The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue

Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the movie The Angel of Pennsylvania Avenue is on television. Commercial stations rips the film with commercials. I cannot find the movie anywhere but keep looking. During the depression in 1930, an unemployed auto worker in Detroit, father of three, left for job in Kansas City based on leaflets the company circulated. As you might expect, there were many fewer jobs than advertised. A riot breaks out resulting in severe assaults to company personnel and I believe one death. The man was not involved in the violence in any way. Nevertheless, the local police arrested him.

When this news reaches Detroit, the three children-ages 11, 9 and 7-in the middle of the night leave for Washington to ask President Hoover for their father’s release. They take all the food they can carry but have to beg for more along the way. The children take buses and trains saying their parents are already on board. Many vagrants and railroad workers help them into boxcars; they hitchhike; beg for food; sing for money; walk a few miles and arrive at White House.

A couple of street people, very touched, boost the three kids over the gates. Entering from a side door they cause quite a commotion. A White House aid orders them out but President Hoover hears the noise and comes out of his office. The oldest calmly explains the situation to the President. Hoover, totally dumfounded, orders his Chief of Staff to tell the Attorney General to get the man out of jail and home. The Chief of Staff speaks of the man’s possible guilt. In mild anger, the President says that no man who raises three loyal children like these could commit such a crime. Hoover telephoned their mother, she comes to Washington quite frantic, and they spend a few days at the White House. This story actually happened in the summer and the man’s release was quicker than the film suggests. Otherwise, it is true.

Regardless of where the Hoovers were-their residence in Palo Alto, the many places they lived around the world on engineering or mining projects, their house on S Street while Secretary of Commerce, or the White House, they were gracious but informal entertainers. Though he had difficulty expressing deep personal feelings, President Hoover was a master of both small talk and serious conversation. He took pride in meeting a wide variety of people and the more divergent the better. One person stated that while some people do not like Hoover, the man has no ex-friends.

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