“A community of seriously hip observers is a scary and depressing thing.” *
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first issue of The New Yorker being published in 1925.
This fun fact got me thinking about my paternal grandfather ANC, Jr. who wrote several short “Talk of the Town” pieces for The New Yorker in June, August and October of 1929. According to the index, he wrote these with James Thurber. Here is a snippet from “Golden Apples” about the man in charge of guarding a billion dollars in gold at the Federal Reserve Bank in NYC.
In 1914, when the Marines landed in Vera Cruz, [Colonel Hiram Iddings Bearss] was already there, having quietly entered the city alone a few days before to study the ground. He took command of his battalion and by his knowledge of the city made its capture possible with a minimum loss of life. For this he got the Distinguished Service Medal. Like all soldiers, he is prouder of his Distinquished Service Cross. This was awarded for valor in action. Bearss got his at Chateau Thierry. General Hubbard wanted a German prisoner and asked the Colonel to get him one. This is the grimmest order a soldier can receive. Vide “Journey’s End.” General Hubbard said he would give the Colonel a seven days’ leave if he brought in a German. “I’ll get you two and take fourteen days,” Bearss told him. That night some of his men saw him walking nonchalantly into No Man’s Land, alone. Four or five of them insisted on going with him. They encountered an enemy scout patrol and a short, bloody action followed. Shortly after this, the light of star shells revealed Bearss headed for his own lines dragging two Germans by the neck, one in each hand.
Arthur was a local and foreign correspondent at one time or another for the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times and was the city editor for the New York World. He was mentioned in a New Yorker article by Morris Markey about “The Current Press” in 1925:
In view, also, of Mr. Arthur Chamberlin, who has been writing the pieces from Washington about the Navy hearings, I propose Mr. Chamberlin’s name as the second best reporter in New York City…So excellent was his performance, indeed, that I tremble lest he be drafted into the sports department, where all good reporters seem, at the last, to go.
During this time period he was involved in setting up the NYPD Aviation Unit, founded in 1928, which claims the distinction of being the oldest police aviation unit in the world.
I wonder where the Chamberlins lived in NYC? Our grandmother, Mira, the Grande Dame, who had graduated from Barnard, did not, as it turned out, remain in the city. One imagines that the newspaper and police types Arthur hung out with and the lifestyle he embraced were not to her liking. She took little Newell and went back to Massachusetts. Our grandparents never divorced, but I don’t think our father had much contact with his father ever after. He was close to his Aunt Caroline, ANC’s sister, who still lived in Vermont with her family, but his father drifted away. Happily, they became reacquainted much later when our little family moved to San Francisco in the mid-1950s. Coincidentally, Arthur lived there too. But you know how I feel about coincidences.
Well, a toast to The New Yorker, especially those first witty sophisticates, many of them WWI veterans, who got it all started. I have to say that I don’t have much use for the magazine these days and that I agree with ol’ J.D. Salinger (see above*).