Then Sarge Said to Me!
Denis Nolan (Ethiopia 196567) is a former engineer who was a teacher at the secondary school level in Ethiopia. After working in Washington for CBS and VISTA, he became a teacher and has worked with learning disabled children for the past thirty years. He is on the Advisory Board of Parents’ Education Network, an organization to help the parents of children with learning problems and does some writing on the side. He lives in California.
WHEN I CAME BACK from Ethiopia, Don Wilson, the former Director in Ethiopia, introduced me to some people at Creative Playthings, which was a subsidiary of CBS. They hired me as their Washington, D.C. representative to keep tabs on the money that the Government was putting into Headstart and other programs around the country. As a result, I worked in the CBS building in Washington and I soon had met a number of the CBS News people, including Bob Vitelli who was director of Face the Nation.
Bob knew that I had been in the Peace Corps, and one day he grabbed me in the hallway and asked if I had ever met Sargent Shriver. When I said that I hadn’t, he told me Sarge was going to be on Face the Nation that Sunday and to be there about 7 am if I wanted to meet him. Sunday was a relatively quiet time in the building, and when I arrived, Bob was waiting for Shriver in the reception area. He told me to sit down and wait with him. About ten minutes later, the doors flew open and in walked Shriver. Bob greeted him, explained a few of the things that had to be done before the show, and then turned and introduced me as a former PCV. Sarge broke into a big smile, immediately making me feel as though I was the greatest thing that could have happened at that moment, and asked where I had been. As soon as I said Ethiopia, he started asking about Don Wilson and others, showing remarkable knowledge about that one program.
As we walked down the corridor toward the broadcast area, Sarge asked me to show him where the restroom was before he went on air. We were still talking as we came to the men’s room, so I followed him in, and he continued talking as he entered one of the back stalls, asking questions over the walls. I stayed near the entrance, leaning against the wall as we talked. As I was answering one question, the door opened and two techs from Face the Nation walked in. They stopped dead, looking at me leaning against the wall and talking into space in an apparently vacant restroom. (This was long before cell phones!) I watched their expressions go from surprise to alarm as they stood in the doorway not moving. I wanted to explain that I wasn’t crazy or dangerous, knowing how stupid I must have looked, but at the same time I was finishing my sentence to Shriver.
Fortunately, the toilet suddenly flushed and Sarge came walking out, greeting the two men with that wonderful smile and making them feel that nothing mattered more than them at that moment. The two men went from doubt to effusion as they pumped his hand, both wearing smiles as big as Sarge’s. That was the remarkable thing about Shriver, he could make anyone feel that they were important to him. Possibly the only smile bigger than any of theirs was my own as I felt a rush of relief at not having to explain that I wasn’t really the man who talked to restroom walls.
In this issue
We have reviews of four new books, a list of 16 new books that have recently been published, news about recent accomplishments of RPCV writers in Literary Type, and an interview with John Bidwell, a water resource manager in the Peace Corps. John started his branding firm, Bidwell ID, in 1999 and now employs five employees. He works with clients nationwide, many of them being cause-driven organizations. Recently John helped his wife, Kris Holloway, brand her Peace Corps book, Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali that just won the Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award. John has a lot to of good suggestions for Peace Corps writers and how they should approach writing their books, and then, publishing and marketing them.
Finally we publish a beautifully written essay by Joseph Monninger, who was in Upper Volta as a Volunteer in 1977-79. Paris 1977 recounts his journey home from Africa when he landed in Paris at twenty-two hopelessly in love with literature.
Marian and I know there is much to value in this on-line newsletter and we hope you have time this summer to read more about writers from the Peace Corps. Thank you.