, 130 

Palmer, Charles F.r 
investigation of, 28 
in Mexico City, 237-239 
meeting with Mussolini, 31-32 
opposition to, 126-127 



parents of, 15-16 

personal attacks on, 27-28 

speech in New Orleans, 240-241 

testifies in Washington, 215-216 

in train wreck, 237-238 

at Warm Springs, 119-121 

in Washington, 21-24, 26 

at the White House, 218 
Palmer, Jeannette, 3, 144 
Palmer, Laura, 3, n, 22-23, 29-30, 41, 

111, 144 

Palmer, Margaret, 3, 144, 228, 255 
"Palmer's Paradise," 20 
Parker, Barry, 175-178, 195, 196, 197 
Parker, Mrs. Barry, 176 
Parker, Fire Chief, 233, 234 
Parkinson, Thomas L, 252 
Park of Culture and Rest, Moscow, 

72-73 

Patterson, Joseph, 245 
Peabody, George, 166 
Pentland, Lady Marjorie, 171-172 
Pepler, Sir George, 238 
Pepler, Lady, 238 
Perkins, Frances, 25, 116, 122 
Peron, Evita, 262 
Perry, Miss Evelyn E., 161, 171 
Philadelphia: 

bandboxes in, 207-210 

privy vaults in, 208-209 

slums in, 159, 160 
Pine Mountain, 104, 112, 257 
Plymouth, England, 160 
Poland, 68 

Police Station, Atlanta, 11-13 
Political influence on slum clearance, 
13-14, 25-26, 27, 197 

in England, 98-99, 152 

in Holland, 199 
Polizzi, Benedetto, 56-57 
Pontine Marshes, 55, 56-58, 154, 223, 

239 

Porter, Herbert, 14-15, 19 

Portsmouth, England, 148 

Prampolini, Signor Natale, 56-57 

Princeton, New Jersey, 207 

Private enterprise and public hous- 
ing, 24, 84-85, 231 



270 



Index 



Privy vaults in Philadelphia, 208-209 
"Program for Dynamic America, A," 

255-25 6 

Psychiatrist story, 195-196 
Public housing: 

Mussolini's categories, 43-44 
private enterprise and, 24, 231 
Public Housing Authorities, number 

of, 258 

Purgatory, housing category, 43-44 
Putsch, Nazi, 59, 67 



Quarry Hill clearance, Leeds, 184- 

185, 188 
Queen Mary, 142-143, 145 



Railroad tenements, 189-190 
Ramspeck, Robert, 122, 141 
Read, Miss Florence, 111, 214 
Real estate brokers, opposition to 

slum clearance, 15, 18-21, 24 
Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 

116 

Refuse disposal, Garchey System, 185 
Rehousing slum dwellers, 39-40, 50, 

162, 200-204 

Reiss, Captain Richard L., 231 
Renting, differential, 97, 184, 187-188 
Rents: 

collection of, in England, 99 

determining, 184 

in Germany, 83, 87 

housing for unsocial (Holland), 
202-203 

in Moscow, 75 

in Naples, 35, 36-37 

in Rome, 51 

in Tech wood, 141 

in Vienna, 64 

Resettlement Administration, 112 
Riefler, Winfield, 116 



Riis, Jacob, 11, 33, 218 
Rione della Carita, 32-33, 37 
Rockefeller, John D., Jr., 244-245, 252 
Roddan, Edward L., 219 
Rome, 41-58 

Albergo Popolare, 52-53 
Case Popolari of, 43 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 8, 23, 26-27, 
29, 49, 92, 102, 128, 133, 141, 197, 
210, 235, 257 
dedication of Techwood Homes, 

137-138 

law against overcrowding, 168 
press conference at Warm Springs, 

H9 

quoted, 11 

"sink of iniquity" remark, 221-222 
speech in Atlanta, 217 
Roosevelt, Mrs. F. D., 112, 137, 205, 

212, 217-227, 243-244 
Roosevelt, James, 138 
Rotary Clubs, Britain, 164 
Royal Institute of British Architects. 

95 

Rural housing, 57, 85-87 
Ruskin, John, 156 
Russell, Richard, 137 
Russia, 68-81 

housing program in, 73 

picture taking in, 76 

tenant selection in, 75 



S 



Saint Pancras Housing Improvement 

Society, 159, 161-166 
Samuels, Miss Alice, 107, 109, 111, 

148, 190-191 
Saunders, Robert, 130 
Sawtell, Richard, 225 
Sayward, W. J., 16 
Schmidt, Dr. Friedrich, 85 
Scotland, 170, 187-191 
Secret Service, 126, 127 
Securities Act (1933), 116 
Shepperson, Miss Gay, 111, 112 
Sherman, General William T., 237 



Index 



271 



Shopping centers, Manchester, 194 

Shoreditch, London, 152 

Silkin, Lewis, 97-100, 151-154 

Simkhovitch, Mrs. Mary, 122 

Simon, Sir Ernest, 194-195 

Simon, Lady, 195 

Simons, George, 234 

Sitting baths, 186, 187 

Slum, Its Story and Solution, The, 96 

Slum clearance, 8 

compulsion, use of, 42 

"decanting method," 39-40, 162 

management, problem of, 99-100 

and real estate values, 4 

related to war, 195, 242 
Slum-clearance projects: 

attacks on, 18-20, 27-28 

first (in Italy), 32-33 

first in U. S., 18 

Slum property, power to condemn, 33 
Smallpox in Atlanta, 32 
Smith, W., 194 
Socialism: 

in Austria, 61 

fear of, 231 

Social workers associations, 105 
Society of Women Housing Estate 
Managers of Great Britain, 107, 
no, 172 

Soloman, Miss M. C., 172 
Somerville, James, Jr., 89 
South Africa, 159 
Southampton, England, 145-148, 149 

development for dockers, 146 

Rotary Club of, 164 

two-story nonparlor houses, 146-147 
Soviets, Palace of the, 76-78 
Spelman College, 214, 244 
Sports in Russia, 71-73 
Sprague, Professor Oliver M. W., 124, 

125 

Stalin, Joseph, 72 
Starhemberg, Prince von, 59 
State camps for children, Italy, 39, 42, 

58 

Stepney, England, 153 
Stoves, back-to-back, 186, 187, 247 
Straus, Mike, 113, 114 



Straus, Nathan, 235, 243, 244 

Stuntz, A. Edward, 43 

Subsidies, rent, 157 

Subsistence homesteads, 104, 111-112 

Subtenants, 37 

Subway in Moscow, 73, 77-78 

Swaythling Housing Society, 164 



Talmadge, Eugene, 133-137, 258 

attitude toward slums, 133-136 
Talmadge, Governor Herman, 258 
Tanyard Creek, 10, 20 
Tax: 

cinema, 149 

graduated rent, 224 

housing, in Austria, 62-64 
Tech wood Advisory Committee, 136- 

137 
Techwood area, 4, 7, 9-11, 107 

inhabitants of, 11-13 

photographs of slums, 20 
Techwood Day, 205-206 
Techwood Homes, 18, 55, 113-114 

dedication of, 137-138, 197, 205-207 

expansion of, 237 

"Palmer's Paradise," 20 

Mrs. Roosevelt at, 212-213 
Tenants: 

exploitation of, 185 

income, information on, 188 

incorrigible, in Holland, 200-204 

selection of, in Russia, 75 

as workers, in Austria, 66 
Texcoco, Mexico, salt-sea reclamation 

at, 239 

Therrell, James H., 250-251 
Thompson, Miss Malvina, 213, 246 
Tiller, Sid, 15 
Tockmechev, F. P., 73-75 
Transportation for workers, 149-150, 

169 

Trusts, housing, 164 
Tuberculosis, reduction of, 51 
Tunbridge Wells, 150 
Turley, Clarence, 131 



272 



Index 



Twenty New Towns for America 
(T.N.T.), 243-246 



U 



Umberto I, King, 32, 45 
Underwood, Judge E. Marvin, 29, 42 
Unemployables, housing for, 44, 202 
Unemployment, and public housing, 

7 44. 199 

United Kingdom, five-year plan, 151 
United States Housing Act (1937), 227 
University Homes, 18, 107, 138 

Mrs. Roosevelt at, 214-215 
Unsocial, projects for, 200-203 
Untermeyer, Louis, 228 
Unwin, Sir Raymond, 107, in, 175, 

195-198 



Victor Emmanuel III, 38, 42, 43 
Videla, Senora Gonzalez, 262 
Vienna, 59-67 

under martial law, 60 
Ville Sur Illon, Conte de la, 35, 36, 42 
Vladeck, B. Charney, 124 
Vodka, 69-70 



W 



Wagner, Senator Robert, 122, 123, 

133, 206, 212, 217 
Wagner Bill, 226, 229 
Walker, Frank, 116 
Wallace, Henry, 104, 106, 111-113, 115, 

122 

Waller, Mrs. Madge, 172 
Walsh, Senator, 215-216 
Wander, T. S., 82, 85-88 
War, and slum clearance, 195, 197- 

198, 242 



Warm Springs, Georgia, 27, 119, 210, 

257 
Indians at, 221 

Warsaw, 68 

Washington Alley Dwelling Author- 
ity, 226 

Washington Memorial Library Fo- 
rum, Macon, 211-212 

Watkins, Garland, 248 

"Way Out, The," 101-106, 115-116 

Weltner, Philip, 252 

Welwyn Garden City, 173-175, 177, 
178, 231 

Welwyn Stores, 174 

Whitechapel section, London, 152 

William III, King of Holland, 198 

Williams, Colonel L. Kemper, 240 

Withey, Howard, 32 

Women as housing managers, 156-160 
in Holland, 200 

Women's Advisory Housing Council, 
172 

Wood, Sir Kingsley, 193 

Woodbury, Coleman, 198 

Works Progress Administrator, 55, 

i34> 19 
in Georgia, in 
World Telegram, 124 
World War I, 59 
World War II, 60 
World War against Slums, The, 124, 

127. 223 

Wright, Henry, 108, 173 
Wrigley, John C., 93-95, 166, 195, 256 
Wythenshawe, park at, 195 



Yofan, Boris M., 77-78 



Zuider Zee projects, 239 




1. 



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CHARLESTON, S. C. 



HI ' 11 



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PI1 rSBURGH 



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A STATE CAPITOL 
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I AUSTIN, TEXAS 

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NAPLES -BEFORE 



1 1 



CHICAGO 






PITTSBURGH 



YOUNGSTOWr 
OHIO 



FOR AGED -HOLLAND 



AMERCAN Cll