Too often we in the press are blamed for ignoring the good things that happen. At the risk of destroying our image as utter cynics, this article is offered as something nice that makes one feel warm inside.
It began when one of the nicest people I know, bass violinist Van Perry Vedder (who plays under the name Van Perry), accepted an invitation by St. Elizabeths Hospital to bring a group and perform at a "spring tea" for senior citizens -- those described as above the alarmingly young age of 60.
"The music we would like played should reflect the 30s and 40s era," the invitation read.
Supported with pay for his musicians by a trust fund created years ago by James Caesar Petrillo -- hey, there's a name out of the past! -- the legendary head of the labor movement's American Federation of Musicians, Perry arrived with his group: George (Dude) Brown, a drummer who once played with Louis Armstrong; Donald Dial, a saxophonist and retired D.C. schoolteacher, and Attris Fleming, a pianist and also a retired D.C. schoolteacher. They played such numbers as "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and "Sentimental Journey."
This is not where the story ends, but where it really begins.
Anna Peterkin, St. E's program coordinator for geriatric services, also got in touch with Roosevelt Hairston, a counselor at Ballou High School, and arranged to have a group of students go to the tea to dance with the older ladies.
Perry related how joyous the dance was for the ladies, and at my request he went back to get the names of the young men from Ballou who served so gallantly as voluntary escorts.
All, said Perry, are graduating seniors or juniors with high academic rankings and live in Southeast or far Southwest Washington. He listed them as Myron Whitmore, Cedric Kinlow, Marvin Tindle, Kenneth Williams, Anthony Wise, Walter Pitts, Ivan Hope, Anthony Weaver and Michael Thompson.
My mother often drops notes to her home-town columnists whose works she enjoys, and sometimes she gets replies, pleasing her. On my recent visit home, she asked if I reply to reader mail. Not often, I said, largely because The Washington Post has taken all but a few chiefly secretarial typewriters from our newsroom and the computerized word processor on which this column is composed doesn't produce letter-quality letters. And the flesh is weak . . . .
Among the few typewriters in the newsroom was one that belonged to Tom Wilkinson, an assistant managing editor. Here I quote Shop Talk, an in-house publication for Post employes:
" . . . Last week, when Wilkinson's IBM Selectric . . . went on the blink even security officer Rick Floyd couldn't budge it from its spot to be repaired. It had not only been bolted down but it also had been set into a hard-drying putty.
"After an entire morning and part of an afternoon of chiseling away at cementlike putty . . .Bob Flynn of the Post operating services department and newsroom copy aide David Wilkins finally got the typewriter into the hands of a repairman and a replacement delivered for Wilkinson."