The Washington Post

Readers write about Federal Diary at 80


To mark the Federal Diary’s 80th birthday last month, we’ve been running a column from each decade since the Diary began. We asked for reader comment, and here are some of the responses.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns. View Archive

Glad I saw your recent column about the history of the Federal Diary. I hadn’t known it started five months and eight days after I was born. Where does the time go? (How original of me).

Since I joined the federal service in March of 1964 at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where I am still employed as a contractor (since 2005), I have been an interested reader of the column, starting with the Jerry Kluttz years. Had I known in the Marine Corps what this column was about, I’m sure I would have started earlier.

I was so much taken with this great, informative column that I convinced the managing editor of the Evening Sun (Baltimore) to print a similar column in that paper. As a Baltimorean since 1961, with its large federal employee base (especially the Social Security Administration), I felt that this column would be a real value to the Sun’s readership. He bought off on a weekly column that I freelanced that they called “The Federal Worker.” It ran for a bit more than two years (1976-78) when I had the temerity to ask for a modest raise. That led to, within a few weeks, a “Dear Howard” letter and the start of a column with a somewhat different logo and a regular beat reporter. It lasted perhaps a year or two.

(The Washington Post)

I maintained my regular position at Goddard while writing the column. I’ve kept every issue in a few bound volumes for my great-grandchildren (none yet on the horizon) to ultimately throw out with the wash.

Good luck with the Federal Diary. I look forward to the 100th year of its publication and to my 100th birthday. I can always dream can’t I?

—Howard K. Ottenstein

The 4:30 bell

Your story on the 80th anniversary of The Post’s Federal Diary column mentions “the stroke of the 4:30 bell” and my very long memory includes a federal employees newspaper column — maybe not in The Post, perhaps in the News — that was entitled “9 to 4:30,” implying a seven-hour day (with one-half hour for lunch). But I also recall that my federal employee parents had to work on Saturday, at least during WWII, because at age 10-13, I often went to work with them since it was not a school day (and helped file, or ran up the down escalator). Your readers might be interested in an authoritative history of federal working hours. I am.

Cornelia Strawser

Employee lifeline

Hi, Joe,

Congratulations on being at the helm to celebrate 80 years of the Federal Diary. Like many federal employees, I started my day with the Federal Diary and only then checked out the front page. That column has been — and still is — a lifeline for federal employees and retirees. As a devoted reader for 56 years, I salute you and The Washington Post.

—Reg Jones

Columnist for the Federal Times and,

co-editor of the Federal Employees Almanac

Enjoyed Causey

I always enjoyed the Federal Diary and especially Mr. [Mike] Causey. I was with the Feds in [Washington] and San Francisco from 1962 through 1999 and, in general, appreciated the information the Federal Diary provided. Current Diary is not nearly as good. But, at 68, living in Nevada and Arizona, I read the column, on line, from time to time and still find it of some value.

—Warren A. Seitz

Birthday wish

Just wanted to say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

— casualcommentator

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at

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