Earlier this fall I set myself a goal to clear out all my desk drawers and go through all the papers in office boxes and closets, even storage facilities. I cannot estimate the timeline for completion, but already my search is yielding a (mostly) pleasurable walk down memory lane.
In March of 1984, Hofstra University on Long Island held its third presidential series—this one on Dwight D. Eisenhower. Scholars came from around the world; a significant exhibition was mounted of Eisenhower photos and documents. It also included a number of the oil paintings he created. I lent two of the paintings Ike did for me, and I was among the speakers that weekend that included many key figures from World War II and Eisenhower’s two-term presidency.
It was on this occasion that I met former Prime Minister Harold Wilson who had served as British prime minister twice, from October 1964 to June 1970 and from March 1974 to April 1976. His second tenure as PM began after a tumultuous election in which he defeated Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath, who had won an upset victory over Wilson in 1970. The country was in chaos—with significant social unrest, labor strikes and bombings across London by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
See the photo of the occasion when I met the legendary Wilson. Even though it had been eight years since he had stepped down as PM the second time, Wilson had lost none of his ironic sense of humor—and I would say charm. Just before this photo was snapped, I told Wilson that I had lived in London during those dark days of the mid-1970s, which were marked by three successive winters of strikes, three-day work weeks and energy rationing. During those winters we had no heat or electricity for three, six and nine hours a day on a rotational basis.
When I reminisced about those years I spent in Britain’s capital, the former Labor Party leader cocked his head and said, “Were you freezing, my dear?” With a twinkle and a nod to British understatement I replied, “As a matter of fact I was.” (Thinking to myself, you have no idea how cold!!)
Enjoy this photo as Harold Wilson takes a close look at Dwight Eisenhower’s painting of another British prime minister, Winston Churchill.
In the coming weeks, I will get through one of the top desk drawers—it will be fun to see what else has been tossed in there, to be nearly forgotten.
With my best wishes,