Harry’s 50-year-old Blizzard Ballad
As we dig out from under the blizzard of January 2016, Harry Zubkoff’s writing below recalls the blizzard of January 1966, one that I remember well. (Does anyone else remember that blizzard? This newsreel might spark your memory.) As snow began falling, my dad (Harry) left work at the Pentagon to drive a few staffers home in Virginia suburbs before heading back to Maryland. However, by the time they arrived at the first residence, conditions worsened, leaving four women plus Harry stranded in an apartment.
We kids were home from school (yay!), while our dad called daily with an update. Once the train was up and running, he traveled back to Maryland, but left his car snowed in. What I didn’t know until my recent discovery — Harry wrote a poem about his little, winter adventure and attached it to the Feb 3, 1966, edition of the Current News, his daily Defense Department publication.
The Ballad of Harry and Four
Evening nigh and home was calling.
Work was finished, labors over,
They all began to run for cover.
Hied to supper, stayed to tarry.
And onward, upward piled the snow,
So far as Jeannie’s could they go.
Urse, Carol, Jean and Anna!
Stayed the evening, spent the night,
The five of them – and all was right.
With Harry center of all eyes.
The four fair maids and Harry rested,
Made helpless by the snow invested.
While the fair maids pampered, preened.
What mortal has the luck of me,
Who hasn’t dreamed this reverie?
The dreamer’s dream was over.
There may be snow upon the ground,
But Harry was in clover.
Then came Monday.
Alas the news: the road is clear!
Elysium fields turn brown and sere.
Serene, we hope, our Harry slumbers,
Chaste not be virtue, but by numbers.
Seminars and such, also in rhyme
Occasionally my dad was away on other (pre-planned) work-related trips. He attended seminars, conferences, and speech-writing expeditions with the Secretary of Defense — you know, the usual. And, what did I recently discover? Right! He documented each event with a poem. However, I’m not sure I found a poem for one particular seminar.
You see, in November 2013, Harry and my husband were watching a TV program commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. “I know that guy,” said Harry, nonchalantly, pointing to the Dallas police chief in the 1963 video. He explained to my husband that shortly after the assassination, the pressure of the investigation got to the chief, so his department sent him to training for a few weeks. Harry and the chief were partnered as roommates. I imagine they had interesting talks!
Here’s an example of a poem from a different seminar:
Executive Seminar Center
Kings Point, NY
Sunday, February 7
So the students came together,
On a grey and rainy day,
Summoned here despite the weather
Some from very far away!
So they hearkened and they listened
To DeVore and Beck (his boss),
Marked their words with eyes that glistened,
Some were at a total loss.
Gathered and recalled past glories,
Met and got acquainted, too,
Swapped some yarns and told some stories
Learned to know just who was who!
Monday, February 8
First, the furnace clanged and pounded,
Through the night, before the dawn,
Then the bugle loudly sounded
Like a banshee on the lawn.
Came two speakers here to see us,
Tried to get their message through,
Coffee breaks were timed to free us,
But we grasped a thought or two.
Toured the campus, hit the club,
Found the bar and did some loops,
Then, confound it, here’s the rub,
Organized five working groups.
Tuesday, February 9
Now we know who runs the Center,
Who administers the works,
Not DeVore or Beck, his mentor,
They are just the working jerks.
Mrs. Lester, first name Mabel,
She heads up the Center staff,
Rose and Pamela, they’re able,
They cut donuts up — in half.
Listened to a rousing lecture,
On the people “in the know”,
Made us think and then conjecture
What would happen if we “go”.
The poem goes on to chronicle each day of the two-week seminar, plus a lengthy goodbye poem that mentions all attendees. Another of his “poetic journals” goes for three weeks! Now I understand yet another reason Harry was dubbed the Pentagon Poet Laureate.