TAPE 1/SIDE 1
MCMAHON: Well, Harold, just for the record, we're here in your home at 411 A Street SE in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill and we're in your living room. And I'm Jim McMahon and I'm the interviewer for today and I'd like to thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed for the Overbeck Oral History Project.
MCMAHON: Well, we like to start off by learning something about the individual. Could you tell us where you grew up.
ENGLE: Yes. I grew up in Kansas, born in 1918, and . . .
MCMAHON: Good. Just go on.
ENGLE: My first visit to Washington was in 1928 when our family took an auto tour back to the East Coast. And we must have come to the Capitol building but I don't remember that part of it. I remember only the . . . this was in . . . I remember only the Fourth of July, the annual Fourth of July hoopla which at that time took place down on 14th Street at the bridge and all. They didn't . . . they had more, of course, the wooden panels with the figures lit up in flames at that time rather than the rockets and whatnot.
MCMAHON: What year was that, Harold?
MCMAHON: 1928, you first came to Washington, DC. And, once again, how old were you at that time?
ENGLE: I must have been ten years old.
MCMAHON: Oh, fantastic. And how long did you stay for that time?
ENGLE: Oh, I guess it was just a few days . . .
MCMAHON: Uh-huh. And then you went back to Kansas?
ENGLE: . . . traveling through. Yes. But I guess my next contact with Washington came during the war [World War II]. I was stationed at Ft. Bragg for a while and could get away on a three-day pass and take the train up. And at that time the Y.M.C.A. [Young Men's Christian Association] had a kind of dormitory in one of the upper floors of Union Station. So, my buddy and I would stay there and that was perhaps the closest I got to the Capitol Hill area at that time.
MCMAHON: There was a Y.M.C.A on Union Station?
MCMAHON: . . . on the buildings there.
MCMAHON: And what year was that, sir?
ENGLE: That must have been around, oh, maybe, '43 or thereabouts.
MCMAHON: Mm-hmm. What were you training for at Ft. Bragg?
ENGLE: I was in the medics at the time.
ENGLE: And was a lab technician. And came up with a buddy of mine who played the fiddle and I was his accompanist.
MCMAHON: And what did you play?
ENGLE: Pardon me.
MCMAHON: What did you play?
ENGLE: I played the piano, accompanied him. So, we did the usual sights in Washington and went back to Ft. Bragg.
MCMAHON: What were considered the usual sights during World War II in Washington, D.C. for a . . .
ENGLE: Well, I . . .
MCMAHON: . . . two or three day visit?
ENGLE: I must have gotten to the Capitol building, but not the vicinity around it. And the Mellon Art Gallery had just opened at that time. At least that's my recollection. And I remember going through it and seeing all the old Italian masters and that sort of thing.
MCMAHON: Okay. Where did you go to school in Kansas? What -- did you go to university? What was your local high school, to start off with?
ENGLE: I went to the high school in Manhattan, Kansas, and I don't know what distinguishes that from any other high school. But, that's where I grew up and continued on to Kansas -- what was then Kansas State Agricultural College . . .
ENGLE: . . . located in Manhattan, and got my bachelor's degree there. And had one year of graduate work at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Then I had one year of high school teaching in Chanute, Kansas.
MCMAHON: And what did you teach?
ENGLE: Social studies and history, I guess.
ENGLE: And then came the draft and I was off to the Army.
MCMAHON: Okay. What drew you to Washington, DC, on a permanent basis? How did you -- and, after that, what brought you to this specific Capitol Hill neighborhood?
ENGLE: Okay. After getting out of the Army, the G.I. Bill made it possible for me to do graduate study at Columbia University in New York. And, in the course of doing research, I had to come down to Washington to use the Library of Congress. So, that was, I guess, my first adult contact, you might say, with Washington.
MCMAHON: As a student at Columbia and then coming down here to Washington, DC, where did you stay when you did your research at the Library of Congress?
ENGLE: I stayed at the Y.M.C.A., which was downtown between 17th and 18th Streets on, I think, G Street.
MCMAHON: I guess the one at Union Station was no longer operating, because that would have been the closest one.
ENGLE: Well, I guess not. That must have been demobilized after the War.
ENGLE: So . . .
MCMAHON: What was your research topic at the Library of Congress?
ENGLE: I was doing -- it's hard to put that into a few words. I was doing a thesis on the topic of functionalism as one of the schools of thought in international relations and they had the documents here that they didn't have in New York.
MCMAHON: Did you finally get a Ph.D. or an advanced degree of some sort?
ENGLE: I got a Ph.D.
MCMAHON: And your Ph.D. is in what particular subject?
ENGLE: Well, it was in the field of international relations.
ENGLE: I was very interested in that after the war to . . .
ENGLE: . . . to see . . .
MCMAHON: Where did you serve in the war?
ENGLE: Pardon me.
MCMAHON: What theater did you serve in [during] the war?
ENGLE: I was in the European theater. I was in the Signal Intelligence Service and had some advanced training in London and then went to North Africa to join a unit there, which was shortly involved in the preparations for the [unintelligible] southern France landing.
ENGLE: And I went with -- from southern France with them up through France into Germany and wound up in Austria eventually before . . .
MCMAHON: That sounds very . . . very exciting. Goodness. And then you finally got out of the service and you went to Columbia on the G.I. Bill and then when you graduated from Columbia where did you go or what did you do?
ENGLE: Well, actually, I guess even before I graduated I had come down here to do research and then came back to look for work. And wound up working for the U.S. Information Agency.
MCMAHON: USIA. Okay.
MCMAHON: Was that a new organization at that time or was that . . .
ENGLE: Yes, it was rather new.
MCMAHON: Uh-huh. And where did you live when you started working in Washington and how did you find the place that you lived?
ENGLE: Okay. While I was just here doing my research, I stayed at the Y.M.C.A. but I got to know the area around the Library of Congress. So, when I came back I decided that was the area I wanted to settle in and looked for a place to stay that would be close to the Library.
MCMAHON: And, was it a rental? Or did you buy? Or . . .
ENGLE: No, I was renting. I had an apartment on New Jersey Avenue SE.
ENGLE: At 440, I think was the number. [440 New Jersey Avenue SE]
MCMAHON: Okay. New Jersey Avenue. Okay. And, how long did you stay there?
ENGLE: Oh, I must have been there maybe as much as two years.
MCMAHON: Okay. And, you walked to the Library most of the time.
MCMAHON: And did you . . .
ENGLE: No, at that time -- see this was after my graduate work. This was when I came down to work for USIA. I then went back to the Capitol Hill area to look for a place to live.
MCMAHON: Okay. Oh, I see. Yes. And how did you get to work? Did you take public transportation or have a car or . . .
ENGLE: I walked up to -- what is it? Pennsylvania Avenue? -- took the bus and went downtown on the bus.
MCMAHON: And what did you do for the USIA at that time? What was your function?
ENGLE: At that time I was in a section that was involved with the Soviet Union and the satellite states and the programs we had there. And then I moved over to the West European area . . .
ENGLE: . . . and was desk officer for one or another of the . . . [unexplained noise interferes]
MCMAHON: And when you lived on New Jersey Avenue, where did you live? [hard to understand because of above mentioned noise]
ENGLE: At number 440. And I had an apartment -- first floor apartment -- you know, one floor up.
MCMAHON: At what -- You said 440?
MCMAHON: What street?
ENGLE: New Jersey Avenue South . . .
MCMAHON: New Jersey, okay. Now, and you lived there for two years and then where did you live after you lived on the New Jersey Avenue site? Where did you move to?
ENGLE: I moved out of Capitol Hill altogether, because at that point I had got married and found an apartment out in the Northeast [Northwest], near the -- Spring Valley, in the Spring Valley area.
ENGLE: And lived there until we went overseas.
MCMAHON: How old -- what year was that and how old were you at that time when you left New Jersey Avenue and moved to Spring Valley and got married?
ENGLE: That would have been in 1959.
ENGLE: And I was -- well, let's see. I'm born in 1918 so that would have made me 31 years . . . [ed: 41 years old]
ENGLE: . . . if my addition is right. Okay.
MCMAHON: And did you raise a family out there in Spring Valley? Or did you . . .
ENGLE: I acquired a family when I married.
ENGLE: My wife had a daughter from a previous marriage and that was our family.
MCMAHON: Okay. And were you still working with USIA at the time?
ENGLE: Yes, mm-hmm.
MCMAHON: I was -- you decided to move away from Capitol Hill. Wasn't Capitol Hill -- I guess raising a family was better off in Spring Valley than it was on Capitol Hill at the time?
ENGLE: I suppose so. I really am hazy on that point.
MCMAHON: Schools -- okay, okay.
ENGLE: Because there was always a question of schools at that time.
MCMAHON: Yes. And when you -- what eventually brought you back to Capitol Hill and when?
ENGLE: What brought me back was the fact that I had lived here or worked here, I should say, earlier and enjoyed the neighborhood on, like, breaks and whatnot, just strolling around in that area.
ENGLE: And I knew that was where I wanted to settle down.
MCMAHON: And when was that? I mean, how long did you live up in the Spring Valley area and then when -- what year did you come back down here?
ENGLE: Well, I lived up there only maybe a couple of years. I'm getting a little hazy about the chronology. Not because it didn't make an impression on me but because I'm getting old. And, in fact, I realized just how that has affected me as I began thinking back over things for this talk with you.
MCMAHON: Uh-huh. So, what's the approximate -- you lived up in Spring Valley for a couple of years and then you came back down to Capitol Hill and . . .
ENGLE: No, I lived there for a couple of years and then we went overseas.
MCMAHON: Oh, that's right, that's right. Where'd you go then? When you were overseas, where'd you go?
ENGLE: I had posts in Belgrade and in Bamako, Mali, and in Kinshasa [Belgian Congo], and then came back to Washington.
MCMAHON: After how many years overseas? And what . . .
ENGLE: Well, let's see. I guess it was about ten years.
MCMAHON: Ten years. And what year did you finally come back to Washington, DC, approximately? And when you came back, where did you come to?
ENGLE: When I came back, I was -- well, we had a hotel room or that sort of thing while we looked for a place. But, I went looking for a place on Capitol Hill. Some friends in the service had lived in this area and they sort of introduced me at long distance to Jo Turner. [ed: the Engles purchased their house in approximately 1969.]
MCMAHON: Jo Turner.
ENGLE: Yes. So we looked her up and she found this house.
MCMAHON: Was she a real estate dealer on Capitol Hill?
ENGLE: She was a real estate dealer on Capitol Hill. And I think she must have retired fairly recently, but she was still here when we came back from overseas and . . .
MCMAHON: And, how many -- did you look at many houses and did you look at a number of neighborhoods here on the Hill when you tried to . . .
ENGLE: I can't be very specific about that as to what all we saw. But, she was the one who brought us to this house and . . .
ENGLE: . . . we took it. It was at that time occupied by an Army major, I think, working at the Pentagon and his tour was ending and so we took the house.
MCMAHON: Wonderful. And you settled in, and did you make any changes to the house at all over the years?
ENGLE: Yes. At the beginning we made fairly extensive changes in terms of knocking out the back porch, which had -- the upstairs had a back porch as well as the downstairs. And adding a room upstairs.
ENGLE: Or enlarging a room upstairs. And also had the kitchen remodeled and that sort of thing.
MCMAHON: Okay. And, you've lived here all this time?
MCMAHON: Okay. Well, what did you do for entertainment when you lived here and spent your free hours? What did Capitol Hill or the city have to offer?
ENGLE: Well, going back a bit, during the time I was living downtown, or rooming downtown and using the Library, I would often stroll around in the neighborhood on my breaks or over lunch hour or that sort of thing. And that was what really drew me back to Capitol Hill afterward.
MCMAHON: Okay. Did you go to the movies on Capitol Hill here? Or did you use the trolley to go anywhere in town?
ENGLE: [Laughs.] I don't recall movies on Capitol Hill. And, of course, I knew about the trolleys from my wartime . . . let me get this straight now. At some point during the war I was assigned to Washington for training in signal intelligence. And at that time I had a room up on Fourth Street -- 14th Street. So, I knew quite well about the trolleys. And, of course, the buses came later.
MCMAHON: And I guess by the time you moved into this house, were the trolleys gone? Of course, there used to be one down the center of East Capitol Street, as I recall.
ENGLE: Yes, there was and they were still running at that time.
MCMAHON: Okay. What did you do when they had presidential inaugurations on the east front of the Capitol? Did you attend many of those at all?
ENGLE: I don't think so.
MCMAHON: No, okay.
ENGLE: I mean, we had -- By that time we had TV.
MCMAHON: Excuse me.
ENGLE: I say, by that time we had television.
MCMAHON: Ah, okay.
ENGLE: So, it wasn't necessary. I do recall coming down -- this must have been while we were living out in Northwest. Friends of ours drove down from Boston at the time of the inauguration and we did come down to the Capitol grounds for it. That was a year when we'd had a blizzard, practically, at the time of the inauguration. It might even have been one of the Kennedys. I'm not sure.
ENGLE: But . . .
MCMAHON: What -- since you were here during the 60s, do you remember the riots that occurred during 1968 and what was your feeling during that time?
ENGLE: I don't remember any personal involvement. I think the action was mainly over on H Street.
MCMAHON: Mm-hmm. Okay. Well . . .
ENGLE: I do, of course, remember the restaurants with their segregated seating or segregated type of restaurant.
MCMAHON: Where did you do your shopping on Capitol Hill? Do you remember any of the old stores? Was there a five-and-dime store or were there hardware stores that you usually shopped? Or, where did you get your groceries around here?
ENGLE: Well, the five-and-dime was at Seventh Street on Pennsylvania where the coffee shop now is. You're getting into an area where I realize that my memory is getting pretty slippery.
MCMAHON: Okay. Sure.
ENGLE: I mean, this is -- I'm 89 years old and things don't come to me as readily as . . . [Laughs.]
MCMAHON: You look like you're a pretty good [unintelligible] to me and coherent as well. How about a house of worship? Did you attend any church on Capitol Hill at all?
ENGLE: No. I've not been a regular church attendant, attender.
MCMAHON: Okay. Where did you spend your summers, you know, let's say, before we had air conditioning in Washington, DC? Or before you had air conditioning here? Did you go away for the summer time at all?
MCMAHON: Stayed around, huh?
MCMAHON: Did you have air conditionings?
ENGLE: We had fans and open windows and that kind of thing.
MCMAHON: Okay. What -- how has -- since you were here, how has the neighborhood changed since when you first came? Let's say the composition of the people or the architecture or the historic district. What are the big changes that you've noticed over the years?
ENGLE: [Laughs.] I really can't think of big changes. There were, of course, innumerable small changes, gradual changes.
MCMAHON: What small changes kind of come to mind? Well, the Metro?
ENGLE: Oh, the Metro, of course, made a big difference. The change from trolleys to bus was another factor.
MCMAHON: How about DC government?
ENGLE: I don't have much impression of DC government from that period.
ENGLE: I guess I was not much interested in that.
MCMAHON: Okay. Ah-ha. Well, has the internet at all affected your life?
ENGLE: Not very much and that is partly because I was of that generation that kind of preceded the internet generation.
ENGLE: And even today I don't use it very much.
MCMAHON: Okay. When you came to live here, did you still have a child in the house? And did that child go to school on the Hill here?
ENGLE: Hadn't thought about that for some time. I had, of course, my wife's daughter when we were married and lived in the Northwest and she went to the public school then. I guess when we came back she was already beyond public school and went to the University of Maryland.
MCMAHON: Okay. And did she stay at home? Or did she . . .
ENGLE: No. She had a room or an apartment closer to the campus.
MCMAHON: Mm-hmm. All right. And when you walked around here, the niceness of the neighborhood, was it the architecture? Was it the people? Was it the security? What kind of -- what was that magic factor that said I like Capitol Hill better than let's say other neighborhoods?
ENGLE: [Laughs] I would say offhand that the thing I most remember liking were the trees, the shady streets. There was kind of a small town atmosphere within a metropolitan area.
MCMAHON: With respect to your neighbors, did you develop close relationships with people on this block or people within three or four blocks?
ENGLE: Not particularly.
MCMAHON: Okay. Well, did you go to their houses for any social events or anything like that? Or . . .
ENGLE: No. I think my social events were more away from Capitol Hill, downtown or further out. And, to me Capitol Hill was just a nice area to stroll around in and to go to local restaurants and stores and . . . I didn't really have a neighborhood in Capitol Hill in the sense of knowing the people on the block. I was really a commuter in that sense.
MCMAHON: What restaurants did you go to?
ENGLE: [Laughs.] You're getting . . .
MCMAHON: Sherrill's. Did you ever go to Sherrill's? Sherrill's on Pennsylvania Avenue.
ENGLE: It's a familiar name but I have no recollection of going there at any particular time.
MCMAHON: Okay. Are you a member of any clubs or societies?
ENGLE: Well, after we moved to Capitol Hill, I, of course, have been a member of the [Capitol Hill] Restoration Society right along and have been very much interested in things done to keep Capitol Hill the way it is.
MCMAHON: Did you serve on any committees at the Restoration Society at all?
ENGLE: No, not really. I -- for a time I . . .
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 1
MCMAHON: This is Tape 1, Side 2, and we are continuing the interview with Mr. Harold Engle at his house at 411 A Street SE, Washington, DC. And [interfering noise] the last I can remember we were talking about was the neighborhood. Did you know Clancy Zens?
MCMAHON: Across the street.
MCMAHON: And did you ever socialize with Clancy at all, I mean, at least to see him on the street and say hello and so on.
ENGLE: Oh, yes.
MCMAHON: That's good. All right.
ENGLE: He was always walking the dog and we would . . .
MCMAHON: All right.
ENGLE: . . . stop and chat.
MCMAHON: That's great. And, you know Steve Cymrot as well.
MCMAHON: Okay, great. Well, and by the way, where does your daughter live now? What -- you -- your daughter is not living on Capitol Hill.
ENGLE: No, no.
MCMAHON: Okay. She moved out of town, or . . .
ENGLE: She -- when we came back from overseas she was in school in Munich in a school set up by the State Department and so we would see her when she came back. Then she went off to [the University of] Maryland and lived in rooming houses there. So, she has not really lived on Capitol Hill.
MCMAHON: Okay. I see. Let's see. I did ask you about, like, where you went in the summertime. But you stayed in town and you didn't vacation much elsewhere or travel much at all?
ENGLE: I guess mostly stayed in town.
MCMAHON: Okay. Did you ever go to Glen Echo?
ENGLE: Yes, I've been there.
MCMAHON: Uh-huh. And had you -- did you have your own car by that time? Or did you go up there by trolley or what?
ENGLE: No, I think I probably went there by trolley . . .
ENGLE: . . . even though I had my own car.
MCMAHON: All right.
ENGLE: It's a place that I had heard about in my boyhood. My father, who lived -- who came from Kansas, had gone to Washington back in the teens, 19-whatever, around 1915. And then moved back to Kansas to be near his parents. But, I had heard about Glen Echo and apparently it was the great amusement park of its day.
ENGLE: So, it was kind of a nostalgia trip but, of course, there was nothing there. [Laughs.]
MCMAHON: What did your father do for a living?
ENGLE: He was, I guess, just a secretary in one of the government offices here, but he went to night school at Georgetown Law and did get a law degree. And then moved back to Kansas to be near his family and worked in the post office there.
MCMAHON: Did you go back to Kansas much when you were living here at all? Or when you were at Columbia?
ENGLE: Yes, but over holiday period and not too often actually.
MCMAHON: Okay. Have you noticed a lot of building on Capitol Hill and apartment houses or -- oh, let me ask you, did you ever go to a baseball game at RFK Stadium when the original Senators were there?
ENGLE: No. I heard about that sort of thing from my father.
ENGLE: He was very keen on the Senators. But I never went there myself at all.
MCMAHON: Well, okay. I guess, well, Mr. Engle, once again thank you very much for the interview and we greatly appreciate your cooperation. And what we do now is that we get a copy of the transcript and we give it to you to look at.
MCMAHON: To put an okay on it.
ENGLE: I see.
MCMAHON: And you have a chance to make any corrections you think you need to make. And this is valuable for historical reasons [noise] and people that want to know from an historical standpoint what Capitol Hill is all about. So, once again I thank you.
ENGLE: I do want to mention one other tie that. . .
ENGLE: . . . a continuing tie with Capitol Hill regardless of where else I may have been. And that is the chamber music concerts at the Library of Congress.
MCMAHON: Yeah. Do you . . .
ENGLE: When I lived in the Northwest, I would get up before dawn on Monday to come down to the bookstore to get -- stand in line and get tickets for the Friday night concerts. And, then, on Friday night would come back to Capitol Hill to go to the concerts.
MCMAHON: Do they still hold those concerts today?
ENGLE: I think they do.
MCMAHON: And, were they -- they were no doubt good quality. In other words, sort of the premier.
ENGLE: They were the top. [Laughs]
MCMAHON: What in particular -- I mean, were they combos or were they -- what instruments in particular were played at these concerts?
ENGLE: Mainly a string quartet or a string trio.
ENGLE: That type of thing.
MCMAHON: Are you a classical music aficionado? Or jazz? Or -- what type of music do you like?
ENGLE: Classical music is my main interest.
MCMAHON: And you would recommend today that if people wanted to hear quality classical music that they go to the Library of Congress to these concerts?
ENGLE: Well, certainly, they had the top people performing there.
MCMAHON: Uh-huh. That's wonderful. Any particular noted individuals that you heard there that might be recognized by everybody, at all.
ENGLE: Well, that was so long ago . . .
ENGLE: . . . that . . .
MCMAHON: Uh huh. But they were . . .
ENGLE: I don't know who . . .
MCMAHON: They were a treat. They were a real treat, huh?
ENGLE: Yeah. And I don't know who is performing there these days but I'm sure they are the top.
MCMAHON: Do you have a piano in your house here at all?
ENGLE: Oh, no, no.
MCMAHON: What -- how do you keep up with your musical skills? Or how did you?
ENGLE: Well. [Laughs] Mainly just going to concerts and recitals.
MCMAHON: So, you didn't continue to play the piano.
MCMAHON: No. Okay.
ENGLE: I had a brother, an older brother who did continue his career in music. And I'm just reminded of an episode that he once told us about. Because he had been a music student at Rochester. And when he came here, he worked for a time as the second string critic for The [Washington] Post. I forget the name of the fellow who was the, who had been for many years their critic. But, since he was in the music field, he said they got a call one day from the concert people to see if he could fill in for the fellow who usually was the page turner when they had a pianist in a combo of some kind. To see if he could do the page turning for this violinist. I suppose it was Kreisler, or -- and the performance was, of course, very well received. And they came back for several encores. And when they got to the fourth encore, he had to tell the pianist that he would have to leave immediately after that encore so he could go write the review for the performance.
MCMAHON: [Laughs] Oh, interesting.
MCMAHON: That is fantastic. And, what was your brother's first name?
MCMAHON: Donald Engle.
MCMAHON: Okay. And he was your older brother.
MCMAHON: All right. So, you had a whole family that was interested in music.
ENGLE: Oh, yes.
MCMAHON: Ah, that's wonderful. And, he did write reviews for The Washington Post and if somebody went back they could conduct the search and see reviews by . . .
ENGLE: No doubt.
MCMAHON: . . . Donald Engle. Oh, that's wonderful. What year was that, about, Mr. Engle?
ENGLE: Now that's -- off hand I couldn't say exactly . . .
MCMAHON: All right.
ENGLE: . . . when it was.
MCMAHON: And what instrument did he play, your brother?
ENGLE: Piano, organ, cello, various things.
ENGLE: The kind of thing a music student has to do.
ENGLE: But his main instrument was the organ.
MCMAHON: You mentioned Rochester. Was that Minnesota or New York or . . .
ENGLE: No, that's in New York.
MCMAHON: Okay. And the school. . .
ENGLE: There's a famous school of music there, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
MCMAHON: Okay. So, he had a natural ability since he was young and it was further cultivated by education.
ENGLE: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
MCMAHON: Well, that's wonderful. Well, listen, once again, thank you so much for this great interview and I greatly appreciate it. And, you know, this is all volunteer effort. So, it will be maybe several months before we get the transcript back for you to look at.
ENGLE: Mm-hmm. Okay.
ENGLE: Well, I'm pleased to talk with you about it. You know, I'm reaching the stage where things that I once knew perfectly I can't remember now. But, you managed to hit on some things that I did remember.
MCMAHON: Well, if you feel that you've forgotten anything major, I'm always willing to come back to pick up where we left off, so to speak.
MCMAHON: So, the time is 11:59 and the interview is concluded. And, once again, thank you very much, Mr. Engle.
ENGLE: Okay. Glad to be able to . . .
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 2
|END OF INTERVIEW|
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