JANUARY 14, 1960
LOS ANGELES—I arrived here after a comfortable night on the Santa Fe train from Needles, Calif. The only trouble was that the trip wasn't long enough, because we did not board the train until 1:30 in the morning.
We arrived practically on time and found everyone most helpful in getting us to our destination, which was the home of my friend, Mrs. Hershey Martin, in Beverly Hills.
I must tell you a little about Needles, where I spoke Monday night. It is a railroad town, a junction where train crews change, so a great many railroad men live there. Our host there, who is a railroad man, told me that before the advent of Diesel engines, the roundhouse there employed 300 Japanese and, when the shifts changed, there was much activity. Now not so many men are needed and the activity has lessened.
Other industries have moved into the town, and while the community is small, the school district has become well enough financed to enable the people to establish, as a part of their adult education program, a forum that brings in persons from many areas of thought and culture.
Needles, they say, is cut off from centers of culture, so it needs these programs very badly.
I was the forum's opening speaker for the year, but for the next meeting the community will bring Clement Attlee over from England. The following program will consist of music.
These programs are offered especially for members of the forum, but Monday night there were in attendance a number of visitors from all over the Mojave Desert. The speech was piped from the auditorium into classrooms throughout the school, thereby having a larger than usual audience.
I was interested in talking with the Needles superintendent of schools, Max Rafferty, an able and intelligent man. His family came from Pittsburgh, but because his father was sent by his company to various parts of the country, he himself was born in New Orleans and, after living in other places, came to Needles five years ago. He said he has learned to love the desert, the country and its people.
We dined with him and Mrs. Rafferty, but our hosts who received us in their home and saw us off were railroad people. The husband is deeply interested in the school; his wife, in church work and other community activities. They are good citizens and have three fine boys—all different, I judged from my casual acquaintanceship, but all interesting and promising young Americans.
This is the kind of family that is the backbone of our country, and I somehow gain added confidence in our country from people like Mr. and Mrs. Bender and their children.
My attention has been brought to a bill being introduced into the Congress by Rep. Joseph M. Montoya (D., N.M.) to amend the National Cultural Center Act to establish a national ballet school and company at the center.
This may not seem to be very important to a great many Americans, but it is important because the Soviets, for instance, consider their ballet as pre-eminent in the world and our prestige will be enhanced by having ballet as an important part of this center of arts and culture.