Capitol Hauntings

As part of my research efforts in preparing the manuscript for The Essential Ed Koterba, I read all of my dad’s articles from newspaper clippings my mom saved. For this upcoming Halloween, I’m sharing the following original clipping of a 1956 article about “Capitol Hauntings.”

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Royal Reflections

In the popular 1950s column A Bit of Washington, Ed Koterba offers personal reflections of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the U.S. 60 years ago, including insightful observations of Prince Philip, Mamie Eisenhower, and then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

Prince Philip

 

Ed Koterba greets Queen Elizabeth 60 years ago today

Since ascending the thrown in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has visited the United States on five occasions. Her first visit to the U.S. was exactly 60 years ago today, October 17, 1957. Ed Koterba, one of 1,500 reporters to greet the queen, was busy brushing up on his etiquette a month before this historic visit.

Date with the Queen

 

On the day of the visit, Koterba details the “queenly handshake.” In his description of the queen’s appearance, one might say the writing is not quite in keeping with today’s PC standards (e.g., “. . . an attractive housewife with jewels”), but keep in mind, this was written in 1957.

A Queenly Handshake

One Year Anniversary of Book Release

Today is the one year anniversary of The Essential Ed Koterba release date. I have gained many new friends over the past year and am thankful for their support. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and all the other readers for their encouraging words.

Here is just a sampling of comments from readers:

“There is a longing, as well as mourning, for the sort of journalism that existed in days past. . . . [It was a time when] syndicated columnists were the only reason a great many people bought newspapers. One of those superstar columnists was Ed Koterba, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Washington Times-Herald and Washington Post reporter.” (Mary Stanik, Phoenix, Arizona)

“Koterba’s writings hold up extraordinarily well [in the twenty-first century], with insights into important political and public figures of the era as well as compelling snapshots of life in the US in the 1950s.” (Gerry Lonosga, Indiana University’s Media School)

“This compilation of the famous newspaperman’s columns, annotated by his son, is an engaging read which will take you back to the Cold War era, . . . show you firsthand the workings of Washington, D.C. during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, and give you keen insight into the adventures (and amusing misadventures) of one American family. . . . Koterba’s folksy style and astute observations of his fellow man combined with his son’s reflections on his father’s life and career make this volume a must read.” (Todd Dorsett, Waynesboro, PA)

“Seeing important historical developments through the intuitive, nice-guy, apolitical lens of Ed Koterba is refreshing — an intriguing alternative to the typical historical accounts.” (Ann Warner, Romney, WV)

“It is really hard putting this great collection of stories down. [Koterba’s] attention to detail, his craftsmanship with the English language, his love of the “average Joe” — it would be tough to say which was Koterba’s greatest gift. But thankfully he shared those gifts for many years through his newspaper column.” (Steve Bailes, Capon Bridge, WV)

“Awhile ago I sat down with [this book] to read for about 10 minutes. I was astonished that it turned into an hour and a half. I was thrilled, delighted, often laughing out loud. This is spectacular reading! It’s enlightening, historic, and amusing. This is a book [about the 1950s], yet it is timeless. . . . It recalls for me many important events, and brings back names of worldwide leaders of earlier times.” (Paul Chalfant, Shepherdstown, WV)

“This book meets all three of my criteria for a great read: I laughed; I cried; I learned something.” (Beth Zeilor, Romney, WV)

“The Essential Ed Koterba was a joy to read. The book made me laugh, smile, reflect and choke up. Each day I looked forward to another column and was never disappointed. Thank you Ed Koterba Morgret for bringing your precious father back to life and sharing him with us via this collection so sensitively put together.” (Elsie Ferrara, Stamford, CT)

“[The Essential Ed Koterba] is a delightful mixture of nostalgia, humor and pathos.” (Sanford Kluger, Englewood Cliffs, NJ)

Newspaperman Ed Koterba was NOT the “enemy of the people”

Mary Stanik, reviewer of the book, The Essential Ed Koterba, recently posted the following:

In a time when journalists are criticized for their work, it might be just the right time to read the story of a journalist who lost his life while in the service of journalism. Ed Koterba was a famed Washington correspondent who was lauded by President Kennedy the day after his June 1961 death. Koterba’s son, Ed Morgret (Ed Koterba Morgret), has compiled an extensive collection of his father’s columns. This book should be read by all who want to see what journalists do and why they do it. I was honored to be asked to review The Essential Ed Koterba.

My father, Ed Koterba, was a beloved journalist during the 1950s and early 1960s who had a following of over a million readers a day. He also served as a White House correspondent under the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations (up until his death in 1961). I believe he epitomized journalistic integrity of that time period. In his role as a non-partisan Government watchdog for the American people, he was hard-hitting but fair. His columns earned him respect across the political spectrum, as evidenced by multiple pages in the Congressional Record devoted to tributes to him from both Republican and Democrat senators and congressmen. President Kennedy referred to Ed Koterba as “a most outstanding newspaperman.” I, too, am longing for those days when a free press was considered a necessary component of a free democratic society rather than the “enemy of the people.”

The Khrushchev-Castro Hug

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This AP photo of Khrushchev belly-hugging Castro on 9/20/1960 was reprinted today in newspapers around the world following Castro’s death. My father, Ed Koterba, was a Scripps-Howard reporter who covered the 1960 UN General Assembly in New York City. His description of that hug may be the most detailed account ever reported. His column appeared the next day. Following is a reprint of that article, also included in “The Essential Ed Koterba” (pages 411-12).

Hammy, but Effective (September 21, 1960)
(The reader is also referred to the articles on Fidel Castro in this chapter.)
NEW YORK—It looked ludicrous from this perch—the way Nikita Khrushchev belly-hugged Fidel Castro, and the pirouetting duet that followed on the floor of the assembly hall. The clammy chill that slipped up my spine came not from the cold draft of this aerial booth. It came from the realization that the frightful hands across the sea had, indeed, been fused in the flesh for the whole world to see. Until this very moment—this instant of infamy—the ominous love affair between Khrushchev and Castro was still a thing of distance and vagueness. No longer. The Soviet premier planned this UN drama with the precision that comes only from intuition. Hammy, yes. But effective.

For thirty-five minutes, as delegates poured onto the arena, Khrushchev marked time at his aisle seat, the ninth row back, the far-left section. Then, just moments before the fifteenth session of the General Assembly was gaveled to order—when the hall was good and full, and television cameras now hot—he rose. A Cuban accompanied him, and he bobbed briskly the one hundred paces to the front of the hall, up the stairs carpeted in velvet green, out behind the podium, and then directly to Castro, in the far-right front row of the vast hall, directly below me. In his wake, herds of photographers almost leaped over each other in a frenzy to be there first. They knew where he was headed.

The Kremlinite pulled the hairy, towering Cuban toward him, then turned him—to make sure all the cameramen in this frenzied arc got a clean shot of their embrace. Khrushchev seemed to be saying, haughtily—“If anyone had doubt about the Moscow-Havana axis before, you won’t have it now.” No question about it, this illicit love affair is now official.

Premier Castro, though, was nervous in the minutes preceding this display. Extremely nervous. After his entrance to the hall, six minutes behind Khrushchev, Castro was unable to control his tenseness. First he tumbled a Cuban box of wax matches, over and over and over. Then he picked up a long yellow pencil, twirled it, rolled it on the green baize of his desk. As if aware that his nervousness was betraying him, Castro tried to hide it. Finally, he slipped his hands under the table, but I could see him tensely crossing and uncrossing his forefingers.

As one witnessed this “spontaneous” expression of togetherness, there remained no doubt that this dictator duo had set the UN one for the weeks to come.

What Others Are Saying About “The Essential Ed Koterba”

“There is a longing, as well as mourning, for the sort of journalism that existed in days past. . . . [It was a time when] syndicated columnists were the only reason a great many people bought newspapers. One of those superstar columnists was Ed Koterba, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Washington Times-Herald and Washington Post reporter.” (Mary Stanik, Phoenix, Arizona)

“Koterba’s writings hold up extraordinarily well [in the twenty-first century], with insights into important political and public figures of the era as well as compelling snapshots of life in the US in the 1950s.” (Gerry Lanosga, assistant professor at Indiana University’s Media School)

“Seeing important historical developments through the intuitive, nice-guy, apolitical lens of Ed Koterba is refreshing–an intriguing alternative to the typical historical accounts.” (Ann Warner, Romney, WV)

“It is really hard putting this great collection of stories down. [Koterba’s] attention to detail, his craftsmanship with the English language, his love of the “average Joe”–it would be tough to say which was Koterba’s greatest gift. But thankfully he shared those gifts for many years through his newspaper column.” (Steve Bailes, Capon Bridge, WV)

“Awhile ago I sat down with [this book] to read for about 10 minutes. I was astonished that it turned into an hour and a half. I was thrilled, delighted, often laughing out loud. This is spectacular reading! It’s enlightening, historic, and amusing. This is a book [about the 1950s], yet it’s timeless. . . . It recalls for me many important events, and brings back names of worldwide leaders of earlier times.” (Paul Chalfant, Shepherdstown, WV)

“This book meets all three of my criteria for a great read: I laughed; I cried; I learned something.” (Beth Zeilor, Romney, WV)

President Kennedy Eulogizes Ed Koterba


Exactly fifty-five years ago today—June 28, 1961—President John F. Kennedy opened up his live news conference by eulogizing my father, Ed Koterba. In that eulogy, he referred to Koterba as “a most outstanding newspaperman.” The quote is the subtitle of the book The Essential Ed Koterba to be released July 15.

Koterba on Koterba: Ed Koterba describes his own journalistic writing

In my last blog, I used the words of people who knew Ed Koterba to describe his subject matter and writing style. But what did Ed Koterba have to say about his own writing? Below is my father’s response to a query from an Ohio man who wanted to know what there was to write about in Washington other than politics:

This question capsuled the apparent misunderstanding of most outsiders who consider Washington merely as a city encased in a cold hard shell of politics and government. Those who have the opportunity to peek under this impersonal, heavy crust of political manifestations, find to their amazement an “oddly average” touch of humanness. They find this great federal city of famous names throbbing with the same everyday drama found in the little crossroads village of Podunk Valley, Ohio.

There was a time when we, too, were set agog by the aura of untouchableness that came with the mention of a big name out of Washington. If he was a national figure in politics, he must be somebody of another world. Something about him (or her) set him aside as purely different. He was Washington, and Washington therefore was politics. It was with amusement and enlightenment, not disillusionment, that we gradually learned to see the informal, average side of Washington life—that which we like to write about . . . . Washington isn’t all politics. It’s just as human as that little village out in Ohio.

On a few other occasions, my father took the liberty of analyzing his own writing style. In a speech to the Shippensburg, Pennsylvania News Chronicle staff at their annual Christmas party in 1955, he told his newspaper friends that “I write like I talk—just plain, and perhaps not too intelligently—but I figure if I get a story or message across, the battle is won.” In a 1955 interview with Editor and Publisher, my father believed that his success as a writer came because of his simple style. “I try to write,” he said, “as if I’m talking to my reader across the backyard fence.” In a later 1960 interview with Editor and Publisher, he again reflected on his reporting style—a style that he said reports the lighter side of national events, yet still has news reporting as the core. In commenting about what editors are looking for in their papers, my father said, “Editors like meat and potatoes with their honey and spice. If my column can be humorous, that’s the first priority. But if it doesn’t have some enlightening bit of news, it doesn’t get across.”

The content and style of Ed Koterba’ writing truly set him apart from other journalists of his era, and hopefully will provide inspiration to current and future journalists. The book The Essential Ed Koterba contains 363 of his articles. Readers will soon discover why Ed Koterba was one of our nation’s most beloved journalists of the 1950s.