Chapter 1.  On First Coming to Cambridge

Chapter 1 nbspOn First Coming to Cambridge
    The summer sun had risen shortly after five that early September morning, and by seven the sky already promised both faint warmth and a fine New England day.  Out in Cape Cod Bay, the S.S. Acadia, a coastal steamer of the old Merchant & Miner line, was cutting northward through calm waters on her regular two-day run from Baltimore to Boston.  She was due to dock in less than three hours, and at the rail of her upper deck a lanky young passenger was peering carefully westward at the low Massachusetts coastline off her portside.
He'd been up since dawn, as the ship passed through the Cape Cod Canal; now he watched as the grey rocky shore slid by, its beaches backed with green pine and oak, the treeline broken here and there by occasional houses and compact little villages and towns.  A crew member had paused momentarily to point out Plymouth, where the Pilgrims had landed three centuries earlier.  He'd thanked the man politely, then continued to watch as fishing boats made their way out from small harbors in search of the day's catch in the quiet bay.  Occasionally glancing over his shoulder, he'd noticed that a few other of the Acadia's passengers were up now, too, strolling the decks, ready to start their own day.
As they passed, several of the passengers took note of the young man, as they had casually ever since they'd sailed: six feet, eight inches tall, his height alone meant that he quickly and naturally stood out among them, though they'd genteelly passed without speaking.  Thus he'd spent most of the voyage alone, reading or walking the decks pensively.  At dinner the night before, however, he'd chatted pleasantly with his table companions and, in response to their questions, told something about himself.  
He was an economist, they'd discovered, with a fresh-minted PhD from the University of California awarded that June.  Just twenty-five years old, he'd been in Washington for the summer, working for one of President Roosevelt's new "alphabet agencies," something called the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.  His listeners, all East Coast city-dwellers, weren't quite sure what the year-old "triple-A" did exactly, but they understood that now in 1934, with America mired deep in the Depression, the one out of three Americans who still farmed were in desperate need of help--and were a priority for the New Deal.
He'd worked, they'd learned, on the issue of abandoned, tax- delinquent farmlands--a "very large problem," he assured them, involving millions of acres across the country.  At issue, he said--and here a couple of his Republican tablemates had winced-- was the possibility of their take-over by the federal government.  His companions seemed calmed and duly impressed however when the young man explained that he was now sailing to Boston to begin teaching at Harvard University.  Harvard surely would shield him, they must have felt, from further exposure to the dangerous and radical currents then flowing in Washington.
Something about the young man would have impressed them, though.  He was very confident, clearly intelligent, and over the course of their leisurely evening meal, able to range across a wide variety of topics having to do with the country's immense economic crisis.  Handsomely attractive in a rugged way, with strongly drawn features, he projected great vitality and ambition, the sort of man Harvard had always valued.  There was this troublesome issue of his working for Roosevelt, and his obvious admiration for the new President and his policies, but Harvard would smooth that out with time, settle him down, point him in the right direction.
As they finished their coffees and made their goodnights, several at the table would no doubt have guessed that this was a young fellow who would be "going places," someone who with good luck and time would leave some sort of mark in the years ahead.