A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for a night…” (joke) (3/23)
“Why are women and children evacuated first?” (joke) (3/23)
“I’ll have a rum and coke” (joke) (3/23)
“I’ve had so much coffee today I can see noises” (3/23)
“The most dangerous drinking game is seeing how long I can go without coffee” (3/23)
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Entry from November 23, 2015
“From ‘How did I get here?’ to ‘How did they get here?‘“ (Washington politics)

An old political joke has a newcomer elected to Washington, DC. The newly elected member looks around and sees all the famous politicians. “How did I get here?” the member asks himself, in awe of all the surroundings. However, after a few months in Washington, the member then asks himself, “How did they get here?”

The joke has been told by many politicians, but it probably originated with what J. Hamilton “Ham” Lewis (1863-1939), the Whip of the U.S. Senate, told first-time U.S. Senator Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) of Missouri in 1935. Truman wrote in 1955:

“Ham Lewis, on the other hand, came over and sat down by me during one of the first sessions. He was the Whip in the Senate at the time. ‘Don’t start out,’ he told me, ‘with an inferiority complex. For the first six months you’ll wonder how you got here, and after that you’ll wonder how the rest of us got here.’”


Wikipedia: Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–53). As the final running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died after months of declining health. The Allies soon finished World War II; in the aftermath of the conflict, tensions with the Soviet Union increased, marking the start of the Cold War by 1947.

Wikipedia: J. Hamilton Lewis
James Hamilton Lewis (May 18, 1863 – April 9, 1939) was the first Senator to hold the title of Whip in the United States Senate. Lewis was born in Danville, Virginia, and also grew up in Augusta, Georgia. He was educated at the University of Virginia and studied law in Savannah, Georgia before he served in the Spanish–American War.

Google Books
The Diplomat
Issues 49-60
1954
Pg. 6 (Deena Clark’s Social Sparks):
Distinguished General “Pat” Hurley grew up in “Injun” country and likes to rgale friends with tall but true tales of the west when it was wild. He tells of one young man whose mother died when he was born, and who lost his father soon after. THe lad worked hard and raised himself. At seventeen he was a powerful, strapping young man In a quarrel, not realizing his strength, he inadvertently struck another young man a fatal blow. He was tried, convicted, and sent to jail.

Behind bars, he learned to read nad write, and studied law. A few years after his release, the young lawyer was sent to Congress to represent his territory, which had just been made a state.

In Washington, he took his place humbly in the imprcssive Senate chambers. He asked himself with deep thankfulness and humility, “How did I, an orphan, a convicted murderer, get here?” Later, when he told General Hurley of his feelings, he said, “I asked myself that first day, ‘How did I get here?’ And when I came to know my colleagues better, the question I asked was, ‘How did they get here’!”

Google Books
3 October 1955, Life magazine, “The Truman Memoirs” by Harry S. Truman, pg. 106, col. 2:
Ham Lewis, on the other hand, came over and sat down by me during one of the first sessions. He was the Whip in the Senate at the time. “Don’t start out,” he told me, “with an inferiority complex. For the first six months you’ll wonder how you got here, and after that you’ll wonder how the rest of us got here.”

Google Books
Running in Place:
Inside the Senate

By James A. Miller
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1986
Pg. 96:
“The first six months it’s how did I get here, the next six months it’s how did they get here. You get frustrated sometimes. Some people reay drive you up the wall. They’re never with you and they’re always finding fault. You get a little tired, and I think you get spread too thin. Someday you’re going to get your feet chopped off too, because you’re meddling around in so many different things — but there’s a vacuum out there.”
ROBERT DOLE (R-KANS.)

Google Books
Tapping the Government Grapevine:
The User-Friendly Guide to U.S. Government Information Sources

By Judith Schiek Robinson
Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press
1988
Pg. 86:
The first six months it’s How did I get here? The next six months it’s How did they get here?
-- Senator Robert Dole, Kansas

Google Books
Congress from the Inside:
Observations from the Majority and the Minority

By Sherrod Brown
Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press
1999
Pg. 21 (Elections 1992):
And then I thought about the president of the United States coming in to address us— “Do I deserve to be here with all these people? How did I get here? Will I measure up? How was I chosen for this privilege?”

Then I thought about Harry Truman’s comments when he went to the Senate, and I laughed to myself...and at myself. Truman, on his first day in the Senate in 1935, looked arund the chamber and was awestruck. “I can’t believe I’m here,” he thought to himself. After six months or so serving with his ninety-five colleagues, he walked in one day, looked at the other senators, and thought, “I wonder how they all got here.”

Google Books
Dear Harry, Love Bess:
Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman, 1919–1943

By Bess Wallace Truman
Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press
2011
Pg. 142 (1935):
After Grandpa’s election and arrival in Washington in 1934, Senator J. Hamilton Lewis of Illinois told him, “Don’t start out with an inferiority complex. For the first six months, you’ll wonder how you got here, and after that, you’ll wonder how the rest of us got here.

Marco Rubio (U.S. Senator for Florida)
Feb 09 2012
ICYMI: Rubio Speaks At CPAC 2012
Senator Marco Rubio
Speech at CPAC 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEdyViVg1i4
(...)
When I first got there I would look around the room and I was a little star struck. I mean, there were people there that I had been watching for years on Meet the Press. And you’d look around and you’d look across the room and see so-and-so and say, ‘Man, that’s so-and-so.’ You’d look on the other side of the room and see someone else who was famous and well-known, maybe he had run for President or something, and you would ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’ Well, six months later you look around the same room and start wondering, ‘How did they get here?’

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Senator John Kerry Delivers Senate Farewell Floor Address
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Washington, DC – Senator John Kerry today spoke on the floor of the United States Senate for the last time as the Senator from Massachusetts to thank his colleagues, staff, and constituents for their support and friendship over the past 29 years, and talk candidly about the importance of the Senate functioning effectively.
(...)
But it is still a remarkable place. I’m reminded of the letters Harry Truman used to write home to his wife, Bess, as he sat in the back row of the chamber. Late one night, after one of the great debates of the New Deal era, he wrote, “I hear my colleagues, and I pinch myself and ask, ‘How did I get here?’” Several months later, he wrote Bess once more: “Again it is late at night and I am sitting here listening to the debate, I look across the aisle at my colleagues and I listen and listen, and I hear my colleagues and I ask myself, How did they get here?”

Well, I have no doubt that colleagues have asked that question about me or any one of us. Its been back and forth. But, 29 years after I came here, I have learnt something about how you solve that.


Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution
A frustrated David Perdue throws a few elbows at fellow Republicans
Greg Bluestein @bluestein
November 23, 2015
A year after his election, it’s harder for U.S. Sen. David Perdue to wield the “outsider” image that helped elevate him above a crowded Republican primary and fueled his victory over a well-funded Democratic opponent. But as his speech Monday at The Atlanta Press Club showed, he’s still trying.
(...)
“Washington is a very sobering place,” he said, launching into an old joke about the perils of D.C. politics.

“You’re on the floor of the Senate and you’re looking around and seeing these icons. You think, ‘How did I get there.’ And after six months, you look around and say, ‘How did they get there?’” he said to laughter.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, November 23, 2015 • Permalink