#26 Mad Men At The Peace Corps: Sally Bowles (Washington, D.C.)

The most famous recruitment trip of them all was in early October 1963. It was the one that gave rise to the term, Blitz Recruiting. Gale put together five advance teams and five follow-up teams. Each team spent a week in southern California and then a week in northern California, visiting every major campus in both areas. Coates Redmon sums up the ‘teams’ in her book.

“One advance team consisting of Nan McEvoy, then deputy director of the Africa Regional Office, and Frank Erwin, then deputy director of Selection, were assigned first to Los Angeles Sate University (where there was only modest interest in the Peace Corps) and next to San Francisco State University (where there was considerable interests). Bob Gale, Linda Lyle (his secretary) and Doug Kiker took on the University of Southern California in the south and then the University of California at Berkeley in the north. Gale had friends at both.”

“As director of Recruiting, I had to go where I knew I’d do well,” Gale recalled. “I did have to outdo everyone else. And at Berkeley I did. We got nearly two hundred questionnaires in one week –and the advance team is not really required to get any applications–and then the follow-up team came in and mopped up about seven hundred more. Sarge came out and spoke at most of the schools where we were recruiting, and at Berkeley and San Francisco State he got absolutely tumultuous welcomes.”

Bob Gale

Bob Gale

The working day for the advance teams began at about 8:00 a.m. and ended between 11 p.m. and midnight. Both in Los Angeles and in San Francisco, the word would get passed from team to team where they could congregate later, and until about 3 a.m.in restaurants and bars. Everybody wanted to compare notes, and party. Gale was great at putting together teams whose “skills, attitudes, and metabolisms were similar to his own” and he was known at the Prince of Partying.

One of the “recruiters” on this California trip was Sally Bowles. Sally was the very nice and very charming daughter of Ambassador Chester Bowles. She went to work without pay in the Maiatico Building on March 1, 1961.

Sally Bowles

Sally Bowles

Sally was an honors graduate in history from Smith College where she was editor of the college newspaper and president of the student body. By the time she arrived at the Peace Corps, she had traveled and lived in Southeast Asia, India, Mexico, Morocco, France and Spain. She had also worked for Congressman John Brademas of  Indiana and as an administrative assistant to Solicitor General Archibald Cox.

On ‘day one’ of the agency, there was only a hand full of people working for the new Peace Corps. Sarge, of course, his personal secretary, Maryann Orlando, Nancy Gore, Mitzi Mallina, Warren Wiggins, Charlie Nelson, George Carter, Gordon Boyce, Bill Josephson, Al Sims, and Harris Wofford.

These were no ‘ordinary folks’…Sims was vice president of the Institute of International Education, Gordon Boyce, head of the Experiment in International Living; Wofford was working as JFK’s Special Assistant on Civil Rights, as well as developing the Peace Corps with Shriver. Gore was the daughter of Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee and older brother of Al. Mitzi Mallina, had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and just returned from overseas with ‘Crossroads Africa.” Mitzi was, I believe, the first paid employee at the Peace Corps.

But back to Sally. Sarge especially had a close, trusting relationship with Sally and when a problem developed in the field in those early years, he often turned to her and she would make quick and quiet trips overseas to evaluate a situation and come back with an ‘off the record’ recommendation to the Director. Everyone trusted this woman.

Sally was the most proper of the most proper woman at the agency. (Perhaps only Jane Campbell from those early years was more bluestocking), so this story about the proper Sally Bowles and the Peace Corps deserves to be retold.

It all happened in San Francisco (of course!) and had to do with Jim Walls, a wonderful character, a former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, who became a writer for the Division of Public Information, but that’s another story. Back to Sally!

This famous recruiting trip organized by Bob Gale, had Jim Walls as a  recruiter because he had lived there as a reporter. After the end of a long day on colleges campuses, Jim took all the Washington, D.C. types to his favorite bar, Enrico in the North Beach. Oh, with Jim was his “old and dear friend” Yvonne, who bore a slight resemblance to Vivien Leigh. Yvonne was a top model in San Fran, as well as a famous stripper.enrico

It was a long night on the town and Jim would recall later that his hangover was “so large that you could make an awning out of it.”

Sally Bowles was on this trip and bar haunt and around 3 a.m. when this Peace Corps crowd was beginning to wearily disperse for their hotels, a finale, and surprising event took place. Sally Bowles stopped on a North Beach street corner and began belting out, quite to the surprising of everyone, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hand.” She was slamming her left hand into her right to keep the beat and singing out her heart.

The last man on the advance team, and the last man from Peace Corps headquarters whom anyone could have imagined joining in–namely, Deputy Director Warren Wiggins–who did so and with as much heart, soul, and resonance as Sally. Pretty soon, everyone in the advance team, a half-dozen Washington types, and Jim Walls, were singing the chorus out loud into the empty dark night of North Beach.

North Beach

North Beach

But all of the ‘good times’ were about to come to an end.

Certain people back at Washington heard about the “off-key ‘blitz’ advance-team” recruiting trip and you know Washington, D.C.

When Gale returned to Peace Corps/Washington, with another record number of Peace Corps applications–over sixteen hundred–he was called into Bill Moyers’ office for a private conversation.

This had never happened before and as Gale walked into Moyers fifth-floor executive suite offices, he knew he was in real trouble.


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