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University of Louisville Oral History Center Interview with Molly Clowes   

Conducted by Mary Bobo  


BOBO: This is Mary Bobo of the University of Louisville Oral History Center. This is one in a series of interviews on the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Newspapers. Today is April 21, 1981. I am talking with Ms. Molly Clowes. Ms. Clowes' date of birth is 1906, her place of birth is Birmingham, England. She came to Louisville in 1923 at age 17. Her parents were William H. and Margaret L. Clowes. Her dates of employment with the Courier-Journal/Louisville Times extended from 1936 through 1971. At the time of her retirement she was editor of the Courier Journal editorial page, in 1966.  

As background information on Ms. Clowes I'd like to say that she is believed to be the first woman to hold this position as the editor of an editorial page of a major American newspaper. She did succeed Russell Briney. Just for a few minutes 1:00Ms. Clowes before we get into your Courier-Journal record, will you tell me something about your coming to Louisville and your early education and something about your family.  


CLOWES: We came to Louisville in 1923 because my father had worked here for a year and had been asked to stay on in the Louisville Police Department. My two brothers went to school here. I didn't. I just more or less fooled around until I decided that what I could do best and most easily was writing. I was employed 2:00off and on by various advertising agencies. They weren't public relations agencies in those days. Until I finally got a job with the Herald-Post in probably about 1930 or thereabout. I stayed with the Herald-Post with the exception of a year in England until 1936 when they closed abruptly and I was offered a job with the Courier-Journal.  


BOBO: There may be a small bit of overlapping in the tape at this point. We had some interference and have had to tape back over. But we did want to bring out the things that she did do prior to going to work for the Courier-Journal. [tape 3:00stops, restarts]  

Since Ms. Clowes' retirement she does continue to live on Dover Road, and occasionally still does book reviews for the book page of the Courier-Journal. And of course, is an avid reader and has been reading for many years now. She is a charming person, as I did say, and is retired and living here on Dover Road. [tape stops, restarts]  

CLOWES: day without any warning, and after a month or so considering what to do I was offered a job by the Courier-Journal. Incidentally, my pay at the Herald-Post at that time was $15 a week, which was considered quite acceptable, and I was very set up because the Courier-Journal offered me $25 a week. So. 



BOBO: Definitely inflation had not set in at this point, right? [laughs]  


CLOWES: [laughs] Not in the newspaper business. I did general reporting for a while on the Courier-Journal, probably up until 1940. I came to the paper, which had been a very reactionary institution in the town, at the time Mark Ethridge joined it or about a year later. Mark of course turned the paper around completely and it became much more progressive and interested in the community, and more or less started on the course it has followed ever since. I did several 5:00stories of interest at that time. A survey of the mountain economy was one, and a whole series on the subject which sounds dreadful, but which was important in those days, the differential in southern freight rates on railroads. That took quite a while and I was very pleased with that. In 1940, just without anybody really willing it, I began working for the editorial page, which Herbert Agar was running then. Herbert had come to the Courier-Journal as editor about the same time that the whole revolution started but I think he became bored much 6:00more quickly than anybody else did. The war and the institution of the dreadfully named "Committee to Serve America by Aiding the Allies" or some such long [wounded?] sentence came into being. Herbert began devoting most of his time to that. And somebody had to run the store, so I was recruited to fill in the spot there and write editorials. As far as I know this was the first time, certainly the first time any woman had ever written editorials on the Courier-Journal. I don't know about the rest of the country but... There were 7:00two people at that time who wrote editorials, two elderly gentlemen, Vance Armentrout and Barry Bullock. They with Herbert Agar made up the staff and I sort of came in as a sort of general dog's body, running errands and writing editorials. It was very interesting.  


BOBO: Do you remember that far back what editorials you picked or were you assigned or you chose to do?  


CLOWES: Quite early in my apprenticeship I was doing foreign affairs, and more 8:00or less stayed with that. Although not entirely. It was too small a staff for anybody to specialize in one thing. Mr. Bullock was the foreign affairs gentleman, so mine was just an occasional burning interest in something that was going on in the news. This was in the 40's of course, the early 40s. Also, I happened to be fairly well-grounded in the rather new field of social affairs -- welfare and public affairs generally. Welfare had come, sort of sneaked up on Kentucky by way of various Roosevelt laws. It had interested me from the start 9:00and I had become, by default almost, very well-versed in relief and its attendant services. I did have that as a background and was able to use that a great deal.  


BOBO: Can you remember how the community was responding to the Roosevelt programs, the New Deal programs?  


CLOWES: The city of Louisville responded fairly well. It seems to me that we rather eagerly took advantage of whatever was offered. The state, which when 10:00Happy Chandler became governor, which was probably about 1933 or 4, was very quick to see the political advantages. The first realization to me that politics was going to be very attendant upon the whole subject of public welfare was when Happy Chandler realized he was going to get a social service worker for each county in Kentucky and immediately appointed various henchmen around -- whoever was his key man in the county -- as the social service worker regardless of 11:00experience, or qualifications or anything else, which was very horrifying to me at the time, but seemed rather commonsense most other people. That arrangement lasted, I suppose, for about ten years because there was not all that much for the county people to do. There was some money made available for general help, WPA jobs, and things of that nature, that the county worker was able to have a [?] finger in. The general drift of social service here was not very 12:00professional, and not very productive, really. We are still one of the most backward states in supplementing federal help, and at that time we did nothing to supplement it. We just took whatever the federal government provided and that was that.  


[tape stops, restarts]  

BOBO: Let's discuss the philosophy of the Courier-Journal and its editorial [inaudible] perhaps towards the New Deal programs.  


CLOWES: The Courier-Journal had to make about a ninety degree turn at this time. When I went to work for it, the city editor who was a man very wedded to the old 13:00way of doing things and to the old philosophies which were, for instance, a total opposition to the Child Labor Act. The paper had opposed it for years and years and this man had concocted a blacklist of people who were for the child labor law and whose names were never to be mentioned in the Courier-Journal. These people happened to be, from my knowledge of them on the Herald-Post, among my best sources of information on the new welfare program that was coming into town. And so we had little battles all the time about whether the blacklist was still in existence. When this came to the knowledge of people more in the know 14:00on the paper, the blacklist disappeared very quickly, and names began appearing that had not been seen. For instance, a woman lawyer named Settle, Mrs. George Settle and her first name escapes me, had been an executive of the old Consumers League here, along with Mrs. Reuben Halleck. Those two people were in the forefront of the liberal thinking women in Louisville at that time, but they were never mentioned in the Courier-Journal. This was prior to the 1930's, prior to the arrival in town of Mark Ethridge. The assumption of complete control over 15:00the papers by Barry Bingham Sr. whose father had been more or less to my recollection an absentee owner. Leaving the conduct of the papers to an extremely conservative men who were not at all interested in the developing South and the developing prospects of Louisville, as Barry Bingham and Mark Ethridge were. This was the point at which I came into the paper and I agreed totally with what they thought. It was a very pleasant interlude for me, because I had come from an atmosphere of total uncaring at the Herald-Post into a 16:00situation where there [was a] whole ferment of interest in what was happening, with the New Deal and the new president, was taking place.  


BOBO: This must have been really an exciting time for you personally as you're saying to get things moving in this direction.  


CLOWES: It was fascinating. Of course, in 1936 when I arrived, also the flood arrived. The flood was in the spring of 1937, wasn't it? But it wasn't long. It was about four months after I had arrived on the Courier-Journal. So everybody had to stop whatever they were doing and backtrack to catch up with what the 17:00Flood had done to us. After that, however, things did begin to move for the paper and for Louisville. The paper started a series of institutes which caused great excitement at the time. They were intended to bring shoppers into Louisville and they consisted of three-day jamborees of a sort in which all sorts of speakers and demonstrators and so forth came to town and talked free of charge. People did come in to see them and take part in them.  


BOBO: Where were the activities held? At the University or the Courier? 


CLOWES: No, many of them were held in the Memorial Auditorium, which was then 18:00our largest hall of its type, and in hotel ballrooms and places of that sort. They probably would be rather small potatoes now, but at that time they were very exciting. We weren't a town of great cultural aspirations at that time and we really didn't have all that much in the way of outside entertainment coming in. So, three days of ladies demonstrating whatever -- cooking, or garden enterprise, or just speaking. I think Cornelia Skinner was one of the speakers. 19:00[It] was really very exciting. [distortion; inaudible] very wide gap [distortion; inaudible] much more cut off than it is now. Our lack of roads, and schools, and the fact that people could come in for a couple of days or even drive in for the day and take part in all this feast of whatever. [laughs] 


BOBO: Cultural events, really.  


CLOWES: Yes. It was pretty exciting for them at the time.  



BOBO: Do you think it maybe broke down some stereotypes on the plight of the rest of the state, as to Louisville's future and...? 


CLOWES: It perhaps oriented more people in the state to thinking of Louisville rather than Lexington as their place to go. From the paper's point of view it was valuable because it increased its circulation area. While I don't pretend to know what circulation was, but I know that it did begin to increase in the state, practically it became really a state paper. Of course, in theory the Courier-Journal has always been a state paper, I mean from Henry Watterson on, but it did not do awfully much for and in the state. Its reporting was pretty 21:00lackadaisical in those days. One of the things that I did as a reporter was to go out more in the state and cover events that had been more or less left to themselves. The series I did on mountains which was called "One Third of the State." You probably don't remember, you're too young, but Franklin Roosevelt talked about one third of the nation ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed. Well, one third of the state, in our reckoning, the eastern part of Kentucky, was in the same predicament. That series was an attempt to sort of bridge a gap. [laughs] I 22:00must say that it infuriated many eastern Kentuckians, so I don't know how much of a gap it bridged. All those things sort of petered out in 1940 when Barry Bingham joined the Navy and went to England and Herbert Agar got caught up in the war, and the effort to persuade Americans that we were going to have to join the war, which was not a popular concept either in Louisville or in most of the country. In fact, if it had not been for Pearl Harbor we probably would have been later than we were in getting in.  



BOBO: Can you remember the editorial stand prior to Pearl Harbor, about being involved in the war?  


CLOWES: The editorial stand of course, under Herbert Agar, was very pro-intervention and very ardently in favor of all the help we could give to the Allies. In fact, there were meeting sponsored, and speeches made, luncheons and various efforts were made to combat a right articulate anti-war sentiment in town. This took Agar away from the paper a great deal and I stepped into the 24:00editorial department and just remained there. After about a year I think, I can't remember how long, what date it would have been, maybe two years, Herbert Agar resigned and Russell Briney became the editor.  


BOBO: Let's go back for the layperson and describe how you would come about forming an opinion to write an editorial, either pro or anti-war sentiment. As you were saying earlier, it just became your lot almost to start writing about foreign affairs. Give me the setting of how you would go about getting the 25:00background knowledge whereupon you would decide how your editorial would go on a certain given subject.  


CLOWES: Well, of course I was born in England and was extremely pro-British and found that there was no doubt were America's duty and self-interest lay, so that part of my mind was already made up. As far as the information -- I and my family had always been wide readers in politics and international affairs. That sounds odd -- we were. The Courier-Journal library was available for clippings 26:00and so forth and the public library was available. We also subscribed, the Courier-Journal subscribed to very many newspapers. So was not hard to keep abreast of public events as they developed. Looking back, I realize that I was not as objective as the ideal editorial writer should be. Eventually I hope I became -- I was just all for doing what we could to get the war won on the British side. That was the vantage point from which I started out to write an editorial. Then as it happened, I met my husband in 1943 and he was French and a 27:00devotee of General de Gaulle, and he had access to a great deal of information about the Gaullist side of events in Europe. I brushed up on my French and read more and managed to widen my knowledge as I went along, of both European affairs and the war in general.  


BOBO: Well, I noticed in doing some reading on you prior to the interview -- I 28:00read some of your editorials and they did seem to have such great depth to them and I could not help but be amazed. I assumed that you did, through your husband, have additional background knowledge particularly about France, but -- 


CLOWES: Yes, I did. I was very fortunate in that respect. Also I was intensely interested in political developments generally. I mean in the wider sense and "geopolitics," I suppose one would call it now. I was interested in the relationship of countries and their interrelationships and problems, and so forth. So in all of this I got a very liberal education at the same time I was  29:00=[sort of blooming?] myself in to a job and a job was interesting and unusual as you mentioned in those days for a woman.  


BOBO: Let's talk about that for a few minutes. Where there other women staffers particularly at the Courier-Journal but on the editorial staff?  


CLOWES: No. No. There didn't seem to be any other women interested in that aspect of newspapering. After I had been doing this for some years I could see why, and the reason is very obvious. Once you detach yourself and get at the 30:00small [side?] of the newspapering you are where you are going to be. You are not going to get any farther. An editorial writer usually stays in his job for at least 20, 25 years unless there is some cataclysm that causes an upheaval. It's really more a field that would attract an older person and a reflective person rather than a younger person who wants to be out and seeing how things work and what is going on. It's very confining.  


BOBO: I guess that was my next question. The limitations would be that you possibly did not have a chance to learn as much about the total operation of the 31:00paper as some other assignments would have given you this opportunity.  


CLOWES: That's true. But in all it was interesting and stayed interesting. Now -- 


[end side 1, beginning side 2]  


BOBO: This is Mary Bobo. I'm continuing talking with Molly Clowes we are talking about different things. We have been dealing with the type of individual who ends up being an editor of an editorial page, how you go about forming opinions and dealing with subjects that are on the editorial pages. For just a minute, I'd like for you to address the subject of how a paper separates itself and its news gathering process from the editorial page.  


CLOWES: In my opinion it separates itself too completely. There was in my time, 32:00and possibly still is, too little liaison between the news department and the editorial department. They are the right and the left hands, so to speak. It is difficult for an editorial writer to communicate with news people and news people have a low grade, chronic resentment of editorial writers as being ivory towerish people who are not very cognizant of what goes on every day. I always 33:00thought that this ought to be broken down and that there should be more interchange between them. I tried once or twice to be allowed to go back onto the news side and just brush up contacts and to get a feel of gathering news again. The problems that were in the way I think... The main problem was the unspoken lack of enthusiasm of the managing editor for such an idea. But his spoken objection was that would create too many bookkeeping difficulties, so we never did anything of that sort.  


BOBO: Is this common practice for newspapers, though, to have a separate [?]?  



CLOWES: Oh yes, unless it's quite a small paper, the staff is separate. The idea being that you are not contaminated, so to speak, by the give and take of news gathering. If you are off by yourself and just writing about what you see in the news -- just as the news department is not supposed to be contaminated if it's off by itself and doesn't have anything to do with the advertising department. All of these compartments are very strictly respected by people in the news business and at least as far as editorial and news departments go, I think it's fitting.  



BOBO: How does the editorial staff go about scheduling the topics that they will deal with in a given period of time?  


CLOWES: Well, of course there are always some ongoing subjects that stay year in/year out. One that I think of in particular, and have been thinking of particularly in recent months is the building of the new hospital, the University Hospital. That has been, as long as I can remember, the subject of editorial discussion and comment. It has gone on at least for 30 years to my knowledge, and we are just now getting a hospital. Another subject which was a perennial, sort of under the surface all the time, was the old depletion 36:00allowance. I don't know if you know it. Oil people were allowed a large -- I think 27% -- allowance for depletion in their efforts to find oil. Their properties were supposed to be depleted or something to the extent that they had these very large tax write-offs. After about 25 years, I think, the law was finally amended in Congress to cut the depletion allowance. I don't know what it is now, probably about 14%. These things go on and on. But in the smaller sense 37:00the daily editorial conference sets the tone probably for the week. Both staffs meet with --in my day we met with the publisher, the editor -- that was Barry Bingham and Mark Ethridge -- and we just thrashed out the news, if necessary just skimmed it over. But if there was a controversial subject on there, we would battle about it for an hour or more in that meeting and arrive at some sort of consensus that somebody could write about. The Vietnamese war and the 38:00World War produced these subjects to a much greater extent. But even smaller subjects could be cause for a great commotion about -- for local subjects, for instance, whether the sewer district should institute charges for sewers which had already been put into Louisville because it was extending its service to the county. Caused a great deal of excitement among us because those of us who lived in the city thought we had already paid for our sewers. We could get as parochial as that and yet go on to the other side of the coin and flail around 39:00about Vietnam or rearmament or SALT II, or...  


BOBO: How does one reach a consensus with your publisher and your editor and your editorial staff? At what point are you under their control and at what point are you completely your own person? 


CLOWES: Well, I don't remember anybody ever writing something with which he totally disagreed. There were many occasions when different viewpoints would more or less be reconciled to the viewpoint of the editor or the publisher. He was the boss, after all, and unless we felt that what he was saying was totally 40:00out of reason or line, most of us found it possible to reconcile our views with his. There have been occasions when a meeting of minds was more or less impossible and the subject was dropped for that day and taken up later.  


BOBO: I think you probably hit on something very important early in our talk though, the fact that you did have people of liberal -- 

CLOWES: Of like mind, yes, mm-hmm.  


BOBO: -- minds, coming together at this particular time in the history of the paper.  


CLOWES: That's right.   

BOBO: And even though you might want to take different directions --  

CLOWES: Well, that is very important. You couldn't work in this sort of set up unless you were in general agreement with the views of management. I know people 41:00who have written editorials for the Chicago Tribune, for instance, who have been extremely liberal in their personal viewpoints. It was always impossible for me to see how they did it, but the one or two people I've known who got along with that situation say, "It simply doesn't affect me. I can write anything I'm told to write." I think with the Courier-Journal, editorial writers were always a little more personally involved in their -- we never wrote what we were told to write. And we were never expected to. So. 


BOBO: But you did have to have this thrashing out, as you said earlier, and discussion of how this would take place. You just mentioned other editorial 42:00writers. How much did you professionally have the opportunity to deal with other editorial personnel from other papers?  


CLOWES: Well, we belonged to an organization. Well, I did for some years but I dropped it in the later years of my tenure. What was it called? Anyway it was an editorial writers' association which met once a year for a three-day convention and it supposedly was to talk about editorial writing in general and we always had a speaker of some note who was supposed to touch on "the" topic of the day. What it gradually became, in my viewpoint, was a nit-picking association which 43:00got together to decide whether you should have a prayer on the editorial page, or how you decided how many letters you used, and mechanical things of that nature. I lost interest in it for that reason and I don't know what it does now or how the people who belong to it feel about it. It's still in existence.  


BOBO: I guess one question that would come to my mind is since, of course an  

editorial page is an opinion page, if this would be a more difficult group to work together as an association, knowing that you would have many editorial writers who are conservatives and many who are traditionalist and many who are 44:00liberal. It would seem that there would be more diversity than perhaps among reporters themselves or publishers themselves. 


CLOWES: It didn't really work out that way. They very quickly became involved with peripheral issues I thought. The few times that there were general discussions there was no great acrimony or... in fact I think we were among the more dedicated of the people who went. A lot of editorial writers do get very inured to the fact that this is a job and you do it. In fact we had to listen a long time to the tribulations of a man who edited three papers, small Ohio papers, all owned by a woman and managed by her son-in-law. All his editorials 45:00had to be read by the son-in-law, passed on to Momma and then returned to him about three days later. He never was able to be on top of anything. He was always running about a week late and they always came back covered with various markings which would be an intolerable situation to a normal editorial writer, I would think. 


BOBO: Again, this brings me to a layman type question. What does happen once you have completed an editorial? Is your work checked on by someone else or is this the final? other than regular proofing? 


BOBO: Well, the editorial page editor reads all editorials, but for syntax and 46:00sense mainly. You are supposed to be on top of your facts and you are supposed to have researched your subject. Then you are on your own. You are an independent person. You are read for [?] substituted but that's about all. There was very little rewriting of copy on the paper as I knew it. 


BOBO: Are there any papers where each individual editorial would be signed, so that you would know which person had written which editorial?  


CLOWES: The Louisville Times is trying that. I'm not entirely happy with the result but they feel that on certain subjects the viewpoint is so personal that the editorial writer should sign it, and about once a week or so you see they've 47:00signed editorials.  


BOBO: Would this tend to make it more of a column type of situation?   


CLOWES: Yes, I think it would. A column is a signed editorial really, and the editorial page is supposed to be the viewpoint of management. It's not one person's view unless it's signed, and then it's a column. The Courier-Journal and the Times in recent years have made efforts to put across the notion that the editorial page is a viewpoint page and is management's viewpoint. I don't know if the efforts have been all that successful and I don't know whether it 48:00could be, but there will always be a limited readership for the editorial page. It's not something that you pore over or turn to the way you would to the comic page, for instance. Of course I do, but then I am more or less prejudiced.  


BOBO: I don't mean to belabor the subject of the editorial page, but just in preparing the research for doing this project for the paper, it seems that most of the reading I have done that is on a national scope, continuously talks about the quality of the editorial page of the Courier-Journal over the years. I feel this is one reason that I wanted to deal with it in as much detail as we could and the changes that you have mentioned that took place during the years that you were there.  



CLOWES: The quality came from the fact that we did happen to -- and it happens, it's not always by design -- happened to have a group of people who were mainly in accord, who wrote well, and who had intelligent direction and were then given their head. We were never belabored with any viewpoint and it was possible for the paper itself to express a coherent viewpoint of its own which was broadly liberal in attitude but not stridently so. I would say that it was, oh how shall 50:00I put that? It was as middle of the road, leaning left, as you could get, I suppose. Most of the people who wrote were comfortable in that position. We had no ardent leftists or ardent rightists. We all sought a consensus rather than feeling intensely one way or the other. The intensity came up when you had an overriding subject such as one of the wars.  


BOBO: How did you deal with criticism, personally? Criticism that perhaps the paper was too much to the right or to the left. Did you take it?  



CLOWES: You mean such as in letters?  

BOBO: Right, to the editor.  

CLOWES: Well we'd just publish a letter. If there was a serious question involved we sometimes tried to deal with it editorially. I mean if someone whose opinion was respected in the community questioned a decision we had come to, or a statement that was made, that might have had to be dealt with editorially or in the lesser way, with a note under his letter. You get sensitive to criticism but not unduly upset by it after a while.  


BOBO: Perhaps what you said earlier, that you know you have a limited readership 52:00of this page and possibly those who are going to constantly disagree will refrain from reading the page is what it boils down to.  


CLOWES: Yes, except that your constant disagree-ers are sometimes the most ardent readers because they love to disagree. The people who read the editorial page intelligently, because they are interested in the news and what is behind the news, are people whose views you are bound to take seriously. If they say, "You are entirely wrong in this, you are wrong in your thinking and you are wrong in your facts," do go back and do a very thorough job of checking the facts and examining your own heart, if you like, for your conclusions and if you 53:00are right you say so. It can be done in an editorial, or in a note to the person, or maybe with a telephone call. A difference in opinion isn't taken lightly, especially from a serious-minded person. Some there are some people who will always write, saying "You are a dirty Commie" and so forth and those you to tend to shrug off or else count as a compliment.  


BOBO: As you think back over this long career, are there any particular things? Of course we've mentioned your series that you did on the mountains, which I had 54:00an opportunity to read in part, and it was an excellent series. But are there particular topics that you feel most proud of having dealt with, or particular editorials that if you had to pick out and say, "These are the three I just really feel the strongest about," that stand out in your mind?  


CLOWES: Not really. There are topics that I have dealt with that I am pleased to see come to some resolution. I mentioned the hospital. I have derived some satisfaction out of seeing that finally come into some sort of being. It isn't in being yet but it will be. Starting back before Andrew Broaddus, who was the mayor quite a long time ago, we were passing bond issues for the hospital which 55:00never produced anything, and we had come from one million dollars to -- what is it? forty million? -- but the thing is getting done. On a wider field, I always felt pleased with the fact that we were able to explicate and make a little plainer the very ticklish and often unpalatable French viewpoint on foreign affairs. I was very fortunate to be married to a man who was passionately interested in all foreign affairs, not just those of his former country. The 56:00French are a difficult people to understand and their politics are difficult to understand but we have come from feeling an absolute aversion, almost, to the French and their viewpoints to a rather complete understanding of what makes them go and so forth. We've got a General de Gaulle that has come from being an old and arrogant so-and-so to being a fairly great man of his time. In fact, one of the great men of his time. I was pleased to have had a part in trying to make that a little clear, why the French acted as they did or spoke as they did. I always felt that was a fairly good job, in a way.  



BOBO: I see this too. The second thing that kept coming out to me in my research was the wide coverage that the Courier-Journal had always given to foreign affairs, and I see this as another step in broadening the scope of the paper, to not just to be a local or regional paper, but a paper which, as you're saying, that has interest to people all the way across the board.  


CLOWES: Management was always extremely into it and of course it had reason to be. Barry Bingham spent the war years in England, he spent two or three years working for the Marshall Plan in France. Mark Ethridge traveled incessantly for four or five years there, in the Middle East and in the Balkans. So these things 58:00gave a personal grounding in foreign affairs on their part, which was to some extent shared by us. I, for instance, had more than a background knowledge of England and France, and was pleased to have that and pleased to rekindle it whenever I could.  


BOBO: Did you find this -- of course, you really grew up in Louisville in the sense that you became an adult in Louisville. But did you find this reassuring or unusual that in almost a Southern but Midwestern setting that there would be a newspaper that would become this far reaching and this liberal, as opposed to 59:00being in the larger cities such as New York, or Chicago or Los Angeles?  


CLOWES: I am afraid that while it was happening none of us gave very much thought to that, except for a feeling of pride in what we were doing. I don't think any of us realized the extent to which provincial papers do get very hide bound and very neglectful of anything outside their own spheres. I was shocked when I realized what a narrow paper the Indianapolis Star was, editorially speaking, and the Cincinnati papers also were very limited in their viewpoints, 60:00to our way of thinking. There weren't many papers that were as advanced as we were or as wide ranging and questioning as we were. But it didn't seem unusual at the time.  


BOBO: Just for a few minutes let's talk about, in addition to Mark Ethridge and Barry Bingham Sr., who some of these other individuals are that you were writing with during this time of such importance for the paper.  


CLOWES: Well of course there was George Burt who ended his career as chief editorial page editor of the Louisville Times and now lives in Costa Rica. 61:00George was an admirable person. Very unflappable is the word, I suppose. He never got excited or upset during his period as editor of the Courier-Journal, which ran from about 1947 to possibly '50 or '55, maybe. There was Russell Briney who had worked for both papers for most of his life and who was a very sweet and gentle person who edited without the slightest trace of authority but 62:00was very firmly in command. Russell became Courier-Journal editor when George Burt switched over to the Times.  


[end of side 2, beginning of next tape]  


BOBO: This is Mary Bobo; I'm continuing talking with Molly Clowes. We are talking about the individuals who served with her on the editorial staff starting back in the 40's and the 50's. Would you continue Ms. Clowes?  


CLOWES: Yes. I must warn you that my dates are very approximate on these things. I don't really remember which year it was that Russell Briney came back on the Courier-Journal. To the best of my recollection, it was some time in the 50's, 63:00and he stayed there until his very untimely death in the snowstorm of March 1st, 1966. And of course it was John Ed Pearce who was a devoted friend for almost all of our time together from 1947 on, and who I think is one of the most talented writers the Courier-Journal has ever produced. John Ed can take any subject and cope with it. Of course as he has proved many times in his work on 64:00the Courier-Journal magazine, but, he also has a charming light touch which is greatly to be desired on editorial pages. There aren't very many people who can write good and topical humorous editorials, or [write?] editorials, even, and John Ed was a master of that genre. He did it very well. There were many others. There was Weldon James, who now lives in Fairfax, Virginia and who was a foreign affairs man, although he also worked with Omer Carmichael, a former 65:00superintendent of schools, on what was considered then a very advanced desegregation plan for Louisville. I am afraid it wouldn't be considered so nowadays, but Mr. Carmichael was praised highly for his adventures into this field at the time. Oh, there are so many people that come to mind. There was Marian Porter, a very good woman reporter who also died before she should have done. I should like to mention Mary Bingham, who while not an active person on 66:00the newspaper, was very much a part of it and very interested in it. Mary edited the book page for many years and did it with a real scholarly zest. It still is a good book page but it was a very good book page under Mary. And for a little while during World War II, she wrote editorials which I occasionally felt were a little too fierce, but which were always very good and very readable. I think Mary contributed in many ways, which were not generally noticed, to the 67:00excellence of the paper as it was then. That's about all the people I can think of at the moment that I -- except many friends among the printers.  


BOBO: What would you say was the most humorous thing that happened as far as the editorial staff was concerned, with deadlines approaching, time for papers to be printed, and--? Can you remember any particular time that you were really scrambling around to get things done?  


CLOWES: Unfortunately, all of us had something of what is called the "deadline" mentality. That is. we insisted on postponing 'til the last possible minute finishing up of any piece of work, and the more importantly it was needed, the 68:00more we seemed to dither along with it. In this respect, Barry Bingham was an example and unfortunately not very often taken to all of [us?]. He wrote a great many editorials and he was particularly fond of writing a column along the bottom of the page called "Editorial Notebook" that dealt with personal experiences that weren't really editorial material. Barry always got his copy ready a day ahead of time and it was meticulously typed, checked over, and read. Nobody could fault anything he ever wrote for its preparation and its "betime" 69:00if there is such a word. The rest of us ran rather a race with 3 o'clock, to such an extent that we had people in the composing room calling down to know when we were going to be through for the day. I don't know really how to explain that, except our day was set up on a somewhat awkward basis. We did meet at 10:30 in the morning and sometimes we didn't break up until 11:30 or quarter of twelve. We either sat around discussing who was going to write what or how the 70:00subject should be developed, or we went up to lunch to discuss it. This lunch was always a matter of half an hour or so, but threw the day still later because we had a three o'clock deadline. When we got down to writing at 12:30 or 1 o'clock that isn't too much time if you have a major subject to cope with, and to check on, and to rewrite if necessary. I think Pearce and I, at least, were able to write without rewriting because we had been doing it for such a long time. So it wasn't that much trouble, but other people did have trouble with it 71:00and sometimes we had to just say in despair "We won't have that today. We'll have to have it tomorrow." However, we always filled the page somehow.  


BOBO: How do you decide, or is there a decision to make, as to how many of the letters to the editor are used? Are the letters that come in used, or do you pick certain subjects to try to cover as many different areas as possible?  


CLOWES: Well, thank God, rather early in my tenure we had an editor for letters. He devoted his entire time to them. And we never had a shortage of letters. It was mainly a matter of picking between them to decide what should be used, and 72:00only very occasionally was it necessary to either cut down on the space, or to wait a day, or rather to use old letters. The ones we had -- the most unlikely subjects incited people to letters. We would have whole campaigns on a phrase that had appeared in a news story, or on some person who had happened to be featured in the news or some unfortunate turn of phrase that made somebody angry and caused all the rest of his antagonists and friends to rush to their pens. 73:00One reason why we came to an editor for letters was that they presented a real problem. All the letters had to be checked. They had to be returned and verified. They couldn't be verified -- there were too many to be verified over the phone, and anyway one couldn't do that, because a person bent on mischief could very easily answer the phone and say "Yes, I wrote that" when he didn't at all. So the only thing to do was to return letters and have them, with a printed form saying, "Did you write this letter?" and so forth. That of course that 74:00often infuriated people, who would write back and say "Who do you think wrote this?" It makes for somewhat of a delay when the letter reaches print. You could never write to the editor and have it in the paper the next day, at least very, very seldom. The opportunities for people to create mischief if they want to by the letters to the editor is quite a strong [one?]. We have had letters which have been expertly forged, attributed to other people, and which have gotten us into trouble. But, on the whole, the various letters editors have been so 75:00competent at their jobs that nobody else needed worry much about the letters. Of course, election time was always a frightful mess because everybody wanted to be in print on one candidate or another. There were occasions when we ran half of the editorial page and half of the opposite page filled with letters just on people's comments on candidates. It was always impossible though, to predict the outcome of an election from the letters. I have assayed that many times and I have always been proved abysmally wrong. The man who got the most letters turned out to be the worst beaten, as a rule.  


BOBO: It's interesting to me how a newspaper decides how much space will be 76:00given to letters to the editor. It would seem that this would be one place that the publisher or the editor could really have their stamp of approval or disapproval.  


CLOWES: Yes, of course you can. Many papers don't particularly encourage letters. The Courier-Journal always encouraged them and has devoted almost the same amount of space to letters over the years; that is, about the bottom third of the page. There are always far more than enough letters to cover. In fact, I imagine that there are still some letters that don't quite make it, and those would tend to be letters on a subject which has already been beaten to death by somebody.  



BOBO: I guess that was my next question. If the letter does not appear in print is there any other response that the paper would make to the letter writer? Personal response?   


CLOWES: Well, often on a subject which has been intensely provocative we have had to take whole bundles of letters, choose one representative letter, run that, and then say "Similar letters were received from" and append all the names of the other writers. Which also doesn't please people but sometimes it's the only way to handle that sort of... I have been trying to think of some of the subjects that really arouse people to an almost irrational fury and I can't think of any at the moment. There have been some very unlikely ones.  



BOBO: I would imagine that you have had certain people who are ardent letter writers, too.  


CLOWES: Oh yes. There are people who are almost professional letter writers. We had one old lady who -- and she only recently died -- who would write every day, sometimes two and three times a day, and we finally had to write to her relatives and say that she could only appear maybe once in ten days and her relatives took her part and wanted to know why, because this was a great form of release for her. It just got unnerving to see this lady's name coming time and 79:00time again, on any subject that took her fancy. There is one -- she must been an elderly person -- who still writes and has been doing for years and years, every winter to remind us that cold weather is coming and we must put out food for the birds. She never fails in that duty to the birds. At least she has not yet.  


BOBO: Probably saved many a bird! [Laughs] 


CLOWES: Right! [Laughs] 


BOBO: I'd like to -- unless you have some additional things you'd like to talk about on the editorial page -- I would like to go back quite a ways and deal just a little bit more with your days reporting. I feel like that maybe there were some things that happened to you then that, since we've been talking maybe 80:00your memory's been jogged, that you would like to speak about. What were some of the things that you really enjoyed or that you disliked the most as far as what your duties were as a reporter prior to becoming a member of the editorial staff?  


CLOWES: The type of story I disliked the most was one in great vogue at that time: the "man in the street" interview, in which you just hung around with the photographer on a street corner and asked people questions about some inane subject of the day. I am afraid I did it so badly that I more than most times got just brushed off and "don't bother me" type of answers. I think that must have been precluded a great deal by television, which does it to an interminable 81:00degree now. We never, in all of those efforts, seemed to gather an opinion that was really worth the space it took up. I'm afraid that probably was my fault. I'm afraid that something of my distaste for pestering people must have shown in my manner and people were only too glad to say "buzz off."  


BOBO: I wonder if people were more or less suspicious of a newsperson asking them something in those early days -- we must be talking about mid-30s -- as opposed to someone coming up to you now.  


CLOWES: I think they would -- No, there was a great deal more rapport, I think, 82:00with the press and the public then. People weren't particularly angry, and in fact if they had the time to stop they could fill a volume for you on their opinions. But so often they were just in a hurry and didn't want to be bothered. There wasn't a seeking for publicity -- at least as it appears to me now that one sees on television news. People just eagerly grabbing the microphone. There was more of a trustingness, or also, there was more bad behavior on the part of the newspaper people in those days. I don't imagine that many reporters nowadays 83:00will go into a bereaved house and swipe a picture off a piano and shove it under their coat, but I have known people who did that in my day. I think that sort of predatoriness may have lessened a lot.  


BOBO: Could you mention a few other news stories that you liked or particularly enjoyed?  


CLOWES: I had some very good assignments in my earlier days. I went to one of our worst mine disasters in western Kentucky and it was my first experience of the pressure of coverage of a disaster story, which is very heavy. I didn't do awfully well with it, because I simply did not know the mechanics of collecting names and times and places as well as the AP and UP men who were there, but I 84:00managed. Then several welfare stories I did interested me a great deal. I did a story on "home work" that is, piece work in the home, that was being done in parts of Kentucky for an extremely low wage and sold for a very high price. These women, whose hands were just a mass of callouses and bruises from the fine trapunto work that they did. Took bundles of exquisite satins and silks to their houses wrapped in sheets and worked on them by hand and returned them for some 85:00appalling price, something like 10 cents an hour. The finished work was made up elsewhere and was sold in New York and I believe in Louisville, too, somewhere, for very high prices. The Department of Labor fairly soon issued regulations that restricted that sort of work, or rather demanded that a minimum wage be paid for it. Then I had some very interesting interviews. I interviewed Yehudi 86:00Menuhin at one time. He was very young, in fact he was just emerging from being a child prodigy, and his father traveled with him. My interview with Yehudi consisted of questions that I addressed to the boy and that were all answered by the father which irritated me very much. I decided that it would make a good but rather spiteful story and I wrote the story that way. Question to Yehudi and answered by father. I felt very ashamed of myself a day or two later when I got a letter of five or six pages from the elder Menuhin who justified his 87:00protectiveness and his wish not to have his son make some unwary remark that would be misinterpreted and so forth. I had no way of getting in touch to tell the man that I was sorry and I hadn't really meant to be so unkind. I felt that for quite a while. He probably tempered my manner in future interviews. I had some very nice interviews with people who came to town.  


BOBO: Was there any change during the years that you were interviewing in your manner of interviewing people? Had investigative reporting hit the scene in the 88:00sense that the way that an article itself was written might be negatively criticized?  


CLOWES: No, not really. I learned to be a better questioner and to do better research and to know more of what I wanted to know -- to know what I wanted to ask. In that respect my interviews probably improved. I did my own brand of investigative reporting when I went back to the paper in 1947 and worked with George Burt, because at that time we were running a very permissive city. We had -- gambling was almost wide open and prostitution was fairly prevalent. I got 89:00into the habit of doing a Monday morning feature which would be on the list of arrests against a certain gambler in town. The number of times he'd been convicted, and the length of time since the police had last been to his establishment. There were so many of them that it was possible to keep this up for weeks and weeks at a time. People who were simply not being approached or not being hampered in any way in their career. Then came one story that Mrs. 90:00E.L. Henderson, she was the wife of a doctor, interested herself in enormously. A young woman of about 15 was arrested in a raid on a gambling party in -- I believe, in the Seelbach, and nine of the men who were arrested were notorious gamblers or who had long records. Mrs. Henderson's interest was in the fact that this girl, at her young age, was being used by these men as a decoy and so forth. She was determined that this time somebody was going to get them into court. We teamed up to a certain extent. I never met her but we talked on the 91:00telephone incessantly. We finally did manage to get a case in court against the men on the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but also bringing out their gambling records and they were barred -- I think five or six of them were supposed to be barred from gambling for life. There are now three or four of them who are still gambling right now, so.  


BOBO: When things don't tend to work out and you don't see results over a long period of time how do you keep from getting very discouraged, or how did you keep from getting discouraged? Such as when you were talking about the General Hospital situation or when something does drag on.  



CLOWES: We just kept on and on about General Hospital whenever we had a chance. And there were many chances because it has been in the news for its drawbacks and deficiencies almost as long as I've been writing. Well, since before that, really. The first time I ever saw a plan for a new General Hospital was in the office of Dr. Hugh Rodman Leavell -- L-E-A-V-E double L -- who was our first professional public health officer. Jefferson County's that is. Hugh Leavell was a very well-known physician here and he had a degree in public health from 93:00either Yale or Harvard. He went on from here to an important post in India. Hugh had, in the back of his desk, and it was already rather curling up at the edges, a very handsome plan for a new hospital.  


[end of first side of second tape, beginning of second side]  


BOBO: This is Mary Bobo. Molly Clowes is talking about how you deal with disappointment when things take many, many years to come to pass. We're dealing specifically with the case of the General Hospital, which of course is now University Hospital, and the first time she ever saw a plan for the new General Hospital, which of course was many years ago. Would you continue Ms. Clowes?  



CLOWES: This was probably in 1936 or '37 and I was excited at the thought that we might have a new hospital, and was promptly warned by Hugh Leavell: don't get your hopes up. This is ten years old and there is not a chance that we are going to get it in the foreseeable future. But it provided material for a story saying that a decrepit old hospital might be replaced someday. You eventually begin to realize that the interminable slowness of public events, that things do take years and years to come to fruition, and the things which are entered into with 95:00a great splash and hurry very often don't come to fruition. In fact, I learned to be very suspicious of a beautiful plan which was produced, for which fruition was promised in the year following or something of the sort. Almost invariably something came up that stopped them, or delayed them, or... That happened with General Hospital. It is going to be a hospital now, but it has taken it a long time.  


BOBO: Well, as we begin to wrap up for today you have been so kind in talking with me about these various parts of your life. I would like, if you would like 96:00to, for you to mention the full name of your husband and his connection with the University of Louisville and any additional personal things that you would like to say for the tape.  


CLOWES: His name was James Willy Walsh. He came here originally as a motion picture man. That was his interest in Europe and he was more or less stranded here by the war. The building of motion picture theaters, of course, was stopped abruptly by our entrance into the war. Willy, who had very wide interests, he worked during the war for the OSS and other foreign broadcasting groups in New 97:00York. But following the war, he had to look around for something else to do and was very much attracted by the idea of teaching. He had been offered small teaching jobs by people who wanted to learn French and he decided he did not want to be a French teacher. He went to the University of Louisville and took several classes there, under people like Sidney Terr. Did you ever know Sidney Terr? Who was a professor of history, and a charming man. He got a master's degree in history in a fairly short time, too, and he started out teaching at 98:00the old University College and became a great enthusiast for history teaching. This not being enough to keep him going, he combined with photography as a way of life and took some very nice pictures for commercial reasons. But his real love came to be teaching. Until he retired from the University of Louisville in 1969, probably, ill health being a very major cause of that retirement, although his age would have retired him anyway in another year. He stayed simply absorbed 99:00by both ancient history and modern history and this was of a great help to me because we took magazines and newspapers that I wouldn't have taken otherwise and we got books into the house that I wouldn't have had otherwise. People who came by Louisville always stopped to see him. All these things were sort of horizon-broadening. Sometime during that period, I suppose maybe in the early 60's, the French government made him a consular agent in Louisville. Louisville doesn't need a consular agent, and there was nothing to this except being a greeter for people who came to Louisville. And it worked out very nicely that 100:00way. There turned out to be a large number of people who came through here who were French-speaking and who were more or less at a loss. We met them and sometimes entertained them. He also was very concerned at the fact that the French language was going into a decline almost everywhere. This was a period when France was not popular in the United States. So French clubs were all beefed up very much. A new one was started for emigres from France and the old 101:00one, the Alliance Française, which has been here for many, many years was broadened considerably to include school children and college students and so forth. So we had quite a lively French Affairs Department going in Louisville for a while.  


BOBO: So it seems that even during the war years and these later years his career or his nationality, his connection with France has been an asset to your work.  


CLOWES: There were both -- I was very fortunate in meeting him because I would not have developed along those lines at all had he not been around.  Well! [Sighs]



BOBO: I'm going to let you rest at this point. You have been so kind. These tapes are, as I have told you, sponsored and paid for by the University of Louisville, the Kentucky Oral History Commission, and the Bingham Foundation. On behalf of all three I would like to thank you for taking your time to sit here and remember with me today. If at any time you would like to add any comments to what we have already done I will be glad to come back and talk with you further.  


CLOWES: Thank you very much Ms. Bobo.