Peter Daniel

Peter Daniel

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“My great great grandfather ran a buggy-making business on West Morgan Street. He had one of the first steam-powered lathes in the state. A fellow at the State Archives found some bills that the buggy company had sent to the State during the Civil War. Apparently, they used the lathes to turn the standards that the Cavalry flags were put on when the Confederate Army was going into war. One of the stories that my grandmother used to tell us was that when Sherman came through, they put all the silver in the bottom of the well. My sister had some of the silver repaired and the silversmith looked at some of the silver and said, ‘It looks like this silver has been in water for a long time…'”

“The house was always there for the family. When great grandmother died in 1929, there was a lot of re-grouping, there had to be some consolidations in living so all the sisters moved back in with one another with the sister who lived at 219 East Peace Street and that was not a large house. Everyone moved in, including my mother, and then they rented the Blount Street house. Those house really became economically unviable.”

“When I was growing up, Judge Winborne lived across the street from us, at 612 North Blount Street. He was deciding a case that the Klan didn’t like the way it was going. I remember dad getting us away from the front of the house because they were burning a cross on the front yard and Judge Winborne kept that cross as a real symbol (of pride) and I believe he’s donated it to the History Museum. That was in the mid-sixties.”

“We all played together. We grew up together. We went to each other’s houses without knocking because they were like aunts and uncles on both sides. My mother grew up with Judge Winborne. It was continuing the long-term family relationships… It was sort of magical. With society today, everybody’s so busy and there’s not connection. You don’t have the roots and the long-term connection. It’s not the same.”

Peter Daniels grew up at 603 North Blount Street, in his great grandparent’s home, the Thomas Yancey Home. The Thomas Yancey house was built in the garden of his great great grandparent’s home, which was built in the 1840s at 119 East Peace Street. Neither house is standing today.

Full Transcript

Peter Daniel (Born and grew up on Blount Street, starting 1946)
Interviewed by Liisa Ogburn on February 11, 2011 in Daniel’s office at the North Carolina Farm Bureau in Raleigh, NC. Daniel contacted Ogburn after reading the News and Observer Op-Ed. 

Liisa: How about to just start off with introducing yourself and where you grew up.

Peter Daniel: I am Peter Daniel. I grew up at 603 North Blount Street, right on the corner of Peace and Blount at my great grandparent’s home. It was the Thomas Yancey home. It was a Queen Ann Victorian. It was a huge house, probably 6000 square feet. It was too big to move. That is one reason it was demolished. Peace College bought it from the family, my parents, in the early 70’s and turned it into a dorm. They used it for a number of years, then it failed in their expansion plans for the campus. That house was built in the garden of my great great grandparent’s home, which was at 119 East Peace St. That house was built in the 1840’s. It was put together with pegs. The family owned all the way back down Blount Street. All the way back to, what the Blount history says, to the railroad tracks. It was out of town, when the first town was built. We had all sorts of stables and different things, down towards the back end of the property. The family was not super wealthy, but they were very well off. 

My great great grandfather ran a buggy making business on West Morgan Street. He had one of the first steam powered in the state. I have silver medallions from the state fair, where they won best buggy in the competition. I really treasure those because I have never seen anyone else have those and they are very rare. We keep them in the lock box. The family fell on hard times during the panic, the bank panic of the 1890’s. My great grandfather, Thomas Yancey, who served in the Civil War, fought at Gettysburg and was captured at Gettysburg and was a prisoner of war. He passed away sometime during the financial panics of the 90’s. He left my great grandmother with five children to raise. She believed in education. The two boys she educated all the way through Wake Forest. The three girls received higher education that was appropriate at the time. One of my great aunts graduated from Peace. The others graduated from St. Mary’s. The way she supported herself was she subdivided and sold off lots of the property, developing North Blount St. on out. 

Liisa: What brought your family to Raleigh in the 1840’s?

Peter Daniel: I am not sure what brought my great great grandfather, Noel Salomon Harp to Raleigh specifically. We are kin to the Harps on Harps Mill Rd., in North Raleigh. We are kin to the Rolls, William Rolls, that Rolls Wood is named for. The Yancey’s came from Gramble County and Caswell County. I have not been able to find out where Mr. Harp came from. I would think business brought him here. He was a business man. He founded a very prosperous buggy making business. I think economic opportunity brought him to Raleigh initially. 

Liisa: Did you know your great grandmother?
Peter Daniel: No, I did not. She died in 1929. My family tends to have children later in life. I am 57; my father was 45 when I was born. We were almost getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday if he were alive. My grandmother was born in 1889. My grandfather on the Raleigh side was born in 1889. I had a few years with my grandfather. He died in 1959. My grandmother passed away in 1957. I grew up in the Blount Street house and when my grandparents retired, they moved back in with us. It was that big a house. We were just one big family and the house was so big, if you didn’t want to be around someone you didn’t have to be. It was a unique upbringing.

Liisa: So your grandmother, did she live with another family besides her own in that house? You said she lived in that house. She had four siblings, but she stayed in that house.

Peter Daniel: The Great Depression impacted a lot of families. The boys moved on, they got careers and moved on. The girls, one sister moved to 219 East Peace St with her husband. He ran a very successful insurance business in Raleigh. The Great American Insurance Company. We had one aunt who never married. She worked for the city and was the city clerk of the city of Raleigh. This was a high position for a female at the time. The house was always there for the family. When great grandmother died in 1929, there was a lot of regrouping that went on. My grandfather ran a book store and gift shop downtown, that failed. There had to be some consolidations that took place in living. All the sisters moved back in together, with the sister that lived at 219 East Peace St and that was no large house. Everybody just moved in, including my mother. They rented the Blount St. house. 

Before they did all of the consolidation the family after that bank scare, a lot of people would come up from the train station looking for food and they would feed people out the back door. The back of the house, the drive way was on Peace St. They had cooks; the family had cooks, and kept them through the depression. They would feed people out the backdoor.

Liisa: Tell me some of the stories you remember hearing happened on Blount St. 

Peter Daniel: There was a Senator Bailey, when he was running for governor. They were living at 513 North Blount. One of the stories that I remember him telling me, he ran on the anti-clan ticket. It was basically just the Democratic party back then in North Carolina. Senator Bailey was anti-clan. He was editor of the Biblical Recorder. He was very prominent in the southern Baptist church. The clan [KKK] figured out that he could almost win the nomination, so there was a clan rally right on Blount St, right in front of their house, in the robes, with torches, and everything to try and intimidate him and the family. It didn’t turn violent. Blount St has had a history of rally’s and different things. 

When I was growing up Judge Windborne lived across the street from us at 612 North Blount Street, he was deciding a case. The clan didn’t like the way it was going. I remember dad getting us away from the front of the house, because the clan was burning a cross in their front yard. Judge Windborne kept that cross as a symbol and I believe he donated it to the Museum of History. It was a symbol of pride to he and the family. He stood up to the clan in his official position as judge.

Liisa: About what year was that?

Peter Daniel: That was in the 60’s, mid 60’s. 

Liisa: And the story right before that?

Peter Daniel: The twenties, the early 1920’s.
Liisa: Around the Depression things failed, a lot of people left Blount St., is that right?

Peter Daniel: We had an eclectic mixture of people when I was growing up. There were very highly educated. There were people of great resources and means and influence, elected officials lived there. Paul Smith was the retired city solicitor, the attorney. Right next door, was a chief district court judge, Judge Windborne. We had some of those monstrous sized houses that were divided into apartments. The widows who ran financially on hard times, rented rooms out. They used the property for income purposes. That began the decline of the neighborhood. Some other things also happened in Oakwood. Social security was just coming on line for that generation that lost everything in the Great Depression. They were in an age that they couldn’t recover financially. It is similar to somebody in their 50’s or 60’s today who has lost their jobs. Where do they go, what do they do? They lived there until they died. It created a real eclectic neighborhood. We had chauffeurs with Lincoln town cars, next to houses that rented rooms to state employees that worked up the street. There was a great expansion of state government and there were not a lot of apartments in Raleigh, so they rented rooms. 

Liisa: What are stories that your mother had, as far as growing up there?

Peter Daniel: A proper lady never left the house without her hat and gloves. That was my mother. One of the family stories, growing up, was my mother had cooks and maids. They had someone who would fire the furnace; all the houses had coal furnaces. You had a man that would come by twice a day and put coal in it and fire it up. I have recipes that the cooks handed down. My grandmother had one for beaten biscuits. You started beating the biscuits when the trolley went by and when it turned around and came back, that was how long you beat the biscuits. The Lacy house, which was torn down, in the early 60’s, it was at the corner of Peace and Blount, on the northwest corner. They had floor to ceiling windows at the front porch. The type that you could open up and just walk in and out. They had a lot of parties there. My mother would go. They had a lot of kids that she grew up with. They would roller skate in the attic. That was one of the things she would talk about. There were a lot of kids growing up and everybody’s mother was your mother and everybody looked after everybody.
Liisa: What happened to the horse and buggy business? 

Peter Daniel: We are not sure. My sister and I are not sure. My great grandfather passed away. I assume they liquidated the business and sold the property. I have seen some of the property records. We don’t have many records of it. I have an ad in the city directory that they had. There were some bills that the buggy company sent the state in the Civil War for the steam powered wood lays to turn the standards that the Calvary flags were put on when the confederate army was going to war. They paid my great great grandfather for those. It has the signature on the bill and everything. It is cool stuff. The buggy business in the 1890’s was probably on the downward spiral with the advent of the car. 

Liisa: I interviewed Jim Stronach, and he said his grandfather William Stronach was offered the Ford franchise. It as the beginning of the century and he said it was just temporarily.  Any memories from the Civil War.

Peter Daniels: The things they talked about, we were members of Christ church and the joke was, the only rooster left in town was the rooster on the steeple at the Christ church. I want to portray the right touch here. I don’t want to misrepresent, you have to put the south in context. Our parents and grandparents instilled in us a great respect for people of color. They were always treated with respect, but there were still strong feelings about the Civil War. I think because my great grandfather was in prison at Point Lookout in Maryland. If you have read about it, you know that all sorts of atrocities went on there, to have survived that was a major miracle. Mother said that she didn’t know her grandfather, that he never talked much about it, he just wanted to put it out of his mind and move forward. There wasn’t a lot of talk about the war. 

I have his New Testament that he carried in the war, that he wrote in. The feelings, there was a great pride in the south. The battle hymn of the republic was, I hate this song, it brought a lot of raw hard feelings during reconstruction. Apparently my family didn’t have too much trouble recovering from the Civil war financially. They did quite well. Building that house was an undertaking financially. They did well until the bank panic. It was always honoring those that died for the southern cause. My grandmother was a member of the DAR, the Daughters of the American Revolution and UDC, is United Daughters of the Confederacy, and both of those groups are still active today. She was very much involved with those, in honoring the past in the southern, southern tradition, which could be very criticized today. 

You have to understand it was all balled up into southern pride and North Carolina. I would not say it was intentially racist; we were not a racist family. Senator Bailey’s widow, on the front of 430 North Blount St, [put out] the Stars and bars everyday. That is what she did. Joseph her chauffeur would go out every morning and put the flag up and then take it in every evening. It was a different time. It wasn’t a racist stand.

Liisa: What about your childhood memories growing up in this enormous house with multiple generations. Were there things in the house that you remember fondly, details?

Peter Daniel: We still have all that stuff. I have trunks in the attic of ancestors and their pictures, and we don’t know who they are. We had hair. In Victorian times, they would clip hair when they were born and from the first hair cut, and when they died. We have all that. What does one do with hair from the 1800’s, except keep it for someone else to figure out? 

I have a grandfather clock that my grandmother gave me. It is a jeweler’s clock. Grandmother’s father’s sister married a Swiss immigrant, Mr. Fausnack. He ran a jewelry store on the 100 block of Fayetteville Street. There was a jewelry store there.  Edward Fausnack. It was an extremely expensive clock. It kept almost perfect time. It had a mercury pendulum in it and the mercury would expand and extract on the temp. It would counter balance how the metal in the pendulum. The reason that jewelers have that, they didn’t have time clocks outside. People would come in to the shop, knowing it was accurate and set their pocket watches to it. It created traffic in the shop. It gave opportunity for a sale. The tragedy of the clock -- it wasn’t maintained once they moved it to the Blount St House. The pendulum broke and fell during WWI, the glass holding the mercury broke and it went everywhere. We have had in restored, not with mercury. The gentleman that restored it said he saw little mercury beads. It is a beautiful clock. We have a lot of furniture still from the 1840’s that was my great great grandfather’s. 

One of the stories my grandmother used to tell was when Sherman came through Raleigh they put all the silver in the bottom of the well. My sister had some of the silver repaired and the silversmith looked at it and said it looks like it had been in water a long time. We have been able to identify some of the pieces that was in the well in the Civil War.

Liisa: Any other stories from when Sherman came through Raleigh?

Peter Daniel: It just wasn’t talked about a lot. It was a horrible time. He was burning the cities. He did not burn Raleigh because of the truce. I am fuzzy on the history. The truce happened when they were camped at Dorothy Dix hospital property and Raleigh was spared the fate of many other cities. I am sure it was an extremely fearful time. 

Liisa: What was it like during your childhood?

Peter Daniels: We were allowed to play in a three or four block area. We had the housing project down the street. Pilot Mills, it was public housing. We were not allowed to go down there. I always wondered why Pilot Mill was placed down there, when you had a US Senator up the street. He clashed with Roosevelt; he thwarted a lot of Roosevelt’s plans in the US Senate. Senator Bailey died in 1946. I am not sure when Halifax Public housing was built, but it was not too long after that. The planning had to start under Roosevelt. I would love to research it to see if they were putting it there to spite Senator Bailey. We were allowed to play in a four block area. The Windbourne’s had four children and my sister and I, we all went to school together. We ran as a pack. We had a grand time. We would play Army back through the backyards of the big old houses. We would play football on Pace St, down next tot he Haywood house. We would run through the yards and climb over fences. The Smith house, which was between 612 and the corner house of Peace and Blount. There is a brick wall, a real nice brick wall. It is a barrier between the front yard and the back yard. Hughes and I were playing army and Hughes jumped on the wall to climb it, and it crashed it. (Laughs) 

One of the unique things that no one will be able to do now is all of these houses were fired by coal furnaces. Hughes and I decided we were going to slide down the coal chutes in all these old houses. You could just lift the coal door and get in the house. No one locked anything. We left keys in the car, in the driveway or the street. That was Raleigh in the early 60’s and late 50’s. Hughes and I were visiting all the houses and sliding down the chutes. It was fall and everyone had just put in new coal. I had a brand new camel’s hair coat that got ruined. The way we got caught, Mrs. Haywood’s chauffeur saw us and he told Mrs. Haywood and she called our parents. 

We had skateboards. We would ride down the sidewalks, down Blount Street hill, in front of the house. I had what was known as a flexi, a flexible flyer. This was a sled with wheels. They had wheel bearings. It went really fast. My dad taught me how to roll off of it, if it got away from me. Hughes and I were riding down to Mr. Arnold’s house. It is no longer there. Peace College bought it and tore it down. It was between the Haywood house and the Windborne house on the 600 block of North Blount St. It was a hill with a driveway. We could turn right and head on down the hill. It was a grand time. We didn’t quite make the turn and the flexi went into the street and this poor woman ran over it. We had rolled off. She thought she had killed us. She was shook up. We had the flexi taken away for awhile. There were always kids playing along the busy street. We were always cautioned about streets and crossing the streets. When I was able to cross the streets, the place to go after school was the Person Street pharmacy. It is in a different location today than it was then. We had a shortcut through the block. You could wiggle through garages and there was a hole in the fence. We could jump through and go in other people’s backyards, then come out at Person Street. Person Street was just wonderful. There was a button you could push and it would change the light so you could cross. I guess they put that in for the Peace College girls, so they could go to the pharmacy more safely. I was so short and the marble counter at the pharmacy was so tall. I could take my nickel, and I would have to bang it on the counter for the lady to pay attention to me to get my cherry smash. They still have them. I got one not too long ago. 

Liisa: What is a cherry smash?

Peter Daniels: It has cherries in it and a little carbonation. It is sweet.

Liisa: What school did you go to?

Peter Daniels: I went to kindergarten at Ravenscroft, which was down on Tucker Street. I went to first grade at Murphy’s School and it did not go well. The school was in decline and I didn’t learn anything. They put me back in Ravenscroft. Ravenscroft went through sixth grade in my time. I then went to Daniels and then I was in the first class when the federal judges ordered Raleigh to to integrate. It was horrible. Because I was on North Blount Street. The governor’s children were going to Enlo. We were caught up in that. Twenty-five years after integration, they interviewed my old science teacher. He said there was no preparations done whatsoever to help the administrators to merge the schools together. It was a very difficult time. We don’t even have high school reunions for our class. We are trying to put one together now, but it was a tense and difficult time.

Liisa: You mentioned when you were growing up a lot of the Blount Street houses had already been subdivided. 

Peter Daniels: The Windborne’s, they had very southern names. Pretlo, Hughes, Fern, and May Perry, my sister Ann as I. We weren’t the same ages, but we all played together and grew up together. We went to each other’s houses without knocking, because they were like aunts and uncles on both sides. My mother grew up with Judge Windborne; it was just continuing the long-term family relationships. The Baileys were the same way. They didn’t have children our age, but they were like our parent’s friends, and they were like brothers and sisters. We’d go in each other’s back doors and say, “We are here. What’s in the refrigerator?” It was magical. With society today where everyone is so busy, there isn’t a connection. It isn’t the same now. That feeling of community growing up was really cool.

Liisa: Tell me a little bit more about that.

Peter Daniels: Everybody knew everybody. Mrs. Mattie Higgs, who lived up Blount Street, in one of those big houses that she had subdivided into apartments, so she could support herself. She would come down to visit grandmother and she was a very distinguished older lady with her walking cane. She had a strong personality. We were walking back to her house and I witnessed this. Crossing North Blount Street, crossing Peace Street, going back to her house a fellow in a car stopped, he didn’t stop soon enough and he got into the crosswalk, as she crossed she took her cane and hit his car and informed him to back up. They were large and in charge. (Laughs) I remember in first grade, walking back home from Murphy School, there was one of the Bailey’s, she was my parent’s age and she grew up with my mother. Edith Hollin would stand on her front porch and she had cookies for me, I would stop in and eat cookies and then go home. There was grandmother Windborne. There was Stanley Windborne, who lived in the 500 block down towards Peace Street. Her son, Judge Windborne, lived the block below. The Windbornes, the Daniels, the Baileys, the Hollins, we were all there together. The Tuckers were so much older than us. The Windbornes, the Smiths, the Herrings, the Lacys, the Francis Lacy School, just lots of influence, lots of impact on Raleigh. 

Liisa: Have you kept in touch with those families?
Peter Daniels: Yes, we are scattered all over the place, but we are still close to the Windbornes. Hughes lives in Los Angeles; he won an Oscar for Crash. He edits films. He edited the movie, “The Help,” from what I have seen they have captured the period. My sister has seen it. I want to see it. The Baileys, all the grandchildren would come to Senator Bailey’s widow’s home for the summer and we would play with them. We have kept in touch. One lives outside of Baltimore and the other Bailey cousins live in Atlanta. 
Liisa: Just to be clear, when you were growing up in your house, there was your family, then at some point your grandmother moved back in, your aunts? Did you have one aunt living here?

Peter Daniels: No, that was during the Great Depression. That was before us. We burned twenty tons of coal a year just to heat it. Those houses really became economically unviable. Back in the early 70’s, it cost over 10,000 dollars just to paint it. That was a lot of money back then. It is still a lot to me today. You take a ton a coal a day. That’s 600 dollars. That is a huge heating bill. 

Liisa: Do you remember when your mother decided to sell the house?

Peter Daniels: It was difficult for her. It was the house she was born in, the house she was raised in. The auction that took place on the property, I didn’t hang around for that. I guess looking back, it was tough. I guess I found excuses to do something else.

Liisa: At what point did the state start to bulldoze? 

Peter Daniels: There is a whole story around that. There was a movement to expand state government down that direction. They had designed that area to put a moat around the governor’s mansion. That got the blue hairs up in arms. Senator Bailey’s wife, Edith Bailey, when they described the neighborhood as “a high poverty area,” she had this big rally at her house, which was a mansion. I have an audio tape of that, which I have never played. It was from 1962 or 1961. They were up in arms. They invited the newspapers there. She had a sign made and put on her mansion that said poverty place. I still have the sign. When she died, the family gave it to my grandmother and it hung on our house. It really stirred some people up. It was around 1962; she died in 1964, so it was in that area. I think our house being bulldozed, started the movement to preserve a lot of those houses. 

Liisa: What year was that?

Peter Daniels: Late 70’s. I have the pictures that ran in the News and Observer. I have pictures of the house and somewhere I have a picture of the trolley going by. We have pictures of how the front porch was used. It had a pavilion on the corner and the porches ran both sides of the house. There were screens out there and tables at the pavilion. They used it. The houses original design was to heat by fireplace and every room had a fireplace in it. The steam heat was really fun. That was my alarm in the morning, because they would fire the furnace up and the pipes would start banging.

Liisa: Any other memories that come to mind?

Peter Daniels: The widow ladies. I was a strong boy. Mrs. Windborne, she would pay be a quarter to come up and mow her grass. It probably took that much gas to mow it. She made the best fudge; the family still has the recipe. In fact Side Street restaurant probably uses it. She always had fudge in a dish in her parlor. I would go and clean it out after I cut the grass. She always had some sort of job for me to do. That house had 14 foot ceilings in it and the wallpaper in her dining room, one of the corners had come unglued and she was just going to die if it didn’t get glued back. I am teetering on top of a ladder trying to glue her wallpaper back. She would sit on her porch when I would walk by to call me in. She was a very interesting lady. She grew up in China, and her father was a US ambassador in China. A very close advisor to Sun Ya Sin. We were always talking politics. Grandmother Windborne was a Journegin; there is a plaque down town where the Raleigh house was to her father, Mr. Journegin, ambassador to China. 

Senator Bailey’s wife decided I needed calling cards since all these ladies were using me to do stuff. She gave me a box of business cards. I was 8 years old with a box of business cards. She put me on a dandelion hunt one day. She was going to make dandelion [lemonade?], so she needed a lot of flowers, and she paid me to pick them. I was always a little entrepreneur. I stole from the Herrings -- they had flowers in their backyard. I didn’t think it was stealing; I went and cut some flowers. I went around the corner to the gas station and sold them to a lady getting gas. I made money. My sister blackmailed me about that for years. I remember sitting on the porch swing in the pavilion swimming and I just looked at her and said you go ahead and tell her. That put an end to it. 

I remember Peace College. I would go ride my bike. It was a great place to go ride with all the brick walks and parking lots. I remember climbing the magnolia trees on the front lawn and watching the girls on May Day, in their long dresses do the may pole dance. They don’t do that anymore. That was a big deal back then. 

Liisa: Did you play down in the cemetery?

Peter Daniels: We always had to go to the cemetery to put flowers out on the graves and clean the monuments.  I learned to drive in Oakwood cemetery. I was a 12, 13, or 14-year-old boy wanting to drive. They figured I couldn’t hurt anyone at the cemetery. I am sure the cemetery people didn’t appreciate it. I learned where all the important grave sites were and who is where. We have a lot of grave sites over there. 

Liisa: Do you have kids?

Peter Daniels: I have two kids. I have a 22-year old daughter, who is a senior at NC State. She is a ballerina. She has danced at Duke. I have a son that is 17, who is at Broughton High school and plays ice hockey and swims.

Liisa: Any reflections on how you grew up and how they are growing up?

Peter Daniels: We were allowed to run with the pack as long as we stayed in our four block area. There wasn’t a lot of scheduled activities growing up. Kids just created fun. You came home when it was dark. Later on I had the run of the city on my bike. Today, we organize everything. We make sure we know where the kids are, who is with them. It is a different world today. I have noticed my children don’t have much margin in their lives. If there is an empty period, they are trying to fill it up with something. We didn’t do that. We just did whatever the flow was. We would catch fire flies in a jar and we would build a camp. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Liisa: Anything else?

Peter Daniels: I am sure there is tons more, but nothing is really coming to mind. It was a magical time. Murphy’s school, what was in the auditorium, which is now the Burning Coal Theatre. They gutted the inside. It isn’t like it was when I was growing up. The polling places, where everybody voted. Mother was either one of the judges or the registrar of the precinct. There were not registered republicans in the precinct. A democrat had to be the republican judge. I would always go out there after school and play while everyone was voting. The voting booth was in the lobby. You would go up the white steps and into the lobby. The voting machine, there was one. It was right in the middle of the room, and next to it was the ladder you would climb to go up into the sound box, where the spotlights would go on stage. That was a great hangout for a kid. I would go up there and peer over and watch people vote. It was supposed to be private and I was watching. I thought it was cool. We were very much involved in the politics of the day. At dinner we would discuss what was going on, and someone usually had a very strong opinion about something. It set the tone for my comfort with dealing with public policy and the political arena today.