News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Flashback Monday: LBJ's Great (Earth-Toned) Society

LBJ Letter.jpg
V. v. exciting news for fans of our 36th president and earth-toned planned real estate developments. Our favorite correspondent, the Peasant From Less Sought-After South Reston, has come up with the find of the century: the lost-to-history greetings that Lyndon B. Johnson sent to Reston on the occasion of its dedication, by way of modern telegram "night mail":
Exciting historical research in the Fairfax County archives has led to the discovery of yet another earth-toned secret hidden for the ages: the message LBJ sent Reston some two score and seven years ago.

LBJ2.jpg"A Brief History of Reston, Virginia", a pamphlet first published in 1970 by our corporate overlord Engulf + Devour, er, Gulf Reston, notes that at the official dedication of our little slice of paradise on May 21, 1966, "in a telegram from the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson sent greetings." Perusing reporting on this event by the pre-Bezos era Washington Post, the Peasant discovers that attendees at the ceremony included not only our very own patriarch Robert E. (Simon, not Lee), but also Virginia Governor Mills Godwin and the Secretaries of the Interior and HUD, Stewart Udall and Robert Weaver, respectively.  No mention in the Post, however, of any LBJ telegram. Hmmmmmm......

This, of course, piques our interest. What might LBJ have said -- perhaps, like that immortal advice about plastic given to Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate", he sagely counseled the New Towners, "I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Russet."

So, in the legendary investigative spirit of such Fourth Estate icons as Woodward & Bernstein, or at the very least Janet Cooke, the Peasant makes first contact with the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin to inquire about the telegram.  To his pleasant surprise, an extremely nice and extremely helpful archivist from the Library, one Mr. McNerney, begins to search for said message -- and in the ensuing days can find nothing.  Given that there is a specific date and event to which this telegram is connected, Mr. McNerney is extremely surprised that no trace of it can be found.

We begin to speculate about the possibilities.  Perhaps the telegram is in the recently declassified Area 51, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio keeps all those really illegal aliens?  But no, after further contemplation, our working thesis is that the missing telegram is somewhere much more mundane: lost for the ages in the roomier slacks of legend that LBJ ordered from the Haggar The Horrible Pants Company.  We suspect that, in his excitement about Reston, the President inadvertently stuffed the original message deep down into his cavernous trousers, and several years later Lady Bird donated said trousers to a local thrift shop.  So, yes, per The X-Files, the truth is indeed out there somewhere -- but could that "somewhere" be The Closet in Herndon, and could a landscaper named Pepe unknowingly be walking around with an invaluable historic document squirreled away in his oversized pantalones?  If so, we can only pray that the telegram at least went into LBJ's Haggar trousers that were, and we quote the POTUS verbatim here, "light brown, kind of an almost powder color like a powder on a lady's face," and not, God forbid, into his non-earth-toned blue or black trousers.
Just as we fear that all hope is lost, Mr. McNerney saves the day and comes through with a copy of LBJ's message -- a letter, not a telegram, as it turns out.  In it, the President notes that, "In this age of ever-mounting urban growth, with its inexorable pressures of overpopulation, the birth of a new town such as Reston is a living influence which invigorates our concepts of urban planning."  Reston: officially and certifiably awesome!
In conclusion, gazing at our evil satanic twin in Howard County, there is but one thing left to be said.  Eat your heart out, Columbia.  Eat your heart out.  
Another shocking find from the LBJ library? Bob Simon's letter back to LBJ:

Simon letter to LBJ.jpg
Who knows, maybe they became totally BFF pen pals, sending each other urban planning tips and Bobby Sherman 45s, the end.


  1. "In this age of ever-mounting urban growth, with its inexorable pressures of overpopulation..."

    In this passage, could LBJ the Visionary have been referencing "Reston: 2013"?

    No Growth is Smart Growth.

  2. Fortunately for the rest of the nation, Congress ultimately ceased financial support for "new communities", sparing us any more Columbias and Restons. (The Woodlands, TX. does not count) Better that the private sector stick the label of "planned community" on all manner of suburban aggregations of housing and commercial centers, that the aforementioned rather resemble anyway!


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