Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Stevenson
As I say, in San Jos�, there were then many “Characters.” One of the most unforgettable characters I met was Alex Asser Cohen, who had been there for 20, 25 years and all through World War II as a member of the Embassy staff. We always thought of him as a real diamond in the rough. He was born in Amsterdam, Holland about 1900 and ran away to sea at age 13. He was the political officer when I got down there. He had been a clerk for the military attach� for many years, and had gotten acquainted with all of the Germans in Central America, so they had assigned him to the State Department office that was watching Germans in Central America. I learned a lot from Alex. He'd been around there a long time and was an expert in many things. Ambassador Bob Woodward wrote a little memorial about him that came out in the DACOR Bulletin about a year or two ago. They finally got him transferred out of San Jos�, and he was on his way through Washington to Manila, I believe, and was sitting in on an ARA staff meeting. I've forgotten who was Assistant Secretary then. Questions came up about the situation in Costa Rica, and everyone turned to Alex who had all the answers. The Assistant Secretary said, “Who is that man?”
They said, “Well, that's Alex Cohen. He's been in San Jos� a long time.”
He said, “What's happening to him now?”
They said, “He's going to Manila.”
He said, “No, send him back to San Jos�.” So he was sent back to San Jos� and finished his career down there, which was as he wished.
There were many other characters, Jimmy Angel and several other old pilots, gold miners, sailors, tuna and shark boat owners, G.I. Bill veterans, etc. Alex, incidentally, was a world authority on Mozart and had some first folios of Mozart. He was the first person to have a hi-fi in San Jos�, the cabinet made from an old Honduran mahogany bank counter. He was a world-known stamp collector. He was a world-known orchid grower. These were all sidelines. He retired to Gainesville, Florida. I'm sorry to say he died about two or three years ago.
Costa Rica was a very interesting post to get started at. Then much to my chagrin, I was assigned to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Q: Why to your chagrin?
STEVENSON: Well, I thought that I should go to another Embassy. I had been doing consular work and I wanted to get back into political work. I thought, well, if I go to Guayaquil, it will be just consular work and a hot, tropical port. It turned out to be quite an interesting experience.