Welcome to The Miller House
Don Lehman, 2018


Cover Index
Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Chapter 06
Chapter 07
Chapter 08
Chapter 09
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

Chapter Twenty

When he awoke, once again the light filled the room. He was rested and more relaxed. He knew he had until 3pm to do as he pleased. After his encounter with the waitress the night before, he decided to avoid that diner and look for another place for his breakfast. Carl had seen plenty of restaurants in the area. He took his time showering and again put the twenties in his shoes. He had not spent much so far so he decided to look for a nicer restaurant. He had until noon to check out of his room. He rang for the elevator and said good morning to the attendant when the door opened. On the street, there was energy and stimulating activity. He walked a few blocks and chose a restaurant that looked good. He could see through the front window that all the tables had linen table cloths and napkins. When he entered, the maître d’ gave him a look, then asked if he would be breakfasting alone. Carl said, “yes, thank you,” and was shown to a table by the front window. Carl thought about breakfast at the Miller House and wondered if they ought to be more formal. This was a nice way to start a day. Maybe their dinners also could be more formal. What would the laundry cost if they used linen table cloths and napkins? Again his mind went to Miss Ziegenfuss, the pretty woman on the train who had said that boarding houses were disappearing in Atlanta. Carl and his mother had heard of the large motels that were gaining popularity along the main highways. The news was that they putting the smaller cottages and motor lodges out of business. Maybe the Miller House would soon be in jeopardy. Just then a well dressed waiter walked up and handed him a small menu sheet, printed on light blue paper. The waiter asked if he preferred coffee or tea. Carl requested coffee and the waiter poured a steaming cup and walk away, returning promptly with a tiny pitcher of cream. Carl looked at the menu, it was printed in small type and there were no prices only names of the dishes with brief descriptions like;

Quiche Florentine – Served with caramelized onions, spinach, Gruyère cheese, frisée salad, sherry vinaigrette

Omelette - Aged cheddar, Andouille sausage, wild mushrooms, peppers, onions, avocado

Pain Perdu - Brioche French Toast, Seasonal Fruit

When the waiter returned, Carl handed him the menu and ordered the omelette with a glass of orange juice. Carl decided that it was, without doubt, the most elegant and delicious breakfast ever. It was served on fine porcelain dishes. The omelette was perfect, not over-cooked, and the orange juice was obviously fresh squeezed. Carl usually put ketchup on sausage but he didn’t want to ask for it and the sausage was delicious with the mushrooms, peppers and onions. There were a few other patrons who appeared to be “regulars” chatting softly or scanning the morning papers. The waited returned and placed a small cup of grapes and pineapple drizzled with honey, refilled the coffee cup asked if Carl desired anything else. He said, “No thank you.” He cleared the table and refilled his coffee. When he returned, he had a small plate with a slip of paper that he left at the corner of the table. The waiter then said, “It was my pleasure to serve you,” and turned away to attend to other tables. Carl slid the plate with the slip of paper over and it just had the figure, $8.55 written on it in pencil. Carl pull a ten dollar bill out of his wallet and laid it on the plate, then he stood and put his bag on his shoulder and walked to the door. The maî·tre d’ gave a slight nod and Carl was back on the street. He stood for a moment and considered what an excellent experience it was for a simple breakfast!

He headed back to the Y and packed up his things, closed the room and talked to the desk clerk about storing his suitcase until he was ready to leave later in the day. He explained that his uncle was coming to pick him up and driving him on to Baltimore. The guard took the suitcase and locked in in a closet. He gave Carl a card with a number matching a tag he attached to the suitcase.

In general, it was to be a much more relaxed day and Carl started by heading toward the Lafayette Square to look at the statues in the daylight. He was curious about the man he had seen, sleeping on the park bench with the sign that read, I AM A MAN. Who was the man and what did the sign mean? As he approached the park he saw there was a group of black people with signs. Some of the signs said Equal Rights and End Segregation and there was the man with the I AM A MAN sign. It was the first time Carl had seen actual protesters. Carl stood for a while and watched the small group across the street in the park. Suddenly he was aware that someone was standing next to him. A small elderly negro man, dressed in a long coat said in a low voice, “Dey still dere. Dey was thousands of dem a coupl’a weeks ago, a-carryin’ signs an a-singin’ songs and a-preachin’. Most a dem went back ta Memphis an Birmingham an such. Dey gonna get da vote and they gonna integrate da schools. Dem over dere dey ain’t goin” home yet.” Carl didn’t know what to say to the old man so he didn’t say anything. He just stood there a while longer then continued his walk by staying on the perimeter of the park. When he came back around, he looked and the old man in the long coat was gone, then Carl heading back toward Constitution Avenue.

Carl wondered about the protesting people. He wondered how many days they had been there and how long they would stay. Were there really thousands of them here a few weeks ago? Would the government really put the colored children in all the schools with white children? What did the signs mean by equality? Wasn’t there already equality? He knew that life was terrible for many negroes before the Civil War and the end to slavery. He had read Amos Fortune and Huckleberry Finn. Carl knew that the negroes had their own schools, churches and restaurants. He knew that they lived in a separate part of town but he didn’t think that it was unequal. Now he wondered that maybe it was unequal. The negro part of town was poor and some of the roads were not even paved. Maybe he would ask Uncle Wilson some of these questions or wait and talk with Cappy. Even though Carl lived in the south, he didn’t know much about the “colored people”. Sometimes men who stayed at the Miller House told jokes about negroes. Maybe there were changes coming that people in Greenville, South Carolina didn’t know about.

Turning left and heading down the avenue Carl came to the National Archive building. He walked up the steps and in through the massive doors. He didn’t know what he would see and was surprised to find the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. They were inside glass cases and people were lining up to get a look. When he was back outside he had a special feeling about seeing those historical documents. It was a happy and contented feeling. He crossed the street, sat in the grass and pulled out his drawing pad. He made a detailed drawing of the National Archive building and below the drawing, listed the documents he had seen. He then put the pad away and went back to the National Gallery.

He thought that if he lived in Washington like Mr. Reilly, He would go to the museums every chance he had. He realized there were the Smithsonian museums that he would not have time to visit. After spending a few more hours walking through the gallery rooms, he went back out onto the street. He was hungry and decided to get a hot dog and a Coke at the food truck parked along the avenue. There were all sorts souvenirs and Carl chose a large post card picture of the White House for Ozzie. They had big handkerchiefs with the White House and Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower’s picture at the bottom. Carl bought two of those, one for each of his girl cousins, Sarah, eight and Jill, Five. He didn’t see anything that seemed right for his twelve-year-old cousin, Artie. He slowly made his way back toward the Y. It was a after two when he got back and he had at least forty-five minutes before his uncle would arrive. He walked on down G Street and into an Army and Navy, surplus store. The first thing he noticed was a display of pocket pen knives. With the assortment of knives he saw a red penknife with an emblem of a shield with a small white cross. He picked it up and looked at it carefully. The young man behind the counter asked Carl if he knew what it was. Carl said that he only knew that it was a penknife. The man said it was a Swiss Army Knife and they were famous all over the world. It came in two versions, as a simple pen knife and a multi-tool version. They were made for the Swiss army at the end of the nineteenth century but became popular with American soldiers in the II World War. Carl looked at both. The simple knife cost three dollars and Carl bought two, one for Artie and one for himself.

Back at the Y he retrieved his suitcase and said goodbye to the old man at the desk. He sat on the front steps, waiting for his uncle. He didn’t know what to expect. While he waited he tied his hair back with the leather and turquoise strings, then pulled out his drawing pad and crossed the street. Looking back, he sketched the front facade of the YMCA building. He wanted to remember it. He put his drawing pad back in his shoulder bag, picked up his suitcase and walked back to the Y steps. Just as he was turning around a beautiful, light green car pulled up and parked along the curb. A tall, well dressed man stepped out and crossed the street. He walked right up and reached out his hand. Carl shook his hand and the man said, “You must be Carl.” Carl said, “Yes I am.” Then the man said, “I’m your Uncle Wilson and I’m happy to meet you. Come on, let’s put your things in to trunk of the car”

  Chapter 21