Somehow we got on the subject of Dick’s army years. He joined when he was 17, and at the age of 18 he was stationed in Japan, during the Allied occupation. General Douglas MacArthur was the Supreme Commander during this remarkable period of recovery and transition for the defeated nation. He established his General Headquarters in the Dai Ichi Insurance Building in central Tokyo whose higher floors overlooked the Imperial Palace, and he traveled along a broad boulevard in a black 1941 Cadillac limousine flanked by military police motorcycles. Dick was there.
“When MacArthur came out of his headquarters, all of Tokyo stood still,” Dick told us. “He was really a big deal. He had five stars on each shoulder and he had kind of a crushed hat and a corn cob pipe and he’d come out of his headquarters in the afternoon and everything in Tokyo would stop…”
At this point, Dick got distracted. It’s a busy coffee shop, after all, and he knows a lot of people. “Hey, there’s Bob, my good friend!” said Dick.
“Are you bothering these young, good-looking women?” said Bob. “Well, ladies, I can repeat that story as well as he can. Probably better, I’ve heard it so many times. Dick forgot to mention that MacArthur was wearing dark glasses.”
“Anyway, as I was saying, when MacArthur came out of his headquarters and got in his car, his guards on either side of the car saluted him very formally, and everything in Tokyo stopped in the middle of the day. The lights all turned red, all the traffic stopped, all the people were stopped on the sidewalk. Then his car takes off and heads toward the Imperial Palace.”
“Yeah, I’ve told this story a few times,” Dick admitted. “But on this day I was the only person standing there on the road near the Imperial Palace. I was the only person there! And I was standing dead still. And I’m thinking that there’s a five-star general coming, and his car came down the street, and he was alone in the car, and I was alone on the sidewalk, and I saluted him. I figured it was the thing to do. And he took his pipe out of his mouth and he returned my salute. So I made General MacArthur salute me. And I made him take his pipe out of his mouth. I was 18.”
“May I take your picture?” I asked Dick. I was already thinking that this was a blog post.
“Yeah, go ahead. You can be like those newspaper photographers who always take two in case the first one comes out good.”
Dick knows about this because he ran for City Council back in the 1960s. One of the newspapers printed a photo of him with a shadow under his nose that made him look just like Hitler. He was advised to go around the neighborhood, knock on doors, introduce himself, win some hearts. It was not a practice he relished. He knocked at one door, waited a while, and there was no answer. He figured he’d leave, almost relieved.
“You gotta do these things,” his friend had advised.
“So I stayed there,” said Dick, “and I kept knocking and finally this old guy came and opened the door and said, ‘Oh, you’re the guy that’s running against my son!’ God, I wanted to go home immediately. Can you imagine?”
“Did you win?” Cornelia wondered.
“I did. I won. But it wasn’t because of successful campaigning.”
“May I take that one more picture?” I asked.
“Go ahead,” said Dick.
Afterwards, I had a hard time choosing which to use. They both looked good to me.