Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert A. Stevenson
STEVENSON: 1950 to '52. Right. Guayaquil was still the old Foreign Service. I can remember getting two messages in Brown Code, and I had to go to the vault and dig out Brown Code books and look up the words in the books. That was pretty far back. I used to put on a white suit every morning and white shoes, and I did feel like an O. Henry vice consul. In San Jos� and Guayaquil we still kept the “Miscellaneous Records Book.” They contained many weird and interesting entries. For example, Miss Mary Byrd of Cartago, C.R., (who used to ride her horse side saddle to the Embassy residence July 4th party) a cousin of Admiral Byrd, came to me and asked me to record her will. She was then in her 90's. I copied it into the Miscellaneous Record Book. I wonder whatever happened to these old books.
Q: Guayaquil was known as the white man's grave or something. Thomas Nast died there.
STEVENSON: Yes. Yellow fever was a real scourge. People from Quito, before the control of mosquitoes, used to hate to come through Guayaquil because they ran the risk of getting yellow fever in passage. Then an earthquake, I think in '42, killed one of our vice consuls and his wife, when the building collapsed.
We found it an interesting post. One of the junior officers there was Pete Vaky, who later became Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs. I don't know if you have him on your list or not.
Q: He's on our list.
STEVENSON: Then after Guayaquil, two years there, I was sent over to—
Q: In Guayaquil, did you get involved in any political situations there at the time?