Sixty Six years ago today(I was not quite 13 years old) I was attending
a Washington Redskins-Philadelphia Eagles football game at Griffith
Stadium in Washington, DC. I didn't have a seat-- I was standing up in a
little corrugated steel "house" called "Wheatieville" on the roof over
the stands (Behind home plate for baseball. It was the broadcast
"house" or booth for Radio Sportscaster Arch McDonald who broadcast
Washington Senators baseball games)) where my mother was the telephone
switchboard operator for Redskin home games. It was quite a walk to get
up there. A ramp was built across the roof and steps were added from
the upper level of the regular stands. When walking on the ramp over the
roof, you could see the US Capitol building in the distance. Griffith
Stadium was on Florida Avenue at 7th Street, less than a mile from the
After the game was well underway, my mother started getting a lot of
incoming phone calls. She started taking messages that I was going to
deliver to important people sitting in the stands. It turns out that
many of the messages were for Japanese dignitaries who were at the game.
The messages were all the same -- return home or to the Japanese Embassy
immediately. So I ran up and down the steps several times to specific
seats in the stands with those messages. That's how we learned about
It turns out that the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor and it was
important to get the Japanese dignitaries out of the ball park so they
would not be attacked by angry US citizens.
But actually very few people attending the game knew about the attack
since nobody had portable radios in those days. But as the crowd left
the stadium they began to hear the news. It was the most somber football
crowd I ever saw.
Driving home to our house on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, we passed
the Japanese Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. There were many police on
guard outside the Embassy walls. Looking in through the wide driveway
gate we could see a big bonfire in the oval courtyard. And we could see
Embassy employees rushing out of the building with hands full of papers
they were dumping on the bonfire. We knew what they were doing.
And that's what I remember about today, sixty-six years ago!