Miss Mulliner during her 1965 interview. SSA History Archives.
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Maurine Mulliner Oral History Interview
This memoir is the result of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Social Security Administration by Dr. Abe Bortz with Maurine Mulliner in Woodlawn, MD. during 1965. Maurine Mulliner has read the transcript, and has made some corrections and emendations.
The interview was conducted in 1965 and final editing was completed on 3/29/66.
Maurine Mulliner: Since you've asked me to talk about the relationship of social security with the man who introduced the Social Security Act in the Senate, Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York, I'll try to recall some of the incidents I knew something about.
Interviewer: How did you happen to become associated with him to begin with?
Maurine Mulliner: That was one those coincidences which play a large part in peoples lives, certainly in my life. I had been employed in Washington, D.C., early in 1927 and had gotten to know a group of fine people including Isadore Lubin who was then an economist with the Bookings Institution in Washington. I had then left Washington and lived in Chicago for a time; had come back to Washington during the depression years, 1932, and had taken a position with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. This was not a very satisfactory position for me so I dropped in at lunch time one day to see Lube, as we called him, Dr. Lubin,, just to tell him that I didn't want to continue doing what I was doing and would he keep his ears open for anything else that might come along. It happened that he was being used by Senator Wagner in those days as an unpaid advisor, economic advisor, and that afternoon he was called up to talk with the Senator. While he was there one of the Senator's secretaries came in and said, "Well Senator, here's the executive order from the White House which authorizes you to set up a new position of personal secretary." And the Senator turned to Lube and said, "Well, I have the position now, but I don't have anyone to employ." And Lube said, "Oh yes you do, I know just the person for you." And in 3 days I was personal secretary to Senator Wagner of New York.
Interviewer: Chance does play a big role.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right; that's right.
Interviewer: And what were your duties?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, my duties there were to try to identify from the hundreds, and literally thousands, of communications which came each day to Senator Wagner, to identify those maters which should have his personal attention. He'd been in difficulty with some of his close supporters and friends in New York because had not known of communications they had sent to him. His office staff was so overworked and there were too few for the workload, and no one was paying attention to this particular aspect. So that was the primary reason he had asked for this new position. This was a fascinating activity for me, very difficult because I had never worked "on the Hill" before, and a person really needed to have had more background before functioning as a personal secretary to such a busy Senator, and I had only been in New York 2 days in my whole life. So I was slightly handicapped, but was young enough that this didn't worry me at all. I just proceeded to do what I thought should be done in the way I could devise for doing it, and it was really a very satisfying job and a happy relationship with Senator Wagner.
Interviewer: And in the process, of course, you did learn a great deal about politics?
Maurine Mulliner: I certainly did about New York. One new activity was that I read the New York Times from cover to cover before 9 o'clock a.m. in those days. I remember one learning incident. The Senator used to like to slip away and go to the racetrack occasionally. I had only been in the office about 3 days when along about 7 o'clock in the evening he telephoned me at home and wanted to know if there had been a vote that afternoon while he was away. I was surprised that he had called me because there were more experienced people on his staff, but I guess he wanted to educate me. I said, "yes, Senator, there was a vote on" -- whatever the bill was -- and he said, "Well, was it a rollcall vote?" I didn't even know what he meant; I hadn't learned yet that there were other kinds of votes. So when I said I didn't know I could see he was greatly disappointed in me. I'd been there 3 days and I didn't know all these things! So after that I knew about the difference between the kinds of votes.
Interviewer: Difference between a rollcall and a voice vote.
Maurine Mulliner: Right, he concentrated on what occurred in the Senate. He was a very busy Senator; he carried a high proportion of the legislation in those New Deal days. He didn't want to be bothered about the details of how his office ran; he didn't pay any attention to it unless something went wrong and then, of course, he was unhappy as any employer would be. It was a competitive situation in which each of 3 key staff members tried to get to his attention the materials that should receive his personal attention. But on the other hand, he was not critical of his staff's going ahead and handling matters the best way they could; that is, as far as the mail was concerned -- not legislation; he devoted himself to that -- but as far as the mail was concerned -- in handling it in the best way we could. And that was all right. We didn't have to worry about whether it was just the way he would have done it if he were doing it himself.
Interviewer: Did you have any dealings in connection with social security on a whole?
Maurine Mulliner: No, I didn't. One little incident relating to a bill in the social welfare field, however, I might recount here because it indicated what experience does in getting legislation through the Senate. Some bright young men in Washington under the leadership of Leon Keyserling, who was the Senator's legal secretary in those days, (and the group included Tom Eliot in the Labor Department; and several other bright young attorneys) were drafting the Labor Relations Act. These young men would work at night, and day-after-day would go by and about three key issues wouldn't get resolved. And one day I happened to be in the Senator's office when Mr. Keyserling was in there talking to him about this and the Senator said, "Leon, now the time has come when we must find some compromise on these issues. Now you young men quit thinking that every comma and period in this draft are sacred because you put them in there and settle down tonight and work out some compromise on every one of these issues, and I want to see them tomorrow." The Senator went on and said, "you can't get legislation through without compromise, and we have to find a compromise on these before we can move on this bill."
Interviewer: Sage advice.
Maurine Mulliner: Right. Now, to social security -- I followed the various stages of the drafting of the bill and its consideration in the Senate and in the House -- I should say in the House and in the Senate -- closely, but I didn't have any connection with the drafting or with the handling of the legislation. However, at some stage in that legislative process I told the Senator that was the program I would like to work with when it was enacted and would appreciate his putting me in touch with the people who would be administering it at the proper time. Then when the law was finally enacted, I read about it in a newspaper at some point along the Great Lakes. I had had a bad case of shingles (the pressure was great in the Senator's office), and I had been sent away to have a little rest. So in August of 1935 I was on this rest cruise on the Great Lakes and read in the newspaper that the President had signed the bill and had appointed the first three members of the Social Security Board -- Governor Winant of New Hampshire, I knew about by reputation; Arthur Altmeyer of Wisconsin, I knew about by reputation; but the third man Vincent Miles was a name I'd never heard of. He was a lawyer from Arkansas who had been brought into the picture by the then majority leader in the Senate, Mr. Robinson.
Interviewer: And then what happened?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, then, I returned shortly after that. It was early in October, as I remember, that somebody phoned to ask that the Senator come down that afternoon to meet with the members of the board who wanted to consult with him about their planning for putting this Act into operation. When I told him this, I thought I should remind him of what I said some time ago.
Then I decided no. If he intended to do anything about it, he would do it and it just wouldn't be wise for me to seem to be nagging him. Later on, very late in the afternoon, he came back and called for me to come in. I went in, and in a way that was typical of him, which maybe unfairly I refer to as his Germanic way of doing things -- he couldn't be really graceful and gracious even when he was being most nice to a person; he had to be sort of gruff about it -- he said to me, "Well, I hope you won't let me down, all those good things I said about you down there today." So then I knew that he had mentioned that I wanted to work for the program.
Interviewer: And then you came on the board -- was that October?
Maurine Mulliner: Now that was in October. And as you know, there weren't any funds made available for the social security program because of the filibuster of Senator Long of Louisiana. So there was a little uncertainty as to just when they could start hiring staff. But some time probably in late December or January I --
Interviewer: I think you were on the payroll of the Department of Labor, I guess, in that period when they didn't have an appropriation.
Maurine Mulliner: Well, I was just going to mention how I happened to come with social security, the next step in the process which sheds a little light on our first chairman. This day I was told there was a call for me, and let me digress here to say that we people in Washington during those days and months were getting a little bit reeducated as to how business people maintained their offices and operated. The National Industrial Recovery Act, the NRA, had brought into Government in Washington a great many people from industry. Now in prior times in the executive department if one wanted to talk to a certain official one would put in the call, either get him directly on the line or get his secretary and then on to the boss. But with these business people there were several layers you had to go through, and we had sort of gotten reconditioned -- we might get a receptionist, then we might get a first secretary or a third secretary, then a first secretary, and then an administrative assistant before we got through to a very important official like General Johnson who was head of the NRA. So when I picked up the phone this day I was surprised to hear a very gentle voice say, "Hello, this is Mr. Winant." And I realized it was Governor Winant, the Chairman of the Social Security Board. And I said, "Oh yes, hello governor, it's nice to have you call me," or something to that effect. And he said, "I would like to talk with you," and I said, "I would like very much to see you Governor. When would you like me to come?" "Well," he said, "would it be convenient for you to come down now?" And I said, "Why yes, Governor, it would. I'd be happy to come right now." So I hung up the telephone, and I remember I simply raced. I picked up a copy of the Social Security Act, my pocketbook, didn't even stop to put my hat on, took it in my hand, raced out the Senate Office Building into a taxicab, down to the Department of Labor where Governor Winant and a few people who were on the staff had their offices, and waited the usual hour-and-a-half in his reception room before he was free to see me. I knew afterwards that this was characteristic of him; he was always running behind schedule. Then when he was free, I was told I could go in. And it was one of those large offices in the Labor Department Building. I walked to the door and his desk was quite a way away from the door, and he got up and walked around the desk toward me. I first was rather startled by his bushy eyebrows; he had quite a Lincolnesque look -- tall and thin and that lock of hair over the forehead and very bushy eyebrows. As he walked toward me around the desk, I thought to myself, why this man could hypnotize me if he tried. There was such a magnetic quality about his personality. We sat down in easy chairs and he never once asked one fact about me, about my education, about my experience. He talked only about members of the House and the Senate. After the interview was over, I realized how much he must have learned about what I believed and what I thought about public issues and government legislation from the way I had discussed the various members of the House and Senate he'd brought up for discussion.
Interviewer: Very unusual way to do it, isn't it?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, it is. It was the first time I had ever had that kind of an indirect interview with respect to a job.
Interviewer: And he hired you right then?
Maurine Mulliner: No, he told me that there was no money and that they wouldn't be adding any people to the payroll until there was an appropriation. But Senator Wagner had mentioned that I was interested in working for the program, and he would see that my name was kept under consideration until they were ready to proceed with more hiring. And I actually then was employed later on in January, I believe it was, following an interview with the executive director, Mr. Frank Bane.
Interviewer: And then you were hired?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, I was employed as -- Technical Advisor to the Social Security Board was the title of the position.
Interviewer: Well, what did that mean?
Maurine Mulliner: It really meant that I was the secretary to the Social Security Board to do the usual things that a secretary of such an office does, the handling of the materials for the formal meetings of the board, preparation of the minutes of the board, the distribution of the minutes to the people who are concerned, and the proper codification and handling of the documents which came before the board. And as time went on, the review of the documents which were sent up by the Bureaus before they were put on the agenda in order to see that there had been proper clearances with other interested offices, and that the material was in shape for the consideration of the board.
Interviewer: Well, being in that rather - certainly strategic position, it gave you a wonderful view of the operations, particularly the way the people discussed the issues at the top level, and yet objective enough so that you could see these people and not be directly involved in them. Where did they have the meetings, the board meetings?
Maurine Mulliner: The meetings were on the seventh floor of a building at 1712 G Street. This was shortly after I came on the staff in late January or early February. The first office I had in the Department of Labor Building, I sat on a packing box really. There just wasn't any place for anybody, and space was at a premium in Washington. The board felt very lucky when it got this building at 1712 G Street. And there was room 711 set aside for the board; it was a large room and in one end of it I set up my desk. It was a little awkward. Across the hall in another big room was my secretary and the assistant who worked with me on these materials. But I was located between the office of the executive director and the suites of offices for the three members of the board. There was much intercommunication among all these offices.
Interviewer: Could you give us any more description of the physical characteristics of the room?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. It was quite advanced in this old building because at the insistence of James W. (Jim) Bennett who had been, in a sense, loaned to the Social Security Board by the Department of Justice, from his position with the Bureau of Prisons to be the business management director. At his insistence window air conditioners had been installed in the offices of the board, the board room, and eventually in Frank Bane's office. But Mr. Bane had objected strenuously in the beginning. He had refused to have them in his office because everybody in the organization wasn't going to have them, and he didn't want to be in a privileged position. But eventually he was prevailed upon because of meetings which had to be held in his office, and the rest of the people got uncomfortable even if he didn't. But anyway, we had these, now what would appear to be terrible monstrosities, these great huge roaring pieces of machinery -- not just in the windows, but they sat on the floor and ran halfway up the window. These were broad windows but the units really were necessary to keep the smoke out of this room when the meetings went on, in those days, all morning long, all afternoon, maybe an evening meeting. And the next day you'd start the same way. It wasn't like having a meeting one or two mornings a week; it was practically an all-day affair then and lots of people smoking and agitated, so we really needed these big units.
Interviewer: Well, did they sit around a large table?
Maurine Mulliner: Right. There was a long board table at one end of the room, the end of the room that was nearest to the board members' offices, and chairs were around this table. We started out with a gavel which had been given to Mr. Winant for use in the board meetings, but it turned out it never was used although it was put on the table for the first few meetings. Just because they weren't those kinds of meetings, it was more informal arrangement and nobody really tried to operate by Robert's Rules of Order and no ritual or formality prevailed in these meetings. They were working sessions with the three board members along one side of the table. Their backs were to the board members' room. On the opposite side of the table sat the executive director, the assistant executive director, and myself. At one end of the table sat the General Counsel or the Associate General Counsel who was responsible for the program area that was on the agenda at any given time. That person rotated because different people on the General Counsel's staff handled different programs. At the opposite end of the table would sit the bureau director whose item was under discussion, and, of course, the person in that chair changed. Then, behind the executive director and the associate executive director on that side of the table were one row of chairs, or two rows of chairs, or three rows of chairs, depending upon how many staff people were coming in to participate in the discussion of the items.
Interviewer: So this room was a fairly large one. It could hold --
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, it was. It was as large as this studio we're in.
Interviewer: I see. Did they actually schedule meetings; but you say they weren't able to keep to the schedule. Was there a prescribed number of meetings to be held?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. In those days there were to be two meetings a week -- I forget just which days; the record would show that. But because of the nature of the problems that were having to be settled and getting an organization like that going, it was a large undertaking, but also because of the temperament of the chairman, Chairman Winant, a great deal of time was consumed in discussion and consideration. Mr. Winant was a gentleman who needed for his own comfort to look at every facet of a policy issue. He wanted to turn it over, look at every angle, explore it, have it discussed. And while this wasn't all --
Interviewer: You mean all at the meeting?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, in the meeting.
Interviewer: Well, I was just going to ask you how the issues came up, I mean to him; wasn't there enough orientation or enough papers that would come --
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Winant was not a reader. He was a listener.
Interviewer: I see.
Maurine Mulliner: And that doesn't mean that he wouldn't look through these materials that supposedly got to the board members in advance, but in those early days there were so many things breaking that often something had to be scheduled on the agenda without having a document to the board in advance. In theory, the board members were to have at least 2 days on any recommendation that a bureau director wanted to have considered in a board meeting, you see. The bureau director was responsible for getting the materials to the board so they would have 2 days to study it and consider it before that meeting.
Interviewer: How did he conduct the meetings? I mean was there anything special, in the sense because he was the chairman, was it much more informal than that? What were his responsibilities?
Maurine Mulliner: No, the chairman would really be in charge of the meeting, and he would indicate to people who wanted to talk on a subject that it was their turn. For instance, he would ask the bureau director who had submitted the document to summarize it for the group before the discussion opened. Then, as people wanted to get into the discussion, they would indicate it either by raising their hand or just a look in a small group like that and he would indicate it was their privilege to speak. When two or three people might have wanted to get into the act at one time, he would indicate.
Interviewer: When it came to a question of decision, how did they arrive at that?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, I'll tell you a humorous answer to that question that was given once by Arthur Altmeyer. Somebody asked him that and he said, "Well, we really don't know until the next day when we see Miss Mulliner's minutes." And in some cases I often felt that was true; they would just talk at and around, and explore something. Then Mr. Winant would go on to the next --
Interviewer: Nobody was sure whether they had reached a decision or not.
Maurine Mulliner: Exactly. And one had to just sort of know the temper of the people and distill out the consensus. And frankly, I used to go home at night sometimes thinking I really don't know what they decided about such and such a matter. And then as Mollie Dewson, another delightful member of the board later on said at one time, "You know, I just put these facts in my head and let them percolate for a while, and then I seem to know what conclusion I reach, and what position I should take." And two things helped the percolation process in my mind. One was the dictating off after a meeting of what I called the running record or the informal notes.
Interviewer: Was this your idea?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, this was my idea. I set up all of the procedures that were involved in this.
Interviewer: Well, can we retrace -- just a minute -- was this procedure already in effect when you came on the scene?
Maurine Mulliner: No. When I came on the scene all we had for most of the meetings, and there probably had been about a dozen meetings --
Interviewer: Began in October, I think was the first formal --
Maurine Mulliner: There were for most of those meetings very brief agendas and very brief minutes, which the Executive Director had dictated to maintain the basic documentation that the board had had before it, for each of these paragraphs in the minutes for purposes of reference or history, and there had not been a systematic method of distributing materials that were before the board.
Interviewer: Was there an agenda before?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, usually there was. Sometimes the agenda had been dictated after the meeting was over, as I understood. Mr. Bane having an appreciation of the need for the records had done this himself along with the many other things that he had to do. And it was remarkable that as much of a record had been maintained as was there when there wasn't anyone specifically responsible for doing it except the very busy executive director.
Interviewer: What was the origin of the official minutes themselves. I mean, was that something they had agreed upon or someone's --
Maurine Mulliner: Rather early in the considerations, some bylaws had been developed, I don't know whether you've become familiar with those bylaws or not, but they did mention such things as formal meetings of the Board, and how many there would be, and when they would be, and that there would be minutes, and so forth.
Interviewer: All right, now getting back to where we were.
Maurine Mulliner: Then as to the systematic arrangements, I went around and interviewed people in the various agencies in Washington, most of them regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission, places where there was a board. It was comparable, and yet it wasn't, because we were not regulatory. And some of the very rigid and legalistic practices those other agencies followed I felt were not necessary or were not suitable for our kind of a board.
Interviewer: What would we say exactly was the purpose of a board meeting? Strictly to arrive --
Maurine Mulliner: To arrive at a decision.
Interviewer: And the decision as to what matters would come to the board was decided by --
Maurine Mulliner: Was decided by the executive director and myself, really; and later on that was done in my office. But as time went on, I tried to develop a basic document that indicated to the new bureau directors coming on what kinds of things they were obliged to bring to the board, and what kinds of things they might choose to bring to the board if they didn't want to make the decision themselves; and the rest of the things they had authority to direct themselves. Now, you raised an interesting point here and maybe you'd want me to digress enough to mention something that I only learned after the fact. Mr. Winant told me this some years later -- that he had not been in favor of having a person of my background and training in this position.
Maurine Mulliner: He thought a lawyer should be the secretary to the board. And this had developed partly out of a conversation he had had with -- at the moment I don't -- I guess it was Brandeis, Justice Brandeis, or Justice Frankfurter, one or the other. He consulted them as to whether or not they thought he should accept the position of chairman of the Social Security Board when President Roosevelt offered it to him -- and in this conversation they had held up as an example not to follow, some of the practices in the NRA. And one of them had mentioned that much of General Johnson's difficulties in the NRA Administration had developed from the fact that other people signed his name to --
Interviewer:I think we had disagreed a little bit from the Board Minutes themselves, and you were indicating how you had started the informal. . .
Maurine Mulliner: Oh yes. And I was telling you that there'd been a difference of opinion --
Interviewer: Yes, over --
Maurine Mulliner: -- within the Board itself as to the qualifications of the person who should be --
Interviewer: That's right.
Maurine Mulliner: -- serving as secretary to the board.
Interviewer: The practice of the NRA being something to avoid.
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, yes. And the Justice had told Mr. Winant that General Johnson had gotten into difficulty because he himself had not signed his name on every document that was issued over his signature. So it meant that in public he had disclaimed--
Maurine Mulliner: -- responsibility for policies that actually carried his name. Therefore, Mr. Winant mainly resolved that nothing that had his signature would be released by anybody else signing his name, and that he was going to be extremely cautious about the legality of everything that was done. Therefore, he thought a lawyer should be secretary to the board. Now, Mr. Altmeyer and Mr. Bane felt differently about this. They didn't want a legalistic approach taken to the board meetings and the considerations of these matters. They wanted more flexibility and more informality. So they prevailed upon Governor Winant to give it a try, having me in this position. And later on Mr. Winant said, "You know, I scrutinized very carefully everything you did and everything you released during those first 3 months before I realized and accepted the fact that this was going to be a satisfactory arrangement."
Interviewer: You only found this out later?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes.
Interviewer: You didn't know then --
Maurine Mulliner: No. Fortunately, I didn't know at the time or I would have been anxious about it, I suppose.
Interviewer: Now, about the informal minutes. This was your own idea?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. This was my own idea. First, I felt the need of it in the beginning just as a practical step in the process of deciding what it was I was going to put down as the official action of the board, in the board minutes. It was easier for me to do it in two stages, for me to dictate off a more complete record of what the key issues were that had been discussed or suggested or explored on each problem, and then, seeing that, to take out just the essence of it to put into the brief minutes. The board members did want to keep the minutes brief.
Interviewer: Yes. Did they look at these? Did they consult these?
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: They did consult these?
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, yes. And, of course, they approved each of them officially.
Interviewer: No, I mean the informal?
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, the informal! No.
Interviewer: Did they ever look at those?
Maurine Mulliner: Occasionally, after they knew I had them. One of them would say, "Would you let me see the informal notes of the discussion on this to refresh my memory." And the bureau Directors got so they would ask for them, too; and I found I had to be quite circumspect in releasing them because my position was --
Interviewer: Yes, I can see why.
Maurine Mulliner: Unless the person had been at the Board meeting, I didn't feel that they could read the informal notes with an accurate understanding of what they represented because they were a shortened version.
Interviewer: Do you think that this is a good warning for anybody --
Maurine Mulliner: I do.
Interviewer: -- who uses these --
Maurine Mulliner: I do. I think that they can be completely misleading to somebody who was not there because it might -- oh well, in many ways, there's no use in going further in to it. If somebody was there, they realize that this isn't all that was said on this subject, and that this is only a part of what that person said, and so on. But they have been helpful to people who did attend the meetings because it refreshed their memory. They would call up the more full picture of what happened.
Interviewer: Yes. Did the fact that governor Winant was a Republican play any role, make any difficulties for him; or as someone has suggested actually it was the other way around, that Mr. Altmeyer and Mr. Winant were quite often on the same side with Mr. Miles on the other.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right; that's right. I don't believe Mr. Winant's political affiliations were ever evident in considerations at Board meetings.
Interviewer: You feel that his outlook or attitude toward this whole problem, all the problems that the board had to deal with, were much --
Maurine Mulliner: That's right.
Interviewer: -- had nothing to do really with political goals.
Maurine Mulliner: Had nothing to do with politics. As a matter of fact, if it isn't in the records somewhere, I think his letter to President Roosevelt --
Interviewer: You mean about the election?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. When he resigned, should be in your records.
Interviewer: Yes, it's in there.
Maurine Mulliner: Because that expresses his position about this matter of being a minority member on the Board and what he felt about social security and the standard that he set for his own conduct in the office. And really, in submitting his resignation to the President to answer the unfair charges of his own political party in a national campaign, he illustrated his high ideals, his high concept and his high standard of public service. It really was apparent to him and other people that he was signing his own political death warrant in so doing.
Interviewer: That is going a little bit off. How would you characterize the three board members as distinctive individuals, any --
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Winant was a highly sensitive, introspective philosopher who was politically oriented toward public service and extremely shrewd in his political sensitivities. Now I'm using political as much in a broad sense of general relations in public activity as I am in Republican and Democratic political activity.
Maurine Mulliner: He was an idealist who was extremely practical, too, insofar as his own goals in public life were concerned.
Interviewer: Let me ask some other questions about Mr. Winant. This Lincolnesque characteristic, was that an accident or was it something --
Maurine Mulliner: Well, it was an accident of physical appearance because it was there. I myself believe that he did nothing to minimize this similarity.
Interviewer: He was quite aware of it. He knew --
Maurine Mulliner: He was conscious of it; he did nothing to minimize it. And he was pleased as punch when other people noticed it.
Interviewer: I see. I've heard some stories of his sort of utter lack of comprehension of time.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Are there any incidents that bring that out particularly that you can recall?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, the thing that comes to my mind, because it was stimulated by what I said about his signing his name to everything a minute ago, was at night at 6:30 or 7 o'clock when some of the rest of us would be going home we would see through the doorway, the windows in the doors, Mr. Winant just moving from his regular work desk over to the side table where the piles of outgoing letters were stacked. He would sit down there at about that time to sign his name for an hour or an hour and a half or 2 hours to all these letters, many of which were simply routine letters saying, "Thank you for your application to work for the Social Security Board. We do not yet have our regular appropriation," or "We do not as yet have our complete staffing pattern completed, and I want you to know that your application will be considered when the time is appropriate."
Interviewer: He did feel it necessary --
Maurine Mulliner: He himself signed all those letters. Now, this was --
Interviewer: This demonstrates a great deal about the individual.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. This, in my view, was a mistake. His time and energy were needed more on other things, but this was his policy. Nothing was going out with his signature on it that wasn't his signature. So anyone who has anything with John G. Winant's signature, that is his; no one else did it for him.
Interviewer: Now, how would you characterize Mr. Altmeyer at that time?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Altmeyer was the man who had been second Assistant Secretary of Labor to Miss Perkins in the Department of Labor; had worked efficiently and effectively in that position and in the NRA. He was a man who had, and is a man, who has the facility for reading things extremely quickly. At this point I should interject that Mr. Winant was a most slow reader, and he didn't like to learn by reading; he liked to have people sit down and talk with him about things. Mr. Altmeyer could comprehend what was on a page just about as rapidly as he turned over that page. It was much easier for him to reach decisions quickly. His whole processes of thinking were geared toward orderly accepting, rejecting of the points that he was reading as he went along so when he finished the document he could make a decision.
Interviewer: Did this pose any problems because they were --
Maurine Mulliner: Very much so because Mr. Winant had to work so slowly and wanted to consider everything orally with people. Mr. Altmeyer, I think, for the most part, would have been quite happy to read through the documentations the bureau director sent to him, write yes or no on it, and send it back.
Interviewer: I see. Quite in contrast.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. And it was hard on both of them. But each had such respect for the other that they tried to adjust their own ways of doing things to the other's so they could make out together.
Interviewer: And in outlook, they were pretty much --
Maurine Mulliner: Philosophically, yes. Yes. Philosophically I think they were very close together.
Interviewer: How would you characterize Mr. Miles?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Miles was a lawyer whose adult life had been spent in Arkansas. He had been brought up in Virginia. He had all the charm of the Virginia gentlemen, raconteur. He could tell good stories; he enjoyed telling good stores. He had never had any need, as I see it, to decide what his own philosophy of the role of Government was. He had never had to decide in his own mind, it seemed to me, an ethical code of what was acceptable conduct on the part of an individual in different circumstances. He knew very little about the welfare programs or about the insurance programs. He was inclined to want to effect the decisions in the insurance programs for various reasons; one, in my mind, being that the old-age benefits program as it was then called was a national program, and from his point of view would give more opportunity for personal patronage in building up contacts and relationships that way. On the welfare, the public assistance programs, I felt he never really tried to understand them. He would simply, as a rule, find out what Frank Bane thought the position should be on the policy issues that came to the board in this field and go along.
Interviewer: Was he happy? Well, I think that's an interesting point, though, I mean about Mr. Winant.
Maurine Mulliner: Should we, should we interject that in.
Maurine Mulliner: I was just telling Abe that I was filled this week, as we all are, with the drama of what's going on in Great Britain and all over the world with respect to Sir Winston Churchill's death. And I've been thinking of the Churchill-Winant stories that I either saw or heard about through the years. As you know, Mr. Winant was Ambassador to Great Britain, 1940-1946, and he was very close to Mr. Churchill; they hit it off well. Mr. Winant recognized the greatness in Sir Winston Churchill, Mr. Churchill then. And in a way Mr. Churchill's attitude to Mr. Winant was something like that of a fond father -- there really wasn't that much difference in their ages, but I seemed to feel something of that in the relationship. And Mr. Winant even took over some of the habits of the PM, the Prime Minister, such as the one of doing part of your work before you get out bed in the morning. And Mr. Winant used to call in his staff to do some business before he ever got up in the morning, at least before he got dressed, because he could do very little staying still. He would get up and stride around the room in his pajamas, sometimes with a dressing gown on, and sometimes not, thinking of what he would talk or to dictate and so forth. And this is one of the Churchill habits he really relished. He just loved this particular one. And another time he took a little fling at writing standing up. You know, this is another thing that the Prime Minister used to do. He wrote many of his books in longhand, or much of some of his books in longhand, standing at an easel-like desk that he built for himself that was just the right height, and he would stand there and write.
Interviewer: Hemingway did that.
Maurine Mulliner: One Christmas it was a great joke because the Prime Minister had said that we Americans were barbarians because we didn't serve proper mustard with our meals, with our meats particularly. He loved a lot of that strong mustard with his meat. One Christmastime Ambassador Winant gave him a large mustard pot for a Christmas present and there was much joking about that. Then there was the delightful story about the Brussels sprouts. Did you ever hear the story about --
Interviewer: I used to eat them during the war. I remember those well in England.
Maurine Mulliner: How true. This is a digression. They said that in one of the airfields in England that the American airmen used, and you can probably confirm this, there was a sign on the wall that said, "Buddy, we hope you don't crash on returning but if you do, please do it in a Brussels Sprouts patch."
Interviewer: I can well understand that.
Maurine Mulliner: This was a Brussels sprouts story that Belle Roosevelt told years later that developed between President Roosevelt, Lady Churchill, and Ambassador Winant. I think it was at one of the meetings in Canada. Mrs. Churchill was talking to President Roosevelt about when he was coming to England and he said something about he hoped before he came again they would use more imagination in cooking their Brussels sprouts. Whey did they have to cook them just in boiling water all the time? Whey couldn't they do something with that sickening grayish water when they served them so you didn't have to face that as well as the boiled Brussels sprouts? Lady Churchill said, "But how else can one prepare Brussels sprouts?" And President Roosevelt said, "Why there are dozens of ways. In the United States we are particularly fond of broiled Brussels sprouts, and there are Brussels sprouts sauteed." He went on with his imagination just running wild.
So the next time Lady Churchill met Ambassador Winant in London and had an opportunity she said, "Mr. Winant, I very much want to get some of those fine American recipes for preparing Brussels sprouts." Mr. Winant said, "Well, I'm not much of a cook, Mrs. Churchill," I'm sure he called her Clemmie because they were good friends, "I thought they were just boiled." "On no, President Roosevelt told me," and this that and the other. At this point Mr. Winant realized something was up so he said, "Well I'll have to look into this. I'm the last person to know, I don't know what I'm eating." And that was the truth. Most of the time he didn't know what he was eating and he couldn't remember whether he had eaten a meal or not. So if you would have asked him at 4 o'clock in the afternoon if he had lunch, he wouldn't be able to remember because food was just incidental to him.
So next time he was over in the United States he went in to see the President and he said, "Mr. President, I am asking for a 6 months' leave of absence." President Roosevelt said, "But, Mr. Ambassador, this is a very critical time in world affairs. I just don't see how I can let you have a leave of absence." The Ambassador looked at him and said, "Well, Mr. President, if you are going to require me to be an expert in cookery, I am going to have to have 6 months off to take a course at the Cordon Bleu." At this point the President realized what was going and simply roared. The he said, "I know, Lady Churchill was asking you about the brussels sprouts."
As a matter of fact, the President then did ask Belle Roosevelt, who was his cousin and a very warn friend of his and an equally warm friend of Mr. Winant, to collect some Brussels sprouts recipes. She had these just collected for President Roosevelt to take to Great Britain on a trip he was going to take in the spring of 1945, but he died before he could make the trip. Well now, where were we?
Interviewer: I think we were on Mr. Miles. Do you think he was happy with the job or was he sort of a duck out of water?
Maurine Mulliner: I think he thoroughly enjoyed the job for the first 6 or 8 months, maybe a little longer than that, because during those months most of the decisions that were being made were in the welfare side. When it came to the point where key decisions had to be made with respect to the old-age benefits program and to the unemployment insurance program -- unemployment compensation we had to call it in those days -- and he could see that what he wanted done many times was not what Mr. Winant and Mr. Altmeyer wanted done and, therefore, he was a minority, he became more and more restless and dissatisfied. He used to come in and sit down and chat with me now and then about his troubles and say he was going to resign, he wasn't even going to stay. He was just appointed for a 2-year term, but he wasn't even going to finish out the term because he didn't seem to be effective here; and at any rate he thought he was going to get a Federal judgeship that Senator Robinson was working on and he would rather have had the Federal judgeship in his Arkansas area.
Interviewer: Had some crises developed earlier because of this to effect the decision?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes.
Interviewer: On those occasions did they actually take a vote or was it just a decision?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, there were several votes, sort of incidental ones at first, where he was on one side and they were on another.
Interviewer: Let's take the one of the Personnel Director.
Maurine Mulliner: I don't know that there was ever a formal vote taken in the Board meeting on that, I would have to look it up. At any rate, this was a crucial operating decision behind the scenes, if not in Board meetings. The Social Security Board had employed a Personnel Director -- I think he was at Farm Credit Administration at the time -- Henry Aronson, who was performing extremely well in a new role really in Government programs in that period.
Interviewer: This was after Bennett left?
Maurine Mulliner: That's right. After Bennett left then William Mitchell was brought in as the Director of the Bureau of Business Management from the NRA and Henry Aronson was employed to be the Director of Personnel in the Bureau of Business Management. The social security program was the first program of its scope that was set up under civil service. During the New Deal most of the programs -- the AAA, the NRA, the others of that era -- were patronage programs by and large. You were employed if you could bring a letter from your Congressman in your district and your Senator; and other things being equal, you got the job if there was a job. The people on the Hill wanted that kind of a program, they liked it. This gave them feeling in a way of doing something for the constituents. However, the Social Security Act itself provided that the employees should be under civil service with the exception of a few experts and attorneys. And even these experts, under agreement of the Board with the Civil Service Commission, were to be cleared, (approved by) the Civil Service Commission. They were to say that these people did have the qualifications for this particular job that was set up. But even so, Mr. Miles had wanted appointments made of people who either didn't meet the requirements for the job, the Civil Service Commission had found that they couldn't be approved as experts, or for some other reason they weren't approved by the other members of the Board.
Now it doesn't seem possible in today's world, but in those days of the social security beginnings every person employed at a salary of $2,600 and above, their file came to the Social Security Board itself. Their names were put on the agenda for the meeting, the files were then circulated among the Board members, and the Board members themselves knew who these people were who were going into the key positions.
And I would like to digress right here to tell another Winant story because it is illustrative of this. Some years later Mr. Winant came back to Washington after he left and was with the International Labor Organization in Geneva -- this was before he was Ambassador to Great Britain -- and every time he came back he'd want to ask about the social security program and how it was going. This particular evening he said, "How is Henry Aronson doing in this new job?" I told him it was with this new Division of State Merit System Services, a division that was set up to provide technical, professional, personnel services to the State welfare departments and employment security departments who had to employ their people under civil service under a merit because of a new amendment to the Social Security Act. I gave, I guess quite a favorable picture of what was being done, and Mr. Winant thought a minute and said, "Yes, well I would expect that of Henry and of all those other people in key positions because, you know, we employed them for their character."
This is something that employees now in the programs are not aware of. They don't appreciate that the social security programs were established by people of unusually high standards for public service and who lived by those standards, with the exception of one member of our Board. The Executive Director was just as diligent in this and was put much more on the firing line, in fact, because he insisted on these high standards. The Senate of the United States cut his salary $500 a year because he wouldn't knuckle under to Senator Glass of Virginia and appoint to a position a person who was not qualified for that position. Now this does a wonderful service to an organization when all the employees know that their key people not only mouth these standards but are willing to have their salaries cut -- when he was a man with a family to educate -- in order not to fall below the standards they set. I think that without it being recognized, those kinds of beginnings for an organization carry on through the years in a way that is mighty important.
Now we should go back to Mr. Miles and the new position that was set up for Henry Aronson because he was the one who had to say "no" to the people who Mr. Miles wanted to do a favor for or have appointed in the social security program. So he became a stumbling block to Mr. Miles and to people on the Hill who wanted through Mr. Miles to get these things accomplished.
Interviewer: Was this because they found Mr. Miles was the only one who was willing to listen whereas the other two were not?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, the other two would just say, "Well now, we regret that this person isn't acceptable to us because of such and such a reason." So Mr. Miles started a campaign against Mr. Aronson among people in Congress and it became more and more an issue. So in the interest of not having the appropriations for the whole organization jeopardized and the legislative program jeopardized, the Board decided the wise thing to do was to move Mr. Aronson out of this position because part of the campaign against him, regrettably, was anti-Semitic. It was logical to do so. He was extremely well qualified to head up this new service to the State people who needed it so much because in some States they didn't have any idea of what a personnel merit system was when it was required under an amendment to the Social Security Act. So that was done, but Mr. Miles wasn't ever very happy in the job after the first few months.
Interviewer: I was going to ask you if the members by either interest or experience began to assume any specialities in certain areas or were most of the problems decided even in the exploratory stages by all of them?
Maurine Mulliner: During the period before Mr. Winant left, which was really less than a year of operations, I don't think there was any either intended or unintentional specialization. I know there was discussion from time to time as to whether or not it wouldn't be wise for each of the Board members to assume a special program area, and the decision was made each time that this was not the way the Board wanted to operate. Later on, I think, with changes in the personnel of the Board itself there was a tendency of some Board members to speak their mind more consistently and persistently in some program areas than in others.
Interviewer: I suppose I was thinking perhaps of Mr. Bigge emphasizing unemployment.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right, that's right. But always when the issue came up clearly the decision was that this Board would not operate that way. And some people would say, "Look what happened in TVA when they tried to do it."
Interviewer: Did the fact that it was a board and the necessity of having three people in a sense agree, pose severe difficulties at first or were they mostly benefits or advantages?
Maurine Mulliner: I don't think the difficulties were nearly as numerous as the advantages in getting new programs started of such scope as these.
Interviewer: Would you say some of those difficulties were due to personalities rather than to the nature of a board as such?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: Well then, jumping ahead, were some of those problems resolved when new members, that is , Mr. Bigge and Miss Dewson, came on?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes.
Interviewer: Jumping ahead a little, how would you compare the chairmanship of Mr. Winant with Mr. Altmeyer? Were there major differences?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, there were. The business of the Board was dispatched more expeditiously with Mr. Altmeyer as chairman.
Interviewer: Was this question of riding roughshod over them or was it merely the fact that they were able to arrive at decisions sooner?
Maurine Mulliner: It was partly --
Interviewer: Or the fact that they looked up to Mr. Altmeyer's longer experience?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Altmeyer was an expert in the field of social insurance before he came on the Board, having worked for the Industrial Commission in Wisconsin and being familiar with thinking in Wisconsin with respect to unemployment insurance. And it was partly that his very manner let staff know that he was an impatient man. He didn't want to hear every staff person's views on these issues. He wanted the recommendation of the Bureau Director to be in writing in the recommendation to the Board; and while there might be some give and take in a Board meeting when there was a difference of opinion between the program bureau's staff and the General Counsel's staff, his impatience was apparent if this went on very long.
Interviewer: What you are saying is that most of the work was really done before the actual Board meeting?
Maurine Mulliner: Right, right.
Interviewer: Very little discussion was required.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right, and only when there was not agreement between the program bureau making the recommendation and one or more of the advisory bureaus, either Accounts and Audits, or General Counsel, or one of the service bureaus with respect to the program bureau's recommendation. That's about the only time you'd have any controversy in the board room itself.
Interviewer: Were the decisions necessarily unanimous, with Mr. Altmeyer that is?
Maurine Mulliner: Most of the decisions were unanimous although occasionally Mr. Bigge would express a different opinion and, subsequently, as I remember, Mrs. Woodward when she was on the Board --
Interviewer: Would that necessitate further discussion, sending it back?
Maurine Mulliner: Not usually. It was known in advance that philosophically they saw these things differently than the other two Board members and it was just a matter of being sure that everyone had been exposed thoroughly to the other person's viewpoint before the decision was taken. I don't know of any resentment ever on those few occasions when there was not a unanimous vote, any resentment about the fact that a person had been outvoted.
Interviewer: How would you characterize Miss Dewson?
Maurine Mulliner: Miss Dewson was a delightful surprise to me. I had played a slight role in Mr. Miles' departure from the Board, and one of my reasons for doing this was I felt he had been far too political in his -- not just politically political but personally political -- in his service on the Board. All I knew about Miss Mollie Dewson was that she had been the dynamic head of the women's division in the Democratic National Committee and the only time I had seen her picture even, I had never met her, was at some victory dinner where Jim Farley was kissing her at the Mayflower at some big celebration. I just thought of her as a completely political person. I didn't know a thing about her background. I was in the hospital at the time her appointment was announced and I thought, how awful. Here we've just been through this difficult time and done what we could to be sure Mr. Miles did not get reappointed to the Board, and now we've gotten another strictly political person on the Board.
Interviewer: You mean Mr. Miles?
Maurine Mulliner: Excuse me, Mr. Miles off the Board. And now we've gotten a strictly political person on again. You just can't win. Well, Mollie Dewson turned out to be as objective, as nonpolitical in the Board meetings as anyone could ever want. Now, I don't doubt at all that in every way that was acceptable she was thinking of what the decisions of this Board would mean to the Democratic party all the time because she was extremely dedicated to the Democratic party. But she had a long record of reform activity in her past that I learned about and had been really a crusader for the rights of working people for a great many years. So we were very fortunate in having Miss Dewson on the Board.
She was understanding in a personal way with me. Her office then was next to mine. When Mr. Miles left, she took over that office. One day that door opened and she came in and she said, "Well, why didn't you tell me you were a Republican?" And I laughed and I said, "What caused you to ask that?" She said, "Well, I just had a visitor here who came in to tell me that you should be fired because you were from a very active Republican family." I said, "That is certainly true. My mother has been active in Republican politics all my life. In fact, all the time I was growing up she was elected to public office and campaigned every 2 years for public office, and I really didn't know a Democrat until I was 20 years old." Mollie, of course, was teasing me about this, but it was true. Somebody from my State had been in to see her to say this was a Democratic administration and we shouldn't have somebody from a Republican family in that nice juicy job. Of course, nothing was ever done about it. Technically I was not a political appointee although
I had been appointed as an expert; however, I had been recommended by Senator Wagner of New York who was not known as a Republican.
Interviewer: Yes, that's true. Did the fact that she was a woman pose any problems on the Board? Was it an advantage or a disadvantage?
Maurine Mulliner: Of course, I can't give you an unbiased opinion on that. I think it was an advantage. And she never sought any favors because she was a woman. She never indicated that she expected any different treatment or behavior on the part of anybody. She did bring into the board room when the meetings were not going on some Hershey chocolate bars and put them in the drawer of the board table right by her seat because when the Board meetings went on past 12:30 and 1:00 and 1:30 she said quite frankly, "My energy runs down." So she'd bring out one of the chocolate bars that had the little squares in it and break it all up on the wrapper and take a piece and pass it around the table so we all got a little bit of energy to carry on for the remainder of the meeting. Maybe that was strictly feminine.
Interviewer: When Mr. Winant left, Mr. Bigge came on.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right.
Interviewer: How would you characterize him?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Bigge was always conscious of the fact that he was a minority member on the Board. I believe he never made an issue of it, and I don't think it really made any difference in his position on issues. I don't think it was his politics. I think his personal philosophy did. As an economist he was in a little different school than Mr. Altmeyer as an economist and it was those differences that caused him to part sometimes on some policy issues.
I might say here, off the record, that at one of the first social occasions where I met the Bigges after he was named to the Board as a Republican from Rhode Island, some of us were chatting with Mrs. Bigge and said something about -- I don't know how it came up -- about them being Republican, and in her forthright sort of jolly way she said, "Well, you know, of course, nobody could be a Democrat in Rhode Island -- we had to be Republicans in Rhode Island -- but back in Michigan that was something else again." So we all concluded that they had been Democrats in Michigan but when the moved to Rhode Island they had become Republicans.
Interviewer: Are there any others that you can think back on? You know of the Bureau, or how would you describe Mr. Bane at the time? The reason I bring that up particularly is because I know there were some difficulties in the beginning.
Maurine Mulliner: The difficulty arose because Mr. Winant, and this is not out of character with him, had asked two different people to take up responsibilities for the Social Security Board whose fields of activity were overlapping and had never been ready during the first 6 months anyway, or 8 months, to face up to the need for clarifying that situation. There would have been real turmoil in the organization in such a situation if a person without the beautifully tolerant temperament of Frank Bane had been in the position of executive director because it was just an extremely difficult arrangement to have a full-time, permanent executive director and at the same time a temporary coordinator and that's what the other gentleman, Mr. Seidemann, was called.
Interviewer: Was that decision finally arrived at by some sort of a compromise in a sense?
Maurine Mulliner: It never was settled until after Mr. Winant had been away during the campaign and then the President had been persuaded to bring Mr. Winant back onto the Board after the campaign was over in order to settle some issues that needed to be settled, and that needed to be settled sooner than a third member of the Board could have been named, consent gained, confirmed by the Senate, and learned enough background to operate. One of the things that had to be cleared up before Mr. Winant left permanently was the departure of Mr. Seidemann from the Board. That was one of the most painful incidents that I observed in the Board. Mr. Winant worked directly with me in his developing the way and the exact phrasing of the communication that would sever Mr. Seidemann from the employ of the Social Security Board.
Interviewer: But he had high regard for him. He had worked for him.
Maurine Mulliner: And other people had high regard for him.
Interviewer: Understanding this difficulty, why then when Mr. Latimer left, who had only been temporary Bureau Director --
Maurine Mulliner: Well, he was doing it part time because --
Interviewer: -- why then did he select Mr. Seidemann to run the Bureau for Old-Age Benefits, or was that meant to be a solution to the --
Maurine Mulliner: This was a --- from where I sat this simply looked like a temporary solution to a problem that needed a different solution, but Mr. Winant was so --
Interviewer: Do you think he was that loyal to the man that he didn't want to hurt him?
Maurine Mulliner: I was trying to phrase it. He just didn't want to take a step that would be unpleasant for Henry Seidemann whom he liked, but there was no other way out of this and there was no other person who could do it but Mr. Winant. He wrote and rewrote and rewrote again his letter to Mr. Seidemann and Mr. Seidemann's reply to him that day, February 19th, I believe it was on which I have a confidential file which I haven't looked through again after all these years. This was extremely painful. As I say, the whole thing never would have lasted 2 months under ordinary circumstances, the business of having Mr. Bane there and Mr. Seidemann there, except Frank Bane was an extremely tolerant person who was just not going to be the cause of unpleasantness if it could possibly be avoided. Mr. Seidemann didn't have that same kind of sensitivity.
Interviewer: How would you characterize some of the others, getting down to the bureau level?
Maurine Mulliner: Miss Hoey, the Director of the Bureau of Public Assistance, was an inspiring Bureau Director for her professional staff because her redheaded Irish way she would fight for the program changes or the program principles she wanted, and she was always fortunate in having as a second person in the Bureau someone who could keep the machine going because she wasn't temperamentally that kind of person at all.
And there's a delightful story about Jane who went out around the country visiting all the States at the time this personnel merit system amendment was enacted because the States needed to be helped to develop a personnel merit system that would meet the requirements of the Social Security Act so they could continue to get grants for, in her case, public assistance. The same thing was true for the unemployment compensation program. She went around and made all these visits and talked with the Governors and to the heads of the agencies, and so forth, and came back and made quite an encouraging report to the Board. A few days later Frank Bane had a call from Governor Tinsley I think it was, of Arizona or New Mexico and he said, "Frank, I'm in town and I need to come in and see you." Frank said, "Fine, come in whenever it suits your convenience, Governor." So the Governor came in and sat down and after a few exchanges of pleasantries he said, "You know, Frank, I can't have one of these merit systems in my State." Frank said, "Oh, Governor, is that the way you feel about it? Now when Miss Hoey was out there and saw you and you discussed this and this and this and she came back and made this fine report to the Board," and the Governor said, "Now look, Frank, as man to man you're not going to hold me to anything I said I'd do when that redheaded, blue-eyed Irish gal sat down across the desk from me, are you?"
Interviewer: Delightful story.
Maurine Mulliner: But he had to be held to it if he was going to get the Federal grant.
Interviewer: And then Mr. Wagenet, who had another hard difficult job.
Maurine Mulliner: Wagenet had an extremely difficult job because again Federal-State relations were involved and this was something that the people in the Bureau of Old-Age Benefits were very supercilious about until about 15 years later when they got a program that involved Federal-State relations and they found that it was a little complex. Well at any rate, Mr. Wagenet was a technician in his field. He's had a good deal of experience in labor relations over the years.
Personality, he and Miss Hoey were sort of opposites. Jane Hoey would come before the Board and fight and fight and fight for what she wanted, and if she didn't get it, she'd say she was coming back again. And she'd come back again and fight hard for it and then if she lost, she'd go back and she'd tell her staff, "We lost, and now this is what we're going to do," and proceed with it. Mr. Wagenet would come before the Board and present his point of view. If the Board didn't accept it, there wouldn't seem to be any problem. But many times nothing happened, and many times the board was never aware that nothing happened -- sometimes they were. It wasn't the practice of the Board to ride hard on the Bureau Directors. They were responsible people and were expected to carry out the policy as expeditiously as was feasible, once the Board had settled on it.
Interviewer: Certainly a different approach. How about Mr. Hodges?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Hodges was a charming gentleman from Virginia who had functioned effectively in certain public and private-public activities in his State. In my opinion he came to the Bureau of Old-Age Benefits so far along in his working career that he had passed the stage where he would dig in and learn the complexities of such a program in order to administer it wisely and effectively.
Interviewer: Some of that adaptability and flexibility.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. I don't think he was ever comfortable in the position and I don't think he ever felt he was too effective in it.
Interviewer: How about Mr. Corson?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Corson, again, I can't be objective about because I had worked with Mr. Corson when he was Assistant Executive Director. I liked the way Mr. Corson worked. I like his clearheadedness, his decisiveness, his insistence upon performance, and his toughness. I think these were very good for the organization as a whole. They developed a lot of resentment on the part of some of the staff who had not had this firm hand of leadership and supervision in their preceding Directors, part time or full time, and it made for some problems. To me John Corson was for the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance what Secretary MacNamara has been for the Department of Defense, and I think the public service is indebted to both those gentlemen.
Interviewer: Were there any major crises that developed that you sat in on with the Board, particularly with some of the Governors?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, there were. I couldn't really give you anything but some human interest incidents now without going back over the record. I wouldn't be accurate. The Davey one recalls a perfectly beautiful and typical Jane Hoey reaction. I want to follow this with a description of Jane Hoey by our General counsel, but first I think Governor Davey of Ohio -- his program of Public old-age assistance I believe it was -- was challenged by the Board for improper administration. Now this is a very difficult charge for a Federal agency to substantiate against a State agency. If it's something in the law that's clearer, but improper administration is harder to get hold of. At any rate, we sent a survey staff out there to look things over and so on and so forth and then there was a hearing in Washington and the Governor came in; but I think before there was a hearing there were some informal conferences in Washington. I think it was after one of these informal conferences where Governor Davey had made such statements as: you know there was no need to have these specifications for caseworkers, that after all the best caseworker in the world was a woman with a warm heart, and widow ladies were apt to be in this category, and so on and so forth. Then he went on in another vein and made some comparisons in running the Bureau of Old-Age Assistance with his experiences running the Davey Tree Industry which was his business, and a big nursery business. After it was over, Jane Hoey was sputtering around and she said, "That Governor Davey he is the lowest form of human life." She didn't really mean it but Jane was emotional sometimes in her approach to things and this led to the comment by Jack Tate, who was the General Counsel and devoted to Jane and just loved her but was as far removed in his intellectual processes from Jane's as one could be because his was the legal mind and hers was the Irish emotional temperament, the crusader. After a give and take with Jane in one of the Board meetings where she was flying out in all directions as to why such and such a policy should be established, Jack said, "Jane, you have more wrong reasons for the right conclusion than anybody I ever knew."
But Jane was loved by everybody and it was known throughout the organization that she wouldn't follow organizational lines in her own bureau. She'd pick up the telephone and call somebody way down on about the third echelon and give them an important assignment and their supervisors all the way up and down would never know anything about it, except for the fact the Assistant Director of that Bureau usually had to keep admonishing all the staff, "Look, when you get an assignment directly from the Bureau Director, you call your supervisor and let her know and she will call her supervisor and let them know, so we'll know what's going on in the Bureau."
Interviewer: You stayed in this job till when?
Maurine Mulliner: I stayed as secretary of the Board until 1940 when I was loaned to the National Defense Advisory Commission to set up their system of board meetings and to get somebody located who could take it over and run it, and that took longer than we expected. I was loaned for I think 2 months and it was probably about 6 months before I got back. And at this time pressures from outside, from industry, I think particularly, were getting very heavy on the Board to improve the functioning of the United States Employment Service in the defense effort. The Board had concluded that they needed for such a sort of crisis operation a different type of person to run that Bureau than the very fine, scholarly individual, Ewan Clague, who was the Director of the Bureau of Employment Security. They, also, while they were looking around for another Director, felt they needed someone in there as an assistant to really focus on administration while Mr. Clague was the program man. They asked me to go in to this work on administration in the Bureau. I was reluctant to go; I didn't want to go. I gave a lot of good arguments why I shouldn't go, but when it came right down to it, I did go. And as you know, they brought Mr. Corson over to be the Director of the Bureau during this period, and Mr. Clague very gracefully stepped aside to be Associate Director.
Interviewer: Were some of the old problems still there, that is, the old fight that had developed earlier -- the U.S.E.S.?
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, yes. The employment service people never in all the years they were in the Social Security Board accepted it. Most of them never felt that they should have been taken out of the Department of Labor. Now the unemployment compensation, the insurance side, wanted to stay with the Board when the time came for them to move.
Interviewer: Was it really then a difference -- I mean, did it make that much difference being in the Department of Labor, or was it the earlier problem over the question that the functions were divided and then when they were put together the problem became - well, we'd had the two functions put together and actually they didn't work that well because unemployment being the same office with the employment --
Maurine Mulliner: They didn't like to be associated so closely with unemployment insurance. When these fights were going on, my mind would hark back to the days when Senator Wagner was pushing the bill to set up an employment service in the United States, the Wagner-Payser Act, and how every speech he ever made on the subject said, "We must have this because we need this network of offices so we can have unemployment insurance." This was the big argument for setting up these offices; but when they were set up, the people who were working with them didn't want to have that close a relationship with unemployment insurance.
Interviewer: You were an Assistant to the Director for a short time --
Maurine Mulliner: For a short time.
Interviewer: -- And then you became --
Maurine Mulliner: Assistant Director of the Bureau of Employment Security in charge of the administration and the field staff.
Interviewer: Did you stay in Washington all the time?
Maurine Mulliner: Except for visiting the regional offices while I was in that position.
Interviewer: What were your duties as Assistant Director?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, they were in general to handle the administration of the Bureau as distinguished from the program development side, and to supervise the regional office staff of the Bureau of Employment Security.
Interviewer: What would you say were some of the problems?
Maurine Mulliner: The problems were those inherent in a Federal-State program and a decentralized national program. The relationship of your regional office technical staff to your headquarters Bureau vis-a-vis the Bureau Director or the regional director of that region. There were always problems greater or smaller depending on the personality of the regional director and how he operated. There was also the problem that I was very hopeful of doing something about, and that was getting more understanding on the part of both staffs -- headquarters and regional -- of the respective problems of the two locations
It was my intention to develop a plan whereby there could be more interchange of assignments between the headquarters and the field staffs, and also to a lesser degree -- hopefully -- the state E.S. staff people. While we were able to increase the incidence of bringing field people in to develop specific projects at headquarters, we did not achieve the broader goal of a regularized system of staff exchanges for 12 months or so.
Maurine Mulliner: Let's see where were we?
Interviewer: I think we were discussing some of the problems and duties in employment security. Were some of these peculiar merely to wartime?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, some of them were. The pressures on the employment service were peculiar to the defense effort because the employers who hadn't really been interested in building up an employment service, a public employment service in peacetime, were in a position to say now you know if you want us to do this you have to find the men for us and would like to have had an extremely effective public employment service available for them right then that they could turn off again when the emergency was over.
Interviewer: Is there anything else?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, Mr. Mitchell was brought down into the Bureau of Employment Security from the position of Assistant Executive Director to be an Associate Director in charge of the employment service as I remember. And at that time I went and was Acting Assistant Executive Director of the Social Security Board for the time it took for Mr. Powell who was then Executive Director to find someone. He wanted me to take the job permanently, but that was one I didn't want to do and I did not do.
Interviewer: When was that?
Maurine Mulliner: Assistant Executive Director.
Interviewer: No, when was that, I mean?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, this was bout in 19--
Maurine Mulliner: It must have been 1943.
Interviewer: Because you left in '44.
Maurine Mulliner: I left in the spring of '44 to go to UNRA.
Interviewer: And you had a varied career there; but, an exciting one I'm sure.
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, it was; it was.
Interviewer: You had UNRA and this working with Governor Winant again.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right; that's right. That I didn't intend to do either, but as Jack Tate said to me when I told him that I was not going to London to work for Ambassador Winant, "Why Maurine, nobody ever says no to Governor Winant." And it turned out, I didn't either.
Interviewer: And then in '46 you returned.
Maurine Mulliner: In 1946 we came back from London and Mr. Winant was the Ambassador to the United Nations, the U.S. representative on the Economic and Social Council, and he stayed in that position until he resigned in December of that year, approximately, and went back to England where he was awarded the Order of Merit which had only prior to that time been awarded to one other American, I think. Subsequently --
Interviewer: Quite a distinction.
Maurine Mulliner: President Eisenhower later received one, but there have been very few Americans.
Interviewer: And then you returned --
Maurine Mulliner: And then I came back to the reorganized social security program, which was then the Social Security Administration, the Board having been abolished in 1946.
Interviewer: Well, comparing the old days, which is now the Administration, thinking of the board meetings of an earlier day, how were they different?
Maurine Mulliner: It was interesting to come back a year after the Board had been abolished and a single commissioner running the Social Security Administration. It was interesting and gratifying to find that many of the procedures which had been developed in the 1936-'37 period for handling the formal decisions of the head of the organization, the Board then -- many of those procedures had been continued by the Commissioner for the changed organization.
Interviewer: I noticed your informal minutes -- notes were kept.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, yes. Basically, the same procedures were continued.
Interviewer: And you took a job as --
Maurine Mulliner: I came back in a position that had been set up at the time of the reorganization, and Mr. Altmeyer told me afterwards had been set up for me, which was a nice compliment. It was celled Executive Assistant, I believe, to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner.
Interviewer: By this time was the office quite different, the Commissioner's office quite different from the old gentlemen's?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, yes, because now the policy-making functions and the operating functions were consolidated in one office while previously the policy-making functions had been the responsibility of the Board, with the operating functions the responsibility of the Executive Director. But I think only 6 months did that terminology prevail and then there was a reorganization of the Office of the Commissioner and the staff assignments were shifted around.
Interviewer: Specifically what were your --
Maurine Mulliner: My title became Staff Advisor for Planning to the Commissioner, and at this point again into my office came the responsibilities for the procedures for the Commissioner's meetings which were the old Board meetings. So that was sort of amusing that after all these years that was back at my office again. And this was fine with me; I was interested in this.
Interviewer: Was this a new program or had -- did this go back to Mr. Corson's '39 idea?
Maurine Mulliner: I'm talking now about the formal procedures for the policy handling. The Board meeting procedures and the other main area of responsibility that was mine was the work planning system which you just referred to, and this was really what had developed from the system Mr. Corson had started in the Bureau of Old-Age Benefits back in 1939, which had been carried on --
Interviewer: Where was that function then in the --
Maurine Mulliner: There had been a Coordinating and Procedures Division in the Office of the Executive Director in the days of the Board, and the work planning responsibility for the organization as a whole had laid there. Then, subsequently when the reorganization occurred, the work planning responsibility was in a --
Interviewer: You're thinking of '46 --
Maurine Mulliner: Division of the Commissioner's office called, oh, something to do with management; and in the reorganization it came out of that office as put into the Office of the Staff Advisor for Planning. I think this was done because it hadn't been getting attention in the management office. The budget was handled in there and it was a more demanding function, and the other things had just taken precedence and there just hadn't been much attention given to the work planning process.
Interviewer: Well, coming back after a number of years I think that gave you a little more objective view. Did you find the situation, the attitudes, any different than they had been?
Maurine Mulliner: Well, the things that occurred to me right away, as I remember it now, were how little coordination had been achieved agency-wide. You see, we had been in the Federal Security Agency --
Interviewer: Since '39.
Maurine Mulliner: Before I left these programs in '44, and coming back in '47 I was disappointed at what seemed to me retrogression. As far as agency-wide coordination for the agency as a whole, the Federal Security Agency was concerned, and I also was aware that there was less emphasis at the commissioner's level for certain kinds of coordination that had been emphasized in the years when the Executive Director of the Social Security Board was responsible for this.
Interviewer: Had these been taken away?
Maurine Mulliner: No, no, just that there wasn't the emphasis being put on them that there had been before. And this could be because with experience the bureau directors had developed a rapport with the commissioner that meant there was less formalization of this procedure of coordination, or it could mean - and obviously this would be a part of it -- the basic policies had been established for quite a long time. Once a policy was established in theory the bureau director was responsible for carrying it out so there weren't so many things that were coming up for decisions by the commissioner as there had been in the earlier days of the program.
Interviewer: What about the outlook on the part of the people? Here we have -- I mean following the '39 Amendments nothing really exciting or earthshaking had taken place. Of course the war had intervened, but the program seemed to be just sitting --
Maurine Mulliner: Well now, this wasn't true for some of the programs. In the welfare side, you see, there had been several emergency programs with respect to the war that had been vitalizing catalysts for those programs, a piece of which the bureau of Old-Age Survivors Insurance had in connection with war benefits, I think. But this was not a very substantial piece in relation to your ongoing program. But proportionately these wartime activities for the Children's Bureau, the Bureau of Public Assistance, were greater in relation to their peacetime program. So this had not been as quiescent a period for them as it might have seemed, and it seemed to me, and I think this was true, the role of the commissioner in the agency as a whole was not as dynamic as it had been when I left -- as the board's role had been when I left. And I think it was inevitable.
Interviewer: Yes, some of the points you mentioned.
Maurine Mulliner: Then Mr. Altmeyer as a Commissioner was somewhat older. Much of what was going on was routine; he was not as interested in some of the functions of coordination as he had been in earlier years.
Interviewer: Is there some of the dying out of the New Deal zeal?
Maurine Mulliner: Right, right.
Interviewer: And, of course, as you get older you --
Maurine Mulliner: Exactly. Now, I may be misinterpreting his behavior and attitudes, but it seemed to me that he had reached a point where, maybe unconsciously, he didn't think there was anything much new for him to listen to. He'd known all this; he'd been there before. And this posed kind of a problem to new staff people who come in who would think you know that this idea should be more fully explored or something should be done about this. And he just seemed to toss it off without giving it any consideration.
Interviewer: Probably an old idea.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, from his point of view he'd been through this some years before and he knew the answer as far as he was concerned. Well, to these new staff people -- they felt that he wasn't really very open-minded on this and how could he make a decision so quickly on such a bright new idea.
Interviewer: I had skipped one thing earlier, but I guess we can mention it here -- the relationship between the board and the Federal Security Agency administrator.
Maurine Mulliner: There were stresses and strains there. It's very difficult for an independent agency to become a subordinate part of another agency, and especially an independent agency that has been in so pervasive -- you see the social security program touched more people more quickly than any other program in our history, I guess. I'd have to look this up but that's just what I would say, and this is extremely difficult for people to do. There were a few scars and a few sore places, and efforts were made to bridge this gap. The Federal security administrator agreed to have a liaison person on his immediate staff whose full-time job would be to keep the channels of communication open between that top level, and the Board, and so forth. For the first several years he selected somebody who had grown up with the Social Security Board to put into this job, and that was something that you wouldn't want to walk into because, you see, before long you were not popular with either end of the avenue because of the difficulty.
Interviewer: It was coming from both sides.
Maurine Mulliner: That was just inherent in the job, and you were considered to be a disloyal person to your old agency when you supported the position of the Administrator that was not one that had been favored by your own agency and so forth. But efforts were made to ease this situation.
Interviewer: Would you say there was a difference between the McNutt days and the Ewing days?
Maurine Mulliner: I suppose so, but right now I can't be specific about this.
Interviewer: I was wondering whether it was due in part to the individual who headed the FSA as much as to the fact that a new organization had been superimposed between --
Maurine Mulliner: I'm sure personalities were important, but I think regardless of who had been the Administrator there would have been difficulties in a reorganization of that kind. Now within our own Social Security board there were real difficulties in the relationship between Mr. Powell as Executive Director and some of the Bureau Directors, because they never felt the same toward him as they did toward Frank Bane. Particularly Mr. Corson, who had worked so closely with the members of the board as assistant executive director and then went to be director of the bureau.
It was almost inevitable that those relationships would continue to flow, and this was not fair to the executive director. I don't know whether you've seen it, but I wrote a memo on this at one point to Mr. Altmeyer when I was Acting Assistant Executive Director to Mr. Powell, saying that the practices that were going on were corroding relationships in the whole organization; and if Mr. Corson did not have the same relationship to Mr. Powell that the other bureau Directors did have, which he maintained and which Mr. Alvin Roseman at the administrator's level maintained, then that should be made clear to Mr. Powell and to everybody else in the organization in the interest of good administration. But, so far as I know, Arthur Altmeyer let this situation ride, without taking any action. I did send a copy of the memo to Altmeyer to Mr. Corson for his information.
Interviewer: I see.
Maurine Mulliner: One's attitude is influenced by one's environment and responsibilities.
Interviewer: Well, skipping ahead a little, since there are other commissioners, I wonder if you'd care to characterize some of the others and their methods of operation. Of course, Mr. Tramburg was here only a brief time.
Maurine Mulliner: He was a great joy in many ways because of the fact he knew he was only going to be here a brief time. Now the rest of us for a while didn't know that. But he was a joy because the staff would go in with something, and fine; he'd just sign it and you'd go out with it and it would be done, you see. He knew he wasn't going to stay long enough that he was going to dig into these things himself. He figured, well, if these people have been here as long as they have, I can't go too far wrong in going along with what they want for this interval. So that was delightful.
Interviewer: Didn't last too long, though.
Maurine Mulliner: No. Then Charlie Schottland came along.
Maurine Mulliner: And the program people were just ecstatic over him on the welfare side because he spoke their language; he was one of them. He was enthusiastic, you see. Mr. Altmeyer's enthusiasm had waned back there somewhere, so for the last few years he was there, there wasn't much enthusiasm in that office. Everybody respected him and considered him the man in the field, but he'd lost his zip as far as these programs were concerned and just human nature does that.
Interviewer: That's right.
Maurine Mulliner: Here was Mr. Schottland, Charlie Schottland -- oh my, he'd like an idea and he would just pick it up and run with it. Now, of course, tomorrow he might pick up an idea and run in exactly the opposite direction with it with equal enthusiasm; but nevertheless, this does something for staff. This was a stimulant. Now I think the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance reacted quite differently to this, but for the welfare bureaus this was great.
Interviewer: How about Mr. Mitchell?
Maurine Mulliner: Mr. Mitchell, in my opinion, was right in his initial wish. He did not wish to be commissioner. Mr. Mitchell is a topnotch Deputy Commissioner, but he isn't tough enough to be the Commissioner, and I said he'll last a year. Well, he lasted 2 years. But when it came to the point of having to bridge, the political compromise that has to be made with respect to any program --
Interviewer: It has to get through Congress.
Maurine Mulliner: -- recommendation, this was not Mr. Mitchell's forte. He was unhappy in having to be a figure in this. He just didn't have the temperament to really be comfortable in that role.
Interviewer: You think this is by his own individual personality. You're not saying that it's inevitable of somebody who is a career person in the --
Maurine Mulliner: I doubt that anyone who had been a career employee as long as Bill Mitchell could accept this role effectively and enjoy it.
Interviewer: What you're saying then, that quite a few attributes required of a commissioner which are not necessarily limited to program knowledge or --
Maurine Mulliner: Right, right.
Interviewer: Now specifically, as to your own job as --
Maurine Mulliner: Staff advisor.
Interviewer: Yes. How was the office set up when you first came back; that is the commissioner's? Did it have all these advisors?
Maurine Mulliner: I can't remember what the -- you see, I wasn't there when the organization was planned. I just know that when Mr. Altmeyer asked me to come back -- he said that when they had reorganized, this particular job had been put in the organization and never been filled because he was hoping that I'd come back in due time, and that was a good spot for me. Well, this was nice for me to know. I hadn't known it in advance, but that pleased me. As a matter of fact, I came down from New York when Mr. Altmeyer was out of town just to talk to Bill Mitchell about this before I came back. And I said weren't there people who had been there right straight through who were on the commissioner's staff who would feel they should have this position rather than myself? I didn't want to come in and have problems because of that. I said specifically Mr. Wynkoop. Wouldn't he feel that he was entitled to this? And Mr. Mitchell said no, this wasn't anything that Roy Wynkoop would feel he was entitled to, that my seniority overall at that level was greater than his, and at any rate, it just wasn't intended that he would have this, and he was sure there wouldn't be any problem about it; and as a matter of fact, there never was. It wasn't the kind of a job I think that Mr. Wynkoop wanted. He loves to budget and that's his life.
Interviewer: What do you feel you accomplished in this period, in this capacity?
Maurine Mulliner: I don't feel that any contribution I have made over the long run to this organization was added to very much during this period, although it was about a 12-year period or more. There wasn't anything very creative in it. You see, in these other things I had done, it was at a time in the history of the organization . . . . .
Interviewer: Things seemed to be happening.
Maurine Mulliner: Yes, when one could make a creative contribution.
Interviewer: That was at the beginning.
Maurine Mulliner: That's right. During this latter 12 years or so, I think that I contributed to the smooth function of the commissioner's office in the areas of my responsibility. I think I helped somewhat in a training capacity because new people coming into the organization, especially in the bureaus in Washington, one way or another often found their way to my office in getting familiar with --
Maurine Mulliner: -- How things worked. For the period that we had regular training courses I was one of the people who participated in this, and in that way I think I made a routine contribution.
Interviewer: Were you still at the same level where you could get an overall view of everything as you did earlier?
Maurine Mulliner: Oh, no. I never felt that this was possible under the Commissioner's setup, and one of the reasons was the way Mr. Altmeyer operated. In fact, the sense or lack of communication on the part of the Commissioner's staff became quite acute and --
Interviewer: Among itself, or do you mean --
Maurine Mulliner: I'm talking just about the Commissioner's level.
Interviewer: I see.
Maurine Mulliner: But it was in large part vis-a-vis what was going on with the Bureaus by the Commissioner that we didn't know anything about.
Interviewer: I see.
Maurine Mulliner: And we needed to know about in order to do our jobs.
Interviewer: Was this inevitable you believe?
Maurine Mulliner: I didn't think it's inevitable. I think it depends on the temperament of the Commissioner. So Mr. Mitchell started a series of staff meetings, Commissioner's office staff meetings. You see, Mr. Altmeyer wouldn't, as the saying goes, stand still for this. He didn't want to be bored by having to meet once a week, or once every 2 weeks, with these people he knew so well and did know all through the years.
Interviewer: And saw every day.
Maurine Mulliner: No, no, he didn't see them every day. We never saw him except in Commissioner's meeting, most of us; now Wilbur did. But then Wilbur again was not communicative with the rest of the staff with respect to what was going on that affected their areas [and things]. So Mr. Mitchell, and this was a fine contribution on his part, set up these regular staff meetings, and for about 8 months the whole purpose for these staff meetings was to discuss what was wrong with the way the Commissioner and his staff were operating among themselves, and vis-a-vis the Bureaus, and vis-a-vis the Secretary's office. And as was not unusual in those situations, I was the guinea pig. It was my office that was considered first. I was to go through this process first with respect to my office, and then next was going to be Mr. Falk, and next was going to be Miss Engle, and next was going to be Mr. Wynkoop. So I diligently went about putting down on paper what my relationships were on paper, what was being done to help me carry out my duties, what was not being done, what needed to be changed in order to bring about a better flow of information so my staff could do their job more effectively. And, oh, everybody just loved this, you know; they just went over this in detail.
Nobody else ever did it. Mr. Mitchell never could get another staff member to do it. They all said: "the same things are about true for our office so let's just do with this." So, this story is amusing and it's purely facetious:
Two of the staff people in the children's Bureau both rode to work with me. I picked them up in the morning going to the office. This particular morning as I stepped out of the car I cringed. And they said what's the matter, do you have a pain? And I said I have the most terrible pain in the great toe on my left foot. And they said, well what could it be? And I laughed and I said well I know what it is. This morning is the morning that I have to go into the office of the Commissioner's Staff Meeting, and Mr. Altmeyer is going to meet with us, and I am going to tell him what's wrong with the way he runs his office in the minds of the rest of the staff people. I know that's what's causing the pain in my great toe. I said I expect tomorrow morning it won't be there at all; you ask me. And the next day they asked me, and I said no it's all gone. I'm over with that ordeal now.
Well, Mr. Altmeyer came in jolly as everything, you know, and settled down and listened politely, but rather boredly, to what I had to say speaking for the rest of the staff. And then on one or two things he said, yes, he did feel that maybe he had fallen down in this respect and he want about halfway in what we recommended being done to correct this. But the rest of it, you know, he just ignored, and well that was that. And things didn't really change too much; but nevertheless, this was one of the efforts that Bill Mitchell did make with his staff to meet the needs of the staff. But Mr. Altmeyer just frankly never could appreciate that unless you had direct responsibility for the particular function that was being carried on, why, [you know], it was particularly important for you to know.
And I tried to do an end run around him at one time.
Mrs. Johnson, who was his secretary then, just operated the way Mr. Altmeyer wanted her to operate, and this was close-mouthed for the rest of us. Now, when Leona MacKinnon had been in that office, she wouldn't pay strict attention to Mr. Altmeyer. If he, you know, thought that something should be done this way, if she thought the Bureau of Directors should know about it, she would see that the Bureau Director knew about it, and if a meeting was coming up with somebody that she knew a couple of people should be in on, she'd just call them up and have them come in. And she knew if she asked Mr. Altmeyer he'd say, "Oh no, don't bother them; we'll just settle this among ourselves." So I thought, "Oh, those good old days when Leona was in there." And I went and talked to Wilbur Cohen, and said, "Wilbur," he was doing quite a bit on international then; I said, "you know, Kay Johnson has just been over with Mr. Altmeyer at the International Refugee Organization, and she's gotten a taste of this international and I think she likes it. Couldn't she come into your office to do this and this and this?" And I said, "Frankly, I want to do this because I want Leona back in Mr. Altmeyer's office, and Leona wants to go back into Mr. Altmeyer's office." He said, "Sure, I'll go along with that." So then, I gritted my teeth and went in and saw Mr. Altmeyer about this and told him, you know, and wouldn't he like to have Leona back? He said, "No, frankly I wouldn't; I'm more comfortable with Kay." And he was just that honest. He knew that Leona prodded him into doing things he didn't want to do and Kay would never do this. So I failed on that.
Interviewer: Looking back from the beginning, what would you say had been the major changes administratively?
Maurine Mulliner: I don't know that I can react to that offhand. I feel, of course, that many changes have come about because of reorganization. And while I think I could be more objective, about these because I've been away, than people who were here all the time, for example, I wasn't devastated when I heard that the Social Security Board had been abolished as most of the people at the Board level were. They just felt, you know, that this was the greatest catastrophe that could happen. My own opinion was that --
Interviewer: That it outlived its usefulness?
Maurine Mulliner: Yes. Not completely, but enough so that it wasn't critical that it was abolished, and that it is an anomaly to have a board under an administrator, to have tried to keep the Social Security Board under the Federal Security Administrator endlessly; or under a secretary is an anomaly, and I felt that the years had passed when it was needed, and it was needed in those early years for political reasons to have a bipartisan board setting these basic policies.
Interviewer: Served its purpose.
Maurine Mulliner: And it wasn't a great calamity. I did feel it was a mistake when the Bureau of Employment Security was given back to the Department of Labor by Secretary Ewing as part of his campaign to be the vice-presidential candidate.