Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: An administrative note penned in the margin of an FBI memo is misinterpreted by Bureau staff, leading them to cast a wary eye upon Mexico and Canada.
Example: [Brunvand, 1993]
What there is little debate about, however, are the numerous petty abuses he unthinkingly subjected subordinates to. Hoover ruled with an iron fist and was seldom questioned even when his way of doing things was suspect. He viewed the department as his and everyone in it as there to do his bidding, and he often failed to separate his away-from-the-office needs with his requirements as director of the FBI. Bureau personnel were routinely used to write his speeches, run his errands, and even fill out his personal income tax returns. His private concerns became departmental concerns as Hoover regarded the department as an extension of himself.
One incident in particular highlights this attitude: Upon going on a diet to battle his own bulge, he issued a Bureau-wide directive that henceforth agents would conform to the suggested weight standards of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company or else. A round of crash diets quickly followed, with every overweight agent in the field offices and at headquarters hastily shedding extra pounds they'd
Hoover was famous for penning instructions and comments in distinctive blue ink in the margins of FBI memos, then routing them back to the sender for action. Perhaps it was this habit which fueled his insistence that all memos have generous white space left around their text — he needed a place to scrawl his notes after all, and in Hoover's mind his needs were the department's needs.
Cartha DeLoach was Hoover's assistant from 1965 to 1970, making him the
One day a memo on internal security that had been sent up to Hoover came back with a message in the familiar scrawl: "Watch the borders! H." Telephones began to ring all over the building, everyone asking the same question: "Is there anything going on in Mexico or Canada we should know about?" "Maybe we ought to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service." Somebody said, "Why don't you just ask Hoover what he knows that we don't know?" But no one wanted to show his ignorance. So we called Customs and they didn't know any more than we did.Through the magic of retelling, a few phone calls to see if something was up with America's northern and southern neighbors has been transformed into coveys of
Several days later a supervisor was again reviewing the memo when the answer to the question jumped out and smacked him in the face. The memo had been typed with the narrowest possible margins. Hoover, always fastidious, had picked up his pen and in annoyance had scrawled, "Watch the borders!"
Barbara "hoover craft" Mikkelson
Last updated: 9 July 2007
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