Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween 1976

My own kids and the monster outside the door

It's become a family tradition. Filling up bags of leaves and dressing them in clothes. Topping it all off with a horrible mask. Then posting the monster in just the right place to make passers by look twice.

We've posted ours by the door.

Dad posted his on the fire escape ladder of our Guilford Connecticut saltbox. It would cling there between the 2nd and 3rd floor for several weeks not far enough from Lansing's window.
Clearly Dad was more interested in this kind of mischievousness than carving pumpkins as he stated in a letter to Lansing in 1976:

I had to go draw a face on Amanda's pumpkin. Then I had to clean out Amanda's pumpkin. Then I had to carve the face on Amanda's pumpkin. How come it's AMANDA's pumpkin and not MINE I'd like to know?

Then, of course, Saint wanted me to carve his. I told him he was goddam well old enough to carve his own pumpkin and the only way a father gets practice enough to carve a 6-year old daughter's pumpkin is by spending 40 goddam years carving them!

<---Saint at about 12
and old enough to carve his own goddam pumpkins

Amanda at about 6 years old (ABOVE)

I think Dad tried to make things sound just a bit less rosy than they were. He didn't want Lansing, who was living with our mother, to feel like she was missing out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind 1995

For five days in June of 1992, on the campus of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a "mixed and motley crew" of scientists and skeptics, UFOlogists and psychologists met to discuss UFOs and alien abductions.
The New Yorker sent Dad to write a tongue-in-cheek piece about the conference.
There was only one problem.
Dad found the people he met, even those who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, to be credible. If they weren't abducted, then something sure as hell had happened to them. And whatever the answer is, it's pretty scary stuff.
So what happened? It's all part of one of the most fascinating mysteries of our time and it led to his 1995 book Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind.

As part of a cross country promotional tour for the book, Dad stopped by Tom Snyder's talk show.
It's a great interview topped, in my opinion, by this exchange about five minutes in:

Snyder: Wouldn't you think (an encounter a sighting or an abduction) might have happened to one of the thousands of people who have served in Congress?...
Like if John Major went to Parliament and says "By the way I got picked up by a UFO last night." Now we'd say " We can trust him!".

CDB: What makes you think this hasn't happened to these people? Would you, if you were John Major and had been abducted, would you come forward?

Dad never did come up with an answer beyond "something must be going on " but my grandfather had no doubts. As an advisor to NATO , special assistant to Secretary of the Air Force and board member of The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon (NICAP), Colonel J Bryan lll said "These UFOs are interplanetary devices systematically observing earth, either manned or under remote control, or both."

Dad interviewed in San Francisco

Outside Guilford's "UFO House"

"Interviewing" a small grey

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Eulogy for Dad February 6, 2010

And so he is gone. Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan.

He wore bow ties, custom shirts, a handkerchief sprouting up from the breast pocket of his tweed jacket. In another time he'd be called a dandy! Fitting because he was his father's son...a man known in some circles as The Duke of Richmond.

At my grandfather's service, Dad gave the eulogy. It wasn't all praise. He called Grandpa Joe "a difficult demanding man ...utterly true to himself and his code of honor".

When, as a teenager, I failed to write a thank you letter to my grandfather within two weeks of receiving a Christmas present, J Bryan 3 wrote Dad a snarler: "You can assure (Saint) from your own experience that I have a very short fuse in the presence of bad behavior, and that the fall-out from the explosion can be lethal".

My dad could snarl as well. Genetics and upbringing are such powerful forces! On those long rides back from boarding school, it seemed as though 14 generations of disappointed Bryans joined us in the car.

"You are just too goddam easy on yourself, buckle too quickly under the slightest pressure. My God, Saint it's tough being a man on this planet and you've got to toughen yourself cannot continue to float".

Every drive was the same. I'd wind up with tears streaming down my cheeks. ..and Dad would always conclude these lectures with "My God, I sound just like my father". That was my cue that the lecture was ending.

There were many lectures growing up. "Anticipate the Consequences" was the one we probably heard the most. It is a sad irony that shortly after he realized how much he sounded like his own father, he would light up a cigarette.

My sisters and I like to remember the soundtracks to our childhood. The Beatles Rubber Soul. Harry Nilsson's The Point. Paul Simon and Carly Simon. Songs in the Key of Life.

But there's another soundtrack: the tap-tap-tapping of Dad's typewriter. We're lucky. When we want to visit with Dad we have his words in Friendly Fire, P.S. Wilkinson, The National Geographic Society book and the Air and Space Museum book. We can find them in articles he wrote for Esquire, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review. I can even hear his voice for three hours on tape reading his alien abduction book, Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind.

In his work, Dad sought out the truth. Even in his fiction, he was trying to understand and explain himself and his relationships. Beautiful Women, Ugly Scenes. Despite those scenes, all of his ex-wives were his friends.

And in Mairi he found a soul mate. If love could have saved him, Mairi, he would not have died.

Dad's first battle with cancer was nearly 15 years ago. And it scared the hell out of him. He was moved to tears by everyone's concern.

His writing life soon came to an end.

He was always a gentleman but he became a much more gentle man.

His kids and grandchildren basked in his full of affection...such a true smile even with false teeth.

Dad became "the dear old man".
And when I finally got married he was my best man.

He was also his toughest critic as a father.
I said he was fine.

The Bryan males are notoriously slow to mature I'd tell him. We all need a swift kick in the pants now and then.

My own son is refusing to turn 5. He says 4 is his favorite number. 5 is the age of big boys who go to Kindergarten. He likes being a medium sized boy.

I can imagine the lectures I'll be giving over the coming years.

Dad loved Guilford,
this church,
movies where things got blown up
or famous beauties disrobed,
pets he named Magoo, Thud, Wretched and of course Odette.
Coffee at first at Hull's and then Cilantro,
watching football with friends,
dinner at The Stone House and The Place,
a good pulp-y thriller,
well-mannered grandchildren in 15 minute increments,
being called a distinguished author,
and of course a vodka martini.
I do believe he's up there right now hunting through God's freezer...and because he's in heaven I'm sure it's packed with Grey Goose.

And he loved you. His family, his friends, his neighbors, his fellow First Congregationalists. He'd be so pleased to see such a fuss!

Until his first bout with cancer-- he wasn't so sure there would be a fuss. And then he felt this wave of affection from so many of you. He wrote an essay for the Yale Class of 58's 40th Reunion. He called it In Praise of Cancer and I want to finish up by reading the last few lines.

My praise for cancer lies in the gift it gave me: the gift of knowing I was loved.

To be loved meant I was forgiven for having done all those things I ought not to have done--and we don't get to be our age without having done plenty of those.

My cancer is not cured. It is , as they say, in remission.

I can live with that.

But I would have hated to die without ever knowing that somewhere, by someone, I would be missed.

Look around Dad. You are missed!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anticipation 1972

In a letter to Peter and Mimi Neill November 14, 1972

Months and month ago you gave Sam and me a Carly Simon album called Anticipation. For some reason I have been playing it over and over again these past two weeks and even went so far as to get the tape for the truck, It absolutely fills me with pleasure.

Carly Simon. Paul Simon. The Beatles. Harry Nilsson's The Point. Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life. They contributed to the soundtrack of our childhood just as much as the tap tap tapping of Dad's typewriter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Correspondence with Carol Burnett February 9,1979

On the night of my Dad's 43rd birthday an estimated 64 million people tuned in to ABC to see the movie "Friendly Fire". Almost every other TV set in the nation was tuned to FF. The movie would go on to win four Emmys (including Outstanding Drama) and a Peabody Award. There were plenty of people wondering whether TV's favorite comedienne could play Peg Mullen, an Iowa mother trying to find out how her son died in Vietnam, but Carol Burnett impressed critics and was nominated for an Emmy.It seems her favorite review came from the man who spent six years writing Friendly Fire.
Here are two letters dated February of 1979.
The first from Dad. The second from Carol Burnett.

Dear Miss Burnett:

Last Friday Brandon Stoddard screened "Friendly Fire" for me at ABC in New York. It's been a week now and I'm still at a loss of how adequately to express my gratitude and appreciation to you for your superb portrayal of Peg Mullen. You did things on that screen with your eyes, the set of your jaw, with your posture, your sudden stillness and very absence of action that duplicated exactly all those same warning signs I would see in Peg the instant before she would say or do something that would me swallow hard of want to duck and reach for a yellow pad.

As you can imagine I found "Friendly Fire" at time almost unbearably difficult to watch. In the scene near the end where Sam Waterston says my "Look, I don't know if this is the proper time or not " line about telling the Mullens all I had learned about how Michael had died, the look you gave Sam was the look I got.

The inevitable death of that sweet-faced you actor who plays Michael is going to devastate the television audience. Now, thanks to you, all of Peg's rage and anguish and frustration will become understood. I hope you won't think it presumptuous of me to say you should be very proud of yourself--certainly you have made me very proud of me.

Dear Courty
I can honestly say I've never been more thrilled by any letter I've ever received.

I knew Brandon was going to show you the film and I was pretty nervous. I experienced the Mullens' story for a brief period--you lived it a lifetime.

I'm so proud to be a part of this remarkable film. I was overwhelmed by your book. The love and backbreaking work you undertook were astonishing to me.
My God what you all went through to get at the truth, all of us would do well to have a friend such as you.

I'm be back in California when "Friendly Fire" airs. It's so special to me that I want to be home and watch it with my family.

With love,

P.S. I'm framing your letter

Carol Burnett and my father finally met the Wednesday before Friendly Fire aired.
Dad writes:

She was marvelous and funny and relaxed an quite lovely and she ...rushed up to me, threw her around me gave me a huge kiss and I was a bit shy, a bit dazzled, a bit pleased. We all went together to the bar of the Watergate Hotel and drank and yakked and laughed and got very serious for several hours.

I plan on writing more about the writing of "Friendly Fire" which seemed to take up the better part of our childhoods. Dad agonized over this book which was, of course, about more than Peg Mullen and the incident that killed her son. It was about the soldiers who fought beside Michael Mullen. It was about a colonel named Norman Schwarzkopf. It was about our country and its ideals. I'd also like to revisit the making of the movie some time and include the role one of Dad's very best friends, Brandon Stoddard, had in producing the film.

As sad as the subject matter may be, for my sister and me, the film offers one bit of fun trivia. There's a scene where Waterston pulls up to his house in Connecticut and two children run out to meet his Volkswagen bus. Those children were playing us.

A two minute preview of Friendly Fire can be seen here

You can also see a clip at 3:23-4:01 in this "TV Annual 1978-79" special.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Little Orphan Coyote

Lansing Becket Bryan

Box 2

My sister Lansing was 8 and a half years old when she began writing poetry and short stories for school. Dad was impressed enough with her work that he shared them with friends.
I want to take this moment to share with Lansing and my readers the pride Dad felt about her creativity:

From two letters to Peter Neill

January 11, 1973

The children are due home from school in any minute. Lansing wrote the most beautiful poem yesterday Not just paternal pride, either. It was quite dazzling complete with repeated last line.

February 28, 1973

I will close with a short story written by Lansing. The only help I gave her was making sure when she wrote "he" we knew who "he" was:

The Little Orphan Coyote

Once there was a beautiful, beautiful mountain and there was a coyote. He was a month old and his mother had died at 23 and his father at 28. One day the sun came out and the mountain looked just beautiful when the sun came out. So the orphan coyote went out hunting some mice. He was too young to hunt deer and big things. After he hunted down the mice he ate them and he went and took exercise with his friend. And then he asked his friend if he could live with him, And his friend said he would have to check with his mother and father. So he did. And his mother and father said No. But at night his friend packed his suitcase, his toothpaste and all the things he needed and went to live with his little orphan coyote friend. And they were never lonely again.

I never did find that poem, but you can see what I mean about her ability to write. It's very exciting."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Something's Gone Wrong" January 28,1986

Box 4

On the January morning in 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke up just 73 seconds into its flight, I was living in New Orleans, trying to figure out what to do with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University. Dad and my 13 year old stepbrother, Derek, were in Florida watching as special guests at the Johnson Space Center.
Dad described what happened in an article for The New York Times Magazine called "A Lesson in Tragedy":

Ribbons of white smoke like party streamers fell slowly-quite beautifully, really, toward the ocean. Despite the calm voice of launch control we sensed something unsettling had happened, but we didn't know what. A woman in front of Derek suddenly began saying "Oh, no! Oh, no!"
"What's happening?" Derek asked me.
"I don't know, " I said. "Something's gone wrong."
He looked at me, wanting to look back at the sky, but wanting to see my expression when I answered...We were looking at the hole in the sky where Challenger should have been...

Derek standing by a Saturn 5 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center

I left Derek for a moment to retrieve my tape recorder, which I had placed on the ground near one of the speakers. As I hurried back to him I knew that, just as I would never forget the horned, demonic twin reaches of smoke in the sky, I would not forget the image of this boy for whom I care so deeply gallantly standing there waiting for me with his shoulders hunched up to ward off the terrible, deepening chill.

Col. Ellison Onizuka

Dad and Derek were special guests of astronaut Ellison Onizuka. Seven years earlier, after a radio show in San Francisco, Dad struck up a friendship with Onizuka. The astronaut wrote Derek a letter and sent signed photographs.
Out of the blue Dad received an invitation from Onizuka to attend the Challenger launch. Why?

"Because you're a friend" he said. "I thought about you often, and when I flew over Connecticut once, I wondered how you were doing. So when it came time to make up an invitation list, I said 'By God, I'm going to send him one.'"

Of course the disaster was both historic and traumatic for everyone who witnessed the disintegration of the Challenger.

"I guess I realize now those machines aren't foolproof." (Derek) paused for a moment , then added, "But Colonel Onizuka must have know that, too."

Derek and Jonah the cat a month after the Challenger disaster

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Other Class of '81

My sister's Sparks(NV) High School yearbook.
Having pushed our stepmother to the limits at a time Dad really needed to concentrate on Friendly Fire , Lansing and I were sent to Sparks Nevada to live with our mother and sister Alyssa. There I attended 7th grade at Sparks Middle School with a lot of these students.
For us ( and there is probably no way NOT to sound snobby) it was like the Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. Gone were the horses, the swimming pool, the big green yard. Instead we got bullies, dirt lots and sagebrush.
Had my dad not insisted on sending me away to boarding school two years later I too might have been wearing polyester patterned shirts, puka shells and tinted eyeglasses.
I did the wavy overgrown hair all on my own.
In 7th grade we were all grouped alphabetically so I knew all of the A's and B's. I thought Kaye Baskerville ( at the top in checkered shirt) was beautiful but I don't think I ever said a word to her.

Among those pictured: John Adams who grew a mustache for his sophomore year. John owned Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on 45 and Wings at The Speed of Sound . Not pictured: Merle Badbear. Think about that name: Merle ( as in country music legends Merle Haggard and Merle Travis) Badbear--the greatest indian name any kid could want. Nobody messed with Merle Badbear. A nice guy.

Robert Kennedy --in the t-shirt below--lived down the street. His dad took us squirrel shooting in Orvada. Robert's dad just looked at me blankly when I asked if they were related to THE Kennedys. I think he was letting me figure out the answer on my own. He was good people.
Together Robert and I got in more trouble than I would ever admit in public. We would chew Copenhagen until we were dizzy and make the kind of bad decisions dizzy 11 year old boys make. Girls loved him.

Who are the two girls with tinted sunglasses? No idea but I dig the Joey Ramone vibe with the girl on the right.
the real joey ramone below

After her freshman year at SHS, my sister also went away to boarding school.
We both somehow survived the kind of culture shock only the children of divorced and REALLY separated (as in "You take that side of the country and I'll take this side") parents know. My sister Alyssa didn't get any of the opportunities we did. She is the miracle in our family.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

So Much Unfairness Of Things, June 2 1962

Dad's room on the second floor of Memorial Hall at Episcopal High School

The New Yorker published my dad's short story "So Much Unfairness Of Things" while he was still stationed at Fort Lewis. It's about a student in a private school who is faced with the problem of whether or not to cheat on a Latin exam.
It's been on required reading lists for high school students for decades.
As David A Sohn writes in his introduction for the book Ten Top Stories ( which also featured Flowers for Algernon):
"The atmosphere of the private school and the tension of the examination are created with great power and skill by the author. An extremely vivid reading experience, reflecting an unusual writing talent."
As stated in an earlier entry, my grandfather felt the story shamed him publicly by making him seem distant and out of touch.

"P.S. was the fifteenth of his family to attend the Virginia Preparatory School...When P.S. was packing to begin his first year at the school his father had sad "Son, when your great-grandfather went off to V.P.S., his father gave him a dozen silk handkerchiefs and a pair of warm gloves. When I went off to V.P.S., your grandfather gave me a dozen silk handkerchiefs and a pair of warm gloves. And now here are a dozen silk handkerchiefs and a pair of warm gloves for you."
Grandpa Joe and my father in a photo that Dad thought symbolized their relationship

P.S. looked at the brightly patterned Liberty-silk handkerchiefs and the fuzzy red mittens. No thirteen-year old ever wore red mittens, except girls, and particularly not fuzzy red mittens. And P.S. knew he wouldn't dare to wear the silk handkerchiefs.
"Well, thank you very much Dad," he said.
"That's all right, son."

When the novel P.S. Wilkinson came out my Dad told reporter Nora Ephron that the short story was based on a real life incident. He was kicked out of Episcopal High School for cheating on a Latin Test.

If you're interested in reading "So Much Unfairness Of Things", here is a link in PDF form.

The New Yorker link

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"I'VE BEEN SHOT!" August 15, 1950

From Box #4 In a scrapbook full of torn tickets from westerns there's a section devoted to the summer evening Dad was gut shot by a rifle. But it was hardly a story of cowboys and indians. As he was leaving a friend's house in Paoli,PA to go target shooting, Dad tripped on the terrace. His .22-caliber rifle went off. He looked at his friend and like Randolph Scott in The Kansan reported "I've been shot!" The bullet lodged in his stomach. It might have been a fatal wound had Dad not been wearing a thick leather belt which protected his abdomen. His friend ran into the dining room and told my grandmother what had happened. She hadn't heard the shot ring out over the clatter of silverware and dinnertime conversation.
Doctors removed the bullet at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Grandpa Joe, who was in Washington DC at the time, sent Dad a telegram that read "Keep punching chum. I'm bringing you a purple heart this weekend. Love Daddy"

Dad ( seen above enduring a chilly afternoon at Episcopal High School) also received a number of cards from family friends and a letter from the 13 year old boy who witnessed the accident. The family friend was a member of a socially prominent family, heirs to an insurance fortune.

The shooting made the front page of the Doylestown Daily Intelligencer the following day. The surgeon misinformed the reporter that Dad was examining a revolver when it went off. Dad complained about another article that spent undue columns on the various families involved. "Everybody got a bigger write up than me" he complained.

Not sure why I grew up believing Dad was accidentally shot by the friend. The shooting left a vertical scar approximately 5 inches long on his stomach. He also had a three inch scar on his back. Dad gave me the belt that saved his life when I was about 11 or 12.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Saint's 4th Grade Poetry Recital May 1973

From a collection of letters to friends found in Box #3. This one from June of 1973 recalls the poetry recital we all had to do for Mrs Cunningham's class.

"The first boy did Maurice Sendak's "Chicken Soup With Rice" and all the other boys, waiting their turns squirmed in agony so that all the metal seats in the rooms sounded, I suppose, rather like the breaking up of those old ships in the Taiwan Harbor. But God it was funny.
They'd get up there with their jaw muscles working, faltering, flushing , racing through the first stanza since they were the only ones they were really sure of and then doom because the line would come which he wouldn't know. And you knew the boy was thinking two or three lines ahead of what he was saying and the adams apple would start bobbling, they eyes rolling, slight tears springing up and then that awful silence which would s t r e t c h o n endlessly until the teacher would prompt.
Saint's friend Nick Cudahy got up on stage and squared off as though the poem were his mortal enemy, delivered in a fighter's crouch, attacked each stanza by grabbing it at the throat..
And then Saint, doing Robert L. Stevenson's "Land of Nod" squirming like a snake, not daring to look at his classmates, eyes fixed on an owl poster at the back of the room, made it through without blowing a line, then sagged against the back of the wall, wiped his hand across the brow and sighed "I did it!" which met with great laughter and applause."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wretched the Dog 1973-1976

Box 3: Photo of Wretched the Dog ( Inscribed on the back "died young")

Because things were getting a bit heavy, I present "my" first dog, Wretched. Part Afghan hound; part swamp rat. A sprinter who could escape through the thinnest of margins be they spacial or temporal. His heading? Always the swamp.

As Dad wrote my sister Lansing:
"Wretched has been, well, wretched. He has dug two huge holes in the lawn right in front of the house. I have filled them in and reseeded them three times! Each time I fill it in and reseed it he digs it our again. I am going to put rubber boots on his paws...Wretched now swims three times a day, Each time he goes in the pool the dirt washes off him like an airplane on fire, great plumes of brown "smoke" follow him into the water"

In April of 1976 , while Dad was in Chicago, Wretched raced past us as we opened the car door and sprinted out into the street where he was hit by a car. I never cried the way I did carrying his dying body back to the car. The vet could do nothing for him.
That night my stepmother Sam took Amanda and me to Howard Johnson's for dinner. I could swear the teenagers at the next table were joking about hitting a dog with their car but Sam said that's not what she was hearing. Maybe I was going crazy. Maybe it was the clam platter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grandpa Joe: The Duke of Richmond 1904-1993

St George Bryan II, J Bryan III, Katharine L Bryan , Joan Bryan , CDBB

Joseph Bryan was a journalist and writer who was born into the influential Bryan family of newspaper publishers and industrialists. He edited and wrote for many national publications, including the family-ownedRichmond News LeaderandChicago Daily Journal, as well as Parade, Time, Fortune, Town and Country, Reader's Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, and the New Yorker. He wrote numerous articles on travel, humor, and celebrities, some of which evolved into books or reappeared as portions of his books. He served in all three branches of the U.S. military: first as a lieutenant in the field artillery of the army following his graduation from Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, then in the navy during World War II (1939–1945) as a lieutenant commander assigned to naval air combat intelligence in the Pacific, and later as a lieutenant colonel in the air force. He also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency from the late 1940s until 1953. He lived in Washington, D.C., and at Brook Hill, an ancestral home in Henrico County.

Joseph Bryan was born on April 30, 1904, at Laburnum in Henrico County, the son of Joseph St. George Bryan and Emily Nelson Page Kemp Bryan and a grandson of the preservationist Isobel Lamont Stewart Bryan and of the Richmond industrialist and newspaper publisher Joseph Bryan (1845–1908). Known as Joseph Bryan III throughout his life, Bryan was educated successively at Chamberlayne School (later St. Christopher's School) in Richmond, Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and Princeton University, where he earned a BA in 1927. He edited Princeton's humor magazine, the Princeton Tiger, and was voted most entertaining and most witty man in his class and runner-up for best-dressed man and best-all-around man outside athletics.

Following graduation Bryan and several friends toured Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India. From 1928 to 1930 he worked as a reporter and editorial writer for the Richmond News Leader and the Chicago Daily Journal, both published by his uncle John Stewart Bryan. The Great Depression made earning a living as a freelancer difficult and forced Bryan into frequent job changes. He was associate editor of Parade magazine in Cleveland in 1931 and 1932, then worked briefly for Time, Fortune, and the New Yorker, and from 1933 to 1937 was managing editor of Town and Country. From 1937 until he resigned in June 1940 Bryan was an associate editor of the Saturday Evening Post.

As a result of his Reserve Officers' Training Corps work at Princeton, Bryan held a commission as a second lieutenant and then lieutenant in the field artillery for several years following his graduation. In January 1942 he was commissioned a lieutenant commander in the navy and assigned to naval air combat intelligence in the Pacific. Reassigned to naval public relations in 1944, Bryant spent much of 1945 aboard the carrier U.S.S. Yorktown. From the late 1940s until 1953 he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency with a concurrent commission as lieutenant colonel in the air force, giving him the unusual distinction of having been an officer in all three major branches of the armed services. In 1953 Bryan was promoted to colonel in the air force reserve. He lived in Washington during World War II and until 1959, when through a complicated family trust he inherited the right to live at Brook Hill, an ancestral home in Henrico County.

As J. Bryan III he wrote about three dozen articles for Collier's, Reader's Digest, the Saturday Evening Post, and the Saturday Review of Literature during the 1930s and 1940s. After leaving government service he resumed his career as a freelance writer. From 1953 through 1974 Bryan wrote about fifty articles for Holiday magazine and numerous pieces for other journals. Other pieces Bryan published in national magazines included biographical works on the Aga Khan, the duke of Edinburgh, Britain's Princess Margaret, and Katharine Hepburn, and in 1965 he wrote a biography of John Armstrong Chaloner for the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. His only work of fiction, a short story entitled "First Patrol," appeared in Esquire in 1956.

Bryan's principal books included Mission Beyond Darkness (1945), written with Philip Reed about the U.S.S. Lexington in the South Pacific; Admiral Halsey's Story (1947), an authorized biography written with William F. Halsey; Aircraft Carrier (1954), based on a diary Bryan kept while aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown; The World's Greatest Showman: The Life of P. T. Barnum (1956), written for young readers; and The Windsor Story (1979), a dual biography of the duke and duchess of Windsor, written with Charles J. V. Murphy. He also published two volumes of short writings. The Sword over the Mantel: The Civil War and I (1960) features reminiscences and character sketches derived from his youth in Richmond, and Merry Gentlemen (And One Lady) (1985) contains memorable pen portraits of Fred Allen, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, and other personalities of the Algonquin Round Table who flourished during Bryan's years in New York. His last two books, Hodgepodge: A Commonplace Book (1987) and Hodgepodge Two: Another Commonplace Book (1989), reflect his omnivorous reading, his love of travel, and his sense of humor.

Bryan married three times. On October 4, 1930, he married Katharine Lansing Barnes, of New York. They had two sons and one daughter and were divorced in 1954. On February 22, 1960, Bryan married a widow, Jacqueline Vandesmet, viscountess Guy de La Grandière, of Paris. She died on March 8, 1988, and August 28, 1991, he married Elizabeth Mayo Atkinson McIntosh, of Richmond. Joseph Bryan III died of cancer at his home in Richmond on April 3, 1993, and was buried with other family members in the yard of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Henrico County.

Major Works
•Mission Beyond Darkness (1945), written with Philip Reed
•Admiral Halsey's Story (1947)
•Aircraft Carrier (1954)
•The World's Greatest Showman: The Life of P. T. Barnum (1956)
•The Windsor Story (1979), written with Charles J. V. Murphy
•The Sword over the Mantel: The Civil War and I (1960)
•Merry Gentlemen (And One Lady) (1985)
•Hodgepodge: A Commonplace Book (1987)
•Hodgepodge Two: Another Commonplace Book (1989)
Time Line
April 30, 1904 - Joseph Bryan (also known as Joseph Bryan III) is born at Laburnum in Henrico County.
1927 - Joseph Bryan III graduates from Princeton University. While there, he edited Princeton's humor magazine, the Princeton Tiger.
1928–1930 - Joseph Bryan III works as a reporter and editorial writer for the Richmond News Leader and the Chicago Daily Journal, both published by his uncle John Stewart Bryan.
October 4, 1930 - Joseph Bryan III marries Katharine Lansing Barnes, of New York. The couple will have two sons and one daughter but divorce in 1954.
1931–1932 - Joseph Bryan III is an associate editor of Parade magazine in Cleveland, Ohio.
1933–1937 - Joseph Bryan III is managing editor of Town and Country.
1937–June 1940 - Joseph Bryan III is an associate editor of the Saturday Evening Post.
January 1942 - Joseph Bryan III is commissioned a lieutenant commander in the navy and assigned to naval air combat intelligence in the Pacific.
1944 - Joseph Bryan III is reassigned to naval public relations.
1945 - Joseph Bryan III spends much of the year aboard the carrier USS Yorktown.
Late 1940s–1953 - Joseph Bryan III works for the Central Intelligence Agency with a concurrent commission as lieutenant colonel in the air force.
1953 - Joseph Bryan III is promoted to colonel in the air force reserve.
1953–1974 - Joseph Bryan III writes about fifty articles for Holiday magazine and numerous pieces for other journals.
1956 - Joseph Bryan III's only work of fiction, a short story entitled "First Patrol," appears in Esquire.
1959 - Joseph Bryan III moves from Washington D.C. to Brook Hill, an ancestral home in Henrico County.
February 22, 1960 - Joseph Bryan III marries a widow, Jacqueline Vandesmet, viscountess Guy de La Grandière, of Paris.
March 8, 1988 - Joseph Bryan III's second wife, Jacqueline Vandesmet, viscountess Guy de La Grandière, dies.
August 28, 1991 - Joseph Bryan III marries Elizabeth Mayo Atkinson McIntosh, of Richmond.
April 3, 1993 - Joseph Bryan III dies of cancer at his home in Richmond and is buried with other family members in the yard of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Henrico County.

New York Times Obit

Joseph Bryan 3d, 88, an Author
Published: April 06, 1993


Joseph Bryan 3d, an author and editorial writer, died on Saturday at his home, Brook Hill, in Richmond. He was 88.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Elizabeth Mayo Atkinson McIntosh.

As a lieutenant commander in air-combat intelligence in the United States Navy in World War II, Mr. Bryan saw action in the Southwest Pacific, the South Pacific and the Central Pacific.

His best known book, "Mission Beyond Darkness" (1945), written with Philip Reed, is a dramatic account of the events and emotions experienced by the gunners and pilots of Air Group 16 aboard the aircraft carrier Lexington in the first battle of the Philippines.

Another account of action in the Pacific, "Admiral Halsey's Story" (1947), written with Adm. William F. Halsey, first appeared as a series in The Saturday Evening Post. Mr. Bryan's "Aircraft Carrier" (1954) is a record of life aboard the carrier Yorktown from January through April 1945.

His last work, "Hodge Podge Two" (1989), is a collection of observations and quotations. Other books include "The Windsor Story" (1979), about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

"You Have Sold My Pride" November 2, 1964

In a letter written upon news Dad's second short story had been accepted by the New Yorker, "Christmas with Charles Street", about a Yale freshman's uneasy visit with his recently divorced father, Grandpa Joe all but disowned Dad. All of this happening the month of my first birthday and just 19 days before my sister Lansing was born.

Dear Courty:
What you are trying to befog with all your words, words, words is one clear fact: I have begged you twice not to humiliate me, and twice you have chosen to do so. You have sold my pride for dollars and applause. You, my son!
I will see that you are notified when Mother dies. I have nothing more to say to you.
Signed Joseph Bryan
2 November 1964

The first "humiliation" came at the hands of Dad's first short story, "So Much Unfairness in Things" published June 2, 1962. Again, "Stewart Wilkinson" comes across as cold and distant. Grandpa Joe sent Dad letters he received from friends.

As Grandpa Joe wrote Dad "They were angry letters, and you chose to dismiss them as written by 'stuffy fools'. But they weren't, Courty. They were written by wise, honorable men whom I am proud to call my friends and who had been ready to be yours. Many of them are men of influence in your profession and your social circle. Is it good policy to remind them that you carry a knife, and are quite willing to use it on someone who can't, or won't, hit back?"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Yale Record 1958

In his senior year at Yale, Dad was chairman of The Yale Record which turned out "nine laugh-packed issues a year". He oversaw a Playboy parody and met Charles Schulz whom they honored with some kind of prize. I guess you could say The Record was Yale's version of the Harvard Lampoon. But I wouldn't say that out loud within 50 miles of New Haven.
In the staff photo Dad is seen holding a stuffed owl, the Record mascot. It may be the same stuffed owl he kept in his office. In any case, word got around that Dad liked owls and for the next five years or so there were many owl themed birthday gifts, Christmas gifts and even wedding gifts.
Growing up, we were surrounded by tiny owl trinkets, ashtrays, sculptures, ornaments...etc.
Here are two more owls that Mom kept all these years.
The one on the right was a gift from famed prankster Hugh Troy. Below an ink and water color owl by Ann Wiseman that is truly one of the touchstones of our childhoods.

As I go through the boxes I'm sure I'll come across an example of Dad's humor in an issue of The Yale Record and I will pass it on.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bailey Motor Inn Olympia, WA October 23, 1961

Two weeks after Dad sold "So Much Unfairness of Things" to The New Yorker, he read in the newspaper that thanks to the Berlin Crisis, his reserve unit had been activated and that he'd be stationed in the other Washington, at Fort Lewis outside Olympia.

On October 16th, around 5 PM he asked our mother "Phoebus, will you marry me?"

He writes she could but say "Yes".

The next day they left Washington DC. Mom followed Dad's Austin Healy in her volkswagon bug. Dad had the cat Fog. They got as far as Youngstown Ohio.

The following day they arrived in Clinton Iowa on the west bank of the Mississppi.

They arrived in Fort Collins on October 20 where Dad met my grandmother.

On Monday, October 23rd, after 3143 miles of driving they pulled up to Bailey Motor Inn in Olympia Washington.

They spent the next day house hunting and found a house they moved into at 11:20 AM on the 25th.

Their address was Route 1, Box 148. I still haven't figured out where the house might have been. Mom said it was near water which really isn't much help.

They got married at St John's Episcopal Church at 4 PM on December 28th.

The Bailey Motel is 30.3 miles from where Lansing and I live today. Like salmon we have returned to the spawning grounds.