Thursday, August 6, 2015

WOODIN | Charlie Miner Interview, July 31, 2015 (Updated Nov. 21, 2015)

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y., July 14, 1939. Wedding of Anne Woodin Miner and William Hamilton Phipps [original photo with handwriting]. An edited photo has been added to Appendix B of the Woodin biography.

I am writing about the life of Will Woodin, FDR's first Treasury Secretary. I have spoken so far with three of the four living Woodin grandchildren - Charlie Miner, Jr., Anne Gerli, and Woody Rowe. I am hoping soon to talk with the fourth, William H. Woodin III, who is 90 years old. 

Yesterday (July 30) I again interviewed his grandson Charlie Miner, Jr. With us were Charlie's daughter Charmaine, his niece Suzanne, his granddaughter Ashley, and my wife Alice. I am grateful to them for their patience. Some questions were prompted by Marlene O'Brien, a former co-worker at the NYC Comptroller's Office, who has kindly read the draft bio. I am impressed with how much Charlie's grandma was involved with her grandchildren relative to her husband, which I take to be a reflection of the life of someone like Will Woodin who was one of most important business and government leaders of his day.

As the comments are transferred to the respective chapters, this post will shrink.

Chapters 5-7. [Comments moved to the chapters]

Chapter 8. New York City

[Charlie and his sister Anne and his mother Mary Woodin Miner lived with Will Woodin in New York City during the school year and near him in East Hampton during the summer.]

My mother Perky lived with grandpa and grandma at 2 East 67th Street. I had a bedroom up in the penthouse on the 13th floor where grandpa's office was. My parents divorced so she lived with grandpa and grandma along with her two children. There was lots of room. I remember the lavish dinners they would have, when grandpa entertained. I remember some of the famous people who visited - J. P. Morgan, William Vanderbilt, Al Smith - that's how grandpa got to know FDR - the Astors. They would come to dinner. There was a big living room at 2 East 67th Street, with deep blue drapes.  My mother and grandma would always say that grandpa was sleeping and was not to be disturbed. I saw a lot of grandma, but grandpa was always very busy. Once, I remember, I sneaked into the beautiful big bedroom one evening, when he was relaxing after work. I was about seven years old. He was in his bathrobe and he was asleep.

Q. There is a report of two adjoining townhouses on East 64th Street between Lexington and Park that your grandfather bought in New York in 1902 and then sold a few months later. What was that about?
A. That was probably grandma Woodin... she would have been the one who bought them. She liked to buy houses. She probably wanted to have a place for grandpa's parents in New York, after grandpa's father lost a lot of money speculating in gold mining stocks. There was a crash in 1893, and then in 1896 a gold rush in Arizona. Clement invested in Diamondfield Daisy and Humbug gold mines. We got "Gold Bug" pins to wear. Then the stock price fell. [One of the stocks was issued at $1 par and fell to 4 cents. There was gold in the mines they bought, but not much.]

Q.  Did you interact much with the staff in New York?
A. Oh, yes. Delia and Mary, and the cook, I forget her name. Lawrence, who drove the company Rolls Royce, and James and his son George, who drove the family Cadillac, mostly for grandma. Lawrence used to take Anne and me to school in the morning. When we got near the school, I asked Anne to keep her head down so the other boys wouldn't see I was riding with a Girl.

Chapter 9. Woodin as Musician and Collector

Q. Did you ever see your grandpa's world-famous coin collection?
Will and Nan Woodin, 1933.
A. I saw the box he kept it in. It was in his office in the New York City penthouse, where my bedroom was. He would look over his collection on the weekends.

Chapter 12. Washington

Q. Did you visit your grandpa in Washington when he became Treasury Secretary?
A. We went to the Inauguration in 1933, the one for which grandpa composed a march. I remember that it was cold and it was raining. It was in March.

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